SUGGESTED BY GLIDDON'S LECTURES ON THE ANTIQUITIES OF EGYPT.
MISS H. J. WOODMAN
Sublime hath been thy conquest o'er the past, Stemming Oblivion's torrent by thy might, Reading symbolic records long o'ercast By the deep shadows of unbroken night; Tracing with reverent finger names of kings That long had slumbered with forgotten things.
The mists that deeply veiled historic rays, Thou art dispelling with resistless hand; And dynasties that flourished ere the days When ABRAHAM forsook the promised land, No longer noteless, nameless, boldly claim Their lofty tablet in the arch of fame.
Thy curious finger with a magic key Unlocked the store of ages, and the light, Flooding the pass of time, sublime and free, Decks ruined temples in its vesture bright: These are the relics of thy grandeur flown, Land of the Pharaohs and their prostrate throne.
Ere the white stranger's land had trodden been By foot of pilgrim, Egypt sat supreme, Queen of the nations, and her realm within Wealth, learning, power convened—a full, deep stream! The bulwarks of her throne were safely reared In hearts by which her greatness was revered.
And now, with Science for his trusty guide, The stranger comes to read her mystic lore, Tread her deserted cities, stand beside Her sculptured temples, eloquent once more; Not with man's voice, but with the nobler speech Of days beyond our spirit's utmost reach.
And those proud monuments of youthful time, The pyramids, whose lofty sides have borne The storms of centuries in that fierce clime, And seeming still to smile in speechless scorn, When bow the everlasting hills with age, Then shall they vanish from the world's bright page.
A mournful ruin to thy utmost bound, A type of glory long since passed away, The statue voiceless whence the thrilling sound Of gushing music hailed the rising day; Thus art thou now, oh Egypt! but the flame Of new-born Science gilds thine ancient name.
And from the dust shalt thou arise once more, Not by thine own degenerate sons upreared, But strangers who have sought thy verdant shore Shall hail thy fallen greatness, still revered; Until among the kingdoms of the earth Thou shalt appear renewed—a second birth!
THE QUOD CORRESPONDENCE.
Notwithstanding his having made what most persons would have considered a hearty meal at Harry Harson's, Mr. Kornicker had nevertheless such perfect reliance on his own peculiar gastronomic abilities, that he did not in the least shrink from again testing them. Leaving Michael Rust's presence with an alacrity which bordered upon haste, he descended into the refectory with somewhat of a jaunty air, humming a tune, and keeping time to it by an occasional flourish of the fingers. Having seated himself, his first act was to shut his eyes, thrust his feet at full length under the table; plunge both hands to the very bottom of his breeches-pockets, where they grasped spasmodically two cents and a small key, and laugh silently for more than a minute, occasionally breaking in upon his merriment to gossip to himself in the most profound and mysterious manner.
'A queer dog! a very queer dog! d——d queer, old Michael is! Well, that's his business, not mine.'
As soon as this idea had fully impressed itself upon him, he sat up, became grave, and looked about in search of the waiter. In doing so, he encountered the eyes of a short fat man at a table near him, who at the first glance seemed to be reading a newspaper, but at the second, seemed to be reconnoitering him over it. Mr. Kornicker observing this, not only returned his glance, but added a wink to it by way of interest. The man thereupon laid down his paper, and nodded.
Mr. Kornicker nodded in reply; and said he hoped he was well, and that his wife and small children were equally fortunate.
The face of the stranger was a round, jolly face, with two little eyes that twinkled and glistened between their fat lids, as if they were very devils for fun; and his whole appearance was cozy and comfortable. His chin was double; his stomach round and plump, with an air of respectability; and he occasionally passed his hand over it, as if to say: 'Ah ha! beat that who can!' But notwithstanding his merry look, at this last remark his face grew long; and with a melancholy shake of his head, he pointed to his hat which hung on a peg above him, and was swathed in a broad band of crape, terminating in two stiff skirts projecting from it like a rudder, and giving it the appearance of a corpulent butterfly in mourning, at roost on the wall.
'Ah!' said Mr. Kornicker, looking at the hat, 'that's it?'
'Yes,' replied the stranger, with a deep sigh, 'that's it.'
'Father?' inquired Mr. Kornicker, nodding significantly toward the hat.
'No—wife,' replied the other.
'Dead?' inquired Mr. Kornicker.
'Dead as a hammer.'
'Was it long or short? consumption or fits?' asked Mr. Kornicker, drawing up his feet and turning so as to face the stranger, by way of evincing the interest which he felt in his melancholy situation.
The man shook his head, and was so affected that he was troubled with a temporary cold in his head; which, having alleviated by the aid of his handkerchief, he said: 'Poor woman! She undertook to present me with a fine boy, last week, and it proved too much for her. It exhausted her animal natur', and she decamped on a sudden. She was a very fine woman—a very fine woman. I always said she was.'
'And the child?' inquired Kornicker; 'I hope it's well.'
'Quite well, I thank you. It went along with her. They are both better off; saints in heaven, both of 'em; out of this wale of tears.'
Mr. Kornicker told him to cheer up. He said that every man had a crook in his lot. Some men had big crooks, and some men had little crooks; and although this crook made rather a bad elbow in his lot, that perhaps all the rest was square and straight, and he could build on it to advantage, especially if it was twenty-five feet by a hundred, which was the ordinary width and length of 'lots in general.'
Having delivered himself of this rather confused allegory, Mr. Kornicker, by way of farther consolation, drew out his snuff-box, and stretching out as far as was possible without falling from his chair, tendered it to the stranger, who in return leaning so far forward as slightly to raise his person from the chair, gently inserted his fingers in the box, and helped himself to a pinch, at the same time remarking, that it 'was a great comfort, in his trying situation, to find friends who sympathized with his misfortunes. That he had found it so; and that Mr. Kornicker was a man whose feelings did credit to human natur'.'
Kornicker disclaimed being any thing above the ordinary run of men, or that his feelings were more than every other man possessed, or ought to possess. But the stranger was vehement in his assertions to the contrary; so much so, that he rose from his seat, and drawing a chair to the opposite side of Kornicker's table, proposed that they should breakfast together.
Kornicker shook his head:
'It's against the agreement,' said he; 'it can't be done.'
'But it can, Sir—it shall, Sir! A man of your sympathies is not to be met with every day, and must be breakfasted with, whether he will or not—agreement or no agreement. Don't agreement me!' said the stranger, lifting up his chair and setting it down opposite Kornicker, with great emphasis. 'What's the natur' of this agreement?'
Mr. Kornicker assumed a very grave and legal expression of countenance, and without replying, asked:
'What's your name?'
'I, Edward Kornicker, forbid you, Ezra Scrake, from breakfasting with me, telling you that it is contrary to a certain agreement, referred to but not set forth; and I now repeat the request, that you forthwith retire to another table, and that I be permitted to take my meal by myself.' He threw himself back in his chair, and looked Mr. Scrake full in the face.
'And I, Ezra Scrake, say that I won't leave this table, and that I will breakfast with a fellow whose benevolence might warm the witals of a tiger.'
'Very well, Sir,' said Kornicker, relaxing from his former severe expression; 'I've done my duty. Old Rust can't blame me. The breach of contract is not on my part. I'm acting under compulsion. Just recollect that I desired you to leave me, in case it gets me into hot water, and that you refused; that's all. Now old fellow, what'll you take? Only recollect, that each man rides his own pony.'
The stranger nodded, and said that of course he would 'foot his own bill.'
These preliminaries being settled, the boy, who had been standing at their elbow in a state of ecstatic delight at the proceedings of Mr. Kornicker, with whom he had become familiar, and whom he regarded as a gentleman of great legal acumen, and in all other respects as rather a 'tall boy,' was desired by the stranger to hand him the bill of fare, and not to keep him waiting all day. Having been gratified in this respect, Mr. Scrake commenced at the top and deliberately whispered his way to the bottom of the list.
'Beef-steak; shall I say for two?' asked he, looking up at Kornicker.
'Yes, but always under protest, as to our breakfasting together,' said Mr. Kornicker, winking at him. 'Don't forget that.'
'Of course. Now, my son, what trimmings have you got?' said he to the boy.
'Are they kidneys, blue-noses, or fox?—and will they bu'st open white and mealy?'
'They'm prime,' replied the boy.
'Bring one for me; or, stop—are they extra?'
'We throws them in with the steak, gratis.'
'Then bring a dishful, with coffee, bread, and whatever else adds to the breakfast, without adding to the bill.'
The boy, having no other interest in the establishment than that of securing his own wages and meals, was highly delighted at this considerate order of Mr. Scrake, and forthwith disappeared to obey it.
In the meanwhile Mr. Scrake, after having deliberately re-perused the bill of fare, and not observing any thing else which could be got for nothing, laid it down, and looking at Mr. Kornicker, who was gazing abstractedly at the table-cloth, said that he hoped he (Mr. Scrake) was not going to be impertinent; and as Mr. Kornicker made no other reply than that of looking at him, as if he considered it a matter of some doubt whether he was or was not, he elucidated the meaning of his remark, by inquiring who Michael Rust was.
'The old gentlemen that caters for me,' replied Kornicker, carelessly.
'And does he make you eat alone?'
'If I dine double, he'll stop the prog, that's all.'
'A sing'lar bargain—quite sing'lar; very sing'lar, in fact. Does he keep a tight eye over you?'
Mr. Kornicker did not exactly know what kind of an eye a tight eye was, but he replied: 'Sometimes he does, sometimes he don't. He's nigh enough to do it. His office is overhead.'
'Lawyer, I suppose?—must be,' said Mr. Scrake, drumming carelessly on the table.
'You're out, old fellow. I'm with him, and should know something of him; and he isn't.'
'Ah!' said the stranger, leaning back and yawning, and then sharpening his knife on the fork. 'What is he then?'
Mr. Kornicker raised his finger gently to his nose, winked so violently at Mr. Scrake that he caused that gentleman to stop short in his performance to look at him; after which he shut both eyes, and gave vent to a violent inward convulsion of laughter.
'What is he?' repeated Kornicker, in a tone of high surprise; then sinking his voice, and leaning over the table, he whispered confidentially in Mr. Scrake's ear: 'He's hell.'
'No! he isn't though, is he?' said Mr. Scrake, dropping his knife and fork, and sinking back in his chair.
'Yes he is,' repeated Mr. Kornicker; 'and if you was a certain gentleman that I know, you'd find it out. He will some day, I rather think.'
'Are you that individual?' inquired Mr. Scrake, with an air of deep interest.
'No, I ain't, but I suspect some one else is. But come,' said he, 'there's the breakfast, so let's be at it, and drop all other discussion.'
This remark found an answering echo in the stomach of Mr. Scrake, who resumed the sharpening of his knife, as the breakfast entered the room, and did not desist until the steak was on the table, when he immediately assaulted it.
'Shall I help you? What part will you take?'
'Any part,' replied Kornicker, carelessly.
'Well, it's sing'lar; I never could carve. I'll help you as I would help myself,' said Mr. Scrake, in his ignorance depositing on Mr. Kornicker's plate an exceedingly tough piece of dry meat, and upon his own a cut which was remarkably tender and juicy.
'Do you always help yourself as you have helped me?' said Mr. Kornicker, snuffing with great deliberation, and eyeing his portion with no very contented eye.
'Then you do yourself d——d great injustice.'
'Ha! ha! good—very good; sheer ignorance on my part, upon my soul. But you were telling me about this man, this Rust,' said Mr. Scrake, mashing his potatoes, and entombing a lump of butter in the heart of a small pyramid of them. 'You said he was hell, or the devil, or something of that sort. What then? Eh?'
Kornicker, though not at all pleased with the ignorance of his companion, in the particular branch in which it had just displayed itself, was not of a sulky disposition, and was easily won into a communicative mood, particularly as Mr. Scrake begged him, with tears in his eyes, to tell him which was the best part of a beef-steak, so that he might avoid in future the mortification of being guilty of a similar error.
As the coffee went down, and the beef-steak followed, Mr. Scrake seemed to relax, and to forget that his hat hung over his head, commemorative of the recent retirement of Mrs. Scrake from this 'wale of tears,' and became quite jocular on the subject of the fair sex, congratulating Kornicker upon his looks; calling him a lucky dog, and telling him that if he were him, he'd 'make up to some charming young woman with a fortune, and be off with her.' He then went into a detail of his own juvenile indiscretions, relating many incidents of his life; some of which were amusing, some ridiculous, some tragic, some pathetic, and not a few quite indecent. It was wonderful what a devil that fat-cheeked, little-eyed, round-stomached fellow had been. Who could resist the influence of such a man? Not poor Kornicker; it gradually had its effect upon him, for he in turn grew communicative; talked freely of Rust, and of every man, woman and child of his acquaintance. He grew merry over the rare doings which had taken place in Rust's den. He then descanted upon the peculiarities of the old man; his fierce fits of passion, his cold, shrewd, caustic manners, his coming in, and his going out; how long he was absent; how profoundly secret he kept himself, his doings, his whereabouts, and his mode of life. 'And,' said he, in conclusion, 'I know nothing of him. He's a queer dog, a wonderfully queer one. It would take a long time to fathom him, I can tell you. I've been with him for a long time; and am his confidential adviser, his lawyer, and all that sort of thing; and yet I've never done but two things for him.'
'You don't say so!' exclaimed Mr. Scrake, laying down his knife and fork; and looking at him with his mouth open; 'and pray what were those things?'
'I sued one man,' (being a lawyer you know,) said he, nodding in an explanatory way at Mr. Scrake, 'and carried a letter to another.'
'Ah! and who were those fortunate individuals?'
'Poh! I suppose there's no secret about it. The man sued, was one Enoch Grosket. The other was one Henry Harson; a jolly old boy he was too. I breakfasted with him; a prime fellow; keeps a d——d ugly cur, though.'
'Enoch Grosket, Henry Harson!' said the stranger, musing; 'I've heard of them, I think. Who are they?'
'It is more than I can tell,' replied Kornicker. 'That's the mystery of my situation. I know nothing about any thing I'm doing, or of him, or his acquaintances.'
'Why, you must know what you sued the man for,' said Mr. Scrake, earnestly; 'you must know that, surely.'
'Yes, but it's a height of knowledge which don't carry much information with it,' replied Mr. Kornicker. 'I sued him on a promissory note. What he made it for, or how Rust got it, or any thing more about him, or it, or Harson, or Rust, I know as little as you.'
The stranger drew himself up, and looking at him gravely, said in a serious and even stern tone: 'Do you mean to say that you are entirely ignorant of every thing respecting this Rust; his family, his business, his acquaintances, his associates, his habits, his plans and operations?'—in short, that you know nothing more than you have mentioned to me?'
The other nodded.
'Waiter, my bill,' said he in a peremptory tone.
The boy brought him a slip of paper, on which was written the amount.
He paid it without a word; walked across the room, took down his hat, put it on his head, and turning to Kornicker, said in a tone of solemn earnestness: 'Young man, you're in a bad way, a very bad way. Had I known with what people you were in the habit of associating before I sat down at that table, Ezra Scrake's legs and yours would never have been under the same mahogany. A man in the employ of another and know nothing of him! It's enormous! He might be a murderer, a thief; a man-slaughterer; a Burker, an arsoner, or any thing that is bad. Young man, in spite of the injury you've done me, I pity you; nay, I forgive you.'
Mr. Kornicker, was merely waiting for an opportunity to suggest to him that his company had not only been unsought, but actually forced upon him, and even under his solemn protest. But before he could do so, Mr. Scrake was in the street; whereupon, on ascertaining that he was out of the hearing of Mr. Kornicker, he muttered to himself: 'It was no go. Waited for him two hours; then spent an hour in pumping a dry well. Enoch Grosket, has sent me on a fool's errand. Michael Rust knows too much to trust that addle-headed fool.'
Having given vent to these observations, he deliberately buttoned up his coat, and walked off.
In a dark room into which even in the day-time the light struggled in such scanty streams that a kind of twilight was the nearest approach that it ever made to broad day, but which was now only lighted by a single candle, that flared and dripped in the currents of air, as they eddied and whirled about, seeking an escape, sat Tim Craig, and his comrade Bill Jones, the men with Rust's interview with whom the reader is already acquainted. They were sitting cheek by jowl on two wooden benches in front of a fire, which they from time to time nourished with sticks from a heap of wood on the hearth. The fire however would not burn, but kept smouldering and smoking, now and then springing up into a fitful blaze, which threw a spectral air over the room, peopling its dim recesses with all sorts of fantastic forms, and then expired, leaving it more gloomy than ever. The appearance of the men, their subdued, whispering voices and startled looks, showed that at that particular time they were not altogether in a frame of mind to resist the gloomy influence of the place. The dark, lonely room, with its large shadowy corners and gaping seams, through which the wind sighed and wailed, and the pattering of the rain as it swept heavily against the side of the house and on the roof, all tended to add to the melancholy and sombre tone of their feelings. Bill drew his bench to the fire, looked suspiciously about him, and then, as if half ashamed of having done so, said:
'It's a h-ll of a night! I don't know how it is, but I'm not in trim to-night. Blow me, if the sight of that old fellow don't make one's blood cold. I can't get warm; and this bloody fire keeps sputtering and smoking, as if to spite one.'
Tim Craig, to whom this remark was addressed, turned and looked him steadily in the face, without speaking; and then his eyes wandered about the room, as if he were fearful of being watched or overheard, in what he was going to say.
'Bill,' said he in a low voice, his thin lips quivering; but whether from anger or any other emotion, was a matter of much doubt; 'd——d if I know which way to leap! Enoch pulls one way and Rust another. Either of them could send us to kingdom come. Ugh! how cold it is! Something comes over me to-night—I can't tell what. I don't half like the job. Bill,' continued he after a pause, drawing nearer his comrade and lowering his voice, 'I'm haunted to-night. You know that fellow, the man up town, the cartman——' He hesitated, and leaned his mouth close to the ear of the other, while in the dim light his face seemed ghastly; 'the—the man, last year——'
Jones looked at him significantly; and then drew his finger across his throat. 'Do you mean that fellow?'
'Yes,' replied Craig in a husky tone, and scarcely able to articulate, for the choking in his throat. 'He's been here to-night. Three times I've caught him looking over my shoulder! GOD! There he is again! Light! light! light!' shouted he, springing up; 'make the fire burn, I say—make it burn! Heap on wood! heap it on! Do anything—but keep HIM off!'
'Why, Tim, you seem to be took bad,' exclaimed his companion, at the same time getting on his knees, and setting assiduously to work to blow the fire. 'Come, this is worse than ever. We've got to work to-night; and it wont do to go into your fantastics.'
He paused in his remarks to apply his breath to the fire, and with such success, that in a few minutes a bright blaze was dancing up the chimney, lighting the whole room, and dispelling at once that shadowy appearance which its great size and dilapidated state had tended to give it.
'There now, that's as comfortable a fire as you can want; and arter all, what you was just talking of was all fancy,' said he, resuming his seat. 'Dead men stay where you put 'em.'
Craig had been pacing furiously up and down the room, as if to out-walk some demon that would keep at his side; but he stopped short, and going up to his comrade, placed his hand on his shoulder and said: 'Bill Jones, that's a lie! Whoever says so, lies! Dead men don't stay where you put 'em. I've had that man walking with me for hours together. I've had him at the same table with me, when I ate; I've had him in bed with me—ay, all night long; and to-night he's been here with his face almost touching mine. Blast him! if I could but get him by the throat, I'd throttle him!'
'Come, come, Tom, none of this,' said Jones, with more gentleness than his appearance indicated. 'I'm sorry for you; you must feel bad enough, or you wouldn't go on so. I've know'd you since we were boys together; and I know it's not a little matter that works you up, like you are now. Come, sit down.' He led him to a seat, and kneeling at his feet, took his hand in both of his. 'Don't give in so, my old feller. Don't you know, when we were boys, how we all looked up to you; and although I could have doubled you up, with my big limbs, yet you always had the mastery over me. Ha! ha! Tim, don't you remember the old schoolmaster, too? Hallo! what now?'
Craig leaned his head upon Jones' shoulder and sobbed aloud. Don't talk of those days, Bill; it'll drive me mad. Oh! if I was a boy again! But no, no; I'm a fool,' exclaimed he, springing up, apparently swallowing his emotion at one fierce gulp, and in an instant becoming as hardened as ever. 'Am I crazy, to-night, or what ails me, that I've become as white-livered as a girl? Where's the grog? Give us a sup; and we'll see what's to be done.'
'There, now you talk right,' said Jones, putting his hand in his coat-pocket and drawing out a small bottle, cased in leather; 'that'll wake you up; and now to business. You hav'n't told me what's to be did, and who you'll go with, Grosket, or Rust.'
'Rust,' said Craig, abruptly; 'he's our man. He can bleed; Enoch can't. He never fails in what he wants to do; Enoch does; but they are both devils incarnate. I'd rather fight against ten other men than either of them; but rather against Enoch than Mike Rust.'
'Well, what is it? He told you all about it. I couldn't hear what he said.'
'He's been on the prowl for two days: God knows what he's arter; but he wants us to break in a house and steal a girl.'
'The profligate willain!' exclaimed Mr. Jones, with an air of great horror; 'I'll tell his father of him!'
'It's only a child.'
'Oh! that alters the case,' said Mr. Jones, 'Then I'll tell his wife. Well?'
'We are to go to the house, get the girl at all hazards, rob the house if we choose, and bring her here. What he wants of her, who she is, is more than I know. 'You are to get her, and ask no questions,' that's what he said.'
'Who's in the house?'
'Only an old man and a woman.'
'The man?—is he used up, or what?'
'He's a bull-dog,' was the laconic reply.
'We'll want them then,' said Jones, pointing to a closet which was partly open, showing several pairs of pistols on a shelf.
'I suppose so. Bring 'em out, and look at the locks; not the flintlocks—it's a wet night; get the others. We must have no trifling.'
Jones made no other reply than to take out a pair of pistols, which he carried to the light, and examined their locks.
'Are they loaded?' inquired Craig.
Jones nodded: 'Two bullets in each! Suppose they twig us?—are we to fight or run?'
''You had better die than fail.' He said that,' replied Craig, in a low tone; 'and when I saw his look I thought so too. D—n him! I'm afraid of him. It'll be no baby-work if they discover us.'
The other robber made no reply, but continued to examine the pistols, carefully rubbing the barrels, to remove any trace of rust, and working the hammers backward and forward; after which he put two fresh caps on the cones. 'All right! I'm ready as soon as it's time. When do you go?'
'Not till an hour after midnight. That's the time when folks sleep soundest. You could cut a man's throat then without waking him. Don't let the fire get down,' said he, turning an apprehensive eye toward the fire-place. 'It's cold, and we've three hours to be here yet.'
Jones, with the same good-natured alacrity which he had before displayed, threw several sticks on the fire, and then turning to his comrade, said:
'Suppose we rattle the dice till midnight?'
Craig shook his head.
'What say you to the paste-board?'
'No cards for me,' replied the other, seating himself and leaning his cheeks between his hands, with his elbows on his knees, and his eyes fastened on the fire. 'I want to be on the move. God! How I wish it was time! This cursed room is enough to suffocate one. Curse me, but it smells of coffins and dead men, and is as cold as a church-vault. It goes to a fellow's very bones.'
There was something so unusual in the mood of his comrade, that Jones at last started up and said:
'Blast me, Tim, but you must stop this. You're making me as wild and frightened as yourself. Talk of your beaks, and courts, and prisons, and bullets, and pistols, as much as you like; but d—n it, leave your dead men, and coffins, and vaults, and all them 'ere to themselves, will you! Curse me, if you ain't enough to make a sneak of any man. So just stop, will you? If you can't talk of something better, don't talk at all.'
Craig took him at his word; and drawing his bench closer to the fire, maintained his position, without moving or speaking for more than an hour.
Jones, in the mean while, for want of employment, again examined the pistols; drew out the loads, and reloaded them; then going to the closet, he brought out two very dangerous-looking knives, and after trying the points on his finger, proceeded to oil them. This over, he betook himself to whistling, at the same time, keeping time to his music by drumming his heel heavily on the floor. This, however, could not last forever; and finally, wrapping a heavy coat around his shoulders, he stretched himself at full length in front of the fire, and was soon sound asleep.
Not so his companion. In silence, without stirring, and scarcely breathing, yet wide awake, with ears alive to every sound, and distorting every sigh of the wind into the voice of a human being, he sat with white lips and a shaking hand until the faint chime of a clock, which reached him even above the noise of the storm, told him that the hour was come.
'Wake up!' said he, touching Jones with his foot. 'It's time to be off.'
Jones, with instinctive quickness, obeyed the call by springing to his feet, apparently as wide awake as if he had not closed his eyes during the night.
'All right!' said he, looking hastily about the room. 'Hey! but what's all this noise?'
'It's a horrible night; all hell seems abroad,' said Craig. 'But come; get ready, and let's be off.'
'Will we want any of them?' asked Jones, pointing to an upper shelf in the closet, on which was lying a number of uncouth-looking instruments, the nature of which was best known to themselves.
'Take the small crow; we may want that, but nothing more.'
'The bag, too?' inquired Bill.
'No; it's a girl we've to steal; d—n it, I wish it wasn't!'
While he was speaking, he had thrust his arms into a shaggy great-coat, and was tying a thick woollen wrapper over his mouth, so that the last remark was nearly lost in it. He then put on an oil-skin cap, not unlike what is called by sailors a 'sou'-wester,' and stood watching the proceedings of his comrade, which were by no means as expeditious as his own; for that gentleman proceeded very leisurely to encase his feet in a pair of thick woollen stockings, and a pair of shoes more capable of resisting the wet than those which he then wore. After this, he put an oil-cloth jacket over his other one, and surmounted the whole by a coat similar to that worn by Craig.
'One would suppose you was a baby, from your tenderness to yourself,' said Craig, impatiently. 'You ain't sugar, are you? Do you expect the rain to melt you?'
'I'm a sweet fellow, I know that,' replied the other, carefully buttoning his coat to the chin. 'I may be sugar for all I know, shouldn't be surprised if I was. I've been told so afore this; let me tell you that, my old feller. You ain't in kidney to-night. Take another pull at little Job,' said he, handing him the bottle, 'and we'll be off.'
Whatever Craig's contempt of the rain might be, it did not seem to extend to other liquids; for he took the bottle, and applying it to his lips, did not remove it until the bottom of it was not a little inclined toward the ceiling; perhaps its elevation might even have increased, had not Jones reminded him that it being late at night, the vessel could not be replenished, and that there was a 'small child' to be helped after him, who hated above all things sucking at the neck of a dry bottle.
Craig permitted the bottle to be taken from his hand, and stood with his eyes fixed on the floor in deep thought; nor did he arouse himself until Jones took him by the arm, and said:
'Come on; all's ready.'
Craig started at the words. 'The pistols and the glim?'
'I've got 'em.'
'And the crow-bar?'
'All snug here,' said Jones, touching the pocket of his great-coat.
'Good! Follow me.' Craig strode across the room, and went out.
It was a dreadful night. The rain spouted furiously from the water-conductors, and sped boiling and foaming through the streets. The wind too caught it up as it fell, and swept it in long sheets through the streets; and as the two men battled their way along, it seemed actually to hiss around them, like the long lash of a whip. The tempest had a rare frolic that night, and right merrily did it howl over the house-tops, and through the narrow streets; and fast and furiously did the water bubble and boil, as it dashed on like mad to the deep river, to take refuge in her bosom from its tormentor the hurricane.
Not a thing was stirring; not a beast. Not a man, except the two felons. A right glorious night it was for rapine and midnight murder. The house-dog had slunk in his straw, and the watchman was dozing away, under some shed, or stoop, or in some dark door-way. There was nothing to stand in the way of these enterprising men, save the fierce storm, and what cared they for that? It was the very night for them. If it came to blows, or if a life was to be taken, the death-cry would be lost in the howling of the wind; it was the night of all nights for them; and so thought Craig and his comrade, as they toiled along, with their heads bent down to keep the rain out of their faces.
'Is it far?' at last inquired Jones; 'we've come a mile.'
'Half a mile more,' replied Craig; and that was all that passed between them, until they stood in front of Harson's house.
'This is it,' said Craig.
He lifted the latch of the gate opening into the door-yard, and approached the house.
'Where are we to begin?' inquired Jones.
Craig pointed to a small window on a level with, or rather sunk somewhat below, the surface of the ground, with a kind of area around it. 'There; there are iron gratings, but they are set in the wood, which is all rotten. Quick! try them with the crow-bar; they'll give.'
Jones, with an alacrity and adroitness which showed a long experience in such matters, after feeling his way to the place, and passing his hand over the bars to discover their exact situation, inserted his crow-bar between the stone-work and the wood, and at the very first application forced the whole out. A wooden shutter which opened from within, being merely secured by a wooden button, gave way before a strong pressure of his hand, and left the entrance open.
'Go in quick!—don't keep a fellow in the rain all night,' said Craig, in a sharp whisper. 'It's only three feet to the floor. Get in, will you?'
'Shut up! Cuss ye!' exclaimed Jones, savagely; 'let me take my own way.'
As he spoke, he inserted his feet, and gradually let himself down until he touched the floor. In a moment Craig was at his side, and closed the shutter.
'Now, quick! a light!' whispered he. In another minute, the dark lantern was lighted, and Craig, taking it up and throwing back the slide, turned it carefully around the place. It was a cellar, filled with empty barrels and boxes; and seemed to be a sort of receptacle for rubbish of all descriptions. At one end was a door leading to the upper part of the house. It was partly open. Without a word, Craig went to it and ascended the stairs, which were shut off from the kitchen by another door.
Craig opened this, and crossed the room with a quick yet stealthy step, but with the air of one perfectly familiar with the precincts. Passing through the entry, he went into Harson's sitting-room; from there into the outer room, communicating with the street.
'We'll open the street door, Bill,' said he, 'in case we have to bolt quick. There,' said he, as he drew back two bolts, and turned the key, don't forget the road. Leave all the doors open. That'll do. We'll get the girl first, and then we'll see what's to be done. First door at the head of the stairs. Quiet, quiet; there's a dog in the next room.'
Stealing up the stairs, they opened the door, and the full light of the lamp fell in the child's room. They could hear her low, regular breathing as she slept. Craig handed the light to his companion.
'I'll take her,' whispered he. 'Bring the light so that I can see. There, that will do.' He bent over her. As he did so, he accidentally stirred the bed-clothes, and the child opened her eyes; and before he could prevent it, a single wild cry escaped her as she caught sight of the wild faces which were bending over her.
'Christ! how she yelps!' exclaimed Craig, in a fierce whisper. He clapped his hand over her mouth. 'By G-d! there goes the dog too! we must be off. My chicken,' said he, in a low tone, 'if you understand plain English, you know what I mean when I say if you whisper loud enough to wake a cat, you'll get a bullet through your head. Hist! Bill, was that a door creaking? I can't hear for the d——d dog!' Both stopped and listened.
'It was only the door below,' said Jones. 'Quick! quick!'
Craig caught the child out of bed, wrapped a blanket about her to stifle her cries, in case she should make any, and moved to the door.
'Turn the light on the door; I can't see. There, that will do. Now then, it's open, and the game's ours.'
'Not quite!' said a stern voice; and the next instant Craig received a blow from a fist which sent him reeling back into the room.
'Watch! watch! murder! thieves!' bellowed Harson from without, while from the din, at least forty pug-dogs seemed to be barking in all parts of the entry.
'Shoot him! shoot him down!' shouted Craig, springing to the door. 'By G-d! the door's shut, and he's holding it from the outside!' exclaimed he, pulling it with all his force. 'He's as strong as a bull. Quick! shoot through the panel! He must stand behind the knob. Fire!'
Instead of obeying him, Bill Jones seized the child. 'Hark ye, old fellow,' said he; 'shut up, or I'll dash this girl's brains out. If I don't, d—n me!'
This appeal was heard, and operated upon Harson; but in a different manner from what they expected, for he relaxed his hold of the door so suddenly, that Craig fell backward, and bursting into the room, with a single blow prostrated the burglar, who was bending over the child, and dashed the light to the ground. His advantage was only momentary; for in a minute Craig flung himself upon him. But the old man's blood was up. In his young days he had been a powerful wrestler; and even now the robber found him no easy conquest, for he said, in a husky tone: 'This won't do, Bill. Drop the girl and come here. This blasted old fool will keep us all night.'
Instead of obeying him, Jones stole to the head of the stairs and listened. In an instant he sprang back.
'We must be off, Tim! Some one is coming. Quick! Let loose the man.'
But there were two to that bargain; for Harson had heard the words as well as the robber, and he held him with a grip like a vice.
'Let go your hold and we'll be off,' said Craig, in a husky voice.
'Never! You shall taste what you are so ready to give!' said Harson, fiercely.
'Bill, there's no time to lose!' exclaimed Craig, in a stern tone. 'Shoot him, and have done with it! There, now; I'll hold him.'
The report of a pistol followed; but as it did so, a deep groan came from Craig. 'You've done for me, Bill. The old fellow dodged. Run! run!—my rope's out.'
'Can't I help you, Tim?' exclaimed Jones.
'No, no; go! Get off; I'll not blow on you.'
Thus adjured, the robber paused no longer. But escape was now no easy matter; for at the door he was saluted by a loud voice:
'Hallo! Harry; is this you?'
'No, no, a thief! Grab him, Frank!'
The next instant Jones was in the grip of a powerful man, but he was a giant himself, and desperate. He flung himself with all his force upon his adversary, and both went to the floor together; Jones' hand on the other's throat.
There is something fearful in the grapple of a desperate man, even when feeble in frame; and in the case of Jones, who knew that every thing depended on his efforts, and whose fierce spirit was backed by muscles of iron, the conflict was one of such fury that the very walls of the old house shook. From step to step, from the landing to the hall, they fought; tugging and tearing at each other like two dogs, while Harry Harson in vain hung about them; the darkness and the rapidity of their motions preventing him from distinguishing friend from foe.
'By G-d! he's an ox for strength,' at last said Frank; 'if you'd do any thing, Harry, go to the door and sing out for the watch. I'll hold him.'
It might be that in order to utter these words the Doctor relaxed his grip, or it might be that the knowledge of the increased risk that he would run gave additional strength to the robber, for he made a single desperate effort, tore himself from the iron grasp that held him down, rose to his knee, and striking the Doctor a blow in the face that for a moment bewildered him, sprang to his feet, dashed Harson from the door, bounded across the room between the hall and the street-door, and darted into the street at full speed.
'D—n me, Harry, he's off!' said the Doctor, assuming a sitting posture on the floor. 'He deserves to escape, for he fought like a devil for it. D—n him, he's a brave fellow! There's no use in chasing him, I suppose; you and I ain't cut out for running. If that last crack had hit me on the nose, it would have smashed it. Come, let's see after the other fellow; perhaps he's playing possum, and may be off. If you don't stop the barking of that d——d dog of yours, I'll kill him.' Groping their way back to the upper floor, from which they caught sight of Spite, rapidly retreating as they advanced, they found the house-keeper standing in the room which they had just left, arrayed in a particularly large white night-gown and wearing a particularly high cap, with a particularly fierce white ribbon on the top of it, and bearing in her hand a dim rush-light.
'Quick! Martha; more lights, and some brandy!' said Harson, pushing past her. 'Thank God! you're not hurt, Annie! Come, Doctor, this poor devil is human,' said he, pointing to Craig, who lay on the floor apparently dead. 'Look to him; he breathes. I hear him.'
It needed no second appeal; for before he had finished, the Doctor had turned the robber over, opened his vest, and displayed a wound in his breast. He thrust his finger in it, and then looking up at Harry, shook his head.
'He's a case; must go!'
'Poor fellow! God only knows what may have driven him to this. Help me to put him on the bed.'
Taking him in their arms, they placed him on the bed; and there they sat and watched him until the dawn of day. The bright sunshine came cheerily in at the window; the storm had passed, and the sky looked clear and blue, as if it had never been unruffled. And at that hour, and in that room, with the golden sunbeams streaming in, lay Tim Craig, his head pressed heavily back upon the pillow, bound round with a cloth dabbled in blood. His face was blackened and bruised, and his shirt and the bed-clothes stained with blood. His breath was short and heavy, and at times, gasping; his mouth half open, and his dull eye fixed with a heavy leaden stare at the ceiling. His race was nearly run. He seemed utterly unconscious of the presence of any one, until the door opened, and Harson, who had gone out, came in.
He went to the bed, and leaned over the burglar. As he did so, his shadow falling across the man's face, attracted his attention, and he turned his heavy eye, and asked, in a husky voice:
'Will I go? What does he say?'
Harson shook his head. 'It's almost over with you, my poor fellow; God help you!'
The man turned his head away and looked at the wall.
'Do you understand me?' said Harson, anxiously bending over him.
'Yes, yes,' replied the man in the same mumbling tone; 'yes, I'm come for; my time's up. I was a strong man yesterday; and now! now——! It's very strange! very strange!' He muttered a few inarticulate words, and then resumed his old position, looking at the wall, with no sound escaping him except the low panting of his breath. Suddenly he said, in a louder tone:
'It's all very strange here.' He pointed to his head. 'Were you ever at sea? Yes; well, well—did you ever see a ship toss and swing to and fro—to and fro—to and fro, and yet keep straight on? Well, my brain reels and swims in that way. There are dim strange things; men, beasts, birds, and ghosts hovering about it; but I see straight on, and they are on all sides of the path; yes, I see it straight, straight, straight and plain. I'm going on it. They can't make me swerve; but it's awful to have such company about me on such a journey. Come close to me!'
Harson drew his chair close to the bed and sat down. 'I've sent for a clergyman,' said he, in a low tone; 'He'll be here presently. You must endeavor to chase away these thoughts; they are only dreams.'
Craig's thin lips contracted into a smile which was horrible, as without moving his eyes from their fixed position, he whispered: 'No, no; he won't do it—he'll not do it. No; I won't blow on you, Bill. Ha! how hot that bullet was! Lift me up! He's there! Yes, lift me up, so that I may be above him; up! up! Ha! ha! that'll do. Bill, do you recollect the old school-master? There! Up! up!'
Harson put his arm under him, and raised him. As he did so, Craig's head fell against his shoulder, dabbling it with blood. The next instant he stretched himself out at full length, gave a shudder; a long rattling breath followed; and he fell back on the pillow—dead.
LINES TO DEATH.
How vain is human strength to flee, Thou mighty ONE! from thee!
Thou hid'st the scenes that lie the grave beyond— Thou hast the secrets of the world unseen; Where the loved ones, the beautiful, the fond, And all who tossed on life's wild sea have been, Have gone in silence at thy dreadful call, Great conqueror of all!
Empires are crumbled at thy dread command, And nations rise and nourish but to fall; Even earth is thine; and thou e'er long shalt stand, And mark its wealth, and power, and beauty, all Fade and depart as sunbeams in the heaven Vanish and die at even!
The midnight storm, the tempest raging high, The sweeping pestilence, and fell disease, Rude winter's blast, and balmy summer's sigh, Earth, and the sea whose murmurs never cease, All are but agents of thy sovereign will, Thy bidding to fulfil.
Couldst thou to man's earth-fettered soul reveal The bliss thou bringest to the pure in heart, Would sudden horror o'er his spirit steal, When called at last with low-born joys to part? Would he not rather sigh for that bless'd shore, Where death is known no more?
Stern Power! though others shudder at thy tread, And vainly seek thy arrow to evade, Before thy stroke I fain would bow my head, Nor grieve to see my transient pleasures fade: In thy embrace my sorrows all shall cease, For in the grave is peace!
SKETCHES OF EAST-FLORIDA.
ST. AUGUSTINE: THE LAST LOOK.
Our schooner was 'up' for Charleston by the first fair wind; but the captain was fastidious, and the only fair wind was directly aft. A point or two off would not do, unless it had been blowing for a day or two and was likely to continue till the captain could land his passengers in Charleston. Running in on the Georgia coast was always very delightful to the passengers, but not at all so to Captain S——. We had taken berths in the schooner about the middle of April, and when the first week in May had passed by, we began to think it would be difficult to find the precise article of air which the captain desired. During this time it seemed to have become coquettish, giving us all kinds of northerly, all varieties of east, and a preponderance of westerly wind, finishing off with a sirocco from the south-west, ('a Boston east wind boiled,' and the only unpleasant summer wind on the coast,) after which it stopped short; the sand and the orange blossoms settled again, and every thing hung perpendicular. The next morning a puff came up from the south in a very blustering manner, as though it had an immense capital to back it, but proved very short-winded. Our little craft thinking to beat us, shook its sails out right and left, and dashed out of the harbor, rounding the point in a handsome manner; but before reaching the bar it slacked away, till 'small by degrees and beautifully less,' it came to a dead stand; and the same evening we dashed back again with a no'th-east-by-east behind us, to the great delight of promenaders on the sea-wall and the public in general. Ladies rode through the streets at a hard-gallop; little niggers crept under balconies; and an individual who shall be nameless performed a feat with a certain Di. Vernon of that ilk, which resulted in a bill the next morning of some odd dollars for extra motion, and a severe lesson upon the moralities of fast-riding. The mid-day weather at this time was decidedly summerish, the temperature having the feel of about seventy in our latitude, but ranging there from eighty to ninety degrees.
We were beginning the summer custom of gathering every morning to meet the 'doctor' (sea-breeze) on the square, only a short walk below, which I prolonged on the sea-wall to the little schooner, examined the labels on the berths, crushed an orange at the corner shop, and lounged up to the nine-pin alley to close up the 'unfinished business.' After bowling, if it was too warm to invent any thing that would not be forgotten before dinner, the old routine was the order of the day; and back-gammon or flirtation had it, according as we were nearer the Florida House or the one 'round the corner.' The thirty or forty others who had helped make the winter pleasant, had been gone for weeks, and our little parties for bathing or riding, or any other trifling matter which might be better than a cigar on the piazza, had that snug kind of personality which is so much more pleasant than safe, that I half-wished the thirty or forty had gone much sooner than they did.
I was sitting on the piazza one morning with a number of un-appropriated blank hours before me, a little embarrassed whether to tease the big bear in the yard or lean over and give up to it, with the old dog who was snapping at flies on the floor, when it struck me as something very fresh, that as the wind was still two points off, I could make one more sally into the country. Before the thought had time to cool, my horse was brought to the door, and looking about for a companion, I asked Miss H——, who hesitated and declined; but I found one in Lieut. T——, who was that morning going over to Picolata. The distance is eighteen miles, through an unbroken pine-barren, (one opening only, at Fort Searle, twelve miles out,) and an under-growth of palmettos of just sufficient height for Indians to hide in. For a long time the travel over all that portion of the territory lying south of a line fifty miles north of us, was with an escort of fifteen or twenty men, who moved at a slow rate, a hundred yards apart, so as not to present to the Indians more than one or two shots at a time from any one point.
Notwithstanding the precaution of a strong escort every day, out or in, on the Picolata road, there had been more downright murdering there than in any other part of the territory, some having been shot down almost in sight of Augustine. This was not escort-day, but if it had been, our horses were not disposed to be six hours in the sun, in going so short a distance. The little grey steed that I had been using for some weeks was not by any means a lady's article, but he had been alongside of them in many a ride on the beach, and so learned the trick of combining the playful and gallant in a very pretty manner. His ambition was to be always up to the mark, and a head more if his companion would allow it; but at the least indication of rivalry his head went down, and nothing less than iron muscles could keep him from his twelve-mile gait. If not well-matched it was his delight to dash ahead for a hundred yards, and then stop and look back, or perhaps return, make a short sweep around his companion, jog on sociably for a little, and then repeat the manoeuvre; and in doing this my arms were only sufficient to guide him a little in case he attempted the barren, and keep him clear of the saw-palmetto. T——'s animal belonged at Picolata. The quarter-master at the barracks had sent him up to be taken over, and as we mounted at the Florida House, I could not help smiling as I recognized the same fellow that the quarter-master had politely sent me for a similar purpose some time previous. He was long-bodied and very long-limbed, and having been brought up in camp, his motion had all the stiffness of the marching step. His point, any two points being given, was to make the straight line between them in the shortest possible time, in an unbroken trot; but there was no danger of his breaking it; he was not capable of a gallop; his limbs couldn't be brought to it.
We passed out of town at an easy pace, talking over the last night's ball; and while crossing the bridge the lieutenant called my attention to his saddle, a cast-iron frame thinly covered with leather, leaving large rib-spaces on the back, which he commended as being delightfully cool. 'But, my dear fellow,' said I, 'why didn't you get a blanket?' He replied that after getting accustomed to it, it was much easier than the padded saddle. 'Do you know,' said I, 'that that horse is a trotter?' 'I'm used to trotters,' said he. 'You ease up a little in the stirrups?' 'No; contrary to rules.'
We now entered the barren, and the moment the horses dipped their hoofs in the sand, the old 'forker,' seeing the problem to be solved, took the bit in his teeth and started for Picolata. At the first dash the forker went ahead. He had laid his course, as they say at sea, and no up-helm or down-helm had the slightest effect upon him. His mind was made up; no wavering, no playfulness, no scarishness, no looking to the right or left. Picolata was the point; 'no two ways' to Picolata; he was on the right way, and he was the horse to do it in double-quick time. The little grey had evidently thought it was too hot for any thing in his line; but as soon as he noticed any thing like game in his companion, his head went down as usual; and after a little hard running, we brushed by the old fellow, made the requisite heading, wheeled, passing the forker on the larboard quarter, and made the circuit, to his great satisfaction. 'Here we go!' said I, as we passed him again; and this time the grey kept 'head on' for some miles, till at length I succeeded in stopping him, and looked back. The forker was coming in a bee-line, T—— bobbing up and down 'with a short uneasy motion,' endeavoring to make a seat of his jacket which he had stripped off; and as he came nearer I noticed that he was trying to look very cool and comfortable. We waited till they came up, but there was no stopping; the forker went by without winking or noticing the grey in the slightest manner.
Easing up on the reins till we came abreast, 'How are you now?' said I. 'Oh, this is nothing' said T——, turning round a very little with a highly-charged expression of face; 'a little rough; yes, a little—little rough; but you observe my seat, Sir—West Point?' 'O yes,' said I; 'very fine—and cool, I suspect.' But there was not much chance of intelligible conversation. T—— kept on talking, but his remarks, meant for the quarter-master, were so barbarously broken, that I could only guess occasionally at some exclamations, which for point and emphasis were highly military. Our rate of travel was not, you observe, from five to ten, or from eight to twelve miles an hour, but exactly ten. That was the forker's motion, from which there was no deviation. If he was struck, his heels went up suddenly and very high, but it was no impediment. He evidently took the blow as a military order for a rear motion; nothing more, and no occasion for malice. Now, if any body wishes to know about the face of the country; how bounded, what products, etc., between Augustine and Picolata, I am unable to give the slightest information from any notes taken that morning. My perceptions were all in medias res; and I only remember seeing a wild turkey that we scared up, and an alligator that made for the water while we were a quarter of a mile distant, and splashed in in a great fright some time after we had passed him.
In little more than an hour we entered the opening at Fort Searle so suddenly, that I heard the orderly report, as he marched up to the commanding officer: 'Two gentlemen from Augustine, Sir.' 'Very well,' said the officer; and he turned to receive the lieutenant, but T—— was past all dignities. Stretching himself on a bench he ordered brandy-and-water, and as that was not quite the thing, added a little cherry bounce, and finished with old Jamaica, and presently went round a corner with a tumbler of the latter; but whether for external or internal application, I am unable to say. Without stopping long enough to get stiff, we mounted again, and after a few closing flourishes from the little grey entered the city of Picolata, consisting of one house, and were greeted with the chattering of ten thousand black-birds all in full chorus. A boat coming up very opportunely, we took passage in her that night, and next morning were at Pilatka.
A few miles south of that place, there is a small plantation on the river that had been deserted and the house burned down by the Indians during the first winter of the war. Some weeks previous, while at Pilatka, Colonel —— had politely offered me a sergeant and nine men to visit the place, but shortly after reaching it they complained of the musquitoes and rode back to the camp, leaving me with the guide and Gen. W—— to finish the survey. I now found a young physician who was waiting an escort for Tampa Bay, and we went out alone; and after studying trails for a long time, and taking directions by the compass, we came in sight of the hammock when some miles distant, and entering by a winding road that was arched over so as to be almost dark as night, we emerged, after a quarter of a mile, in a little round spot in the wilderness, which for quiet beauty was beyond any thing I had ever before seen. There were some forty acres in the circle, and yet it looked not unlike a dollar in a tumbler, so high and dense was the forest. The magnolias, a hundred feet in air, were in full blossom, their white tops making an unbroken wreath over the area, while the lower branches of the live-oaks were loaded with the long moss, hanging like curtains, motionless in the bright light, and not a single bird on the tree-tops to break the perfect charm of the place. Beautiful, very beautiful! but how strangely still! A squirrel chattering, or the rat-tat of a woodpecker, would have been something; but there was not a single voice out; not so much as the hum of a musquito, though it was the hottest of summer days.
Why didn't the oaks speak, or the magnolias? If they had, shaken their white heads, and raising their trailing garments, had all burst out in some grand anthem, I should only have thought it quite in character; and if personally addressed, it would have seemed entirely a matter of course. I should have replied civilly, begged pardon for intruding in so informal a manner, and backed out as soon as possible; and perhaps the click of a rifle would have produced the same effect. We rode around the little gem, and found the charred timbers where the house stood, and a few orange trees that the Indians had left; but the cool spring was so hid in the high grass, that we were forced back with parched lips to the flat water at Pilatka, which place we reached in time for a late dinner; and just as the evening set in I took passage again for Picolata.
All the boats running on the river were in the government service, and ours at this time was loaded fore and aft with a company of dragoons, bound to Black Creek. As we left the dock, another large boat came out in a pompous manner, and gave us chase; and as the day had been intensely hot, a large line of clouds rolled over the bluff at the same time, probably from the gulf en route to the Atlantic, and moving slowly across the river, gathered their black folds around the pine-tops, shutting all up, river and forest, every thing but our chimneys, in utter darkness. And now began a scene which combined little and great in a manner quite fantastic. Boatmen swearing and yelling to each other as the boats came near collision, and that infernal scream sounding off through the pine barrens like some spirit newly damned; horses prancing and threshing on the bows; men growling at cards, and over head thunder and lightning leading off the storm in a very brilliant and point-blank manner; all which was quite rousing and melo-dramatic. While I was noticing the pilot's manner of steering by flashes, a gentleman came up, whom I recognised as a resident of St. Augustine; and as he had a horse at Picolata, we agreed to go over together that night, as the darkness was rather favorable, and the road being sandy, we could ride rapidly without being heard.
It was late in the evening when we reached Picolata; and with a good deal of uproar, men shouting, steam puffing, and half a dozen blacks gesticulating on shore, we each made a fortunate leap to the dock; and walking up to the camp in a blaze of pitch-pine, we ordered our horses, and at eleven o'clock entered the pine woods for St. Augustine. 'I wouldn't go over to-night,' said the man as he brought up my horse; 'the rascals have been seen about here within a day or two; for God's sake, Sir, don't go over to-night!' But this only gave a keener zest to the ride. I had carried with me every where a double-barrelled gun, but I had found it an awkward companion, and having been all day in the saddle I concluded to leave it to be sent over, and mean time trust to my friend's pistols.
The rain had ceased, and the wind had gone down, but the night was still so dark that we could only guess at the road by the strip of light over head, and now and then a flash, which would light up the avenue for a long distance ahead, and then leave it still darker than before. As we entered the barren at an easy trot, I was pleased to notice that the darkness or the storm had tamed my little grey into a very sober humor, and his companion also was in a very moralizing way. There was no starting at the lightning, no attempt at running, but with a noiseless tread they stepped daintily in the sand, pointing their ears hither and yon, and as it seemed to me, affecting a little scarishness, though what they could hear when the forest was so breathless, it was difficult to imagine; but every little while they would both leap some fifteen feet across the road, (which couldn't be affectation) shiver a little, and then pick their way carefully as before. We could see nothing, hear nothing; but horses are keen snuffers, and they might smell when we couldn't; but what was singular, the vaulting was done from the same side of the road.
We were still keeping up a little small-talk, when some miles in the forest, both horses, without any jump or start of any kind, stopped suddenly; and looking ahead, we saw something moving stealthily toward us. My companion cocked a pistol and challenged; but we only heard a little grumbling, and I counted him a dead man; but before we had time to guess about it, something brushed by, and by a flash of light we saw a glitter of buttons, and a man on horseback. Whoever or whatever he was, we saw him but a moment, and he was soon out of hearing. With a remark or two upon the fool-hardiness of the man, we quickened our pace, and went on at a dashing rate, abreast and Indian fashion, just as it happened; now one leading and now the other, according to the wind of our horses; and in this manner we were passing the most dangerous part of the road, when there was a sudden whizzing about our ears, and the report of half a dozen rifles. The little grey reared and plunged and I landed—where, I don't know; but the next that I remember, I was standing alone in the pine barren. I had been running for a long time; how far I couldn't tell, being conscious only of dodging often from one tree to another. On looking about I remarked that the clouds had opened a little, and that there was nothing to be seen or heard in any direction. Presently I heard a yell, and looking around, a strapping Indian, with his rifle drawn to his eye, fired as I faced him, and the ball parted a lock of my hair in a manner very embarrassing. I levelled upon the rascal, but missed fire; the rain had wet the powder in the tube. The fellow took no pains to hide himself, but was very coolly loading again, and had got his ball ready, when I once more started off at full speed.
It was a sharp race, and a warm one. After running a mile or more, there was a small stream to be crossed; and with a few well-balanced steps on a half-decayed log that lay at the edge of the water, I reached the opposite bank just as my pursuer stepped on at the other end. Hearing a strange kind of shock, I turned and saw the big six-footed animal astride the log, twisting and writhing about in great agony. He had slipped and fallen in such a manner as to pain him almost beyond endurance. I stood on the bank and laughed at him; and—shall I confess it?—I tried half a dozen more caps at the fellow, with a most savage deliberateness; to all which he paid not the slightest attention; but as his strength came gradually back, I took to my heels again, and fortunately reached the highway....
The last ten miles of our ride that night were passed over in a very headlong manner: we stopped only once, as we heard the cry of some hounds on the south side, and then on again, keeping our horses just within their speed, till at the worst place on the road, we gave up the reins and let them go. In less than two hours from Picolata, we snuffed the salt air again; and reaching the open country, walked our horses leisurely into St. Augustine.
As we entered the city my companion left me; and as I drew rein on the square, I noticed that the schooner was still at the dock, and all about the city was quiet and undisturbed. The storm had gone by, its skirts hanging on the eastern horizon, and forming a back-ground to the light of the light-house, while the city and bay were bright in the starlight; and if stars shine any brighter in the small hours, they were doing their best then. All looked pleasant and quite at home, even to the sentry at the corner; and there was nothing, you would say, to make one sad; but as I turned the corner I drew a breath of such yawning profundity that the old dog at the Florida House started up and growled impromptu. That dog had held a stout nigger all night in the yard, not long before; but fortunately he knew me, and after smelling, to make sure that all was right, he followed me into an out-house, when I rolled Bob out of a cradle, and giving a general order in a low voice for a warm bath in the morning, found my quarters and went to bed.
At sunrise the next morning I was half awake, grasping at the skirts of a pleasant dream, when Bob came in, blew about the room for awhile, and cried out 'Massa, did you order um wom bath?' 'No; clear out! Eh? warm bath? Yes; warm bath, to be sure.' And Bob went out, and came in directly with two wenches and a warm bath. 'How's the wind Bob?' 'De wind?' 'Yes; where's the wind' 'Dun know, Sah.' 'Well, go out in the balcony and see where it comes from.' Bob shouted through the open window, 'De wind come from de Souf.'
I made but one spring, and the blacks vanished. Going below, I found the house in commotion. The schooner was to sail at nine o'clock, and the signal would be the report of a two-pounder which the captain carried on his quarter-deck. At eight o'clock I had been all over town from the fort to the powder house; looked in at the church, where were some fifteen or twenty kneeling, silent and devotional; and was seated at breakfast, when we heard the captain's gun, an hour before the time. 'My God!' said I, 'I can't go without seeing Mrs. J—— and kind Mrs. G——; and then there's the pretty Di. Vernon!' (I had bade them good-by a dozen times.) I rushed into the street, and seeing half-a-dozen ladies not far off, gave them a touch-and-go shake; rushed up a wrong street, then back again, and finally came out on the square and saw the little schooner's sails bellied out full; passengers waving their handkerchiefs, and the people all around crying out to me to hurry, or I should lose my chance. But I didn't hurry. The idea of hurry, after we had waited six weeks! That captain too, had he been asleep all this time, and just awaked? No; I did not hurry, but walked leisurely across the square, looking over my shoulder occasionally to see if —— was any where in sight, for she had promised to be at the dock; and passing over the long wharf in the same stubborn way, I stepped on board the schooner with a stiffer upper lip than I ever remember to have had in that climate. The moment that my feet touched the deck, the ropes slipped and away flew the schooner; but in all this 'heat, haste and hunger,' from a half-swallowed breakfast, and consignments of pacquets and kind wishes that were left behind, the sentiment of my last look was burnt to a cinder.
THOUGHTS FROM BULWER.
BY MRS. M. T. W. CHANDLER.
It cannot be that earth was given for our abiding place, Or that for nought we're darkly doomed the storms of life to face; It cannot be our being's cast from 'neath the ocean wave Of vast Eternity, to sink again within its grave. Else tell me why the aspiring thoughts, the glorious hopes of man, Which spring up from his 'heart of hearts,' brook not earth's narrow span; Oh! tell me why unsatisfied forever here they roam, And seem to claim in higher spheres a refuge and a home.
Why is it that the rainbow and the tints of evening clouds Dispel the mists in which the world our spirits still enshrouds? The chord they strike!—oh, tell me not that it can be of earth— The golden heart-string that they touch is not of mortal birth: The very buds and blossoms, and the balmy summer air, Awake within us shadows vague of things more bright and fair; 'Tis almost like remembrance—oh! would that I could tell The meaning of that hidden charm my spirit knows so well!
A simple tone can rouse it; a smile, or even a sigh Can make the ghost-like shadows flit before my dreaming eye; 'Tis one of life's deep mysteries; in vain we seek to trace The hidden spell's dark origin that chains our feeble race: But, oh! may we not fancy, may we not sweetly think, 'Tis between us and another world a dim mysterious link? May we not hope that secret chord from God to man was given, To shadow forth within his soul pure images of heaven?
The very stars which pierce the veil far o'er this world of sin, And seem to give faint visions of a paradise within, In all their hallowed loveliness, their vague and mystic lore, Oh! do they not seem beckoning to a purer, holier shore? And tell me why the well-loved eyes which here upon us beam Gleam radiantly o'er our path, then vanish like a dream; My MOTHER! oh! my Mother! shall they find belief in me, Who tell me there's no happy land where I shall meet with thee?
I know there is a heaven which is peopled not with shades, Where the buds and flowers ne'er wither, and the rainbow never fades: Where the mourners cease from mourning, and in smiles of joy are drest, Where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest: Oh! there is gladness in the thought; 'tis deep, deep joy to me To feel that those I love so well I there again shall see; To know that though around them now my very heart-strings twine, They'll be forever with me there—forever more be mine!
SONNET: TO THE OLD YEAR.
Good-by, Old Year! we wait to greet the New, And hope within its circling hours to see More of content and less of misery. Yet, haply, all life's toilsome journey through, No happier scenes than thine will meet our view; If so, we humbly bow to Heaven's decree, With hearts, though wounded, still as firm and true As when we first knelt to the DEITY. Many will weep, Old Year! while thou dost lay Thine aged head within the voiceless tomb. We weep, yet on the clouds of grief doth play The bow of promise, lighting up their gloom. Not so with many hearts that crushed and bleeding lie, Whose only thought of gladness is like thee to die!
Brooklyn, Dec., 1843. HANS VON SPIEGEL.
THE MAIL ROBBER.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR FROM HIS ENGLISH CORRESPONDENT.
Sir: My friends abroad complain that my last letter reached them in small type, most pernicious to English eyes, and half hidden among the rubbish of your editorial remarks, literary notices, and chit-chat with your million butterfly correspondents. Unless I am better served in future, I shall be compelled to transfer my patronage to the post-office, dangerous as it is, and liable to the occasional interference of American citizens. I have conferred with an attorney, who tells me that there is just ground for an action for breach of trust, in the unfaithful performance of the duty you have undertaken. It remains with yourself to avert any such consequence, by attending more strictly in future to the proper conveyance of my correspondence.
During the last week I have received a note from the gentleman who stole the letters. This I enclose to you; and as I do not know where to address him, I will simply reply to him, through the Magazine, that although I have the highest respect for his talents, I would see him several miles on his way to the devil, before I would comply with his polite request.
Truly yours, etc., —— ——.
THE MAIL ROBBER'S NOTE.
My Dear Friend: You will be surprised that I have found out your address, and indeed it required some sagacity. But now that I have, you will pardon me for broaching a matter in which we are mutually concerned. You must be aware how horribly I have been used by the Editor of the KNICKERBOCKER, and all through the share I have unfortunately had in your troublesome correspondence. He still persists in refusing to pay me a proper remuneration for my services, for which hitherto, I am sorry to say, I have received only insult and vexation. I have been advised by my lawyer to institute a suit at law against the miscreant, and matters are now in progress toward that desirable result.
In the mean time I have thought proper to apply to your sense of justice for a partial compensation of the trouble you have caused me. My character has been assailed, my tranquillity disturbed, and my valuable time taken up, without a penny of remuneration. Now, Sir, if you think fit to transmit to the address of 'M. R.,' through the post-office, a hundred dollars ($100), I will overlook what is past, and resign solely to yourself what interest I possess in your epistolary intercourse through the pages of that infamous Magazine. With sentiments of esteem,
Yours, as before, M. R.
'So shaken as we are, so wan with care,' we begin to wish that we had never undertaken the publication of these letters. Between two impending law-suits how shall we muster courage to keep on the even tenor of our way? Even our staunch friend, the anonymous Public, torments us with frequent accusatory epistles, charging us with dulness, impiety, and irreverence for American institutions. All these we must lay on the back of our Englishman, whose compatriots we confess are apt to assume a latitude of style hardly tolerated among us. In the mean time, gentle Public, respected Cockney, and worthy Mail-Robber, we cry you mercy all round!
TO CHARLES KEMBLE, ESQUIRE, LONDON.
Good Cassio, Charles, Mercutio, Benedick, (Of all your names I scarce know which to pick,) Colossal relic of the nobler time When great JOHN PHILIP trod the scene sublime; Ay, true Colossus, for like that which strode From shore to shore, while seas beneath him flowed, You seem to stand between two generations, High o'er the tide of Time and its mutations; Be not alarmed; this comes not from a dun, Nor any scheming, transatlantic BUNN, Tempting with golden hopes your waning years, Like 'certain stars shot madly from their spheres,' Like MATHEWS or old DOWTON, to expose The shank all shrunken from its youthful hose; So boldly read, howe'er it make you sigh, Nor manager nor creditor am I; Yet in some sort you are indeed my debtor, And owe me for my pains at least a letter.
Not long ago, conversing at the Club Which Londoners with 'GARRICK'S' title dub, We both confessed, and each with equal grief, That poor Melpomene was past relief; So many symptoms of her dotage shows This nineteenth century of steam and prose. Nor in herself, said you, entirely lies Th' incurable complaint whereof she dies; 'Tis not alone that play-wrights are too poor For gods or men or columns to endure; Nor that all players in a mould are cast, Every new Roscius aping still the last; Nor yet that Taste's too delicate excess Demands perfection and despises less; But mere indifference, that worst disease, From bard and actor take all power to please. How strive to please? when all their friends that were, To empty benches empty sounds prefer; And seek, like bees attracted by a gong, The fairy-land of tip-toe and of song; Whether a voice of more than earthly strain Be newly sent by Danube or the Seine, Or some aerial, thistle-downy thing Float from La Scala on a zephyr's wing. Say, might a SIDDONS, conjured from the tomb, Again the scene of her renown illume? Could her high art, (ay, even at half price,) The crowd from 'La Sonnambula' entice? No; dance and song, the Drama's deadly plagues, RUBINI'S notes, and ELLSLER'S heav'nly legs, Would nightly still bring amateurs in flocks, To watch the bravos of the royal box.
 By the word 'columnae,' Horace (though BENTLEY knew it not) evidently meant the columns of the Roman newspapers.
While thus, between our filberts and our wine, We mourned with sighs your mistress's decline, You half indulged the fond imagination, That what seemed death was but her emigration. Perhaps, quoth you, and 'twas a bold 'perhaps,' Ere many years of exile shall elapse, The wand'ring maid may find in foreign lands More loving hearts and hospitable hands. Perchance her feet, with furry buskins graced, May shuddering walk the cold Canadian waste, And rest contented with a bleak repose In shrubless climes of never-thawing snows. Yes, in those woods that gird the northern lakes, Pathless as yet, and wild with shaggy brakes, Or in the rank savannahs of the south, Or sea-like prairies near Missouri's mouth, Fate may conduct her to some sacred spot, Where to resume her sceptre and to—squat. Some happier settlement and simpler race, Where, though her worship lack its ancient grace, New days may dawn, like those of royal BESS, And every stream a Stratford shall possess; Where, though in marshes resonant with frogs, And rudely housed in temples built of logs, The nymph, regenerate in her classic robe, May see revived the 'Fortune' and the 'Globe.'
Such was the dream your fancy dared to mould Of what yourself had witnessed here of old; When with your twins—your FANNY and your fame— Among our cousins of the west you came; But you mistook a momentary fashion For a deep-seated and enduring passion: Now to your own a friend's experience add, And judge what grounds your glorious vision had. Beyond that Cape which mortals christen Cod, Where drifted sand-heaps choke the scanty sod, Round the rough shore a crooked city clings, Sworn foe to queens, it seems, as well as kings. On three steep hills it soars, as Rome on seven, To claim a near relationship with heaven. Fit home for saints! the very name it bears A kind of sacred origin declares; Ta'en, as I find by hunting records o'er, From one BOTOLFO, canonized of yore, Whom bards have left nor epitaph nor verse on, Though in his day, sans doubt, a decent person: This town, in olden times of stake and flame, A famous nest of Puritans became; Sad, rigid souls, who hated as they ought The carnal arms wherewith the Devil fought; Dancing and dicing, music, and whate'er Spreads for humanity the hell-born snare. Stage-plays especially their hearts abhorred, Holding the Muses hateful to the Lord, Save when old STERNHOLD and his brother bard Oped their hoarse throats and strained an anthem hard.
 The name of Boston, in Lincolnshire, is said to be derived from ST. BOTOLPH—quasi BOTOLPH'S town.
From that angelic race of perfect men, (Sure seraphs never trod the world 'till then,) Descends the race to whom the sway is given Of the world's morals by confiding Heaven. These of each virtue know the market price, And shrewdly count the cost of every vice; So, to their prudent adage faithful still, Are honest more from policy than will. As if with heaven a bargain they had made To practise goodness and to be well paid. They too, devoutly as their fathers did, Sin, sack, and sugar equally forbid; Holding each hour unpardonably spent Which on the ledger leaves no monument; While oft they read, with small but pious wit, Th' inscription o'er the play-house portals writ, In a bad sense—'The entrance to the Pit.'
Among this godly tribe it was my fate To view a triumph they enjoyed of late, Which, lest the chroniclers who come hereafter Omit, and cheat our children of their laughter, I, a DAGUERRE-like sketcher of the time, Will faintly shadow as I can in rhyme.
Once these Botolphians, when their boards you trod, Received you almost as a demi-god; Rushed to the teeming rows in frantic swarms, And rained applauses not in showers but storms. But should you now their fickle welcome ask, Faint shouts would greet the veteran of the mask; And ah! what anguish would it be to search For your old play-house in a bastard church! To find the dome wherein your hour you strutted, Altered and maimed and circumcised and gutted; Become in truth, all metaphor to drop, A mongrel thing—half chapel and half shop. Long had the augur and the priest foretold The sad reverse they doomed it to behold; Long had the school-boy, as he passed it by, And maiden viewed it with presaging eye; Oft had the wealthy deacon with a frown Glared on the pile he longed to batter down, And reckoned oft, with sanctimonious air, What rents 'twould fetch if purified with prayer; While through the green-room whispered rumors went, That heaven and earth were on its ruin bent.
 At the late opening of the 'Tremont Temple' in Boston, the new proprietors chanted what they called a 'Purification Hymn,' of which we give one stanza:
'Satan has here held empire long— A blighting curse, a cruel reign; By mimic scenes, and mirth and song Alluring souls to endless pain!'
Too just a fear! The vision long foreseen Has come at last; behold the fallen queen! The queen of passion, stripped of all her pride, Discrowned, indignant from her temple glide. With draggling robe, slip-shod, her buskin loose, She flies a barren people's cold abuse; Summons her sister, who forbears to smile, And leaves to rats the desecrated pile, Which dogs and nags already had begun, Unless by blows and hunger driv'n, to shun: For well-bred curs and steeds genteel contemn A stage which Taste had sunk too low for them; Whereon the town had seen, without remorse, A herd of bisons and a hairless horse!
Behind the two chief mourners of the band A sad procession followed, hand in hand; Heroes un-heroed, most unknightly knights, Wand-broken fairies, disenchanted sprites; Dukes no more ducal, even on the bill, Milk-livered murd'rers too ill-fed to kill; Mild-looking demons that a babe might daunt, Witches and ghosts most naturally gaunt; Lovers made pale by keener pangs than love's, Unspangled princesses with greasy gloves; Wits very witless—grave comedians mute, And silent sons of violin and flute.
After these down-look'd leaders of the show, Who creep like Trajan's Dacians, wan and slow, Comes a long train of underlings that bear Imperial robes that kings no more may wear; With truncheons, helmets, thunder-bolts and casks Of snow and lightning—bucklers, foils and masks. As tow'rd the steep of Capitolian Jove When chiefs victorious through the rabble strove, With all their conquests in their trophies told, And every battle mark'd with plundered gold; When the whole glory of the war rolled by, And gaping Rome seemed all one mighty eye, Behind the living captives came the dead, Poor noseless gods, and some without a head, With pictures, ivory images and plumes, And priceless tapestry from palace-looms; Ev'n such, although Night's alchymy no more The crinkling tinsel turns to precious ore, Appears the pomp of this discarded race, As heaped with spoil they quit their ancient place, Bearing their Lares with them as they go— Two dusty statues and a bust or so; With mail which once a Harry Fifth had on, Triumphal cars with all the triumph gone; Goblets of tin mixed up with Yorick's bones, Bags made of togas—barrows formed of thrones, Whereon the majesty of Denmark sat; Fie! Juliet's petticoats in Wolsey's hat! Swords hacked at Bosworth, fasces, guns and spears Rusted with blood before, and now with tears.
Enough of this: kind prompter, touch the bell! Children of mirth and midnight, fare ye well! The vision melts away, the motley crowd Is veiled by Prospero in a passing cloud; Like his dissolving pageantry they fade, The vap'ry stuff whereof our dreams are made; No more malignant winter to beguile, Nor start the virgin's tear, the judge's smile; Save when some annalist, like me, recalls The ancient fame of those degraded walls; Or till an age less hateful to the Muse To their old shape restore the anxious pews.
T. W. P.
LETTER FROM JAMES JESSAMINE.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE KNICKERBOCKER.
SIR: It has not been until after much reflection on my own part, and I must say, very civil encouragement on that of my friend MR. JOHN WATERS, whose acquaintance I have chanced upon some months back, that I have determined to venture, either in the form of an advertisement extra, or possibly by your very polite admission of this self-introductory letter into your fashionable pages, to submit to the view of the more refined and intellectual part of the society of the Atlantic cities and particularly to that of New York, the peculiar claim that I conceive myself to possess upon their consideration and regard.
I have been hitherto deterred from taking this decisive step, as well by the very disturbed and almost turbulent state, which, since my arrival in this country, appears to have characterized its monetary concerns—alas! my dear Sir, those horrid yet necessary evils and grievances of life!—as by some expectations I had cause to entertain soon after I set foot upon your hospitable shores, of the immediate death of a maiden aunt in Cornwall, upon which incident, and her continued celibacy, depend very much all my present reversionary hopes.
The health of the old lady being however at my latest intelligence unexpectedly reinstated; the cotton crops coming forward as I understand to good markets, and the wonderful discovery having been made of converting western pork into sallad oil; the Tories being put down, and the banks having entered into what some time ago seemed the paulo post futurum of specie payments; I desire to share in the general tide of prosperity; I launch myself upon it at its flood, discard all reserve, and shall descend at once without farther preface into the midst of what I have to say.
I came out then some time ago ostensibly to kill a trout or two in some of your delicious streams; and indeed I may without presumption say en passant that few professors of the Rod excel me either in the niceties of my throw, the cool self-possession with which I take my fish, or the indomitable perseverance and perfect tact with which I drown and then land him with a single hair. I say ostensibly, for I have now no desire to conceal from you the ulterior objects that I had in view of either making a book to replenish my purse, or of establishing myself for life in this your rising land of freedom and big crops.
I have had 'good luck to your fishing' sung to me more than once by most sweet voices, and have realized it to my heart's content in the way of trout; but this is all. Since I arrived in America there have been no less than three travelling historians upon the ground, with whose energy of conception, art of fabrication, facility of combination, capacity of bitterness and established name, I could not enter the lists. And as for matrimonial projects, foreigners seem to me to have no longer any hope of success in consequence of the entire pre-occupation of this walk of life by a regularly drilled and educated corps of young Americans, bred up avowedly with no other pursuit; who talk, think, dream of nothing else than fortune by marriage; and with a shrewdness and intelligence of calculation that entirely distance the foreigner, (but which seem wonderfully after the nuptials to forsake them in stocks of another description,) know at a glance the value, expectations, hopes, and dependencies of each young marriageable lady even before she comes out; so that instead of being able to accomplish a purpose of this kind, I find it quite as much as I can do to avoid falling in love beyond repeal with the refinement, gentleness, grace, and untold sweetness that distinguish the portionless beauties of New-York.