"Brother William!" cried Mary, tapping the drum. The youth cast down his eyes to where she sat, and their fierceness vanished in a twinkling. She placed the toy in his possession, and rose to bring some other plaything she remembered.
"Sister, don't go—I'll tell mother!" cried the youth, in infantile earnestness.
"I'll come back presently, brother," said Mary, tripping across the room and searching a trunk.
"Make haste—but I'm not afraid—I'll frighten all the Indians away." Saying this, he rattled the drum as rapidly as possible.
"See what I've got, brother," said Mary, returning with a juvenile book, and sitting down close at his side. He thrust the drum away, and, laughing heartily, placed his arm round his sister and said: "Mother's got my book; but you'll let me look at yours, won't you, sister?"
"Yes that I will, brother—see, this is the little old woman, and there's her dog—"
"Yes, and there's the peddler," cried the youth, pointing at the picture.
"Now can't you read it, brother?"
"To be sure I can—let me read:
"'There was a little woman As I have heard tell, She went to market Her eggs for to sell.'
"See! there she goes, with a basket on her arm and a cane in her hand."
"Yes, and here she is again on this side, fast asleep, and her basket of eggs sitting by her," said Mary; "now let me read the next:
"'She went to market, All on a market day, And she fell asleep On the king's highway.'"
Now do you read about the peddler, brother. Mother used to say there was a naughty word in it."
"I will," cried the youth, eagerly; but he paused and looked steadfastly at the picture before him.
"Why don't you read?" asked Mary, endeavouring to confine his thoughts to the childish employment.
"That's a pretty skin, ain't it?" said he, pointing to the red shawl painted on the picture.
"Skin!" said Mary; "why, that's her shawl, brother."
"I'll steal one for my squaw," said he.
"Steal, brother!" said the trembling girl.
"No I won't, either, sister—don't you know mother says we must never steal, nor tell stories, nor say bad words."
"That's right, brother. But you haven't got an ugly squaw, have you?"
"No indeed, sister, that I haven't!"
"I thought you wouldn't have any thing to do with the ugly squaws."
"That I wouldn't—mine's a pretty one."
"Oh, heaven!" cried the weeping girl, throwing herself on her brother's bosom. He kissed her, and strove to comfort her, and turned to the book and continued to turn over the leaves, while Mary sat by in sadness, but ever and anon replying to his childish questions, and still striving to keep him thus diverted.
"Have you any of the clothes you wore when he was a child?" asked Glenn, addressing Roughgrove.
"Yes," replied the old man; and seizing upon the thought, he unlocked the trunk that contained them, and put them on.
"Where's mother?" suddenly asked the young chief.
"Oh, she's dead!" said Mary.
"Dead? I know better!" said he, emphatically.
"Indeed she is, brother," repeated Mary, in tears.
"When did she die?" he continued, in a musing attitude.
"A long time ago—when you were away," said she.
"I wasn't gone away long, was I?" he asked, with much simplicity.
"Oh, very long—we thought you were dead."
"He was a very bad Indian to steal me away without asking mother. But where's father? Is he dead, too?" he continued, lifting his eyes and beholding Roughgrove attired in a suit of velvet, and wearing broad silver knee buckles. "Father! father!" he cried, eagerly clasping the old man in his arms.
"My poor boy, I will be your father still!" said Roughgrove.
"I know you will," said the youth, "for you always loved me a great deal, and now that my poor mother's dead, I'm sure you will love sister and me more than ever."
"Indeed I will, poor child! But you must not go back to the naughty savages any more."
The youth gazed round in silence, and made no reply. He was evidently awakening to a consciousness of his condition. A frown of horror darkened his brow as he contemplated the scenes of his wild abode among the Indians; and, when he contrasted his recent mode of life with the Elysian days of his childhood, now fresh in his memory, mingled emotions of regret, fear, and bliss seemed to be contending in his bosom. A cold dampness settled upon his forehead, his limbs trembled violently, and distressful sighs issued from his heaving breast. Gradually he sank down on a couch at his side, and closed his eyes.
When some minutes had elapsed, during which a death-like silence was maintained, Mary approached lightly to where her father stood, and inquired if her brother was ill.
"No," said Roughgrove, in a whisper; "he only sleeps; but it is a very sound slumber."
"Now let us take off his Indian dress," said Glenn, "and put on him some of my clothes." This was speedily effected, and without awaking the youth, whose senses were benumbed, as if by some powerful opiate.
"Now, Mary," said Roughgrove, "you must likewise have repose. You are almost exhausted in body and mind. Sleep at your brother's side, if you will, poor girl." Mary laid her head on William's pillow, and was soon in a deep slumber.
For several moments Roughgrove stood lost in thought, gazing alternately at the reposing brother and sister, and Glenn. He looked also at Sneak and Joe reclining by the fire; both were fast asleep. He then resumed his seat, and motioned Glenn to do likewise. He bowed his head a brief length of time in silence, apparently recalling to mind some occurrence of more than ordinary import.
"My young friend," said he, at length, while he placed his withered hand upon Glenn's knee, "do you remember that I said there was another secret connected with my family?"
"Distinctly," replied Glenn; "and I have since felt so much anxiety to be acquainted with it that I have several times been on the eve of asking you to gratify my curiosity; but thinking it might be impertinent, I have forborne. It has more than once occurred to me that your condition in life must have been different from what it now is."
"It has been different—far different. I will tell you all. I am a native of England—a younger brother, of an ancient and honourable family, but much decayed in fortune. I was educated for the ministry. Our residence was on the Thames, a few miles distant from London, and I was early entered in one of the institutions of the great city. While attending college, it was my practice twice a month to visit my father's mansion on foot. I was fond of solitary musings, and the exercise was beneficial to my weak frame. It was during one of those excursions that I rescued a young lady from the rude assaults of two ruffians. After a brief struggle, they fled. I turned to the one I had so opportunely served, and was struck with her unparalleled beauty. Young; a form of symmetrical loveliness; dark, languishing eyes, a smooth forehead of lily purity, and auburn hair flowing in glossy ringlets—it was not strange that an impression should be made on the heart of a young student. She thanked me for my generous interposition in such sweet and musical tones, that every word thrilled pleasantly through my breast. She prevailed upon me to accompany her to her mother's cottage, but a few hundred paces distant; and during our walk thither, she hung confidingly on my arm. Her aged mother overwhelmed me with expressions of gratitude. She mildly chid her daughter for wandering so far away in quest of flowers, and then withdrawing, left us alone. Again my eyes met those of the blushing maiden—but it is useless to dwell upon the particulars of our mutual passion. Suffice it to say that she was the only child of her widowed mother, in moderate but independent circumstances, and being hitherto secluded from the society of the other sex, soon conceived (for my visits were frequent) an affection as ardent as my own. At length I apprized my father of the attachment, and asked his consent to our union. He refused to sanction the alliance in the most positive terms, and commanded me never to mention the subject again. He said that I was poor, and that he would not consent to my marriage with any other than an heiress. I returned to London, resolved to disobey his injunction, for I felt that my happiness entirely depended upon my union with the lovely Juliet. But I had never yet definitely expressed my desire to her. Yet there could be no doubt from her smiles that my wishes would willingly be acceded to. I determined to arrange every thing at our next interview, and a few weeks afterwards I repaired to the cottage for that purpose. Instead of meeting me with her ever blissful face, I found my Juliet in tears! She was alone; but in the adjoining chamber I heard a man's voice, and feared that it was my father. I was mistaken. Juliet soon brushed away her tears, and informed me that she had been again assailed by the same ruffians, and on the lawn within sight of the cottage. She said that the gentleman in the next room was her deliverer. I seized her hand, and when about to propose a plan to secure her against such annoyances for ever, her mother entered and introduced the stranger to me. His name was Nicholson, and he stated that he was a partner in a large banking establishment in Lombard Street. He was past the bloom of youth, but still his fine clothes and his reputed wealth were displeasing to me. I was especially chagrined at the marked attention shown him by Juliet's mother. And my annoyance was increased by the frequent lascivious glances he cast at the maiden. The more I marked him, the more was my uneasiness. It soon occurred to me that I had seen him before! He resembled a person I had seen driving rapidly along the highway in a chariot, on the morning that I first beheld my Juliet. But my recollection of his features was indistinct. There was a condescending suavity in his manners, and sometimes a positive and commanding tone in his conversation, that almost roused my enmity in spite of my peaceful calling and friendly disposition. It was my intention to remain at the cottage, and propose to Juliet after he had departed. But my purpose was defeated, for he declared his intention to enjoy the country air till evening, and I returned, disappointed and dispirited, to the city.
"A few days afterwards I visited the cottage again. What was my surprise and vexation to behold Mr. Nicholson there! He was seated, with his patronizing smile, between Juliet and her mother, and presenting them various richly bound books, jewels, &c., which seemed to me to be received with much gratification. I was welcomed with the usual frankness and pleasure by Juliet, but I thought her mother's reception was less cordial, and Mr. Nicholson regarded me with manifest indifference. I made an ineffectual effort at vivacity, and after an hour's stay, during which my remarks gradually narrowed down to monosyllables, (while Mr. Nicholson became excessively loquacious,) I rose to depart. Juliet made an endeavour to accompany me to the door, where I hoped to be assured of her true affection for me by her own lips, but some pointed inquiry (I do not now recollect what) from Nicholson, which was seconded in a positive manner by her mother, arrested her steps, and while she hesitated, I bad her adieu, and departed for the city, resolved never to see her again.
"It was about a month after the above occurrence that my resolution gave way, and I was again on the road to the cottage, with my mind made up to forgive and forget every thing that had offended me, and to offer my hand where my heart seemed to be already irrevocably fixed. When I entered who should I see but the eternal thwarter of my happiness, the ever-present Nicholson! But horror! he was now the wedded lord of Juliet! The ceremony was just over. There were but two or three strangers present besides the clergyman. Bride, groom, guests, and all were hateful to my sight. The minister, particularly, I thought had a demoniac face, similar to that of one of the ruffians who had tested the quality of my cane. Juliet cast a look at me with more of sadness than joy in it. She offered me her hand in silent salutation, and it trembled in my grasp. The deed was done. Pity for the maiden who had been thus sacrificed to secure a superabundance of wealth which could never be enjoyed, and sorrow at my own forlorn condition, weighed heavily, oh, how heavily! on my heart. I returned to my lonely and desolate lodgings without a malicious feeling for the one who had robbed me of every hope of earthly enjoyment. I prayed that he might make Juliet happy.
"But, alas! her happiness was of short duration. Scarce six months had passed before Mr. Nicholson began to neglect his youthful and confiding bride. She had still remained at her mother's cottage, while, as she stated, his establishment was being fitted up in town for their reception. He at first drove out to the cottage every evening; but soon afterwards fell into the habit of visiting his bride only two or three times a week. He neither carried her into society nor brought home any visitors. Yet he seemed to possess immense wealth, and bestowed it upon Juliet with a liberal, nay, profuse hand. My young friend, what kind of a character do you suppose this Mr. Nicholson to have been?" said the old man, pausing, and turning to Glenn, who had been listening to the narrative with marked attention.
"He was an impostor—a gambler," replied Glenn, promptly.
"He was an impostor! but no adventurous gambler, as you suppose. I will proceed. About seven months after his marriage, he abandoned Juliet altogether! Yet he did not forget her entirely. He may have felt remorse for the ruin he had wrought—or perhaps a slight degree of affection for his unborn—; and costly presents, and many considerable sums of money, were sent by him to the cottage. But neither the aged mother nor the deserted wife found the consolation they desired in his prodigal gifts. They sent me a note, informing me of their distressful condition, and requesting me to ascertain the locality of Mr. Nicholson's establishment, and, if possible, to find out the cause of his unnatural conduct. I did all in my power to accomplish what they desired. I repaired to the cottage, unable to give the least intelligence of Mr. Nicholson. I had not been able to find any one who had ever heard of him. Juliet became almost frantic. She determined to seek him herself. At her urgent solicitation, I accompanied her to the city in an open curricle. A pitying Providence soon terminated her insupportable suspense. While we were driving through Hyde Park, we were forcibly stopped to permit, among the throng, the passage of a splendid equipage. The approaching carriage was likewise an open one. Juliet glanced at the inmates, and uttering a wild piercing shriek, fainted in my arms. I looked, and saw her quondam husband! He was decked in the magnificent insignia of ROYALTY. Nobles were bowing, high-born ladies smiling, and the multitude shouted, 'There comes his royal highness, the Prince of—'
"Man cannot punish him," continued Roughgrove, "but God can. HE will deal justly, both with the proud and the oppressed. But to return. He saw Juliet. A few minutes after the gorgeous retinue swept past, one of the prince's attendants came with a note. Juliet was insensible. I took it from the messenger's hand, and started when I looked the villain in the face. He had been the parson! He smiled at the recognition! I hurled my cane at his head, and hastened back to the cottage with a physician in attendance. Juliet soon recovered from her swoon. But a frenzied desperation was manifest in her pale features. I left her in her mother's charge, and returned in agony to my lodgings. That night a raging fever seized upon my brain, and for months I was the victim of excruciating disease. When convalescent, but still confined to my room, I chanced to run my eye over one of the daily papers, and was petrified to see the name of Mrs. Nicholson, in the first article that attracted my attention, in connection with an attempt upon the life of the king! She had been seized with a fit of temporary insanity, and driving to town, sought her betrayer with the intention of shedding his blood. She waited at the gate of St. James's palace until a carriage drove up in which she expected to find the prince. It was the king—yet she did not discover her error until the blow was made. The steel did not perform its office, as you are aware from the history of England, in which this event is recorded. The king humanely pardoned her on the spot. A single word she uttered acquainted him with her history, and her piteous looks made an extraordinary impression on his mind. He too, had, perhaps, sported with innocent beauty. And now the spectre of the weeping maniac haunted his visions. Soon he became one himself. The name of Juliet fortunately was not published in the journals. It was by some means incorrectly stated that the woman who attacked the king was named Margaret Nicholson, and so it remains on the page of history.
"As soon as I was able to leave my chamber, I repaired to the cottage. Juliet was a mother. Reason had returned, and she strove to submit with Christian humility to her pitiable lot. She received me with the same sweet smile that had formerly beamed on her guileless face. Her mother, the promoter of the fancied advantageous alliance, now seemed to suffer most. They both clung to me as their only remaining friend, and in truth I learned that all other friends had forsaken them. I looked upon the deceived, outraged, but still innocent Juliet, with pity. Her little cherub twins—"
"Twins!" echoed Glenn.
"Ay, twins," replied Roughgrove, "and they lie behind you now, side by side, on yonder bed."
Glenn turned and gazed a moment in silence on the sleeping forms of William, and Mary.
"Her poor little ones excited my compassion. They were not blamable for their father's crime, nor could they enjoy the advantages of his exalted station. They were without a protector in the world. Juliet's mother was fast sinking under the calamity she had herself in a great measure wrought. My heart melted when I contemplated the sad condition of the only female I had ever loved. It was not long before the fires of affection again gleamed brightly in my breast. Juliet had committed no crime, either in the eyes of man or God. She did not intend to err. She had acted in good faith. She had never designed to transgress either the laws of earth or heaven, and although the disguised prince did not wholly possess her heart, yet she deemed it a duty to be governed by the advice of her parent. These things I explained to her, and when her conscience was appeased by the facts which I demonstrated, her peace in some measure returned, but she was still subject to occasional melancholy reflections. Perhaps she thought of me—how my heart had suffered (for, young as I was, the occurrence brought premature gray hairs; and even now, although my head is white, I have seen but little more than forty years)—and how happy we might have travelled life's journey together. I seized such a moment to renew my proposals. She declined, but declined in tears. I returned to the city with the intention to repeat the offer the next time we met. Not many weeks elapsed before her aged mother was consigned to the tomb. Poor Juliet's condition was now immeasurably lamentable. She had neither friend nor protector. I again urged my suit, and was successful. But she required of me a promise to retire from the world for ever. I cheerfully agreed, for I was disgusted with the vanity and wickedness of my species. We came hither. You know the rest."
When Roughgrove ceased speaking, the night was far advanced, and a perfect silence reigned. Without uttering another word, he and Glenn rose from their seats, and repairing to the remaining unoccupied couch, ere long yielded to the influence of tranquil slumber.
William's illness—Sneak's strange house—Joe's courage—The bee hunt—Joe and Sneak captured by the Indians—Their sad condition —Preparations to burn them alive—Their miraculous escape.
Just before the dawn of day, Roughgrove and Glenn were awakened by Mary. She was weeping at the bed-side of William.
"What's the matter, child?" asked Roughgrove, rising up and lighting the lamp.
"Poor brother!" said she, and her utterance failed her.
"He has a raging fever!" said Glenn, who had approached the bed and placed his hand upon the young man's temples.
"True—and I fear it will be fatal!" said Roughgrove, in alarm, as he held the unresisting wrist of the panting youth.
"Fear not," said Glenn; "God directs all things. This violent illness, too, may in the end be a blessing. Let us do all in our power to restore him to health, and leave the rest to Him. I was once an ardent student of medicine, and the knowledge I acquired may be of some avail."
"I will pray for his recovery," said Mary, bowing down at the foot of the bed.
"Dod—I mean—Joe, it's most daylight," said Sneak, rising up and rubbing his eyes.
"Well, what if it is? what are you waking me up for?" replied Joe, turning over on his rude pallet.
"Why, I'm going home."
"Well, clear out them."
"But you'll have to get up and shut the gate after me"'
"Plague take it all, I believe you're just trying to spoil my nap!" said Joe, much vexed.
"No I ain't, Joe; I'm in earnest, indeed I am," continued Sneak; "bekaise I hain't been inside of my house, now, for three or four days, and who knows but the dod—mean the—Indians have been there and stole all my muskrat skins?"
"If they have, then there's no use in looking for them now."
"If they have, dod—I mean, burn me if I don't foller em to the other end of creation but I'll have 'em back agin. But I ain't much afeard that they saw my house—they might rub agin it without knowing it was a house."
"That's a pretty tale," said Joe, now thoroughly awakened, and staring incredulously in his companion's face.
"It's a fact."
"Whereabouts is your house?"
"Why, it's in the second valley we crossed when we went after the wolves on the island."
"Then your skins are gone," said Joe, "for the Indians have been in that valley."
"I know they was there well enough," said Sneak; "but didn't I say they couldn't find the house, even if they was to scratch their backs agin it?"
"What kind of a house is it?"
"'Spose you come along and see," said Sneak, groping about in the dim twilight for his cap, and the gun Glenn bad given him.
"I should like to see it, just out of curiosity," replied Joe.
"Then go along with Sneak," said Glenn, who approached the fire to prepare some medicine; "it is necessary that every thing should be quiet and still here."
"If you'll help me to feed and water the horses. Sneak, I'll go home with you," said Joe. Sneak readily agreed to the proposition, and by the time it was quite light, and yet before the sun rose, the labour was accomplished, and they set out together for the designated valley. Their course was somewhat different from that pursued when in quest of the wolves, for Sneak's habitation was about midway between the river and the prairie, and they diverged in a westerly direction. But their progress was slow During the night there had been a change in the atmosphere, and a constant breeze from the south had in a great measure softened the snow-crust, so that our pedestrians frequently broke through.
"This is not the most agreeable walking I ever saw," said Joe, breaking through and tumbling down on his face.
"That's jest as much like swimming as walking," said Sneak, smiling at the blunder of his companion.
"Smash it, Sneak," continued Joe, rising up with some difficulty, "I don't half like this breaking-through business."
"You must walk lighter, and then you won't break through," said Sneak; "tread soft like I do, and put your feet down flat. I hain't broke in once—" But before the sentence was uttered, Sneak had broken through himself, and stood half-submerged in the snow.
"Ha! ha! ha! you musn't count your chickens before they're hatched," said Joe, laughing; "but you may score one, now you have broken the shell."
"I got in that time," said Sneak, now winding through the bushes with much caution, as if it were truly in his power to diminish the weight of his body by a peculiar mode of walking.
"This thaw 'll be good for one thing, any how," said Joe, after they had progressed some time in silence.
"What's that?" asked Sneak.
"Why, it 'll keep the Indians away; they can't travel through the slush when the crust is melted off."
"That's as true as print," replied Sneak; and if none of 'em follered us back to the settlement, we needn't look for 'em agin till spring."
"I wonder if any of them did follow us?" asked Joe, pausing abruptly.
"How can anybody tell till they see 'em?" replied Sneak. "What're you stopping for?"
"I'm going back," said Joe.
"Dod—you're a fool—that's jest what you are. Hain't We got our guns? and if there is any about, ain't they in the bushes close to Mr. Glenn's house? and hain't we passed through 'em long ago? But I don't keer any thing about your cowardly company—go back, if you want to," said Sneak, striding onward.
"Sneak, don't go so fast. I haven't any notion of going back," said Joe, springing nimbly to his companion's side.
"I believe you're afeard to go back by yourself," said Sneak, laughing heartily.
"Pshaw, Sneak, I don't think any of 'em followed us, do you?" continued Joe, peering at the bushes and trees in the valley, which they were entering.
"No," said Sneak; "I only wanted to skeer you a bit."
"I've killed too many savages to be scared by them now," said Joe, carelessly striding onward.
"What was you a going back for, if you wasn't skeered?"
"I wonder what always makes you think I'm frightened when I talk of going into the house! Sneak, you're always mistaken. I wasn't thinking about myself—I only wanted to put Mr. Glenn on his guard."
"Then what made you tell that wapper for, the other night, about cutting that Indian's throat?"
"How do you know it was a wapper?" asked Joe, somewhat what embarrassed by Sneak's home-thrust.
"Bekaise, don't I know that I cut his juggler-vein myself? Didn't the blood gush all over me? and didn't he fall down dead before he had time to holler?" continued Sneak, with much warmth and earnestness.
"Sneak," said Joe, "I've no doubt you thought he was dead—but then you must know it's nearly as hard to kill a man as a cat. You might have been mistaken; every body is liable to be deceived—even a person's eyes deceive him sometimes. I don't pretend to say that I haven't been mistaken before now, myself. It may be possible that I was mistaken about the Indian as well as you—I might have just thought I saw him move. But I was there longer than you, and the inference is that I didn't stand as good a chance to be deceived."
"Well, I can't answer all that," said Sneak; "but I'll swear I felt my knife grit agin his neck-bone."
Joe did not desire to pursue the subject any further, and they proceeded on their way in silence, ever and anon breaking through the snow-crust. The atmosphere became still more temperate when the bright sun beamed over the horizon. Drops of water trickled down from the snow-covered branches of the trees, and a few birds flitted overhead, and uttered imperfect lays.
"Here we are," said Sneak, halting in the midst of a clump of enormous sycamore trees, over whose roots a sparkling rivulet glided with a gurgling sound.
"I know we're here," said Joe; "but what are you stopping here for?"
"Here's where I live," replied Sneak, with a comical smile playing on his lips.
"But where's your house?" asked Joe.
"Didn't I say you couldn't find it, even if you was to rub your back agin it?"
"I know I'm not rubbing against your house now," replied Joe, turning round and looking up in the huge tree he had been leaning against.
"But you have been leaning agin my house," continued Sneak, amused at the incredulous face of his companion.
"I know better," persisted Joe; "this big sycamore is the only thing I've leant against since we started."
"Jest foller me, and I'll show you something," said Sneak, stepping round to the opposite side of the tree, where the ascent on the north rose abruptly from the roots. Here he removed a thin flat stone of about four feet in height, that stood in a vertical position against the tree.
"You don't live in there, Sneak, surely; why that looks like a wolf's den," said Joe, perceiving a dark yawning aperture, and that the immense tree was but a mere shell.
"Keep at my heels," said Sneak, stooping down and crawling into the tree.
"I'd rather not," said Joe; "there may be a bear in it."
Soon a clicking sound was heard within, and the next moment Joe perceived the flickering rays of a small lamp that Sneak held in his hand, illuminating the sombre recesses of the novel habitation.
"Why don't you come in?" asked Sneak.
"Sneak, how do you know there ain't a bear up in the hollow?" asked Joe, crawling in timidly and endeavouring to peer through the darkness far above, where even the rays of the lamp could not penetrate.
"I wonder if you think I'd let a bear sleep in my house," continued Sneak, searching among a number of boxes and rude shelves, to see if any thing had been molested during his absence. Finding every thing safe, he handed Joe a stool, and began to kindle a fire in a small stone furnace. Joe sat down in silence, and looked about in astonishment. And the scene was enough to excite the wonder of an Irishman. The interior of the tree was full eight feet in diameter, while the eye was lost above in undeveloped regions. Below, there was a surface of smooth stones, which were comfortably carpeted over with buffalo robes. At one side was a diminutive fireplace, or furnace, constructed of three flat stones about three inches in thickness. The largest was laid horizontally on the ground, and the others placed upright on it, and attached to a clay chimney, that was by some means confined to the interior side of the tree, and ran upward until it was lost in the darkness. After gazing in amazement several minutes at this strange contrivance, Joe exclaimed:
"Sneak, I don't understand this! Where does that smoke go to?"
"Go out doors and see if you can't see," replied Sneak, placing more fuel on the blazing fire.
"Go out of the hole you mean to say," said Joe, creeping out.
"You may call it jest what you like," said Sneak; "but I'll be switched if many folks lives in higher houses than I does."
"Well, I'll declare!" cried Joe.
"What ails you now?" asked Sneak, thrusting his head out of the aperture, and regarding the surprise of Joe with much satisfaction.
"Why, I see the smoke pouring out of a hole in a limb not much bigger than my thigh!" cried Joe. This was true. Sneak had mounted up in the tree before building his chimney, and finding a hollow bough that communicated directly with the main trunk had cut through into the cavity, and thus made a vent for the escape of the smoke.
"Come in now, and get something to eat," said Sneak. This was an invitation that Joe was never known to decline. After casting another admiring glance at the blue vapour that issued from the bough some ninety feet from the ground, he passed through the cavity with alacrity.
"Where are you?" cried Joe, upon entering and looking round in vain for his host, who had vanished in a most inexplicable manner. Joe stared in astonishment. The lighted lamp remained on a box, that was designed for the breakfast-table, and on which there was in truth an abundance of dried venison and smoking potatoes. But where was Sneak?
"Sneak, what's become of you?" continued Joe, eagerly listening for a reply, and anxiously scanning the tempting repast set before him. "I know you're at some of your tricks," he added, and sitting down at the table, commenced in no indifferent manner to discuss the savoury venison and potatoes.
"I'm only up stairs," cried Sneak, in the darkness above; and throwing down a rope made of hides, the upper end of which was fastened to the tree within, he soon followed, slipping briskly down, and without delay sprang to Joe's assistance.
When the meal was finished, or rather, when every thing set before them had vanished, Sneak rose up and thrust his long neck out of the aperture.
"What are you looking at?" asked Joe.
"I'm looking at the warm sun shining agin yonder side of the hill," said Sneak; "how'd you like to go a bee-hunting?"
"A bee-hunting!" iterated Joe. "I wonder if you think we could find a bee at this season of the year? and I should like to know what it'd be worth when we found it."
"Plague take the bee—I mean the honey—don't you like wild honey?" continued Sneak.
"Yes," said Joe; "but how can you find any when there's such a snow as this on the ground?"
"When there's a snow, that's the time to find 'em," said Sneak; "peticuly when the sun shines warm. Jest come out here and look," he continued, stepping along, and followed by Joe; "don't you see yander big stooping limb?"
"Yes," replied Joe, gazing at the bough pointed out.
"Well," continued Sneak, "there's a bee's nest in that. Look here," he added, picking from the snow several dead bees that had been thrown from the hive; "now this is the way with all wild bees (but these are tame, for they live in my house), for when there comes a warm day they're sartin as fate to throw out the dead ones, and we can find where they are as easy as any thing in the world."
"Sneak, my mouth's watering—suppose we take the axe and go and hunt for some honey."
"Let's be off, then," said Sneak, getting his axe, and preparing to place the stone against the tree.
"Stop, Sneak," said Joe; "let me get my gun before you shut the door."
"I guess we'd better leave our guns, and then we won't be so apt to break through," replied Sneak, closing up the aperture.
"The bees won't sting us, will they?" asked Joe, turning to his companion when they had attained the high-timbered ridge that ran parallel with the valley.
"If you chaw 'em in your mouth they will," replied Sneak, striding along under the trees with his head bent down, and minutely examining every small dark object he found lying on the surface of the snow.
"I know that as well as you do," continued Joe, "because that would thaw them."
"Well, if they're froze, how kin they sting you?"
"You needn't be so snappish," replied Joe. "I just asked for information. I know as well as anybody they're frozen or torpid."
"Or what?" asked Sneak.
"Torpid," said Joe.
"I'll try to 'member that word," continued Sneak, peeping under a spreading oak that was surrounded by a dense hazel thicket.
"Do," continued Joe, contemptuously, "and if you'll only recollect all you hear me say, you may get a tolerable education after a while."
"I'll be shivered if this ain't the edication I wan't," said Sneak, turning round with one or two dead bees in his hand, that he had found near the root of the tree.
"Huzza!" cried Joe, "we'll have a mess of honey now. I see the hole where they are—its in a limb, and we won't have to cut down the tree," and before Sneak could interpose, Joe mounted up among the branches, and asked for the axe, saying he would have the bough off in five minutes. Sneak gave it to him, and when he reached the place, (which was not more than fifteen feet from the ground,) he commenced cutting away with great eagerness. The cavity was large, and in a few minutes the bough began to give way. In spite of Sneak's gesticulations and grimaces below, Joe did not bethink him that one of his feet still rested on the bough beyond the place where he was cutting, but continued to ply the axe with increasing rapidity. Presently the bough, axe, and Joe, all fell together. Sneak was convulsed with laughter. Joe sprang to his feet, and after feeling his limbs and ribs, announced that no bones were broken, and laughed very heartily himself. They began to split open the severed bough without loss of time. But just when they were in the act of lifting out the honeycomb, four stalwart savages rose softly from the bushes behind, and springing nimbly forward, seized them both before they could make any resistance. The surprised couple yelled and struggled to no purpose. Their hands were soon bound behind them, and they were driven forward hastily in a southerly direction.
"Oh! for goodness sake, Mr. Chief, please let me go home, and I'll pay you whatever you ask!" said Joe, to the tallest of the savages.
The Indian, if he did not understand his captive's words, seemed to comprehend his terrors, and was much diverted at his ludicrous expression of features.
"Oh pray! good Mr. Chief—"
"Keep your mouth shet! They'll never git through torturing us, if you let 'em know you're afraid," said Sneak.
"That's just what I want," said Joe; "I don't want them to ever quit torturing us—because they'll never quit till we're both dead. But as long as they laugh at they'll be sure to let me live."
Ere long, the savages with their captives, entered the dense grove where Mary had been taken, before they set out with her over the prairie. But it was evidently not their intention to conduct their present prisoners to their villages, and demand a ransom for them. Nor were they prepared to convey them away in the same dignified and comfortable manner, over the snow-clad plains. They anticipated a gratification of a different nature. They had been disappointed in all their attempts to obtain booty from the whites. The maid they had taken had been recaptured, and their chief was in the possession of the enemy. These, to say nothing of the loss of a score of their brethren by the fire-weapons of the white men, stimulated them with unerring precision to compass the destruction of their prisoners. Blood only could satiate their vengeful feelings. And the greater and longer the sufferings of their victims the more exquisite would be the luxury of revenge. And this caused them to smile with positive delight when they witnessed the painful terrors of poor Joe.
When they reached their place of encampment, which was in the midst of a cluster of small slim trees that encircled an old spreading oak of huge dimensions, the savages made their prisoners stand with their backs against two saplings that grew some fifteen paces apart. They were compelled to face each other, that they might witness every thing that transpired. Their arms were bound round the trees behind them, and a cord was likewise passed round their legs to confine them more securely. The savages then seemed to consult about the manner of despatching them. The oldest and most experienced, by his hasty gestures and impatient replies, appeared to insist on their instantaneous death. And from his frequent glances northward, through the trees, he doubtless feared some interruption, or dreaded the arrival of an enemy that might inflict an ample retaliation. During a long pause, while the Indians seemed to hesitate, and the old crafty savage drew his steel tomahawk from his belt, Sneak sighed deeply, and said, in rather mournful tones—
"The jig's up with us, Joe. If I was only loose seven seconds, you wouldn't ketch me dying like a coon here agin a tree." Joe made no other response than a blubbering sound, while the tears ran down and dropped briskly from his chin.
The savages gave vent to a burst of laughter when they beheld the agony of fear that possessed their captive. The three that were in favour of the slow torture now turned a deaf ear to the old warrior, and advanced to Joe. They held the palms of their hands under his chin, and caught the tears as they fell. They then stroked his head gently, and appeared to sympathize with the sufferer.
"Mr. Indian, if you'll let me go, I'll give you my gun and twenty dollars," said Joe, appealing most piteously to the one that placed his hand on his head. The Indian seemed to understand him, and held his hand out for the money, while a demoniac smile played on his dark lips.
"Just untie my hands," said Joe, endeavouring to look behind, "and I'll go right straight home and get them."
"You rascal—you want to run away," replied the old Indian, who not only understood Joe's language, but could himself speak English imperfectly.
"Upon my sacred word and honour, I won't!" replied Joe.
"You lie!" said the savage, bestowing a severe smack on Joe's face.
"Oh, Lord! Come now, Mr. Indian, that hurts!"
"No—don't hurt—only kill musketer," replied the savage, laughing heartily, and striking his prisoner on the other side of the face.
"Oh! hang your skin!" cried Joe, endeavouring to break away, "if ever I get you in my power, I'll smash—" Here his sudden courage evaporated, and again the tears filled his eyes.
"Poor fellow!" said the savage, patting his victim on the head. "How much you give for him?" he continued, pointing to Sneak.
"If you'll only let me go, I'll give you every thing I've got in the world. He don't want to live as bad as I do, and I'll give you as much for me alone as I will for both."
"You're a purty white man, now, ain't you?" said Sneak. "But its all the same. My chance is jest as good as your'n. They're only fooling you, jest to laugh. I've made up my mind to die, and I ain't a going to make any fun for 'em. And you might as well say your prayers fust as last; they're only playing with you now like a cat with a mice."
The old Indian moved towards Sneak, followed by the others.
"How much you give?" asked the savage.
"Not a coon's tail," replied Sneak, with firmness.
"Now how much?" continued the Indian, slapping the thin lank cheek of his prisoner.
"Not a dod-rotted cent! Now jest take your tomahawk and split my skull open as quick as you kin!" said Sneak; and he bowed down his head to receive the fatal blow.
"You brave rascal," said the Indian, looking his captive in the eye, and hesitating whether to practice his petty annoyances any further. At length they turned again to Joe.
"That wasn't fair, Sneak," cried Joe, when the savages abandoned his fellow-prisoner; "you ought to have kept them away from me as long as I did from you."
"I'm gitting sick of this tanterlizing business," said Sneak. "I want 'em to git through the job, without any more fooling about it. If you wasn't sich a coward, they'd let you alone, and kill us at once."
"I don't want them to kill us—I'd rather they'd do any thing in the world than to kill us," replied Joe.
"Me won't hurt you," said the old savage, again placing his hand on Joe's head; but instead of gently patting it, he wound a lock of hair round one of his fingers, and with a sudden jerk tore it out by the roots.
"Oh, my gracious! Oh, St. Peter! Oh, Lord! Mr. Indian, I beg and pray of you not to do that any more. If you'll only untie me, I'll get down on my knees to you," exclaimed poor Joe.
"Poor fellow, me won't hurt him any more—poor head!" said the Indian, tearing off another lock.
"Oh! oh! goodness gracious. Dear Mr. Indian, don't do that! You can have no idea how bad it hurts—I can't stand it. I'll faint presently!" said Joe, trembling at every joint.
"You're a fool," said Sneak, "to mind 'em that way. If you wasn't to notice 'em, they wouldn't do it. See how they're laughing at you."
"Oh, Sneak, I can't help it, to save my life, indeed I can't. Oh, my good Lord, what would I give to be away from here!" said Joe, his eyes fit to burst from their sockets.
"I've killed many a deer in a minit—it don't hurt a man to die more than a deer. I wish the snarvilorous copper-skinned rascals would git through quick!" said Sneak.
"Me try you agin," said the savage, again going to Sneak.
"Well, now, what're you a going to do? I'm not afraid of you!" said Sneak, grinding his teeth.
"Me rub your head," said the savage, seizing a tuft of hair and tearing it out.
"Take some more," said Sneak, bowing down his head.
"A little more," iterated the savage, grasping a handful, which, with much exertion, he severed from the head, and left the white skin exposed to view.
"Won't you have some more?" continued Sneak, without evincing the least pain. "Jest take as much as you please; if you tear it off till my head's as bald as an egg, I won't beg you to let me alone."
"You brave fellow—won't pull your hair any more," said the chief.
"You be dod rot!" said Sneak, contemptuously.
"You mighty brave, shake hands!" continued the laughing savage, holding his hand out in mockery.
"If you'll untie my foot a minit, I'll bet I kick some of the ribs out of your body. Why don't you knock our brains out, and be done at once, you black wolves you!" said Sneak.
"Oh, Sneak! for my sake—your poor friend's sake, don't put such an idea as that into their heads!" said Joe, imploringly.
"You're a purty friend, ain't you? You'd give so much to ransom me! They aint a going to quit us without killin' us, and I want it all over jest as soon as it kin be done."
"Oh, no, Sneak! Maybe they'll take pity on us and spare our lives," said Joe, assuming a most entreating look as the savage once more approached him.
"You make good big Osage; you come with us, if we let you live?" demanded the old Indian.
"I pledge you my most sacred word and honour I will!"
"You run away, you rascal," said the savage, plucking another tuft of hair from Joe's head.
"I'll be hanged if I stand this any longer!" said Joe, striving to break the cord that confined him.
"Don't notice the black cowards," said Sneak.
"How can I help noticing them, when they're pulling out my hair by the roots!" said Joe.
"Look where they pulled mine out," said Sneak, turning that part of his head in view which had been made literally bald.
"Didn't it hurt you?" asked Joe.
"Sartinly it did," said Sneak, "but I grinned and bore it. And now I wish they'd pull it all off, and then my scalp wouldn't do 'em any good."
"That's a fact," said Joe. "Here, Mr. Osage," he continued, "pull as much hair off the top of my head as you want." The savages, instead of paying any attention to him, seemed to be attracted by some distant sound. They stooped down and placed their ears near the earth, and listened intently for some time. At length they sprang up, and then ensued another dispute among them about the manner in which the prisoners should be disposed of. The old savage was yet in favour of tomahawking the captives and retreating without delay. But the others would not consent to it. They were not satisfied with the small amount of suffering yet endured by the prisoners. They were resolved to glut their savage vengeance. And the prisoners now observed that all traces of mirth had vanished from their faces. Their eyes gleamed with fiendish fury, and drawing forth their glittering tomahawks, they vanished in the thicket, and were soon heard chopping off the small boughs of the trees.
"What are they doing Sneak?" asked Joe.
"Don't you know what they're doing? ain't they cutting wood as fast as they kin?" replied Sneak.
"Well, I'm not sorry for that." said Joe. "because its almost dark, and I'm getting chilly. If they'd only give me something to eat, I'd feel a heap more comfortable."
"You varasherous fool you, they're cutting wood to burn us up with. Oh, I wish I was loose!"
"Oh, goodness gracious!" cried Joe, "I never thought of that! Oh, I'm gone!"
"Are you?" cried Sneak, eagerly; "I'd like to be off too, and we'd give them a race for it yit."
"Oh! Sneak, I mean I'm ruined, lost for ever! Oh! St. Peter, pity my helpless condition!"
"Don't think about pity now," said Sneak; "nothing of that sort is going to do us any good. We must git loose from these trees and run for it, or we'll be roasted like wild turkeys in less than an hour. I've got one hand loose!".
"So have I almost!" cried Joe, struggling violently.
"One of 'em's coming!—shove your hand back, and pertend like you're fast, till he goes away agin!" said Sneak, in a hurried undertone.
The savage emerged from the bushes the next moment, and after depositing an armful of billets of wood at the feet of Joe, and walking round behind the prisoners to see if they were still secure, returned for more fuel.
"Now work for your life!" said Sneak, extricating his wrist from the cord, and striving to get his feet loose.
"Hang it, Sneak, I can't get my hand out, though the string's quite loose! Make haste, Sneak, and come and help me," said Joe, in a tone that indicated his earnestness.
"Let every man look out for himself," replied Sneak, tugging away at the cord that bound his feet to the tree.
"Oh, Sneak, don't leave me here, to be burnt by myself!" said Joe.
"You wouldn't promise to give any thing to ransom me, a while ago—I'll cut stick as quick as I kin."
"Oh, Sneak, I can't untie my hands! If you won't help me, I'll call the Indians." But Joe was saved the trouble. He had scarce uttered the word when all four of the Indians suddenly appeared, and throwing down their wood, proceeded with much haste to put their horrid purpose in execution. They heaped up the fagots around their victims, until they reached half way to their chins, and when all was ready, they paused, before applying the fire, to enjoy the terrors of their captives.
"You cold—me make some fire to warm—huh," said the old Indian, addressing Joe, while the others looked on with unmixed satisfaction.
"Oh! my dear Mr. Osage, if you only knew how much money you'd lose by killing me, I know you'd let me go!" said Joe, in tremulous but supplicating tones.
"You lie—you got no money," replied the savage; and, stooping down, he began to split some dry wood into very small pieces to kindle with. Joe looked on in despair, and seemed to anticipate a blister from every splinter he saw. It was different with Sneak. Almost hid by the wood heaped around him, he embraced every opportunity, when the eyes of the savages were turned away, to endeavour to extricate himself from the cords that bound him to the tree. Hope had not yet forsaken him, and he resolved to struggle to the last. When the old savage had split off a large quantity of splinters and chips, he gathered them up and began to arrange them in various parts of the pile of green timber preparatory for a simultaneous ignition. While he was thus engaged, Sneak remained motionless, and assumed a stoical expression of features. But when he turned to Joe, Sneak again began to tug at the cord.
"Oh pray, Mr. Indian!" exclaimed Joe, when he saw the savage carefully placing the combustible matter in all the crevices of the pile around him—"just only let me off this time, and I'll be your best friend all the rest of your life."
"Me warm you little—don't cry—poor fellow!" replied the Indian, striking a light with flint and steel.
"Oh, Sneak, if you've got a knife, run here and cut me loose, before I'm burnt to death!" said Joe, in the most heart-moving manner.
"Keep your mouth shet!" said Sneak; "jest wait till they go to put some fire here, and I'll show you a thing or two," he continued, pouring a handful of powder among the dry splinters. The effect of the explosion when the Indians attempted to surprise Glenn's premises occurring to Sneak, and recollecting that he had a quantity of powder in his pockets, he resolved in his extremity to try its virtue on this occasion.
"But they're going to burn me first! Oh, Lord!" exclaimed Joe, as he beheld the savage applying the fire to the splinters near his feet.
"Don't say nor do nothing—jest wait till they come to me," said Sneak, with great composure. "Do you jess keep your mouth shet—it'll be a long while a kindling—it won't begin to burn your legs for an hour."
"Oh, goodness gracious! My knees begin to feel warm now. Oh, pray have mercy on me, good Mr. Osage!" cried Joe, before the flame was as large as his hand, and yet full three feet distant from him. The greater portion of the fagots being green, the fire made very slow progress, and it was necessary for the savages to procure a constant supply of dry splinters to prevent it from going out.
At length, after the combustible material had burned out, and been replenished several times, the more substantial billets of Joe's pile began to ignite slowly, and the old Indian then took up a flaming brand and moved towards Sneak.
"Come on! you snarvilerous rattlesnake you, I'll show you sights presently!" said Sneak.
"You brave fellow—me burn you quick," said the savage, applying the torch, and, stooping down, placed his face within a few inches of the crackling blaze, and began to blow it gently. Sneak twisted his head round the tree as far as possible, and the next moment the powder exploded, throwing down the pile of wood, and dashing the savage several paces distant violently on the ground, and blackening and scorching his face and hair in a terrible manner. The other Indians instantly prostrated themselves on their faces, and uttered the most doleful lamentations. Thus they remained a few minutes, evidently impressed with the belief that the Great Spirit had interfered to prevent the destruction of the prisoners. Hastily gathering up their arms, they fled precipitately in the direction of their distant home, and their yells of disappointment and defeat rang in the ears of their captives until they died away in the distance.
"Sneak! make haste! they may come back again!" said Joe.
"They've tied my feet so tight I'm afraid I can't undo it in a hurry," replied Sneak, endeavouring to break the cord by thrusting a stick (that he had slipped from the pile to knock out the brains of one of the Indians should his gun-powder plot not succeed,) between it and the tree, and forcing it out until the pain produced became insufferable. By this means the cord was loosened gradually, and moving it a little higher up where the muscles had not yet been bruised, he repeated the process. In this manner he laboured with certain but tardy success. But while he was thus engaged, Joe's predicament became each moment more critical. The wood being by this time pretty well seasoned, began to burn more freely. The blaze was making formidable advances, and the heat was becoming intolerable.
"For heaven's sake, Sneak!" cried Joe, "make haste and come here, or I'll be roasted alive!"
"Wait till I get away from my own tree," replied Sneak.
"Oh Lord! I can't wait a minute more! My shins are getting blistered!" cried Joe, writhing under the heat of the blaze, which now reached within a few inches of him, and increased in magnitude with awful rapidity.
"Well, if you won't wait till I git there, just go ahead yourself," said Sneak, at last extricating his feet by a violent effort, and hopping to Joe's assistance, with some difficulty, for his nether limbs were considerably bruised.
"Hang it, Sneak, pull these burning sticks away from my knees!" said Joe, his face flushed with pain.
"I'll be bursted with powder, if you didn't like to git into a purty tight fix," said Sneak, dashing down the consuming billets of wood.
"Now, Sneak, cut me loose, and then let's run home as soon as possible."
"I hain't got my knife with me, or I wouldn't 'ave been so long gitting loose myself," said Sneak, slowly untying Joe's hands.
"My goodness, how my arms ache!" said Joe, when his hands were released. "Now, Sneak, undo my feet, and then we'll be off in a hurry."
"I'll be slit if your feet ain't tied like mine was, in rich a hard knot that no mortal being can git it undone. I'll take a chunk, and burn the tarnation string in two," said Sneak, applying the fire.
"Take care you don't burn me," said Joe, looking at the operation with much concern.
Sneak's plan of severing his companion's bonds was successful. Joe sprang in delight from his place of confinement, and, without uttering another word, or pausing a single moment, the liberated companions retreated from grove with all possible expedition.
The young chief, or rather the restored youth, awoke in a few days from the delirium into which the fever had plunged him, to a state of convalescence and a consciousness of his altered condition. He now uttered with earnest tenderness the endearing terms of "sister" and "father," when he addressed Mary and Roughgrove. He spoke freely of the many things he had witnessed while living with the Indians, expressing his abhorrence of their habits and nature, and declared it was his intention never to have any further intercourse with them. He promised, when he should be able to leave his bed, to read and study with Mary and Glenn, until he had made amends for the neglect of his education. These symptoms, and the tractable disposition accompanying them, caused Mary and Roughgrove to rejoice over the return of the long-lost youth, and to bow in humble thankfulness to the Disposer of events for the singular and providential circumstances attending his restoration.
Joe had arrived in due course of time, (which was brief,) after his almost miraculous escape from the savages and the flames, and told his story with various embellishments. The Indians were hunted the next day by Sneak and a few of the neighbours, but they had doubtless abandoned the settlement, for no traces of them remained after their mysterious flight from the grove.
A few mild days, during which frequent showers had fallen, had in a great measure removed the snow from the earth. And Joe having soon forgotten his late perilous adventure, amused himself with the horses. He resolved to make some amends for their long confinement in the stable, and to effect it he galloped them several hours each day over the grounds in the vicinity. The hounds, too, seemed delighted to place their feet once more on the bare earth, and they were permitted to accompany the horses in all their excursions.
One night, when William, Mary, and Joe were all quietly sleeping, Roughgrove took occasion to express his gratitude to Glenn for the many and important services rendered his family.
"Whatever good may have attended my efforts," said Glenn, "you may rest assured that I have been amply repaid in the satisfaction enjoyed myself."
"I am sure of it!" exclaimed Roughgrove; "and it was a conviction that you harboured such sentiments that induced me to confide in you, and to disclose things which I intended should remain for ever locked within my own breast."
"Your confidence shall not be abused," said Glenn; and to prove that I am not averse to an exchange of secrets, if you will listen to my recital, I will endeavour briefly to give you a sketch of my history."
"I will listen attentively, my young friend, even were it as sad a tale as mine, which can hardly be the case," said Roughgrove, drawing his chair close to Glenn's side, and placing more fuel on the fire.
"Would to Heaven it had not been!" said Glenn, after reclining his head on his hands a few minutes, and recalling transactions which he could have wished to be blotted from his memory for ever. "I am a native of New York," he continued, heaving a sigh and folding his arms, "and was left an orphan at a very early age. My father was once reputed one of the wealthiest merchants in Broadway; but repeated and enormous losses, necessarily inexplicable to one of my age, suddenly reduced him to comparative poverty. Neither he nor my mother survived the blow many months, and before I was ten years old, I was left (with the exception of an uncle in Philadelphia) alone in the world, possessed of only a few hundred dollars. My uncle placed me with an eminent physician, who had been my father's friend, after my education was completed. He told me that he was rich, and would see that I should not suffer for means until I had acquired a profession, which, with energy and diligence, would enable me to procure an honourable support. But he informed me that he had a family of his own, and that I must not depend upon his assistance further than to accomplish a profession.
"It was during my studies, and when about seventeen years old, that my misfortunes began. My preceptor had another student, named Henry Wold, several years my senior, whose parents were wealthy. Wold and I entertained the highest esteem for each other. But our circumstances being different, I could not indulge in all the excesses of extravagance that he did, but made better progress in my studies. He attended all the gay parties and fashionable places of amusement, while I seldom spent an evening from home. He was tall, manly, and possessed of regular and beautiful features—these, with his unlimited wealth, made him a welcome guest in every circle, and extremely popular with the ladies.
"One Sabbath morning, while sitting in church, (which I attended regularly,) I was struck with the appearance of a stranger in an opposite pew across the aisle that belonged to a family with whom I was on the most intimate terms. The stranger was the most beautiful young lady I ever beheld. Dark, languishing eyes, glossy ringlets, pale, smooth forehead—oh! I will not describe her—let it suffice that she was an angel in my eyes! It was impossible to remove my gaze from her, and I fancied that she sometimes returned an approving glance. Before the service was over, I was delighted to observe that she whispered something to Mrs. Arras, (the name of the lady whose pew she was in,) for this assured me that they were acquainted, and that I might obtain some information about the fair being who had made such a sudden and deep impression on my heart, and perhaps procure an introduction to her. When I retired to my couch that night, it was not to sleep. The image of the fair stranger haunted my restless and imperfect slumbers. Nor could I study by day, for my thoughts wandered continually from the page to the same bright vision. Such was my condition throughout the week. The next Sunday I found her seated in the same pew. Our eyes met, and a slight blush that mantled her fair face encouraged me to hope that she might likewise have bestowed some thoughts on me during the preceding week. It was in vain that I uttered the responses during the service, or knelt down when the clergyman offered up his prayers. I could think of nothing but the angelic stranger. I resolved that another week should not pass without my calling at Mrs. Arras's. But my object was obtained sooner than I expected. When the congregation was dismissed, Mrs. Arras beckoned me across the aisle to her.
"'Charles,' whispered she, 'don't you want an introduction to my niece? I saw your eyes riveted on her several times.'
"'I—if you please,' I replied, with feelings of mingled delight and embarrassment.
"'Laura,' she continued, turning to the young lady who lingered behind, but seemed to be conscious of what was passing, 'let me introduce you to my young friend, Charles Glenn.' The bland and accomplished Mrs. Arras then moved onward, while I attended at the side of Laura, and continued with her until I assisted her up, the marble steps of her aunt's stately mansion.
"I then bowed, and strode rapidly onward, I knew not whither, (completely bewildered with the enchanting spell that the fair Laura had thrown over me,) until I reached the extremity of Broadway, and found myself in Castle Garden, gazing like a very maniac at the bright water below me. I wandered about alone, enjoying the exhilarating fancies of my teeming brain, until the sun sunk beneath the horizon, and the bright stars twinkled in the blue vault above. Oh! the thoughts, the hopes, the bliss of that hour! The dark curtain that veils the rankling corruptions of mortality had not yet been lifted before my staring eyes, and I felt as one gazing at a beautiful world, and regarded the fair maid as the angel destined to unfold all its brilliance to my vision, and to hold the chalice to my lips while I sipped the nectar of perennial felicity. Alas, that such moments are brief! They fly like the dreams of a startled slumberer, and when they vanish once, they are gone forever!
"Without calling at my lodgings for the usual refreshments, I hovered about the mansion of Mrs. Arras till lights were gleaming in the parlour, and then entered. Laura received me with a smile, and the complaisant matron gave me an encouraging welcome.
"'You are pale this evening, Mr. Glenn,' said Mrs. Arras, in a good-humoured, though bantering manner. 'Are you subject to sudden attacks of illness?'
"'I assure you I never enjoyed better health in my life, and feel no symptoms of indisposition whatever,' I replied, but at that moment I chanced to gaze at a mirror, and was startled at my haggard appearance. But when Mrs. Arras withdrew, (which she did soon after my arrival,) the affable and lovely Laura banished every thought of my condition. My wan cheek was soon animated with the flush of unbounded admiration, and my sunken eye sparkled with the effervescence of enraptured delight. Deep and ineradicable passion was engendering in my bosom. And from the pleasure indicated in the glitter of Laura's lustrous eyes, the exquisite smile that dwelt upon her coral lips, and the gentle though unconscious swellings of her breast, a conviction thrilled through my soul that my sudden affection was reciprocated. Hours flew like minutes, and I was surprised by the clock striking ONE before it occurred to me that it was time to depart. Again I traversed the streets at that solemn hour, insensible to every feeling, and regardless of every object but the flaming torch lit up in my heart and the seraphic image of Laura. At length I was warned by the scrutinizing gaze of a watchman to repair to my lodgings. But my pillow afforded no rest. All night long I pondered on the exhilarating events of the day. Many were the endearing accents that escaped my lips as I addressed in fancy my beloved Laura. I resolved to declare my passion ere many weeks should pass. I began to settle in my mind the plans of life, and then, for the first time, the future presented a dark spot to my view. I was poor! Laura was rich and her family proud and aristocratic. Her father was a distinguished judge. And the most high-born and haughty of the land would doubtless (if they had not already) sigh at her feet! I sprang upright on my couch when this discordant thought passed across my mind. But the next moment I was consoled with the belief that I already possessed her heart. And with a determination to have her, in spite of every obstacle, should this be the case, I sank back through weariness, and was soon steeped in deep, though unquiet slumber.
"The two next succeeding Sundays I attended Laura to church. The evenings of both days, and nearly all the intervening ones, I was with her at the mansion of Mrs. Arras. But the evening of the last Sunday was to me a memorable one. That evening I opened all my heart to Laura, and found that every pulsation met a responding throb in hers—such, at least, I believed to be the case—and so she asserted. During the short time she remained in New York, I was her accredited lover, and ever, when together, the attachment she manifested was as ardent as mine. Indeed, at times, her passion seemed unbounded, and I was more than once tempted to propose a clandestine and immediate union. I was the more inclined to this, inasmuch as her father (who had now returned from a trip to Washington) began to regard my visits with displeasure. But he soon passed on to Boston to attend to the duties of his office, and again I had unrestrained access to Laura. But I am dwelling too long on this part of my story.
"One day Henry Wold, my fellow-student, inquired the cause of the palpable change in my bearing and disposition. Would that my lips had been sealed to him forever! I knew that he was honest and generous by nature, but I knew not to what extent his dissolute habits (gradually acquired by having ample means, and yielding by degrees to the temptations of vice) had perverted his good qualities. I told him of my love, and while describing the charms of Laura, I was pleased to attribute the interest he evinced at the recital to his disinterested friendship for me, without the thought that he could be captivated himself with the bare description. He begged me to introduce him. This, too, gratified my pride, for I knew he would admire her. The perfect form, rare beauty, intelligence, and wealth of Wold did not startle an apprehension in my breast. But I knew not—alas! who can know?—the impulses that govern woman. Wold accompanied me that night to Mrs. Arras's. He seated himself at Laura's side, and poured forth a flood of flattery. They smiled in unison and returned glance for glance. Wold exhibited his fine person and exerted all his captivating powers of intellect. Laura scanned the one and listened attentively to the other. Still I sat by in satisfaction, and strove to repress every rising fear that my supremacy in Laura's heart might be endangered. That evening, as we returned homeward, in answer to my questions, Wold stated that my 'intended' was pretty enough for any young man, and would, without doubt, make a very good wife. So far from exhibiting the extravagant admiration I expected, he seemed to speak of the object of my adoration with comparative indifference. But a few evenings afterwards, I found him with Laura when I arrived! I started back on beholding them seated on the same sofa as I entered the parlour. Mrs. Arras was present, and wore a thoughtful expression of features. Laura smiled on me, but I thought it was not a happy smile. It did not render me happy. Wold bowed familiarly, and made some witty remark about taking time by the forelock. I sat down in silence, with a compressed lip, and an icy chillness in my breast. An embarrassing pause ensued. At length Mrs. Arras rose, and opening a folding-door, beckoned me into the adjoining room. After we had been seated a few moments, during which her brow assumed a more grave and thoughtful cast, she observed—
"'You seem to be excited to-night, Charles.'
"'I have cause to be so,' I replied.
"'I cannot deny it,' said she, 'when I consider every thing that has transpired. You doubtless have an attachment for Laura—I have _seen_ it—and I confess it was and _would_ be with my goodwill had I control of the matter. I was acquainted with your family, and acted with the best of motives when I permitted, perhaps encouraged, the intimacy. But I thought not of the austere and passionate nature of my brother-in-law. Neither did I think that any man could object to your addresses to his daughter. But I was mistaken. Judge _ has written that your interviews with Laura must terminate.'
"'Has he given any reason why?' I asked, in tremulous tones.
"'Yes,' she replied, 'but such as mortify me as much as they must pain you. He says that your fortune and family connections are not sufficient to permit the alliance. Oh, I implore you not to suppose these to be my sentiments. I know your family is devoid of ignoble stain, and that your fortune was once second to none. Had I the disposal of Laura's hand it should be yours!'
"'I believe it, Mrs. Arras!' said I. 'But do you net think these objections of Judge _ may be overcome?'
"'Alas, never!' she replied; 'he is immovable when any thing of moment is decided in his mind.'
"'But,' I continued, while the pulsations of my heart were distinctly audible, 'what says Laura?'
"'Would I had been spared this question! You saw her a few minutes since. HE who sees all things knows how my heart ached while I sat by. I can only tell you she had just finished reading her father's letter when Mr. Wold was announced. Spare me, now, I beseech you!' I folded my arms and gazed, I know not how long, at the flame ascending from the hearth. Oh! the agony described of the dying were bliss to that moment. What could I think or do? I sat like one whose heart has been rudely torn from his breast, and who was yet debarred the relief of death. Existence to me at that moment was a hell, and my sufferings were those of the damned! I thank God I have survived them.
"I was aroused from my lethargy by hearing the street door close after Wold, and I desired Mrs. Arras to permit me to have an interview with Laura alone. It was granted, and I was soon in the presence of the lovely maid. She was aware of my perturbation and its cause. She sat with her eyes cast down in silence. I looked upon her form and her features of perfect beauty, and oh! what tongue can describe the mingled and contending emotions that convulsed my breast! I repressed every violent or boisterous inclination of my spirits, however, and taking her unresisting hand, sat down in sorrow at her side.
"'Laura,' said I, with difficulty finding utterance, 'do we thus part, and for ever?' She made no answer, but gazed steadfastly at the rich carpet, while her face, though somewhat paler than usual, betrayed no change of muscle.
"'Laura,' I repeated, in tones more distinct, 'are we now to part, and for ever?'
"'Father says so,' she replied. Her hand fell from my grasp. The unmoved, indifferent manner of her reply froze my blood in my veins! I again stared at her composed features in astonishment allied to contempt.
"'But what do you say?' I asked, with a bluntness that startled her.
"'Father knows best, perhaps!' she replied, turning her eyes to mine, I thought, with calmness.
"'Laura,' said I, again taking her hand, for I was once more subdued by her beauty, 'I love you with my whole soul, and must continue to love you. Ay, were you even to spurn me with your foot, so indissolubly have my affections grown to your image, that my bleeding heart would turn in adoration to the smiter. And I fondly hoped and believed that the passion was returned—indeed, I had your assurance of the fact; nay, think not I design to reproach you. It were bootless, had I the heart to do it. Be assured that were you not only cruel to me, but steeped in crime and guilty of injustice to the whole human race, I would still be your friend were all others to forsake you. Deem me never your foe, or capable of ever becoming such. May heaven bless you! We part—but, under any circumstances, should adverse fortune overtake you and I can be of service, I beg you not to hesitate to apply to me. You will find me still your friend. I will not attempt to reverse the decision which you have made. However humiliating and poignant the thought may be that I was unconsciously the means of introducing the object that influenced your decision, yet I will not murmur, neither will I become his enemy, for your sake. I hope you will be happy. I pray that heaven may incline your heart to be true and constant to Wold.'
"'I hope so,' said she in a low tone.
"'Laura,' said I, rising, 'you confess, then, that Wold possesses your love?'
"'Yes,' said she; 'but I cannot help it!'
"'Farewell!' said I, kissing her yielding hand, and turning deliberately away, though with the sensation of one stunned by a thunderbolt. I returned home, and threw myself like a loathsome carcass upon my couch. I could not even think. My mind seemed like some untenanted recess in the unfathomable depths below. Instantaneous death, and even eternal perdition afterwards, could have presented no new horrors then. It was haply the design of Providence that the thought of self-destruction should not occur to me. With the means in my reach, I would in all probability have rushed, uncalled and unprepared, into the presence of an offended Creator.
"A fever and delirium, such as possessed the poor youth lying there, ensued. Under the kind care of my preceptor, my malady abated in a few weeks; and, as I recovered, a change took place in my sentiments regarding the events that produced my illness. My pride rose up to my relief, and I resolved to overcome the effects of my disappointment. Yet my heart melted in tenderness when I recalled the blissful moments I had known with Laura. But I determined to prosecute my plans of life as if no such occurrence had transpired.
"A few days after bidding Laura adieu, she returned to Boston, accompanied by Wold. Wold obtained his diploma while I was writhing with disease. Even the loss of my degree was now borne with patience and resignation. I forgave Wold, and implored him to make Laura happy. He promised faithfully to do so when on the eve of setting out with her. I did not desire to see her myself, but sent my forgiveness and blessing.
"In a few months my diploma was obtained, and I commenced the practice under the most favourable circumstances. My late preceptor was now my partner. Nearly a year elapsed before Wold returned to New York. But a rumor preceded him which again opened all the fountains of bitterness in my heart. It was said (and only two or three were possessed of the secret) that he had betrayed and ruined the lovely Laura! I sought him, to ascertain from his own lips if he had truly committed the act imputed to him. I resolved to avenge her! But Wold avoided me. I could not obtain his ear, and all my notes to him remained unanswered. Despairing of getting an immediate answer from him, I repaired to Mrs. Arras. Her house was in gloom and sorrow. When she appeared, my heart sank within me to behold her sad and mournful brow. She pressed my extended hand, while a flood of tears gushed from her eyes.
"I knew by the disconsolate aspect of the aunt that the niece had been dragged down from her high estate of virtue, fortune, and fame. I sat down, and bowed my head in sorrow many minutes before the first word was spoken. I still loved Laura. What could I say? how begin?
"'It is true!' I at length exclaimed, rising up, and pacing the floor rapidly, while many a tear ran down my cheek.
"'Alas! it is too true,' iterated Mrs. Arras.
"'The black-hearted villain!' I continued.
"'Ah, Mr. Glenn, her fate would have been different, if your addresses had not been so cruelly spurned! God knows I was not to blame!' said she.
"'No, Mrs. Arras,' said I; 'had your will been done, I had not been made miserable by the bereavement, nor the beautiful, the innocent—the—Laura, with all her errors, dishonoured, ruined, crushed! But the betrayer, the viper that stung her, still breathes. I loved her—I love her yet—and I will be her avenger!' Saying this, I rushed away, heedless of the matron's half-uttered entreaties to remain and to desist from my plan of vengeance.
"There was a young student of my acquaintance, a brave, chivalrous, noble Virginian, to whom I imparted Laura's sad story. He frankly agreed with me that the venomous reptile in the human shape that could beguile an unsuspecting and lovely girl to minister to his unhallowed desires, and then, without hesitation or remorse, abandon her to the dark, despairing shades of a frowning world, while he crawled on to insinuate his poison into the breasts of new victims, should be pursued, hunted down, and exterminated. Yet there was but one way for me to punish Wold. The ignominy of the act, and the indignation of a virtuous community were to him matters of indifference. The circle in which he moved would smile at the misfortune of his victim, and applaud his address, were the affair published. I resolved that he should answer it to me alone. I had sworn in my heart to be Laura's avenger.
"I penned a message which was delivered by my young Virginian friend in person. Wold said he had no quarrel with me, and strove to evade the subject. He sent me a note, demanding wherein he had ever wronged me, and stating that he was ready and willing to explain any thing that might have offended me. I returned his note, with a line on the same sheet, informing him that I was the friend of Laura; and that he must either meet me in the manner indicated in my message, or I would publicly brand him as a dastardly scoundrel. He bit his lip, and referred my friend to one of his companions in iniquity, a Mr. Knabb, who lived by the profession of cards and dice. It was arranged that we should meet on one of the islands near the city, and that it should be the next morning. This was what I desired, and I had urged my friend to effect as speedy a consummation of the affair as possible. All the tumult and perturbation that raged in my bosom on parting with Laura had returned, and the throbbing of my brain was almost insufferable. It was with difficulty that my young friend prevailed upon me to embrace the few intermediate hours before the meeting to practice with the pistol. I heeded not his declaration that Wold was an excellent shot, because I felt convinced that justice was on my side. I thought that the criminal must inevitably fall. However, I consented to practice a little to quiet his importunity. Truly, it seemed that his urgent solicitation was reasonable enough, for the first fire my ball was several feet wide of the mark. I had never fired a pistol before in my life. But there was no quivering of nerve, no misgiving as to my fate; for notwithstanding I was aware of being a novice, yet I entertained a conviction, a presentiment, that the destroyer of my Laura's innocence would fall beneath my hand. The next fire I did better, and soon learned to strike the centre.
"We were all on the ground at the hour appointed. While the seconds were arranging the necessary preliminaries, Wold, finding that my eyes rested steadily upon him, endeavoured to intimidate me. There was a bush some thirty paces distant, from which a slim, solitary sprout ran up several feet above the rest of the branches. He gazed an instant at it while I was marking him, and then raised his pistol, and fired in the direction. The sprout fell. Turning, his eyes met mine, while a slight smile was visible on his lip. The effect did not realize his hopes. I looked upon the act with such cold indifference that he at first betrayed surprise at my calmness, and then exhibited palpable signs of trepidation himself. He beckoned Knabb to him, and, after a brief conference in a low tone, his second returned to my friend, and inquired if no amends, no reconciliation, could avert the exchange of shots. My friend reported his words to me, and my reply was that nothing but the restitution of the maiden's honour—instant marriage—would be satisfaction. Wold protested—marriage was utterly impossible under existing circumstances—but he would do any thing else. But nothing else would answer; and I insisted on proceeding to business without further delay. Wold heard me, and became pale. When we were placed at our respective stations, and while the final arrangements were being adjusted, I thought his replies to his friend's observations betrayed much alarm. But there was no retreat. I was never calmer in my life, I even smiled when my careful friend told me that he had detected and prevented a concerted plan that would have given Wold the advantage. The word was given. Wold's ball struck the earth before me, and threw some sand in my face. Mine entered the seducer's side! I saw him gasp, reel, and fall, while the blood gushed out on the beach. My friend hurried me away, and paused not until he had placed me in a stage just starting for Philadelphia. I clasped his hand in silence, and the next moment the horses plunged away at the crack of the driver's whip, and we were soon far on the road. Reflection ere long convinced me that I had been guilty of an unjustifiable act. If it was no crime in the estimation of men, it was certainly a grievous transgression in the eyes of God! I then trembled. The bleeding form and reproachful stare of Wold haunted my vision when the darkness set in. Oh, the errors, in act and deed, of an impetuous youth thrown upon the world with no considerate friend to advise him! The pity I felt for Laura was soon forgotten in the horrible thought that I was a MURDERER! Oh, the anguish of that night! Why did I not leave Wold to the judgment of an offended God? Why did I not permit him to suffer the gnawing of the canker that must ever abide in his heart, instead of staining my hands with his blood? Freely would I have abandoned every hope of pleasure in the world to have washed his blood away!
"When I arrived in Philadelphia, with a heavy heart, I sought a quiet hotel, not daring to confront my uncle with such a tale of woe and crime. For several days I remained in my chamber without seeing any one but the servant that brought my food. At length I asked for a New York paper. For more than an hour after it was brought I could not summon courage to peruse the hated tragedy. Finally I snatched up the sheet convulsively and glanced along the columns. When my eyes rested upon the paragraph I was in quest of, I sprang to my feet in ecstasy. The wound had not been fatal! Wold still lived!
"In a twinkling I was dressed and on my way to my uncle's residence. Notwithstanding there was a dreadful epidemic in the city, and hearses and mourners were passing every few minutes, I felt within a buoyancy that defied the terrors of disease and death.
"But it seemed that disaster and desolation were fated to attend me whithersoever I turned. A gloom brooded upon my heart when I approached my uncle's mansion, and found the badge of mourning at the door. I paused and asked the servant who was dead. He informed me that my uncle alone remained. His wife and children, all had been consigned to the tomb the day before, and he himself now lay writhing with the fell disease. I rushed in and entered the sick chamber. It was the chamber of death. My uncle pressed my hand and died. I followed him to the grave, the chief and almost only mourner.
"I returned and shut myself up in the mansion, bewildered and stupefied. I was now the possessor of immense wealth. But I was unhappy. I knew not what to do to enjoy life. Gradually the pestilence abated and disappeared, and by degrees the gloom that oppressed me subsided. At the end of a few months, I was informed by my young Virginian friend that Wold had entirely recovered. I likewise received a letter from Mrs. Arras, stating that Judge _ had sought out Laura, (who had been enticed to an obscure part of the city,) and, as her misfortune had been kept a profound secret among the few, he forgave the offence, and once more extended to her a father's love and a father's protection. I need not say that a blissful thrill bounded through my veins. Wold was living, and Laura not irrecoverably lost. Yet I did not then deem it possible that I could, under such circumstances, ever desire to possess the once adored, but since truly fallen, Laura. But I experienced a sweet gratification to be thus informed of the prospect of her being reinstated in society. My love was not yet wholly extinguished!
"When it was generally known that I possessed great riches, a crowd of flatterers and sycophants hovered around me. I was a distinguished guest at the mansions of the fashionable and great, and had in turn many brilliant parties at my residence. But among the tinsel and glitter of the gay world I sought in vain for peace and happiness. Many beautiful and bewitching belles lavished their sweetest smiles upon me, but they could not re-ignite the smothered flame in my bosom. Wine could only exhilarate for a moment, to be succeeded by a gnawing nausea. Cards could only excite while I lost, to be succeeded by irritability and disgust.
"Thus my time was spent for twelve months, when I suddenly conceived the resolution to seek a union with the ill-fated Laura, notwithstanding all the obloquy the world might attach to the act. I still loved her in spite of myself. I could not live in peace without her, and I determined without delay to offer her my hand, heart, and fortune. I set out for Boston, and on my arrival instantly proceeded to the residence of Judge . Again my evil star was in the ascendant. Desolation and death presided in Judge 's family. The ominous badge of mourning greeted me at the threshold; Laura's mother had just been consigned, broken-hearted, to the cold grave. The venerable Judge bowed his hoary head to the blows that Providence inflicted. He could not speak to me. His reply to my offer in relation to his child was only a flood of tears. He then retreated into his library and locked the door. An aged domestic told me all. Laura had abandoned her parental roof, and voluntarily entered one of those sinks of pollution that so much degrade human nature! I stood upon an awful abyss. The whirlpools of deceit, ingratitude, indifference, and calumny, howled around me, and the dark floods of sensual corruption roared below. Turn whithersoever I might (alas, I thought not of heaven!) gloom, discord, and misery seemed to be my portion.
"I hurried back to Philadelphia, and strove to mitigate my grief in the vortex of unrestrained dissipation. I lavished my gold on undeserving and unthankful objects. I cared not for life, much less for fortune. I was the victim of a frenzy that rendered me reckless, and bereft me of calm meditation. My frantic laughter was heard at the gaming-table, and my plaudits were boisterous at the theatre, but I was a stranger to enjoyment. There was no pleasure for me. My brawling companions swore I was the happiest and noblest being on earth. But I knew too well there was not a more miserable fiend in hell.
"At length disease fortunately arrested my demoniac career before my wealth was expended. It was my good fortune to secure the services of a distinguished and skillful physician. He was a benevolent and universally esteemed Quaker. His attention was not only constant, but soothing and parental. His earnest and tender tones often made me weep. When I recovered, I resolved to amend my life. This friend had applied a healing balm to my aching heart. I determined to prosecute my profession, and before a year elapsed my exertions began to be crowned with success.
"I was a frequent attendant at the lectures, and on terms of the closest intimacy with the professors. Indeed, I had a prospect of a professorship myself. I devoted my attention particularly to the anatomical department of my studies, which I preferred; and it was in this department of the institution that I would probably be installed in a few months. The gentleman who occupied that chair was about to resign, and, being my friend, used his influence to procure my election.
"My medical friend invited me one evening to be present at a dissection, which promised to be one of extreme interest. He described the subject as one that had elicited the admiration of the class. He said it was a female of perfect proportions, but who had recently been an inmate of a brothel of the lowest description. She had, in a state of beastly inebriation, fallen into the fire. Yet, with the exception of a small but fatal orifice in the side, her form and features remained unaltered. I consented to meet him at the hour appointed, and made my arrangements accordingly.
"That evening there were many more persons in the dissecting-room than usual. I had now become much more cheerful, and enjoyed the frank greetings of my many friends with a relish and an ardour that had hitherto been unknown to me. Many flippant remarks and careless observations were exchanged in relation to the business before us. We had become accustomed to such scenes, and habit had rendered us callous to the reflections and impressions generally produced when gazing upon the cold lineaments of the dead. Dissection was an indispensable act. It had been resorted to under the deliberate conviction that it was necessary to the perfection of science, and in a great degree redounded to the welfare and preservation of the living. To us the pale inanimate limbs, and the attenuated, insensible bodies of the dead brought no disagreeable sensations. We cut and sawed them with the same composed indifference with which the sculptor hews the marble.
"'This is a beautiful subject we have to-night, Glenn,' observed one of my friends, as we approached the dead body. He then threw up the white cloth, and exposed the corpse, the head being still obscured. A breathless silence reigned, while all gazed at the lifeless form in admiration. She was a perfect Venus! Not having been wasted and shrivelled by disease, the symmetry of her lineaments was preserved in all the exactness of life and health. Her bust was full, plump, and the skin of the most exquisite whiteness, except where it had been marred by the fire that caused her death. Her limbs surpassed any model I had ever beheld, round and tapering, smooth and white as ivory. Her ankles were most admirably turned, and her feet of the smallest dimensions. Her handsome and gently swelling arms were covered with a slight gauze of short, dark hair, through which the snowy whiteness of her skin was displayed to greater advantage. Her hands were extremely delicate, and indicated that she had been accustomed to ease and luxury.
"I was requested to open her breast and exhibit to the students the formation and functions of the heart. She was lying on her back, on a long narrow table, around which the students stood gazing at her fair proportions. Some reflected in sorrow that so beautiful and lovely a being should die and be conveyed to the dissecting-room; while others joked and laughed in a light unfeeling manner. When about to make an incision with the sharp glittering steel in my hand, for the first time since I had graduated, I confessed that my nerves were too much affected by the sight of the subject to proceed, and I begged my friends to be patient a few minutes, during which I would doubtless regain my accustomed composure.
"'What was her name?' I inquired of the friend who had accosted me on my entrance.
"'Haven't you heard?' said he, smiling—'I thought you all knew her. Nearly every person in the city has heard of her, for she was the most celebrated and notorious "fallen angel" in the city—celebrated for her unrivalled beauty and many triumphs, and notorious for her heartless deceit and reckless disregard of her own welfare. She has led captive many an unguarded swain by a passing smile in the street, and then unceremoniously deserted him to join some drunken and beastly party in an obscure and degraded alley.'
"'Her name—what was her name?' I again asked, once more taking up the knife, my nerves sufficiently braced by the above recital.
"'Anne R_,' he replied; 'I thought,' he continued, 'no one could be ignorant of her name, after hearing a description of her habits.'
"'All of us,' I continued, rallying, 'are not familiar with the persons and names of the "fallen angels" about town. But let us look at her face.' Saying this, I endeavoured to lift the white cloth from her head, but finding that the resurrectionist had tied a cord tightly round the muslin enclosing her neck and head, I desisted.
"'Her face is in keeping with her body and limbs,' said my merry friend; 'she was a perfect beauty. I have seen her in Chestnut Street every fair day for the last six months, until she got drunk and fell in the fire.'
"I now proceeded to business, but my flesh quivered as my knife penetrated the smooth fair breast of the subject. Soon the skin and the flesh were removed, and the saw grated harshly as it severed the ribs. When the heart was exposed, all bent forward instinctively, scanning it minutely, and seemingly with a curiosity to ascertain if it differed from those of others whose lives were different.