« AnteriorContinuar »
impulse to fix my eyes upon this tomb, on which reclined the sculptured figure of Sir William, nearly as large as life.
While my eyes remained, as it were, fastened on this object, could I be deceived by the shadows of the moonlight, or did 1 in reality perceive a moving form apparently rising from that tomb? Ah no! it was no vision of the imagination: I distinctly saw a long lean arm raised above the sepulchre, and, a moment afterwards, the ghastly apparition of a human face, pale, wild, and unearthly, glared on me with eyes expressive of misery and despair. I stood unable to move a limb; every faculty of body and mind seemed frozen up in horror: the spectre advanced a step from the monument, and in that moment my senses were almost paralysed by the most heart-rending sound that ever appalled a mortal ear—it was the yell of despair—it was the cry of human suffering, with a strange and horrible mixture of the agony of a dying animal. I sank down totally overpowered: all that I had heard recurred to my mind, which became a chaos of terror and superstitious alarms, and I lost all consciousness of the hortors that surrounded me in a temporary insensibility.
I know not how long I remained in this state almost approaching death, but, when I in some degree recovered myself, I found that I had fallen on the floor of the pew, and, asmy mind was gradually restored to recollection, I endeavoured to persuade myself that I had been deluded by a phantom of the imagination. I thought how often we are victims to our over-excited fancies. My senses might have been bewildered; I might after all only have dreamed. In this idea, I slowly rose from my recumbent posture, determined to examine the tomb myself, and to be convinced, that my mind had been under a temporary derangement. I stood up; I looked to the door of the pew, when, oh dreadful sight I the same ghastly and horrid face met my view, as the spectre leaned over it, with its glaring eyes fixed on mine. My sensations I have hardly words to describe: by no power could I withdraw my eyes from this object: for hours did I remain thus spell-bound; I felt as if the blood had congealed in my veins ", my temples ached with intense agony, and every hair on my head felt as if it was endued with a living power, and was moved by some invisible mechanism. I felt that my senses were deserting me, but I was not mad ; for through that long and dreadful night did I distinctly hear the hours told by the church clock, which returned in dismal echoes to my ear. Horror at last became despair; I rose in frantic wildness to rush from my prison, when again did the spectre utter that soul-appalling sound. Every object, the church, the monuments, seemed to rock and reel around me, my eyes emitted sparks of fire, and from that moment I lost all recollection of many weeks of my existence.
My story appears terrific, and it was indeed truly so to me, and yet the events 'were in reality very common, and such as, had my mind, instead of being in a state of excitement and terror, been capable of calm investigation, would not to me have been the cause of such protracted suffering. The next morning, the woman who had the care of sweeping the church came to it early to prepare it for the approaching service, and she found me raving in a paroxysm of delirium, and the poor innocent cause of my fear himself terrified and alarmed. He was a pauper belonging to a village some miles distant: he was born deaf and dumb, and had, as he grew up, been found to be also an idiot. His parents had supported him decently while they lived: but, on their death, the care of him had devolved on the parish; he had grown old in poverty, sickness, and dependence; but he was perfectly harmless, and the neighbouring farmers never refused him a meal. Frequently in the summer season he wandered around for days together, taking his scanty food from the hand of charity, and his nightly rest in barns or outhouses: it was supposed that he had wandered into the church, where he had fallen asleep; and when he awoke, he was the unconscious cause to me of terror never to be forgotten, by his meagre and ghastly appearance, and his horrid and uncouth attempts at articulation.
I remained long on a bed of suffering: a frenzy fever left me reduced to almost infantine weakness. Of its effects on me corporeally and mentally you may judge, when I tell you, that when I entered that church my hair was brown and glossy as the chesnut, and that when I rose from my bed it was grey as you now see it. My limbs, which were strong and agile, have ever since trembled with paralysis; and my mind, which was once cheerful, energetic, and courageous, is now desponding, weak, and timid.
"With thee my spirit strays
Amid the land, and in the light
We have gathered lilies oft
On these old green garden walks,
As we tied the stalks
Underneath the hawthorn bough—
We ne'er parted sorrowless,
Or met without a smile of yore—
We but felt it more.
For hearts like ours to breath one vow-
Thou'rt to another now.
, ISLAND OP KERRARA.
"Of ghastly castle which eternally
Holds its blind visage out to the lane sea."
Author Of Rimini.
tii Ill frown'st thou on the blue sea wave,
And on the flowery land-
Thy look of old command.
But the chill spirit of decay
Amid thine inmost chamber wails— Where the unshelter'd floor reflects The cloud that o'er it sails.
Thy gateway is all grass-grown now—
No coming—no departing train,
And were there hearts that gave to thee, The earth-endearing name of home y
About thy oaken-seated hall, And winding lobbies, and among
Yes ! and thy desolateness speaks A touching moral to the mind—
It tells that we must pass away, When a few hastening years have fled,
Thk widow of Governor Atheling returned from the East Indies, old, rich, and childless; and as she had none but very distant relations her affections naturally turned towards the earliest friends of her youth; one of whom she found still living, and residing in a largo country town.
She therefore hired a house and grounds adjacent, in a village very near to this lady's abode, and became not only her frequent but welcome guest. This old friend was a widow in narrow circumstances, with four daughters slenderly provided for; and she justly concluded that, if she and her family could endear themselves to their opulent guest, they should in all probability inherit some of her property. In the meanwhile, as she never visited them without bringing with her, in great abundance, whatever was wanted for the table, and might therefore be said to contribute to their maintenance, without seeming to intend to do so, they took incessant pains to conciliate her more and more every day, by flatteries which she did not see through, and attentions which she deeply felt. Still, the Livingstones were not in spirit united to their amiable guest. The sorrows of her heart had led her, by slow degrees, to seek refuge in a religious course of life; and, spite of her proneness to self-deception, she could not conceal from herself that, on this most important subject, the Livingstones had never thought seriously, and were, as yet, entirely women of the world. But still her heart longed to love something; and as her starved affections craved some daily food, she suffered herself to love this plausible, amusing, agreeable, and seemingly-affectionate family; and she every day lived in hope, that, by her precepts and example, she should ultimately tear them from that "world they loved too well." Sweet and precious to their own souls are the illusions of the good; and the deceived East-Indian was happy, because she did not understand the true nature of the Livingstones.
On the contrary, so fascinated was she by what she fancied they were, or might become, that she took very little notice of a shamefaced, awkward, retiring, silent girl, the only child of the dearest friend that her childhood and her youth had known,—and who had been purposely introduced to her only as Fanny Barnwell. For the Livingstones were too selfish, and too prudent, to let their rich friend knowthat this poor girl was the orphan of Fanny Beaumont. Withholding, therefore, the most important part of the truth, they only informed her that Fanny Barnwell was an orphan, who was glad to
• From " Illustrations of Lying in all its Branches." By Mrs Opie.
live amongst her friends, that she might make her small income sufficient for her wants; but they took care not to add that she was mistaken in supposing that Fanny Beaumont, whose long silence and subsequent death she had bitterly deplored, had died childless; for that she had married a second husband, by whom she had the poor orphan in question, and had lived many years in sorrow and obscurity, the result of this imprudent marriage; resolving, however, in order to avoid accidents, that Fanny's visit should not be of long duration. In the meanwhile, they confided in the security afforded them by what may be called their " passive lie of interest." But, in order to make "assurance doubly sure," they had also recourse to the " active lie of interest;" and, in order to frighten Fanny from ever daring to inform their visitor that she was the child of Fanny Beaumont, they assured her that that lady was so enraged against her poor mother, for having married her unworthy father, that no one dared to mention her name to her; as it never failed to draw from her the most violent abuse of her once dearest friend. "And you know, Fanny," they took care to add, " that you could not bear to hear your poor mother abused."—" No; that I could not, indeed," was the weeping girl's answer; and the Livingstones feltsafe and satisfied. However, it still might not be amiss to make the old lady dislike Fanny, if they could; and they contrived to render the poor girl's virtue the means of doing her injury.
Fanny's mother could not bequeath much money to her child; but she had endeavoured to enrich her with principles and piety. Above all, she had impressed her with the strictest regard for truth; —and the Livingstones artfully contrived to make her integrity the means of displeasing their East-Indian friend.
This good old lady's chief failing was believing implicitly whatever was said in her commendation: not that she loved flattery, but that she liked to believe she had conciliated good-will; and that, being sincere herself, she never thought of distrusting the sincerity of others.
Nor was she at all vain of her once fine person, and finer face, or improperly fond of dress. Still, from an almost pitiable degree of bon/iommie, she allowed the Livingstones to dress her as they liked; and, as they chose to make her wear fashionable and younglooking attire, in which they declared that she looked " so handsome! and so well!" she believed they were the best judges of what was proper for her, and always replied, "Well, dear friends, it is entirely a matter of indifference to me; so dress me as you please;" while the Livingstones, not believing that it was a matter of indifference, used to laugh, as soon as she was gone, at her obvious credulity.