Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

riage, within which a voice of a very different tone from that which last issued thence, was earnestly beseeching succour.

"Help! for heaven's sake, help! save me from a ruffian!" cried a female in imploring accents. The last words were scarcely articulate, and were uttered with a smothered sound, accompanied with a noise of struggling, as if the ruffian was endeavouring to hold the lady still, and to silence her cries by pressing his hand upon her mouth.

The incentive of •this well-known voice seemed hardly wanting to add more fury to the rage of Merriville. Choking with mingled emotions, he called to the ruffian to hold off his hand, and, with an effort of desperate strength, tearing open the door, the fastenings of which he did not understand, he seized the inmate by the collar, and dragged him to the ground.

"Seducer!—scoundrel!—ruffian!" he cried, " I have you in the toils, and dearly you shall rue this night's work!"

"Mr Terry!—I command—you shall suffer for this—a courtmartial—" and various similar broken ejaculations were uttered by the wretch, who violently struggled to get loose from the strong grasp in which he was held. Merriville, though not of a robust constitution, yet possessed much muscular strength. In the present contest every fibre received tenfold vigour from the energy of the feelings that raged within him, and made him an over-match for the guilty being who writhed within his arms. The faces of both were inflamed and convulsed with mighty passions, though of a widely and obviously different character; for the rage of the one, though fierce as ten furies, had yet something noble and commanding in it, while that of the other seemed kindled by a demon. The clear, round moon shone down on the occurrence with a silvery brightness, which, while it made every feature of the scene perfectly visible, yet imparted to the pallid faces, glaring eye-balls, and quivering lips of the combatants a more ghastly and terrible expression, than they derived from their own wild passions. The captain (for it's useless to tell you that it was he) struggled hard, but was evidently becoming exhausted. In the excess of his emotion he had bitten his lip nearly in twain, and the blood which, in their tossing to and fro, had been smeared over the faces and clothes of both, gave great additional wildness to their appearance.

The female, who by this time had recovered from the swoon into which she fell when the voice of Merriville first reached her ear, now screamed as she saw the blood with which he was profusely stained, and, imagining him to be mortally wounded, she sprang from the carriage, and tottered towards him across the road. A sudden movement of the two combatants, at the same moment, changed their position in such a way as to bring the back of Men ivjlle towards the approaching figure, and at this instant, his antagonist having succeeded in releasing his arm from his grasp, hastily drew a pistol from his pocket, cocked, and fired it. The ball whizzed through the air, only slightly grazing the neck of the intended victim; but a piercing shriek from the lips of the female, heard above the loud report, announced that it had done more fatal execution in another quarter. As if by mutual consent, both parties ceased from their struggle for a moment, and rushed towards her. She staggered two or three steps forward, mumbled a few scarce audible words, among which the name of Merriville was the only intelligible sound, and fell bleeding to the earth. In the meanwhile the horses, which had been scared by the near and loud report of the pistol, pranced suddenly round, and dashing down the hill, were soon lost to sight. Poor Merriville, with a groan of agony which he could not, which he did not seek to repress, bent over the form which lay stretched and pale before him, and raising it partly from the ground, gazed for a stupid moment in utter unconsciousness of all things else, upon the features of her still lovely face. The ball had passed directly through the heart, from which life had already bubbled out in a crimson tide, though a few darker drops continued to ooze from the livid orifice of the wound. Merriville whispered her name, but she answered not. In vain he leaned his ear to her lips, or bent his eyes upon them, till the hot tearless balls seemed bursting from their sockets—no sound, no motion, made reply. He laid his hand upon her heart—but its pulse was still. He looked into her eyes— but they returned not, as they were wont, an answering look: their light had gone out—the spirit had departed from its house of clay— she was dead, quite dead! As this fact impressed itself upon his brain, a maddening consciousness of the cause seemed slowly to return; his eyes rolled up till the balls were nearly hid, his face became of a livid darkness, and his teeth were clenched together, like those of one in mortal agony. Suddenly starting up, he turned quickly round, and with his arms extended, and his fingers curved like the talons of an eagle, he sprang wildly towards his guilty commander. The motion seemed to have been anticipated, for the wretch had prepared himself with a second pistol, which as his antagonist approached, he deliberately aimed at him, and fired. Whether the ball took effect or not, it did not defeat poor Merry's object. He darted like a hungry tiger on the wretch, and with both hands, seizing him round the throat, he dragged him down to the earth. In vain his victim struggled—the sinews of his antagonist seemed hardened into steel. He tried to shriek for aid, but the grasp around his neck choked his utterance, and his words diud away in a rattling sound, like the gurgling in the throat of a drowning man. With a strength that seemed supernatural, Merriville raised him from the earth, and dragged him along the road. The struggling of the wretched man grew fainter and fainter, but still an occasional convulsive quivering of the limbs told that he yet lived. His face was almost black, his tongue lolled out of his mouth like a dog's, and his eyes, blood-shot and glassy, were protruded a full inch from their sockets. Blood had startedBS-om his nostrils in his mortal agony, and a thick wreath of mingled blood and foam stood upon his lips, which, wide distended, seemed stretched in a horrid laugh.

In silence, and with a strength that seemed more than human, Merriville continued to drag his victim along, till he reached the boat. He had been met by Williams not far from the scene of the first part of the contest, but he appeared not to see him. Williams, on his part, was too much awed to speak. The firing of the pistols had prepared him for some fatal event; for he had a dim and dark suspicion of the object of Merriville's errand, inasmuch as he had been the bearer of several notes between him and his betrothed; and had heard, also, that his captain was a rejected suitor for the same hand. One glance at the group served to show him the dreadful nature of the burden Merriville dragged along with him: he saw that his commander was already a corpse, and besides, he was too much intimidated by the unnatural lustre of Merriville's eye, by his pallid and unearthly hue, and by his still and terrible bearing, to interrupt the silence with a word. As they approached the boat, Williams waved his hand to the crew, who were anxiously waiting on the beach, and signified by an expressive nod that they must not speak. Silently and sorrowfully they followed their young officer to the water's edge, entered after him the boat, and commenced rowing back to the ship. Poor Terry, still holding the body by the throat, took his seat in the stern-sheets, and leaned his head down on the gunwale in such a way that his garments concealed his face. The face of the corpse, however, was exposed in the broad moonlight; and as the head hung partly over the seat, with its features distorted and bloody, its hair matted with clotts of blood and earth, and its glassy eye-balls apparently staring at the men, a superstitious shudder crept over them, which with all their manhood they could scarcely repress.

In this way, and in silence, they drew near the ship. The sentinel hailed them; but no answer was returned. As they came to the gangway, the officer of the deck called Mr Terry by name; but still no reply. He saw by the terror painted on the countenances of the crew that something dreadful had occurred, and deicended quickly into the boat, where the whole terrible truth was soon ascertained. They were both dead! By the discharge of the second pistol, Merry had been mortally wounded, and his life had oozed away while his hands were still clasped with desperate energy around the throat of his victim. Even after death his fingers did not lose their tenacity. The officer tried to unlock the death-grasp, but without effect; and the two bodies, locked in an embrace, which, stronger than that of love, had outlasted life, were obliged to be hoisted up together.

Just as Jack Palmer arrived at this part of his yarn, all hands were called to stand by their hammocks, and the bustle incident to that piece of duty put an abrupt end to his story.

THE DEATH OF WALLACE.

Jov, joy iu London now I
He goes, the rebel Wallace goes to death:
At length the traitor meets the traitor's doom.

Joy, joy in London now!

He on a sledge is drawn, His strong right arm umveaponM and in chains,
And garlanded around his helmless head

The laurel wreath of scorn.

They throng to view him now
Who in the field had fled before his sword.
Who at the name of Wallace once grew pale

And falter'd out a prayer.

Yes! they can meet his eye,
That only beams with patient courage now;
Yes! they can gaze upon those manly limbs,

Defenceless now and bound.

And that eye did not shrink
As he beheld the pomp of infamy;
Nor did one rebel feeling shake those limbs

When the last moment came.

What though suspended sense
Was by their damned cruelty revived?
What though ingenious vengeance lengthen'd lifo

To feel protracted death?

What though the hangman's hand
Craspt in his living breast the heaving heart ?—
In the last agony, the last sick pang,

Wallace had comfort still.

He call'd to mind his deeds
Done for his country in the embattled field;
He thought of that good cause for which he died,

Aud that was joy in death!

Go, Edward, triumph now I Cambria is fall'n, and Scotland's strength is crush'd;
On Wallace, on Llewellyn's mangled limbs

The fowls of Heaven have fed.

UnrivallM, unopposed,
Gr,, Edward, full of glory, to thy grave I
The weight of Patriot bluod upon thy soul,

Go, Edward, to thy God 1

Robert Southbv.

THE STRANGER GUEST.*

A Considerable portion of my youth, and some intervals in my subsequent life, were spent in the country; and when my professional pursuits fixed my residence in the metropolis, I often looked back upon the hours I had passed amongst rural scenes, with blended sensations of pleasure and regret; while one of my principal excitements for pressing forward in the path I had chosen, was supplied by the hope of some day arriving at that point, from which

1 might diverge into the peaceful haunts of my childhood.

I was ever an interested spectator of the occupations of husbandry, and not unfrequently mingled in the society of those who pursued them. The British farmer is one of the most useful members of the middle rank of life, and the character which he generally sustains places him among the most honourable. He is not exactly the description of person which existed under that name a hundred years ago, nor is it very likely that he should be; and, I confess, I could never join in the general clamour, and pronounce those effects of a refined state of society, which are termed improvements in other classes of men, degeneracy in him. The peasantry, too, of England, in the majority of instances where they have regular employment, I have found to be a very contented and well-ordered race; although, it may be, they do not possess the spirit and intellectuality ascribed by modern tourists to the denizens of the Alps

• From 'Tales of a Physician. By W. H. Harrison,' London, 1829,

2 vols.

« AnteriorContinuar »