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knowledge of the vices of vulgar life and the excitements of
a vulgar religion, the fear of being hanged and the fear
of hell became coexistent in my mind ; and the teaching


resolved itself into this, that it was not by be.Vig naughty,
but by being found out, that I was to incur the risk of both.
My fairy world was better !

About religion ; I was taught religion as children used
to be taught it in my younger days, and are taught it still in
some cases, I believe, through the medium of creeds and
catechisms. I read the Bible too early, and too indiscrim-
inately, and too irreverently. Even the New Testament
was too early placed in my hands ; too early made a lesson-
book, as the custom then was. The letter of the Scriptures
the words were familiarized to me by sermonizing and
dogmatizing, long before I could enter into the spirit. Mean-
time, happily, another religion was growing up in my heart,
which, strangely enough, seemed to me quite apart from that
which was taught, which, indeed, I never in any way
regarded as the same which I was taught when I stood up
wearily on a Sunday to repeat the collect and say the cate-
chism. It was quite another thing. Not only the taught
religion and the sentiment of faith and adoration were never
combined, but it never for years entered into my head to
combine them ; the first remained extraneous, the latter had
gradually taken root in my life, even from the moment my
mother joined my little hands in prayer. The histories out
of the Bible (the Parables especially) were, however, en-
chanting to me, though my interpretation of them was in
some instances the very reverse of correct or orthodox. To
my infant conception our Lord was a being who had come
down from heaven to make people good, and to tell them
beautiful stories. And though no pains were spared to
indoctrinate me, and all my pastors and masters took it for
granted that my ideas were quite satisfactory, nothing couM
be more confused and heterodox.

It is a common observation that girls of lively talents are
apt to grow pert and satirical. I fell into this danger when


about ten years old. Sallies at the expense of certain peo-
ple, ill-looking, or ill-dressed, or ridiculous, or foolish, had
been laughed at and applauded in company, until, -without
being naturally malignant, I ran some risk of becoming so
from sheer vanity.

The fables which appeal to our higher moral sympathies
may sometimes do as much for us as the truths of science.
So thought our Saviour when he taught the multitude in

A good clergyman who lived near us, a famous Persian
scholar, took it into his head to teach me Persian, (I was
then about seven years old,) and I set to work with infinite
delight and. earnestness. All I learned was soon forgotten ;
but a few years afterwards, happening to stumble on a
volume of Sir William Jones's works, his Persian gram-
mar, it revived my Orientalism, and I began to study it
eagerly. Among the exercises given was a Persian fable
or poem, one of those traditions of our Lord which are
preserved in the East. The beautiful apologue of " St.
Peter and the Cherries," which Goethe has versified or
imitated, is a well-known example. This fable I allude to
was something similar, but I have not met with the original
these forty years, and must give it here from memory.

" Jesus," says the story, " arrived one evening at the
gates of a certain city, and he sent his disciples forward to
prepare supper, while he himself, intent on doing good,
walked through the streets into the market-place.

" And he saw at the corner of the market some people
gathered together looking at an object on the ground ; and
he drew near to see what it might be. It was a dead dog,
with a halter round his neck, by which he appeared to have
been dragged through the dirt ; and a viler, a more abject,
a more unclean thing never met the eyes of man.

" And those who stood by looked on with abhorrence-


" l Faugh ! ' said one, stopping his nose ; ' it pollutes the
air.' * How long,' said another, ' shall this foul beast offend
our sight ? ' ' Look at his torn hide/ said a third ; ' one
could not even cut a shoe out of it.' ' And his ears/ said a
fourth, ' all draggled and bleeding ! ' ' No doubt,' said a
fifth, he hath been hanged for thieving ! '

" And Jesus heard them, and looking down compas-
sionately on the dead creature, he said, * Pearls are not
equal to the whiteness of his teeth ! '

" Then the people turned towards him with amazement,
and said among themselves, ' Who is this ? this must be
Jesus of Nazareth, for only HE could find something to pity
and approve even in a dead dog ' ; and being ashamed, they
bowed their heads before him, and went each on his way."

I can recall, at this hour, the vivid, yet softening and
pathetic impression left on my fancy by this old Eastern
story. It struck me as exquisitely humorous, as well as
exquisitely beautiful. It gave me a pain in my conscience,
for it seemed thenceforward so easy and so vulgar to say
satirical things, and so much nobler to be benign and
merciful, and I took the lesson so home, that I was in great
danger of falling into the opposite extreme, of seeking
the beautiful even in the midst of the corrupt and the
repulsive. Pity, a large element in my composition, might
nave easily degenerated into weakness, threatening to sub-
vert hatred of evil in trying to find excuses for it ; and
whether my mind has ever completely righted itself, I am
not sure.

Educators are not always aware, I think, how acute are
the perceptions, and how permanent the memories of chil-
dren. I remember experiments tried upon my temper and
feelings, and how I was made aware of this, by their being
repeated, and, in some instances, spoken of, before me.
Music, to which I was early and peculiarly sensitive, was


sometimes made the medium of these experiments. Dis-
cordant sounds were not only hateful, but made me turn
white and cold, and sent the blood backward to my heart ;
and certain tunes had a curious effect, I cannot now ac-
count for : for though, when heard for the first time, they
had little effect, they became intolerable by repetition ; they
turned up some hidden emotion within me too strong to be
borne. It could not have been from association, which I
believe to be a principal element in the emotion excited by
music. I was too young for that. What associations could
such a baby have had with pleasure or with pain ? Or
could it be possible that associations with some former state
of existence awoke up to sound ? That our life " hath
elsewhere its beginning, and cometh from afar," is a belief,
or at least an instinct, in some minds, which music, and only
music, seems to thrill into consciousness. At this time,
when I was about five or six years old, Mrs. Arkwright,
she was then Fanny Kemble, used to come to our house,
and used to entrance me with her singing. I had a sort of
adoration for her, such as an ecstatic votary might have for
a Saint Cecilia. I trembled with pleasure, when I only
heard her step. But her voice ! it has charmed hundreds
since ; whom has it ever moved to a more genuine passion
of delight than the little child that crept silent and tremu-
lous to her side ? And she was fond of me, fond of sing-
ing to me, and, it must be confessed, fond also of playing
these experiments on me. The music of " Paul and Vir-
ginia " was then in vogue, and there was one air a very
simple air in that opera, which, after the first few bars,
always made me stop my ears and rush out of the room.
I became at last aware that this was sometimes done by
particular desire to please my parents, or amuse and inter-
est others by the display of such vehement emotion. My
infant conscience became perplexed between the reality of
the feeling and the exhibition of it. People are not always


aware of the injury done to children by repeating before
them things they say, or describing things they do : words
and actions, spontaneous and unconscious, become thence-
forth artificial and conscious. I can speak of the injury
done to myself, between five and eight years old. There
was some danger of my becoming a precocious actress,
danger of permanent mischief such as I have seen done to
other children, but I was saved by the recoil of resistance
and resentment excited in my mind.

This is enough. All that has been told here refers to a
period between five and ten years old.




ONO, 1 11 not forget the day,
It claims, at least, a hallowed hour
A sparkling cup, an honest lay,

Sacred to Friendship's soothing power.

*T is not all ice, this heart of mine,

One throb is warm and youthful still ;
That throb, dear MONTAGUE, is thine,
Nor age nor grief that throb can chill.

How often sung, and yet how sweet

To dwell upon the days of old !
Our guiltless pleasures to repeat,

Ere in the world our hearts grew cold !

Fond memory wakes ! each pulse beats high {
Like some sweet tale past joys come o'er,

The years of ruin backward fly,

And I am young and gay once more.

Friend of my soul ! in this poor verse

Let one untutored tribute live ;
Here let my tongue my love rehearse ;

T is all, alas ! I have to give


O, if from time's wide-yawning grave
There 's aught of mine that I could free,

One line from dull oblivion save,

T would be the line that tells of thee.

Though to the busy world unknown
Each noble act that shrinks from fame,

Goodness its favorite son shall own,
And orphan lips shall bless his name.

Thou 'rt the small stream, that silent goes,
By earth's cold, plodding crowd unseen,

Yet, all unnoticed though it flows,
Its banks are clothed in living green.

We met in that bright, sunny time, ^
When every scene was fresh around,

And youth's warm hour and manhood's prime
Have blessed the tie that boyhood bound.

Though oft of valued friends bereft,

I bend, submissive, to the doom ;
For thou, the best, the best, art left,

To cheer my journey to the tomb.

And now, the dear ones ot our race
Have come to live our pleasures o'er ;

A lovely troop, to fill our place,

And weep for us when we 're no more.

Ever, O ever may they keep

The holy chain of friendship bright,

Till, rich in all that 's good, they sleep

With us through death's long, dreamless night.



IT can scarcely be more than eighteen months ago, that
two Englishmen met together unexpectedly at the little
town or city of Dessau. The elder was a grave person, in
no way remarkable; but the younger forced observation
upon him. He was a tall, gaunt, bony figure, presenting the
relics of a formidable man, but seemingly worn with travel
and oppressed by weighty thoughts. He must once have
been handsome ; and he was even now imposing. But pov-
erty and toil are sad enemies to human beauty ; and he had
endured both. Nevertheless, the black and ragged elf-locks
which fell about his face could not quite conceal its noble
proportions ; and, although his cheek was ghastly and macer-
ated, (perhaps by famine,) there was a wild, deep-seated
splendor glowing in his eye, such as we are apt to ascribe
to the poet when his frenzy is full upon him, or to the
madman when he dreams of vengeance.

The usual salutations of friends passed between them,
and they conversed for a short time on indifferent subjects ;
the elder, as he spoke, scrutinizing the condition of his ac-
quaintance, and the other glancing about from time to time,
with restless, watchful eyes, as though he feared some one
might escape his observation, or else might detect himself.
The name of the elder of these men was Denbigh : that
of the voun^er has not reached me. "We will call him


Gordon. It was the curiosity of the first-mentioned that.
after a reasonable period, broke out into inquiry. (They
were just entering the public room of the Black Eagle at

"But what has brought you here?" said he. "I left
you plodding at a merchant's desk, with barely the means
of living. Though a friend, you would never let mo
please myself by lending you money ; nor would you be
my companion down the Rhine, some three years ago.
You professed to hate travelling. Yet I find you here,
a traveller evidently, with few comforts. Come, be plain
with me. Tell me, what has brought you hither ? Or
rather what has withered and wasted you, and made your
hair so gray? You are grown quite an old man."

" Ay," replied Gordon ; " I am old, as you say, old
enough. Winter is upon me, on my head, on my heart ;
both are frozen up. Do you wish to know what brought
me here ? Well, you have a right to know ; and you shall
be told. You shall hear a tale."

" A true one ? " inquired Denbigh, smilingly.

" True ! " echoed the other ; " ay, as true as hell, as
dark, as damnable, but peace, peace ! " said he, checking
himself for a moment, and then proceeding in a hoarse,
whispering, vehement voice, " all that in time. We must
begin quietly, quietly. Come, let us drink some wine,
and you shall see presently what a calm historian I am."

Wine, together with some more solid refreshments, were
accordingly ordered. Gordon did not taste the latter, but
swallowed a draught or two of the bold liquid, which
soemed to still his nerves like an opiate. He composed
himself, and indeed appeared disposed to forget that there
was such a thing as trouble in the world, until the impa-
tience of his friend (which vented itself in the shape of
various leading questions) induced him to summon up his
recollections. He compressed his lips together for a mo-


inent, and drew a short, deep breath, through his inflated
nostrils ; but otherwise there was no preface or introduction
to his story, which commenced nearly, if not precisely, in
the following words :

"About three years ago, a young girl was brought to
one of those charitable institutions in the neighborhood of
London, where the wretched (the sinful and the destitute)
find refuge and consolation. She was, you may believe me,
beautiful ; so beautiful, so delicate, and, as I have said, so
young, that she extorted a burst of pity and admiration
from people long inured to look upon calamity.

" She was attended by her mother, a widow. This
woman differed from her child ; not merely in age or
feature. She was, in comparison, masculine ; her face was
stern ; her frame strong and enduring ; she looked as
though hunger and shame had been busy with her, as
though she had survived the loss of all tilings, and passed
the extreme limits of human woe. Once for I knew
her she would have disdained to ask even for pity. O,
what she must have borne, in body, in mind, before she
could have brought herself to become a suppliant there !
Yet there she was, she, and her youngest born in her
hand, beggars. She presented her child to the patronesses
of the institution ; and, with an unbroken voice, prayed
them to take her in for refuge.

" The common questions were asked, the who, the whence,
the wherefore, &c. Even something more than common
curiosity displayed itself in the inquiries, and all was an-
swered with an unflinching spirit. The mother's story was
sad enough. Let us hope that such things are rare in
England. She was the widow of a military man, an officer
of courage and conduct, who died in battle. If we could
live upon laurels, his family need not have starved. But
the laurel is a poisonous tree. It is gay and shining, and
undecaying ; but whoso tasteth it dies ! Xo mattei now*


The widow and three children were left almost without
money. The father had indeed possessed some little prop-
erty ; but it consisted of bonds, or notes, or securities of a
transferable nature ; and was intrusted (without receipt or
acknowledgment) to a villain. The depositary used it
for his own purposes ; denied his trust ; and, with the cold-
ness of a modern philosopher, saw his victims thrust out of
doors, to starve ! A good Samaritan gave them bread and
employment for a few weeks ; but he died suddenly, and
they were again at the mercy of fortune.

* It was now that the mother felt that her children looked
up to her for life. And she answered the appeal as a
mother only can. She toiled to the very utmost of her
strength : nothing was too much, nothing too base or menial
for her. She worked, and watched, and endured all tilings,
from all persons ; and thus it was that she obtained coarse
food for her young ones, sometimes even enough to sat-
isfy their hunger ; till at last the eldest boy became useful,
and began to earn money also ; and then they were able
almost daily to taste bread ! It is a wonder how they
lived, how they shunned the vices and squalid evils which
beset the poor. But they did so. They withstood all
temptations. They felt no envy nor hatred for the great
and fortunate. The sordid errors of their station never
fastened on them. They grew up honest, liberal-minded,
courageous. They wanted not even for learning, or at
least knowledge. For, after a time, a few cheap books
were bought or borrowed, and the ambition which the
mother taught them to feel served the boys in place uf
instructors. They read and studied. After working all
day, (running on errands, hewing wood, and drawing water,)
these children of a noble mother sat down to gather learn-
ing; never disobeying, never murmuring to do what she,
to whom they owed all things, commanded them to achieve.
Yet, little merit is due to them. It was she, the incompar-


able mother, who did all ; saved, supported, endured all
for her children's sake, for her dead husband's sake, and for
the disinterested love of virtue!

" I know not what frightful crimes some progenitor might
have committed, what curse he might have brought upon
this race ; but if none, in the name of God's mercy, why,
(when they had been steeped in baseness and po^ erty to the
lips,) why was a curse more horrible than all to come upon
them ? Poor creatures ! had they not endured enough ?
TThat is the axe or the gibbet to the daily never-dying pain
which a mother feels who sees her children famishing away
before her ? Sickness, cold, hunger, the contempt of friends,
the hate or indifference of all the world besides, the perpet-
ual heart-breaking toil and struggle to live ! to get bread,
yet often want it ! Was not all enough ? I suppose not ;
for a curse greater than all fell upon them.

" A friend, ha, ha, ha ! let me use common words,
a friend of the elder son (who had, by degrees, risen to be
a manufacturer's clerk), visited them at their humble abode.
He was rich, he was, moreover, a specious youth, fair and
florid, such as young girls fancy ; but as utterly hard and
impenetrable to every touch of honor or pity as the stone
we tread upon. He I must make short work of this
part of my story he loved the young sister of his friend,
or rather he sought her with the brutal appetite of an ani-
mal. He talked, and smiled, and flattered her, (she was
a weak thing, and his mummery pleased her) : he brought
presents to her mother, and, at last, ruin and shame upon
herself. She was so young, not fifteen years of age !
But this base and hellish slave had no mercy on her inno-
cent youth, no respect for her desolate condition. He
ruined her 0, there were horrid circumstances ! force,
and fraud, and cruelty of all kinds, that I will not touch
upon. It is sufficient to say that her destruction was
achieved, and all her family In his power. The child


(herself now about to be a mother) meditated death. She
was timid, however, and shrank from the vague and gloomy
terrors of the grave. So she lived on, pale and humbled,
uttering no complaint, and disclosing no disgrace, until
her mother noticed her despondency, and reproached her
for it. With a trembling heart trembling at she knew
not what she inquired solemnly the cause of all this
woe. The girl could not stand those piercing looks. The
mother whom she had obeyed, not only with love, but in
fear also, commanded a disclosure, and the poor victim
sunk on her knees before her. She told her sad story
with sobs and streaming eyes, and with her figure abased
to absolute prostration. Her parent listened (she would
rather have listened to her own death-warrant), looked
ghastly at her for a minute, and reproached her no more !
Some accident, some intermission of employment, (I for-
get what,) made it impossible to support the poor fallen
child with proper care. This inability it was, joined to a
wish to keep her shame secret, that carried the mother
and daughter to the charitable place of which I have
spoken. And there the child was deposited, under a
feigned name, to undergo the pangs of childbirth.

" But the sons ! Do you not ask, where are they ? Ha,
ha ! I am coming to that. They knew nothing, sus-
pected nothing, till all the mother's plans were effected ;
and then, with a gloomy countenance, and a voice troubled
to its depths with many griefs, she told them ALL."

" How did they bear it ? What did they say or do ? "
inquired Denbigh, breaking silence for the first time since
the commencement of the story. Gordon answered :

" Her communication was, at first, absolutely unintelli-
gible. It was so sudden, and so utterly unsuspected, thai
it bore the character of a dream or a fable. They stood
bewildered. But when the truth, the real, bad, terrible
truth became plain, when it was repeated with more


particulars, and made frightfully distinct, the eldest son
burst into a rage of words. The younger, a youth of
more concentrated passions, started up, opened his mouth
as though he would utter some curse ; but instantly fell
dead on the floor."

" Good G d ! " interrupted Denbigh again, " and did he
die ? "

" No," replied the other, " he but appeared to die. Did
I say ' dead ' ? No ; I was wrong. He was not irrecov-
erably dead. By prompt help he was revived. In the
struggle between life and death blood burst from his
mouth and from his nose, and he felt easier. Perhaps
the oath which he at that moment was prescribing to
himself the fierce, implacable, unalterable determination
which his soul was forming tranquillized his spirit; for
he awoke to apparent calmness, and expressed himself
resigned. But he was not so to be satisfied. Patience,
resignation, forgiveness, these are good words: they
are virtues, perhaps ; but they were not his. He was of
a fiery spirit "

" Like yourself," said Denbigh, trying to smile away
the painful impression which the story was producing on
his mind.

" Ay, like myself, sir," was the fierce answer. " He
thought that vengeance, where punishment was manifestly
due, was scarcely the shadow of a crime ; and / think so
too. He swore, silently, but solemnly, (and invoked all
Heaven and Hell to attest his oath,) that he would thence-
forward have but one object, one ambition ; and this was
REVENGE ! He swore to take the blood of the betrayer,
and he did."

" When ? where ? " asked Denbigh, quicldy.

" Let us take some wine," said Gordon ; " I am speaking
now," continued he, after he had drunk, " of what must be.
The future is not yet come. But as sure as I see you be-


fore me, so surely do I see the consummation of this re-
venge. There is a fate in some things : there is one in this
Do you remember the story of the Spaniard Aguirra ? "

" No ! " answered the other.

" Yet, it is well known, it is true, it is memorable,
and it deserves to be remembered ; for (except in the one
instance of which I now speak) it stands alone in the cata-
logue of extraordinary events. You shall hear it presently,
if it be only to rescue, by a parallel case, my story from the
character of a fiction. At present, let it suffice to say, that
sure as was Aguirra's vengeance, so sure shall be MINE ! "

" Yours ! " exclaimed Denbigh, " do I hear aright ? "

" Ay, open your ears wide. I am the Revenger ! My
family it is who owe Fortune so little, to whom vengeance
owes so much ! My mother and her famished brood it was
of whose sufferings I have spoken, and whose injuries I am
destined to revenge."

" But the villain ? " inquired Denbigh.

" You do well to bring me back to him. Yet think not
that I for a moment forget him. He fled when he knew,
nay, before he knew, when he but surmised that we had
discovered his villany. He collected money together, and

Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 7 of 66)