« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
all attempts for the peaceable recovery of their property being ineffectual, away they flew, having apparently resolved to inflict a signal act of vengeance on those unprincipled intruders. “‘My grandfather's curiosity having been much excited by the whole scene, he quietly sat down, determined to await the further proceedings of both parties. The sparrows kept close, showing no disposition to risk their possession by any unwary movement; and in no long time the two swallows returned, accompanied by a prodigious number of their tribe, each bearing a load of the mortar-like cement which they use in the formation of their nests; and which they so immediately and so dexterously employed in rapid succession in closing the mouth of the disputed nest, that in the twinkling of an eye almost the thing was done—the poor sparrows were too late in their efforts to escape—their doom was sealed, for they were completely sealed up in the nest.’ “‘So this very curious circumstance is really true, exclaimed Miss Vincent; ‘I saw it lately at the Dublin National School in one of their books; and the sequel will amuse you. A visitor asked one of the children, “Who was it that helped the swallows?" and the boy replied most nationally and characteristically, “Sure didn't he bring his faction along with him?”””
“Raymond Revilloyd,” by Grace Webster, is a story which cannot be described as pursuing its way in the groove-line traced out by ordinary romances. The plot, if not original, is indisputably unusual. A gentleman of feeble character has the mortification to be a widower, and the father of two unmanageable daughters, who complete his distress by wedding themselves to two persons of that denomination of Christians known as Plymouth Brethren. The slighted parent, who has no love for the persons of his intended sons-in-law, nor yet for religion under the aspect in which they present it, can £ of no better mode of delivering himself from annoyance, and punishing his refractory offspring, than withdrawing to the Continent, and giving up his estate into the custody of a man who proves to be at once a knave and hypocrite. Having thus provided for the punishment of all belonging to him, as well as himself, the old gentleman wends his way to Italy, accompanied by a timid boy, his grandson and his heir.
After some time the grandfather disappears, and the heir, unable to discover any trace of him, returns to England to seek the counsel and assistance of Mr. Atterbury, the dishonest individual to whom the care of what was to have been his inheritance has been confided. He is, of course, unceremoniously expelled from the house which should have been his own, is assigned, in exchange, an apartment in the public prison, and is given in charge as an offender. This young gentleman (whose energies are employed in fainting whenever he can, and where this feat is impracticable, by dissolving into tears), after a variety of incidents, which disclose the amiable imbecility of his character (and which give a picture of English society, and of the administration of our laws, such as may very faithfully represent some night-mare distortion of a truth), makes his way to London, and falls in with a rotector, to whom he had been made nown at an earlier period of his life, and by whose energy and practical good sense he is conducted through many dangers, and finally made happy. The writer of “Raymond Revilloyd” is not destitute of power, but her power is not equal to the task assigned to it. She was bent on the composition of “a romance,” was resolved to carry out her plot by agencies which should be altogether at her own disposal, but she miscalculated the time and circumstances in which they were to do her bidding. She should have thrown her “romance” back to an age, or located its incidents in a region, where the “king's writ does not run.” The reign of William IV. was too recent to allow of keeping “probability in view,” where “a phantasma, or such hideous dream,” as “Raymond Revilloyd,” was to be enacted or described. But a more remote period, it may be, would not suit the fair writer's purpose. She would expose the vices and crimes of the age she lives in, and the mirror in which she would show that age its form and pressure, is one which distorts it into the likeness of a time that never existed, and that could not possibly exist. Perjury, and pillage, and # , and ghosts, and murderers, and ibertines who convert asylums of cha
* “Raymond Revilloyd:” a Romance. By Grace Webster. In Two Volumes. London:
Richard Bentley, New Burlington-street.
rity into places of torture, whose profligacy is diversified and recreated by cruelty, and who have bears in atten. dance to render the services of a coroner useless—these are agencies and conditions that appear to disadvantage when set in such a light as this our day sheds upon them—“Incredulus odi.” We are offended that any writer should take such liberties with us. Fiction has its laws as well as fact. It must observe the decorum of time and place. It has its principles of “legitimacy,” which must not be violated. Our authoress will submit to none of the ordinary restraints by which writers are confined. She lives in her own world, and insists on being absolute in the government of it. As to our vulgar work-day world of man, if she has looked upon it at all, it is upon a portion which inspired her, or was calculated to inspire her, with abhorrence or contempt. She seems to have “supped full of horrors,” and then, having suffered from the attendant dream of indigestion, she proceeded to detail the gloomy incoherencies of her persecuted slumbers for the amazement of waking readers. We do not deny that she has power—it is her use of it which discontents us. The following passage is the work of no ordinary writer. We
remise that the Albert Mazzioninamed in it is one of those obnoxious persons from whom Mr. Atterbury has disembarrassed himself by the agency of poison:
“Mr. Atterbury had been served with a notice after the customary manner; and that had just taken place after the interment of Erminia Lovelace. What had occurred on that distressing occasion had discomposed him; but he disguised every indication of discomfiture or agitation with a face of brass. He felt, however, as he had never felt before, when he received the notice. He sat down to dinner with his family, but partook of nothing. He started at sight of the servant who stood beside his chair, he looked so like Albert Mazzioni. He directed his eyes to the other servants, they assumed the same appearance. He desired them to quit the room, as their services could be dispensed with. The men did so; but the case was not altered. Every face at the table became like that of the ill-fated Italian. Each of his guests looked like Albert Mazzioni, and so did his wife and his decrepit son. A room
with a hundred mirrors, reflecting each the portraiture of the poisoned stranger, could not have represented his image more emphatically or painfully to his guilty vision. He left the house. His conduct at the village tavern has already been related. When he departed from the tavern he proceeded straightway, in the darkness of the night, to Plymouth, and entered his chambers there, and took his accustomed seat at his desk. These apartments were kept by an old spinster, who was used to her master's coming at all seasons of the day or night; so his appearance created no wonder. She lighted his candle, and left him to his pen-and-ink work. His clerk, Selby, had gone to a distant part of the country on some special business that afternoon. Mr. Atterbury wrote with the celerity of light. He covered sheets of paper in an incredibly short space of time; and, as he wrote on thus furiously, the angry passions agitated his whole frame, and mantled in his fiend-like face. At last, as he folded anew a fresh sheet of foolscap, he gnawed his tongue with wrath, and it lolled out upon his chin. Suddenly his candle went out before him. Whether the fierce breathing of his angry nostrils, or some casual current in the room, had extinguished the flame, it is impossible to say. He stamped his foot upon the floor with a force that shook the apartment, and that might have shivered his own bones. But he stamped in vain. The old spinster that kept the house was fast asleep in her own dormitory, and heard him not. He attempted to rise, but he could not. His joints were stiff, like one fixed down with iron rivets. The successive hours of night struck, one after the other, on the house clock, and still he sat motionless and in the dark. The successive hours of night, each diurnal revolution of the habitable globe, are fraught with many human destinies. Darkmess is the season of crime,—darkness is the season of tears to the weary and oppressed with this world's sorrows,—darkness is the season for the wayfarer to go out of his way, and for the ship out of her course, till she founder on the hidden rock, and land her crew on the unknown shores of eternity.”
We are recalled by this striking passage to the remembrance of a description of very extraordinary power, in the work of a writer by whom our own pages have often been enriched:*
“At length the uproar in Sir Richard's room died away. The hoarse voice in furious soliloquy, and the rapid tread as he paced the floor, were no longer audible. In their stead was heard alone the stormy wind rushing and yelling through the old trees, and
* “The Cock and Anchor,” being a Chronicle of Old Dubliu City. In Three Volumes.
Dublin: William Curry, Jun, and Company.
at intervals the deep volleying thunder. In the midst of this hubbub the Italian rubbed his hands, tripped lightly up and down his room, placed his ear at the keyhole, and chuckled and rubbed his hands again in a paroxysm of glee—now and again venting his gratification in brief ejaculations of intense delight—the very incarnation of the spirit of mischief. “The sounds in Sir Richard's room had ceased for two hours or more; and the piping wind and the deep-mouthed thunder still roared and rattled. The Neapolitan was too much excited to slumber. He continued, therefore, to pace the floor of his chambersometimes gazing through his window upon the black, stormy sky and the blue lightning, which leaped in blinding flashes across its darkness, revealing for a moment the ivyed walls, and the tossing trees, and the fields and hills, which were as instantaneously again swallowed in the blackness of the tempestuous night; and then turning from the casement, he would plant himself by the door, and listen with eager curiosity for any sound from Sir Richard's room. “As we have said before, several hours had passed, and all had long been silent in the baronet's apartment, when on a sudden Parucci thought he heard the sharp and well-known knocking of his patron's ebony stick upon the floor. He ran and listened at his own door. The sound was repeated with unequivocal and vehement distinctness, and was instantaneously followed by a prolonged and violent peal from his master's hand-bell. The summons was so sustained and vehement, that the Italian at length cautiously withdrew the bolt, unlocked the door, and stole out upon the lobby. So far from abating, the sound grew louder and louder. On tiptoe he scaled the stairs, until he reached to about the midway; and he there paused, for he heard his master's voice exerted in a tone of terrified entreaty“‘Not now—not now-avaunt—not now. Oh, God!—help, cried the well-known voice. “These words were followed by a crash, as of some heavy body springing from the bed —then a rush upon the floor—then another crash. “The voice was hushed; but in its stead the wild storm made a long and plaintive moan, and the listener's heart turned cold. “‘Malora-Corpo di Pluto 1 muttered he between his teeth. “What is it? Will he reeng again? Santo gennaro !—there is something wrong.” “He paused in fearful curiosity; but the summons was not repeated. Five minutes passed; and yet no sound but the howling and pealing of the storm. Parucci, with a beating heart, ascended the stairs, and knocked at the door of his patron's chamber. No answer was returned. “‘Sir Richard, Sir Richard, cried the man, “do you want me, Sir Richard?”
“Still no answer. He pushed open the door and entered. A candle, wasted to the very socket, stood upon a table beside the huge, hearse-like bed, which for the convenience of the invalid had been removed from his bed-chamber to his dressing-room. The light was dim, and waved uncertainly in the eddies which found their way through the chinks of the window, so that the lights and shadows flitted ambiguously across the ob. jects in the room. At the end of the bed a table had been upset; and lying near it upon the floor was something—a heap of bedclothes, or—could it be?—yes, it was Sir Richard Ashwoode. “Parucci approached the prostrate figure: it was lying upon its back, the countenance fixed and livid, the eyes staring and glazed, and the jaw fallen—he was a corpse. The Italian stooped down and took the hand of the dead man—it was already cold; he called him by his name and shook him, but all in vain. There lay the cunning intriguer, the fierce, fiery prodigal, the impetuous, unrelenting tyrant, the unbelieving, reckless man of the world, a ghastly lump of clay. “With strange emotions the Neapolitan gazed upon the lifeless effigy from which the evil tenant had been so suddenly and fearfully called to its eternal and unseen abode. “‘Gone—dead—all over—all past, muttered he slowly, while he pressed his foot upon the dead body, as if to satisfy himself that life was indeed extinct—‘quite gone. Canchero / it was ugly death—there was something with him; what was he speaking With ?” “Parucci walked to the door leading to the great staircase, but found it bolted as usual. “‘Pshaw, there was nothing, said he, looking fearfully round the room as he approached the body again, and repeating the negative as if to re-assure himself—no, nonothing, nothing.’ “He gazed again on the awful spectacle in silence for several minutes. “‘Corbezzoli, and so it is over, at length he ejaculated—‘the game is ended. See, see, the breast is bare, and there the two marks of Aldini's stiletto. Ah! briccone, briccone, what wild faylow were you—panzamera, for a pretty ankle and a pair of black eyes, you would dare the devil. Rotto di collo, his face is moving !—pshaw, it is only the light that wavers. Diamine ! the face is terrible. What made him speak; nothing was with him—pshaw, nothing could come to him here—no, no, nothing.’ “As he thus spoke, the wind swept vehemently upon the windows with a sound as if some great thing had rushed against them, and was pressing for admission, and the gust blew out the candle; the blast died away in a lengthened wail, and then again came rushing and howling up to the windows, as if the very prince of the powers of the air himself were thundering at the casement; then again the blue dazzling lightning glared into the room and gave place to deeper darkness.
“‘Pah! that lightning smells like brimstone. Sangue d'un dua, I hear something in the room.’
“Yielding to his terrors, Parucci stumbled to the door opening upon the great lobby, and with cold and trembling fingers drawing the bolt, sprang to the stairs and shouted for assistance in a tone which speedily assembled half the household in the chamber of death.”
“Woman's Friendship" is a tale told, as woman only could tell it, of the influence and truth of such disinterested affection. The authoress, it has been spoken to us in Christian hope, is “where the weary are at rest.” We content ourselves with transcribing two passages from her unpretending little volume. The subject of both sketches is a young artist and poet, who had contended with the difficulties of an adverse condition and a feeble constitution:
“But though Florence could not summon sufficient courage to remain while the interview lasted, suspense became so intolerable that she felt as if the most dreaded reality could be better borne. Hardly knowing her own intentions, she waited in a little sittingroom, till they descended; then springing forward, she caught hold of Sir Charles's hand, and looked up in his face with cheeks and lips perfectly blanched, and every effort to speak died away in indistinct murmurs. Only too well accustomed to such painful scenes, the physician gently led her within the parlour and closed the door; the action recalled voice, and she gasped forth“‘Oh! is there no hope? will you not save him? Tell me he will not die!' “‘My good young lady, life and death are not in the hands of man; yet it were cruel, unwisely cruel, to give you hope. Your brother's mind has been his poison—I dare not tell you—he may live.” “‘But he will linger—he may be spared us many years yet, persisted Florence, in the wild accents of one determined against belief. ‘It cannot be that he will go now— so young—so but forgive me, she added, when the hysterical sobs gave way, “tell me, I am better now—I can bear it—I ought to know, for my poor mother's sake, how long we may call him ours?” “The reply was given kindly and carefully; but what language, what gentleness may
soften the bitter anguish of such words? Florence heard, and yet she sank not. She bade farewell to those kind friends; she saw them go, but still she stood as if thought, sense, life itself were frozen; and then she rushed up the stairs into her own room, secured the door, and sinking on her knees, buried her face in the bed-clothes, and her slight frame shook beneath its agony. “Another hour, and that suffering girl was seated by her brother's couch, holding his hand in hers, and with a marble cheek, but faint sweet smile, listening to and sympathising in his lovely dreams of fame. And such is woman,—her tears are with her God, her smile with man; the heart may break, and who shall know it? “Mr. Morton had suggested a frontispiece as an improvement to his book, and Walter's every energy now turned to the composition of a picture from which the print might be engraven. He had resolved not to put his name to the publication, and therefore felt that a group entitled ‘The Poet's Home’ could convey no identity; and he commenced his task with an ardour and enjoyment, strangely at variance with the prostrating languor of disease. Who that has watched the workings of the mind and spirit, as the human frame decays, can doubt our immortality? How can the awful creed of materialism exist with the view of that bright light of mind shining purer and brighter, with every hour that brings death nearer? Life may afford matter for the sceptic and the materialist to weave their fearful theories upon, though we know not how it can; but let such look on the approach of sure yet lingering death, and how will they retain them then ?” “Many scenes of life are holy—the early morn, the twilight hour, the starry night, the rolling storm, the hymn of thousands from the sacred fane, the marriage rite, or funeral dirge; but none more holy than the chamber of the dying, lingering beside a departing spirit, seeming as if already the angel shone above the mortal, waiting but the eternal summons to wing his flight on high. “One evening Walter's couch had been drawn near the open casement, which looked into the garden at the back of the house; and even the dirty green and scentless flowers, peculiar to the environs of London, were grateful to the poet. He was propped up with pillows, and his hand was yet busy on the canvass, giving the last touches to his picture. “All was completed but the figure of Minie, who was sitting in the required attitude; but it was well he had not waited till that moment to give the joyous expression he so much loved.
* “Woman's Friendship;” a Story of Domestic Life. By Grace Aguilar, Author of
London: Groombridge and Sons,
“An hour passed, and no movement, no sound disturbed that little party: the hand of the artist moved languidly, but still it moved, and the concluding touches started into life beneath it. Sometimes his eyes wonld close, and then after a brief interval of rest, re-open to look upon his task. “Florence had not yet returned, having gone out of her way to purchase some fresh flowers, as was her custom every third day, in spite of Walter's remonstrances: the intense delight which they always gave him was too visible to permit any cessation of the indulgence: that she deprived herself of many little necessaries, and, exhausted and weary, never rode to her pupils, that she might save to purchase luxuries for him, he never knew. She often recalled Emily Melford's horror of exertion, and half smiled at the widely different meanings that word bore in their respective vocabularies: but a bitter feeling mingled with the smile at her own credulity in Emily's profession of interest and regard: from the day she had sought her to the present moment, a full year, she had rested as silent and indifferent as before. “As Florence came within sight of the bay-windows of her house, she fancied that she could distinguish the figure of Walter looking down the road, as if watching her return. She was surprised, because, since his increasing illness, they had changed their apartment from the front to the back sittingroom, in order to give him more quiet and fresh air than the dusty road afforded. What he could be doing there she could not conceive for even if he were anxious for her return and wished to watch for her, he surely had not sufficient strength to walk from one room to another, and there remain standing so that she could distinguish his full figure. Hope flashed on her heart that he was better. Some extraordinary change must have taken place, and he might yet live! Oh, what a sudden thrill came with that fond thought! and she hurried, almost ran the intervening space. Breathless she entered the house, and sprang up the staircase. “‘What, settled again so soon at your drawing, dearest Walter, and only a minute ago I saw you beckoning me from the next room—how could you stand there so long?' “Mrs. Leslie put her finger on her lips— ‘You have been strangely deceived, my love, Walter has not quitted this room nor this posture for some hours. Come softly, I think he sleeps.” “No word, no cry, passed the lips of Florence, although a pang, sharp as if every drop of blood were turned to ice, curdled through her frame. She knew she was not deceived. As surely as she now looked on him, she felt she had seen him smile, as if to bid her hasten home, not ten minutes before, and with
a fleet and noiseless step she stood beside him. The pencil was still within his hand, but it moved no longer on the canvass—the eyes were closed, the lips were parted: she bent down her head and pressed her lips upon his brow—it was marbly cold. “‘Walter!' she shrieked, for in that dread moment she knew not what she did. “Walter—my brother—speak to me—look on me again!’ “For a moment she stood as if waiting for the look, the voice she called; then, pressing her hands wildly to her brow, sought to collect thought, energy, control, for her poor mother's sake—but all, all failed—and, for the first time in her life, she sunk down in a deep and death-like swoon.”
The authoress of “Two Old Men's Tales” has been engaged in what is called “a social story." It appears in that beautiful periodical, “The Ladies' Companion at Home and Abroad,” and it is worthy of its author's reputation. How manifest and how characteristic is the distinction between the language of those who would use the poor for their own purposes, and of those who would serve them I How manifest and characteristic the distinction between the Socialist and the Christian, in their descriptions of those sufferings by which poverty tries the children of affliction. The one is perpetually solicitous to set out such sufferings as testimony against the system which protects social order–the other, as an occasion to call forth an exercise of Christian benevolence. The Socialist gives a voice and speech to poverty, as if it cried out for vengeance against the prosperous—the Christian interprets the accents of distress as invitations to discharge a duty which is twice blessed, and to give for the sake of Him through whom his people hope to be forgiven. The Socialist would relieve the wants he describes at the cost of pulling down the edifice of Government and Order. The Christian would supply the deficiency for which human policy has not provided, by calling in the aid of a divine principle, which that very deficiency has been providentially appointed to call into exercise. Human institutions permit great inequality of condition, and leave severe sufferings unrelieved—then, cries the Socialist, down with existing insti
* “Lettice Arnold.”