Изображения страниц
PDF

taunts. They had heard that morning of Sir John Daventry's death, and the removal of the only being who lived to suffer for their sin had seemed but to add a deeper gloom to their miserable existence—the time was past when anything could bid them hope. Her past career through the guilty woman's mind, and filled her with dread, and a fearful looking out for judgment. She had not noticed how time had fled, till she saw it was long past Mardyn's hour for retiring, and £ he had not come up stairs yet. Another hour passed, and then a vague fear seized upon her mind—she felt frightened at being alone, and descended to the parlour. She had brought no light with her, and when she reached the door she paused; all in the house seemed so still, she trembled, and turning the lock, entered the room. The candles had burnt out, and the faint red glare of the fire alone shone through the darkness; by the dim light she saw

that Mardyn was sittting, his arms
folded on the table, and his head re.
clined as if in sleep. She touched him,
he stirred not, and her hand, slipping
from his shoulder, fell upon the table
and was wet; she saw that a decanter
had been overturned, and fancied
Mardyn had been drinking, and fallen
asleep; she hastened from the room
for a candle. As she seized a light
burning in the passage, she saw that
the hand she had extended was crim-
soned with blood. Almost delirious
with terror, she regained the room.
The light from her hand fell on the
table—it was covered with a pool of
blood, that was falling slowly to the
floor. With a wild effort she raised
her husband—his head fell on her arm
—the throat was severed from ear to
ear—the countenance set, and distorted
in death.
In that moment the curse of an of.
fended God worked its final vengeance
on guilt-Clara Mardyn was a lunatic.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

MY DEAR ANTHoNY,—As you well know, I am not much given to what are called “hard nights;” but, I protest, I have never put in or put over such hard nights as those that have ushered in this present month. Hard nights did I call them 2 Ishould, under favour, have called them soft nights. Was there ever such heat? Iverily believe that the sun goes rambling about all night over these parts incog, as Haroun al Raschid used to go through Bagdad. Sleep, to any reasonable extent, seems quite out of the question; and I doubt that all the powers of animal magnetism could carry one clean through a comfortable, steady, continuous nap, from twelve at night to six in the £ Last night, for instance, I made up my mind to a good night's rest, if possible. I am sure I was justly entitled to expect it, for £k the best means to ensure it. After my evening's ramble by the river side, I sat watching the fading twilight deepening down into the gloom of night. By degrees the varied and, to me, delightful sounds of animation were hushed—those sounds that remind one, as he sits alone, that without and beyond him is a world of men, and women, and children—ay, and of beasts, and birds, and other soulless creatures, as we are wont to call them, that are bound to us by sympathies more or less strong—that minister to our affections, our comforts, our pleasures, our discipline, and our wants—that like ourselves are links, some stronger and more polished, some weaker and more rudely formed—yet still links in that mysterious and most wonderful chain of spiritual and physical organisation, which, issuing from the clouds and darkness that are around God's throne, descends through every gradation, till it is again lost to our view in the rudest form of organised matter. These sounds, I say, ceased, one by one; the pleasant laughter of young men and maidens disporting on the

greensward, with the occasional outbreak of more boisterous mirth, as some young lover, chasing his sweetheart through the mazes of the ring, had at length succeeded in capturing the flying girl, and exacted from her blushing checks and laughing lips the ransom for her deliverance. The lowing of kine and the bleat of s eep came on the ear at longer intervals; the crows had all returned home with abundance of clamour, and scarce a croak was now heard from the boughs where they had been lately swinging themselves to and fro, in a debate as garrulous and discordant as could he got up either in the House of Commons or Congress; the little sparrows had all gone to bed, and I could hear, now and again, the flutter of wings in the woodbine that was trained above my window, announcing that some uneasy sleeper was turning on the other side, or disputing with its mate for a fair share of the bed clothes. The last belated hiveward bound bee had just returned, and discontinued his drone as he entered the gate of his city; but the bat was still fluttering blindly and heavily about, and the owl had just commenced his whooping in an old ivy-clad chimney, which had belonged to an age long since gone by. This last, and the slow dash of distant water, as it Ril over the wheel of a tuck-mill, whose dull, muffled beat came at regular intervals, not unpleasingly, on the ear, were soon the only sounds that were to be heard; and I now sat listening to them in one of those reveries, in which the mind may be said to have let down its braces, and stretched itself at full length. To compose my senses, and to reduce my nerves to a state favourable to somnolency, I addressed myself to that most soothing and, let me add, intellectual occupation—imbibing the fragrance of aromatised cavendish through an ancient and time-stained meershaum; and further, in order to cool down my system, I applied to my lips, at rare intervals and in moderate quantity, a com

ing draught, which my worthy medical attendant, Dr. Melancthon, the cele

homoeopathist, prescribed for me with singular success."

And so, dear Anthony, I smoked and sipped till the clock struck eleven, when I retired to court that sleep which I had been so industriously ' But “Nature's soft nurse" withheld her gentle ministrations from me, as she did from King Henry. I tossed and turned, and made excursions to every part of my ample bed for a cool spot, and turned my head to every point of the compass; but in vain.

“Most glorious night,
Thou wert not sent for slumber,”

sang Lord Byron amongst the Jura A'. and truly if the want of sleep be the test of the glory of the night, we may all “make glorious nights of it” now, dear Anthony. For my part, I think Kent's remark to King Lear is more suitable to such weather:“Things that love might Love not such nights as these.”

Well, in the midst of thoughts of this kind, I fell asleep—I know not when or how, nor can I say how long I continued so—when a shrill, piercing cry rang through my ears, and broke my dreamless slumber. It was a cry that it would be impossible to describe to those who have never heard it, but which the man who has once heard will not readily forget; a cry which well might “murder sleep,” and make sleepy maids and drowsy hinds start from their beds in

"As I have fortunately retained the recipe for this excellent medicine, I now subjoin a copy of it rerbatin for the benefit of all nervous persons:–

[ocr errors]

affright. I sprang up, and rushed to the window looking into the farm-yard, which I had unfortunately left wide open. Again the piercing cry thrilled through me, and in the grey of the coming dawn I beheld beneath my window a form, with out-stretched neck, the upper part of which, just beneath the head, was all red, as if covered with blood; and then, sir, another shriek, louder than before—“Cock-a-doodle doo-o-o-o-o t” Ay, there he was, my beautiful cock, that I bought at the last Spring Show of the Dublin Society—up, and dressed, booted and spurred, I may say; and what's more, the young polygamist had all his wives up, and stirring, and would not let a hen of them all lie abed for a comfortable half hour's nap after he had turned out himself. Well, Anthony, I laughed heartily, though, you may be sure, I bestowed on him as many good wishes as Mycillus, the cobbler, did upon his offending fowl. I returned to bed, but so thoroughly aroused, that sleep was not again to be thought of; so I began musing, for want of something better to do, and my thoughts turned, naturally enough, upon my disturber. ‘Now you will ask, with Jacques in the play—

“Of what kind should this cock come of ?”

I will tell you, Anthony. He was a foreign bird, a cock of a Corsican breed, that was continually strutting about, clapping his wings, and fighting with all the old established fowls of the yard. At first he was quiet enough, but in a very short time he attacked a poor old Orleans cock, plucked every feather out of his tail, and left him and an old hen, and some chickens of the same breed, as bare as the back of my hand; and yet for all his strutting, I have seen him sometimes, in wet and stormy weather, with his plumes draggling, and his crest as fallen as the sorriest fowl of them all. Thinking of cocks, made me somehow think of Frenchmen, and it struck me that though, upon the whole, a Frenchman is typified happily enough by the cock—for your Frenchman is a vain-glorious, loud-speaking, head-elevating, strutting animal; talking magniloquent common-places, and expressing by a world of tropes, figures, and florid periphrases what John Bull would state in a gruff, curt monosyllable, and continually intermeddling with and disturbing the peace of the world, and asserting the liberties of other nations when he has got no more than the name of it at home (I must admit, however, that he is game to the back-bone, and will fight while he has a leg to stand on)—yet I think, in one respect, a lark or a jay would be a fitter representative. A Frenchman is essentially a singing-bird; under all circumstances, and in all places he is ready to hop about and sing his chANsoN. He did so in the monastery, as well as on the battle field—under the monk's cowl and the militaire's chaco—at the peaceful vintage, and on the scaffold; for it is a well-known fact, though an author of Some authority denies it, that hymns, romances, and light amatory songs, some full of sentiment, wit, liveliness, and delicacy—others blood-thirsty, furious, and grotesque—were composed during the reign of terror. One of themselves has very £ expressed this national taste:– “Les Français ont toujours chanté, ils chanteront toujours.” It is, however, in this lighter style of composition that the French may be said to excel. The genius of their language, though not as musical as the Italian, is sufficiently suited for the chanson, but the chant or song of a higher class is rarely found in a high degree of excellence, though Lamartine, in modern days, has produced some fine verses; and the epic is quite out of their range. Indeed there is nothing in the language worthy of the name—no poem that will bear a comparison with the epics of Dante, Tasso, or Milton. But the French chanson must not be lightly esteemed. The author from whom I have just quoted, has thus well described it:

“Elle est l'expression detous les sentiments, elle prend mille formes, elle est gaie, satirique, badine, gracieu e, enthousiaste; elle peint l'amour, elle fronde les abus, elles'élève par les accents de la gloire, elle attendrit les femmes, elle fait trembler les puissants, elle exalte les coeurs, et c'est en chantant que les soldats français ont marché aux combats, comme c'est en chantant que le peuple laborieux adoucit sa peine, et s'encourage à ses travaux."

It is not ascertained when the French first took to the chanson; for my own

part, I suspect they began to chirp in that style as soon as they chipped the shell. The Normans and Provençals did not sing in the vulgar tongue, but in the romance language of the troubadours. In the twelfth century, however, we find a chanson à boire amongst the compositions of Eustache Deschamps, which is, perhaps, the earliest of that species extant. In the following century the number of writers in this style amounted to about seventy, amongst whom were some great names, such as Thibault, Count of Champagne, afterwards King of Navarre, the Count of Anjou, King of Sicily, and the father of St. Louis. From that time the number constantly increased, till the whole countr was flooded with chansons about every thing and every person, political, satirical, amatory, bacchanalian, martial, and pastoral. I met not long since with a curious piece of statistics on this subject, which shows what an inveterate chansonnier is Johnny Crapaud. There were in Paris and its environs, in the year 1845, no less than four hundred and eighty “Sociétés Chantantes.” The rule of these societies was that each member should compose at the least a chanson every month. Now assuming that each society consisted of twenty members, a very low average indeed, we shall have nine thousand six hundred of those song-writers, producing one hundred and fifteen thousand two hundred new songs yearly ' If to this we add the number of amateurs, who bring forward their contributions upon all interesting domestic occasions—death, births, marriages, and soforth—perhaps it would not be saying too much to estimate the yearly crop of songs in the Paris district to three hundred thousand!! Well, then, there is all the rest of France who are producers on a large scale. For myself, I would fear to make an estimate; but I have seen it stated as high as a million songs in the year for the entire kingdom, Paris included !!! Am I not right then, dear Anthony, in affirming that cock-crowing gives but a faint idea of the everlasting warbling which goes on in La Belle France. Thank God, we know how to indulge in those pleasures in moderation.

Having said so much on the song-singing of our Gallic neighbours, I will now offer you a specimen or two of a comparatively recent period. They have been selected as they came to hand, but will each afford a fair sample of their kind in general.

There was no song in its day more popular in France than that which is still well known by the name of “ £ ” The air is said by Châteaubriand to be as old as the time of the Crusades, but the words were probably written after the year 1709, though they did not become known till after the death of the famous Duke of Malbrough. It happened that the nurse of the young Dauphin, afterwards Louis the XV.—and a good nurse I have no doubt was Madame Poitrine, if there be any faith to be placed in names—used to rock the young scion of royalty to sleep in his cradle with a song, which of course was very consolatory to the ears of the inmates of Versailles, seeing that it assailed with a somewhat dastardly ridicule the memory of a hero then in his grave, who, while living, made Louis tremble on his throne, and sue in vain for peace. But it was, however, some comfort for Frenchmen to have a song to sing about one who had defeated Villars and Boufflers, and routed their armies at Blenheim, Ramilies, and Malplaquet. Accordingly, Nurse Poitrine's song soon reached Paris, and then spread all over France; and for four or five years after, you could hear nothing £ you were then alive, which I believe was not the case, Anthony) than the refrain of “Mironton, mironton, mirontaine !” sung with great bravery. So satisfactory, in truth, was this posthumous victory over the great general, that the French ladies had the song printed on fans and firescreens, with illustrations of the duke's burial, the duchess on her tower, and

e page in mourning. Malbrook, as you know, is the corruption of the duke's title,

“For fame
Sounds the heroic syllables both ways;
France could not even conquer your great name,
But pruned it down to this facetious phrase,
Beating or beaten she will laugh the same.”

And now I will give you the song in its integrity, and you can judge of it for yourself.

Moitr Er convoi DE L'IN VINCIull: till. DEATH AND buri.All of Tilb, IN

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

VINCIBLE MALBrough.

I. Malbrough's gone to the war, Sir– Mironton, mironton, mirontaine– Nobody knows, by gar, Sir, When he'll be back again, When he'll be back again, When he'll be back again, Nobody knows, by gar, Sir, When he'll be back again.

II. He'll come back again at EasterMironton, mironton, mirontaine– He'll come back again at Easter, Or at Trinity, I ween, Or at Trinity, I ween, Or at Trinity, I ween, He'll come back again at Easter, Or at Trinity, I ween.

III. But Trinity has passed by— Mironton, mironton, mirontaine– But Trinity has passed by, And he's not come back again, He's not come back again, He's not come back again, But Trinity is passed by, And he's not come back again. IV. My lady she mounted her tower— Mironton, mironton, mirontaine– My lady she mounted her tower, As high as she could attain, As high as she could attain, As high as she could attain, My lady she mounted her tower, As high as she could attain. V. She spied his page a-riding— Mironton, mironton, mirontaine– She spied his page a-riding In black along the plain, In black along the plain, In black along the plain, She spied his page a-riding In black along the plain.

Wi. “My pretty page, what tidings?— Mironton, mironton, mirontaine– My pretty page, your tidings? To hear them I am fain, To hear them I am fain, To hear them I am fain, My pretty page, your tidings? To hear them I am fain.” Wii. “The news I bring, my lady– Mironton, mironton, mirontainc– The news I bring, my lady, Will make your eyes to rain, Will make your eyes to rain, Will make your eyes to rain, The news I bring, my lady, Will make your eyes to rain.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »