they clasped their first-born in their arms, Ichabod sunk back upon his pillows, the name which rose from heart to lip, and gazed with eyes of fitful light upon and which they bestowed upon him, was the girl, while she, opening the keen in itself a cry of anguish and despair. knife, cut slowly and laboriously round

“ The husband soon died. Man breaks, the margin of the stout canvas, which woman bends, beneath the crushing weight shrieked beneath the blade, as if the of such a life. My mother lived, a dark spirit of the effigy which it bore were and silent woman, till five years ago. resisting the fearful doom which threatThen she died, too, and I inherited my ened it. ancestor's portrait and the curse of the At last the canvas was entirely reWithringtons.

leased, and Faith silently held it up be" I tried to work, to earn my bread, as fore the eyes of the dying man, upon men all about me were doing. But no, whose face had come a dull, leaden - the fate was upon me, the curse pur blankness, and whose eyes were painful sued me. Everything failed which I at- to watch as they struggled to pierce the tempted. I sunk lower and lower, until film which was gathering over them. the name and the picture, which had “Burn," he hoarsely murmured. been my pride, became a shame and a With a sigh, Faith cut the picture into reproach to me. I abandoned the one strips, and laid them gently, reverently, and concealed the other, resolved to upon the coals heaped in the large firereveal neither until the moment arrived place. when death should wipe out the squalor of The greedy flames leaped up to grasp life, conquer fate, and expiate the curse. their prey, and Faith turned sick and

“ Quick, Faith, quick! The hour has faint as she watched them fasten upon come. Take the knife you just held,- that noble face, which seemed to contract cut the canvas from its frame, - cut it in and shrivel in its anguish as they seized fragments, - lay it on the blazing fire. upon it. We will perish together,- the First and She gazed a moment, painfully fasci- the Last."

nated, then turned toward the bed, but “ Nay, Ichabod, give it to me,” said as her eyes fell upon Ichabod's face, she Faith, shrinking from the proposed holo- started back, and, rousing the old woman caust. "I will always keep it, and value from her slumber, sent to summon her

mother. “ Would you see me fall dead at your Mrs. Coffin came immediately, - but feet, while attempting to do for myself when she entered the little chamber, the what you refuse to do for me?" asked last fragment of the canvas was shrivelthe dying man, with feverish ardor, and ling in the flames, the last sigh of the half rising, as if to leave his bed

dying man was parting from his white “ No, no, I will do it, since it must lips. be so," exclaimed Faith, eagerly. “Lie They had perished together,- the First down again and watch me."

—and the Last.

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



Yot will know, perhaps, in the course tion pictures life and death and bearen of half an hour's reading, what has been and hell as the issues depending on the haunting my hours of sleep and waking completion or non-completion of the fifty for months. I cannot tell, of course, he is counting. Extreme curiosity will whether you are a nervous person or excite some people as much as fear, or not. If, however, you are such a per- what resembles fear, acts on some other son. - if it is late at night,- if all the rest less impressible natures. of the household have gone off to bed, I may find myself in the midst of strange if the wind is shaking your windows as if facts in this little conjurer's room. Or, a human band were rattling the sashes, again, there may be nothing in this poor if your candle or lamp is low and will invalid's chamber but some old furniture, soon burn out,- let me advise you to read such as they say came over in the Maythe “Critical Notices" or some other pa- flower. All this is just what I mean to per contained in this number, if you hare find out while I am looking at the Little not already devoured them all, and leave Gentleman, who has suddenly become my this to be read by daylight, with cheerful patient. The simplest things turn out to voices round, and people near by who be unfathomable mysteries; the most myswould hear you, if you slid from your terious appearances prove to be the most chair and came down in a lump on the commonplace objects in disguise. floor.

I wonder whether the boys that live in I do not say that your heart will beat Roxbury and Dorchester are ever moved as mine did, I am willing to confess, to tears or filled with silent awe as they when I entered the dim chamber. Did look upon the rocks and fragments of I not tell you that I was sensitive and “puddingstone” abounding in those loimaginative, and that I had lain awake calities. I have my suspicions that those with thinking what were the strange boys “heave a stone” or “fire a brickmorements and sounds which I heard bat,” composed of the conglomerate just late at night in my little neighbor's mentioned, without any more tearful or apartment? It had come to that pass philosophical contemplations than boys of that I was truly unable to separate what less favored regions expend on the same I had really heard from what I had performance. Yet a lump of puddingdreamed in these nightmares to which stone is a thing to look at, to think about, I have been subject, as before mentioned to study over, to dream upon, to go crazy So, when I walked into the room, and with, to beat one's brains out against. Bridget, turning back, closed the door Look at that pebble in it. From what and left me alone with its tenant, I do cliff was it broken? On what beach believe you could have grated a nutmeg rolled by the waves of what ocean? How on my skin, such a “goose-flesh" shiver and when imbedded in soft ooze, which ran over it. It was not fear, but what I itself became stone, and by-and-by was call nervousness,- unreasoning, but ir- lifted into bald summits and steep cliffs, resistible; as when, for instance, one look- such as you may see on Meetinghouseing at the sun going down says, “I will Hill any day,- yes, and mark the scratchcount fifty before it disappears"; and as es on their faces left when the boulderhe goes on and it becomes doubtful carrying glaciers planed the surface of the whether he will reach the number, he continent with such rough tools that the gets strangely flurried, and his imagina- storms have not worn the marks out of it

with all the polishing of ever so many Sit down, Sir,- he said,-sit down ! I thousand years ?

have come to the bill Difficulty, Sir, and Or as you pass a roadside ditch or am fighting my way up.-His speech was pool in spring-time, take from it any bit laborious and interrupted. of stick or straw which has lain undis- Don't talk, - I said, - except to anturbed for a time. Some little worm- swer my questions. — And I proceeded shaped masses of clear jelly containing to "prospect” for the marks of some lospecks are fastened to the stick: eggs cal mischief, which you know is at the of a small snail-like shell-fish. One of bottom of all these attacks, though we do these specks magnified proves to be a not always find it. I suppose I go to crystalline sphere with an opaque mass work pretty much like other professional in its centre. And while you are look- folks of my temperament. Thus:ing, the opaque mass begins to stir, and Wrist, if you please. — I was on his by-and-by slowly to turn upon its axis right side, but he presented his left wrist, like a forming planet, life beginning in crossing it over the other.-I begin to the microcosm, as in the great worlds of count, holding watch in left hand. One, the firmament, with the revolution that two, three, four, — What a handsome turns the surface in ceaseless round to hand !-- wonder if that splendid stone is the source of life and light.

a carbuncle. — One, two, three, four, five, A pebble and the spawn of a mollusk! six, seven,- Can't see much, it is so Before you have solved their mysteries, dark, except one white object. -- One, this earth where you first saw them may two, three, four,— Hang it! eighty or be a vitrified slag, or a vapor diffused ninety in the minute, I guess. — Tongue, through the planetary spaces. Mysteries if you please.- Tongue is put out. Forare common enough, at any rate, what get to look at it, or, rather, to take any ever the boys in Roxbury and Dorches, particular notice of it;- but what is that ter think of “ brickbats” and the spawn white object, with the long arm stretching of creatures that live in roadside puddles. up as if pointing to the sky, just as Vesa

But then a great many seeming mys- lius and Spigelius and those old fellows teries are relatively perfectly plain, when used to put their skeletons? I don't think we can get at them so as to turn them anything of such objects, you know; but over. How many ghosts that “thick what should he have it in his chamber men's blood with cold " prove to be shirts for ? — As I had found his pulse irreguhung out to dry! How many mermaids lar and intermittent, I took out a stethohave been made out of seals! How many scope, which is a pocket-spyglass for looktimes have horse-mackerels been taken ing into men's chests with your ears, and for the sea-serpent !

laid it over the place where the heart - Let me take the whole matter beats. I missed the usual beat of the coolly, while I see what is the matter with organ.—How is this? - I said, where is the patient. That is what I say to my- your heart gone to ? — He took the stethself, as I draw a chair to the bedside.- Oscope and shifted it across to the right The bed is an old-fashioned, dark mahog- side; there was a displacement of the orany four-poster. It was never that which gan.- I am ill-packed,- he said ;- there made the noise of something moving. It was no room for my heart in its place as is too heavy to be pushed about the room. it is with other men.-God help him! --The Little Gentleman was sitting, bol. It is hard to draw the line between stered up by pillows, with his hands clasp- scientific curiosity and the desire for the ed and their united palms resting on the patient's sake to learn all the details of back of the head,- one of the three or his condition. I must look at this pafour positions specially affected by per- tient's chest, and thump it and listen to sons whose breathing is difficult from dis- it. For this is a case of ectopia cordis, ease of the heart or other causes. my boy,—displacement of the heart; and it isn't every day you get a chance to and breath. Press the brain a little, its overhaul such an interesting malforma- light goes out, followed by both the othtion. And so I managed to do my dutyers. Stop the heart a minute, and out and satisfy my curiosity at the same time. go all three of the wicks. Choke the air The torso was slight and deformed; the out of the lungs, and presently the floright arm attenuated, — the left full, id ceases to supply the other centres of round, and of perfect symmetry. It had flame, and all is soon stagnation, cold, run away with the life of the other limbs, and darkness. The “ tripod of life" a - a common trick enough of Nature's, as French physiologist called these three I told you before. If you see a man with organs. It is all clear enough which leg legs withered from childhood, keep out of the tripod is going to break down of the way of his arms, if you have a quar- here. I could tell you exactly what the rel with him. He has the strength of difficulty is; — which would be as intellifour limbs in two; and if he strikes you, it gible and amusing as a watchmaker's deis an arm-blow plus a kick administered scription of a diseased timekeeper to a from the shoulder instead of the haunch, ploughman. It is enough to say, that I where it should have started from

found just what I expected to, and that I Still examining him as a patient, I think this attack is only the prelude of kept my eyes about me to search all more serious consequences, which exparts of the chamber, and went on with pression means you very well know what. the double process, as before. --- Heart And now the secrets of this life hanghits as hard as a fist,- bellows-sound over ing on a thread must surely come out. miral valves (professional terms you need If I have made a mystery where there not attend to).- What the deuse is that was none, my suspicions will be shamed, long case for? Got his witch grand- as they have often been before. If there mother mummied in it? And three big is anything strange, my visits will clear mahogany presses,- hey? - A diabolical it up. suspicion came over me which I had had I sat an hour or two by the side of once before, -- that he might be one of the Little Gentleman's bed, after giving our modern alchemists, you understand, him some henbane to quiet his brain,

– make gold, you know, or what looks and some foxglove, which an imaginative like it, sometimes with the head of a king French professor has called the “Opium or queen or of Liberty to embellish one of the Heart.” Under their influence he side of the piece.- Don't I remember gradually fell into an uneasy, half-waking hearing him shut a door and lock it once? slumber, the body fighting hard for every What do you think was kept under that breath, and the mind wandering off in lock? Let's have another look at his strange fancies and old recollections, which hand, to see if there are any calluses. escaped from his lips in broken sentences. One can tell a man's business, if it is a — The last of 'em,- he said, - the handicraft, very often by just taking a last of 'em all,—thank God! And the look at his open hand.—Ah! Four cal. grave he lies in will look just as well as luses at the end of the fingers of the right if he had been straight. Dig it deep, hand. None on those of the left. Ah, old Martin, dig it deep, and let it be as ha! What do those mean?

long as other folks' graves. And mind All this seems longer in the telling, of you get the sods flat, old man,- flat as course, than it was in fact. While I was ever a straight-backed young fellow was making these observations of the objects laid under. And then, with a good tall around me, I was also forming my opin- slab at the head, and a footstone six foot ion as to the kind of case with which I away from it, it'll look just as if there had to deal.

was a man underneath. There are three wicks, you know, to A man! Who said he was a man ? the lamp of a man's life : brain, blood, No more men of that pattern to bear his

name ! – Used to be a good-looking set painter had dipped his pencil in fire ; — enough.- Where's all the manhood and who knows but that it was given her by womanhood gone to since his great-grand- a midnight suitor fresh from that fierce father was the strongest man that sailed element, and licensed for a season to out of the town of Boston, and poor leave his couch of flame to tempt the unLeah there the handsomest woman in sanctified hearts of earthly maidens and Essex, if she was a witch ?

brand their cheeks with the print of his - Give me some light,- he said, scorching kisses ? . more light.— I want to see the picture. She and I, - he said, as he looked

He had started either from a dream steadfastly at the canvas,- she and I are or a wandering reverie. I was not un- the last of 'em.-She will stay, and I shall willing to have more light in the apart- go. They never painted me,- except ment, and presently had lighted an astral when the boys used to make pictures of lamp that stood on a table.- He pointed me with chalk on the board-fences. They to a portrait hanging against the wall.- said the doctors would want my skeleton Look at her, he said, - look at her! when I was dead. -- You are my friend, Wasn't that a pretty neck to slip a hang- if you are a doctor,-a'n't you ? man's noose over ?

I just gave him my hand. I had not The portrait was of a young woman, the heart to speak. something more than twenty years old, I want to lie still, - he said, - after perhaps. There were few pictures of I am put to bed upon the hill yonder. any merit painted in New England before Can't you have a great stone laid over the time of Smibert, and I am at a loss me, as they did over the first settlers in to know what artist could have taken the old burying-ground at Dorchester, this half-length, which was evidently from so as to keep the wolves from digging life. It was somewhat stiff and flat, but them up ? I never slept easy over the the grace of the figure and the sweetness sod;-I should like to lie quiet under it. of the expression reminded me of the an- And besides,- he said, in a kind of gels of the early Florentine painters. She scared whisper,-I don't want to have my must have been of some consideration, bones stared at, as my body has been. for she was dressed in paduasoy and lace I don't doubt I was a remarkable case; with hanging sleeves, and the old carved but, for God's sake, oh, for God's sake, frame showed how the picture had been don't let 'em make a show of the cage I prized by its former owners. A proud have been shut up in and looked through eye she had, with all her sweetness. - I the bars of for so many years! think it was that which hanged her, as his I have heard it said that the art of strong arm hanged Minister George Bur- healing makes men hardhearted and inroughs; – but it may have been a little different to human suffering. I am willmole on one cheek, which the artist bad ing to own that there is often a profesjust hinted as a beauty rather than a de- sional hardness in surgeons, just as there formity. You know, I suppose, that nurs. is in theologians,- only much less in deling imps addict themselves, after the gree than in these last. It does not comfashion of young opossums, to these little monly improve the sympathies of a man excrescences. “ Witch-marks" were good to be in the habit of thrusting knives into evidence that a young woman was one of his fellow-creatures and burning them the Devil's wet-nurses ;-I should like to with red-hot irons, any more than it imhave seen you make fun of them in those proves them to bold the blinding-white days!— Then she had a brooch in her cautery of Gehenna by its cool handle bolice, that might have been taken for and score and crisp young souls with it some devilish amulet or other; and she until they are scorched into the belief of wore a ring upon one of her fingers, with -- Transubstantiation or the Immaculate a red stone in it, that flamed as if the Conception. And, to say the plain truth,

« ElőzőTovább »