Page images

memory with what followed may have fixed its peculiar character in my mind-but I can only describe it to the imagination by likening it to one's conception of the harsh, grating suilen, yet abrupt noise of the grave-stone when it shall be suddenly raised from its sandy, clammy bed, at the sounding of the last trumpet. One of the actors rushed across the stage, and darted out by the sidedoor. Of the rest, those who were speaking stopped in the middle of a word; the hand raised in mimic passion was not dropped; the moving crowd of human beings stood still, as if by one impulse;—there was a pause of two or three seconds. Some, whose mind was more present, raised there eyes to the roof; but the rest were motionless, even in the vagrant organs of vision, and stood Rute and still like a gallery of statues. I cannot even attempt to describe the sound which awoke the scene from this appearance of death, only to give it the reality. I would liken it to thunder, if you could mingle the idea of the explosion with that of its effects-or to the rush of a mighty torrent, if you could fancy amalgamated, as it were, in its roar, the typical voices of pain, and horror, and confusion, and struggling, and death. I staggered back, and nearly fell into au abyss that was cloven into the floor by a fragment of the iron roof on the very spot where I had stood but a moment before. While rushing up the side of the newly-formed precipice to regain my footing, by the single terrified glance I had time and light to cast behind, I saw that the iron and wood were wet with blood and brains and the other horrible mysteries of man's inner body, and that the "living soul” I had just talked to was not to be recognized by the sight as having ever borne the external characteristics of a human being.

The light was suddenly shut outand yet so slowly as to inflict upon my sight that which will ever stand between it and the sun. Fragment after fragment rushed furiously from

the roof, but yet so thickly inter mingled that I cannot at this moment say whether or not the mass of roof was disunited at all in its descent. Then the bursting of the walls-the grating of the stones and bricks as they were ground into powder-the rending of the planks and wooden partitions-the hissing sound of the lamps and brass-work-the damp crush of human bodies-and the yells of mortal agony from a hundred hearts, which seemed wilder and stronger even than the inanimate sounds that had called them into being-to choke, conquer, and sileuce them forever.

All was dark. A weight was upon my shoulder which an Atlas could not have moved; my left leg was fixed between two planks, and, as I discovered by feeling with my hand before the pain announced it, it was broken and distorted; the side outline of the narrow chamber in which I sate would have nearly described a right-angled triangle, the hypothenuse leaning on my back; above, I could extend my hand to its full length without obstacle, but the aperture could not have admitted anything thicker than the arm; before me was a wall apparently of solid iron, and below, and at the sides, the surface, consisting of iron, brick, stones, and wood, was broken into narrow insterstices.

When the united sounds I have described had subsided into a distant hum, a single voice rose upon my ear: it was the voice of the lady mentioned above; it was one wild, shrill, unbroken scream. I do not know how long it lasted; I do not even know whether it was a human voice at all; it did not stop for breath; its way was not impeded, like that of the rest, by the intervention of the ruins; minute after minute it continued, and every minute it became wilder and shriller, piercing, like an arrow, through my head and heart, till my tortured senses found temporary relief in insensibility.

My fainting-fit probably lasted a

considerable time; for, when I recovered, it was long before I could understand my situation, or recall anything that had happened to my memory. At length, piece by piece, the truth came before me, and I could feel the cold sweat trick ng down my brow. The voice I had heard existed probably only in imagination, for it was now silent. A low deep sound was humming in my ears, which I could at length distinguish to be the simultaneous groans of human beings, separated from me either by distance or some thick and deadening barrier. My ear endeavoured in vain to divide it into its component parts, and to recognize the voices of those I knew; and there was something more horrible in this vague mysterious monotony than if it had been distinctly fraught with the dying accents of the one I loved best on earth. I felt as if my lot must be bitterer than that of the rest. I was alone-I was cut off even from communion of suffering: while they, I imagined, were together, and in the sound of one another's voices, and the touch, even, of one another's clothes, received some relief from the idea of total abandonment, of agony unimagined and unshared.

My senses, I believe, began to totter; for I complained aloud of my lonely fate: I knew that I was behaving absurdly, but I could not help it; I beat the iron walls of my dungeon with my clenched hands till they were wet with blood, and shrieked aloud with a voice rendered terrific by the fury of despair. The voices of the rest appeared to be startled into silence at the sound -or perhaps it fell upon their ears like a cry of comfort and hope, an answer to their groans from the surface of the carth. After a pause heard another dull, heavy sound, like that produced by a muffled drum; it was, in reality, a drum, and probably beat by one of the band, as a more powerful means of awakening attention than his own voice. The sound, in such circumstances,


was inexpressibly awful; and when the hand that smote the instrument in so unaccustomed a scene wandered by habit into a regular tune, my sensations were exaggerated into a species of horror which I can liken only to that which might be supposed to visit a religious mind on witnessing some shocking and blasphemous impiety.

It may seem a species of insanity to mention it; but when the roll of the drum, and the sound of human voices had ceased, and after I had been left for a considerable time, as it were, to myself, even in these circumstances of terror, and loneliness, and mystery, I possessed a species of knowledge, which the denizens of the surface would have deemed equally useless and unattainable to those underground:-1 knew the hour of the night. Like the idiot who mimicked, at the proper intervals, the audible measurement of time, after the clock was removed, which had taught him the practice, my inclination for drinking, which had been converted by habit into an almost unconquerable passion, returned at the accustomed time of its gratification. In spite of surrounding circumstances, I fancied myself in the midst of my dissolute companions, in the scene of our coarse and vulgar revels; I drank, but without being filled; I became drunken with imagination; and the close and poisonous atmosphere, which before had been burthened with my groans, now rung with songs, and laughter, and imprecations. This state of unnatural excitement passed away, but the reaction which took place exhibited all the symptoms that attend the awakening of the young and inexperienced drunkard. With headach, sickness, faintness, fear, foreboding, repentance,-I awoke, in horror of great darkness."



Then the ideas, wholesome in themselves, but which in such circumstances are felt like daggers, crowded round my burthened and wearied heart. My father—my fa mily-my arrogance-my ingratitude

-my dishonesty-my misspent time -my forgotten duties-my blasphemed and unregarded God! I bu ried my face in my hands, but I could not hide them from my soul. Slowly and sternly they passed before me; but the last idea swallowed up its precursors; and with a start and a shudder, I found myself trembling on the verge of eternityon the very steps of the judgment seat, entering into the presence of the awful and eternal Judge.

It will be esteemed an example of the bathos when I mention next my hunger and thirst, and say that these passions of the perishing body almost neutralized the effect of the above sentiments of my immortal soul. Hunger, indeed, may be borne, at least to the extent it was my lot to

endure it; but thirst is truly a chastisement" of scorpions."


"For why? because the good old rule
Sufficeth them-the simple plan
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can."

I have not described my feelings ; I have simply catalogued, and in a very incomplete manner, their proximate causes. I sunk by degrees into a sort of stupor, from which I was awakened by the light of heaven streaming full in my face, through an aperture made in the ruins by my deliverers. The apparent apathy, or, as some term it, philosophy, which I displayed, has been attributed to wrong causes. The truth is, that although at first my body was awoke, my mind was almost wholly insensible; it recovered its consciousness by very slow degrees, and it was not until I was left alone at night, that I became completely sensible of my deliverance.*

"Ladies and gentlemen," quoth the Author of the Excursion' and other universally-read poems, "you see this motto: it is from a poem of mine, the volume containing which I have brought in my pocket; and lest you should not understand the


WHEN "Rob Roy" first appeared, verses to you.”


"A famous man was Robin Hood," &c.

a party was made at Mr. John Wilson's house at Elleray, to read it. Mr. Wordsworth was invited, among others, to the party; and, as a special inducement to go, he was informed that the illustrious author had chosen the motto for his novel from his name-sake poem, "Rob Roy." The verbose and venerable Laker accordingly went; and when the volumes were laid on the table, he eagerly turned to the title-page, where he read

and went on to the conclusion, not even omitting a comma, and then putting the vivacious tome into his pocket again, he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I leave you to your novel," and walked home!

novel for want of knowing thoroughly my poem, I mean to read my He accordingly


An Irishman being on a long journey in a part of the country where Mr. M'Adam's useful talents had never been exercised, at length came to a mile of excellent road. Over this he kept trotting his horse backwards and forwards, till some spectators, a little surprised at this singular mode of travelling, inquired the reason of it. "Indeed," said he, "and I like to let well alone, and from what I have seen of the road, I doubt whether I will find a better bit of ground all the way."

*This imprudent and most unhappy young man, is now pronounced to be out of danger. He has been removed to the house of a friend of his father, an eminent solicitor in Gray's Inn; but even while in the hospital, he was visited by many persons of the highest respectability.

NO. 4.]



BOSTON, MAY 15, 1828.


THE flood-gates of accusation and information once set open, innumerable tongues that had never stirred to give timely warning to a person so inaccessible and unpopular as was Andrew Cleaves, were voluble in pouring in upon him charge upon charge against the son who had been so lately, not less the darling than the pride of the old man's heart. And many a one with whom he had had weekly dealings, who had refrained from speaking the word in time, which might have saved a fellow creature from destruction, because their own pride was offended by the reserve of the austere old man-now sought him even in his lonely dwelling, to multiply upon him humiliating proofs of his misfortune, and professions of sympathy and compassion, that would have been gall and wormwood to his proud spirit, if the overwhelming conviction of his son's deceptive and profligate conduct had not already humbled it to the dust. He heard all patiently, and in silence-attempted no vindication of himself, when the comforters obliquely reflected on his blind credulity by observing, that they "had long seen how matters were going on;" that they had suspected such and such things from the first ;" that they "had always looked sharp after their own boys, thank God, but then they

16 ATHENEUM, VOL. 9, 2d series.

[VOL. 9, N. s.

were ordinary children--no geniuses ;" for it was well known how Andrew Cleaves had prided himself on his child's superior abilities-and the self-sufficient man, who had so long held himself pre-eminent in wisdom, qualified to rebuke and instruct others, now listened with a subdued spirit to the torrent of unasked and impertinent advice, which sounded sweet and pleasant to the ears of the intrusive utterers, if it fell harshly and unprofitably on those of the unhappy hearer.

Concluded from page 102.

On the Sabbath morning immediately succeeding that Saturday, in the course of which Andrew Cleaves had been subjected to this spiritual martyrdom, he went twice as usual to his parish church; but during divine service, his eyes were never lifted even during sermon time, so much as to the face of the minister, and his deep sonorous voice mingled not that day with those of the village choristers; and in going and returning, he shunned all passing salutation, and once within his own threshold, the cottage door was closed on intruders, (for presuming on his present circumstances such were not wanting to present themselves,) and no human eye again beheld him, till that of his undutiful child, drawn to his chamber window at the still midnight hour, looked upon the distress he had occasioned. Not in vain had

been the long and uninterrupted communing of Andrew Cleaves with his own heart and with his God. Sweet to him were the uses of adversi y, for they had not to struggle with a heart of unbelief, neither with one seared by vicious courses, nor debased by sensual indulgence. The spiritual foundation was sound, though human pride, inducing moral blindness, had raised on it a dangerous superstructure. But when the hour came, and the axe (in mercy) was struck to the root of the evil, and the haughty spirit bowed down in selfabasement; then was the film withdrawn from his mental vision, and Andrew Cleaves really looked into himself, and detected his besetting sins in all their naked deformity. Yes, at last he detected his pride, bis worldliness, his worship of the creature, encroaching on that due to the Creator. He felt and confessed his own utter insufficiency, and laying down at the foot of the cross the burden of his frailties and sorrows, he sought counsel and consolation at the only source, which is never resorted to in vain. As he proceeded in the work of self-examination, and self-arraignment, his heart relented towards his offending child. Had he yielded something of his own inflexible determination to the boy's known disinclination for the line of life marked out for him, the parental concession might have established in reality, that gratefully filial confidence, the semblance of which had been so artfully assumed; and the father's heart was wrung with its bitterest pang, when he called to mind the sanctified hypocrisy, which had so long imposed upon him, and reflected that his own mistaken system and erroneous measures, his own boasted example of superior sanctity, might have been the means of engrafting it on his son's character. The fruit of that night's vigil was a determination on the part of Andrew, to depart the next morning for C, and seek out his erring child-not with frowns and upbraidings, but the more effective arguments of tender

remonstrance, and mild conciliation; to inquire into and cancel whatever pecuniary embarrassments he had incurred; and, having done so, to say, "My son, give me thine heart!" and then-for who could doubt the effect of such an appeal?—to consult the lad's own wishes with regard to a profession, as far as might be compatible with maturer reason and parental duty. So resolved, and so projected Andrew Cleaves during the sleepless watches of that Sabbath night; but when morning came he found himself unable to act on his determination so immediately as he had intended. The conflict of the spirit had bowed down the strong man. He arose feeble and indispos ed, and altogether unequal to the task he had assigned himself. Therefore, as the delay of four-and-twenty hours could not be material, he determined to pass that interval in deliberately re-considering his new projects, and in acquiring the composare of mind, which would be so requisite in the approaching interview with Josiah. Early on the morrow, however, with recruited strength, and matured purpose, he hastily despatched the morning's meal, and was preparing to depart for C, when the sound of approaching footsteps, and the swing ing to of the garden gate, made him pause for a moment with his hand on the latch; and almost before he could lift it, the door was dashed rudely open, aud three meu presented themselves, one of whom stationed himself just without the threshold, while the two others stepping for ward threw down a warrant on the table, abruptly declaring, that, by its authority, they were empowered to make search for, and arrest, the body of Josiah Cleaves. Their abrupt notice fell like a thunder-clap on the ear of the unfortunate old man; and yet, for a moment, he comprehended not its full and fatal sense, but stood as if spell-bound, upright, immovable, every muscle of his strong fea tures stiff as in the rigidity of death, and his eyes fixed with a stony and

« PreviousContinue »