Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

a detestation which their inoffensive conduct never merit, ed. Though pelted and jeered at by the brats of the village, and frequently abused by their parents, the little man in black never turned to rebuke them; and his faithful dog, when wantonly assaulted, looked up wistfully in his master's face, and there learned a lesson of patience and forbearance.

The movements of this inscrutable being bad long been the subject of speculation at Cockloft-hall, for its inmates were full as much given to wondering as their descendants. The patience with which he bore his persecutions particularly surprised them for patience is a virtue but little known in the Cockloft family. My grandmother, who, it appears, was rather superstitious, saw in this humility nothing but the gloomy sullenness of a wizard, who restrained himself for the present, in hopes of midnight vengeance the parson of the village, who was man of some reading, pronounced it the stubborn insensibility of a stoic philosopher-my grandfather, who, worthy soul, seldom wandered abroad in search of conclusions, took datum from his own excellent heart, and regarded it as the bumble forgiveness of a christian. But however different were their opinions as to the character of the stranger, they agreed in one particular, namely, in never intruding upon his solitude; and my grandmother, who was at that time nursing my mother, never left the room without wisely putting the large family bible in the cradlea sure talisman, in her opinion, against witchcraft and necromancy.

One stormy winter night, when a bleak north-east wind moaned about the cottages, and howled around the village steeple, my grandfather was returning from club preceded by a servant with a lantern. Just as he arrived opposite the desolate abode of the little man in black, he was arrested by the piteous howling of a dog, which, heard in the pauses of a storm, was exquisitely mournful; and he fancied now and then that he caught the low and broken groans of some one in distress. He stopped for some minutes, hesitating between the benevolence of his beart and a sensation of genuine delicacy, which, in spite

of his eccentricity, he fully possessed, and which forbade him to pry into the concerns of his neighbours. Perhaps, too, this hesitation might have been strengthened by a little taint of superstition; or surely, if the unknown bad been addicted to witchcraft, this was a most propitious night for his vagaries. At length the old gentleman's philanthropy predominated; he approached the hovel, and pushing open the door,--for poverty has no occasion for locks and keys,-beheld, by the light of the lantern, a scene that smote his generous heart to the

core.

On a miserable bed, with pallid and emaciated visage and hollow eyes; in a room destitute of every convenience; without fire to warm or friend to console him, lay this helpless mortal who had been so long the terror and wonder of the village. His dog was crouching on the scanty coverlet, and shivering with cold. My grandfather stepped softly and hesitatingly to the bedside, and accosted the forlorn sufferer in his usual accents of kindness. The little man in black seemed recalled by the tones of compassion from the lethargy into which he had fallen; for, though his heart was almost frozen, there was yet one chord that answered to the call of the good old man who bent over him ;-the tones of sympathy, so novel to his ear, called back his wandering senses, and acted like a restorative to his solitary feelings.

He raised his eyes, but they were vacant and haggard; - he put forth his hand, but it was cold; he essayed to speak, but the sound died away in his throat ;-he pointed to his mouth with an expression of dreadful meaning, and, sad to relate! my grandfather understood that the harmless stranger, deserted by society, was perishing with hunger !— With the quick impulse of humanity he despatched the servant to the hall for refreshment. A little warm nourishment renovated him for a short time, but not long: it was evident his pilgrimage was drawing to a close, and he was about entering that peaceful assylum where “ the wicked cease from troubling.”.

His tale of misery was short, and quickly told;-infirmities had stolen upon him, heightened by the rigours

of the season; he had taken to his bed without strength to rise and ask for assistance; “ and if I had,” said he, in a tone of bitter despondency, “to whom should I have applied?. I have no friend that I know of in the world! -the villagers avoid me as something loathsome and dangerous; and here, in the midst of christians, should I have perished without a fellow being to sooth the last moments of existence, and close my dying eyes, had not the howlings of my faithful dog excited your attention.

He seemed deeply sensible of the kindness of my grandfather; and at one time as he looked up into his old be nefactor's face, a solitary tear was observed to steal adown the parched furrows of his check.Poor outcast! -it was the last tear he shed; but I warrant it was not the first by millions! My grandfather watched by him all night.

Towards morning he gradually declined; and as the rising sun gleamed through the windows, he begged to be raised in his bed, that he might look at it for the last time. He contemplated it for a moment with a kind of religious enthusiasm, and his lips moved as if engaged in prayer. The strange conjecture concerning him rushed on my grandfather's mind. " He is an idolater!” thought he," and is worshipping the sun!” He listened a moment, and blushed at his own uncharitable suspicion; he was only engaged in the pious devotions of a christian. His simple orison being finished, the little man in black withdrew his eyes from the east, and taking my grandfather's hand in one of his, and making a motion with the other towards the sun-" I love to contemplate it,” said he; “ 'tis an emblem of the .universal benevolence of a true christian;- and it is the most glorious work of him who is philanthropy itself!” My grandfather blushed still deeper at his ungenerous surmises; he had pitied the stranger at first, but now he revered him; he turned once more to regard him, but his countenance had undergone a change; the holy enthusiasm that had lighted up each feature had given place to an expression of mysterious import: a gleam of grandeur seemed to steal across his gothic visage, and he appeared full of some mighty

secret which he hesitated to impart. He raised the táttered nightcap that had sunk almost over his eyes, and waving his withered hand with a slow and feeble expression of dignity-" In me," said he, with a laconic solemnity,—“ In me you behold the last descendant of the renowned Linkum Fidelius!” My grandfather gazed at him with reverence; for though he had never heard of the illustrious personage thus pompously announced, yet there was a certain black-letter dignity in the name that peculiarly struck his fancy and commanded his respect.

“ You have been kind to me," continued the little man in black, after a momentary pause, “ and richly will I requite your kindness by making you heir to my treasures ! In yonder large deal box are the volumes of my illustrious ancestor, of which I alone am the fortunate possessor. Inherit them-ponder over them, and be wise!”. <He grew faint with the exertion he had inade, and sunk back almost breathless on his pillow. His hand, which, inspired with the importance of his subject, he had raised to my grandfather's arm, slipped from its hold and fell over the side of the bed, and his faithful dog licked it; as if anxious to sooth the last moments of his master, and testify his gratitude to the hand that had so often cherished him. The untaught caresses of the faithful animal were not lost upon his dying master; he raised his languid eyes, -turned them on the dog, then on my grandfather; and having given this silent recommendaion-closed them for ever.

The remains of the little man in black, notwithstanding the objections of many pious people, were decently interred in the church-yard of the village; and his spirit, harmless as the body it once animated, has never been known to molest a living being. My grandfather complied as far as possible with his last request; he conveyed the volumes of Linkum Fidelius to his library;—he pondered over them frequently; but whether he grew wiser, the family tradition doth not mention. This much is certain, that his kindness to the poor descendant of Fidelius was amply rewarded by the approbation of his own

heart, and the devoted attachment of the old turnspit; who, transferring his affection from his deceased master to his benefactor, became his constant attendant, and was father to a long tribe of runty curs that still flourish in the family. And thus was the Cockloft library enriched by the invaluable folios of the sage Linkum Fidelius.

MY AUNT CHARITY.

My aunt Charity departed this life in the fifty-ninth year of her age, though she never grew older after twenty-five. In her teens she was, according to her own account, a celebrated beauty,-though I never could meet with any body that remembered when she was handsome. On the contray, Evergreen's father, who used to gallant her in his youth, says she was as knotty a little piece of humanity as he ever saw; and that, if she had been possessed of the least sensibility, she would, like poor old Aceo, have most certainly run mad at ber own figure and face the first time she contemplated herself in a lookingglass. In the good old times that saw my aunt in the hey-day of youth, a fine lady was a most formidable animal, and required to be approached with the same awe and devotion that a Tartar feels in the presence of his grand Lama. If a gentleman offered to take her hand, except to help her into a carriage, or lead her into a drawing-room, such frowns ! such a rustling of brocade and taffetta! Her very paste shoe buckles sparkled with indignation, and for a moment assumed the brilliancy of diamonds ! In those days the person of a belle was sacred—it was un. profaned by the sacreligious grasp of a stranger :- simple souls:--they had not the waltz among them yet!

My good aunt prided herself on keeping up this buckram delicacy; and if she happened to be playing at the old fashioned game of forfeits, and was fined a kiss, it was always more trouble to get it than it was worth; for she made a most gallant defence, and never surrendered un

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »