Edgar Huntly: Or, Memoirs of a Sleep-walker
by Charles Brockden Brown
TO THE PUBLIC.
TO THE PUBLIC.
The flattering reception that has been given, by the public, to
Arthur Mervyn, has prompted the writer to solicit a continuance of
the same favour, and to offer to the world a new performance.
America has opened new views to the naturalist and politician,
but has seldome furnished themes to the moral painter. That new
springs of action, and new motives to curiosity should operate; that
the field of investigation, opened to us by our own country, should
differ essentially from those which exist in Europe, may be readily
conceived. The sources of amusement to the fancy and instruction to
the heart, that are peculiar to ourselves, are equally numerous and
inexhaustible. It is the purpose of this work to profit by some
of these sources; to exhibit a series of adventures, growing out of
the condition of our country, and connected with one of the most
common and most wonderful diseases or affections of the human frame
One merit the writer may at least claim; that of calling forth
the passions and engaging the sympathy of the reader, by means
hitherto unemployed by preceding authors. Peurile superstition and
exploded manners; Gothic castles and chimeras, are the materials
usually employed for this end. The incidents of Indian hostility, and
the perils of the western wilderness, are far more suitable; and, for
a native of America to overlook these, would admit of no apology.
These, therefore, are, in part, the ingredients of this tale, and
these he has been ambitious of depicting in vivid and faithful
colours. The success of his efforts must be estimated by the liberal
and candid reader.
C. B. B.
I sit down, my friend, to comply with thy request. At length does
the impetuosity of my fears, the transports of my wonder permit me to
recollect my promise and perform it. At length am I somewhat
delivered from suspence and from tremors. At length the drama is
brought to an imperfect close, and the series of events, that absorbed
my faculties, that hurried away my attention, has terminated in
Till now, to hold a steadfast pen was impossible; to disengage my
senses from the scene that was passing or approaching; to forbear to
grasp at futurity; to suffer so much thought to wander from the
purpose which engrossed my fears and my hopes, could not be.
Yet am I sure that even now my perturbations are sufficiently
stilled for an employment like this? That the incidents I am going to
relate can be recalled and arranged without indistinctness and
confusion? That emotions will not be re-awakened by my narrative,
incompatible with order and coherence? Yet when I shall be better
qualified for this task I know not. Time may take away these headlong
energies, and give me back my ancient sobriety: but this change will
only be effected by weakening my remembrance of these events. In
proportion as I gain power over words, shall I lose dominion over
sentiments In proportion as my tale is deliberate and slow, the
incidents and motives which it is designed to exhibit will be
imperfectly revived and obscurely pourtrayed.
O! why art thou away at a time like this. Wert thou present, the
office to which my pen is so inadequate would easily be executed by
my tongue. Accents can scarcely be too rapid, or that which words
should fail to convey, my looks and gestures would suffice to
communicate. But I know thy coming is impossible. To leave this spot
is equally beyond my power. To keep thee in ignorance of what has
happened would justly offend thee. There is no method of informing
thee except by letter, and this method, must I, therefore, adopt.
How short is the period that has elapsed since thou and I parted,
and yet how full of tumult and dismay has been my soul during that
period! What light has burst upon my ignorance of myself and of
mankind! How sudden and enormous the transition from uncertainty to
But let me recall my thoughts: let me struggle for so much
composure as will permit my pen to trace intelligible characters. Let
me place in order the incidents that are to compose my tale. I need
not call on thee to listen. The fate of Waldegrave was as fertile of
torment to thee as to me. His bloody and mysterious catastrophe
equally awakened thy grief, thy revenge, and thy curiosity. Thou wilt
catch from my story every horror and every sympathy which it paints.
Thou wilt shudder with my forboding and dissolve with my tears. As
the sister of my friend, and as one who honours me with her affection,
thou wilt share in all my tasks and all my dangers.
You need not be reminded with what reluctance I left you. To reach
this place by evening was impossible, unless I had set out early in
the morning, but your society was too precious not to be enjoyed to
the last moment. It was indispensable to be here on Tuesday, but my
duty required no more than that I should arrive by sun-rise on that
day. To travel during the night, was productive of no formidable
inconvenience. The air was likely to be frosty and sharp, but these
would not incommode one who walked with speed. A nocturnal journey in
districts so romantic and wild as these, through which lay my road,
was more congenial to my temper than a noon-day ramble.
By night-fall I was within ten miles of my uncle's house. As the
darkness increased, and I advanced on my way, my sensations sunk into
melancholy. The scene and the time reminded me of the friend whom I
had lost. I recalled his features, and accents, and gestures, and
mused with unutterable feelings on the circumstances of his death.
My recollections once more plunged me into anguish and perplexity.
Once more I asked, who was his assassin? By what motives could he be
impelled to a deed like this? Waldegrave was pure from all offence.
His piety was rapturous. His benevolence was a stranger to remisness
or torpor. All who came within the sphere of his influence
experienced and acknowledged his benign activity. His friends were
few, because his habits were timid and reserved, but the existence of
an enemy was impossible.
I recalled the incidents of our last interview, my importunities
that he should postpone his ill-omened journey till the morning, his
inexplicable obstinacy; his resolution to set out on foot, during a
dark and tempestuous night, and the horrible disaster that befel him.
The first intimation I received of this misfortune, the insanity of
vengeance and grief into which I was hurried, my fruitless searches
for the author of this guilt, my midnight wanderings and reveries
beneath the shade of that fatal Elm, were revived and re-acted. I
heard the discharge of the pistol, I witnessed the alarm of
Inglefield, I heard his calls to his servants, and saw them issue
forth, with lights and hasten to the spot whence the sound had seemed
to proceed. I beheld my friend, stretched upon the earth, ghastly
with a mortal wound, alone, with no traces of the slayer visible, no
tokens by which his place of refuge might be sought, the motives of
his enmity or his instruments of mischief might be detected.
I hung over the dying youth, whose insensibility forbade him to
recognize his friend, or unfold the cause of his destruction. I
accompanied his remains to the grave, I tended the sacred spot where
he lay, I once more exercised my penetration and my zeal in pursuit
of his assassin. Once more my meditations and exertions were doomed
to be disappointed.
I need not remind thee of what is past. Time and reason seemed to
have dissolved the spell which made me deaf to the dictates of duty
and discretion. Remembrances had ceased to agonize, to urge me to
headlong acts, and foster sanguinary purposes. The gloom was half
dispersed and a radiance had succeeded sweeter than my former joys.
Now, by some unseen concurrence of reflections, my thoughts
reverted into some degree of bitterness. Methought that to ascertain
the hand who killed my friend, was not impossible, and to punish the
crime was just. That to forbear inquiry or withold punishment was to
violate my duty to my God and to mankind. The impulse was gradually
awakened that bade me once more to seek the Elm; once more to explore
the ground; to scrutinize its trunk. What could I expect to find? Had
it not been an hundred times examined? Had I not extended my search
to the neighbouring groves and precipices? Had I not pored upon the
brooks, and pryed into the pits and hollows, that were adjacent to
the scene of blood?
Lately I had viewed this conduct with shame and regret; but in the
present state of my mind, it assumed the appearance of conformity
with prudence, and I felt myself irresistably prompted to repeat my
search. Some time had elapsed since my departure from this district.
Time enough for momentous changes to occur. Expedients that formerly
were useless, might now lead instantaneously to the end which I
sought. The tree which had formerly been shunned by the criminal,
might, in the absence of the avenger of blood, be incautiously
approached. Thoughtless or fearless of my return, it was possible
that he might, at this moment, be detected hovering near the scene of
Nothing can be pleaded in extenuation of this relapse into folly.
My return, after an absence of some duration, into the scene of these
transactions and sufferings, the time of night, the glimmering of the
stars, the obscurity in which external objects were wrapped, and
which, consequently, did not draw my attention from the images of
fancy, may, in some degree, account for the revival of those
sentiments and resolutions which immediately succeeded the death of
Waldegrave, and which, during my visit to you, had been suspended.
You know the situation of the Elm, in the midst of a private road,
on the verge of Norwalk, near the habitation of Inglefield, but three
miles from my uncle's house. It was now my intention to visit it. The
road in which I was travelling, led a different way. It was requisite
to leave it, therefore, and make a circuit through meadows and over
steeps. My journey would, by these means, be considerably prolonged,
but on that head I was indifferent, or rather, considering how far
the night had already advanced, it was desirable not to reach home
till the dawn.
I proceeded in this new direction with speed. Time, however, was
allowed for my impetuosities to subside, and for sober thoughts to
take place. Still I persisted in this path. To linger a few moments
in this shade; to ponder on objects connected with events so momentous
to my happiness, promised me a mournful satisfaction. I was familiar
with the way, though trackless and intricate, and I climbed the
steeps, crept through the brambles, leapt the rivulets and fences
with undeviating aim, till at length I reached the craggy and obscure
path, which led to Inglefield's house.
In a short time, I described through the dusk the wide-spread
branches of the Elm. This tree, however faintly seen, cannot be
mistaken for another. The remarkable bulk and shape of its trunk, its
position in the midst of the way, its branches spreading into an ample
circumference, made it conspicuous from afar. My pulse throbbed as I
My eyes were eagerly bent to discover the trunk and the area
beneath the shade. These, as I approached, gradually became visible.
The trunk was not the only thing which appeared in view. Somewhat
else, which made itself distinguishable by its motions, was likewise
noted. I faultered and stopt.
To a casual observer this appearance would have been unnoticed. To
me, it could not but possess a powerful significance. All my surmises
and suspicions, instantly returned. This apparition was human, it was
connected with the fate of Waldegrave, it led to a disclosure of the
author of that fate. What was I to do? To approach unwarily would
alarm the person. Instant flight would set him beyond discovery and
I walked softly to the road-side. The ground was covered with rocky
masses, scattered among shrub-oaks and dwarf-cedars, emblems of its
sterile and uncultivated state. Among these it was possible to elude
observation and yet approach near enough to gain an accurate view of
At this time, the atmosphere was somewhat illuminated by the moon,
which, though it had already set, was yet so near the horizon, as to
benefit me by its light. The shape of a man, tall and robust, was now
distinguished. Repeated and closer scrutiny enabled me to perceive
that he was employed in digging the earth. Something like flannel was
wrapt round his waist and covered his lower limbs. The rest of his
frame was naked. I did not recognize in him any one whom I knew.
A figure, robust and strange, and half naked, to be thus employed,
at this hour and place, was calculated to rouse up my whole soul. His
occupation was mysterious and obscure. Was it a grave that he was
digging? Was his purpose to explore or to hide? Was it proper to
watch him at a distance, unobserved and in silence, or to rush upon
him and extort from him by violence or menaces, an explanation of the
Before my resolution was formed, he ceased to dig. He cast aside
his spade and sat down in the pit that he had dug. He seemed wrapt in
meditation; but the pause was short, and succeeded by sobs, at first
low, and at wide intervals, but presently louder and more vehement.
Sorely charged was indeed that heart whence flowed these tokens of
sorrow. Never did I witness a scene of such mighty anguish, such
What should I think? I was suspended in astonishment. Every
sentiment, at length, yielded to my sympathy Every new accent of the
mourner struck upon my heart with additional force, and tears found
their way spontaneously to my eyes. I left the spot where I stood,
and advanced within the verge of the shade. My caution had forsaken
me, and instead of one whom it was duty to persecute, I beheld, in
this man, nothing but an object of compassion.
My pace was checked by his suddenly ceasing to lament. He snatched
the spade, and rising on his feet began to cover up the pit with the
utmost diligence. He seemed aware of my presence, and desirous of
hiding something from my inspection. I was prompted to advance nearer
and hold his hand, but my uncertainty as to his character and views,
the abruptness with which I had been ushered into this scene, made me
still hesitate; but though I hesitated to advance, there was nothing
to hinder me from calling.
What, ho! said I. Who is there? What are you doing?
He stopt, the spade fell from his hand, he looked up and bent
forward his face towards the spot where I stood. An interview and
explanation were now me-thought unavoidable. I mustered up my courage
to confront and interrogate this being.
He continued for a minute in his gazing and listening attitude.
Where I stood I could not fail of being seen, and yet he acted as if
he saw nothing. Again he betook himself to his spade, and proceeded
with new diligence to fill up the pit. This demeanour confounded and
bewildered me. I had no power but to stand and silently gaze upon his
The pit being filled, he once more sat upon the ground, and
resigned himself to weeping and sighs with more vehemence than
before. In a short time the fit seemed to have passed. He rose,
seized the spade, and advanced to the spot where I stood.
Again I made preparation as for an interview which could not but
take place. He passed me, however, without appearing to notice my
existence. He came so near as almost to brush my arm, yet turned not
his head to either side. My nearer view of him, made his brawny arms
and lofty stature more conspicuous; but his imperfect dress, the
dimness of the light, and the confusion of my own thoughts, hindered
me from discerning his features. He proceeded with a few quick steps,
along the road, but presently darted to one side and disappeared
among the rocks and bushes.
My eye followed him as long as he was visible, but my feet were
rooted to the spot. My musing was rapid and incongruous. It could not
fail to terminate in one conjecture, that this person was asleep
. Such instances were not unknown to me, through the medium of
conversation and books. Never, indeed, had it fallen under my own
observation till now, and now it was conspicuous and environed with
all that could give edge to suspicion, and vigour to inquiry. To
stand here was no longer of use, and I turned my steps toward my
I had food enough for the longest contemplation. My steps partook,
as usual, of the vehemence of my thoughts, and I reached my uncle's
gate before I believed myself to have lost sight of the Elm. I looked
up and discovered the well-known habitation. I could not endure that
my reflections should so speedily be interrupted. I, therefore,
passed the gate, and stopped not till I had reached a neighbouring
summit, crowned with chesnut-oaks and poplars.
Here I more deliberately reviewed the incidents that had just
occurred. The inference was just, that the man, half-clothed and
digging, was a sleeper: But what was the cause of this morbid
activity? What was the mournful vision that dissolved him in tears,
and extorted from him tokens of inconsolable distress? What did he
seek, or what endeavour to conceal in this fatal spot? The incapacity
of sound sleep denotes a mind sorely wounded. It is thus that
atrocious criminals denote the possession of some dreadful secret.
The thoughts, which considerations of safety enables them to suppress
or disguise during wakefulness, operate without impediment, and
exhibit their genuine effects, when the notices of sense are partly
excluded, and they are shut out from a knowledge of their intire
This is the perpetrator of some nefareous deed. What but the murder
of Waldegrave could direct his steps hither? His employment was part
of some fantastic drama in which his mind was busy. To comprehend it,
demands penetration into the recesses of his soul. But one thing is
sure; an incoherent conception of his concern in that transaction,
bewitches him hither. This it is that deluges his heart with
bitterness and supplies him with ever-flowing tears.
But whence comes he? He does not start from the bosom of the earth,
or hide himself in airy distance. He must have a name and a
terrestrial habitation. It cannot be at an immeasurable distance from
the haunted Elm. Inglefield's house is the nearest. This may be one
of its inhabitants. I did not recognize his features, but this was
owing to the dusky atmosphere and to the singularity of his garb.
Inglefield has two servants, one of whom was a native of this
district, simple, guileless and incapable of any act of violence. He
was, moreover devoutly attached to his sect. He could not be the
The other was a person of a very different cast. He was an emigrant
from Ireland, and had been six months in the family of my friend. He
was a pattern of sobriety and gentleness. His mind was superior to
his situation. His natural endowments were strong, and had enjoyed
all the advantage of cultivation. His demeanour was grave, and
thoughtful, and compassionate. He appeared not untinctured with
religion, but his devotion, though unostentatious, was of a
There was nothing in the first view of his character calculated to
engender suspicion. The neighbourhood was populous. But as I conned
over the catalogue, I perceived that the only foreigner among us was
Clithero. Our scheme was, for the most part, a patriarchal one. Each
farmer was surrounded by his sons and kinsmen. This was an exception
to the rule. Clithero was a stranger, whose adventures and character,
previously to his coming hither, were unknown to us. The Elm was
surrounded by his master's domains. An actor there must be, and no
one was equally questionable.
The more I revolved the pensive and reserved deportment of this
man, the ignorance in which we were placed respecting his former
situation, his possible motives for abandoning his country and
chusing a station so much below the standard of his intellectual
attainments, the stronger my suspicions became. Formerly, when
occupied with conjectures relative to the same topic, the image of
this man did not fail to occur; but the seeming harmlessness of his
ordinary conduct, had raised him to a level with others, and placed
him equally beyond the reach of suspicion. I did not, till now,
advert to the recentness of his appearance among us, and to the
obscurity that hung over his origin and past life. But now these
considerations appeared so highly momentous, as almost to decide the
question of his guilt.
But how were these doubts to be changed into absolute certainty.
Henceforth this man was to become the subject of my scrutiny. I was
to gain all the knowledge, respecting him, which those with whom he
lived, and were the perpetual witnesses of his actions, could impart.
For this end I was to make minute inquiries, and to put seasonable
interrogatories. From this conduct I promised myself an ultimate
solution of my doubts.
I acquiesced in this view of things with considerable satisfaction.
It seemed as if the maze was no longer inscrutable. It would be
quickly discovered who were the agents and instigators of the murder
of my friend.
But it suddenly occurred to me For what purpose shall I prosecute
this search? What benefit am I to reap from this discovery? How shall
I demean myself when the criminal is detected? I was not insensible,
at that moment, of the impulses of vengeance, but they were
transient. I detested the sanguinary resolutions that I had once
formed. Yet I was fearful of the effects of my hasty rage, and
dreaded an encounter, in consequence of which, I might rush into
evils which no time could repair, nor penitence expiate.
But why, said I, should it be impossible to arm myself with
firmness? If forbearance be the dictate of wisdom, cannot it be so
deeply engraven on my mind as to defy all temptation, and be proof
against the most abrupt surprise. My late experience has been of use
to me. It has shewn me my weakness and my strength. Having found my
ancient fortifications insufficient to withstand the enemy, what
should I learn from thence but that it becomes me to strengthen and
No caution indeed can hinder the experiment from being hazardous.
Is it wise to undertake experiments by which nothing can be gained,
and much may be lost? Curiosity is vicious, if undisciplined by
reason, and inconducive to benefit.
I was not, however, to be diverted from my purpose. Curiosity, like
virtue, is its own reward. Knowledge is of value for its own sake,
and pleasure is annexed to the acquisition, without regard to any
thing beyond. It is precious even when disconnected with moral
inducements and heart-felt sympathies, but the knowledge which I
sought by its union with these was calculated to excite the most
complex and fiery sentiment in my bosom.
Hours were employed in revolving these thoughts. At length I began
to be sensible of fatigue, and returning home, explored the way to my
chamber without molesting the repose of the family. You know that our
doors are always unfastened, and are accessible at all hours of the
My slumbers were imperfect, and I rejoiced when the morning light
permitted me to resume my meditations. The day glided away, I
scarcely know how, and as I had rejoiced at the return of morning, I
now hailed, with pleasure, the approach of night.
My uncle and sisters having retired, I betook myself, instead of
following their example, to the Chesnut-hill. Concealed among
its rocks, or gazing at the prospect, which stretched so far and so
wide around it, my fancy has always been accustomed to derive its
highest enjoyment from this spot. I found myself again at leisure to
recall the scene which I had witnessed during the last night, to
imagine its connection with the fate of Waldegrave, and to plan the
means of discovering the secret that was hidden under these
Shortly, I began to feel insupportable disquiet at the thoughts of
postponing this discovery. Wiles and stratagems were practicable, but
they were tedious and of dubious success. Why should I proceed like a
plotter? Do I intend the injury of this person? A generous purpose
will surely excuse me from descending to artifices? There are two
modes of drawing forth the secrets of another, by open and direct
means and by circuitous and indirect. Why scruple to adopt the former
mode? Why not demand a conference, and state my doubts, and demand a
solution of them, in a manner worthy of a beneficent purpose? Why not
hasten to the spot? He may be, at this moment, mysteriously occupied
under this shade. I may note his behaviour; I may ascertain his
person, if not by the features that belong to him, yet by tracing his
footsteps when he departs, and pursuing him to his retreats.
I embraced the scheme, which was thus suggested, with eagerness. I
threw myself, with headlong speed, down the hill and pursued my way
to the Elm. As I approached the tree, my palpitations increased,
though my pace slackened. I looked forward with an anxious glance.
The trunk of the tree was hidden in the deepest shade. I advanced
close up to it. No one was visible, but I was not discouraged. The
hour of his coming was, perhaps, not arrived. I took my station at a
small distance, beside a fence, on the right hand.
An hour elapsed before my eyes lighted on the object of which they
were in search. My previous observation had been roving from one
quarter to another. At last, it dwelt upon the tree. The person whom
I before described was seated on the ground. I had not perceived him
before, and the means by which he placed himself in this situation
had escaped my notice. He seemed like one, whom an effort of will,
without the exercise of locomotion, had transported hither, or made
visible. His state of disarray, and the darkness that shrouded him,
prevented me, as before, from distinguishing any peculiarities in his
figure or countenance.
I continued watchful and mute. The appearances already described
took place, on this occasion, except the circumstance of digging in
the earth. He sat musing for a while, then burst into sighs and
These being exhausted, he rose to depart. He stalked away with a
solemn and deliberate pace. I resolved to tread, as closely as
possible, in his footsteps, and not to lose sight of him till the
termination of his career.
Contrary to my expectation, he went in a direction opposite to that
which led to Inglefield's. Presently, he stopped at bars, which he
cautiously removed, and, when he had passed through them, as
deliberately replaced. He then proceeded along an obscure path, which
led across stubble fields, to a wood. The path continued through the
wood, but he quickly struck out of it, and made his way, seemingly at
random, through a most perplexing undergrowth of bushes and briars.
I was, at first, fearful that the noise, which I made behind him,
in trampling down the thicket, would alarm him; but he regarded it
not. The way that he had selected, was always difficult; sometimes
considerable force was requisite to beat down obstacles; sometimes,
it led into a deep glen, the sides of which were so steep as scarcely
to afford a footing; sometimes, into fens, from which some exertions
were necessary to extricate the feet, and sometimes, through
rivulets, of which the water rose to the middle.
For some time I felt no abatement of my speed or my resolution. I
thought I might proceed, without fear, through breaks and dells,
which my guide was able to penetrate. He was perpetually changing his
direction. I could form no just opinion as to my situation or distance
from the place at which we had set out.
I began at length to be weary. A suspicion, likewise, suggested
itself to my mind, whether my guide did not perceive that he was
followed, and thus prolonged his journey in order to fatigue or elude
his pursuer. I was determined, however, to baffle his design. Though
the air was frosty, my limbs were bedewed with sweat and my joints
were relaxed with toil, but I was obstinately bent upon proceeding.
At length a new idea occurred to me. On finding me indefatigable in
pursuit, this person might resort to more atrocious methods of
concealment. But what had I to fear? It was sufficient to be upon my
guard. Man to man, I needed not to dread his encounter.
We, at last, arrived at the verge of a considerable precipice. He
kept along the edge. From this height, a dreary vale was
discoverable, embarrassed with the leafless stocks of bushes, and
encumbered with rugged and pointed rocks. This scene reminded me of
my situation. The desert tract called Nor-walk, which I have often
mentioned to you, my curiosity had formerly induced me to traverse in
various directions. It was in the highest degree, rugged, picturesque
and wild. This vale, though I had never before viewed it by the
glimpses of the moon, suggested the belief that I had visited it
before. Such an one I knew belonged to this uncultivated region. If
this opinion were true, we were at no inconsiderable distance from
Inglefield's habitation. Where, said I, is this singular career to
Though occupied with these reflections, I did not slacken my
pursuit. The stranger kept along the verge of the cliff, which
gradually declined till it terminated in the valley. He then plunged
into its deepest thickets. In a quarter of an hour he stopped under a
projecture of the rock which formed the opposite side of the vale. He
then proceeded to remove the stalks, which, as I immediately
perceived, concealed the mouth of a cavern. He plunged into the
darkness, and in a few moments, his steps were heard no more!
Hitherto my courage had supported me, but here it failed. Was this
person an assassin, who was acquainted with the windings of the
grotto, and who would take advantage of the dark, to execute his
vengeance upon me, who had dared to pursue him to these forlorn
retreats; or was he maniac, or walker in his sleep? Whichever
supposition were true, it would be rash in me to follow him. Besides,
he could not long remain in these darksome recesses, unless some
fatal accident should overtake him.
I seated myself at the mouth of the cave, determined patinetly to
wait till he should think proper to emerge. This opportunity of rest
was exceedingly acceptable after so toilsome a pilgrimage. My pulse
began to beat more slowly, and the moisture that incommoded me ceased
to flow. The coolness which, for a little time, was delicious,
presently increased to shivering, and I found it necessary to change
my posture, in order to preserve my blood from congealing.
After I had formed a path before the cavern's mouth, by the removal
of obstructions, I employed myself in walking to and fro. In this
situation I saw the moon gradually decline to the horizon, and, at
length, disappear. I marked the deepenings of the shade, and the
mutations which every object successively underwent. The vale was
narrow, and hemmed in on all sides by lofty and precipitous cliffs.
The gloom deepened as the moon declined, and the faintness of
star-light was all that preserved my senses from being useless to my
I drew nearer the cleft at which this mysterious personage had
entered. I stretched my hands before it, determined that he should
not emerge from his den without my notice. His steps would,
necessarily, communicate the tidings of his approach. They could not
move without a noise which would be echoed to, on all sides, by the
abruptnesses by which this valley was surrounded. Here, then, I
continued till the day began to dawn, in momentary expectation of the
My attention was at length excited by a sound that seemed to issue
from the cave. I imagined that the sleeper was returning, and
prepared therefore to seize him. I blamed myself for neglecting the
opportunities that had already been afforded, and was determined that
another should not escape. My eyes were fixed upon the entrance. The
rustling increased, and presently an animal leapt forth, of what kind
I was unable to discover. Heart-struck by this disappointment, but
not discouraged, I continued to watch, but in vain. The day was
advancing apace. At length the sun arose, and its beams glistened on
the edges of the cliffs above, whose sapless stalks and rugged masses
were covered with hoar-frost. I began to despair of success, but was
unwilling to depart, until it was no longer possible to hope for the
return of this extraordinary personage. Whether he had been swallowed
up by some of the abysses of this grotto, or lurked near the
entrance, waiting my departure, or had made his exit at another and
distant aperture, was unknown to me.
Exhausted and discouraged, I prepared, at length, to return. It was
easy to find my way out of this wilderness by going forward in one
direction, regardless of impediments and cross-paths. My absence I
believed to have occasioned no alarm to my family, since they knew not
of my intention to spend the night abroad. Thus unsatisfactorily
terminated this night's adventures.
The ensuing day was spent, partly in sleep, and partly in languor
and disquietude. I incessantly ruminated on the incidents of the last
night. The scheme that I had formed was defeated. Was it likely that
this unknown person would repeat his midnight visits to the Elm? If
he did, and could again be discovered, should I resolve to undertake a
new pursuit, which might terminate abortively, or in some signal
disaster? But what proof had I that the same rout would be taken, and
that he would again inter himself alive in the same spot? Or, if he
did, since his reappearance would sufficiently prove that the cavern
was not dangerous, and that he who should adventure in, might hope to
come out again in safety, why not enter it after him? What could be
the inducements of this person to betake himself to subterranean
retreats? The basis of all this region is limestone; a
substance that eminently abounds in rifts and cavities. These, by the
gradual decay of their cementing parts, frequently make their
appearance in spots where they might have been least expected. My
attention has often been excited by the hollow sound which was
produced by my casual footsteps, and which shewed me that I trod upon
the roof of caverns. A mountain-cave and the rumbling of an unseen
torrent, are appendages of this scene, dear to my youthful
imagination. Many of romantic structure were found within the
precincts of Nor-walk.
These I had industriously sought out; but this had hitherto escaped
my observation, and I formed the resolution of sometime exploring it.
At present I determined to revisit the Elm, and dig in the spot where
this person had been employed in a similar way. It might be that
something was here deposited which might exhibit this transaction in a
new light. At the suitable hour, on the ensuing night, I took my
former stand. The person again appeared. My intention to dig was to
be carried into effect on condition of his absence, and was,
Instead of rushing on him, and breaking at once the spell by which
his senses were bound, I concluded, contrary to my first design, to
wait his departure, and allow myself to be conducted whithersoever he
pleased. The track into which he now led me was different from the
former one. It was a maze, oblique, circuitous, upward and downward,
in a degree which only could take place in a region so remarkably
irregular in surface, so abounding with hillocks and steeps, and pits
and brooks as Salsbury. It seemed to be the sole end of his
labours to bewilder or fatigue his pursuer, to pierce into the
deepest thickets, to plunge into the darkest cavities, to ascend the
most difficult heights, and approach the slippery and tremulous verge
of the dizziest precipices.
I disdained to be outstripped in this career. All dangers were
overlooked, and all difficulties defied. I plunged into obscurities,
and clambered over obstacles, from which, in a different state of
mind, and with a different object of pursuit, I should have recoiled
with invincible timidity. When the scene had passed, I could not
review the perils I had undergone without shuddering.
At length my conductor struck into a path which, compared with the
ruggedness of that which we had lately trodden, was easy and smooth.
This track led us to the skirt of the wilderness, and at no long time
we reached an open field, when a dwelling appeared, at a small
distance, which I speedily recognized to be that belonging to
Inglefield. I now anticipated the fulfilment of my predictions. My
conductor directed his steps towards the barn, into which he entered
by a small door.
How were my doubts removed! This was no other than Clithero Edny.
There was nothing in his appearance incompatible with this
conclusion. He and his fellow servant occupied an apartment in the
barn as a lodging room. This arduous purpose was accomplished, and I
retired to the shelter of a neighbouring shed, not so much to repose
myself after the fatigues of my extraordinary journey, as to devise
Nothing now remained but to take Clithero to task; to repeat to him
the observations of the two last nights; to unfold to him my
conjectures and suspicions; to convince him of the rectitude of my
intentions, and to extort from him a disclosure of all the
circumstances connected with the death of Waldegrave, which it was in
his power to communicate.
In order to obtain a conference, I resolved to invite him to my
uncle's to perform a certain piece of work for me under my own eyes.
He would, of course, spend the night with us, and in the evening I
would make an opportunity of entering into conversation with him.
A period of the deepest deliberation was necessary to qualify
myself for performing suitably my part in this projected interview. I
attended to the feelings that were suggested in this new state of my
knowledge. I found reason to confide in my newly acquired equanimity.
Remorse, said I, is an ample and proper expiation for all offences.
What does vengeance desire but to inflict misery? If misery come, its
desires are accomplished. It is only the obdurate and exulting
criminal that is worthy of our indignation. It is common for pity to
succeed the bitterest suggestions of resentment. If the vengeful mind
be delighted with the spectacle of woes of its own contriving, at
least its canine hunger is appeased, and thenceforth, its hands are
On the evening of the next day, I paid a visit to Inglefield. I
wished to impart to him the discoveries that I had made, and to
listen to his reflections on the subject. I likewise desired to obtain
all possible information from the family respecting the conduct of
My friend received me with his usual kindness. Thou art no stranger
to his character; thou knowest with what paternal affection I have
ever been regarded by this old man; with what solicitude the
wanderings of my reason and my freaks of passion, have been noted and
corrected by him. Thou knowest his activity to save the life of thy
brother, and the hours that have been spent by him, in aiding my
conjectures as to the cause of his death, and inculcating the lessons
of penitence and duty.
The topics which could not but occur at such a meeting, were
quickly discussed, and I hastily proceeded to that subject which was
nearest my heart. I related the adventures of the two preceding
nights, and mentioned the inference to which they irresistably led.
He said that this inference coincided with suspicions he had
formed, since our last interview, in consequence of certain
communications from his house-keeper. It seems the character of
Clithero, had, from the first, exercised the inquisitiveness of this
old lady. She had carefully marked his musing and melancholy
deportment. She had tried innumerable expedients for obtaining a
knowledge of his past life, and particularly of his motives for
coming to America. These expedients, however profound and addressful,
had failed. He took no pains to elude them. He contented himself with
turning a deaf ear to all indirect allusions and hints, and, when
more explicitly questioned, with simply declaring that he had nothing
to communicate worthy of her notice.
During the day he was a sober and diligent workman. His evenings he
spent in incommunicative silence. On sundays, he always rambled away,
no one knew whither, and without a companion. I have already observed
that he and his fellow servant occupied the same apartment in the
barn. This circumstance was not unattended to by Miss Inglefield. The
name of Clithero's companion was Ambrose. This man was copiously
interrogated by his mistress, and she found him by no means so
refractory as the other.
Ambrose, in his tedious and confused way, related that soon after
Clithero and he had become bed-fellows, the former was considerably
disturbed by restlessness and talking in his sleep. His discourse was
incoherent. It was generally in the tone of expostulation, and
appeared to be intreating to be saved from some great injury. Such
phrases as these "have pity; "have mercy," were frequently
intermingled with groans, and accompanied with weeping. Sometimes he
seemed to be holding conferences with some one, who was making him
considerable offers on condition of his performing some dangerous
service. What he said, in his own person, and in answer to his
imaginary tempter, testified the utmost reluctance.
Ambrose had no curiosity on the subject. As this interruption
prevented him at first from sleeping, it was his custom to put an end
to the dialogue, by awakening his companion, who betrayed tokens of
great alarm and dejection, on discovering how he had been employed,
he would solicitously inquire what were the words that he had
uttered; but Ambrose's report was seldom satisfactory, because he had
attended to them but little, and because he begrudged every moment in
which he was deprived of his accustomed repose.
Whether Clithero had ceased from this practice, or habit had
reconciled his companion to the sounds, they no longer occasioned any
interruption to his slumber.
No one appeared more shocked than he at the death of Waldegrave,
after this event his dejection suddenly increased. This symptom was
observed by the family, but none but the house-keeper took the
trouble to notice it to him, or build conjectures on the incident.
During nights, however, Ambrose experienced a renewal of his ancient
disturbances. He remarked that Clithero, one night, had disappeared
from his side. Ambrose's range of reflection was extremely narrow.
Quickly falling asleep, and finding his companion beside him when he
awoke, he dismissed it from his mind.
On several ensuing nights he awakened in like manner, and always
found his companion's place empty. The repetition of so strange an
incident at length incited him to mention it to Clithero. The latter
was confounded at this intelligence. He questioned Ambrose with great
anxiety as to the particulars of this event, but he could gain no
satisfaction from the stupid inattention of the other. From this time
there was a visible augmentation of his sadness. His fits of
taciturnity became more obstinate, and a deeper gloom sat upon his
There was one other circumstance, of particular importance,
mentioned by the house-keeper. One evening some one on horseback,
stopped at this gate. He rattled at the gate, with an air of
authority, in token of his desire that some one would come from the
house. Miss Inglefield was employed in the kitchen, from a window of
which she perceived who it was that made the signal. Clithero
happened, at the same moment, to be employed near her. She,
therefore, desired him to go and see whom the stranger wanted. He
laid aside his work and went. The conference lasted above five
minutes. The length of it excited in her a faint degree of surprise,
inducing her to leave her employment, and pay an unintermitted
attention to the scene. There was nothing, however, but its duration
that rendered it remarkable.
Clithero at length entered, and the traveller proceeded. The
countenance of the former betrayed a degree of perturbation which she
had never witnessed before. The muscles of his face was distorted and
tremulous. He immediately sat down to his work, but he seemed, for
some time, to have lost all power over his limbs. He struggled to
avoid the sight of the lady, and his gestures, irresolute, or
misdirected, betokened the deepest dismay. After some time, he
recovered, in some degree, his self-possession; but, while the object
was viewed through a new medium, and the change existed only in the
imagination of the observer, a change was certainly discovered.
These circumstances were related to me by Inglefield and
corroborated by his house-keeper. One consequence inevitably flowed
from them. The sleepwalker, he who had led me through so devious a
tract, was no other than Clithero. There was, likewise, a strong
relation between this person and him who stopped at the gate. What
was the subject of discourse between them? In answer to Miss
Inglefield's interrogatories, he merely said that the traveller
inquired whither the road led, which at a small distance forward,
struck out of the principal one. Considering the length of the
interview it was not likely that this was the only topic.
My determination to confer with him in private acquired new force
from these reflections. Inglefield assented to my proposal. His own
affairs would permit the absence of his servant for one day. I saw no
necessity for delay, and immediately made my request to Clithero. I
was fashioning an implement, I told him, with respect to which I
could not wholly depend upon my own skill. I was acquainted with the
dexterity of his contrivances, and the neatness of his workmanship.
He readily consented to assist me on this occasion. Next day he came.
Contrary to my expectation, he prepared to return home in the
evening. I urged him to spend the night with us; but no: It was
equally convenient, and more agreeable to him, to return.
I was not aware of this resolution. I might, indeed, have foreseen,
that, being conscious of his infirmity, he would desire to avoid the
scrutiny of strangers. I was painfully disconcerted, but it occurred
to me, that the best that could be done, was to bear him company, and
seize some opportunity, during this interval, of effecting my purpose.
I told him, that since he would not remain, I cared not if, for the
sake of recreation, and of a much more momentous purpose, I went
along with him. He tacitly, and without apparent reluctance, consented
to my scheme, and accordingly, we set off together. This was an awful
crisis. The time had now come, that was to dissipate my uncertainty.
By what means should I introduce a topic so momentous and singular? I
had been qualified by no experience for rightly conducting myself on
so critical an emergency. My companion preserved a mournful and
inviolable silence. He afforded me no opening, by which I might reach
the point in view. His demeanour was sedate, while I was almost
disabled, by the confusion of my thoughts, to utter a word.
It was a dreadful charge that I was about to insinuate. I was to
accuse my companion of nothing less than murder. I was to call upon
him for an avowal of his guilt. I was to state the grounds of my
suspicions, and desire him to confute, or confirm them. In doing this,
I was principally stimulated by an ungovernable curiosity; yet, if I
intended not the conferring of a benefit, I did not, at least,
purpose the infliction of evil. I persuaded myself, that I was able
to exclude from my bosom, all sanguinary or vengeful impulses; and
that, whatever should be the issue of this conversation, my
equanimity would be unsubdued.
I revolved various modes of introducing the topic, by which my mind
was engaged. I passed rapidly from one to another. None of them were
sufficiently free from objection, to allow me to adopt it. My
perplexity became, every moment, more painful, and my ability to
extricate myself, less.
In this state of uncertainty, so much time elapsed, that the Elm at
length appeared in sight. This object had somewhat of a mechanical
influence upon me. I stopped short, and seized the arm of my
companion. Till this moment, he appeared to have been engrossed by his
own reflections, and not to have heeded those emotions, which must
have been sufficiently conspicuous in my looks.
This action recalled him from his reverie. The first idea that
occurred to him, when he had noticed my behaviour, was, that I was
assailed by some sudden indisposition.
What is the matter, said he, in a tone of anxiety: Are you not well?
Yes, replied I, perfectly well; but stop a moment; I have something
to say to you.
To me? Answered he, with surprise.
Yes, said I, let us turn down this path, pointing at the same time,
to that along which I had followed him the preceding night.
He now partook, in some degree, of my embarrassment.
Is there any thing particular? said he, in a doubting accent. There
Something, I answered, of the highest moment. Go with me down this
path. We shall be in less danger of interruption.
He was irresolute and silent, but seeing me remove the bars and
pass through them, he followed me. Nothing more was said till we
entered the wood. I trusted to the suggestions of the moment. I had
now gone too far to recede, and the necessity that pressed upon me,
supplied me with words. I continued.
This is a remarkable spot. You may wonder why I have led you to it.
I ought not to keep you in suspence. There is a tale connected with
it, which I am desirous of telling you. For this purpose I have
brought you hither. Listen to me.
I then recapitulated the adventures of the two preceding nights. I
added nothing, nor retrenched any thing. He listened in the deepest
silence. From every incident, he gathered new cause of alarm.
Repeatedly he wiped his face with his handkerchief, and sighed
deeply. I took no verbal notice of these symptoms. I deemed it
incumbent on me to repress nothing. When I came to the concluding
circumstance, by which his person was identified, he heard me,
without any new surprise. To this narrative, I subjoined the
inquiries that I had made at Inglefield's, and the result of those
inquiries. I then continued in these words.
You may ask why I subjected myself to all this trouble? The
mysteriousness of these transactions would have naturally suggested
curiosity in any one. A transient passenger would probably have acted
as I have done. But I had motives peculiar to my self. Need I remind
you of a late disaster? That it happened beneath the shade of this
tree? Am I not justified in drawing certain inferences from your
behaviour? What they are, I leave you to judge. Be it your task, to
confute, or confirm them. For this end I have conducted you hither.
My suspicions are vehement. How can they be otherwise? I call upon
you to say whether they be just.
The spot where we stood was illuminated by the moon, that had now
risen, though all around was dark. Hence his features and person were
easily distinguished. His hands hung at his side. His eyes were
downcast, and he was motionless as a statue. My last words seemed
scarcely to have made any impression on his sense. I had no need to
provide against the possible suggestions of revenge. I felt nothing
but the tenderness of compassion. I continued, for some time, to
observe him in silence, and could discover no tokens of a change of
mood. I could not forbear, at last, to express my uneasiness at the
fixedness of his features and attitude.
Recollect yourself. I mean not to urge you too closely. This topic
is solemn, but it need not divest you of the fortitude becoming a man.
The sound of my voice startled him. He broke from me, looked up,
and fixed his eyes upon me with an expression of affright. He
shuddered and recoiled as from a spectre. I began to repent of my
experiment. I could say nothing suitable to this occasion. I was
obliged to stand a silent and powerless spectator, and to suffer this
paroxysm to subside of itself. When its violence appeared to be
somewhat abated, I resumed.
I can feel for you. I act not thus, in compliance with a temper
that delights in the misery of others. The explanation that I have
solicited is no less necessary for your sake than for mine. You are no
stranger to the light in which I viewed this man. You have witnessed
the grief which his fate occasioned, and the efforts that I made to
discover, and drag to punishment his murderer. You heard the
execrations that I heaped upon him, and my vows of eternal revenge.
You expect that, having detected the offender, I will hunt him to
infamy and death. You are mistaken. I consider the deed as
I am no stranger to your gnawing cares. To the deep and incurable
despair that haunts you, to which your waking thoughts are a prey,
and from which sleep cannot secure you. I know the enormity of your
crime, but I know not your inducements. Whatever they were, I see the
consequences with regard to yourself. I see proofs of that remorse
which must ever be attendant on guilt.
This is enough. Why should the effects of our misdeeds be
inexhaustible? Why should we be debarred from a comforter? An
opportunity of repairing our errors may, at least, be demanded from
the rulers of our destiny.
I once imagined, that he who killed Waldegrave inflicted the
greatest possible injury on me. That was an error, which reflection
has cured. Were futurity laid open to my view, and events, with their
consequences unfolded; I might see reason to embrace the assassin as
my best friend. Be comforted.
He was still incapable of speaking; but tears came to his relief.
Without attending to my remonstrances, he betrayed a disposition to
return. I had, hitherto, hoped for some disclosure, but now feared
that it was designed to be withheld. He stopped not till we reached
Inglefield's piazza. He then spoke, for the first time, but in an
hollow and tremulous voice.
You demand of me a confession of crimes. You shall have it. Some
time you shall have it. When it will be, I cannot tell. Something
must be done, and shortly.
He hurried from me into the house, and after a pause, I turned my
steps homewards. My reflections, as I proceeded, perpetually revolved
round a single point. These were scarcely more than a repetitition,
with slight variations, of a single idea.
When I awoke in the morning, I hied, in fancy, to the wilderness. I
saw nothing but the figure of the wanderer before me. I traced his
footsteps anew, retold my narrative, and pondered on his gestures and
words. My condition was not destitute of enjoyment. My stormy
passions had subsided into a calm, portentous and awful. My soul was
big with expectation. I seemed as if I were on the eve of being
ushered into a world, whose scenes were tremendous, but sublime. The
suggestions of sorrow and malice had, for a time, taken their flight,
and yielded place to a generous sympathy, which filled my eyes with
tears, but had more in it of pleasure than of pain. That Clithero was
instrumental to the death of Waldegrave, that he could furnish the
clue, explanatory of every bloody and mysterious event, that had
hitherto occurred, there was no longer the possibility of doubting.
He, indeed, said I, is the murderer of excellence, and yet it shall
be my province to emulate a father's clemency, and restore this
unhappy man to purity, and to peace.
Day after day passed, without hearing any thing of Clithero. I
began to grow uneasy and impatient. I had gained so much, and by
means so unexpected, that I could more easily endure uncertainly,
with respect to what remained to be known. But my patience had its
limits. I should, doubtless, have made use of new means to accelerate
this discovery, had not his timely appearance made them superfluous.
Sunday being at length arrived, I resolved to go to Inglefield's,
seek an interview with his servant, and urge him, by new
importunities, to confide to me the secret. On my way thither,
Clithero appeared in sight. His visage was pale and wan, and his form
emaciated and shrunk. I was astonished at the alteration, which the
lapse of a week had made in his appearance. At a small distance I
mistook him for a stranger. As soon as I perceived who it was, I
greeted him with the utmost friendliness. My civilities made little
impression on him, and he hastened to inform me, that he was coming to
my uncle's, for the purpose of meeting and talking with me. If I
thought proper, we would go into the wood together: and find some
spot, where we might discourse at our leisure, and be exempt from
You will easily conceive with what alacrity I accepted his
invitation. We turned from the road into the first path, and
proceeded in silence, till the wildness of the surrounding scenery
informed us, that we were in the heart of Nor-walk. We lighted on a
recess, to which my companion appeared to be familiar, and which had
all the advantages of solitude, and was suitable to rest. Here we
stopped. Hitherto my companion had displayed a certain degree of
composure. Now his countenance betokened a violent internal struggle.
It was a considerable time before he could command his speech. When
he had so far effected the conquest of his feelings, he began.
You call upon me for a confession of my offences. What a strange
fortune is mine! That an human being, in the present circumstances,
should make this demand, and that I should be driven, by an
irresistable necessity to comply with it! That here should terminate
my calamitous series! That my destiny should call upon me to lie down
and die, in a region so remote from the scene of my crimes; at a
distance, so great, from all that witnessed and endured their
You believe me to be an assassin. You require me to explain the
motives that induced me to murder the innocent. While this is your
belief, and this the scope of your expectations, you may be sure of
my compliance. I could resist every demand but this.
For what purpose have I come hither? Is it to relate my story?
Shall I calmly sit here, and rehearse the incidents of my life? Will
my strength be adequate to this rehearsal? Let me recollect the
motives that governed me, when I formed this design. Perhaps, a
strenuousness may be imparted by them, which, otherwise, I cannot
hope to obtain. For the sake of those, I consent to conjure up the
ghost of the past, and to begin a tale that, with a fortitude like
mine, I am not sure that I shall live to finish.
You are unacquainted with the man before you. The inferences which
you have drawn, with regard to my designs, and my conduct, are a
tissue of destructive errors. You, like others, are blind to the most
momentous consequences of your own actions. You talk of imparting
consolation. You boast the benificence of your intentions. You set
yourself to do me a benefit. What are the effects of your misguided
zeal, and random efforts? They have brought my life to a miserable
close. They have shrouded the last scene of it in blood. They have
put the seal to my perdition.
My misery has been greater than has fallen to the lot of mortals.
Yet it is but beginning. My present path, full as it is of
asperities, is better than that into which I must enter, when this is
abandoned. Perhaps, if my pilgrimage had been longer, I might, at some
future day, have lighted upon hope. In consequence of your
interference, I am forever debarred from it. My existence is
henceforward to be invariable. The woes that are reserved for me, are
incapable alike of alleviation or intermission.
But I came not hither to recriminate. I came not hither to accuse
others but myself. I know the retribution that is appointed for guilt
like mine. It is just. I may shudder at the foresight of my
punishment and shrink in the endurance of it; but I shall be indebted
for part of my torment to the vigour of my understanding, which
teaches me that my punishment is just. Why should I procrastinate my
doom and strive to render my burthen more light. It is but just that
it should crush me. Its procrastination is impossible. The stroke is
already felt. Even now I drink of the cup of retribution. A change of
being cannot agravate my woe. Till consciousness itself be extinct,
the worm that gnaws me will never perish.
Fain would I be relieved from this task. Gladly would I bury in
oblivion the transactions of my life: but no. My fate is uniform. The
dæmon that controuled me at first is still in the fruition of power.
I am entangled in his fold, and every effort that I make to escape
only involves me in deeper ruin. I need not conceal, for all the
consequences of disclosure are already experienced. I cannot endure a
groundless imputation, though to free me from it, I must create and
justify imputations still more atrocious. My story may at least be
brief. If the agonies of remembrance must be awakened afresh, let me
do all that in me lies to shorten them.
I was born in the county of Armagh. My parents were of the better
sort of peasants, and were able to provide me with the rudiments of
knowledge. I should doubtless have trodden in their footsteps, and
have spent my life in the cultivation of their scanty fields, if an
event had not happened, which, for a long time, I regarded as the
most fortunate of my life; but which I now regard as the scheme of
some infernal agent and as the primary source of all my calamities.
My father's farm was a portion of the demesne of one who resided
wholly in the metropolis, and consigned the management of his estates
to his stewards and retainers. This person married a lady, who
brought him great accession of fortune. Her wealth was her only
recommendation in the eyes of her husband, whose understanding was
depraved by the prejudices of luxury and rank, but was the least of
her attractions in the estimate of reasonable beings.
They passed some years together. If their union were not a source
of misery to the lady, she was indebted for her tranquility to the
force of her mind. She was, indeed, governed, in every action of her
life by the precepts of duty, while her husband listened to no calls
but those of pernicious dissipation. He was immersed in all the vices
that grow out of opulence and a mistaken education.
Happily for his wife his career was short. He was enraged at the
infidelity of his mistress, to purchase whose attachment, he had
lavished two thirds of his fortune. He called the paramour, by whom
he had been supplanted, to the field. The contest was obstinate, and
terminated in the death of the challenger.
This event freed the lady from many distressful and humiliating
obligations. She determined to profit by her newly acquired
independence, to live thence-forward conformable to her notions of
right, to preserve and improve, by schemes of economy, the remains of
her fortune, and to employ it in the diffusion of good. Her plans
made it necessary to visit her estates in the distant provinces.
During her abode in the manor of which my father was a vassal, she
visited his cottage. I was at that time a child. She was pleased with
my vivacity and promptitude, and determined to take me under her own
protection. My parents joyfully acceded to her proposal, and I
returned with her to the capital.
She had an only son of my own age. Her design, in relation to me,
was, that I should be educated with her child, and that an affection,
in this way, might be excited in me towards my young master, which
might render me, when we should attain to manhood, one of his most
faithful and intelligent dependents. I enjoyed, equally with him, all
the essential benefits of education. There were certain
accomplishments, from which I was excluded, from the belief that they
were unsuitable to my rank and station. I was permitted to acquire
others, which, had she been actuated by true discernment, she would,
perhaps, have discovered to be far more incompatible with a servile
station. In proportion as my views were refined and enlarged by
history and science, I was likely to contract a thirst of
independence, and an impatience of subjection and poverty.
When the period of childhood and youth was past, it was thought
proper to send her son, to improve his knowledge and manners, by a
residence on the continent. This young man was endowed with splendid
abilities. His errors were the growth of his condition. All the
expedients that maternal solicitude and wisdom could suggest, were
employed to render him an useful citizen. Perhaps this wisdom was
attested by the large share of excellence which he really possessed;
and, that his character was not unblemished, proved only, that no
exertions could preserve him from the vices that are inherent in
wealth and rank, and which flow from the spectacle of universal
As to me, it would be folly to deny, that I had benefited by my
opportunities of improvement. I fulfilled the expectation of my
mistress, in one respect. I was deeply imbued with affection for her
son, and reverence for herself. Perhaps the force of education was
evinced in those particulars, without reflecting any credit on the
directors of it. Those might merit the name of defects, which were
regarded by them as accomplishments. My unfavorable qualities, like
those of my master, were imputed to my condition, though, perhaps,
the difference was advantageous to me, since the vices of servitude
are less hateful than those of tyranny.
It was resolved that I should accompany my master in his travels,
in quality of favourite domestic. My principles, whatever might be
their rectitude, were harmonious and flexible. I had devoted my life
to the service of my patron. I had formed conceptions of what was
really conducive to his interest, and was not to be misled by
specious appearances. If my affection had not stimulated my diligence,
I should have found sufficient motives in the behaviour of his
mother. She condescended to express her reliance on my integrity and
judgment. She was not ashamed to manifest, at parting, the tenderness
of a mother, and to acknowledge that, all her tears were not shed on
her son's account. I had my part in the regrets that called them forth.
During our absence, I was my master's constant attendent. I
corresponded with his mother, and made the conduct of her son the
principal theme of my letters. I deemed it my privilege, as well as
duty, to sit in judgment on his actions, to form my opinions without
regard to selfish considerations, and to avow them whenever the
avowal tended to benefit. Every letter which I wrote, particularly
those in which his behaviour was freely criticised, I allowed him to
peruse. I would, on no account, connive at, or participate in the
slightest irregularity. I knew the duty of my station, and assumed no
other controul than that which resulted from the avoiding of deceit,
and the open expression of my sentiments. The youth was of a noble
spirit, but his firmness was wavering. He yielded to temptations which
a censor less rigorous than I would have regarded as venial, or,
perhaps laudable. My duty required me to set before him the
consequences of his actions, and to give impartial and timely
information to his mother.
He could not brook a monitor. The more he needed reproof, the less
supportable it became. My company became every day less agreeable,
till at length, there appeared a necessity of parting. A seperation
took place, but not as enemies. I never lost his respect. In his
representations to his mother, he was just to my character and
services. My dismission was not allowed to injure my fortune, and his
mother considered this event merely as a new proof of the inflexible
consistency of my principles.
On this change in my situation, she proposed to me to become a
member of her own family. No proposal could be more acceptable. I was
fully acquainted with the character of this lady, and had nothing to
fear from injustice and caprice. I did not regard her with filial
familiarity, but my attachment and reverence would have done honour
to that relation. I performed for her the functions of a steward. Her
estates in the city were put under my direction. She placed boundless
confidence in my discretion and integrity, and consigned to me the
payment, and in some degree, the selection and government of her
servants. My station was a servile one, yet most of the evils of
servitude were unknown to me. My personal ease and independence were
less infringed than that of those who are accounted the freeest
members of society. I derived a sort of authority and dignity from
the receipt and disbursement of money. The tenants and debtors of the
lady were, in some respects, mine. It was, for the most part, on my
justice and lenity that they depended for their treatment. My lady's
household establishment was large and opulent. Her servants were my
inferiors and menials. My leisure was considerable, and my emoluments
large enough to supply me with every valuable instrument of
improvement or pleasure.
These were reasons why I should be contented with my lot. These
circumstances alone would have rendered it more eligible than any
other, but it had additional, and far more powerful recommendations,
arising from the character of Mrs. Lorimer, and from the relation in
which she allowed me to stand to her.
How shall I enter upon this theme? How shall I expatiate upon
excellencies, which it was my fate to view in their genuine colours,
to adore with an immeasurable and inextinguishable ardour, and which,
nevertheless, it was my hateful task to blast and destroy? Yet I will
not be spared. I shall find in the rehearsal, new incitements to
sorrow. I deserve to be supreme in misery, and will not be denied the
full measure of a bitter retribution.
No one was better qualified to judge of her excellencies. A casual
spectator might admire her beauty, and the dignity of her demeanour.
From the contemplation of those, he might gather motives for loving
or revering her. Age was far from having withered her complexion, or
destroyed the evenness of her skin; but no time could rob her of the
sweetness and intelligence which animated her features. Her habitual
beneficence was bespoken in every look. Always in search of occasions
for doing good, always meditating scenes of happiness, of which she
was the author, or of distress, for which she was preparing relief,
the most torpid insensibility was, for a time, subdued, and the most
depraved smitten by charms, of which, in another person, they would
not perhaps have been sensible.
A casual visitant might enjoy her conversation, might applaud the
rectitude of her sentiments, the richness of her elocution, and her
skill in all the offices of politeness. But it was only for him, who
dwelt constantly under the same roof, to mark the inviolable
consistency of her actions and opinions, the ceaseless flow of her
candour, her cheerfulness, and her benevolence. It was only for one
who witnessed her behaviour at all hours, in sickness and in health,
her management of that great instrument of evil and good, money, her
treatment of her son, her menials, and her kindred, rightly to
estimate her merits.
The intercourse between us was frequent, but of a peculiar kind. My
office in her family required me often to see her, to submit schemes
to her consideration, and receive her directions. At these times she
treated me in a manner, in some degree, adapted to the difference of
rank, and the inferiority of my station, and yet widely dissimilar
from that, which a different person would have adopted, in the same
circumstances. The treatment was not that of an equal and a friend,
but still more remote was it from that of a mistress. It was merely
characterised by affability and condescention, but as such it had no
She made no scruple to ask my council in every pecuniary affair, to
listen to my arguments, and decide conformably to what, after
sufficient canvassings and discussions, should appear to be right.
When the direct occasions of our interview were dismissed, I did not
of course withdraw. To detain or dismiss me was indeed at her option,
but, if no engagement interfered, she would enter into general
conversation. There was none who could with more safety to herself
have made the world her confessor; but the state of society in which
she lived, imposed certain limitations on her candour. In her
intercourse with me there were fewer restraints than on any other
occasion. My situation had made me more intimately acquainted with
domestic transactions, with her views respecting her son, and with
the terms on which she thought proper to stand with those whom old
acquaintance or kindred gave some title to her good offices. In
addition to all those motives to a candid treatment of me, there were
others which owed their efficacy to her maternal regard for me, and
to the artless and unsuspecting generosity of her character.
Her hours were distributed with the utmost regularity, and
appropriated to the best purposes. She selected her society without
regard to any qualities but probity and talents. Her associates were
numerous, and her evening conversations embellished with all that
could charm the senses or instruct the understanding. This was a
chosen field for the display of her magnificence, but her grandeur
was unostentatious, and her gravity unmingled with hautiness. From
these my station excluded me, but I was compensated by the freedom of
her communications in the intervals. She found pleasure in detailing
to me the incidents that passed on those occasions, in rehearsing
conversations and depicting characters. There was an uncommon portion
of dramatic merit in her recitals, besides valuable and curious
information. One uniform effect was produced in me by this behaviour.
Each day, I thought it impossible for my attachment to receive any
new accessions, yet the morrow was sure to produce some new emotion
of respect or of gratitude, and to set the unrivalled accomplishments
of this lady in a new and more favourable point of view. I
contemplated no change in my condition. The necessity of change,
whatever were the alternative, would have been a subject of piercing
regret. I deemed my life a cheap sacrifice in her cause. No time
would suffice to discharge the debt of gratitude that was due to her.
Yet it was continually accumulating. If an anxious thought ever
invaded my bosom it arose from this source.
It was no difficult task faithfully to execute the functions
assigned to me. No merit could accrue to me from this source. I was
exposed to no temptation. I had passed the feverish period of youth.
No contagious example had contaminated my principles. I had resisted
the allurements of sensuality and dissipation incident to my age. My
dwelling was in pomp and splendour. I had amassed sufficient to
secure me, in case of unforeseen accidents, in the enjoyment of
competence. My mental resources were not despicable, and the external
means of intellectual gratification were boundless, I enjoyed an
unsullied reputation. My character was well known in that sphere
which my lady occupied, not only by means of her favourable report,
but in numberless ways in which it was my fortune to perform personal
services to others.
Mrs. lorimer had a twin brother. Nature had impressed the same
image upon them, and had modelled them after the same pattern. The
resemblance between them was exact to a degree almost incredible. In
infancy and childhood they were perpetually liable to be mistaken for
each other. As they grew up nothing to a superficial examination
appeared to distinguish them but the sexual characteristics. A
sagacious observer would, doubtless, have noted the most essential
differences. In all those modifications of the features which are
produced by habits and sentiments, no two persons were less alike.
Nature seemed to have intended them as examples of the futility of
those theories, which ascribe every thing to conformation and
instinct, and nothing to external circumstances; in what different
modes the same materials may be fashioned, and to what different
purposes the same materials may be applied. Perhaps the rudiments of
their intellec tual character as well as of their form, were the
same; but the powers, that in one case, were exerted in the cause of
virtue, were, in the other, misapplied to sordid and flagitious
Arthur Wiatte, that was his name, had ever been the object of his
sister's affection. As long as he existed she never ceased to labour
in the promotion of his happiness. All her kindness was repaid by a
stern and inexorable hatred. This man was an exception to all the
rules which govern us in our judgments of human nature. He exceeded
in depravity all that has been imputed to the arch-foe of mankind.
His wickedness was without any of those remorseful intermissions from
which it has been supposed that the deepest guilt is not entirely
exempt. He seemed to relish no food but pure unadulterated evil. He
rejoiced in proportion to the depth of that distress of which he was
His sister, by being placed most within the reach of his enmity,
experienced its worst effects. She was the subject on which, by being
acquainted with the means of influencing her happiness, he could try
his malignant experiments with most hope of success. Her parents
being high in rank and wealth, the marriage of their daughter was, of
course, an object of anxious attention. There is no event on which
our felicity and usefulness more materially depends, and with regard
to which, therefore, the freedom of choice and the exercise of our
own understanding ought to be less infringed, but this maxim is
commonly disregarded in proportion to the elevation of our rank and
extent of our property.
The lady made her own election, but she was one of those who acted
on a comprehensive plan, and would not admit her private inclination
to dictate her decision. Her happiness of others, though founded on
mistaken views, she did not consider as unworthy of her regard. The
choice was such as was not likely to obtain the parental sanction, to
whom the moral qualities of their son-in-law, though not absolutely
weightless in the balance, were greatly inferior to the
considerations of wealth and dignity.
The brother set no value on any thing but the means of luxury and
power. He was astonished at that perverseness which entertained a
different conception of happiness from himself. Love and friendship
he considered as groundless and chimerical, and believed that those
delusions, would, in people of sense, be rectified by experience; but
he knew the obstinacy of his sister's attachment to these phantoms,
and that to bereave her of the good they promised was the most
effectual means of rendering her miserable. For this end he set
himself to thwart her wishes. In the imbecility and false indulgence
of his parents he found his most powerful auxiliaries. He prevailed
upon them to forbid that union which wanted nothing but their
concurrence, and their consent to endow her with a small portion of
their patrimony to render completely eligible. The cause was that of
her happiness and the happiness of him on whom she had bestowed her
heart. It behoved her, therefore, to call forth all her energies in
defence of it, to weaken her brother's influence on the minds of her
parents, or to win him to be her advocate. When I reflect upon her
mental powers, and the advantages which should seem to flow from the
circumstance of pleading in the character of daughter and sister, I
can scarcely believe that her attempts miscarried. I should have
imagined that all obstacles would yield before her, and particularly
in a case like this, in which she must have summoned all her forces,
and never have believed that she had struggled sufficiently.
Certain it is that her lot was fixed. She was not only denied the
husband of her choice, but another was imposed upon her, whose
recommendations were irresistible in every one's apprehension but her
own. The discarded lover was treated with every sort of contumely.
Deceit and violence were employed by her brother to bring his honour,
his liberty, and even his life into hazard. All these iniquities
produced no considerable effect on the mind of the lady. The
machinations to which her love was exposed, would have exasperated
him into madness, had not her most strenuous exertions been directed
to appease him.
She prevailed on him at length to abandon his country, though she
thereby merely turned her brother's depravity into a new channel. Her
parents died without conciousness of the evils they inflicted, but
they experienced a bitter retribution in the conduct of their son. He
was the darling and stay of an ancient and illustrious house, but his
actions reflected nothing but disgrace upon his ancestry, and
threatened to bring the honours of their line to a period in his
person. At their death the bulk of their patrimony devolved upon him.
This he speedily consumeed in gaming and riot. From splendid, he
descended to meaner vices. The efforts of his sister to recall him to
virtue were unintermitted and fruitless. Her affection for him he
converted into a means of prolonging his selfish gratifications. She
decided for the best. It was no argument of weakness that she was so
frequently deceived. If she had judged truly of her brother, she
would have judged not only without example, but in opposition to the
general experience of mankind. But she was not to be forever
deceived. Her tenderness was subservient to justice. And when his
vices had led him from the gaming table to the higway, when seized at
length by the ministers of law, when convicted and sentenced to
transportation, her intercession was solicited, when all the world
knew that pardon would readily be granted to a supplicant of her rank,
fortune, and character, when the criminal himself, his kindred, his
friends, and even indifferent persons implored her interference, her
justice was inflexible: She knew full well the incurableness of his
depravity; that banishment was the mildest destiny that would befall
him; that estrangement from ancient haunts and associates was the
condition from which his true friends had least to fear.
Finding intreaties unavailing, the wretch delivered himself to the
suggestions of his malice, and he vowed to be bloodily revenged on
her inflexibility. The sentence was executed. That character must
indeed be monstrous from which the execution of such threats was to
be dreaded. The event sufficiently shewed that our fears on this head
were well grounded. This event, however, was at a great distance. It
was reported that the fellons, of whom he was one, mutinied on board
the ship in which they had been embarked. In the affray that
succeeded it was said that he was killed.
Among the nefarious deeds which he perpetrated was to be numbered
the seduction of a young lady, whose heart was broken by the
detection of his perfidy. The fruit of this unhappy union was a
daughter. Her mother died shortly after her birth. Her father was
careless of her destiny. She was consigned to the care of an
hireling, who, happily for the innocent victim, performed the maternal
offices for her own sake, and did not allow the want of a stipulated
recompence to render her cruel or neglectful.
This orphan was sought out by the benevolence of Mrs. Lorimer and
placed under her own protection. She received from her the treatment
of a mother. The ties of kindred, corroborated by habit, was not the
only thing that united them. That resemblance to herself, which had
been so deplorably defective in her brother, was completely realized
in his offspring. Nature seemed to have precluded every difference
between them but that of age. This darling object excited in her
bosom more than maternal sympathies. Her soul clung to the happiness
of her Clarice, with more ardour than to that of her own son.
The latter was not only less worthy of affection, but their separation
necessarily diminished their mutual confidence.
It was natural for her to look forward to the future destiny of
Clarice. On these occasions she could not help contemplating the
possibility of a union between her son and niece. Considerable
advantages belonged to this scheme, yet it was the subject of hope
rather than the scope of a project. The contingencies were numerous
and delicate on which the ultimate desirableness of this union
depended. She was far from certain that her son would be worthy of
this benefit, or that, if he were worthy, his propensities would not
select for themselves a different object. It was equally dubious
whether the young lady would not think proper otherwise to dispose of
her affections. These uncertainties could be dissipated only by time.
Meanwhile she was chiefly solicitous to render them virtuous and wise.
As they advanced in years, the hopes that she had formed were
annihilated. The youth was not exempt from egregious errors. In
addition to this, it was manifest that the young people were disposed
to regard each other in no other light than that of brother and
sister. I was not unapprised of her views. I saw that their union was
impossible. I was near enough to judge of the character of Clarice.
My youth and intellectual constitution made me peculiarly susceptible
to female charms. I was her play-fellow in childhood, and her
associate in studies and amusements at a maturer age. This situation
might have been suspected of a dangerous tendency. This tendency,
however, was obviated by motives of which I was, for a long time,
I was habituated to consider the distinctions of rank as
indellible. The obstructions that existed, to any wish that I might
form, were like those of time and space, and as, in their own nature,
Such was the state of things previous to our setting out upon our
travels. Clarice was indirectly included in our correspondence. My
letters were open to her inspection, and I was sometimes honoured
with a few complimentary lines under her own hand. On returning to my
ancient abode, I was once more exposed to those sinister influences
which absence had, at least, suspended. Various suitors had,
meanwhile, been rejected. Their character, for the most part, had
been such as to account for her refusal, without resorting to the
supposition of a lurking or unavowed attachment.
On our meeting she greeted me in a respectful but dignified manner.
Observers could discover in it nothing not corresponding to that
difference of fortune which subsisted between us. If her joy, on that
occasion, had in it some portion of tenderness, the softness of her
temper, and the peculiar circumstances in which we had been placed,
being considered, the most rigid censor could find no occasion for
blame or suspicion.
A year passed away, but not without my attention being solicited by
something new and inexplicable in my own sensations. At first I was
not aware of their true cause; but the gradual progress of my
feelings left me not long in doubt as to their origin. I was alarmed
at the discovery, but my courage did not suddenly desert me. My hopes
seemed to be extinguished the moment that I distinctly perceived the
point to which they led. My mind had undergone a change. The ideas
with which it was fraught were varied. The sight, or recollection of
Clarice, was sure to occasion my mind to advert to the recent
discovery, and to revolve the considerations naturally connected with
it. Some latent glows and secret trepidations were likewise
experienced, when, by some accident, our meetings were abrupt or our
interviews unwitnessed; yet my usual tranquility was not as yet
sensibly diminished. I could bear to think of her marriage with
another without painful emotions, and was anxious only that her
choice should be judicious and fortunate.
My thoughts could not long continue in this state. They gradually
became more ardent and museful. The image of Clarice occurred with
unseasonable frequency. Its charms were enhanced by some nameless and
indefinable additions. When it met me in the way I was irresistibly
disposed to stop and survey it with particular attention. The pathetic
cast of her features, the deep glow of her cheek, and some catch of
melting music, she had lately breathed, stole incessantly upon my
fancy. On recovering from my thoughtful moods, I sometimes found my
cheeks wet with tears, that had fallen unperceived, and my bosom
heaved with involuntary sighs.
These images did not content themselves with invading my wakeful
hours; but, likewise, incroached upon my sleep. I could no longer
resign myself to slumber with the same ease as before. When I slept,
my visions were of the same impassioned tenor.
There was no difficulty in judging rightly of my situation. I knew
what it was that duty exacted from me. To remain in my present
situation was a chimerical project. That time and reflection would
suffice to restore me to myself was a notion equally falacious. Yet I
felt an insupportable reluctance to change it. This reluctance was
owing, not wholly or chiefly to my growing passion, but to the
attachment which bound me to the service of my lady. All my
contemplations had hitherto been modelled on the belief of my
remaining in my present situation during my life. My mildest
anticipations had never fashioned an event like this. Any misfortune
was light in comparison with that which tore me from her presence and
service. But should I ultimately resolve to separate, how should I
communicate my purpose. The pain of parting would scarcely be less on
her side than on mine. Could I consent to be the author of disquietude
to her? I had consecrated all my faculties to her service. This was
the recompence which it was in my power to make for the benefits that
I had received. Would not this procedure bear the appearance of the
basest ingratitude? The shaddow of an imputation like this was more
excruciating than the rack.
What motive could I assign for my conduct? The truth must not be
told. This would be equivalent to supplicating for a new benefit. It
would more become me to lessen than increase my obligations. Among
all my imaginations on this subject, the possibility of a mutual
passion never occurred to me. I could not be blind to the essential
distinctions that subsist among men. I could expatiate, like others,
on the futility of ribbonds and titles, and on the dignity that was
annexed to skill and virtue; but these, for the most part, were the
incoherences of speculation, and in no degree influenced the stream
of my actions, and practical sentiments. The barrier that existed in
the present case, I deemed insurmountable. This was not even the
subject of doubt. In disclosing the truth, I should be conceived to be
soliciting my lady's mercy and intercession; but this would be the
madness of presumption. Let me impress her with any other opinion
than that I go in search of the happiness that I have lost under her
roof. Let me save her generous heart from the pangs which this
persuasion would infallibly produce.
I could form no stable resolutions. I seemed unalterably convinced
of the necessity of separation, and yet could not execute my design.
When I had wrought up my mind to the intention of explaining myself
on the next interview, when the next interview took place my tongue
was powerless. I admitted any excuse for postponing my design, and
gladly admitted any topic, however foreign to my purpose.
It must not be imagined that my health sustained no injury from
this conflict of my passions. My patroness perceived this alteration.
She inquired with the most affectionate solicitude, into the cause.
It could not be explained. I could safely make light of it, and
represented it as something which would probably disappear of itself,
as it originated without any adequate cause. She was obliged to
acquiesce in my imperfect account.
Day after day passed in this state of fluctuation. I was conscious
of the dangers of delay, and that procrastination, without rendering
the task less necessary, augmented its difficulties. At length,
summoning my resolution, I demanded an audience. She received me with
her usual affability. Common topics were started; but she saw the
confusion and trepidation of my thoughts, and quickly relinquished
them. She then noticed to me what she had observed, and mentioned the
anxiety which these appearances had given her. She reminded me of the
maternal regard which she had always manifested towards me, and
appealed to my own heart whether any thing could be said in
vindication of that reserve with which I had lately treated her, and
urged me as I valued her good opinion, to explain the cause of a
dejection that was too visible.
To all this I could make but one answer: Think me not, Madam,
perverse or ungrateful. I came just now to apprise you of a
resolution that I had formed. I cannot explain the motives that induce
me. In this case, to lie to you would be unpardonable, and since I
cannot assign my true motives, I will not mislead you by false
representations. I came to inform you of my intention to leave your
service, and to retire with the fruits of your bounty, to my native
village, where I shall spend my life, I hope, in peace.
Her surprise at this declaration was beyond measure. She could not
believe her ears. She had not heard me rightly. She compelled me to
repeat it. Sill I was jesting. I could not possibly mean what my
I assured her, in terms still more explicit, that my resolution was
taken and was unalterable, and again intreated her to spare me the
task of assigning my motives.
This was a strange determination. What could be the grounds of this
new scheme? What could be the necessity of hiding them from her? This
mystery was not to be endured. She could by no means away with it.
She thought it hard that I should abandon her at this time, when she
stood in particular need of my assistance and advice. She would
refuse nothing to make my situation eligible. I had only to point out
where she was deficient in her treatment of me and she would
endeavour to supply it. She was willing to augment my emoluments in
any degree that I desired. She could not think of parting with me;
but, at any rate, she must be informed of my motives.
It is an hard task, answered I, that I have imposed upon myself. I
foresaw its difficulties, and this foresight has hitherto prevented
me from undertaking it; but the necessity by which I am impelled,
will no longer be withstood. I am determined to go; but to say why,
is impossible. I hope I shall not bring upon myself the imputation of
ingratitude; but this imputation, more intolerable than any other,
must be borne, if it cannot be avoided but by this disclosure.
Keep your motives to yourself, said she. I have too good an opinion
of you to suppose that you would practice concealment without good
reason. I merely desire you to remain where you are. Since you will
not tell me why you take up this new scheme, I can only say that it
is impossible there should be any advantage in this scheme. I will not
hear of it I tell you. Therefore, submit to my decree with a good
Notwithstanding this prohibition I persisted in declaring that my
determination was fixed, and that the motives that governed me would
allow of no alternative.
So, you will go, will you, whether I will or no? I have no power to
detain you? You will regard nothing that I can say?
Believe me, madam, no resolution ever was formed after a more
vehement struggle. If my motives were known, you would not only cease
to oppose, but would hasten my departure. Honour me so far with your
good opinion, as to believe that, in saying this, I say nothing but
the truth, and render my duty less burthensome by cheerfully
acquiescing in its dictates.
I would, replied my lady, I could find somebody that has more power
over you than I have. Whom shall I call in to aid me in this arduous
Nay, dear madam, if I can resist your intreaties, surely no other
can hope to succeed.
I am not sure of that, said my friend, archly; there is one person
in the world whose supplications, I greatly suspect, you would not
Whom do you mean? said I, in some trepidation.
You will know presently. Unless I can prevail upon you, I shall be
obliged to call for assistance.
Spare me the pain of repeating that no power on earth can change my
That's a fib, she rejoined, with increased archness. You know it
is. If a certain person intreat you to stay, you will easily comply.
I see I cannot hope to prevail by my own strength. That is a
mortifying consideration, but we must not part, that is a point
settled. If nothing else will do, I must go and fetch my advocate.
Stay here a moment.
I had scarcely time to breathe, before she returned, leading in
Clarice. I did not yet comprehend the meaning of this ceremony. The
lady was overwhelmed with sweet confusion. Averted eyes and reluctant
steps, might have explained to me the purpose of this meeting, if I
had believed that purpose to be possible. I felt the necessity of new
fortitude, and struggled to recollect the motives that had hitherto
There, said my patroness, I have been endeavouring to persuade this
young man to live with us a little longer. He is determined, it
seems, to change his abode. He will not tell why, and I do not care
to know, unless I could shew his reasons to be groundless. I have
merely remonstrated with him on the folly of his scheme, but he has
proved refractory to all I can say. Perhaps your efforts may meet
with better success.
Clarice said not a word. My own embarrassment equally disabled me
from speaking. Regarding us both, for some time, with a benign
aspect, Mrs. Lorimer resumed, taking an hand of each and joining them
I very well know what it was that suggested this scheme. It is
strange that you should suppose me so careless an observer as not to
note, or not to understand your situation. I am as well acquainted
with what is passing in your heart as you yourself are, but why are
you so anxious to conceal it. You know less of the adventurousness of
love than I should have suspected. But I will not trifle with your
You, Clithero, know the wishes that I once cherished. I had hoped
that my son would have found, in this darling child, an object worthy
of his choice, and that my girl would have preferred him to all
others. But I have long since discovered that this could not be. They
are nowise suited to each other. There is one thing in the next place
desirable, and now my wishes are accomplished. I see that you love
each other, and never, in my opinion, was a passion more rational and
just. I should think myself the worst of beings if I did not
contribute all in my power to your happiness. There is not the shadow
of objection to your union. I know your scruples, Clithero, and am
sorry to see that you harbour them for a moment. Nothing is more
unworthy of your good sense.
I found out this girl long ago. Take my word for it, young man, she
does not fall short of you in the purity and tenderness of her
attachment. What need is there of tedious preliminaries. I will leave
you together, and hope you will not be long in coming to a mutual
understanding. Your union cannot be completed too soon for my wishes.
Clarice is my only and darling daughter. As to you Clithero, expect
henceforth that treatment from me, not only to which your own merit
intitles you, but which is due to the husband of my daughter.— With
these words she retired and left us together.
Great God! deliver me from the torments of this remembrance. That a
being by whom I was snatched from penury and brutal ignorance,
exalted to some rank in the intelligent creation, reared to affluence
and honour, and thus, at last, spontaneously endowed with all that
remained to complete the sum of my felicity, that a being like
this—but such thoughts must not yet be—I must shut them out, or I
shall never arrive at the end of my tale. My efforts have been thus
far successful. I have hitherto been able to deliver a coherent
narrative. Let the last words that I shall speak afford some
glimmering of my better days. Let me execute without faltering the
only task that remains for me.
How propitious, how incredible was this event! I could scarcely
confide in the testimony of my senses. Was it true that Clarice was
before me, that she was prepared to countenance my presumption, that
she had slighted obstacles which I had deemed insurmountable, that I
was fondly beloved by her, and should shortly be admitted to the
possession of so inestimable a good? I will not repeat the terms in
which I poured forth, at her feet, the raptures of my gratitude. My
impetuosity soon extorted from Clarice, a confirmation of her
mother's declaration. An unrestrained intercourse was thenceforth
established between us. Dejection and languor gave place, in my
bosom, to the irradiations of joy and hope. My flowing fortunes
seemed to have attained their utmost and immutable height.
Alas! They were destined to ebb with unspeakably greater rapidity,
and to leave me, in a moment, stranded and wrecked.
Our nuptials would have been solemnised without delay, had not a
melancholy duty interferred. Clarice had a friend in a distant part
of the kingdom. Her health had long been the prey of a consumption.
She was now evidently tending to dissolution. In this extremity she
intreated her friend to afford her the consolation of her presence.
The only wish that remained was to die in her arms
This request could not but be willingly complied with. It became me
patiently to endure the delay that would thence arise to the
completion of my wishes. Considering the urgency and mournfulness of
the occasion, it was impossible for me to murmur, and the
affectionate Clarice would suffer nothing to interfere with the duty
which she owed to her dying friend. I accompanied her on this
journey, remained with her a few days, and then parted from her to
return to the metropolis. It was not imagined that it would be
necessary to prolong her absence beyond a month. When I bade her
farewell, and informed her on what day I proposed to return for her,
I felt no decay of my satisfaction. My thoughts were bright and full
of exultation. Why was not some intimation afforded me of the snares
that lay in my path? In the train laid for my destruction, the agent
had so skilfully contrived that my security was not molested by the
I hasten to the crisis of my tale. I am almost dubious of my
strength. The nearer I approach to it, the stronger is my aversion.
My courage, instead of gathering force as I proceed, decays. I am
willing to dwell still longer on preliminary circumstances. There are
other incidents without which my story would be lame. I retail them
because they afford me a kind of respite from horrors, at the thought
of which every joint in my frame trembles. They must be endured, but
that infirmity may be forgiven, which makes me inclined to
procrastinate my suffering.
I mentioned the lover whom my patroness was compelled, by the
machinations of her brother, to discard. More than twenty years had
passed since their separation. His birth was mean and he was without
fortune. His profession was that of a surgeon. My lady not only
prevailed upon him to abandon his country, but enabled him to do this
by supplying his necessities from her own purse. His excellent
understanding was, for a time, obscured by passion; but it was not
difficult for my lady ultimately to obtain his concurrence to all her
schemes. He saw and adored the rectitude of her motives, did not
disdain to accept her gifts, and projected means for maintaining an
epistolary intercourse during their separation.
Her interest procured him a post in the service of the East-India
company. She was, from time to time, informed of his motions. A war
broke out between the Company and some of the native powers. He was
present at a great battle in which the English were defeated. She
could trace him by his letters and by other circumstances thus far,
but here the thread was discontinued, and no means which she employed
could procure any tidings of him. Whether he was captive, or dead,
continued, for several years, to be merely matter of conjecture.
On my return to Dublin, I found my patroness engaged in
conversation with a stranger. She introduced us to each other in a
manner that indicated the respect which she entertained for us both.
I surveyed and listened to him with considerable attention. His
aspect was noble and ingenious, but his sun-burnt and rugged features
bespoke a various and boisterous pilgrimage. The furrows of his brow
were the products of vicissitude and hardship, rather than of age. His
accents were fiery and energetic, and the impassioned boldness of his
address, as well as the tenor of his discourse, full of allusions to
the past, and regrets that the course of events had not been
different, made me suspect something extraordinary in his character.
As soon as he left us, my lady explained who he was. He was no
other than the object of her youthful attachment, who had, a few days
before, dropped among us as from the skies. He had a long and various
story to tell. He had accounted for his silence by enumerating the
incidents of his life. (He had escaped from the prisons of Hyder, had
wandered on foot, and under various disguises, through the northern
district of Hindoostaun. He was sometimes a scholar of Benares, and
sometimes a disciple of the Mosque. According to the exigencies of
the times, he was a pilgrim to Mecca or to Jagunaut. By a long,
circuitous, and perilous route, he at length arrived at the Turkish
capital. Here he resided for several years, deriving a precarious
subsistence from the profession of a surgeon. He was obliged to
desert this post, in consequence of a duel between two Scotsmen. One
of them had embraced the Greek religion, and was betrothed to the
daughter of a wealthy trader of that nation. He perished in the
conflict, and the family of the lady not only procured the execution
of his antagonist, but threatened to involve all those who were known
to be connected with him in the same ruin.
His life being thus endangered, it became necessary for him to seek
a new residence. He fled from Constantinople with such precipitation
as reduced him to the lowest poverty. He had traversed the Indian
conquests of Alexander, as a mendicant. In the same character, he now
wandered over the native country of Philip and Philoepamen. He passed
safely through multiplied perils, and finally, embarking at
Salonichi, he reached Venice. He descended through the passes of the
Apennine into Tuscany. In this journey he suffered a long detention
from banditti, by whom he was waylaid. In consequence of his harmless
department, and a seasonable display of his chirurgical skill, they
granted him his life, though they, for a time restrained him of his
liberty, and compelled him to endure their society. The time was not
misemployed which he spent immured in caverns and carousing with
robbers. His details were eminently singular and curious, and evinced
the accuteness of his penetration, as well the steadfastness of his
After emerging from these wilds, he found his way along the banks
of the Arno to Leghorn. Thence he procured a passage to America,
whence he had just returned, with many additions to his experience,
but none to his fortune.
This was a remarkable event. It did not at first appear how far its
consequences would extend. The lady was, at present, disengaged and
independent. Though the passion which clouded her early prosperity
was extinct, time had not diminished the worth of her friend, and
they were far from having reached that age when love becomes
chimerical and marriage folly. A confidential intercourse was
immediately established between them. The bounty of Mrs. Lorimer soon
divested her friend of all fear of poverty. At any rate, said she, he
shall wander no further, but shall be comfortably situated for the
rest of his life. All his scruples were vanquished by the
reasonableness of her remonstrances and the vehemence of her
A cordial intimacy grew between me and the newly arrived. Our
interviews were frequent, and our communications without reserve. He
detailed to me the result of his experience, and expatiated without
end on the history of his actions and opinions. He related the
adventures of his youth, and dwelt upon all the circumstances of his
attachment to my patroness. On this subject I had heard only general
details. I continually found cause, in the course of his narrative,
to revere the illustrious qualities of my lady, and to weep at the
calamities to which the infernal malice of her brother had subjected
The tale of that man's misdeeds, amplified and dramatised, by the
indignant eloquence of this historian, oppressed me with
astonishment. If a poet had drawn such a portrait I should have been
prone to suspect the soundness of his judgment. Till now I had
imagined that no character was uniform and unmixed, and my theory of
the passions did not enable me to account for a propensity gratified
merely by evil, and delighting in shrieks and agony for their own
It was natural to suggest to my friend, when expatiating on this
theme, an inquiry as to how far subsequent events had obliterated the
impressions that were then made, and as to the plausibility of
reviving, at this more auspicious period, his claims on the heart of
his friend. When he thought proper to notice these hints, he gave me
to understand that time had made no essential alteration in his
sentiments in this respect, that he still fostered an hope, to which
every day added new vigour, that whatever was the ultimate event, he
trusted in his fortitude to sustain it, if adverse, and in his wisdom
to extract from it the most valuable consequences, if it should prove
The progress of things was not unfavourable to his hopes. She
treated his insinuations and professions with levity; but her
arguments seemed to be urged, with no other view than to afford an
opportunity of confutation; and, since there was no abatement of
familiarity and kindness, there was room to hope that the affair
would terminate agreeably to his wishes.
Clarice, meanwhile, was absent. Her friend seemed, at the end of a
month, to be little less distant from the grave than at first. My
impatience would not allow me to wait till her death. I visited her,
but was once more obliged to return alone. I arrived late in the city,
and being greatly fatigued, I retired almost immediately to my
On hearing of my arrival, Sarsefield hastened to see me. He came to
my bed-side, and such, in his opinion, was the importance of the
tidings which he had to communicate, that he did not scruple to rouse
me from a deep sleep...
At this period of his narrative, Clithero stopped. His complexion
varied from one degree of paleness to another. His brain appeared to
suffer some severe constriction. He desired to be excused, for a few
minutes, from proceeding. In a short time he was relieved from this
paroxysm, and resumed his tale with an accent tremulous at first, but
acquiring stability and force as he went on.
On waking, as I have said, I found my friend seated at my bed-side.
His countenance exibited various tokens of alarm. As soon as I
perceived who it was, I started, exclaming What is the matter?
He sighed. Pardon, said he, this unseasonable intrusion. A light
matter would not have occasioned it. I have waited, for two days
past, in an agony of impatience, for your return. Happily, you are,
at last, come. I stand in the utmost need of your council and aid.
Heaven defend! cried I. This is a terrible prelude. You may, of
course, rely upon my assistance and advice. What is it that you have
Tuesday evening, he answered, I spent here. It was late before I
returned to my lodgings. I was in the act of lifting my hand to the
bell, when my eye was caught by a person standing close to the wall,
at the distance of ten paces. His attitude was that of one employed
in watching my motions. His face was turned towards me, and happened,
at that moment, to be fully illuminated by the rays of a globe-lamp
that hung over the door. I instantly recognized his features. I was
petrified. I had no power to execute my design, or even to move, but
stood, for some seconds gazing upon him. He was, in no degree,
disconcerted by the eagerness of my scrutiny. He seemed perfectly
indifferent to the consequences of being known. At length he slowly
turned his eyes to another quarter, but without changing his posture,
or the sternness of his looks. I cannot describe to you the shock
which this encounter produced in me. At last I went into the house,
and have ever since been excessively uneasy.
I do not see any ground for uneasiness
You do not then suspect who this person is?
It is Arthur Wiatte...
Good heaven! It is impossible. What, my lady's brother?
It cannot be. Were we not assured of his death? That he perished in
a mutiny on board the vessel in which he was embarked for
Such was rumour, which is easily mistaken. My eyes cannot be
deceived in this case. I should as easily fail to recognize his
sister, when I first met her, as him. This is the man, whether once
dead or not, he is, at present, alive, and in this city.
But has any thing since happened to confirm you in this opinion.
Yes, there has. As soon as I had recovered from my first surprise,
I began to reflect upon the measures proper to be taken. This was the
identical Arthur Wiatte. You know his character. No time was likely
to change the principles of such a man, but his appearance
sufficiently betrayed the incurableness of his habits. The same
sullen and atrocious passions were written in his visage. You
recollect the vengeance which Wiatte denounced against his sister.
There is every thing to dread from his malignity. How to obviate the
danger, I know not. I thought, however, of one expedient. It might
serve a present purpose, and something better might suggest itself on
I came hither early the next day. Old Gowan the porter is well
acquainted with Wiatte's story. I mentioned to him that I had reason
to think that he had returned. I charged him to have a watchful eye
upon every one that knocked at the gate, and that if this person
should come, by no means to admit him. The old man promised
faithfully to abide by my directions. His terrors, indeed, were
greater than mine, and he knew the importance of excluding Wiatte from
Did you not inform my lady of this?
No. In what way could I tell it to her? What end could it answer?
Why should I make her miserable? But I have not done. Yesterday
morning Gowan took me aside, and informed me that Wiatte had made his
appearance, the day before, at the gate. He knew him, he said, in a
moment. He demanded to see the lady, but the old man told him she was
engaged, and could not be seen. He assumed peremtory and haughty airs,
and asserted that his business was of such importance as not to
endure a moment's delay. Gowan persisted in his first refusal. He
retired with great reluctance, but said he should return to-morrow,
when he should insist upon admission to the presence of the lady. I
have inquired, and find that he has not repeated his visit. What is to
I was equally at a loss with my friend. This incident was so
unlooked for. What might not be dreaded from the monstrous depravity
of Wiatte? His menaces of vengeance against his sister still rung in
my ears. Some means of eluding them were indispensable. Could law be
resorted to? Against an evil like this, no legal provision had been
made. Nine years had elapsed since his transportation. Seven years
was the period of his exile. In returning, therefore, he had
committed no crime. His person could not be lawfully molested. We
were justified, merely, in repelling an attack. But suppose we should
appeal to law, could this be done without the knowledge and
concurrence of the lady? She would never permit it. Her heart was
incapable of fear from this quarter. She would spurn at the mention
of precautions against the hatred of her brother. Her inquietude
would merely be awakened on his own account.
I was overwhelmed with perplexity. Perhaps if he were sought out,
and some judgment formed of the kind of danger to be dreaded from
him, by a knowledge of his situation and views, some expedient might
be thence suggested.
But how should his haunts be discovered? This was easy. He had
intimated the design of applying again for admission to his sister.
Let a person be stationed near at hand, who, being furnished with an
adequate description of his person and dress, shall mark him when he
comes, and follow him, when he retires, and shall forthwith impart to
us the information on that head which he shall be able to collect.
My friend concurred in this scheme. No better could, for the
present, be suggested. Here ended our conference.
I was thus supplied with a new subject of reflection. It was
calculated to fill my mind with dreary forbodings. The future was no
longer a scene of security and pleasure. It would be hard for those
to partake of our fears, who did not partake of our experience. The
existence of Wiatte, was the canker that had blasted the felicity of
my patroness. In his reappearance on the stage, there was something
portentous. It seemed to include in it, consequences of the utmost
moment, without my being able to discover what these consequences
That Sarsefield should be so quickly followed by his Arch-foe; that
they started anew into existence, without any previous intimation, in
a manner wholly unexpected, and at the same period. It seemed as if
there lurked, under those appearances, a tremendous significance,
which human sagacity could not uncover. My heart sunk within me when
I reflected that this was the father of my Clarice. He by whose
cruelty her mother was torn from the injoyment of untarnished honour,
and consigned to infamy and an untimely grave: He by whom herself was
abandoned in the helplessness of infancy, and left to be the prey of
obdurate avarice, and the victim of wretches who traffic in virgin
innocence: Who had done all that in him lay to devote her youth to
guilt and misery. What were the limits of his power? How may he exert
the parental prerogatives?
To sleep, while these images were haunting me, was impossible. I
passed the night in continual motion. I strode, without ceasing,
across the floor of my apartment. My mind was wrought to an higher
pitch than I had ever before experienced. The occasion, accurately
considered, was far from justifying the ominous inquietudes which I
then felt. How then should I account for them?
Sarsefield probably enjoyed his usual slumber. His repose might not
be perfectly serene, but when he ruminated on impending or possible
calamities, his tongue did not cleave to his mouth, his throat was
not parched with unquenchable thirst, he was not incessantly
stimulated to employ his superfluous fertility of thought in motion.
If I trembled for the safety of her whom I loved, and whose safety
was endangered by being the daughter of this miscreant, had he not
equal reason to fear for her whom he also loved, and who, as the
sister of this ruffian, was encompassed by the most alarming perils.
Yet he probably was calm while I was harassed by anxieties.
Alas! The difference was easily explained. Such was the beginning
of a series ordained to hurry me to swift destruction. Such were the
primary tokens of the presence of that power by whose accursed
machinations I was destined to fall. You are startled at this
declaration. It is one to which you have been little accustomed.
Perhaps you regard it merely as an effusion of phrenzy. I know what I
am saying. I do not build upon conjectures and surmises. I care not
indeed for your doubts. Your conclusion may be fashioned at your
pleasure. Would to heaven that my belief were groundless, and that I
had no reason to believe my intellects to have been perverted by
I could procure no sleep that night. After Sarsefield's departure I
did not even lie down. It seemed to me that I could not obtain the
benefits of repose otherwise than by placing my lady beyond the
possibility of danger.
I met Sarsefield the next day. In pursuance of the scheme which had
been adopted by us on the preceding evening, a person was selected
and commissioned to watch the appearance of Wiatte. The day passed as
usual with respect to the lady. In the evening she was surrounded by
a few friends. Into this number I was now admitted. Sarsefield and
myself made a part of this company. Various topics were discussed with
ease and sprightliness. Her societies were composed of both sexes,
and seemed to have monopolized all the ingenuity and wit that existed
in the metropolis.
After a slight repast the company dispersed. This separation took
place earlier than usual on account of a slight indisposition in Mrs. Lorimer. Sarse field and I went out together. We took that
opportunity of examining our agent, and receiving no satisfaction from
him, we dismissed him, for that night, enjoining him to hold himself
in readiness for repeating the experiment to-morrow. My friend
directed his steps homeward, and I proceeded to execute a commission,
with which I had charged myself.
A few days before, a large sum had been deposited in the hands of a
banker, for the use of my lady. It was the amount of a debt which had
lately been recovered. It was lodged here for the purpose of being
paid on demand of her or her agents. It was my present business to
receive this money. I had deferred the performance of this engagement
to this late hour, on acccount of certain preliminaries which were
necessary to be adjusted.
Having received this money, I prepared to return home. The
inquietude which had been occasioned by Sarsefield's intelligence,
had not incapacitated me from performing my usual daily occupations.
It was a theme, to which, at every interval of leisure from business
or discourse, I did not fail to return. At those times I employed
myself in examining the subject on all sides; in supposing particular
emergencies, and delineating the conduct that was proper to be
observed on each. My daily thoughts were, by no means, so
fear-inspiring as the meditations of the night had been.
As soon as I left the banker's door, my meditations fell into this
channel. I again reviewed the recent occurrences, and imagined the
consequences likely to flow from them. My deductions were not, on
this occasion, peculiarly distressful. The return of darkness had
added nothing to my apprehensions. I regarded Wiatte merely as one
against whose malice it was wise to employ the most vigilant
precautions. In revolving these precautions nothing occurred that was
new. The danger appeared without unusual aggravations, and the
expedients that offered themselves to my choice, were viewed with a
temper not more sanguine or despondent than before.
In this state of mind I began and continued my walk. The distance
was considerable between my own habitation and that which I had left.
My way lay chiefly through populous and well frequented streets. In
one part of the way, however, it was at the option of the passenger
either to keep along the large streets, or considerably to shorten
the journey, by turning into a dark, crooked, and narrow lane. Being
familiar with every part of this metropolis, and deeming it advisable
to take the shortest and obscurest road, I turned into the alley. I
proceeded without interruption to the next turning. One night officer,
distinguished by his usual ensigns, was the only person who passed
me. I had gone three steps beyond when I perceived a man by my side.
I had scarcely time to notice this circumstance, when an hoarse voice
exclaimed. "Damn ye villain, ye're a dead man!"
At the same moment a pistol flashed at my ear, and a report
followed. This, however, produced no other effect, than, for a short
space, to overpower my senses. I staggered back, but did not fall.
The ball, as I afterwards discovered, had grazed my forehead, but
without making any dangerous impression. The assassin, perceiving
that his pistol had been ineffectual, muttered, in an enraged
tone,—This shall do your business—At the same time, he drew a
knife forth from his bosom.
I was able to distinguish this action by the rays of a distant
lamp, which glistened on the blade. All this passed in an instant.
The attack was so abrupt that my thoughts could not be suddenly
recalled from the confusion into which they were thrown. My exertions
were mechanical. My will might be said to be passive, and it was only
by retrospect and a contemplation of consequences, that I became
fully informed of the nature of the scene.
If my assailant had disappeared as soon as he had discharged the
pistol, my state of extreme surprise might have slowly given place to
resolution and activity. As it was, my sense was no sooner struck by
the reflection from the blade, than my hand, as if by spontaneous
energy, was thrust into my pocket. I drew forth a pistol—
He lifted up his weapon to strike, but it dropped from his
powerless fingers. He fell and his groans informed me that I had
managed my arms with more skill than my adversary. The noise of this
encounter soon attracted spectators. Lights were brought and my
antagonist discovered bleeding at my feet. I explained, as briefly as
I was able, the scene which they witnessed. The prostrate person was
raised by two men, and carried into a public house, nigh at hand.
I had not lost my presence of mind. I, at once, perceived the
propriety of administering assistance to the wounded man. I
dispatched, therefore, one of the by-standers for a surgeon of
considerable eminence, who lived at a small distance, and to whom I
was well known. The man was carried into an inner apartment and laid
upon the floor. It was not till now that I had a suitable opportunity
of ascertaining who it was with whom I had been engaged. I now
looked upon his face. The paleness of death could not conceal his
well known features. It was Wiatte himself who was breathing his last
groans at my feet!...
The surgeon, whom I had summoned, attended; but immediately
perceived the condition of his patient to be hopeless. In a quarter
of an hour he expired. During this interval, he was insensible to all
around him. I was known to the surgeon, the landlord and some of the
witnesses. The case needed little explanation. The accident reflected
no guilt upon me. The landlord was charged with the care of the corse
till the morning, and I was allowed to return home, without further
Till now my mind had been swayed by the urgencies of this occasion.
These reflections were excluded, which rushed tumultuously upon me,
the moment I was at leisure to receive them. Without foresight of a
previous moment, an entire change had been wrought in my condition.
I had been oppressed with a sense of the danger that flowed from
the existence of this man. By what means the peril could be
annihilated, and we be placed in security from his attempts, no
efforts of mind could suggest. To devise these means, and employ them
with success, demanded, as I conceived, the most powerful sagacity
and the firmest courage. Now the danger was no more. The intelligence
in which plans of mischief might be generated, was extinguished or
flown. Lifeless were the hands ready to execute the dictates of that
intelligence. The contriver of enormous evil, was, in one moment,
bereft of the power and the will to injure. Our past tranquility had
been owing to the belief of his death. Fear and dismay had resumed
their dominion when the mistake was discovered. But now we might
regain possession of our wonted confidence. I had beheld with my own
eyes the lifeless corpse of our implacable adversary. Thus, in a
moment, had terminated his long and flagitious career. His restless
indignation, his malignant projects, that had so long occupied the
stage, and been so fertile of calamity, were now at an end!
In the course of my meditations, the idea of the death of this man
had occurred, and it bore the appearance of a desirable event. Yet it
was little qualified to tranquilise my fears. In the long catalogue
of contingencies, this, indeed, was to be found; but it was as little
likely to happen as any other. It could not happen without a series
of anterior events paving the way for it. If his death came from us,
it must be the theme of design. It must spring from laborious
circumvention and deep laid stratagems.
No. He was dead. I had killed him. What had I done? I had meditated
nothing. I was impelled by an unconscious necessity. Had the
assailant been my father the consequence would have been the same. My
understanding had been neutral. Could it be? In a space so short, was
it possible that so tremendous a deed had been executed? Was I not
deceived by some portentous vision? I had witnessed the convulsions
and last agonies of Wyatte. He was no more, and I was his destroyer!
Such was the state of my mind for some time after this dreadful
event. Previously to it I was calm, considerate, and self-collected.
I marked the way that I was going. Passing objects were observed. If
I adverted to the series of my own reflections, my attention was not
seized and fastened by them. I could disengage myself at pleasure,
and could pass, without difficulty, from attention to the world
within, to the contemplation of that without.
Now my liberty, in this respect, was at an end. I was fettered,
confounded, smitten with excess of thought, and laid prostrate with
wonder! I no longer attended to my steps. When I emerged from my
stupor, I found that I had trodden back the way which I had lately
come, and had arrived within sight of the banker's boor. I checked
myself, and once more turned my steps homeward.
This seemed to be an hint for entering into new reflections. The
deed, said I, is irretreivable. I have killed the brother of my
patroness, the father of my love.
This suggestion was new. It instantly involved me in terror and
perplexity. How shall I communicate the tidings? What effect will
they produce? My lady's sagacity is obscured by the benevolence of
her temper. Her brother was sordidly wicked. An hoary ruffian, to
whom the language of pity was as unintelligible as the gabble of
monkeys. His heart was fortified against compunction, by the
atrocious habits of forty years: he lived only to interrupt her peace,
to confute the promises of virtue, and convert to rancour and
reproach the fair fame of fidelity.
He was her brother still. As an human being, his depravity was
never beyond the health-restoring power of repentance. His heart, so
long as it beat, was accessible to remorse. The singularity of his
birth had made her regard this being as more intimately her brother,
than would have happened in different circumstances. It was her
obstinate persuasion that their fates were blended. The rumour of his
death she had never credited. It was a topic of congratulation to her
friends, but of mourning and distress to her. That he would one day
reappear upon the stage, and assume the dignity of virtue, was a
source of consolation with which she would never consent to part.
Her character was now known. When the doom of exile was pronounced
upon him, she deemed it incumbent on her to vindicate herself from
aspersions founded on misconceptions of her motives in refusing her
interference. The manuscript, though unpublished, was widely
circulated. None could resist her simple and touching eloquence, nor
rise from the perusal without resigning his heart to the most
impetuous impulses of admiration, and enlisting himself among the
eulogists of her justice and her fortitude. This was the only
monument, in a written form, of her genius. As such it was engraven
on my memory. The picture that it described was the perpetual
companion of my thoughts.
Alas! It had, perhaps, been well for me if it had been buried in
eternal oblivion. I read in it the condemnation of my deed, the
agonies she was preparing to suffer, and the indignation that would
overflow upon the author of so signal a calamity.
I had rescued my life by the sacrifice of his. Whereas I should
have died. Wretched and precipitate coward! What had become of my
boasted gratitude? Such was the zeal that I had vowed to her. Such
the services which it was the business of my life to perform. I had
snatched her brother from existence. I had torn from her the hope
which she so ardently and indefatigably cherished. From a
contemptible and dastardly regard to my own safety I had failed in
the moment of trial, and when called upon by heaven to evince the
sincerity of my professions.
She had treated my professions lightly. My vows of eternal devotion
she had rejected with lofty disinterestedness. She had arraigned my
impatience of obligation as criminal, and condemned every scheme I
had projected for freeing myself from the burthen which her
beneficence had laid upon me. The impassioned and vehement anxiety
with which, in former days, she had deprecated the vengeance of her
lover against Wiatte, rung in my ears. My senses were shocked anew by
the dreadful sounds "Touch not my brother. Wherever you meet with
him, of whatever outrage he be guilty, suffer him to pass in safety.
Despise me: abandon me: kill me. All this I can bear even from you,
but spare, I implore you, my unhappy brother. The stroke that deprives
him of life will not only have the same effect upon me, but will set
my portion in everlasting misery."
To these supplications I had been deaf. It is true I had not rushed
upon him unarmed, intending no injury nor expecting any. Of that
degree of wickedness I was, perhaps, incapable. Alas! I have immersed
myself sufficiently deep in crimes. I have trampled under foot every
motive dear to the heart of honour. I have shewn myself unworthy the
society of men.
Such were the turbulent suggestions of that moment. My pace
slackened. I stopped and was obliged to support myself against a
wall. The sickness that had seized my heart penetrated every part of
my frame. There was but one thing wanting to complete my
distraction...My lady, said I, believed her fate to be blended with
that of Wiatte. Who shall affirm that the persuasion is a groundless
one. She had lived and prospered, notwithstanding the general belief
that her brother was dead. She would not hearken to the rumour. Why?
Because nothing less than indubitable evidence would suffice to
convince her? Because the counter-intimation flowed from an infalible
source? How can the latter supposition be confuted? Has she not
predicted the event?
The period of terrible fulfilment has arrived. The same blow that
bereaved him of life, has likewise ratified her doom.
She has been deceived. It is nothing more, perhaps, than a fond
imagination... It matters not. Who knows not the cogency of faith?
That the pulses of life are at the command of the will? The bearer of
these tidings will be the messenger of death. A fatal sympathy will
seize her. She will shrink, and swoon, and perish at the news!
Fond and short-sighted wretch! This is the price thou hast given
for security. In the rashness of thy thought thou said'st, Nothing is
wanting but his death to restore us to confidence and safety. Lo! the
purchase is made. Havock and despair, that were restrained during his
life, were let loose by his last sigh. Now only is destruction made
sure. Thy lady, thy Clarice, thy friend, and thyself, are, by this
act, involved in irretreivable and common ruin!
I started from my attitude. I was scarcely conscious of any
transition. The interval was fraught with stupor and amazement. It
seemed as if my senses had been hushed in sleep, while the powers of
locomotion were unconsciously exerted to bear me to my chamber. By
whatever means the change was effected, there I was...
I have been able to proceed thus far. I can scarcely believe the
testimony of my memory that assures me of this. My task is almost
executed, but whence shall I obtain strength enough to finish it?
What I have told is light as gossamer, compared with the
insupportable and crushing horrors of that which is to come. Heaven,
in token of its vengeance, will enable me to proceed. It is fitting
that my scene should thus close.
My fancy began to be infected with the errors of my understanding.
The mood into which my mind was plunged was incapable of any
propitious intermission. All within me was tempestuous and dark. My
ears were accessible to no sounds but those of shrieks and
lamentations. It was deepest midnight, and all the noises of a great
metropolis were hushed. Yet I listened as if to catch some strain of
the dirge that was begun. Sable robes, sobs and a dreary solemnity
encompassed me on all sides. I was haunted to despair by images of
death, imaginary clamours, and the train of funeral pageantry. I
seemed to have passed forward to a distant era of my life. The
effects which were to come were already realized. The foresight of
misery created it, and set me in the midst of that hell which I feared.
From a paroxysm like this the worst might reasonably be dreaded,
yet the next step to destruction was not suddenly taken. I paused on
the brink of the precipice, as if to survey the depth of that phrensy
that invaded me; was able to ponder on the scene, and deliberate, in
a state that partook of calm, on the circumstances of my situation. My
mind was harrassed by the repetition of one idea. Conjecture deepened
into certainty. I could place the object in no light which did not
corroborate the persuasion that, in the act committed, I had ensured
the destruction of my lady. At length my mind, somewhat relieved from
the tempest of my fears, began to trace and analize the consequences
which I dreaded.
The fate of Wiatte would inevitably draw along with it that of his
sister. In what way would this effect be produced? Were they linked
together by a sympathy whose influence was independent of sensible
communication? Could she arrive at a knowledge of his miserable end
by other than verbal means? I had heard of such extraordinary
co-partnerships in being and modes of instantaneous intercourse among
beings locally distant. Was this a new instance of the subtlety of
mind? Had she already endured his agonies, and like him already
ceased to breathe.
Every hair bristled at this horrible suggestion. But the force of
sympathy might be chimerical. Buried in sleep, or engaged in careless
meditation, the instrument by which her destiny might be
accomplished, was the steel of an assassin. A series of events,
equally beyond the reach of foresight, with those which had just
happened, might introduce, with equal abruptness, a similar disaster.
What, at that moment, was her condition? Reposing in safety in her
chamber, as her family imagined. But were they not deceived? Was she
not a mangled corse? Whatever were her situation, it could not be
ascertained, except by extraordinary means, till the morning. Was it
wise to defer the scrutiny till then? Why not instantly investigate
These ideas passed rapidly through my mind. A considerable portion
of time and amplification of phrase are necessary to exhibit,
verbally, ideas contemplated in a space of incalculable brevity. With
the same rapidity I conceived the resolution of determining the truth
of my suspicions. All the family, but myself, were at rest. Winding
passages would conduct me, without danger of disturbing them, to the
hall from which double staircases ascended. One of these led to a
saloon above, on the east side of which was a door that communicated
with a suit of rooms, occupied by the lady of the mansion. The first
was an antichamber, in which a female servant usually lay. The second
was the lady's own bed-chamber. This was a sacred recess, with whose
situation, relative to the other apartments of the building, I was
well acquainted, but of which I knew nothing from my own examination,
having never been admitted into it.
Thither I was now resolved to repair. I was not deterred by the
sanctity of the place and hour. I was insensible to all consequences
but the removal of my doubts. Not that my hopes were balanced by my
fears. That the same tragedy had been performed in her chamber and in
the street, nothing hindered me from believing with as much cogency as
if my own eyes had witnessed it, but the reluctance with which we
admit a detestable truth.
To terminate a state of intolerable suspense, I resolved to proceed
forthwith to her chamber. I took the light and paced, with no
interruption, along the galleries. I used no precaution. If I had met
a servant or robber, I am not sure that I should have noticed him. My
attention was too perfectly engrossed to allow me to spare any to a
casual object. I cannot affirm that no one observed me. This,
however, was probable from the distribution of the dwelling. It
consisted of a central edifice and two wings, one of which was
appropriated to domestics, and the other, at the extremity of which
my apartment was placed, comprehended a library, and rooms for
formal, and social, and literary conferences. These, therefore, were
deserted at night, and my way lay along these. Hence it was not
likely that my steps would be observed.
I proceeded to the hall. The principal parlour was beneath her
chamber. In the confusion of my thoughts I mistook one for the other.
I rectified, as soon as I detected my mistake. I ascended, with a
beating heart, the staircase. The door of the antichamber was
unfastened. I entered, totally regardless of disturbing the girl who
slept within. The bed which she occupied was concealed by curtains.
Whether she were there, I did not stop to examine. I cannot recollect
that any tokens were given of wakefulness or alarm. It was not till I
reached the door of her own apartment that my heart began to falter.
It was now that the momentousness of the question I was about to
decide, rushed with its genuine force, upon my apprehension. Appaled
and aghast, I had scarcely power to move the bolt. If the imagination
of her death was not to be supported, how should I bear the spectacle
of wounds and blood? Yet this was reserved for me. A few paces would
set me in the midst of a scene, of which I was the abhorred contriver.
Was it right to proceed? There were still the remnants of doubt. My
forebodings might possibly be groundless. All within might be safety
and serenity. A respite might be gained from the execution of an
irrevocable sentence. What could I do? Was not any thing easy to
endure in comparison with the agonies of suspense? If I could not
obviate the evil I must bear it, but the torments of suspense were
susceptible of remedy.
I drew back the bolt, and entered with the reluctance of fear,
rather than the cautiousness of guilt. I could not lift my eyes from
the ground. I advanced to the middle of the room. Not a sound like
that of the dying saluted my ear. At length, shaking off the fetters
of hopelesness, I looked up....
I saw nothing calculated to confirm my fears. Every where there
reigned quiet and order. My heart leaped with exultation. Can it be,
said I, that I have been betrayed with shadows?....But this is not
Within an alcove was the bed that belonged to her. If her safety
were inviolate, it was here that she reposed. What remained to
convert tormenting doubt into ravishing certainty? I was insensible
to the perils of my present situation. If she, indeed, were there,
would not my intrusion awaken her? She would start and perceive me,
at this hour, standing at her bed-side. How should I account for an
intrusion so unexampled and audacious? I could not communicate my
fears. I could not tell her that the blood with which my hands were
stained had flowed from the wounds of her brother.
My mind was inaccessible to such considerations. They did not even
modify my predominant idea. Obstacles like these, had they existed,
would have been trampled under foot.
Leaving the lamp, that I bore, on the table, I approached the bed.
I slowly drew aside the curtain and beheld her tranquilly slumbering.
I listened, but so profound was her sleep that not even her
breathings could be overheard. I dropped the curtain and retired.
How blissful and mild were the illuminations of my bosom at this
discovery. A joy that surpassed all utterance succeeded the
fierceness of desperation. I stood, for some moments, wrapt in
delightful contemplation. Alas! It was a luminous but transient
interval. The madness, to whose black suggestions it bore so strong a
contrast, began now to make sensible approaches on my understanding.
True, said I, she lives. Her slumber is serene and happy. She is
blind to her approaching destiny. Some hours will at least be rescued
from anguish and death. When she wakes the phantom that soothed her
will vanish. The tidings cannot be withheld from her. The murderer of
thy brother cannot hope to enjoy thy smiles. Those ravishing accents,
with which thou hast used to greet me, will be changed. Scouling and
reproaches, the invectives of thy anger and the maledictions of thy
justice will rest upon my head.
What is the blessing which I made the theme of my boastful
arrogance? This interval of being and repose is momentary. She will
awake but only to perish at the spectacle of my ingratitude. She will
awake only to the consciousness of instantly impending death. When
she again sleeps she will wake no more. I her son, I, whom the law of
my birth doomed to poverty and hardship, but whom her unsolicited
beneficence snatched from those evils, and endowed with the highest
good known to intelligent beings, the consolations of science and the
blandishments of affluence; to whom the darling of her life, the
offspring in whom are faithfully preserved the linaments of its
angelic mother, she has not denied!....What is the recompense that I
have made? How have I discharged the measureless debt of gratitude to
which she is entitled? Thus!....
Cannot my guilt be extenuated? Is there not a good that I can do
thee? Must I perpetrate unmingled evil? Is the province assigned me
that of an infernal emisary, whose efforts are concentred in a single
purpose and that purpose a malignant one? I am the author of thy
calamities. Whatever misery is reserved for thee, I am the source
whence it flows. Can I not set bounds to the stream? Cannot I prevent
thee from returning to a consciousness which, till it ceases to
exist, will not cease to be rent and mangled?
Yes. It is in my power to screen thee from the coming storm: to
accelerate thy journey to rest. I will do it....
The impulse was not to be resisted. I moved with the suddenness of
lightning. Armed with a pointed implement that lay....it was a
dagger. As I set down the lamp, I struck the edge. Yet I saw it not,
or noticed it not till I needed its assistance. By what accident it
came hither, to what deed of darkness it had already been
subservient, I had no power to inquire. I stepped to the table and
The time which this action required was insufficient to save me. My
doom was ratified by powers which no human energies can
counterwork....Need I go father? Did you entertain any imagination of
so frightful a catastrophe? I am overwhelmed by turns with dismay and
with wonder. I am prompted by turns to tear my heart from my breast,
and deny faith to the verdict of my senses.
Was it I that hurried to the deed? No. It was the dæmon that
possessed me. My limbs were guided to the bloody office by a power
foreign and superior to mine. I had been defrauded, for a moment, of
the empire of my muscles. A little moment for that sufficed.
If my destruction had not been decreed why was the image of Clarice
so long excluded? Yet why do I say long? The fatal resolution was
conceived, and I hastened to the execution, in a period too brief for
more than itself to be viewed by the intellect.
What then? Were my hands embrued in this precious blood? Was it to
this extremity of horror that my evil genius was determined to urge
me? Too surely this was his purpose; too surely I was qualified to be
I lifted the weapon. Its point was aimed at the bosom of the
sleeper. The impulse was given....
At the instant a piercing shriek was uttered behind me, and a
stretched-out hand, grasping the blade, made it swerve widley from
its aim. It descended, but without inflicting a wound. Its force was
spent upon the bed.
O! for words to paint that stormy transition! I loosed my hold of
the dagger. I started back, and fixed eyes of frantic curiosity on
the author of my rescue. He that interposed to arrest my deed, that
started into being and activity at a moment so pregnant with fate,
without tokens of his purpose or his coming being previously
imparted, could not, me-thought, be less than divinity.
The first glance that I darted on this being corroborated my
conjecture. It was the figure and the linaments of Mrs. Lorimer.
Neglegently habited in flowing and brilliant white, with features
bursting with terror and wonder, the likeness of that being who was
stretched upon the bed, now stood before me.
All that I am able to conceive of angel was comprised in the moral
constitution of this woman. That her genius had overleaped all
bounds, and interposed to save her, was no audacious imagination. In
the state in which my mind then was no other belief than this could
occupy the first place.
My tongue was tied. I gazed by turns upon her who stood before me,
and her who lay upon the bed, and who, awakened by the shriek that
had been uttered, now opened her eyes. She started from her pillow,
and, by assuming a new and more distinct attitude, permitted me to
recognize Clarice herself!
Three days before, I had left her, beside the bed of a dying
friend, at a solitary mansion in the mountains of Donnegal. Here it
had been her resolution to remain till her friend should breathe her
last. Fraught with this persuasion; knowing this to be the place and
hour of repose of my lady, hurried forward by the impetuosity of my
own conceptions, deceived by the faint gleam which penetrated through
the curtain and imperfectly irradiated features which bore, at all
times, a powerful resemblance to those of Mrs. Lorimer, I had rushed
to the brink of this terrible precipice!
Why did I linger on the verge? Why, thus perilously situated, did I
not throw myself headlong? The steel was yet in my hand. A single
blow would have pierced my heart, and shut out from my remembrance
and foresight the past and the future?
The moment of insanity had gone by, and I was once more myself.
Instead of regarding the act which I had mediatated as the dietate of
compassion or of justice, it only added to the sum of my ingratitude,
and gave wings to the whirlwind that was sent to bear me to perdition.
Perhaps I was influenced by a sentiment which I had not leisure to
distribute into parts. My understanding was, no doubt, bewildered in
the maze of consequences which would spring from my act. How should I
explain my coming hither in this murderous guise, my arm lifted to
destroy the idol of my soul, and the darling child of my patroness? In
what words should I unfold the tale of Wiatte, and enumerate the
motives that terminated in the present scene? What penalty had not my
infatuation and cruelty deserved? What could I less than turn the
dagger's point against my own bosom?
A second time, the blow was thwarted and diverted. Once more this
beneficent interposer held my arm from the perpetration of a new
iniquity. Once more frustrated the instigations of that dæmon, of
whose malice a mysterious destiny had consigned me to be the sport and
Every new moment added to the sum of my inexpiable guilt. Murder
was succeeded, in an instant, by the more detestable enormity of
suicide. She, to whom my ingratitude was flagrant in proportion to
the benefits of which she was the author, had now added to her former
acts, that of rescuing me from the last of mischiefs.
I threw the weapon on the floor. The zeal which prompted her to
seize my arm, this action occasioned to subside, and to yield place
to those emotions which this spectacle was calculated to excite. She
watched me in silence, and with an air of ineffable solicitude.
Clarice, governed by the instinct of modesty, wrapt her bosom and
face in the bed-clothes, and testified her horror by vehement, but
scarcely articulate exclamations.
I moved forward, but my steps were random and tottering. My
thoughts were fettered by reverie, and my gesticulations destitute of
meaning. My tongue faltered without speaking, and I felt as if life
and death were struggling within me for the mastery.
My will, indeed, was far from being neutral in this contest. To
such as I, annihilation is the supreme good. To shake off the ills
that fasten on us by shaking off existence, is a lot which the system
of nature has denied to man. By escaping from life, I should be
delivered from this scene, but should only rush into a world of
retribution, and be immersed in new agonies.
I was yet to live. No instrument of my deliverance was within
reach. I was powerless. To rush from the presence of these women, to
hide me forever from their scrutiny, and their upbraiding, to snatch
from their minds all traces of the existence of Clithero, was the
scope of unutterable longings.
Urged to flight by every motive of which my nature was susceptible,
I was yet rooted to the spot. Had the pause been only to be
interrupted by me, it would have lasted forever.
At length, the lady, clasping her hands and lifting them,
exclaimed, in a tone melting into pity and grief:
Clithero! what is this? How came you hither and why?
I struggled for utterance: I came to murder you. Your brother has
perished by my hands. Fresh from the commission of this deed, I have
hastened hither, to perpetrate the same crime upon you.
My brother! replied the lady, with new vehemence, O! say not so! I
have just heard of his return from Sarsefield and that he lives.
He is dead, repeated I, with fierceness: I know it. It was I that
Dead! she faintly articulated, And by thee Clithero? O! cursed
chance that hindered thee from killing me also! Dead! Then is the
omen fulfilled! Then am I undone! Lost forever!
Her eyes now wandered from me, and her countenance sunk into a wild
and rueful expression. Hope was utterly extinguished in her heart,
and life forsook her at the same moment. She sunk upon the floor
pallid and breathless....
How she came into possession of this knowledge I know not. It is
possible that Sarsefield had repented of concealment, and, in the
interval that passed between our separation and my encounter with
Wiatte, had returned, and informed her of the reappearance of this
Thus then was my fate consummated. I was rescued from destroying
her by a dagger, only to behold her perish by the tidings which I
brought. Thus was every omen of mischief and misery fulfilled. Thus
was the enmity of Wiatte, rendered efficacious, and the instrument of
his destruction, changed into the executioner of his revenge.
Such is the tale of my crimes. It is not for me to hope that the
curtain of oblivion will ever shut out the dismal spectacle. It will
haunt me forever. The torments that grow out of it, can terminate
only with the thread of my existence, but that I know full well will
never end. Death is but a shifting of the scene, and the endless
progress of eternity, which, to the good, is merely the perfection of
felicity, is, to the wicked, an accumulation of woe. The
self-destroyer is his own enemy. this has ever been my opinion.
Hitherto it has influenced my action. Now, though the belief
continues, its influence on my conduct is annihilated. I am no
stranger to the depth of that abyss, into which I shall plunge. No
matter. Change is precious for its own sake.
Well: I was still to live. My abode must be somewhere fixed. My
conduct was henceforth the result of a perverse and rebellious
principle. I banished myself forever from my native soil. I vowed
never more to behold the face of my Clarice, to abandon my friends,
my books, all my wonted labours, and accustomed recreations.
I was neither ashamed nor afraid. I considered not in what way the
justice of the country would affect me. It merely made no part of my
contemplations. I was not embarrassed by the choice of expedients,
for trammeling up the visible consequences and for eluding suspicion.
The idea of abjuring my country, and flying forever from the hateful
scene, partook, to my apprehension, of the vast, the boundless, and
strange: of plunging from the height of fortune to obscurity and
indigence, corresponded with my present state of mind. It was of a
piece with the tremendous and wonderful events that had just happened.
These were the images that haunted me, while I stood speechlessly
gazing at the ruin before me. I heard a noise from without, or
imagined that I heard it. My reverie was broken, and my muscular
power restored. I descended into the street, through doors of which I
possessed one set of keys, and hurried by the shortest way beyond the
precincts of the city. I had laid no plan. My conceptions, with
regard to the future, were shapeless and confused. Successive
incidents supplied me with a clue, and suggested, as they rose, the
next step to be taken.
I threw off the garb of affluence, and assumed a beggar's attire.
That I had money about me for the accomplishment of my purposes was
wholly accidental. I travelled along the coast, and when I arrived at
one town, knew not why I should go further; but my restlessness was
unabated, and change was some relief. I at length arrived at Belfast.
A vessel was preparing for America. I embraced eagerly the
opportunity of passing into a new world. I arrived at Philadelphia.
As soon as I landed I wandered hither, and was content to wear out my
few remaining days in the service of Inglefield.
I have no friends. Why should I trust my story to another? I have
no solicitude about concealment; but who is there who will derive
pleasure or benefit from my rehearsal? And why should I expatiate on
so hateful a theme? Yet now have I consented to this. I have confided
in you the history of my disasters. I am not fearful of the use that
you may be disposed to make of it. I shall quickly set myself beyond
the reach of human tribunals. I shall relieve the ministers of law
from the trouble of punishing. The recent events which induced you to
summon me to this conference, have likewise determined me to make
I was not aware, for some time, of my perturbed sleep. No wonder
that sleep cannot soothe miseries like mine: that I am alike infested
by memory in wakefulness and slumber. Yet I was anew distressed at
the discovery that my thoughts found their way to my lips, without my
being conscious of it, and that my steps wandered forth unknowingly
and without the guidance of my will.
The story you have told is not incredible. The disaster to which
you allude did not fail to excite my regret. I can still weep over
the untimely fall of youth and worth. I can no otherwise account for
my frequenting this shade than by the distant resemblance which the
death of this man bore to that of which I was the perpetrator. This
resemblance occurred to me at first. If time were able to weaken the
impression which was produced by my crime, this similitude was
adapted to revive and inforce them.
The wilderness, and the cave to which you followed me, were
familiar to my sunday rambles. Often have I indulged in audible
griefs on the cliffs of that valley. Often have I brooded over my
sorrows in the recesses of that cavern. This scene is adapted to my
temper. Its mountainous asperities supply me with images of
desolation and seclusion, and its headlong streams lull me into
temporary forgetfulness of mankind.
I comprehend you. You suspect me of concern in the death of
Waldegrave. You could not do otherwise. The conduct that you have
witnessed was that of a murderer. I will not upbraid you for your
suspicions, though I have bought exemption from them at an high price.
There ended his narrative. He started from the spot where he stood,
and, without affording me any opportunity of replying or commenting,
disappeared amidst the thickest of the wood. I had no time to exert
myself for his detention. I could have used no arguments for this
end, to which it is probable he would have listened. The story I had
heard was too extraordinary, too completely the reverse of all my
expectations, to allow me to attend to the intimations of self-murder
which he dropped.
The secret, which I imagined was about to be disclosed, was as
inscrutable as ever. Not a circumstance, from the moment when
Clithero's character became the subject of my meditations, till the
conclusion of his tale, but served to confirm my suspicion. Was this
error to be imputed to credulity? Would not any one, from similar
appearances, have drawn similar conclusions? Or is there a criterion
by which truth can always be distinguished. Was it owing to my
imperfect education that the inquietudes of this man were not traced
to a deed performed at the distance of a thousand leagues, to the
murder of his patroness and friend?
I had heard a tale which apparently related to scenes and persons
far distant, but though my suspicions have appeared to have been
misplaced, what should hinder but that the death of my friend was, in
like manner, an act of momentary insanity and originated in a like
spirit of mistaken benevolence?
But I did not consider this tale merely in relation to myself. My
life had been limited and uniform. I had communed with romancers and
historians, but the impression made upon me by this incident was
unexampled in my experience. My reading had furnished me with no
instance, in any degree, parallel to this, and I found that to be a
distant and second-hand spectator of events was widely different from
witnessing them myself and partaking in their consequences. My
judgement was, for a time, sunk into imbecility and confusion. My
mind was full of the images unavoidably suggested by this tale, but
they existed in a kind of chaos, and not otherwise, than gradually,
was I able to reduce them to distinct particulars, and subject them
to a deliberate and methodical inspection.
How was I to consider this act of Clithero? What a deplorable
infatuation! Yet it was the necessary result of a series of ideas
mutually linked and connected. His conduct was dictated by a motive
allied to virtue. It was the fruit of an ardent and grateful spirit.
The death of Wiatte could not be censured. The life of Clithero was
unspeakably more valuable than that of his antagonist. It was the
instinct of self-preservation that swayed him. He knew not his
adversary in time enough, to govern himself by that knowledge. Had
the assailant been an unknown ruffian, his death would have been
followed by no remorse. The spectacle of his dying agonies would have
dwelt upon the memory of his assassin like any other mournful sight,
in the production of which he bore no part.
It must at least be said that his will was not concerned in this
transaction. He acted in obedience to an impulse which he could not
controul, nor resist. Shall we impute guilt where there is no design?
Shall a man extract food for self-reproach from an action to which it
is not enough to say that he was actuated by no culpable intention,
but that he was swayed by no intention whatever? If consequences
arise that cannot be foreseen, shall we find no refuge in the
persuasion of our rectitude and of human frailty? Shall we deem
ourselves criminal because we do not enjoy the attributes of deity?
Because our power and our knowledge are confined by impassable
But whence arose the subsequent intention? It was the fruit of a
dreadful mistake. His intents were noble and compassionate. But this
is of no avail to free him from the imputation of guilt. No
remembrance of past beneficence can compensate for this crime. The
scale, loaded with the recriminations of his conscience, is immovable
by any counter-weight.
But what are the conclusions to be drawn by dispassionate
observers? Is it possible to regard this person with disdain or with
enmity? The crime originated in those limitations which nature has
imposed upon human faculties. Proofs of a just intention are all that
are requisite to exempt us from blame. He is thus in consequence of a
double mistake. The light in which he views this event is erroneous.
He judges wrong and is therefore miserable.
How imperfect are the grounds of all our decisions? Was it of no
use to superintend his childhood, to select his instructors and
examples, to mark the operations of his principles, to see him
emerging into youth, to follow him through various scenes and trying
vicissitudes, and mark the uniformity of his integrity? Who would
have predicted his future conduct? Who would not have affirmed the
impossibility of an action like this?
How mysterious was the connection between the fate of Wiatte and
his sister! By such circuitous, and yet infalible means, were the
prediction of the lady and the vengeance of the brother accomplished!
In how many cases may it be said, as in this, that the prediction was
the cause of its own fulfilment? That the very act, which considerate
observers, and even himself, for a time, imagined to have utterly
precluded the execution of Wiatte's menaces, should be that
inevitably leading to it. That the execution should be assigned to
him, who, abounding in abhorrence, and in the act of self-defence, was
the slayer of the menacer.
As the obstructor of his designs, Wiatte way-laid and assaulted
Clithero. He perished in the attempt. Were his designs
frustrated?...No, It was thus that he secured the gratification of his
vengeance. His sister was cut off in the bloom of life and
prosperity. By a refinement of good fortune, the voluntary minister
of his malice had entailed upon himself exile without reprieve and
misery without end.
But what chiefly excited my wonder was the connection of this tale
with the destiny of Sarsefield. This was he whom I have frequently
mentioned to you as my preceptor. About four years previous to this
era, he appeared in this district without fortune or friend. He
desired, one evening, to be accomodated at my uncle's house. The
conversation turning on the objects of his journey, and his present
situation, he professed himself in search of lucrative employment. My
uncle proposed to him to become a teacher, there being a sufficient
number of young people in this neighbourhood to afford him occupation
and subsistence. He found it his interest to embrace this proposal.
I, of course, became his pupil, and demeaned myself in such a
manner as speedily to grow into a favourite. He communicated to us no
part of his early history, but informed us sufficiently of his
adventures in Asia and Italy, to make it plain that this was the same
person alluded to by Clithero. During his abode among us his conduct
was irreproachable. When he left us, he manifested the most poignant
regret, but this originated chiefly in his regard to me. He promised
to maintain with me an epistolary intercourse. Since his departure,
however, I had heard nothing respecting him. It was with unspeakable
regret that I now heard of the disappointment of his hopes, and was
inquisitive respecting the measures which he would adopt in his new
situation. Perhaps he would once more return to America, and I should
again be admitted to the enjoyment of his society. This event I
anticipated with the highest satisfaction.
At present, the fate of the unhappy Clithero was the subject of
abundant anxiety. On his suddenly leaving me, at the conclusion of
his tale, I supposed that he had gone upon one of his usual rambles,
and that it would terminate only with the day. Next morning a message
was received from Inglefield inquiring if any one knew what had
become of his servant. I could not listen to this message with
tranquility. I recollected the hints that he had given of some design
upon his life, and admitted the most dreary forebodings. I speeded to
Inglefield's. Clithero had not returned, they told me, the preceding
evening. He had not apprized them of any intention to change his
abode. His boxes, and all that composed his slender property, were
found in their ordinary state. He had expressed no dissatisfaction
with his present condition.
Several days passed, and no tidings could be procured of him. His
absence was a topic of general speculation, but was a source of
particular anxiety to no one but myself. My apprehensions were surely
built upon sufficient grounds. From the moment that we parted, no one
had seen or heard of him. What mode of suicide he had selected, he
had disabled us from discovering, by the impenetrable secrecy in
which he had involved it.
In the midst of my reflections upon this subject, the idea of the
wilderness occurred. Could he have executed his design in the deepest
of its recesses? These were unvisited by human foot-steps, and his
bones might lie for ages in this solitude without attracting
observation. To seek them where they lay, to gather them together and
provide for them a grave, was a duty which appeared incumbent on me,
and of which the performance was connected with a thousand habitual
sentiments and mixed pleasures.
Thou knowest my devotion to the spirit that breathes its
inspiration in the gloom of forests and on the verge of streams. I
love to immerse myself in shades and dells, and hold converse with
the solemnities and secrecies of nature in the rude retreats of
Norwalk. The disappearance of Clithero had furnished new incitements
to ascend its cliffs and pervade its thickets, as I cherished the
hope of meeting in my rambles, with some traces of this man. But
might he not still live? His words had imparted the belief that he
intended to destroy himself. This catastrophe, however, was far from
certain. Was it not in my power to avert it? Could I not restore a
mind thus vigorous, to tranquil and wholesome existence? Could I not
subdue his perverse disdain and immeasurable abhorrence of himself.
His upbraiding and his scorn were unmerited and misplaced. Perhaps
they argued phrensy rather than prejudice; but phrensy, like
prejudice, was curable. Reason was no less an antidote to the
illusions of insanity like his, than to the illusions of error.
I did not immediately recollect that to subsist in this desert was
impossible. Nuts were the only fruits it produced, and these were
inadequate to sustain human life. If it were haunted by Clithero, he
must occasionally pass its limits and beg or purloin victuals. This
deportment was too humiliating and flagitious to be imputed to him.
There was reason to suppose him smitten with the charms of solitude,
of a lonely abode in the midst of mountainous and rugged nature; but
this could not be uninterruptedly enjoyed. Life could be supported
only by occasionally visiting the haunts of men, in the guise of a
thief or a mendicant. Hence, since Clithero was not known to have
reappeared, at any farm-house in the neighbourhood, I was compelled
to conclude, either that he had retired far from this district, or
that he was dead.
Though I designed that my leisure should chiefly be consumed in the
bosom of Norwalk. I almost dismissed the hope of meeting with the
fugitive. There were indeed two sources of my hopelessness on this
occasion. Not only it was probable that Clithero had fled far away,
but, should he have concealed himself in some nook or cavern, within
these precincts, his concealment was not to be traced. This arose
from the nature of that sterile region.
It would not be easy to describe the face of this district, in a
few words. Half of Solebury, thou knowest, admits neither of plough
nor spade. The cultivable space lies along the river, and the desert,
lying on the north, has gained, by some means, the apellation of
Norwalk. Canst thou imagine a space, somewhat circular, about six
miles in diameter, and exhibiting a perpetual and intricate variety of
craggy eminences and deep dells.
The hollows are single, and walled around by cliffs, ever varying
in shape and height, and have seldom any perceptible communication
with each other. These hollows are of all dimensions, from the
narrowness and depth of a well, to the amplitude of one hundred yards.
Winter's snow is frequently found in these cavities at mid-summer.
The streams that burst forth from every crevice, are thrown, by the
irregularities of the surface, into numberless cascades, often
disappear in mists or in chasms, and emerge from subterranean
channels, and, finally, either subside into lakes, or quietly meander
through the lower and more level grounds.
Wherever nature left a flat it is made rugged and scarcely passable
by enormous and fallen trunks, accumulated by the storms of ages, and
forming, by their slow decay, a moss-covered soil, the haunt of
rabbets and lizards. These spots are obscured by the melancholy
umbrage of pines, whose eternal murmurs are in unison with vacancy
and solitude, with the reverberations of the torrents and the
whistling of the blasts. Hiccory and poplar, which abound in the
low-lands, find here no fostering elements.
A sort of continued vale, winding and abrupt, leads into the midst
of this region and throught it. This vale serves the purpose of a
road. It is a tedious maze, and perpetual declivity, and requires,
from the passenger, a cautious and sure foot. Openings and ascents
occasionally present themselves on each side, which seem to promise
you access to the interior region, but always terminate, sooner or
later, in insuperable difficulties, at the verge of a precipice, or
the bottom of a steep.
Perhaps no one was more acquainted with this wilderness than I, but
my knowledge was extremely imperfect. I had traversed parts of it, at
an early age, in pursuit of berries and nuts, or led by a roaming
disposition. Afterwards the sphere of my rambles was enlarged and
their purpose changed. When Sarsefield came among us, I became his
favourite scholar and the companion of all his pedestrian excursions.
He was fond of penetrating into these recesses, partly from the love
of picturesque scenes, partly to investigate its botanical and
mineral productions, and, partly to carry on more effectually that
species of instruction which he had adopted with regard to me, and
which chiefly consisted in moralizing narratives or synthetical
reasonings. These excursions had familiarized me with its outlines
and most accessible parts; but there was much which, perhaps, could
never be reached without wings, and much the only paths to which I
might forever overlook.
Every new excursion indeed added somewhat to my knowledge. New
tracks were pursued, new prospects detected, and new summits were
gained. My rambles were productive of incessant novelty, though they
always terminated in the prospect of limits that could not be
overleaped. But none of these had led me wider from my customary paths
than that which had taken place when in pursuit of Clithero. I had
faint remembrance of the valley, into which I had descended after
him, but till then I had viewed it at a distance, and supposed it
impossible to reach the bottom but by leaping from a precipice some
hundred feet in height. The opposite steep seemed no less
inaccessible, and the cavern at the bottom was impervious to any
views which my former positions had enabled me to take of it.
My attention to re-examine this cave and ascertain whither it led,
had, for a time, been suspended by different considerations. It was
now revived with more energy than ever. I reflected that this had
formerly been haunted by Clithero, and might possibly have been the
scene of the desperate act which he had meditated. It might at least
conceal some token of his past existence. It might lead into spaces
hitherto unvisited, and to summits from which wider landscapes might
One morning I set out to explore this scene. The road which
Clithero had taken was laboriously circuitous. On my return from the
first pursuit of him, I ascended the cliff in my former footsteps,
but soon lighted on the beaten track which I had already described.
This enabled me to shun a thousand obstacles, which had lately risen
before me, and opened an easy passage to the cavern.
I once more traversed this way. The brow of the hill was gained.
The ledges of which it consisted, afforded sufficient footing, when
the attempt was made, though viewed at a distance they seemed to be
too narrow for that purpose. As I descended the rugged stair, I could
not but wonder at the temerity and precipitation with which this
descent had formerly been made. It seemed if the noon-day-light and
the tardiest circumspection would scarcely enable me to accomplish
it, yet then it had been done with headlong speed, and with no
guidance but the moon's uncertain rays.
I reached the mouth of the cave. Till now I had forgotten that a
lamp or a torch might be neccessary to direct my subterranean
foot-steps. I was unwilling to defer the attempt. Light might
possibly be requisite, if the cave had no other outlet. Somewhat
might present itself within to the eyes, which might forever elude
the hands, but I was more inclined to consider it merely as an avenue,
terminating in an opening on the summit of the steep, or on the
opposite side of the ridge. Caution might supply the place of light,
or, having explored the cave as far as possible at present, I might
hereafter return, better furnished for the scrutiny.
With these determinations, I proceeded. The entrance was low, and
compelled me to resort to hands as well as feet. At a few yards from
the mouth the light disappeared, and I found myself immersed in the
dunnest obscurity. Had I not been persuaded that another had gone
before me, I should have relinquished the attempt. I proceeded with
the utmost caution, always ascertaining, by out-stretched arms, the
height and breadth of the cavity before me. In a short time the
dimensions expanded on all sides, and permitted me to resume my feet.
I walked upon a smooth and gentle declivity. Presently the wall, on
one side, and the ceiling receded beyond my reach. I began to fear
that I should be involved in a maze, and should be disabled from
returning. To obviate this danger it was requisite to adhere to the
nearest wall, and conform to the direction which it should take,
without straying through the palpable obscurity. Whether the ceiling
was lofty or low, whether the opposite wall of the passage was
distant or near, this, I deemed no proper opportunity to investigate.
In a short time, my progress was stopped by an abrupt descent. I
set down the advancing foot with caution, being aware that I might at
the next step encounter a bottomless pit. To the brink of such an one
I seemed now to have arrived. I stooped, and stretched my hand
forward and downward, but all was vacuity.
Here it was needful to pause. I had reached the brink of a cavity
whose depth it was impossible to ascertain. It might be a few inches
beyond my reach, or hundreds of feet. By leaping down I might incur
no injury, or might plunge into a lake or dash myself to pieces on
the points of rocks.
I now saw with new force the propriety of being furnished with a
light. The first suggestion was to return upon my foot-steps, and
resume my undertaking on the morrow. Yet, having advanced thus far, I
felt reluctance to recede without accomplishing my purposes. I
reflected likewise that Clithero had boldy entered this recess, and
had certainly came forth at a different avenue from that at which he
At length it occurred to me, that though I could not go forward,
yet I might proceed along the edge of this cavity. This edge would be
as safe a guidance, and would serve as well for a clue by which I
might return, as the wall which it was now necessary to forsake.
Intense dark is always the parent of fears. Impending injuries
cannot in this state be descried, nor shunned, nor repelled. I began
to feel some faltering of my courage and seated myself, for a few
minutes, on a stoney mass which arose before me. My situation was
new. The caverns I had hitherto met with, in this desert, were
chiefly formed of low-browed rocks. They were chambers, more or less
spacious, into which twi-light was at least admitted; but here it
seemed as if I was surrounded by barriers that would forever cut off
my return to air and to light.
Presently I resumed my courage and proceeded. My road appeared now
to ascend. On one side I seemed still upon the verge of a precipice,
and, on the other, all was empty and waste. I had gone no
inconsiderable distance, and persuaded myself that my career would
speedily terminate. In a short time, the space on the left hand, was
again occupied, and I cautiously proceeded between the edge of the
gulf and a rugged wall. As the space between them widened I adhered
to the wall.
I was not insensible that my path became more intricate and more
difficult to retread in proportion as I advanced. I endeavoured to
preserve a vivid conception of the way which I had already passed,
and to keep the images of the left, and right-hand wall, and the gulf,
in due succession in my memory.
The path which had hitherto been considerably smooth, now became
rugged and steep. Chilling damps, the secret trepidation which
attended me, the length and difficulties of my way, enhanced by the
ceaseless caution and the numerous expedients which the utter
darkness obliged me to employ, began to overpower my strength. I was
frequently compelled to stop and recruit myself by rest. These
respites from toil were of use, but they could not enable me to
prosecute an endless journey, and to return was scarcely a less
arduous task than to proceed.
I looked anxiously forward in the hope of being comforted by some
dim ray, which might assure me that my labours were approaching an
end. At last this propitious token appeared, and I issued forth into
a kind of chamber, one side of which was open to the air and allowed
me to catch a portion of the checquered sky. This spectacle never
before excited such exquisite sensations in my bosom. The air,
likewise, breathed into the cavern, was unspeakably delicious.
I now found myself on the projecture of a rock. Above and below the
hill-side was nearly perpendicular. Opposite, and at the distance of
fifteen or twenty yards, was a similar ascent. At the bottom was a
glen, cold, narrow and obscure. The projecture, which served as a
kind of vestibule to the cave, was connected with a ledge, by which,
though not without peril and toil, I was conducted to the summit.
This summit was higher than any of those which were interposed
between itself and the river. A large part of this chaos of rocks and
precipices was sujected, at one view, to the eye. The fertile lawns
and vales which lay beyond this, the winding course of the river, and
the slopes which rose on its farther side, were parts of this
extensive scene. These objects were at any time fitted to inspire
rapture. Now my delight was enhanced by the contrast which this
lightsome and serene element bore to the glooms from which I had
lately emerged. My station, also, was higher, and the limits of my
view, consequently more ample than any which I had hitherto enjoyed.
I advanced to the outer verge of the hill, which I found to
overlook a steep, no less inaccessible, and a glen equally profound.
I changed frequently my station in order to diversify the scenery. At
length it became necessary to inquire by what means I should return. I
traversed the edge of the hill, but on every side it was equally
steep and always too lofty to permit me to leap from it. As I kept
along the verge, I perceived that it tended in a circular direction,
and brought me back, at last, to the spot from which I had set out.
From this inspection, it seemed as if return was impossible by any
other way than that through the cavern.
I now turned my attention to the interior space. If you imagine a
cylindrical mass, with a cavity dug in the centre, whose edge
conforms to the exterior edge; and, if you place in this cavity
another cylinder, higher than that which surrounds it, but so small as
to leave between its sides and those of the cavity, an hollow space,
you will gain as distinct an image of this hill as words can convey.
The summit of the inner rock was rugged and covered with trees of
unequal growth. To reach this summit would not render my return
easier; but its greater elevation would extend my view, and perhaps
furnish a spot from which the whole horizon was conspicuous.
As I had traversed the outer, I now explored the inner edge of this
hill. At length I reached a spot where the chasm, separating the two
rocks, was narrower than at any other part. At first view, it seemed
as if it were possible to leap over it, but a nearer examination
shewed me that the passage was impracticable. So far as my eye could
estimate it, the breadth was thirty or forty feet. I could scarcely
venture to look beneath. The height was dizzy, and the walls, which
approached each other at top, receded at the bottom, so as to form
the resemblance of an immense hall, lighted from a rift, which some
convulsion of nature had made in the roof. Where I stood there
ascended a perpetual mist, occasioned by a torrent that dashed along
the rugged pavement below.
From these objects I willingly turned my eye upon those before and
above me, on the opposite ascent. A stream, rushing from above, fell
into a cavity, which its own force seemed gradually to have made. The
noise and the motion equally attracted my attention. There was a
desolate and solitary grandeur in the scene, enhanced by the
circumstances in which it was beheld, and by the perils through which
I had recently passed, that had never before been witnessed by me.
A sort of sanctity and awe environed it, owing to the consciousness
of absolute and utter loneliness. It was probable that human feet had
never before gained this recess, that human eyes had never been fixed
upon these gushing waters. The aboriginal inhabitants had no motives
to lead them into caves like this, and ponder on the verge of such a
precipice. Their successors were still less likely to have wandered
hither. Since the birth of this continent, I was probably the first
who had deviated thus remotely from the customary paths of men.
While musing upon these ideas, my eye was fixed upon the foaming
current. At length, I looked upon the rocks which confined and
embarrassed its course. I admired their phantastic shapes, and endless
irregularities. Passing from one to the other of these, my attention
lighted, at length, as if by some magical transition, on.....an human
My surprise was so abrupt, and my sensations so tumultuous that I
forgot for a moment the perilous nature of my situation. I loosened
my hold of a pine branch, which had been hitherto one of my supports,
and almost started from my seat. Had my station been, in a slight
degree nearer the brink than it was, I should have fallen headlong
into the abyss.
To meet an human creature, even on that side of the chasm which I
occupied, would have been wholly adverse to my expectation. My
station was accessible by no other road than that through which I had
passed, and no motives were imaginable by which others could be
prompted to explore this road. But he whom I now beheld, was seated
where it seemed impossible for human efforts to have placed him....
But this affected me but little in comparison with other incidents.
Not only the countenance was human, but in spite of shaggy and
tangled locks, and an air of melancholy wildness, I speedily
recognized the features of the fugitive Clithero?
One glance was not sufficient to make me acquainted with this
scene. I had come hither partly in pursuit of this man, but some
casual appendage of his person, something which should indicate his
past rather than his present existence, was all that I hoped to find.
That he should be found alive in this desert; that he should have
gained this summit, access to which was apparently impossible, were
scarcely within the boundaries of belief.
His scanty and coarse garb, had been nearly rent away by brambles
and thorns, his arms, bosom and cheek were overgrown and
half-concealed by hair. There was somewhat in his attitude and looks
denoting more than anarchy of thoughts and passions. His rueful,
ghastly, and immoveable eyes, testified not only that his mind was
ravaged by despair, but that he was pinched with famine.
These proofs of his misery thrilled to my inmost heart. Horror and
shuddering invaded me as I stood gazing upon him, and, for a time, I
was without the power of deliberating on the measures which it was my
duty to adopt for his relief. The first suggestion was, by calling,
to inform him of my presence. I knew not what counsel or comfort to
offer. By what words to bespeak his attention, or by what topics to
molify his direful passions I knew not. Though so near, the gulf by
which we were separated was impassable. All that I could do was to
My surprise and my horror were still strong enough to give a shrill
and piercing tone to my voice. The chasm and the rocks loudened and
reverberated my accents while I exclaimed..... Man! Clithero!
My summons was effectual. He shook off his trance in a moment. He
had been stretched upon his back, with his eyes fixed upon a craggy
projecture above, as if he were in momentary expectation of its fall,
and crushing him to atoms. Now he started on his feet. He was
conscious of the voice, but not of the quarter whence it came. He was
looking anxiously around when I again spoke.....Look hither: It is I
He looked. Astonishment was now mingled with every other dreadful
meaning in his visage. He clasped his hands together and bent
forward, as if to satisfy himself that his summoner was real. At the
next moment he drew back, placed his hands upon his breast, and fixed
his eyes on the ground
This pause was not likely to be broken but by me. I was preparing
again to speak. To be more distinctly heard, I advanced closer to the
brink. During this action, my eye was necessarily withdrawn from him.
Having gained a somewhat nearer station, I looked again, but....he
The seat which he so lately occupied was empty. I was not
forewarned of his disappearance, or directed to the course of his
flight by any rustling among leaves. These indeed would have been
overpowered by the noise of the cataract. The place where he sat was
the bottom of a cavity, one side of which terminated in the verge of
the abyss, but the other sides were perpendicular or overhanging.
Surely he had not leaped into this gulf, and yet that he had so
speedily scaled the steep was impossible.
I looked into the gulf, but the depth and the gloom allowed me to
see nothing with distinctness. His cries or groans could not be
overhead amidst the uproar of the waters. His fall must have instantly
destroyed him, and that he had fallen was the only conclusion I could
My sensations on this incident cannot be easily described. The
image of this man's despair, and of the sudden catastrophe to which
my inauspicious interference had led, filled me with compunction and
terror. Some of my fears were relieved by the new conjecture, that,
behind the rock on which he had lain, there might be some aperture or
pit into which he had descended, or in which he might be concealed.
I derived consolation from this conjecture. Not only the evil which
I dreaded might not have happened, but some alleviation of his misery
was possible. Could I arrest his foot-steps and win his attention, I
might be able to insinuate the lessons of fortitude; but if words
were impotent, and arguments were nugatory, yet to set by him in
silence, to moisten his hand with tears, to sigh in unison, to offer
him the spectacle of sympathy, the solace of believing that his
demerits were not estimated by so rigid a standard by others as by
himself, that one at least among his fellow men regarded him with
love and pity, could not fail to be of benign influence.
These thoughts inspired me with new zeal. To effect my purpose it
was requisite to reach the opposite steep. I was now convinced that
this was not an impracticable undertaking, since Clithero had already
performed it. I once more made the circuit of the hill. Every side
was steep and of enormous height, and the gulf was no where so narrow
as at this spot. I therefore returned hither, and once more pondered
on the means of passing this tremendous chasm in safety.
Casting my eyes upward, I noted the tree at the root of which I was
standing. I compared the breadth of the gulf with the length of the
trunk of this tree, and it appeared very suitable for a bridge.
Happily it grew obliquely, and, if felled by an axe, would probably
fall of itself, in such a manner as to be suspended across the chasm.
The stock was thick enough to afford me footing, and would enable me
to reach the opposite declivity without danger or delay.
A more careful examination of the spot, the scite of the tree, its
dimensions and the direction of its growth convinced me fully of the
practicability of this expedient, and I determined to carry it into
immediate execution. For this end I must hasten home, procure an axe,
and return with all expedition hither. I took my former way, once
more entered the subterranean avenue, and slowly re-emerged into day.
Before I reached home, the evening was at hand, and my tired limbs
and jaded spirits obliged me to defer my undertaking till the morrow.
Though my limbs were at rest, my thoughts were active through the
night. I carefully reviewed the situation of this hill, and was
unable to conjecture by what means Clithero could place himself upon
it. Unless he occasionally returned to the habitable grounds, it was
impossible for him to escape perishing by famine. He might intend to
destroy himself by this means, and my first efforts were to be
employed to overcome this fatal resolution. To persuade him to leave
his desolate haunts might be a laborious and tedious task, meanwhile
all my benevolent intentions would be frustrated by his want of
sustenance. It was proper, therefore, to carry bread with me, and to
place it before him. The sight of food, the urgencies of hunger, and
my vehement intreaties might prevail on him to eat, though no
expostulation might suffice to make him seek food at a distance.
END OF VOL. I.
Next morning I stored a small bag with meat and bread, and
throwing an axe on my shoulder, set out, without informing any one of
my intentions, for the hill. My passage was rendered more difficult
by these incumbrances, but my perseverance surmounted every
impediment, and I gained, in a few hours, the foot of the tree, whose
trunk was to serve me for a bridge. In this journey I saw no traces
of the fugitive.
A new survey of the tree confirmed my former conclusions, and I
began my work with diligence. My strokes were repeated by a thousand
echoes, and I paused at first somewhat startled by reverberations,
which made it appear as if not one, but a score of axes, were
employed at the same time on both sides of the gulf.
Quickly the tree fell, and exactly in the manner which I expected
and desired. The wide-spread limbs occupied and choaked up the
channel of the torrent, and compelled it to seek a new outlet and
multiplied its murmurs. I dared not trust myself to cross it in an
upright posture, but clung, with hands and feet, to its rugged bark.
Having reached the opposite cliff I proceeded to examine the spot
where Clithero had disappeared. My fondest hopes were realised, for a
considerable cavity appeared, which, on a former day, had been
concealed from my distant view by the rock.
It was obvious to conclude that this was his present habitation, or
that an avenue, conducting hither and terminating in the unexplored
sides of this pit, was that by which he had come hither, and by which
he had retired. I could not hesitate long to slide into the pit. I
found an entrance through which I fearlessly penetrated. I was
prepared to encounter obstacles and perils similar to those which I
have already described, but was rescued from them by ascending, in a
few minutes, into a kind of passage, open above, but walled by a
continued rock on both sides. The sides of this passage conformed
with the utmost exactness to each other. Nature, at some former
period, had ccasioned the solid mass to dispart at this place, and had
thus afforded access to the summit of the hill. Loose stones and
ragged points formed the flooring of this passage, which rapidly and
I was now within a few yards of the surface of the rock. The
passage opened into a kind of chamber or pit, the sides of which were
not difficult to climb. I rejoiced at the prospect of this termination
of my journey. Here I paused, and throwing my weary limbs on the
ground, began to examine the objects around me, and to meditate on
the steps that were next to be taken.
My first glance lighted on the very being of whom I was in search.
Stretched upon a bed of moss, at the distance of a few feet from my
station, I beheld Clithero. He had not been roused by my approach,
though my foot-steps were perpetually stumbling and sliding. This
reflection gave birth to the fear that he was dead. A nearer
inspection dispelled my apprehensions, and shewed me that he was
merely buried in profound slumber. Those vigils must indeed have been
long which were at last succeeded by a sleep so oblivious.
This meeting was, in the highest degree, propitious. It not only
assured me of his existence, but proved that his miseries were
capable to be suspended. His slumber enabled me to pause, to ruminate
on the manner by which his understanding might be most successfully
addressed; to collect and arrange the topics fitted to rectify his
gloomy and disastrous perceptions.
Thou knowest that I am qualified for such tasks neither by my
education nor my genius. The headlong and ferocious energies of this
man could not be repelled or diverted into better paths by efforts so
undisciplined as mine. A despair so stormy and impetuous would drown
my feeble accents. How should I attempt to reason with him? How
should I outroot prepossessions so inveterate; the fruits of his
earliest education, fostered and matured by the observation and
experience of his whole life. How should I convince him that since the
death of Wiatte was not intended, the deed was without crime; that,
if it had been deliberately concerted, it was still a virtue, since
his own life could, by no other means, be preserved; that when he
pointed a dagger at the bosom of his mistress he was actuated, not by
avarice, or ambition, or revenge, or malice. He desired to confer on
her the highest and the only benefit of which he believed her
capable. He sought to rescue her from tormenting regrets and lingering
These positions were sufficiently just to my own view, but I was
not called upon to reduce them to practice. I had not to struggle
with the consciousness of having been rescued by some miraculous
contingency, from embruing my hands in the blood of her whom I
adored; of having drawn upon myself suspicions of ingratitude and
murder too deep to be ever effaced; of having bereft myself of love,
and honour, and friends, and spotless reputation; of having doomed
myself to infamy and detestation, to hopeless exile, penury, and
servile toil. These were the evils which his malignant destiny had
made the unalterable portion of Clithero, and how should my imperfect
eloquence annihilate these evils? Every man, not himself the victim
of irretreivable disasters, perceives the folly of ruminating on the
past, and of fostering a grief which cannot reverse or recall the
decrees of an immutable necessity; but every man who suffers is
unavoidably shackled by the errors which he censures in his
neighbour, and his efforts to relieve himself are as fruitless as
those with which he attempted the relief of others.
No topic, therefore, could be properly employed by me on the
present occasion. All that I could do was to offer him food, and, by
pathetic supplications, to prevail on him to eat. Famine, however
obstinate, would scarcely refrain when bread was placed within sight
and reach. When made to swerve from his resolution in one instance,
it would be less difficult to conquer it a second time. The magic of
sympathy, the perseverance of benevolence, though silent, might work
a gradual and secret revolution, and better thoughts might insensibly
displace those desperate suggestions which now governed him.
Having revolved these ideas, I placed the food which I had brought
at his right hand, and, seating myself at his feet, attentively
surveyed his countenance. The emotions, which were visible during
wakefulness, had vanished during this cessation of remembrance and
remorse, or were faintly discernible. They served to dignify and
solemnize his features, and to embellish those immutable lines which
betokened the spirit of his better days. Linaments were now observed
which could never co-exist with folly, or associate with obdurate
I had no inclination to awaken him. This respite was too sweet to
be needlessly abridged. I determined to await the operation of
nature, and to prolong, by silence and by keeping interruption at a
distance, this salutary period of forgetfulness. This interval
permitted new ideas to succeed in my mind.
Clithero believed his solitude to be unapproachable. What new
expedients to escape inquiry and intrusion might not my presence
suggest! Might he not vanish, as he had done on the former day, and
afford me no time to assail his constancy and tempt his hunger? If,
however, I withdrew during his sleep, he would awake without
disturbance, and be, unconscious for a time, that his secrecy had
been violated. He would quickly perceive the victuals and would need
no foreign inducements to eat. A provision, so unexpected and
extraordinary, might suggest new thoughts, and be construed into a
kind of heavenly condemnation of his purpose. He would not readily
suspect the motives or person of his visitant, would take no
precaution against the repetition of my visit, and, at the same time,
our interview would not be attended with so much surprise. The more I
revolved these reflections, the greater force they acquired. At
length, I determined to withdraw, and, leaving the food where it
could scarcely fail of attracting his notice, I returned by the way
that I had scarcely reached home, when a messenger from Inglefield
arrived, requesting me to spend the succeeding night at his house, as
some engagement had occurred to draw him to the city.
I readily complied with this request. It was not neccessary,
however, to be early in my visit. I deferred going till the evening
was far advanced. My way led under the branches of the elm which
recent events had rendered so memorable. Hence my reflections
reverted to the circumstances which had lately occurred in connection
with this tree.
I paused, for some time, under its shade. I marked the spot where
Clithero had been discovered digging. It shewed marks of being
unsettled, but the sod which had formerly covered it and which had
lately been removed, was now carefully replaced. This had not been
done by him on that occasion in which I was a witness of his
behaviour. The earth was then hastily removed and as hastily thrown
again into hole from which it had been taken.
Some curiosity was naturally excited by this appearance. Either
some other person, or Clithero, on a subsequent occasion, had been
here. I was now likewise led to reflect on the possible motives that
prompted the maniac to turn up this earth. There is always some
significance in the actions of a sleeper. Somewhat was, perhaps,
buried in this spot, connected with the history of Mrs. Lorimer or of
Clarice. Was it not possible to ascertain the truth in this respect?
There was but one method. By carefully uncovering this hole, and
digging as deep as Clithero had already dug, it would quickly appear
whether any thing was hidden. To do this publickly by daylight was
evidently indiscreet. Besides, a moment's delay was superfluous. The
night had now fallen, and before it was past this new undertaking
might be finished. An interview was, if possible, to be gained with
Clithero on the morrow, and for this interview the discoveries made
on this spot might eminently qualify me. Influenced by these
considerations, I resolved to dig. I was first, however, to converse
an hour with the house-keeper, and then to withdraw to my chamber.
When the family were all retired, and there was no fear of observation
or interruption, I proposed to rise and hasten, with a proper
One chamber, in Inglefield's house, was usually reserved for
visitants. In this chamber thy unfortunate brother died, and here it
was that I was to sleep. The image of its last inhabitant could not
fail of being called up, and of banishing repose; but the scheme
which I had meditated was an additional incitement to watchfulness.
Hither I repaired, at the due season, having previously furnished
myself with candles, since I knew not what might occur to make a
I did not go to bed, but either sat musing by a table or walked
across the room. The bed before me was that on which my friend
breathed his last. To rest my head upon the same pillow, to lie on
that pallet which sustained his cold and motionless limbs, were
provocations to remembrance and grief that I desired to shun. I
endeavoured to fill my mind with more recent incidents, with the
disasters of Clithero, my subterranean adventures, and the probable
issue of the schemes which I now contemplated.
I recalled the conversation which had just ended with the
house-keeper. Clithero had been our theme, but she had dealt chiefly
in repetitions of what had formerly been related by her or by
Inglefield. I inquired what this man had left behind, and found that
it consisted of a square box, put together by himself with uncommon
strength, but of rugged workmanship. She proceeded to mention that
she had advised her brother, Mr. Inglefield, to break open this box
and ascertain its contents, but this he did not think himself
justified in doing. Clithero was guilty of no known crime, was
responsible to no one for his actions, and might sometime return to
claim his property. This box contained nothing with which others had
a right to meddle. Somewhat might be found in it, throwing light upon
his past or present situation, but curiosity was not to be gratified
by these means. What Clithero thought proper to conceal, it was
criminal for us to extort from him.
The house-keeper was by no means convinced by these arguments, and
at length, obtained her brother's permission to try whether any of
her own keys would unlock this chest. The keys were produced, but no
lock nor key-hole were discoverable. The lid was fast, but by what
means it was fastened, the most accurate inspection could not detect.
Hence she was compelled to lay aside her project. This chest had
always stood in the chamber which I now occupied.
These incidents were now remembered, and I felt disposed to profit
by this opportunity of examining this box. It stood in a corner, and
was easily distinguished by its form. I lifted it and found its
weight by no means extraordinary. Its structure was remarkable. It
consisted of six sides, square and of similar dimensions. These were
joined, not by mortice and tennon; not by nails, not by hinges, but
the junction was accurate. The means by which they were made to
cohere were invisible.
Appearances on every side were uniform, nor were there any marks by
which the lid was distinguishable from its other surfaces.
During his residence with Inglefield, many specimens of mechanical
ingenuity were given by his servant. This was the workmanship of his
own hands. I looked at it, for some time, till the desire insensibly
arose of opening and examining its contents.
I had no more right to do this than the Inglefields, perhaps indeed
this curiosity was more absurd, and the gratification more culpable
in me than in them. I was acquainted with the history of Clithero's
past life, and with his present condition. Respecting these, I had no
new intelligence to gain, and no doubts to solve. What excuse could I
make to the proprietor, should he ever reappear to claim his own, or
to Inglefield for breaking open a receptacle which all the maxims of
society combine to render sacred.
But could not my end be gained without violence. The means of
opening might present themselves on a patient scrutiny. The lid might
be raised and shut down again without any tokens of my act; its
contents might be examined, and all things restored to their former
condition in a few minutes.
I intended not a theft. I intended to benefit myself without
inflicting injury on others. Nay, might not the discoveries I should
make, throw light upon the conduct of this extraordinary man, which
his own narrative had withheld? Was there reason to confide implicitly
on the tale which I had heard.
In spite of the testimony of my own feelings, the miseries of
Clithero appeared in some degree, phantastic and groundless. A
thousand conceivable motives might induce him to pervert or conceal
the truth. If he were thoroughly known, his character might assume a
new appearance, and what is now so difficult to reconcile to common
maxims, might prove perfectly consistent with them. I desire to
restore him to peace, but a thorough knowledge of his actions is
necessary, both to shew that he is worthy of compassion, and to
suggest the best means of extirpating his errors. It was possible that
this box contained the means of this knowledge.
There were likewise other motives which, as they possessed some
influence, however small, deserve to be mentioned. Thou knowest that
I also am a mechanist. I had constructed a writing desk and cabinet,
in which I had endeavoured to combine the properties of secrecy,
security, and strength, in the highest possible degree. I looked upon
this therefore with the eye of an artist, and was solicitous to know
the principles on which it was formed. I determined to examine, and
if possible to open it.
I surveyed it with the utmost attention. All its parts appeared
equally solid and smooth. It could not be doubted that one of its
sides served the purpose of a lid, and was possible to be raised.
Mere strength could not be applied to raise it, because there was no
projecture which might be firmly held by the hand, and by which force
could be exerted. Some spring, therefore, secretly existed which
might forever elude the senses, but on which the hand, by being moved
over it, in all directions, might accidentally light.
This process was effectual. A touch, casually applied at an angle,
drove back a bolt, and a spring, at the same time, was set in action,
by which the lid was raised above half an inch. No event could be
supposed more fortuitous than this. An hundred hands might have
sought in vain for this spring. The spot in which a certain degree of
pressure was sufficient to produce this effect, was of all, the last
likely to attract notice or awaken suspicion.
I opened the trunk with eagerness. The space within was divided
into numerous compartments, none of which contained any thing of
moment. Tools of different and curious constructions, and remnants of
minute machinery, were all that offered themselves to my notice.
My expectations being thus frustrated, I proceeded to restore
things to their former state. I attempted to close the lid; but the
spring which had raised it refused to bend. No measure that I could
adopt, enabled me to place the lid in the same situation in which I
had found it. In my efforts to press down the lid, which were
augmented in proportion to the resistance that I met with, the spring
was broken. This obstacle being removed, the lid resumed its proper
place; but no means, within the reach of my ingenuity to discover,
enabled me to push forward the bolt, and thus to restore the
I now perceived that Clithero had provided not only against the
opening of his cabinet, but likewise against the possibility of
concealing that it had been opened. This discovery threw me into some
confusion. I had been tempted thus far, by the belief that my action
was without witnesses, and might be forever concealed. This opinion
was now confuted. If Clithero should ever reclaim his property, he
would not fail to detect the violence of which I had been guilty.
Inglefield would disapprove in another what he had not permitted to
himself, and the unauthorized and clandestine manner in which I had
behaved, would aggravate, in his eyes, the heinousness of my offence.
But now there was no remedy. All that remained was to hinder
suspicion from lighting on the innocent, and to confess, to my
friend, the offence which I had committed. Meanwhile my first project
was resumed, and, the family being now wrapt in profound sleep, I left
my chamber, and proceeded to the elm. The moon was extremely
brilliant, but I hoped that this unfrequented road and unseasonable
hour would hinder me from being observed. My chamber was above the
kitchen, with which it communicated by a small stair-case, and the
building to which it belonged was connected with the dwelling by a
gallery. I extinguished the light, and left it in the kitchen,
intending to relight it, by the embers that still glowed on the
hearth, on my return.
I began to remove the sod, and cast out the earth, with little
confidence in the success of my project. The issue of my examination
of the box humbled and disheartened me. For some time I found nothing
that tended to invigorate my hopes. I determined, however, to descend,
as long as the unsettled condition of the earth shewed me that some
one had preceded me. Small masses of stone were occasionally met
with, which served only to perplex me with groundless expectations.
At length my spade struck upon something which emitted a very
different sound. I quickly drew it forth, and found it to be wood. Its
regular form, and the crevices which were faintly discernible,
persuaded me that it was human workmanship, and that there was a
cavity within. The place in which it was found, easily suggested some
connection between this and the destiny of Clithero. Covering up the
hole with speed, I hastened with my prize to the house. The door, by
which the kitchen was entered, was not to be seen from the road. It
opened on a field, the farther limit of which was a ledge of rocks,
which formed, on this side, the boundary of Inglefield's estate and
the westernmost barrier of Norwalk.
As I turned the angle of the house, and came in view of this door,
methought I saw a figure issue from it. I was startled at this
incident, and, stopping, crouched close to the wall, that I might not
be discovered. As soon as the figure passed beyond the verge of the
shade, it was easily distinguished to be that of Clithero! He crossed
the field with a rapid pace, and quickly passed beyond the reach of
This appearance was mysterious. For what end he should visit this
habitation, could not be guessed. Was the contingency to be lamented,
in consequence of which an interview had been avoided? Would it have
compelled me to explain the broken condition of his trunk? I knew not
whether to rejoice at having avoided this interview, or to deplore it.
These thoughts did not divert me from examining the nature of the
prize which I had gained. I relighted my candle and hied once more to
the chamber. The first object, which, on entering it, atracted my
attention, was the cabinet broken into twenty fragments, on the
hearth. I had left it on a low table, at a distant corner of the room.
No conclusion could be formed, but that Clithero had been here, had
discovered the violence which had been committed on his property,
and, in the first transport of his indignation, had shattered it to
pieces. I shuddered on reflecting how near I had been to being
detected by him in the very act, and by how small an interval I had
escaped that resentment, which, in that case, would have probably
been wreaked upon me.
My attention was withdrawn, at length, from this object, and fixed
upon the contents of the box which I had dug up. This was equally
inaccessible with the other. I had not the same motives for caution
and forbearance. I was somewhat desperate, as the consequences of my
indiscretion could not be aggravated, and my curiosity was more
impetuous, with regard to the smaller than to the larger cabinet. I
placed it on the ground and crushed it to pieces with my heel.
Something was within. I brought it to the light, and, after loosing
numerous folds, at length drew forth a volume. No object, in the
circle of nature, was more adapted than this, to rouse up all my
faculties. My feelings were anew excited on observing that it was a
manuscript. I bolted the door, and, drawing near the light, opened
and began to read.
A few pages was sufficent to explain the nature of the work.
Clithero had mentioned that his lady had composed a vindication of
her conduct towards her brother, when her intercession in his favour
was solicited and refused. This performance had never been published,
but had been read by many, and was preserved by her friends as a
precious monument of her genius and her virtue. This manuscript was
now before me.
That Clithero should preserve this manuscript, amidst the wreck of
his hopes and fortunes, was apparently conformable to his temper.
That, having formed the resolution to die, he should seek to hide
this volume from the profane curiosity of survivors, was a natural
proceeding. To bury it rather than to burn, or disperse it into
fragments, would be suggested by the wish to conceal, without
committing what his heated fancy would regard as sacrilege. To bury
it beneath the elm, was dictated by no fortuitous or inexplicable
caprice. This event could scarcely fail of exercising some influence
on the perturbations of his sleep, and thus, in addition to other
causes, might his hovering near this trunk, and throwing up this
earth, in the intervals of slumber, be accounted for. Clithero,
indeed, had not mentioned this proceeding in the course of his
narrative; but that would have contravened the end for which he had
provided a grave for this book.
I read this copious tale with unspeakable eagerness. It essentially
agreed with that which had been told by Clithero. By drawing forth
events into all their circumstances, more distinct impressions were
produced on the mind, and proofs of fortitude and equanimity were here
given, to which I had hitherto known no parallel. No wonder that a
soul like Clithero's, pervaded by these proofs of inimitable
excellence, and thrillingly alive to the passion of virtuous fame, and
the value of that existence which he had destroyed, should be
overborne by horror at the view of the past.
The instability of life and happiness was forcibly illustrated, as
well as the perniciousness of error. Exempt as this lady was from
almost every defect, she was indebted for her ruin to absurd opinions
of the sacredness of consanguinity, to her anxiety for the
preservation of a ruffian, because that ruffian was her brother. The
spirit of Clithero was enlightened and erect, but he weakly suffered
the dictates of eternal justice to be swallowed up by gratitude. The
dread of unjust upbraiding hurried him to murder and to suicide, and
the imputation of imaginary guilt, impelled him to the perpetration
of genuine and enormous crimes.
The perusal of this volume ended not but with the night. Contrary
to my hopes, the next day was stormy and wet. This did not deter me
from visiting the mountain. Slippery paths and muddy torrents were no
obstacles to the purposes which I had adopted. I wrapt myself, and a
bag of provisions, in a cloak of painted canvass and speeded to the
dwelling of Clithero.
I passed through the cave and reached the bridge which my own
ingenuity had formed. At that moment, torrents of rain poured from
above, and stronger blasts thundered amidst these desolate recesses
and profound chasms. Instead of lamenting the prevalence of this
tempest, I now began to regard it with pleasure. It conferred new
forms of sublimity and grandeur on this scene.
As I crept with hands and feet, along my imperfect bridge, a sudden
gust had nearly whirled me into the frightful abyss below. To
preserve myself, I was oblidged to loose my hold of my burthen and it
fell into the gulf. This incident disconcerted and distressed me. As
soon as I had effected my dangerous passage, I screened myself behind
a cliff, and gave myself up to reflection.
The purpose of this arduous journey was defeated, by the loss of
the provisions I had brought. I despaired of winning the attention of
the fugitive to supplications, or arguments tending to smother
remorse, or revive his fortitude. The scope of my efforts was to
consist in vanquishing his aversion to food; but these efforts would
now be useless, since I had no power to supply his cravings.
This deficiency, however, was easily supplied. I had only to return
home and supply myself anew. No time was to be lost in doing this;
but I was willing to remain under this shelter, till the fury of the
tempest had subsided. Besides, I was not certain that Clithero had
again retreated hither. It was requisite to explore the summit of
this hill, and ascertain whether it had any inhabitant. I might
likewise discover what had been the success of my former experiment,
and whether the food, which had been left here on the former day, was
consumed or neglected.
While occupied with these reflections, my eyes were fixed upon the
opposite steeps. The tops of the trees, waving to and fro, in the
wildest commotion, and their trunks, occasionally bending to the
blast, which, in these lofty regions, blew with a violence unknown in
the tracts below, exhibited an awful spectacle. At length, my
attention was attracted by the trunk which lay across the gulf, and
which I had converted into a bridge. I perceived that it had already
somewhat swerved from its original position, that every blast broke
or loosened some of the fibres by which its root was connected with
the opposite bank, and that, if the storm did not speedily abate,
there was imminent danger of its being torn from the rock and
precipitated into the chasm. Thus my retreat would be cut off, and
the evils, from which I was endeavouring to rescue another, would be
experienced by myself.
I did not just then reflect that Clithero had found access to this
hill by other means, and that the avenue by which he came, would be
equally commodious to me. I believed my destiny to hang upon the
expedition with which I should re-cross this gulf. The moments that
were spent in these deliberations were critical, and I shuddered to
observe that the trunk was held in its place by one or two fibres
which were already stretched almost to breaking.
To pass along the trunk, rendered slippery by the wet, and
unsteadfast by the wind, was eminently dangerous. To maintain my
hold, in passing, in defiance of the whirlwind, required the most
vigorous exertions. For this end it was necessary to discommode
myself of my cloak, and of the volume, which I carried in the pocket
of my cloak. I believed there was no reason to dread their being
destroyed or purloined, if left, for a few hours or a day, in this
recess. If laid beside a stone, under shelter of this cliff, they
would, no doubt, remain unmolested till the disappearance of the storm
should permit me to revisit this spot in the afternoon or on the
Just as I had disposed of these incumbrances, and had risen from my
seat, my attention was again called to the opposite steep, by the
most unwelcome object that, at this time, could possibly occur.
Something was perceived moving among the bushes and rocks, which, for
a time, I hoped was no more than a racoon or oppossum; but which
presently appeared to be a panther. His grey coat, extended claws,
fiery eyes, and a cry which he at that moment uttered, and which, by
its resemblance to the human voice, is peculiarly terrific, denoted
him to be the most ferocious and untamable of that detested race*.
The industry of our hunters has nearly banished animals of prey
from these precincts. The fastnesses of Norwalk, however, could not
but afford refuge to some of them. Of late I had met them so rarely,
that my fears were seldom alive, and I trod, without caution, the
ruggedest and most solitary haunts. Still, however, I had seldom been
unfurnished in my rambles with the means of defence,
My temper never delighted in carnage and blood. I found no pleasure
in plunging into bogs, wading through rivulets, and penetrating
thickets, for the sake of dispatching wood-cocks and squirrels. To
watch their gambols and flittings, and invite them to my hand, was my
darling amusement when loitering among the woods and the rocks. It
was much otherwise, however, with regard to rattlesnakes and panthers.
These I thought it no breach of duty to exterminate wherever they
could be found. These judicious and sanguinary spoilers were equally
the enemies of man and of the harmless race that sported in the
trees, and many of their skins are still preserved by me as trophies
of my juvenile prowess.
As hunting was never my trade or my sport, I never loaded myself
with fowling-piece or rifle. Assiduous exercise had made me master of
a weapon of much easier carriage, and, within a moderate distance,
more destructive and unerring. This was the Tom-hawk. With this I
have often severed an oak branch and cut the sinews of a
cato'mountain, at the distance of sixty feet.
The unfrequency with which I had lately encountered this foe, and
the incumbrance of provision, made me neglect, on this occasion, to
bring with me my usual arms. The beast that was now before me, when
stimulated by hunger, was accustomed to assail whatever could provide
him with a banquet of blood. He would set upon the man and the deer
with equal and irresistible ferocity. His sagacity was equal to his
strength, and he seemed able to discover when his antagonist was
armed and prepared for defence.
My past experience enabled me to estimate the full extent of my
danger. He sat on the brow of the steep, eyeing the bridge, and
apparently deliberating whether he should cross it. It was probable
that he had scented my foot-steps thus far, and should he pass over,
his vigilance could scarcely fail of detecting my assylum. The pit
into which Clithero had sunk from my view was at some distance. To
reach it was the first impulse of my fear, but this could not be done
without exciting the observation and pursuit of this enemy. I deeply
regretted the untoward chance that had led me, when I first came
over, to a different shelter.
Should he retain his present station, my danger was scarcely
lessened. To pass over in the face of a famished tyger was only to
rush upon my fate. The falling of the trunk, which had lately been so
anxiously deprecated, was now, with no less solicitude, desired. Every
new gust, I hoped, would tear asunder its remaining bands, and, by
cutting off all communication between the opposite steeps, place me
My hopes, however, were destined to be frustrated. The fibres of
the prostrate tree, were obstinately tenacious of their hold, and
presently the animal scrambled down the rock and proceeded to cross it.
Of all kinds of death, that which now menaced me was the most
abhorred. To die by disease, or by the hand of a fellow-creature, was
propitious and lenient in comparison with being rent to pieces by the
fangs of this savage. To perish, in this obscure retreat, by means so
impervious to the anxious curiosity of my friends, to lose my portion
of existence by so untoward and ignoble a destiny, was insupportable.
I bitterly deplored my rashness in coming hither unprovided for an
encounter like this.
The evil of my present circumstances consisted chiefly in suspense.
My death was unavoidable, but my imagination had leisure to torment
itself by anticipations. One foot of the savage was slowly and
cautiously moved after the other. He struck his claws so deeply into
the bark that they were with difficulty withdrawn. At length he
leaped upon the ground. We were now separated by an interval of
scarcely eight feet. To leave the spot where I crouched, was
impossible. Behind and beside me, the cliff rose perpendicularly, and
before me was this grim and terrific visage. I shrunk still closer to
the ground and closed my eyes.
From this pause of horror I was roused by the noise occasioned by a
second spring of the animal. He leaped into the pit, in which I had
so deeply regretted that I had not taken refuge, and disappeared. My
rescue was so sudden, and so much beyond my belief or my hope, that I
doubted, for a moment, whether my senses did not deceive me. This
opportunity of escape was not to be neglected. I left my place, and
scrambled over the trunk with a precipitation which had liked to have
proved fatal. The tree groaned and shook under me, the wind blew with
unexampled violence, and I had scarcely reached the opposite steep
when the roots were severed from the rock and the whole fell
thundering to the bottom of the chasm.
My trepidations were not speedily quieted. I looked back with
wonder on my hair-breadth escape, and on that singular concurrence of
events, which had placed me, in so short a period, in absolute
security. Had the trunk fallen a moment earlier, I should have been
imprisoned on the hill or thrown head-long. Had its fall been delayed
another moment I should have been pursued; for the beast now issued
from his den, and testified his surprise and disappointment by tokens
the sight of which made my blood run cold.
He saw me, and hastened to the verge of the chasm. He squatted on
his hindlegs and assumed the attitude of one preparing to leap. My
consternation was excited afresh by these appearances. It seemed at
first as if the rift was too wide for any power of muscles to carry
him in safety over; but I knew the unparalleled agility of this
animal, and that his experience had made him a better judge of the
practicability of this exploit than I was.
Still there was hope that he would relinquish this design as
desperate. This hope was quickly at an end. He sprung, and his
fore-legs touched the verge of the rock on which I stood. In spite of
vehement exertions, however, the surface was too smooth and too hard
to allow him to make good his hold. He fell, and a piercing cry,
uttered below, shewed that nothing had obstructed his descent to the
Thus was I again rescued from death. Nothing but the pressure of
famine could have prompted this savage to so audacious and hazardous
an effort; but, by yeilding to this impulse, he had made my future
visits to this spot exempt from peril. Clithero was, likewise,
relieved from a danger that was imminent and unforeseen. Prowling
over these grounds the panther could scarcely have failed to meet
with this solitary fugitive.
Had the animal lived, my first duty would have been to have sought
him out, and assailed him with my Tomhawk; but no undertaking would
have been more hazardous. Lurking in the grass, or in the branches of
a tree, his eye might have descried my approach, he might leap upon
me unperceived, and my weapon would be useless.
With an heart beating with unwonted rapidity, I once more descended
the cliff, entered the cavern, and arrived at Huntly farm, drenched
with rain, and exhausted by fatigue.
By night the storm was dispelled; but my exhausted strength would
not allow me to return to the mountain. At the customary hour I
retired to my chamber. I incessantly ruminated on the adventures of
the last day, and inquired into the conduct which I was next to
The bridge being destroyed, my customary access was cut off. There
was no possibility of restoring this bridge. My strength would not
suffice to drag a fallen tree from a distance, and there was none
whose position would abridge or supersede that labour. Some other
expedient must, therefore, be discovered to pass this chasm.
I reviewed the circumstances of my subterranean journey. The cavern
was imperfectly explored. Its branches might be numerous. That which
I had hitherto pursued, terminated in an opening at a considerable
distance from the bottom. Other branches might exist, some of which
might lead to the foot of the precipice, and thence a communication
might be found with the summit of the interior hill.
The danger of wandering into dark and untried paths, and the
commodiousness of that road which had at first been taken, were
sufficient reasons for having hitherto suspended my examination of
the different branches of this labyrinth. Now my customary road was
no longer practicable, and another was to be carefully explored. For
this end, on my next journey to the mountain, I determined to take
with me a lamp, and unravel this darksome maze: This project I
resolved to execute the next day.
I now recollected what, if it had more seasonably occurred, would
have taught me caution. Some months before this a farmer, living in
the skirts of Norwalk, discovered two marauders in his field, whom he
imagined to be a male and female panther. They had destroyed some
sheep, and had been hunted by the farmer, with long and fruitless
diligence. Sheep had likewise been destroyed in different quarters;
but the owners had fixed the imputation of the crime upon dogs, many
of whom had atoned for their supposed offences by their death. He who
had mentioned his discovery of panthers, received little credit from
his neighbours; because a long time had elapsed since these animals
were supposed to have been exiled from this district, and because no
other person had seen them. The truth of this seemed now to be
confirmed by the testimony of my own senses; but, if the rumour were
true, there still existed another of these animals, who might harbour
in the obscurities of this desert, and against whom it was necessary
to employ some precaution. Henceforth I resolved never to traverse
the wilderness unfurnished with my tom-hawk.
These images, mingled with those which the contemplation of
futurity suggested, floated, for a time, in my brain; but at length
gave place to sleep.
Since my return home, my mind had been fully occupied by schemes
and reflections relative to Clithero. The project suggested by thee,
and to which I had determined to devote my leisure, was forgotten, or
remembered for a moment and at wide intervals. What, however, was
nearly banished from my waking thoughts, occurred, in an incongruous
and half-seen form, to my dreams. During my sleep, the image of
Waldegrave flitted before me. Methought the sentiment that impelled
him to visit me, was not affection or complacensy, but inquietude and
anger. Some service or duty remained to be performed by me, which I
had culpably neglected: to inspirit my zeal, to awaken my remembrance,
and incite me to the performance of this duty, did this glimmering
messenger, this half indignant apparition, come.
I commonly awake soon enough to mark the youngest dawn of the
morning. Now, in consequence perhaps of my perturbed sleep, I opened
my eyes before the stars had lost any of their lustre. This
circumstance produced some surprise, until the images that lately
hovered in my fancy, were recalled, and furnished somewhat like a
solution of the problem. Connected with the image of my dead friend,
was that of his sister. The discourse that took place at our last
interview; the scheme of transcribing, for thy use, all the letters
which, during his short but busy life, I received from him; the
nature of this correspondence, and the opportunity which this
employment would afford me of contemplating these ample and precious
monuments of the intellectual existence and moral pre-eminence of my
friend, occurred to my thoughts.
The resolution to prosecute the task was revived. The obligation of
benevolence, with regard to Clithero, was not discharged. This,
neither duty nor curiosity would permit to be overlooked or delayed;
but why should my whole attention and activity be devoted to this
man. The hours which were spent at home and in my chamber, could not
be more usefully employed than in making my intended copy.
In a few hours after sun-rise I purposed to resume my way to the
mountain. Could this interval be appropriated to a better purpose
than in counting over my friend's letters, setting them apart from my
own, and preparing them for that transcription from which I expected
so high and yet so mournful a gratification.
This purpose, by no violent union, was blended with the
recollection of my dream. This recollection infused some degree of
wavering and dejection into my mind. In transcribing these letters I
should violate pathetic and solemn injunctions frequently repeated by
the writer. Was there some connection between this purpose and the
incidents of my vision. Was the latter sent to enforce the
interdictions which had been formerly imposed?
Thou art not fully acquainted with the intellectual history of thy
brother. Some information on that head will be necessary to explain
the nature of that reluctance which I now feel to comply with thy
request, and which had formerly so much excited thy surprise.
Waldegrave, like other men, early devoted to meditation and books,
had adopted, at different periods, different systems of opinion, on
topics connected with religion and morals. His earliest creeds,
tended to efface the impressions of his education; to deify necessity
and universalize matter; to destroy the popular distinctions between
soul and body, and to dissolve the supposed connection between the
moral condition of man, anterior and subsequent to death.
This creed he adopted with all the fulness of conviction, and
propagated with the utmost zeal. Soon after our friendship commenced,
fortune placed us at a distance from each other, and no intercourse
was allowed but by the pen. Our letters, however, were punctual and
copious. Those of Waldegrave were too frequently devoted to the
defence of his favourite tenets.
Thou art acquainted with the revolution that afterwards took place
in his mind. Placed within the sphere of religious influence, and
listening daily to the reasonings and exhortations of Mr. S..., whose
benign temper and blameless deportment was a visible and constant
lesson, he insensibly resumed the faith which he had relinquished,
and became the vehement opponent of all that he had formerly
defended. The chief object of his labours, in this new state of his
mind, was to counteract the effect of his former reasonings on my
At this time, other changes took place in his situation, in
consequence of which we were once more permitted to reside under the
same roof. The intercourse now ceased to be by letter, and the subtle
and laborious argumentations which he had formerly produced against
religion, and which were contained in a permanent form, were
combatted in transient conversation. He was not only eager to subvert
those opinions, which he had contributed to instil into me, but was
anxious that the letters and manuscripts, which had been employed in
their support, should be destroyed. He did not fear wholly or chiefly
on my own account. He believed that the influence of former
reasonings on my faith would be sufficiently eradicated by the new;
but he dreaded lest these manuscripts might fall into other hands,
and thus produce mischiefs which it would not be in his power to
repair. With regard to me, the poison had been followed by its
antidote; but with respect to others, these letters would communicate
the poison when the antidote could not be administered.
I would not consent to this sacrifice. I did not entirely abjure
the creed which had, with great copiousness and eloquence, been
defended in these letters. Beside, mixed up with abstract reasonings,
were numberless passages which elucidated the character and history
of my friend. These were too precious to be consigned to oblivion,
and to take them out of their present connection and arrangement,
would be to mutilate and deform them.
His intreaties and remonstrances were earnest and frequent, but
always ineffectual. He had too much purity of motives to be angry at
my stubbornness, but his sense of the mischievous tendency of these
letters, was so great, that my intractability cost him many a pang.
He was now gone, and I had not only determined to preserve these
monuments, but had consented to copy them for the use of another: for
the use of one whose present and eternal welfare had been the chief
object of his cares and efforts. Thou, like others of thy sex, art
unaccustomed to metaphysical refinements. Thy religion is the growth
of sensibility and not of argument. Thou art not fortified and
prepossessed against the subtleties, with which the being and
attributes of the deity have been assailed. Would it be just to
expose thee to pollution and depravity from this source? To make thy
brother the instrument of thy apostacy, the author of thy fall? That
brother, whose latter days were so ardently devoted to cherishing the
spirit of devotion in thy heart?
These ideas now occurred with more force than formerly. I had
promised, not without reluctance, to give thee the entire copy of his
letters; but I now receded from this promise. I resolved merely to
select for thy perusal such as were narrative or descriptive. This
could not be done with too much expedition. It was still dark, but my
sleep was at an end, and, by a common apparatus, that lay beside my
bed, I could instantly produce a light.
The light was produced, and I proceeded to the cabinet where all my
papers and books are deposited. This was my own contrivance and
workmanship, undertaken by the advice of Sarsefield, who took
infinite pains to foster that mechanical genius, which displayed
itself so early and so forcibly in thy friend. The key belonging to
this, was, like the cabinet itself, of singular structure. For
greater safety, it was constantly placed in a closet, which was
The key was found as usual, and the cabinet opened. The letters
were bound together in a compact form, lodged in a parchment case,
and placed in a secret drawer. This drawer would not have been
detected by common eyes, and it opened by the motion of a spring, of
whose existence none but the maker was conscious. This drawer I had
opened before I went to sleep and the letters were then safe.
Thou canst not imagine my confusion and astonishment, when, on
opening the drawer, I perceived that the pacquet was gone. I looked
with more attention, and put my hand within it, but the space was
empty. Whither had it gone, and by whom was it purloined? I was not
conscious of having taken it away, yet no hands but mine could have
done it. On the last evening I had doubtless removed it to some other
corner, but had forgotten it. I tasked my understanding and my
memory. I could not conceive the possibility of any motives inducing
me to alter my arrangements in this respect, and was unable to
recollect that I had made this change
What remained? This invaluable relique had disappeared. Every
thought and every effort must be devoted to the single purpose of
regaining it. As yet I did not despair. Until I had opened and
ransacked every part of the cabinet in vain, I did not admit the
belief that I had lost it. Even then this persuasion was tumultuous
and fluctuating. It had vanished to my senses, but these senses were
abused and depraved. To have passed, of its own accord, through the
pores of this wood, was impossible; but if it were gone, thus did it
I was lost in horror and amazement. I explored every nook a second
and a third time, but still it eluded my eye and my touch. I opened
my closets and cases. I pryed every where, unfolded every article of
cloathing, turned and scrutinized every instrument and tool, but
My thoughts were not speedily collected or calmed. I threw myself
on the bed and resigned myself to musing. That my loss was
irretreivable, was a supposition not to be endured. Yet ominous
terrors haunted me. A whispering intimation that a relique which I
valued more than life was torn forever away by some malignant and
inscrutable destiny. The same power that had taken it from this
receptacle, was able to waft it over the ocean or the mountains, and
condemn me to a fruitless and eternal search.
But what was he that committed the theft? Thou only, of the beings
who live, wast acquainted with the existence of these manuscripts.
Thou art many miles distant, and art utterly a stranger to the mode
or place of their concealment. Not only access to the cabinet, but
access to the room, without my knowledge and permission, was
impossible. Both were locked during this night. Not five hours had
elapsed since the cabinet and drawer had been opened, and since the
letters had been seen and touched, being in their ordinary position.
During this interval, the thief had entered, and despoiled me of my
This event, so inexplicable and so dreadful, threw my soul into a
kind of stupor or distraction, from which I was suddenly roused by a
foot-step, softly moving in the entry near my door. I started from my
bed, as if I had gained a glimpse of the robber. Before I could run
to the door, some one knocked. I did not think upon the propriety of
answering the signal, but hastened with tremulous fingers and
throbbing heart to open the door. My uncle, in his night-dress, and
apparently just risen from his bed, stood before me!
He marked the eagerness and perturbation of my looks, and inquired
into the cause. I did not answer his inquiries. His appearance in my
chamber and in this guise, added to my surprise. My mind was full of
the late discovery, and instantly conceived some connection between
this unseasonable visit and my lost manuscript. I interrogated him in
my turn as to the cause of his coming.
Why, said he, I came to ascertain whether it was you or not who
amused himself so strangely at this time of night. What is the matter
with you? Why are you up so early?
I told him that I had been roused by my dreams, and finding no
inclination to court my slumber back again, I had risen, though
earlier by some hours than the usual period of my rising.
But why did you go up stairs? You might easily imagine that the
sound of your steps would alarm those below, who would be puzzled to
guess who it was that had thought proper to amuse himself in this
Up stairs? I have not left my room this night. It is not ten
minutes since I awoke, and my door has not since been opened.
Indeed! That is strange. Nay, it is impossible. It was your feet
surely that I heard pacing so solemnly and indefatigably across the long-room for near an hour. I could not for my life conjecture,
for a time, who it was, but finally concluded that it was you. There
was still, however, some doubt, and I came hither to satisfy myself.
These tidings were adapted to raise all my emotions to a still
higher pitch. I questioned him with eagerness as to the circumstances
he had noticed. He said he had been roused by a sound, whose power of
disturbing him arose, not from its loudness, but from its
uncommonness. He distinctly heard some one pacing to and fro with
bare feet, in the long room: This sound continued, with little
intermission, for an hour. He then noticed a cessation of the
walking, and a sound as if some one were lifting the lid of the large
cedar chest, that stood in the corner of this room. The walking was
not resumed, and all was silent. He listened for a quarter of an
hour, and busied himself in conjecturing the cause of this
disturbance. The most probable conclusion was, that the walker was
his nephew, and his curiosity had led him to my chamber to ascertain
This dwelling has three stories. The two lower stories are divided
into numerous apartments. The upper story constitutes a single room
whose sides are the four walls of the house, and whose ceiling is the
roof. This room is unocupied, except by lumber, and imperfectly
lighted by a small casement at one end. In this room, were foot-steps
heard by my uncle.
The stair-case leading to it terminated in a passage near my door.
I snatched the candle, and desiring him to follow me, added, that I
would ascertain the truth in a moment He followed, but observed that
the walking had ceased long enough for the person to escape.
I ascended to the room, and looked behind and among the tables, and
chairs, and casks, which, were confusedly scattered through it, but
found nothing in the shape of man. The cedar chest, spoken of by Mr.
Huntly, contained old books, and remnants of maps and charts, whose
worthlessness unfitted them for accommodation elsewhere. The lid was
without hinges or lock. I examined this repository, but there was
nothing which attracted my attention.
The way between the kitchen door, and the door of the long-room,
had no impediments. Both were usually unfastened but the motives by
which any stranger to the dwelling, or indeed any one within it,
could be prompted to chuse this place and hour, for an employ-of this
kind, were wholly incomprehensible.
When the family rose, inquiries were made but no satisfaction was
obtained. The family consisted only of four persons, my uncle, my two
sisters, and myself. I mentioned to them the loss I had sustained,
but their conjectures were no less unsatisfactory on this than on the
There was no end to my restless meditations. Waldegrave was the
only being, beside myself, acquainted with the secrets of my cabinet.
During his life these manuscripts had been the objects of perpetual
solicitude; to gain possession, to destroy, or secrete them, was the
strongest of his wishes. Had he retained his sensibility on the
approach of death, no doubt he would have renewed, with irresistable
solemnity, his injunctions to destroy them.
Now, however, they had vanished. There were no materials of
conjecture; no probabilities to be weighed, or suspicions to revolve.
Human artifice or power was unequal to this exploit. Means less than
preternatural would not furnish a conveyance for this treasure.
It was otherwise with regard to this unseasonable walker. His
inducements indeed were beyond my power to conceive, but to enter
these doors and ascend these stairs, demanded not the faculties of
any being more than human.
This intrusion, and the pillage of my cabinet were contemporary
events. Was there no more connection between them than that which
results from time? Was not the purloiner of my treasure and the
wanderer the same person? I could not reconcile the former incident
with the attributes of man, and yet a secret faith, not to be
outrooted or suspended, swayed me, and compelled me to imagine that
the detection of this visitant, would unveil the thief.
These thoughts were pregnant with dejection and reverie. Clithero,
during the day, was forgotten. On the succeeding night, my
intentions, with regard to this man, returned. I derived some slender
consolation from reflecting, that time, in its long lapse and
ceaseless revolutions, might dissipate the gloom that environed me.
Meanwhile I struggled to dismiss the images connected with my loss
and to think only of Clithero.
My impatience was as strong as ever to obtain another interview
with this man. I longed with vehemence for the return of day. I
believed that every moment added to his sufferings, intellectual and
physical, and confided in the efficacy of my presence to alleviate or
suspend them. The provisions I had left would be speedily consumed,
and the abstinence of three days was sufficient to undermine the
vital energies. I, some times, hesitated whether I ought not
instantly to depart. It was night indeed, but the late storm had
purified the air, and the radiance of a full moon was universal and
From this attempt I was deterred by reflecting that my own frame
needed the repairs of sleep. Toil and watchfulness, if prolonged
another day, would deeply injure a constitution by no means
distinguished for its force. I must, therefore, compel, if it were
possible, some hours of repose. I prepared to retire to bed, when a
new incident occurred to divert my attention for a time from these
While sitting alone by the parlour fire, marking the effects of
moonlight, I noted one on horseback coming towards the gate. At first
sight, methought his shape and guise were not wholly new to me; but
all that I could discern was merely a resemblance to some one whom I
had before seen. Presently he stopped, and, looking towards the
house, made inquiries of a passenger who chanced to be near. Being
apparently satisfied with the answers he received, he rode with a
quick pace, into the court and alighted at the door. I started from
my seat, and, going forth, waited with some impatience to hear his
He accosted me with the formality of a stranger, and asked if a
young man, by name Edgar Huntly, resided here. Being answered in the
affirmative, and being requested to come in, he entered, and seated
himself, without hesitation, by the fire. Some doubt and anxiety were
visible in his looks. He seemed desirous of information upon some
topic, and yet betrayed terror lest the answers he might receive
should subvert some hope, or confirm some foreboding,
Meanwhile I scrutinized his features with much solicitude. A nearer
and more deliberate view convinced me that the first impression was
just; but still I was unable to call up his name or the circumstances
of our former meeting. The pause was at length ended by his saying,
in a faltering voice:
My name is Weymouth. I came hither to obtain information on a
subject in which my happiness is deeply concerned.
At the mention of his name, I started. It was a name too closely
connected with the image of thy brother, not to call up affecting and
vivid recollections. Weymouth thou knowest, was thy brother's friend.
It is three years since this man left America, during which time no
tidings had been heard of him, at least, by thy brother. He had now
returned, and was probably unacquainted with the fate of his friend.
After an anxious pause, he continued.... Since my arrival I have
heard of an event which has, on many accounts, given me the deepest
sorrow. I loved Waldegrave, and know not any person in the world
whose life was dearer to me than his. There were considerations,
however, which made it more precious to me than the life of one whose
merits might be greater. With his life, my own existence and property
were, I have reason to think, inseparably united.
On my return to my country, after a long absence, I made immediate
inquiries after him. I was informed of his untimely death. I had
questions, of infinite moment to my happiness, to decide with regard
to the state and disposition of his property. I sought out those of
his friends who had maintained with him the most frequent and
confidential intercourse, but they could not afford me any
satisfaction. At length, I was informed that a young man of your
name, and living in this district, had enjoyed more of his affection
and society than any other, had regulated the property which he left
behind, and was best qualified to afford the intelligence which I
sought. You, it seems, are this person, and of you I must make
inquiries to which I conjure you to return sincere and explicit
That, said I, I shall find no difficulty in doing. Whatever
questions you shall think proper to ask, I will answer with readiness
What kind of property and to what amount was your friend possessed
of at his death?
It was money, and consisted of deposits at the bank of North
America. The amount was little short of eight thousand dollars?
On whom has this property devolved?
His sister was his only kindred, and she is now in possession of it?
Did he leave any will by which he directed the disposition of his
property? While thus speaking, Weymouth fixed his eyes upon my
countenance, and seemed anxious to pierce into my inmost soul. I was
somewhat surprised at his questions, but much more at the manner in
which they were put. I answered him, however, without delay...He left
no will, nor was any paper discovered, by which we could guess at his
intentions. No doubt, indeed, had he made a will his sister would
have been placed precisely in the same condition in which she now is.
He was not only bound to her by the strongest ties of kindred, but by
affection and gratitude.
Weymouth now withdrew his eyes from my face, and sunk into a
mournful reverie. He sighed often and deeply. This deportment and the
strain of his inquiries excited much surprise. His interest in the
fate of Waldegrave ought to have made the information he had
received, a source of satisfaction rather than of regret. The
property which Waldegrave left was much greater than his mode of
life, and his own professions had given us reason to except, but it
was no more than sufficient to insure to thee an adequate
subsistence. It ascertained the happiness of those who were dearest
to Waldegrave, and placed them forever beyond the reach of that
poverty which had hitherto beset them. I made no attempt to interrupt
the silence, but prepared to answer any new interrogatory. At length,
Waldegrave was a fortunate man, to amass so considerable a sum in
so short a time. I remember, when we parted, he was poor. He used to
lament that his scrupulous integrity precluded him from all the
common roads to wealth. He did not contemn riches, but he set the
highest value upon competence; and imagined that he was doomed forever
to poverty. His religious duty compelled him to seek his livelihood
by teaching a school of blacks. The labour was disproportioned to his
feeble constitution, and the profit was greatly disproportioned to
the labour. It scarcely supplied the necessities of nature, and was
reduced sometimes even below that standard by his frequent
indisposition. I rejoice to find that his scruples had somewhat
relaxed their force, and that he had betaken himself to some more
profitable occupation. Pray, what was his new way of business?
Nay, said I, his scruples continued as rigid, in this respect, as
ever. He was teacher of the Negro free-school when he died.
Indeed! How then came he to amass so much money? Could he blend
any more lucrative pursuit with his duty as a school-master?
So it seems.
What was his pursuit?
That question, I believe, none of his friends are qualified to
answer. I thought myself acquainted with the most secret transactions
of his life, but this had been carefully concealed from me. I was not
only unapprised of any other employment of his time, but had not the
slightest suspicion of his possessing any property beside his clothes
and books. Ransacking his papers, with a different view, I lighted on
his bank-book, in which was a regular receipt for seven thousand five
hundred dollars. By what means he acquired this money, and even the
acquisition of it, till his death put us in possession of his papers,
was wholly unknown to us.
Possibly he might have held it in trust for another. In this case
some memorandums or letters would be found explaining this affair.
True. This supposition could not fail to occur, in consequence of
which the most diligent search was made among his papers, but no
shred or scrap was to be found which countenanced our conjecture.
You may reasonably be surprised, and perhaps offended, said
Weymouth, at these inquiries; but it is time to explain my motives
for making them. Three years ago I was, like Waldegrave, indigent,
and earned my bread by daily labour. During seven years service in a
public office, I saved, from the expences of subsistence, a few
hundred dollars. I determined to strike into a new path, and, with
this sum, to lay the foundation of better fortune. I turned it into a
bulky commodity, freighted and loaded a small vessel, and went with
it to Barcelona in Spain. I was not unsuccessful in my projects, and,
changing my abode to England, France and Germany, according as my
interest required, I became finally possessed of sufficient for the
supply of all my wants. I then resolved to return to my native
country, and, laying out my money in land, to spend the rest of my
days in the luxury and quiet of an opulent farmer. For this end I
invested the greatest part of my property in a cargo of wine from
Madeira. The remainder I turned into a bill of exchange for seven
thousand five hundred dollars. I had maintained a friendly
correspondence with Waldegrave during my absence. There was no one
with whom I had lived on terms of so much intimacy, and had boundless
confidence in his integrity. To him therefore I determined to
transmit this bill, requesting him to take the money into safe keeping
until my return. In this manner I endeavoured to provide against the
accidents that might befall my person or my cargo in crossing the
It was my fate to encounter the worst of these disasters. We were
overtaken by a storm, my vessel was driven ashore on the coast of
Portugal, my cargo was utterly lost, and the greater part of the crew
and passengers were drowned. I was rescued from the same fate by some
fishermen. In consequence of the hardships to which I had been
exposed, having laboured for several days at the pumps, and spent the
greater part of a winter night, hanging from the rigging of the ship,
and perpetually beaten by the waves, I contracted a severe disease,
which bereaved me of the use of my limbs. The fishermen who rescued
me, carried me to their huts, and there I remained three weeks
helpless and miserable.
That part of the coast on which I was thrown, was, in the highest
degree, sterile and rude. Its few inhabitants subsisted precariously
on the produce of the ocean. Their dwellings were of mud, low,
filthy, dark, and comfortless. Their fuel was the stalks of shrubs,
sparingly scattered over a sandy desert. Their poverty scarcely
allowed them salt and black bread with their fish, which was obtained
in unequal and sometimes insufficient quantities, and which they ate
with all its impurities and half cooked.
My former habits as well as my present indisposition required very
different treatment from what the ignorance and penury of these
people obliged them to bestow. I lay upon the moist earth, imperfectly
sheltered from the sky, and with neither raimentor fire to keep me
warm. My hosts had little attention or compassion to spare to the
wants of others. They could not remove me to a more hospitable
district, and here, without doubt, I should have perished had not a
monk chanced to visit their hovels. He belonged to a convent of St.
Jago, some leagues farther from the shore, who used to send one of
its members annually to inspect the religious concerns of those
outcasts. Happily this was the period of their visitations.
My abode in Spain had made me somewhat conversant with its
language. The dialect of this monk did not so much differ from
Castilian, but that, with the assistance of Latin, we were able to
converse. The jargon of the fishermen was unintelligible, and they
had vainly endeavoured to keep up my spirits by informing me of this
This monk was touched with compassion at my calamity, and speedily
provided the means of my removal to his convent. Here I was
charitably entertained, and the aid of a physician was procured for
me. He was but poorly skilled in his profession, and rather confirmed
than alleviated my disease. The Portuguese of his trade, especially
in remoter districts, are little more than dealers in talismans and
nostrums. For a long time I was unable to leave my pallet, and had no
prospect before me but that of consuming my days in the gloom of this
All the members of this convent, but he who had been my first
benefactor, and whose name was Chaledro, were bigotted and sordid.
Their chief motive for treating me with kindness, was the hope of
obtaining a convert from heresy. They spared no pains to subdue my
errors, and were willing to prolong my imprisonment, in the hope of
finally gaining their end. Had my fate been governed by those, I
should have been immured in this convent, and compelled, either to
adopt their fanatical creed or to put an end to my own life, in order
to escape their well meant persecutions. Chaledro, however, though no
less sincere in his faith and urgent in his intreaties, yet finding
me invincible, exerted his influence to obtain my liberty.
After many delays, and strenuous exertions of my friend, they
consented to remove me to Oporto. The journey was to be performed in
an open cart over a mountainous country, in the heats of summer. The
monks endeavoured to dissuade me from the enterprize, for my own
sake, it being scarcely possible that one in my feeble state, should
survive a journey like this; but I despaired of improving my
condition by other means. I preferred death to the imprisonment of a
Portuguese monastery, and knew that I could hope for no alleviation
of my disease, but from the skill of Scottish or French physicians,
whom I expected to meet with in that city. I adhered to my purpose
with so much vehemence and obstinacy, that they finally yielded to my
My road lay through the wildest and most rugged districts. It did
not exceed ninety miles, but seven days were consumed on the way. The
motion of the vehicle racked me with the keenest pangs, and my
attendants concluded that every stage would be my last. They had been
selected without due regard to their characters. They were knavish and
inhuman, and omitted nothing, but actual violence, to hasten my
death. They purposely retarded the journey, and protracted to seven,
what might have been readily performed in four days. They neglected
to execute the orders which they had received, respecting my lodging
and provisions, and from them, as well as from the peasants, who were
sure to be informed that I was an heretic, I suffered every species
of insult and injury. My constitution, as well as my frame, possessed
a fund of strength of which I had no previous conception. In spite of
hardship and exposure and abstinence, I, at last, arrived at Oporto.
Instead of being carried, agreeably to Chaledro's direction, to a
convent of St. Jago, I was left, late in the evening, in the porch of
a common hospital. My attendants, having laid me on the pavement and
loaded me with imprecations, left me to obtain admission by my own
efforts. I passed the live-long night in this spot, and in the
morning was received into the house, in a state which left it
uncertain whether I was alive or dead.
After recovering my sensibility, I made various efforts to procure
a visit from some English merchant. This was no easy undertaking for
one in my deplorable condition. I was too weak to articulate my words
distinctly, and these words were rendered by my foreign accent,
scarcely intelligible. The likelihood of my speedy death made the
people about me more indifferent to my wants and petitions.
I will not dwell upon my repeated disappointments, but content
myself with mentioning that I gained the attention of a French
gentleman, whose curiosity brought him to view the hospital. Through
him, I obtained a visit from an English merchant, and finally gained
the notice of a person, who formerly resided in America, and of whom
I had imperfect knowledge. By their kindness I was removed from the
hospital to a private house. A Scottish surgeon was summoned to my
assistance, and in seven months, I was restored to my present state
At Oporto, I embarked, in an American ship, for New-York. I was
destitute of all property, and relied, for the payment of the debts
which I was obliged to contract, as well as for my future subsistence,
on my remittance, to Waldegrave. I hastened to Philadelphia, and was
soon informed that my friend was dead. His death had taken place a
long time since my remittance to him, hence this disaster was a
subject of regret chiefly on his own account. I entertained no doubt
but that my property had been secured, and that either some
testamentary directions, or some papers had been left behind
respecting this affair
I sought out those who were formerly our mutual acquaintance, I
found that they were wholly strangers to his affairs. They could
merely relate some particulars of his singular death, and point out
the lodgings which he formerly occupied. Hither I forthwith repaired,
and discovered that he lived in this house with his sister,
disconnected with its other inhabitants. They described his mode of
life in terms that shewed them to be very imperfectly acquainted with
it. It was easy indeed to infer, from their aspect and manners, that
little sympathy or union could have subsisted between them and their
co-tenants, and this inference was confirmed by their insinuations,
the growth of prejudice and envy. They told me that Waldegrave's
sister had gone to live in the country, but whither or for how long,
she had not condescended to inform them, and they did not care to ask.
She was a topping dame whose notions were much too high for her
station. Who was more nice than wise, and yet was one who could
stoop, when it most became her to stand upright. It was no business
of theirs, but they could not but mention their suspicions that she
had good reasons for leaving the city, and for concealing the place
of her retreat. Some things were hard to be disguised. They spoke for
themselves, and the only way to hinder disagreeable discoveries, was
to keep out of sight.
I was wholly a stranger to Waldegrave's sister. I knew merely that
he had such a relation. There was nothing therefore to outbalance
this unfavourable report, but the apparent malignity and grossness of
those who gave it. It was not, however, her character about which I
was solicitous, but merely the place where she might be found, and the
suitable inquiries respecting her deceased brother, be answered. On
this head, these people professed utter ignorance and were either
unable or unwilling to direct me to any person in the city who knew
more than themselves. After much discourse they, at length, let fall
an intimation that if any one knew her place of retreat, it was
probably a country lad, by name Huntly, who lived near the Forks
of Delaware. After Waldegrave's death, this lad had paid his sister a
visit, and seemed to be admitted on a very confidential footing. She
left the house, for the last time, in his company, and he, therefore,
was most likely to know what had become of her.
The name of Huntly was not totally unknown to me. I myself was born
and brought up in the neighbouring township of Chetasco. I had some
knowledge of your family, and your name used often to be mentioned by
Waldegrave, as that of one who, at a maturer age, would prove himself
useful to his country. I determined therefore to apply to you for
what information you could give. I designed to visit my father who
lives in Chetasco and relieve him from that disquiet which his
ignorance of my fate could not fail to have inspired, and both these
ends could be thus, at the same time, accomplished.
Before I left the city, I thought it proper to apply to the
merchant on whom my bill had been drawn. If this bill had been
presented and paid, he had doubtless preserved some record of it, and
hence a clue might be afforded, though every other expedient should
fail. My usual ill fortune pursued me upon this occasion, for the
merchant had lately become insolvent, and, to avoid the rage of his
creditors, had fled, without leaving any vestige of this or similar
transactions behind him. He had, some years since, been an adventurer
from Holland, and was suspected to have returned thither.
- Page [ 102]. ]
I came hither with an heart desponding of success. Adversity had
weakened my faith in the promises of the future, and I was prepared
to receive just such tidings as you have communicated. Unacquainted
with the secret motives of Waldegrave and his sister, it is impossible
for me to weigh the probabilities of their rectitude. I have only my
own assertion to produce in support of my claim. All other evidence,
all vouchers and papers, which might attest my veracity, or sanction
my claim in a court of law, are buried in the ocean. The bill was
transmitted just before my departure from Madeira, and the letters by
which it was accompanied, informed Waldegrave of my design to follow
it immediately. Hence he did not, it is probable, acknowledge the
receipt of my letters. The vessels in which they were sent, arrived
in due season. I was assured that all letters were duly deposited in
the post-office, where, at present, mine are not to be found.
You assure me that nothing has been found among his papers, hinting
at any pecuniary transaction between him and me. Some correspondence
passed between us previous to that event. Have no letters, with my
signature, been found? Are you qualified, by your knowledge of his
papers, to answer me explicitly? Is it not possible for some letters
to have been mislaid?
I am qualified, said I, to answer your inquiries beyond any other
person in the world. Waldegrave maintained only general intercourse
with the rest of mankind. With me his correspondence was copious, and
his confidence, as I imagined, without bounds. His books and papers
were contained in a single chest, at his lodgings, the keys of which
he had about him when he died. These keys I carried to his sister,
and was authorized by her to open and examine the contents of this
chest. This was done with the utmost care. These papers are now in my
possession. Among them no paper, of the tenor you mention, was found,
and no letter with your signature. Neither Mary Waldegrave nor I are
capable of disguising the truth or committing an injustice. The
moment she receives conviction of your right she will restore this
money to you. The moment I imbibe this conviction, I will exert all my
influence, and it is not small, to induce her to restore it. Permit
me, however, to question you in your turn. Who was the merchant on
whom your bill was drawn, what was the date of it, and when did the
bill and its counterparts arrive?
I do not exactly remember the date of the bills. They were made
out, however, six days before I myself embarked which happened on the
tenth of August 1784. They were sent by three vessels, one of which
was bound to Charleston and the others to New-York. The last arrived
within two days of each other, and about the middle of November in
the same year. The name of the payer was Monteith.
After a pause of recollection, I answered, I will not hesitate to
apprise you of every thing which may throw light upon this
transaction, and whether favourable or otherwise to your claim. I
have told you among my friends' papers your name is not to be found.
I must likewise repeat that the possession of this money by
Waldegrave was wholly unknown to us till his death. We are likewise
unacquainted with any means by which he could get possession of so
large a sum in his own right. He spent no more than his scanty
stipend as a teacher, though this stipend was insufficient to supply
his wants. This Bank-receipt is dated in December 1784, a fortnight,
perhaps, after the date that you have mentioned. You will perceive
how much this coincidence, which could scarcely have taken place by
chance, is favourable to your claim.
Mary Waldegrave resides, at present, at Abingdon. She will rejoice,
as I do, to see one who, as her brother's friend, is entitled to her
affection. Doubt not but that she will listen with impartiality and
candour to all that you can urge in defence of your title to this
money. Her decision will not be precipitate, but it will be generous
and just, and founded on such reasons that, even if it be adverse to
your wishes, you will be compelled to approve it.
I can entertain no doubt, he answered, as to the equity of my
claim. The coincidences you mention are sufficient to convince me,
that this sum was received upon my bill, but this conviction must
necessarily be confined to myself. No one but I can be conscious to
the truth of my own story. The evidence on which I build my faith, in
this case, is that of my own memory and senses; but this evidence
cannot make itself conspicuous to you. You have nothing but my bare
assertion, in addition to some probabilities flowing from the conduct
of Waldegrave. What facts may exist to corroborate my claim, which
you have forgotten, or which you may think proper to conceal, I
cannot judge. I know not what is passing in the secret of your
hearts; I am unacquainted with the character of this lady and with
yours. I have nothing on which to build surmises and suspicions of
your integrity, and nothing to generate unusual confidence, the
frailty of your virtue and the strength of your temptations I know
not. However she decides in this case, and whatever opinion I shall
form as to the reasonableness of her decision, it will not become me
either to upbraid her, or to nourish discontentment and repinings.
I know that my claim has no legal support: that, if this money be
resigned to me, it will be the impulse of spontaneous justice, and
not the coercion of law to which I am indebted for it. Since,
therefore, the justice of my claim is to be, measured not by law, but
by simple equity. I will candidly acknowledge, that as yet it is
uncertain whether I ought to receive, even should Miss Waldegrave be
willing to give it. I know my own necessities and schemes, and in
what degree this money would be subservient to these; but I know not
the views and wants of others, and cannot estimate the usefulness of
this money to them. However I decide upon your conduct in withholding
or retaining it, I shall make suitable allowance for my imperfect
knowledge of your motives and wants, as well as for your unavoidable
ignorance of mine.
I have related my sufferings from shipwreck and poverty, not to
bias your judgment or engage your pity, but merely because the
impulse to relate them chanced to awake; because my heart is softened
by the remembrance of Waldegrave, who has been my only friend, and by
the sight of one whom he loved.
I told you that my father lived in Chetasco. He is now aged, and I
am his only child. I should have rejoiced in being able to relieve
his grey hairs from labour to which his failing strength cannot be
equal. This was one of my inducements in coming to America. Another
was, to prepare the way for a woman whom I married in Europe, and who
is now awaiting intelligence from me in London. Her poverty is not
less than my own, and by marrying against the wishes of her kindred,
she has bereaved herself of all support but that of her husband.
Whether I shall be able to rescue her from indigence, whether I shall
alleviate the poverty of my father or increase it by burthening his
scanty friends by my own maintenance as well as his, the future alone
I confess that my stock of patience and hope has never been large,
and that my misfortunes have nearly exhausted it. The flower of my
years has been consumed in struggling with adversity, and my
constitution has received a shock from sickness and mistreatment in
Portugal, which I cannot expect long to survive...But I make you sad
(he continued.) I have said all that I meant to say in this
interview. I am impatient to see my father, and night has already
come. I have some miles yet to ride to his cottage and over a rough
road. I will shortly visit you again, and talk to you at greater
leisure on these and other topics. At present I leave you.
I was unwilling to part so abruptly with this guest, and intreated
him to prolong his visit, but he would not be prevailed upon.
Repeating his promise of shortly seeing me again, he mounted his
horse and disappeared. I looked after him with affecting and complex
emotions. I reviewed the incidents of this unexpected and
extraordinary interview, as if it had existed in a dream. An hour had
passed, and this stranger had alighted among us as from the clouds,
to draw the veil from those obscurities which had bewildered us so
long, to make visible a new train of disastrous consequence flowing
from the untimely death of thy brother, and to blast that scheme of
happiness on which thou and I had so fondly meditated.
But what wilt thou think of this new born claim? The story, hadst
thou observed the features and guize of the relater, would have won
thy implicit credit. His countenance exhibited deep traces of the
afflictions he had endured and the fortitude which he had exercised.
He was sallow and emaciated, but his countenance was full of
seriousness and dignity. A sort of ruggedness of brow, the token of
great mental exertion and varied experience, argued a premature old
What a mournful tale! Is such the lot of those who wander from
their rustic homes in search of fortune. Our countrymen are prone to
enterprize, and are scattered over every sea and everyland in pursuit
of that wealth which will not screen them from disease and infirmity,
which is missed much oftener than found, and which, when gained, by
no means compensates them for the hardships and vicissitudes endured
in the pursuit.
But what if the truth of these pretentions be admitted? The money
must be restored to its right owner. I know that whatever
inconveniences may follow the deed, thou wilt not hesitate to act
justly. Affluence and dignity, however valuable, may be purchased too
dear. Honesty will not take away its keenness from the winter blast,
its ignominy and unwholesomeness from servile labour, or strip of it
charms the life of elegance and leisure; but these, unaccompanied
with self-reproach, are less deplorable than wealth and honour, the
possession of which is marred by our own disapprobation.
I know the bitterness of this sacrifice. I know the impatience with
which your poverty has formerly been borne, how much your early
education is at war with that degradation and obscurity to which your
youth has been condemned, How earnestly your wishes panted after a
state, which might exempt you from dependence upon daily labour and on
the caprices of others, and might secure to you leisure to cultivate
and indulge your love of knowledge and your social and beneficent
Your motive for desiring a change of fortune has been greatly
enforced since we have become known to each other. Thou hast honoured
me with thy affection, but that a union, on which we rely for
happiness, could not take place while both of us were poor. My
habits, indeed, have made labour and rustic obscurity less painful
than they would prove to my friend, but my present condition is
wholly inconsistent with marriage. As long as my exertions are
insufficient to mantain as both, it would be unjustifiable to burthen
you with new cares and duties. Of this you are more thoroughly
convinced than I am. The love of independence and ease, and
impatience of drudgery, are woven into your constitution. Perhaps
they are carried to an erroneous extreme, and derogate from that
uncommon excellence by which your character is, in other respects,
distinguished, but they cannot be removed.
This obstacle was unexpectedly removed by the death of your
brother. However justly to be deplored was this catastrophe, yet like
every other event, some of its consequences were good. By giving you
possession of the means of independence and leisure, by enabling us
to complete a contract which poverty alone had thus long delayed, this
event has been, at the same time, the most disastrous and propitious
which could have happened.
Why thy brother should have concealed from us the possession of
this money; why, with such copious means of indulgence and leisure,
he should still pursue his irksome trade, and live in so penurious a
manner, has been a topic of endless and unsatisfactory conjecture
between us. It was not dfficult to suppose that this money was held
in trust for another, but in that case it was unavoidable that some
document or memorandum, or at least some claimant would appear. Much
time has since elapsed, and you have thought yourself at length
justified in appropriating this money to your own use.
Our flattering prospects are now shut in. You must return to your
original poverty, and once more depend for precarious subsistence on
your needle You cannot restore the whole, for unavoidable expenses,
and the change of your mode of living, has consumed some part of it.
For so much you must consider yourself as Weymouth's debtor.
Repine not my friend, at this unlooked-for reverse. Think upon the
merits and misfortunes of your brother's friend, think upon his aged
father whom we shall enable him to rescue from poverty; think upon
his desolate wife, whose merits are, probably, at least equal to your
own, and whose helplessness is likely to be greater. I am not
insensible to the evils which have returned upon us with augmented
force, after having, for a moment, taken their flight. I know the
precariousness of my condition, and that of my sisters, that our
subsistence hangs upon the life of an old man. My uncle's death will
transfer this property to his son, who is a stranger and an enemy to
us, and the first act of whose authority will unquestionably be to
turn us forth from these doors. Marriage with thee was anticipated
with joyous emotions, not merely on my own account, or on thine, but
likewise for the sake of those beloved girls, to whom that event
would enable me to furnish an asylum.
But wedlock is now more distant than ever. My heart bleeds to think
of the sufferings which my beloved Mary is again fated to endure, but
regrets are only aggravations of calamity. They are pernicious, and
it is our duty to shake them off.
I can entertain no doubts as to the equity of Weymouth's claim. So
many coincidences could not have happened by chance. The
non-appearance of any letters or papers connected with it is indeed a
mysterious circumstance, but why should Waldegrave be studious of
preserving these? They were useless paper, and might, without
impropriety, be cast away, or made to serve any temporary purpose.
Perhaps, indeed, they still lurk in some unsuspected corner. To wish
that time may explain this mystery in a diffierent manner, and so as
to permit our retention of this money is, perhaps, the dictate of
selfishness. The transfer to Weymouth will not be productive of less
benefit to him and to his family, than we should derive from the use
These considerations, however, will be weighed when we meet.
Meanwhile I will return to my narrative.
Here, my friend, thou must permit me to pause. The following
incidents are of a kind to which the most ardent invention has never
conceived a parallel. Fortune, in her most wayward mood, could
scarcely be suspected of an influence like this. The scene was
pregnant with astonishment and horror. I cannot, even now, recall it
without reviving the dismay and confusion which I then experienced.
Possibly, the period will arrive when I shall look back without
agony on the perils I have undergone. That period is still distant.
Solitude and sleep are now no more than the signals to summon up a
tribe of ugly phantoms. Famine, and blindness, and death, and savage
enemies, never fail to be conjured up by the silence and darkness of
the night. I cannot dissipate them by any efforts of reason. My
cowardice requires the perpetual consolation of light. My heart
droops when I mark the decline of the sun, and I never sleep but with
a candle burning at my pillow. If, by any chance, I should awake and
find myself immersed in darkness, I know not what act of desperation
I might be suddenly impelled to commit.
I have delayed this narrative, longer than my duty to my friend
enjoined. Now that I am able to hold a pen, I will hasten to
terminate that uncertainty with regard to my fate, in which my silence
has involved thee. I will recall that series of unheard of and
disastrous vicissitudes which has constituted the latest portion of
I am not certain, however, that I shall relate them in an
intelligible manner. One image runs into another, sensations succeed
in so rapid a train, that I fear, I shall be unable to distribute and
express them with sufficient perspicuity. As I look back, my heart is
sore and aches within my bosom. I am conscious to a kind of complex
sentiment of distress and forlornness that cannot be perfectly
pourtrayed by words; but I must do as well as I can. In the utmost
vigour of my faculties, no eloquence that I possess would do justice
to the tale. Now in my languishing and feeble state, I shall furnish
thee with little more than a glimpse of the truth. With these
glimpses, transient and faint as they are, thou must be satisfied.
I have said that I slept. My memory assures me of this: It informs
of the previous circumstances of my laying aside my clothes, of
placing the light upon a chair within reach of my pillow, of throwing
myself upon the bed, and of gazing on the rays of the moon reflected
on the wall, and almost obscured by those of the candle. I remember
my occasional relapses into fits of incoherent fancies, the
harbingers of sleep: I remember, as it were, the instant when my
thoughts ceased to flow, and my senses were arrested by the leaden
wand of forgetfulness.
My return to sensation and to consciousness took place in no such
tranquil scene. I emerged from oblivion by degrees so slow and so
faint, that their succession cannot be marked. When enabled at length
to attend to the information which my senses afforded, I was
conscious, for a time, of nothing but existence. It was unaccompanied
with lassitude or pain, but I felt disinclined to stretch my limbs,
or raise my eye-lids. My thoughts were wildering and mazy, and though
consciousness were present, it was disconnected with the loco-motive
or voluntary power.
From this state a transition was speedily effected. I perceived
that my posture was supine, and that I lay upon my back. I attempted
to open my eyes. The weight that oppressed them was too great for a
slight exertion to remove. The exertion which I made cost me a pang
more acute than any which I ever experienced. My eyes, however, were
opened; but the darkness that environed me was as intense as before.
I attempted to rise, but my limbs were cold, and my joints had
almost lost their flexibility. My efforts were repeated, and at
length I attained a sitting posture. I was now sensible of pain in my
shoulders and back. I was universally in that state to which the
frame is reduced by blows of a club, mercilessly and endlessly
repeated; my. temples throbbed and my face was covered with clamy and
cold drops, but that which threw me into deepest consternation was,
my inability to see. I turned my head to different quarters, I
stretched my eye-lids, and exerted every visual energy, but in vain.
I was wrapt in the murkiest and most impenetrable gloom.
The first effort of reflection was to suggest the belief that I was
blind; that disease is known to assail us in a moment and without
previous warning. This surely was the misfortune that had now
befallen me. Some ray, however fleeting and uncertain, could not fail
to be discerned, if the power of vision were not utterly
extinguished. In what circumstances could I possibly be placed, from
which every particle of light should, by other means, be excluded.
This led my thoughts into a new train. I endeavoured to recall the
past, but the past was too much in contradiction to the present, and
my intellect was too much shattered by external violence, to allow me
accurately to review it.
Since my sight availed nothing to the knowledge of my condition, I
betook myself to other instruments. The element which I breathed was
stagnant and cold. The spot where I lay was rugged and hard. I was
neither naked nor clothed, a shirt and trossars composed my dress, and
the shoes and stockings, which always accompanied these, were now
wanting, What could I infer from this scanty garb, this chilling
atmosphere, this stony bed?
I had awakened as from sleep, What was my condition when I fell
asleep? Surely it was different from the present. Then I inhabited a
lightsome chamber, and was stretched upon a down bed. Now I was
supine upon a rugged surface and immersed in palpable obscurity. Then
I was in perfect health; now my frame was covered with bruises and
every joint was racked with pain. What dungeon or den had received
me, and by whose command was I transported hither?
After various efforts I stood upon my feet. At first I tottered and
staggered. I stretched out my hands on all sides but met only with
vacuity. I advanced forward. At the third step my foot moved
something which lay upon the ground, I stooped and took it up, and
found, on examination, that it was an Indian Tom-hawk. This incident
afforded me no hint from which I might conjecture my state.
Proceeding irresolutely and slowly forward, my hands at length
touched a wall. This, like the flooring, was of stone, and was rugged
and impenetrable. I followed this wall. An advancing angle occurred
at a short distance, which was followed by similar angles. I continued
to explore this clue, till the suspicion occurred that I was merely
going round the walls of a vast and irregular apartment.
The utter darkness disabled me from comparing directions and
distances. This discovery, therefore, was not made on a sudden and
was still entangled with some doubt. My blood recovered some warmth,
and my muscles some elasticity, but in proportion as my sensibility
returned my pains augmented. Overpowered by my fears and my agonies
Idesisted from my fruitless search, and sat down, supporting my back
against the wall.
My excruciating sensations for a time occupied my attention. These,
in combination with other causes, gradually produced a species of
delirium. I existed as it were in a wakeful dream. With nothing to
correct my erroneous perceptions, the images of the past occurred in
capricious combinations, and vivid hues. Methought I was the victim
of some tyrant who had thrust me into a dungeon of his fortress, and
left me no power to determine whether he intended I should perish
with famine, or linger out a long life in hopeless imprisonment:
Whether the day was shut out by insuperable walls, or the darkness
that surrounded me, was owing to the night and to the smallness of
those cranies through which day-light was to be admitted, I
conjectured in vain.
Sometimes I imagined myself buried alive. Methought I had fallen
into seeming death and my friends had consigned me to the tomb, from
which a resurrection was impossible. That in such a case, my limbs
would have been confined to a coffin, and my coffin to a grave, and
that I should instantly have been suffocated, did not occur to destroy
my supposition: Neither did this supposition overwhelm me with terror
or prompt my efforts at deliverance. My state was full of tumult and
confusion, and my attention was incessantly divided between my
painful sensations and my feverish dreams,
There is no standard by which time can be measured, but the
succession of our thoughts, and the changes that take place in the
external world. From the latter I was totally excluded. The former
made the lapse of some hours appear like the tediousness of weeks and
months. At length, a new sensation, recalled my rambling meditations,
and gave substance to my fears. I now felt the cravings of hunger,
and perceived that unless my deliverance were speedily effected. I
must suffer a tedious and lingering death.
I once more tasked my understanding and my senses, to discover the
nature of my present situation and the means of escape. I listened to
catch some sound. I heard an unequal and varying echo, sometimes near
and sometimes distant, sometimes dying away and sometimes swelling
into loudness. It was unlike any thing I had before heard, but it was
evident that it arose from wind sweeping through spacious halls and
winding passages. These tokens were incompatible with the result of
the examination I had made. If my hands were true I was immured
between walls, through which there was no avenue.
I now exerted my voice, and cried as loud as my wasted strength
would admit. Its echoes were sent back to me in broken and confused
sounds and from above. This effort was casual, but some part of that
uncertainty in which I was involved, was instantly dispelled by it. In
passing through the cavern on the former day, I have mentioned the
verge of the pit at which I arrived. To acquaint me as far as was
possible, with the dimensions of the place, I had hallooed with all my
force, knowing that sound is reflected according to the distance and
relative positions of the substances from which it is repelled.
The effect produced by my voice on this occasion resembled, with
remarkable exactness, the effect which was then produced. Was I then
shut up in the same cavern? Had I reached the brink of the same
precipice and been thrown headlong into that vacuity? Whence else
could arise the bruises which I had received, but from my fall? Yet
all remembrance of my journey hither was lost. I had determined to
explore this cave on the ensuing day, but my memory informed me not
that this intention had been carried into effect. Still it was only
possible to conclude that I had come hither on my intended expedition
and had been thrown by another, or had, by some ill chance, fallen
into the pit.
This opinion was conformable to what I had already observed. The
pavement and walls were rugged like those of the footing and sides of
the cave through which I had formerly passed.
But if this were true, what was the abhorred catastrophe to which I
was now reserved? The sides of this pit were inaccessible: human
foot-steps would never wander into these recesses. My friends were
unapprised of my forlorn state. Here I should continue till wasted by
famine. In this grave should I linger out a few days, in unspeakable
agonies and then perish forever.
The inroads of hunger were already experienced, and this knowledge
of the desperateness of my calamity, urged me to phrenzy. I had none
but capricious and unseen fate to condemn. The author of my distress
and the means he had taken to decoy me hither, were incomprehensible.
Surely my senses were fettered or depraved by some spell. I was
still asleep, and this was merely a tormenting vision, or madness had
seized me, and the darkness that environed and the hunger that
afflicted me, existed only in my own distempered imagination.
The consolation of these doubts could not last long. Every hour
added to the proofs that my perceptions were real. My hunger speedily
became ferocious. I tore the linen of my shirt between my teeth and
swallowed the fragments. I felt a strong propensity to bite the flesh
from my arm. My heart overflowed with cruelty, and I pondered on the
delight I should experience in rending some living animal to pieces,
and drinking its blood and grinding its quivering fibers between my
This agony had already passed beyond the limits of endurance. I saw
that time, instead of bringing respite or relief, would only
aggravate my wants, and that my only remaining hope was to die before
I should be assaulted by the last extremes of famine. I now
recollected that a Tom-hawk was at hand, and rejoiced in the
possession of an instrument by which I could so effectually terminate
I took it in my hand, moved its edge over my fingers, and reflected
on the force that was required to make it reach my heart. I
investigated the spot where it should enter, and strove to fortify
myself with resolution to repeat the stroke a second or third time,
if the first should prove insufficient. I was sensible that I might
fail to inflict a mortal wound, but delighted to consider that the
blood which would be made to flow, would finally release me, and that
meanwhile my pains would be alleviated by swallowing this blood.
You will not wonder that I felt some reluctance to employ so fatal
though indispensable a remedy. I once more ruminated on the
possibility of rescuing myself by other means. I now reflected that
the upper termination of the wall could not be at an immeasurable
distance from the pavement. I had fallen from an height, but if that
height had been considerable, instead of being merely bruised, should
I not have been dashed into pieces?
Gleams of hope burst anew upon my soul. Was it not possible, I
asked, to reach the top of this pit. The sides were rugged and
uneven. Would not their projectures and abruptnesses serve me as
steps by which I might ascend in safety. This expedient was to be
tried without delay. Shortly my strength would fail and my doom would
be irrevocably sealed.
I will not enumerate my laborious efforts, my alternations of
despondency and confidence, the eager and unwearied scrutiny with
which I examined the surface, the attempts which I made, and the
failures which, for a time, succeeded each other. An hundred times,
when I had ascended some feet from the bottom, I was compelled to
relinquish my undertaking by the untenable smoothness of the
spaces which remained to be gone over. An hundred times I threw
myself, exhausted by fatigue and my pains, on the ground. The
consciousness was gradually restored that till I had attempted every
part of the wall, it was absurd to despair, and I again drew my
tottering limbs and aching joints to that part of the wall which had
not been surveyed.
At length, as I stretched my hand upward, I found somewhat that
seemed like a recession in the wall. It was possible that this was
the top of the cavity, and this might be the avenue to liberty. My
heart leaped with joy, and I proceeded to climb the wall. No
undertaking could be conceived more arduous than this. The space
between this verge and the floor was nearly smooth. The verge was
higher from the bottom than my head. The only means of ascending that
were offered me were by my hands, with which I could draw myself
upward so as, at length, to maintain my hold with my feet.
My efforts were indefatigable, and at length I placed myself on the
verge, when this was accomplished my strength was nearly gone. Had I
not found space enough beyond this brink to stretch myself at length,
I should unavoidably have fallen backward into the pit, and all my
pains had served no other end than to deepen my despair and hasten my
What impediments and perils remained to be encountered I could not
judge. I was now inclined to forbode the worst. The interval of
repose which was necessary to be taken, in order to recruit my
strength, would accelerate the ravages of famine, and leave me
without the power to proceed.
In this state, I once more consoled myself that an instrument of
death was at hand. I had drawn up with me the Tom-hawk, being
sensible that should this impediment be overcome others might remain
that would prove insuperable. Before I employedit, however, I cast my
eyes wildly and languidly around. The darkness was no less intense
than in the pit below, and yet two objects were distinctly seen.
They resembled a fixed and obscure flame. They were motionless.
Though lustrous themselves they created no illumination around them.
This circumstance, added to others, which reminded me of similar
objects, noted on former occasions, immediately explained the nature
of what I beheld. These were the eyes of a panther.
Thus had I struggled to obtain a post where a savage was lurking,
and waited only till my efforts should place me within reach of his
fangs. The first impulse was to arm myself against this enemy. The
desperateness of my condition was, for a moment, forgotten. The
weapon which was so lately lifted against my own bosom, was now
raised to defend my life against the assault of another.
There was no time for deliberation and delay. In a moment he might
spring from his station and tear me to pieces. My utmost speed might
not enable me to reach him where he sat, but merely to encounter his
assault. I did not reflect how far my strength was adequate to save
me. All the force that remained was mustered up and exerted in a throw.
No one knows the powers that are latent in his constitution. Called
forth by imminent dangers, our efforts frequently exceed our most
sanguine belief. Though tottering on the verge of dissolution, and
apparently unable to crawl rom this spot, a force was exerted in this
throw, probably greater than I had ever before exerted. It was
resistless and unerring. I aimed at the middle space between these
glowing orbs. It penetrated the scull and the animal fell, struggling
and shrieking, on the ground.
My ears quickly informed me when his pangs were at an end. His
cries and his convulsions lasted for a moment and then ceased. The
effect of his voice, in these subterranean abodes, was unspeakably
The abruptness of this incident, and the preternatural exertion of
my strength, left me in a state of languor and sinking from which
slowly and with difficulty I recovered. The first suggestion that
occurred was to feed upon the carcass of this animal. My hunger had
arrived at that pitch where all fastidiousness and scruples are at an
end. I crept to the spot...I will not shock you by relating the
extremes to which dire necessity had driven me. I review this scene
with loathing and horror. Now that it is past I look back upon it as
on some hideous dream. The whole appears to be some freak of
insanity. No alternative was offered, and hunger was capable to be
appeased, even by a banquet so detestable.
If this appetite has sometimes subdued the sentiments of nature,
and compelled the mother to feed upon the flesh of her offspring, it
will not excite amazement that I did not turn from the yet warm blood
and reeking fibres of a brute.
One evil was now removed, only to give place to another. The first
sensations of fullness had scarcely been felt when my stomach was
seized by pangs whose acuteness exceeded all that I ever before
experienced. I bitterly lamented my inordinate avidity. The
excruciations of famine were better than the agonies which this
abhorred meal had produced. Death was now impending with no less
proximity and certainty, though in a different form. Death was a
sweet relief for my present miseries, and I vehemently longed for its
arrival. I stretched myself on the ground. I threw myself into every
posture that promised some alleviation of this evil. I rolled along
the pavement of the cavern, wholly inattentive to the dangers that
environed me. That I did not fall into the pit, whence I had just
emerged, must be ascribed to some miraculous chance.
How long my miseries endured, it is not possible to tell. I cannot
even form a plausible conjecture. Judging by the lingering train of
my sensations, I should conjecture that some days elapsed in this
deplorable condition, but nature could not have so long sustained a
conflict like this.
Gradually my pains subsided and I fell into a deep sleep. I was
visited by dreams of a thousand hues. They led me to flowing streams
and plenteous banquets, which, though placed within my view, some
power forbade me to approach. From this sleep I recovered to the
fruition of solitude and darkness, but my frame was in a state less
feeble than before. That which I had eaten had produced tomporary
distress, but on the whole had been of use. If this food had not been
provided for me I should scarcely have avoided death. I had reason
therefore to congratulate myself on the danger that had lately occured.
I had acted without foresight, and yet no wisdom could have
prescribed more salutary measures. The panther was slain, not from a
view to the relief of my hunger, but from the self-preserving and
involuntary impulse. Had I fore-known the pangs to which my ravenous
and bloody meal would give birth, I should have carefully abstained,
and yet these pangs were a useful effort of nature to subdue and
convert to nourishment the matter I had swallowed.
I was now assailed by the torments of thirst. My invention and my
courage were anew bent to obviate this pressing evil. I reflected
that there was some recess from this cavern, even from the spot where
I now stood. Before, I was doubtful whether in this direction from
this pit any avenue could be found, but since the panther had come
hither there was reason to suppose the existence of some such avenue.
I now likewise attended to a sound, which, from its invariable
tenour, denoted somewhat different from the whistling of a gale. It
seemed like the murmur of a running stream. I now prepared to go
forward, and endeavoured to move along in that direction in which this
sound apparently came.
On either side and above my head, there was nothing but vacuity. My
steps were to be guided by the pavement, which, though unequal and
rugged, appeared, on the whole, to ascend. My safety required that I
should employ both hands and feet in exploring my way.
I went on thus for a considerable period. The murmur, instead of
becoming more distinct, gradually died away. My progress was arrested
by fatigue, and I began once more to despond. My exertions, produced
a perspiration, which, while it augmented my thirst, happily supplied
me with imperfect means of appeasing it.
This expedient would, perhaps, have been accidentally suggested,
but my ingenuity was assisted by remembering the history of certain
English prisoners in Bengal, whom their merciless enemy imprisoned in
a small room, and some of whom preserved themselves alive merely by
swallowing the moisture that flowed from their bodies. This experiment
I now performed with no less success.
This was slender and transitory consolation. I knew that, wandering
at random, I might never reach the outlet of this cavern, or might be
disabled, by hunger and fatigue, from going farther than the outlet.
The cravings which had lately been satiated, would speedily return,
and my negligence had cut me off from the resource which had recently
been furnished. I thought not till now that a second meal might be
To return upon my foot-steps to the spot where the dead animal lay
was an heartless project. I might thus be placing myself at an
hopeless distance from liberty. Besides my track could not be
retraced. I had frequently deviated from a straight direction for the
sake of avoiding impediments. All of which I was sensible was, that I
was travelling up an irregular acclivity. I hoped sometime to reach
the summit, but had no reason for adhering to one line of ascent in
preference to another.
To remain where I was, was manifestly absurd. Whether I mounted or
descended, a change of place was most likely to benefit me. I
resolved to vary my direction, and, instead of ascending, keep along
the side of what I accounted an hill. I had gone some hundred feet
when the murmur, before described, once more saluted my ear.
This sound, being imagined to proceed from a running stream, could
not but light up joy in the heart of one nearly perishing with
thirst. I proceeded with new courage. The sound approached no nearer
nor became more distinct, but as long as it died not away, I was
satisfied to listen and to hope.
I was eagerly observant if any the least glimmering of light,
should visit this recess. At length, on the right hand a gleam,
infinitely faint, caught my attention. It was wavering and unequal. I
directed my steps towards it. It became more vivid, and permanent. It
was of that kind, however, which proceeded from a fire, kindled with
dry sticks, and not from the sun. I now heard the crackling of flames.
This sound made me pause, or at least to proceed with
circumspection. At length the scene opened, and I found myself at the
entrance of a cave. I quickly reached a station when I saw a fire
burning. At first no other object was noted, but it was easy to infer
that the fire was kindled by men, and that they who kindled it could
be at no great distance.
Thus was I delivered from my prison and restored to the enjoyment
of the air and the light. Perhaps the chance was almost miraculous
that led me to this opening. In any other direction, I might have
involved myself in an inextricable maze, and rendered my destruction
sure: but what now remained to place me in absolute security? Beyond
the fire I could see nothing; but since the smoke rolled rapidly
away, it was plain that on the opposite side the cavern was open to
I went forward, but my eyes were fixed upon the fire; presently, in
consequence of changing my station, I perceived several feet, and the
skirts of blankets. I was somewhat startled at these appearances. The
legs were naked, and scored into uncouth figures. The mocassins
which lay beside them, and which were adorned in a grotesque manner,
in addition to other incidents, immediately suggested the suspicion
that they were Indians. No spectacle was more adapted than this to
excite wonder and alarm. Had some mysterious power snatched me from
the earth, and cast me, in a moment, into the heart of the
wilderness? Was I still in the vicinity of my paternal habitation, or
was I thousands of miles distant?
Were these the permanent inhabitants of this region, or were they
wanderers and robbers? While in the heart of the mountain I had
entertained a vague belief that I was still within the precincts of
Norwalk. This opinion was shaken for a moment by the objects which I
now beheld, but it insensibly returned; yet, how was this opinion to
be reconciled to appearances so strange and uncouth, and what measure
did a due regard to my safety enjoin me to take?
I now gained a view of four brawny and terrific figures, stretched
upon the ground. They lay parallel to each other, on their left
sides; in consequence of which their faces were turned from me.
Between each was an interval where lay a musket. Their right hands
seemed placed upon the stocks of their guns, as if to seize them on
the first moment of alarm.
The aperture through which these objects were seen, was at the back
of the cave, and some feet from the ground. It was merely large
enough to suffer an human body to pass. It was involved in profound
darkness, and there was no danger of being suspected or discovered as
long as I maintained silence, and kept out of vew.
It was easily imagined that these guests would make but a short
sojourn in this spot. There was reason to suppose that it was now
night, and that after a short repose, they would start up and resume
their journey. It was my first design to remain shrowded in this
covert till their departure, and I prepared to endure imprisonment
and thirst somewhat longer.
Meanwhile my thoughts were busy in accounting for this spectacle. I
need not tell thee that Norwalk is the termination of a sterile and
narrow tract, which begins in the Indian country. It forms a sort of
rugged and rocky vein, and continues upwards of fifty miles. It is
crossed in a few places by narrow and intricate paths, by which a
communication is maintained between the farms and settlements on the
opposite sides of the ridge.
During former Indian wars, this rude surface was sometimes
traversed by the Red-men, and they made, by means of it, frequent and
destructive inroads into the heart of the English settlements. During
the last war, notwithstanding the progress of population, and the
multiplied perils of such an expedition, a band of them had once
penetrated into Norwalk, and lingered long enough to pillage and
murder some of the neighbouring inhabitants.
I have reason to remember that event. My father's house was placed
on the verge of this solitude. Eight of these assassins assailed it
at the dead of night. My parents and an infant child were murdered in
their beds; the house was pillaged, and then burnt to the ground.
Happily, myself and my two sisters were abroad upon a visit. The
preceding day had been fixed for our return to our father's house,
but a storm occurred, which made it dangerous to cross the river, and
by obliging us to defer our journey, rescued us from captivity or
Most men are haunted by some species of terror or antipathy, which
they are, for the most part, able to trace to some incident which
befel them in their early years. You will not be surprized that the
fate of my parents, and the sight of the body of one of this savage
band, who, in the pursuit that was made after them, was overtaken and
killed, should produce lasting and terrific images in my fancy. I
never looked upon, or called up the image of a savage without
I knew that, at this time, some hostilities had been committed on
the frontier; that a long course of injuries and encroachments had
lately exasperated the Indian tribes; that an implacable and
exterminating war was generally expected. We imagined ourselves at an
inaccessible distance from the danger, but I could not but remember
that this persuasion was formerly as strong as at present, and that
an expedition, which had once succeeded, might possibly be attempted
again. Here was every token of enmity and bloodshed. Each prostrate
figure was furnished with a rifled musquet, and a leathern bag tied
round his waist, which was, probably, stored with powder and ball.
From these reflections, the sense of my own danger was revived and
enforced, but I likewise ruminated on the evils which might impend
over others. I should, no doubt, be safe by remaining in this nook;
but might not some means be pursued to warn others of their danger?
Should they leave this spot, without notice of their approach being
given to the fearless and pacific tenants of the neighbouring
district, they might commit, in a few hours, the most horrid and
The alarm could only be diffused in one way. Could I not escape,
unperceived, and without alarming the sleepers, fom this cavern? The
slumber of an Indian is broken by the slightest noise; but if all
noise be precluded, it is commonly profound. It was possible, I
conceived, to leave my present post, to descend into the cave, and
issue forth without the smallest signal. Their supine posture assured
me that they were asleep. Sleep usually comes at their bidding, and
if, perchance, they should be wakeful at an unseasonable moment, they
always sit upon their haunches, and, leaning their elbows on their
knees, consume the tedious hours in smoking. My peril would be great.
Accidents which I could not foresee, and over which I had no command,
might occur to awaken some one at the moment I was passing the fire.
Should I pass in safety, I might issue forth into a wilderness, of
which I had no knowledge, where I might wander till I perished with
famine, or where my foot-steps might be noted and pursued, and
overtaken by these implacable foes. These perils were enormous and
imminent; but I likewise considered that I might be at no great
distance from the habitations of men, and, that my escape might
rescue them from the most dreadful calamities, I determined to make
this dangerous experiment without delay.
I came nearer to the aperture, and had, consequently, a larger view
of this recess. To my unspeakable dismay, I now caught a glimpse of
one, seated at the fire. His back was turned towards me so that I
could distinctly survey his gigantic form and fantastic ornaments.
My project was frustrated. This one was probably commissioned to
watch and to awaken his companions when a due portion of sleep had
been taken. That he would not be unfaithful or remiss in the
performance of the part assigned to him was easily predicted. To pass
him without exciting his notice, and the entrance could not otherwise
be reached, was impossible. Once more I shrunk back and revolved with
hopelessness and anguish, the necessity to which I was reduced.
This interval of dreary foreboding did not last long. Some motion
in him that was seated by the fire attracted my notice. I looked, and
beheld him rise from his place and go forth from the cavern. This
unexpected incident led my thoughts into a new channel. Could not
some advantage be taken of his absence? Could not this opportunity be
seized for making my escape? He had left his gun and hatchet on the
ground. It was likely, therefore, that he had not gone far, and would
speedily return. Might not these weapons be seized, and some
provision be thus made against the danger of meeting him without, or
of being pursued?
Before a resolution could be formed, a new sound saluted my ear. It
was a deep groan, succeeded by sobs that seemed struggling for
utterance, but were vehemently counteracted by the sufferer. This low
and bitter lamentation apparently proceeded from some one within the
cave. It could not be from one of this swarthy band. It must then
proceed from a captive, whom they had reserved for torment or
servitude, and who had seized the opportunity afforded by the absence
of him that watched, to give vent to his despair.
I again thrust my head forward, and beheld, lying on the ground,
apart from the rest, and bound hand and foot, a young girl. Her dress
was the coarse russet garb of the country, and bespoke her to be some
farmer's daughter. Her features denoted the last degree of fear and
anguish, and she moved her limbs in such a manner as shewed that the
ligatures by which she was confined, produced, by their tightness,
the utmost degree of pain.
My wishes were now bent not only to preserve myself, and to
frustrate the future attempts of these savages, but likewise to
relieve this miserable victim. This could only be done by escaping
from the cavern and returning with seasonable aid. The sobs of the
girl were likely to rouse the sleepers. My appearance before her
would prompt her to testify her surprise by some exclamation or
shriek. What could hence be predicted but that the band would start
on their feet, and level their unerring pieces at my head!
I know not why I was insensible to these dangers. My thirst was
rendered by these delays intolerable. It took from me, in some
degree, the power of deliberation. The murmurs which had drawn me
hither continued still to be heard. Some torrent or cascade could not
be far distant from the entrance of the cavern, and it seemed as if
one draught of clear water was a luxury cheaply purchased by death
itself. This, in addition to considerations more disinterested, and
which I have already mentioned, impelled me forward.
The girl's cheek rested on the hard rock, and her eyes were dim
with tears. As they were turned towards me, however, I hoped that my
movements would be noticed by her gradually and without abruptness.
This expectation was fulfilled. I had not advanced many steps before
she discovered me. This moment was critical beyond all others in the
course of my existence. My life was suspended, as it were, by a
spider's thread. All rested on the effect which this discovery should
make upon this feeble victim.
I was watchful of the first movement of her eye, which should
indicate a consciousness of my presence. I laboured, by gestures and
looks, to deter her from betraying her emotion. My attention was, at
the same time, fixed upon the sleepers, and an anxious glance was cast
towards the quarter whence the watchful savage might appear.
I stooped and seized the musquet and hatchet. The space beyond the
fire was, as I expected, open to the air. I issued forth with
trembling steps. The sensations inspired by the dangers which
environed me, added to my recent horrors, and the influence of the
moon, which had now gained the zenith, and whose lustre dazzled my
long benighted senses, cannot be adequately described.
For a minute I was unable to distinguish objects. This confusion
was speedily corrected, and I found myself on the verge of a steep.
Craggy eminences arose on all sides. On the left hand was a space
that offered some footing, and hither I turned. A torrent was below
me, and this path appeared to lead to it. It quickly appeared in
sight, and all foreign cares were, for a time, suspended.
This water fell from the upper regions of the hill, upon a flat
projecture which was continued on either side, and on part of which I
was now standing. The path was bounded on the left by an inaccessible
wall, and on the right terminated at the distance of two or three
feet from the wall, in a precipice. The water was eight or ten paces
distant, and no impediment seemed likely to rise between us. I rushed
forward with speed.
My progress was quickly checked. Close to the falling water, seated
on the edge, his back supported by the rock, and his legs hanging
over the precipice, I now beheld the savage who left the cave before
me. The noise of the cascade and the improbability of interruption, at
least from this quarter, had made him inattentive to my motions.
I paused. Along this verge lay the only road by which I could reach
the water, and by which I could escape. The passage was completely
occupied by this antagonist. To advance towards him, or to remain
where I was, would produce the same effect. I should, in either case,
be detected. He was unarmed; but his outcries would instantly summon
his companions to his aid. I could not hope to overpower him, and
pass him in defiance of his opposition. But if this were effected,
pursuit would be instantly commenced. I was unacquainted with the
way. The way was unquestionably difficult. My strength was nearly
annihilated: I should be overtaken in a moment, or their deficiency
in speed would be supplied by the accuracy of their aim. Their
bullets, at least, would reach me.
There was one method of removing this impediment. The piece which I
held in my hand was cocked. There could be no doubt that it was
loaded. A precaution of this kind would never be omitted by a warrior
of this hue. At a greater distance than this, I should not fear to
reach the mark. Should I not discharge it, and, at the same moment,
rush forward to secure the road which my adversary's death would open
Perhaps you will conceive a purpose like this to have argued a
sanguinary and murderous disposition. Let it be remembered, however,
that I entertained no doubts about the hostile designs of these men.
This was sufficiently indicated by their arms, their guise, and the
captive who attended them. Let the fate of my parents be, likewise,
remembered. I was not certain but that these very men were the
assassins of my family, and were those who had reduced me and my
sisters to the condition of orphans and dependants. No words can
describe the torments of my thirst. Relief to these torments, and
safety to my life, were within view. How could I hesitate?
Yet I did hesitate. My aversion to bloodshed was not to be subdued
but by the direst necessity. I knew, indeed, that the discharge of a
musquet would only alarm the enemies which remained behind; but I had
another and a better weapon in my grasp. I could rive the head of my
adversary, and cast him headlong, without any noise which should be
heard, into the cavern.
Still I was willing to withdraw, to re-enter the cave, and take
shelter in the darksome recesses from which I had emerged. Here I
might remain, unsuspected, till these detested guests should depart.
The hazards attending my reentrance were to be boldly encountered,
and the torments of unsatisfied thirst were to be patiently endured,
rather than imbrue my hands in the blood of my fellow men. But this
expedient would be ineffectual if my retreat should be observed by
this savage. Of that I was bound to be incontestibly assured. I
retreated, therefore, but kept my eye fixed at the same time upon the
Some ill fate decreed that I should not retreat unobserved.
Scarcely had I withdrawn three paces when he started from his seat,
and, turning towards me, walked with a quick pace. The shadow of the
rock, and the improbability of meeting an enemy here, concealed me
for a moment from his observation. I stood still. The slightest
motion would have attracted his notice. At present, the narrow space
engaged all his vigilance. Cautious foot-steps, and attention to the
path, were indispensable to his safety. The respite was momentary, and
I employed it in my own defence.
How otherwise could I act? The danger that impended aimed at
nothing less than my life. To take the life of another was the only
method of averting it. The means were in my hand, and they were used.
In an extremity like this, my muscles would have acted almost in
defiance of my will.
The stroke was quick as lightning, and the wound mortal and deep.
He had not time to descry the author of his fate; but, sinking on the
path, expired without a groan. The hatchet buried itself in his
breast, and rolled with him to the bottom of the precipice.
Never before had I taken the life of an human creature. On this
head, I had, indeed, entertained somewhat of religious scruples.
These scruples did not forbid me to defend myself, but they made me
cautious and reluctant to decide. Though they could not withhold my
hand, when urged by a necessity like this, they were sufficient to
make me look back upon the deed with remorse and dismay.
I did not escape all compunction in the present instance, but the
tumult of my feelings was quickly allayed. To quench my thirst was a
consideration by which all others were supplanted. I approached the
torrent, and not only drank copiously, but laved my head, neck, and
arms, in this delicious element.
Never was any delight worthy of comparison with the raptures which
I then experienced. Life, that was rapidly ebbing, appeared to return
upon me with redoubled violence. My languors, my excruciating heat,
vanished in a moment, and I felt prepared to undergo the labours of
Hercules. Having fully supplied the demands of nature in this
respect, I returned to reflection on the circumstances of my
situation. The path winding round the hill was now free from all
impediments What remained but to precipitate my flight? I might
speedily place myself beyond all danger. I might gain some hospitable
shelter, where my fatigues might be repaired by repose, and my wounds
be cured. I might likewise impart to my protectors seasonable
information of the enemies who meditated their destruction.
I thought upon the condition of the hapless girl whom I had left in
the power of the savages. Was it impossible to rescue her? Might I
not relieve her from her bonds, and make her the companion of my
flight? The exploit was perilous but not impracticable. There was
something dastardly and ignominious in withdrawing from the danger,
and leaving an helpless being exposed to it. A single minute might
suffice to snatch her from death or captivity. The parents might
deserve that I should hazard or even sacrifice my life, in the cause
of their child.
After some fluctuation, I determined to return to the cavern, and
attempt the rescue of the girl. The success of this project depended
on the continuance of their sleep. It was proper to approach with
wariness, and to heed the smallest token which might bespeak their
condition. I crept along the path, bending my ear forward to catch
any sound that might arise. I heard nothing but the half-stifled sobs
of the girl.
I entered with the slowest and most anxious circumspection. Every
thing was found in its pristine state. The girl noticed my entrance
with a mixture of terror and joy. My gestures and looks enjoined upon
her silence. I stooped down, and taking another hatchet, cut assunder
the deer-skin thongs by which her wrists and ancles were tied. I then
made signs for her to rise and follow me. She willingly complied with
my directions; but her benumbed joints and lacerated sinews, refused
to support her. There was no time to be lost; I therefore, lifted her
in my arms, and, feeble and tottering as I was, proceeded with this
burthen, along the perilous steep, and over a most rugged path.
I hoped that some exertion would enable her to retrieve the use of
her limbs. I set her, therefore, on her feet, exhorting her to walk
as well as she was able, and promising her my occasional assistance.
The poor girl was not deficient in zeal, and presently moved along
with light and quick steps. We speedily reached the bottom of the
No fancy can conceive a scene more wild and desolate than that
which now presented itself. The soil was nearly covered with sharp
fragments of stone. Between these sprung brambles and creeping vines,
whose twigs, crossing and intertwining with each other, added to the
roughness below, made the passage infinitely toilsome. Scattered over
this space were single cedars with their ragged spines and wreaths of
moss, and copses of dwarf oaks, which were only new emblems of
I was wholly unacquainted with the scene before me. No marks of
habitation or culture, no traces of the footsteps of men, were
discernible. I scarcely knew in what region of the globe I was
placed. I had come hither by means so inexplicable, as to leave it
equally in doubt, whether I was separated from my paternal abode by a
river or an ocean
I made inquiries of my companion. but she was unable to talk
coherently. She answered my questions with weeping, and sobs, and
intreaties, to fly from the scene of her distress. I collected from
her, at length, that her father's house had been attacked on the
preceding evening, and all the family but herself destroyed. Since
this disaster she had walked very fast and a great way, but knew not
how far or in what direction.
In a wilderness like this, my only hope was to light upon obscure
paths, made by cattle. Meanwhile I endeavoured to adhere to one line,
and to burst through the vexatious obstacles which encumbered our
way. The ground was concealed by the bushes, and we were perplexed
and fatigued by a continual succession of hollows and prominences. At
one moment we were nearly thrown headlong into a pit. At another we
struck our feet against the angles of stones. The branches of the oak
rebounded in our faces or entangled our legs, and the unseen thorns
inflicted on us a thousand wounds.
I was obliged, in these arduous circumstances, to support not only
myself but my companion. Her strength was overpowered by her evening
journey, and the terror of being overtaken, incessantly harrassed her.
Sometimes we lighted upon tracks which afforded us an easier
footing, and inspired us with courage to proceed. These, for a time,
terminated at a brook or in a bog, and we were once more compelled to
go forward at random. One of these tracks insensibly became more
beaten, and, at length, exhibited the traces of wheels. To this I
adhered, confident that it would finally conduct us to a dwelling.
On either side, the undergrowth of shrubs and brambles continued as
before. Sometimes small spaces were observed, which had lately been
cleared by fire. At length a vacant space of larger dimensions than
had hitherto occured, presented itself to my view. It was a field of
some acres, that had, apparently, been upturned by the hoe. At the
corner of this field was a small house.
My heart leaped with joy at this sight. I hastened toward it, in
the hope that my uncertainties, and toils, and dangers, were now
drawing to a close. This dwelling was suited to the poverty and
desolation which surrounded it. It consisted of a few unhewn logs
laid upon each other, to the height of eight or ten feet, including a
quadrangular space of similar dimensions, and covered by thatch.
There was no window, light being sufficiently admitted into the
crevices between the logs. These had formerly been loosely plastered
with clay, but air and rain had crumbled and washed the greater part
of this rude cement away. Somewhat like a chimney, built of
half-burnt bricks, was perceived at one corner. The door was fastened
by a leathern thong, tied to a peg.
All within was silence and darkness. I knocked at the door and
called, but no one moved or answered. The tenant, whoever he was, was
absent. His leave could not be obtained, and I, therefore, entered
without it. The autumn had made some progress, and the air was frosty
and sharp. My mind and muscles had been, of late, so strenuously
occupied, that the cold had not been felt. The cessation of exercise,
however, quickly restored my sensibility in this respect, but the
unhappy girl complained of being half frozen.
Fire, therefore, was the first object of my search. Happily, some
embers were found upon the hearth, together with potatoe stalks and
dry chips. Of these, with much difficulty, I kindled a fire, by which
some warmth was imparted to our shivering limbs. The light enabled
me, as I sat upon the ground, to survey the interior of this mansion.
Three saplins, stripped of their branches, and bound together at
their ends by twigs, formed a kind of bedstead, which was raised from
the ground by four stones. Ropes srtetched across these, and covered
by a blanket, constituted the bed. A board, of which one end rested
on the bedstead, and the other was thrust between the logs that
composed the wall, sustained the stale fragments of a rye-loaf, and a
cedar bucket kept entire by withs instead of hoops. In the bucket was
a little water, full of droppings from the roof, drowned insects and
sand, a basket or two neatly made, and an hoe, with a stake thrust
into it by way of handle, made up all the furniture that was visible
Next to cold, hunger was the most urgent necessity by which we were
now pressed. This was no time to give ear to scruples. We, therefore,
uncerimoniously divided the bread and the water between us. I had now
leisure to bestow some regards upon the future.
These remnants of fire and food convinced me that this dwelling was
usually inhabited, and that it had lately been deserted. Some
engagement had probably carried the tenant abroad. His absence might
be terminated in a few minutes, or might endure through the night. On
his return, I questioned not my power to appease any indignation he
might feel at the liberties which I had taken. I was willing to
suppose him one who would readily afford us all the information and
succour that we needed.
If he should not return till sunrise, I meant to resume my journey.
By the comfortable meal we had made, and the repose of a few hours,
we should be considerably invigorated and refreshed, and the road
would lead us to some more hospitable tenement.
My thoughts were too tumultuous, and my situation too precarious,
to allow me to sleep. The girl, on the contrary, soon sunk into a
sweet oblivion of all her cares. She laid herself, by my advice, upon
the bed, and left me to ruminate without interruption.
I was not wholly free from the apprehension of danger. What
influence his boisterous and solitary life might have upon the temper
of the being who inhabited this hut, I could not predict. How soon
the Indians might awake, and what path they would pursue, I was
equally unable to guess. It was by no means impossible that they
might tread upon my foot-steps, and knock, in a few minutes, at the
door of this cottage. It behoved me to make all the preparation in my
power against untoward incidents.
I had not parted with the gun which I had first seized in the
cavern, nor with the hatchet which I had afterwards used to cut the
bands of the girl. These were, at once, my trophies and my means of
defence, which it had been rash and absurd to have relinquished. My
present reliance was placed upon these.
I now, for the first time, examined the prize that I had made.
Other considerations had prevented me till now, from examining the
structure of the piece, but I could not but observe that it had two
barrels, and was lighter and smaller than an ordinary musquet. The
light of the fire now enabled me to inspect it with more accuracy.
Scarcely had I fixed my eyes upon the stock, when I perceived marks
that were familiar to my apprehension. Shape, ornaments, and cyphers,
were evidently the same with those of a piece which I had frequently
handled. The marks were of a kind which could not be mistaken. This
piece was mine; and when I left my uncle's house, it was deposited,
as I believed, in the closet of my chamber.
Thou wilt easily conceive the inference which this circumstance
suggested. My hairs rose and my teeth chattered with horror. My whole
frame was petrified, and I paced to and fro, hurried from the chimney
to the door, and from the door to the chimney, with the misguided
fury of a maniac.
I needed no proof of my calamity more incontestible than this. My
uncle and my sisters had been murdered; the dwelling had been
pillaged, and this had been a part of the plunder. Defenceless and
asleep, they were assailed by these inexorable enemies, and I, who
ought to have been their protector and champion, was removed to an
immeasurable distance, and was disabled, by some accursed chance,
from affording them the succour which they needed.
For a time, I doubted whether I had not witnessed and shared this
catastrophe. I had no memory of the circumstances that preceded my
awaking in the pit. Had not the cause of my being cast into this
abyss some connection with the ruin of my family? Had I not been
dragged hither by these savages, and reduced, by their malice, to
that breathless and insensible condition? Was I born to a malignant
destiny never tired of persecuting? Thus had my parents and their
infant offspring perished, and thus completed was the fate of all
those to whom my affections cleaved, and whom the first disaster had
Hitherto the death of the savage, whom I had dispatched with my
hatchet, had not been remembered without some remorse. Now my
emotions were totally changed: I was somewhat comforted in thinking
that thus much of necessary vengeance had been executed. New and more
vehement regrets were excited by reflecting on the forbearance I had
practised when so much was in my power. All the miscreants had been
at my mercy, and a bloody retribution might, with safety and ease,
have been inflicted on their prostrate bodies.
It was now too late. What of consolation or of hope remained to me?
To return to my ancient dwelling, now polluted with blood, or
perhaps, nothing but a smoking ruin, was abhorred. Life, connected
with remembrance of my misfortunes was detestable. I was no longer
anxious for flight. No change of the scene but that which terminated
all consciousness, could I endure to think of.
Amidst these gloomy meditations the idea was suddenly suggested of
returning, with the utmost expedition, to the cavern. It was possible
that the assassins were still asleep. He who was appointed to watch
and to make, in due season, the signal for resuming their march, was
forever silent. Without this signal it was not unlikely that they
would sleep till dawn of day. But if they should be roused, they
might be overtaken or met, and, by choosing a proper station, two
victims might at least fall. The ultimate event to myself would
surely be fatal; but my own death was an object of desire rather than
of dread. To die thus speedily, and after some atonement was made for
those who had already been slain, was sweet.
The way to the mountain was difficult and tedious, but the ridge
was distinctly seen from the door of the cottage, and I trusted that
auspicious chance would lead me to that part of it where my prey was
to be found. I snatched up the gun and tom-hawk in a transport of
eagerness. On examining the former, I found that both barrels were
This piece was of extraordinary workmanship. It was the legacy of
an English officer, who died in Bengal, to Sarsefield. It was
constructed for the purposes not of sport but of war. The the artist
had made it a congeries of tubes and springs, by which every purpose
of protection and offence was effectually served. A dagger's blade
was attached to it, capable of being fixed at the end, and of
answering the destructive purpose of a bayonet. On his departure from
Solebury, my friend left it, as a pledge of his affection, in my
possession. Hitherto I had chiefly employed it in shooting at a mark,
in order to improve my sight; now was I to profit by the gift in a
Thus armed, I prepared to sally forth on my adventurous expedition.
Sober views might have speedily succeeded to the present tempest of
my passions. I might have gradually discovered the romantic and
criminal temerity of my project, the folly of revenge, and the duty
of preserving my life for the benefit of mankind. I might have
suspected the propriety of my conclusion, and have admitted some
doubts as to the catastrophe which I imagined to have befallen my
uncle and sisters. I might, at least, have consented to ascertain
their condition with my own eyes; and for this end have returned to
the cottage, and have patiently waited till the morning light should
permit me to resume my journey.
This conduct was precluded by a new incident. Before I opened the
door I looked through a crevice of the wall, and perceived three
human figures at the farther end of the field. They approached the
house. Though indistinctly seen, something in their port persuaded me
that these were the Indians from whom I had lately parted. I was
startled but not dismayed. My thirst of vengeance was still powerful,
and I believed that the moment of its gratification was hastening. In
a short time they would arrive and enter the house. In what manner
should they be received?
I studied not my own security. It was the scope of my wishes to
kill the whole number of my foes; but that being done, I was
indifferent to the consequences. I desired not to live to relate or
to exult in the deed.
To go forth was perilous and useless. All that remained was to sit
upon the ground opposite the door, and fire at each as he entered. In
the hasty survey I had taken of this apartment, one object had been
overlooked, or imperfectly noticed. Close to the chimney was an
aperture, formed by a cavity partly in the wall and in the ground. It
was the entrance of an oven, which resembled, on the outside, a mound
of earth, and which was filled with dry stalks of potatoes and other
Into this it was possible to thrust my body. A sort of screen might
be formed of the brush-wood, and more deliberate and effectual
execution be done upon the enemy. I weighed not the disadvantages of
this scheme, but precipitately threw myself into this cavity. I
discovered, in an instant, that it was totally unfit for my purpose,
but it was too late to repair my miscarriage.
This wall of the hovel was placed near the verge of a sand-bank.
The oven was erected on the very brink. This bank being of a loose
and mutable soil, could not sustain my weight. It sunk, and I sunk
along with it. The height of the bank was three or four feet, so that,
though disconcerted and embarrassed, I received no injury. I still
grasped my gun, and resumed my feet in a moment.
What was now to be done? The bank screened me from the view of the
savages. The thicket was hard by, and if I were eager to escape, the
way was obvious and sure. But though single, though enfeebled by
toil, by abstinence and by disease, and though so much exceeded in
number and strength, by my foes, I was determined to await and
provoke the contest.
In addition to the desperate impulse of passion, I was swayed by
thoughts of the danger which beset the sleeping girl, and from which
my flight would leave her without protection. How strange is the
destiny that governs mankind! The consequence of shrouding myself in
this cavity had not been foreseen. It was an expedient which courage,
and not cowardice suggested? and yet it was the only expedient by
which flight had been rendered practicable. To have issued from the
door would only have been to confront, and not to elude the danger.
The first impulse prompted me to re-enter the cottage by this
avenue, but this could not be done with certainty and expedition.
What then remained? While I deliberated, the men approached, and,
after a moment's hesitation, entered the house, the door being partly
The fire on the hearth enabled them to survey the room. One of them
uttered a sudden exclamation of surprize. This was easily
interpreted. They had noticed the girl who had lately been their
captive lying asleep on the blanket. Their astonishment at finding her
here, and in this condition, may be easily conceived.
I now reflected that I might place myself, without being observed,
near the entrance, at an angle of the building, and shoot at each as
he successively came forth. I perceived that the bank conformed to
two sides of the house, and that I might gain a view of the front and
of the entrance, without exposing myself to observation.
I lost no time in gaining this station The bank was as high as my
breast. It was easy, therefore, to crouch beneath it, to bring my eye
close to the verge, and, laying my gun upon the top of it among the
grass, with its muzzles pointed to the door, patiently to wait their
My eye and my ear were equally attentive to what was passing. A low
and muttering conversation was maintained in the house. Presently I
heard an heavy stroke descend. I shuddered, and my blood ran cold at
the sound. I entertained no doubt but that it was the stroke of an
hatchet on the head or breast of the helpless sleeper.
It was followed by a loud shriek. The continuance of these shrieks
proved that the stroke had not been instantly fatal. I waited to hear
it repeated, but the sounds that now arose were like those produced
by dragging somewhat along the ground. The shrieks, meanwhile, were
incessant and piteous. My heart faltered, and I saw that mighty
efforts must be made to preserve my joints and my nerves stedfast.
All depended on the strenuous exertions and the fortunate dexterity
of a moment.
One now approached the door, and came forth, dragging the girl,
whom he held by the hair, after him. What hindered me from shooting
at his first appearance, I know not. This had been my previous
resolution. My hand touched the trigger, and as he moved, the piece
was levelled at his right ear. Perhaps the momentous consequences of
my failure, made me wait till his ceasing to move might render my aim
Having dragged the girl, still piteously shrieking, to the distance
of ten feet from the house, he threw her from him with violence. She
fell upon the ground, and observing him level his piece at her
breast, renewed her supplications in a still more piercing tone.
Little did the forlorn wretch think that her deliverance was certain
and near. I rebuked myself for having thus long delayed. I fired, and
my enemy sunk upon the ground without a struggle.
Thus far had success attended me in this unequal contest. The next
shot would leave me nearly powerless. If that, however, proved as
unerring as the first, the chances of defeat were lessened. The
savages within, knowing the inten tions of their associate with regard
to the captive girl, would probably mistake the report which they
heard for that of his piece. Their mistake, however, would speedily
give place to doubts, and they would rush forth to ascertain the
truth. It behoved me to provide a similar reception for him that next
It was as I expected. Scarcely was my eye again fixed upon the
entrance, when a tawny and terrific visage was stretched fearfully
forth. It was the signal of his fate. His glances cast wildly and
swiftly round, lighted upon me, and on the fatal instrument which was
pointed at his forehead. His muscles were at once exerted to withdraw
his head, and to vociferate a warning to his fellow, but his movement
was too slow. The ball entered above his ear: He tumbled headlong to
the ground, bereaved of sensation, though not of life, and had power
only to struggle and mutter.
Think not that I relate these things with exultation or
tranquility. All my education and the habits of my life tended to
unfit me for a contest and a scene like this. But I was not governed
by the soul which usually regulates my conduct. I had imbibed from
the unparalleled events which had lately happened a spirit vengeful,
unrelenting, and ferocious.
There was now an interval for flight. Throwing my weapons away, I
might gain the thicket in a moment. I had no ammunition, nor would
time be afforded me to re-load my piece. My antagonist would render
my poniard and my speed of no use to me. Should he miss me as I fled,
the girl would remain to expiate, by her agonies and death, the fate
of his companions.
These thoughts passed through my mind in a shorter time than is
demanded to express them. They yielded to an expedient suggested by
the sight of the gun that had been raised to destroy the girl, and
which now lay upon the ground. I am not large of bone, but am not
deficient in agility and strength. All that remained to me of these
qualities was now exerted; and dropping my own piece, I leaped upon
the bank, and flew to seize my prize.
It was not till I snatched it from the ground, that the propriety
of regaining my former post, rushed upon my apprehension. He that was
still posted in the hovel would mark me through the seams of the
wall, and render my destruction sure. I once more ran towards the
bank, with the intention to throw myself below it. All this was
performed in an instant; but my vigilant foe was aware of his
advantage, and fired through an opening between the logs. The bullet
grazed my cheek, and produced a benumbing sensation that made me
instantly fall to the earth. Though bereaved of strength, and fraught
with the belief that I had received a mortal wound, my caution was
not remitted. I loosened not my grasp of the gun, and the posture into
which I accidentally fell enabled me to keep an eye upon the house
and an hand upon the trigger. Perceiving my condition, the savage
rushed from his covert in order to complete his work; but at three
steps from the threshold, he received my bullet in his breast. The
uplifted tom-hawk fell from his hand, and, uttering a loud shriek, he
fell upon the body of his companion. His cries struck upon my heart,
and I wished that his better fortune had cast this evil from him upon
Thus I have told thee a bloody and disastrous tale. When thou
reflectest on the mildness of my habits, my antipathy to scenes of
violence and bloodshed, my unacquaintance with the use of fire-arms,
and the motives of a soldier, thou wilt scarcely allow credit to my
story. That one rushing into these dangers, unfurnished with
stratagems or weapons, disheartened and enfeebled by hardships and
pain, should subdue four antagonists, trained from their infancy to
the artifices and exertions of Indian warfare, will seem the vision of
fancy, rather than the lesson of truth.
I lifted my head from the ground and pondered upon this scene. The
magnitude of this exploit made me question its reality. By attending
to my own sensations, I discovered that I had received no wound, or
at least, none of which there was reason to complain. The blood
flowed plentifully from my cheek, but the injury was superficial. It
was otherwise with my antagonists. The last that had fallen now
ceased to groan. Their huge limbs, inured to combat and war-worn,
were useless to their own defence, and to the injury of others.
The destruction that I witnessed was vast. Three beings, full of
energy and heroism, endowed with minds strenuous and lofty, poured
out their lives before me. I was the instrument of their destruction.
This scene of carnage and blood was laid by me. To this havock and
horror was I led by such rapid footsteps!
My anguish was mingled with astonishment. In spite of the force and
uniformity with which my senses were impressed by external objects,
the transition I had undergone was so wild and inexplicable; all that
I had performed; all that I had witnessed since my egress from the
pit, were so contradictory to precedent events, that I still clung to
the belief that my thoughts were confused by delirium. From these
reveries I was at length recalled by the groans of the girl, who lay
near me on the ground.
I went to her and endeavoured to console her. I found that while
lying in the bed, she had received a blow upon the side, which was
still productive of acute pain. She was unable to rise or to walk,
and it was plain that one or more of her ribs had been fractured by
I knew not what means to devise for our mutual relief. It was
possible that the nearest dwelling was many leagues distant. I knew
not in what direction to go in order to find it, and my strength
would not suffice to carry my wounded companion thither in my arms.
There was no expedient but to remain in this field of blood till the
I had scarcely formed this resolution before the report of a
musquet was heard at a small distance. At the same moment, I
distinctly heard the whistling of a bullet near me. I now remembered
that of the five Indians whom I saw in the cavern, I was acquainted
with the destiny only of four. The fifth might be still alive, and
fortune might reserve for him the task of avenging his companions.
His steps might now be tending hither in search of them.
The musquet belonging to him who was shot upon the threshold, was
still charged. It was discreet to make all the provision in my power
against danger. I possessed myself of this gun, and seating myself on
the ground, looked carefully on all sides, to descry the aproach of
the enemy. I listened with breathless eagerness.
Presently voices were heard. They ascended from that part of the
thicket from which my view was intercepted by the cottage. These
voices had something in them that bespoke them to belong to friends
and countrymen. As yet I was unable to distinguish words.
Presently my eye was attracted to one quarter, by a sound as of
feet trampling down bushes. Several heads were seen moving in
succession, and at length, the whole person was conspicuous. One
after another leaped over a kind of mound which bordered the field,
and made towards the spot where I sat. This band was composed of ten
or twelve persons, with each a gun upon his shoulder. Their guise,
the moment it was perceived, dissipated all my apprehensions.
They came within the distance of a few paces before they discovered
me. One stopped, and bespeaking the attention of his followers,
called to know who was there? I answered that I was a friend, who
intreated their assistance. I shall not paint their astonishment when,
on coming nearer, they beheld me surrounded by the arms and dead
bodies of my enemies.
I sat upon the ground, supporting my head with my left hand, and
resting on my knee the stock of an heavy musquet. My countenance was
wan and haggard, my neck and bosom were died in blood, and my limbs,
almost stripped by the brambles of their slender covering, were
lacerated by a thousand wounds. Three savages, two of whom were
steeped in gore, lay at a small distance, with the traces of recent
life on their visages. Hard by was the girl, venting her anguish in
the deepest groans, and intreating relief from the new comers.
One of the company, on approaching the girl, betrayed the utmost
perturbation. "Good God!" he cried, "is this a dream? Can it be you?
"Ah, my father! my father!" answered she, "it is I indeed."
The company, attracted by this dialogue, crowded round the girl,
whom her father, clasping in his arms, lifted from the ground, and
pressed, in a transport of joy to his breast. This delight was
succeeded by solicitude respecting her condition. She could only
answer his inquiries by complaining that her side was bruised to
pieces. How came you here?... Who hurt you?... Where did the Indians
carry you? were questions to which she could make no reply but by
sobs and plaints.
My own calamities were forgotten in contemplating the fondness and
compassion of the man for his child. I derived new joy from
reflecting that I had not abandoned her, and that she owed her
preservation to my efforts. The inquiries which the girl was unable
to answer, were now put to me. Every one interrogated who I was,
whence I had come, and what had given rise to this bloody contest.
I was not willing to expatiate on my story. The spirit which had
hitherto sustained me, began now to subside. My strength ebbed away
with my blood. Tremors, lassitude, and deadly cold, invaded me, and I
fainted on the ground.
Such is the capricious constitution of the human mind. While
dangers were at hand, while my life was to be preserved only by zeal
and vigilance, and courage, I was not wanting to myself. Had my
perils continued or even multiplied, no doubt my energies would have
kept equal pace with them, but the moment that I was encompassed by
protectors, and placed in security, I grew powerless and faint. My
weakness was proportioned to the duration and intensity of my
previous efforts, and the swoon into which I now sunk, was no doubt,
mistaken by the spectators, for death.
On recovering from this swoon, my sensations were not unlike those
which I had experienced on awaking in the pit. For a moment a
mistiness involved every object, and I was able to distinguish
nothing. My sight, by rapid degrees, was restored, my painful
dizziness was banished, and I surveyed the scene before me with
anxiety and wonder.
I found myself stretched upon the ground. I perceived the cottage
and the neighbouring thicket, illuminated by a declining moon. My
head rested upon something, which, on turning to examine, I found to
be one of the slain Indians. The other two remained upon the earth at
a small distance, and in the attitudes in which they had fallen.
Their arms, the wounded girl, and the troop who were near me when I
fainted, were gone.
My head had reposed upon the breast of him whom I had shot in this
part of his body. The blood had ceased to ooze from the wound, but my
dishevelled locks were matted and steeped in that gore which had
overflowed and choaked up the orifice. I started from this detestable
pillow, and regained my feet.
I did not suddenly recall what had lately passed, or comprehend the
nature of my situation. At length, however, late events were
That I should be abandoned in this forlorn state by these men,
seemed to argue a degree of cowardice or cruelty, of which I should
have thought them incapable. Presently, however, I reflected that
appearances might have easily misled them into a belief of my death:
on this supposition, to have carried me away, or to have stayed
beside me, would be useless. Other enemies might be abroad, or their
families, now that their fears were somewhat tranquilized, might
require their presence and protection.
I went into the cottage. The fire still burned, and afforded me a
genial warmth. I sat before it and began to ruminate on the state to
which I was reduced, and on the measures I should next pursue.
Day-light could not be very distant. Should I remain in this hovel
till the morning, or immediately resume my journey? I was feeble,
indeed, but by remaining here should I not increase my feebleness?
The sooner I should gain some human habitation the better; whereas
watchfulness and hunger would render me, at each minute, less able to
proceed than on the former.
This spot might be visited on the next day; but this was involved
in uncertainty. The visitants, should any come, would come merely to
examine and bury the dead, and bring with them neither the clothing
nor the food which my necessities demanded. The road was sufficiently
discernible, and would, unavoidably, conduct me to some dwelling. I
determined, therefore, to set out without delay. Even in this state I
was not unmindful that my safety might require the precaution of
being armed. Besides the fusil, which had been given me by
Sarsefield, and which I had so unexpectedly recovered, had lost none
of its value in my eyes. I hoped that it had escaped the search of
the troop who had been here, and still lay below the bank, in the
spot where I had dropped it.
In this hope I was not deceived. It was found. I possessed myself
of the powder and shot belonging to one of the savages, and loaded
it. Thus equipped for defence, I regained the road, and proceeded,
with alacrity, on my way. For the wound in my cheek, nature had
provided a styptic, but the soreness was extreme, and I thought of no
remedy but water, with which I might wash away the blood. My thirst
likewise incommoded me, and I looked with eagerness for the traces of
a spring. In a soil like that of the wilderness around me, nothing
was less to be expected than to light upon water. In this respect,
however, my destiny was propitious. I quickly perceived water in the
ruts. It trickled hither from the thicket on one side, and, pursuing
it among the bushes, I reached the bubbling source. Though scanty and
brackish, it afforded me unspeakable refreshment.
Thou wilt think, perhaps, that my perils were now at an end; that
the blood I had already shed was sufficient for my safety. I
fervently hoped that no new exigence would occur, compelling me to
use the arms that I bore in my own defence. I formed a sort of
resolution to shun the contest with a new enemy, almost at the
expense of my own life. I was satiated and gorged with slaughter, and
thought upon a new act of destruction with abhorrence and loathing.
But though I dreaded to encounter a new enemy, I was sensible that
an enemy might possibly be at hand. I had moved forward with caution,
and my sight and hearing were attentive to the slightest tokens.
Other troops, besides that which I encountered, might be hovering
near, and of that troop, I remembered that one at least had survived.
The gratification which the spring had afforded me was so great,
that I was in no haste to depart. I lay upon a rock, which chanced to
be shaded by a tree behind me. From this post I could overlook the
road to some distance, and, at the same time, be shaded from the
observation of others.
My eye was now caught by movements which appeared like those of a
beast. In different circumstances, I should have instantly supposed
it to be a wolf, or panther, or bear. Now my suspicions were alive on
a different account, and my startled fancy figured to itself nothing
but an human adversary.
A thicket was on either side of the road. That opposite to my
station was discontinued at a small distance by the cultivated field.
The road continued along this field, bounded by the thicket on the
one side, and the open space on the other. To this space the being who
was now descried was cautiously approaching.
He moved upon all fours, and presently came near enough to be
distinguished. His disfigured limbs, pendants from his ears and nose,
and his shorn locks, were indubitable indications of a savage.
Occasionally he reared himself above the bushes, and scanned, with
suspicious vigilance, the cottage and the space surrounding it. Then
he stooped, and crept along as before.
I was at no loss to interpret these appearances. This was my
surviving enemy. He was unacquainted with the fate of his associates,
and was now approaching the theatre of carnage, to ascertain their
Once more was the advantage afforded me. From this spot might
unerring aim be taken, and the last of this hostile troop be made to
share the fate of the rest. Should I fire or suffer him to pass in
My abhorrence of bloodshed was not abated. But I had not foreseen
this occurrence. My success hitherto had seemed to depend upon a
combination of fortunate incidents, which could not be expected again
to take place; but now was I invested with the same power. The mark
was near; nothing obstructed or delayed; I incurred no danger, and
the event was certain.
Why should he be suffered to live? He came hither to murder and
despoil my friends; this work he has, no doubt, performed. Nay, has
he not borne his part in the destruction of my uncle and my sisters?
He will live only to pursue the same sanguinary trade; to drink the
blood and exult in the laments of his unhappy foes, and of my own
brethren. Fate has reserved him for a bloody and violent death. For
how long a time soever it may be deferred, it is thus that his career
will inevitably terminate.
Should he be spared, he will still roam in the wilderness, and I
may again be fated to encounter him. Then our mutual situation may be
widely different, and the advantage I now possess may be his.
While hastily revolving these thoughts I was thoroughly aware that
one event might take place which would render all deliberation
useless. Should he spy me where I lay, my fluctuations must end. My
safety would indispensably require me to shoot. This persuasion made
me keep a stedfast eye upon his motions, and be prepared to
anticipate his assault.
It now most seasonably occurred to me that one essential duty
remained to be performed. One operation, without which fire arms are
useless, had been unaccountably omitted. My piece was uncocked. I did
not reflect that in moving the spring, a sound would necessarily be
produced, sufficient to alarm him. But I knew that the chances of
escaping his notice, should I be perfectly mute and still, were
extremely slender, and that, in such a case, his movements would be
quicker than the light; it behoved me, therefore, to repair my
The sound struck him with alarm. He turned and darted at me an
inquiring glance. I saw that forbearance was no longer in my power;
but my heart sunk while I complied with what may surely be deemed an
indispensable necessity. This faltering, perhaps it was, that made me
swerve somewhat from the fatal line. He was disabled by the wound, but
He lost all power of resistance, and was, therefore, no longer to
be dreaded. He rolled upon the ground, uttering doleful shrieks, and
throwing his limbs into those contorsions which bespeak the keenest
agonies to which ill-fated man is subject. Horror, and compassion, and
remorse, were mingled into one sentiment, and took possession of my
heart. To shut out this spectacle, I withdrew from the spot, but I
stopped before I had moved beyond hearing of his cries.
The impulse that drove me from the scene was pusillanimous and
cowardly. The past, however deplorable, could not be recalled; but
could not I afford some relief to this wretch? Could not I, at least,
bring his pangs to a speedy close? Thus he might continue, writhing
and calling upon death for hours. Why should his miseries be
There was but one way to end them. To kill him outright, was the
dictate of compassion and of duty. I hastily returned, and once more
levelled my piece at his head. It was a loathsome obligation, and was
performed with unconquerable reluctance. Thus to assault and to
mangle the body of an enemy, already prostrate and powerless, was an
act worthy of abhorrence; yet it was, in this case, prescribed by
My faltering hand rendered this second bullet ineffectual. One
expedient, still more detestable, remained. Having gone thus far, it
would have been inhuman to stop short. His heart might easily be
pierced by the bayonet, and his struggles would cease.
This task of cruel lenity was at length finished. I dropped the
weapon and threw myself on the ground, overpowered by the horrors of
this scene. Such are the deeds which perverse nature compels
thousands of rational beings to perform and to witness! Such is the
spectacle, endlessly prolonged and diversified, which is exhibited in
every field of battle; of which, habit and example, the temptations
of gain, and the illusions of honour, will make us, not reluctant or
indifferent, but zealous and delighted actors and beholders!
Thus, by a series of events impossible to be computed or foreseen,
was the destruction of a band, selected from their fellows for an
arduous enterprise, distinguished by prowess and skill, and equally
armed against surprize and force, completed by the hand of a boy,
uninured to hostility, unprovided with arms, precipitate and
timerous! I have noted men who seemed born for no end but by their
achievements to belie experience, and baffle foresight, and outstrip
belief. Would to God that I had not deserved to be numbered among
these! But what power was it that called me from the sleep of death,
just in time to escape the merciless knife of this enemy? Had my
swoon continued till he had reached the spot, he would have
effectuated my death by new wounds and torn away the skin from my
brows. Such are the subtile threads on which hangs the fate of man
and of the universe!
While engaged in these reflections, I perceived that the moon-light
had began to fade before that of the sun. A dusky and reddish hue
spread itself over the east. Cheered by this appearance, I once more
resumed my feet and the road. I left the savage where he lay, but made
prize of his tom-hawk. I had left my own in the cavern; and this
weapon added little to my burden. Prompted by some freak of fancy, I
stuck his musquet in the ground, and left it standing upright in the
middle of the road.
I moved forward with as quick a pace as my feeble limbs would
permit. I did not allow myself to meditate. The great object of my
wishes was a dwelling where food and repose might be procured. I
looked earnestly forward, and on each side, in search of some token of
human residence; but the spots of cultivation, the well-pole,
the worm-fence, and the hay-rick, were no where to be seen. I
did not even meet with a wild hog, or a bewildered cow. The path was
narrow, and on either side was a trackless wilderness. On the right
and left were the waving lines of mountainous ridges which had no
peculiarity enabling me to ascertain whether I had ever before seen
At length I noticed that the tracks of wheels had disappeared from
the path that I was treading; that it became more narrow, and
exhibited fewer marks of being frequented. These appearances were
discouraging. I now suspected that I had taken a wrong direction, and
instead of approaching, was receding from the habitation of men.
It was wisest, however, to proceed. The road could not but have
some origin as well as end. Some hours passed away in this
uncertainty. The sun rose, and by noon-day I seemed to be farther than
ever from the end of my toils. The path was more obscure, and the
wilderness more rugged. Thirst more incommoded me than hunger, but
relief was seasonably afforded by the brooks that flowed across the
Coming to one of these, and having slaked my thirst, I sat down
upon the bank, to reflect on my situation. The circuity of the path
had frequently been noticed, and I began to suspect that though I had
travelled long, I had not moved far from the spot where I had
commenced my pilgrimage.
Turning my eyes on all sides, I noticed a sort of pool, formed by
the rivulet, at a few paces distant from the road. In approaching and
inspecting it, I observed the foot-steps of cattle, who had retired
by a path that seemed much beaten; I likewise noticed a cedar bucket,
broken and old, lying on the margin. These tokens revived my drooping
spirits, and I betook myself to this new track. It was intricate;
but, at length, led up a steep, the summit of which was of better
soil than that of which the flats consisted. A clover field, and
several apple-trees, sure attendents of man, were now discovered.
From this space I entered a corn-field, and at length, to my
inexpressible joy, caught a glimpse of an house.
This dwelling was far different from that I had lately left. It was
as small and as low, but its walls consisted of boards. A window of
four panes admitted the light, and a chimney of brick, well burnt,
and neatly arranged, peeped over the roof. As I approached I heard
the voice of children, and the hum of a spinning-wheel.
I cannot make thee conceive the delight which was afforded me by
all these tokens. I now found myself, indeed, among beings like
myself, and from whom hospitable entertainment might be confidently
expected. I compassed the house, and made my appearance at the door.
A good woman, busy at her wheel, with two children playing on the
ground before her, were the objects that now presented themselves.
The uncouthness of my garb, my wild and weather-worn appearance, my
fusil and tom-hawk, could not but startle them. The woman stopt her
wheel, and gazed as if a spectre had started into view.
I was somewhat aware of these consequences, and endeavoured to
elude them, by assuming an air of supplication and humility. I told
her that I was a traveller, who had unfortunately lost his way, and
had rambled in this wild till nearly famished for want. I intreated
her to give me some food; any thing however scanty or coarse, would
After some pause she desired me, though not without some marks of
fear, to walk in. She placed before me some brown bread and milk. She
eyed me while I eagerly devoured this morsel. It was, indeed, more
delicious than any I had ever tasted. At length she broke silence,
and expressed her astonishment and commiseration at my seemingly
forlorn state, adding, that perhaps I was the man whom the men were
looking after who had been there some hours before.
My curiosity was roused by this intimation. In answer to my
interrogations, she said, that three persons had lately stopped, to
inquire if her husband had not met, within the last three days, a
person of whom their description seemed pretty much to suit my person
and dress. He was tall, slender, wore nothing but shirt and trowsers,
and was wounded on the cheek.
What, I asked, did they state the rank or condition of the person
He lived in Solebury. He was supposed to have rambled in the
mountains, and to have lost his way, or to have met with some
mischance. It was three days since he had disappeared, but had been
seen, by some one, the last night, at Deb's hut.
What and where was Deb's hut?
It was a hut in the wilderness, occupied by an old Indian woman,
known among her neighbours by the name of Old Deb. Some people called
her Queen Mab. Her dwelling was eight long miles from this
A thousand questions were precluded, and a thousand doubts solved
by this information. Queen Mab were sounds familiar to my
ears; for they originated with myself.
This woman originally belonged to the tribe of Delawares or
Lennilennapee. All these districts were once comprised within the
dominions of that nation. About thirty years ago, in consequence of
perpetual encroachments of the English colonists, they abandoned their
ancient seats and retired to the banks of the Wabash and Muskingum.
This emigration was concerted in a general council of the tribe,
and obtained the concurrence of all but one female. Her birth,
talents, and age, gave her much consideration and authority among her
countrymen; and all her zeal and eloquence were exerted to induce them
to lay aside their scheme. In this, however, she could not succeed.
Finding them refractory, she declared her resolution to remain
behind, and maintain possession of the land which her countrymen
should impiously abandon.
The village inhabited by this clan was built upon ground which now
constitutes my uncle's barn yard and orchard. On the departure of her
countrymen, this female burnt the empty wigwams and retired into the
fastnesses of Norwalk. She selected a spot suitable for an Indian
dwelling and a small plantation of maize, and in which she was seldom
liable to interruption and intrusion.
Her only companions were three dogs, of the Indian or wolf species.
These animals differed in nothing from their kinsmen of the forest,
but in their attachment and obedience to their mistress. She governed
them with absolute sway: they were her servants and protectors, and
attended her person or guarded her threshold, agreeable to her
directions. She fed them with corn and they supplied her and
themselves with meat, by hunting squirrels, racoons, and rabbits.
To the rest of mankind they were aliens or enemies. They never left
the desert but in company with their mistress, and when she entered a
farmhouse, waited her return at a distance. They would suffer none to
approach them, but attacked no one who did not imprudently crave
their acquaintance, or who kept at a respectful distance from their
wigwam. That sacred asylum they would not suffer to be violated, and
no stranger could enter it but at the imminent hazard of his life,
unless accompanied and protected by their dame.
The chief employment of this woman, when at home, besides plucking
the weeds from among her corn; bruising the grain between two stones,
and setting her snares, for rabbits and apossums, was to talk. Though
in solitude, her tongue was never at rest but when she was asleep; but
her conversation was merely addressed to her dogs. Her voice was
sharp and shrill, and her gesticulations were vehement and grotesque.
An hearer would naturally imagine that she was scolding; but, in
truth, she was merely giving them directions. Having no other object
of contemplation or subject of discourse, she always found, in their
postures and looks, occasion for praise, or blame, or command. The
readiness with which they understood, and the docility with which
they obeyed her movements and words, were truly wonderful.
If a stranger chanced to wander near her hut, and overhear her
jargon, incessant as it was, and shrill, he might speculate in vain
on the reason of these sounds. If he waited in expectation of hearing
some reply, he waited in vain. The strain, always voluble and sharp,
was never intermitted for a moment, and would continue for hours at a
She seldom left the hut but to visit the neighbouring inhabitants,
and demand from them food and cloathing, or whatever her necessities
required. These were exacted as her due: to have her wants supplied
was her prerogative, and to withhold what she claimed was rebellion.
She conceived that by remaining behind her countrymen she succeeded
to the government, and retained the possession of all this region.
The English were aliens and sojourners, who occupied the land merely
by her connivance and permission, and whom she allowed to remain on
no terms but those of supplying her wants.
Being a woman aged and harmless, her demands being limited to that
of which she really stood in need, and which her own industry could
not procure, her pretensions were a subject of mirth and good humour,
and her injunctions obeyed with seeming deference and gravity. To me
she early became an object of curiosity and speculation. I delighted
to observe her habits and humour her prejudices. She frequently came
to my uncle's house, and I sometimes visited her; insensibly she
seemed to contract an affection for me, and regarded me with more
complacency and condescension than any other received.
She always disdained to speak English, and custom had rendered her
intelligible to most in her native language, with regard to a few
simple questions. I had taken some pains to study her jargon, and
could make out to discourse with her on the few ideas which she
possessed. This circumstance, likewise, wonderfully prepossessed her
in my favour.
The name by which she was formerly known was Deb; but her
pretensions to royalty, the wildness of her aspect and garb, her
shrivelled and diminutive form, a constitution that seemed to defy
the ravages of time and the influence of the elements; her age, which
some did not scruple to affirm exceeded an hundred years, her
romantic solitude and mountainous haunts suggested to my fancy the
appellation of Queen Mab. There appeared to me some rude
analogy between this personage and her whom the poets of old-time
have delighted to celebrate; thou perhaps wilt discover nothing but
incongruities between them, but, be that as it may, Old Deb and Queen
Mab soon came into indiscriminate and general use.
She dwelt in Norwalk upwards of twenty years. She was not forgotten
by her countrymen, and generally received from her brothers and sons
an autumnal visit; but no solicitations or entreaties could prevail
on her to return with them. Two years ago, some suspicion or disgust
induced her to forsake her ancient habitation, and to seek a new one.
Happily she found a more convenient habitation twenty miles to the
westward, and in a spot abundantly sterile and rude.
This dwelling was of logs, and had been erected by a Scottish
emigrant, who not being rich enough to purchase land, and
entertaining a passion for solitude and independence, cleared a field
in the unappropriated wilderness, and subsisted on its produce. After
some time he disappeared. Various conjectures were formed as to the
cause of his absence. None of them were satisfactory; but that which
obtained most credit was, that he had been murdered by the Indians,
who, about the same period, paid their annual visit to the Queen
. This conjecture acquired some force, by observing that the old
woman shortly after took possession of his hut, his implements of
tillage, and his corn-field.
She was not molested in her new abode, and her life passed in the
same quiet tenour as before. Her periodical rambles, her regal
claims, her guardian wolves, and her uncouth volubility, were equally
remarkable, but her circuits were new. Her distance made her visits to
Solebury more rare, and had prevented me from ever extending my
pedestrian excursions to her present abode.
These recollections were now suddenly called up by the information
of my hostess. The hut where I had sought shelter and relief was, it
seems, the residence of Queen Mab. Some fortunate occurrence had
called her away during my visit. Had she and her dogs been at home, I
should have been set upon by these ferocious centinels, and, before
their dame could have interfered, have been, together with my helpless
companion, mangled or killed. These animals never barked, I should
have entered unaware of my danger, and my fate could scarcely have
been averted by my fusil.
Her absence at this unseasonable hour was mysterious. It was now
the time of year when her countrymen were accustomed to renew their
visit. Was there a league between her and the plunderers whom I had
But who were they by whom my foot-steps were so industriously
traced? Those whom I had seen at Deb's hut were strangers to me, but
the wound upon my face was known only to them. To this circumstance
was now added my place of residence and name. I supposed them
impressed with the belief that I was dead; but this mistake must have
speedily been rectified. Revisiting the spot, finding me gone, and
obtaining some intelligence of my former condition, they had
instituted a search after me.
But what tidings were these? I was supposed to have been bewildered
in the mountains, and three days were said to have passed since my
disappearance. Twelve hours had scarcely elapsed since I emerged from
the cavern. Had two days and an half been consumed in my subterranean
These reflections were quickly supplanted by others. I now gained a
sufficient acquaintance with the region that was spread around me. I
was in the midst of a vale, included between ridges that gradually
approached each other, and when joined, were broken up into hollows
and steeps, and spreading themselves over a circular space, assumed
the appellation of Norwalk. This vale gradually widened as it tended
to the westward, and was, in this place ten or twelve miles in
breadth. My devious foot-steps had brought me to the foot of the
southern barrier. The outer basis of this was laved by the river, but,
as it tended eastward, the mountain and river receded from each
other, and one of the cultivable districts lying between them was
Solebury, my natal township. Hither it was now my duty to
return with the utmost expedition.
There were two ways before me. One lay along the interior base of
the hill, over a sterile and trackless space, and exposed to the
encounter of savages, some of whom might possibly be lurking here.
The other was the well frequented road, on the outside and along the
river, and which was to be gained by passing over this hill. The
practicability of the passage was to be ascertained by inquiries made
to my hostess. She pointed out a path that led to the rocky summit
and down to the river's brink. The path was not easy to be kept in
view or to be trodden, but it was undoubtedly to be preferred to any
A route, somewhat circuitous, would terminate in the river road.
Thenceforward the way to Solebury was level and direct; but the whole
space which I had to traverse was not less than thirty miles. In six
hours it would be night, and, to perform the journey in that time
would demand the agile boundings of a leopard and the indefatigable
sinews of an elk.
My frame was in miserable plight. My strength had been assailed by
anguish, and fear, and watchfulness; by toil, and abstinence, and
wounds. Still, however, some remnant was left; would it not enable me
to reach my home by night-fall? I had delighted, from my childhood,
in feats of agility and perseverance. In roving through the maze of
thickets and precipices, I had put my energis both moral and physical,
frequently to the test. Greater achievements than this had been
performed, and I disdained to be out-done in perspicacity by the
lynx, in his sure-footed instinct by the roe, or in patience under
hardship, and contention with fatigue, by the Mohawk. I have ever
aspired to transcend the rest of animals in all that is common to the
rational and brute, as well as in all by which they are distinguished
from each other.
END OF VOL. II.
I likewise burned with impatience to know the condition of my
family, to dissipate at once their tormenting doubts and my own, with
regard to our mutual safety. The evil that I feared had befallen them
was too enormous to allow me to repose in suspense, and my
restlessness and ominous forebodings would be more intolerable than
any hardship or toils to which I could possibly be subjected during
I was much refreshed and invigorated by the food that I had taken,
and by the rest of an hour. With this stock of recruited force I
determined to scale the hill. After receiving minute directions, and
returning many thanks for my hospitable entertainment, I set out.
The path was indeed intricate, and deliberate attention was obliged
to be exerted in order to preserve it. Hence my progress was slower
than I wished. The first impulse was to fix my eye upon the summit,
and to leap from crag to crag till I reached it, but this my
experience had taught me was impracticable. It was only by winding
through gullies, and coasting precipices and bestriding chasms, that
I could hope finally to gain the top, and I was assured that by one
way only was it possible to accomplish even this.
An hour was spent in struggling with impediments, and I seemed to
have gained no way. Hence a doubt was suggested whether I had not
missed the true road. In this doubt I was confirmed by the
difficulties which now grew up before me. The brooks, the angles and
the hollows, which my hostess had described, were not to be seen.
Instead of these, deeper dells, more headlong torrents and wider
gaping rifts were incessantly encountered.
To return was as hoples as to proceed. I consoled myself with
thinking that the survey which my informant had made of the
hill-side, might prove inaccurate, and that in spite of her
predictions, the heights might be reached by other means than by
those pointed out by her. I will not enumerate my toilsome expedients,
my frequent disappointments and my desperate exertions. Suffice it to
say that I gained the upper space, not till the sun had dipped
beneath the horizon.
My satisfaction at accomplishing thus much was not small, and I
hied, with renovated spirits, to the opposite brow. This proved to be
a steep that could not be descended. The river flowed at its foot.
The opposite bank was five hundred yards distant, and was equally
towering and steep as that on which I stood. Appearances were adapted
to persuade you that these rocks had formerly joined, but by some
mighty effort of nature, had been severed, that the stream might find
way through the chasm. The channel, however, was encumbered with
asperities over which the river fretted and foamed with thundering
I pondered for a while on these stupendous scenes. They ravished my
attention from considerations that related to myself; but this
interval was short, and I began to measure the descent, in order to
ascertain the practicability of treading it. My survey terminated in
bitter disappointment. I turned my eye successively eastward and
westward. Solebury lay in the former direction, and thither I desired
to go. I kept along the verge in this direction, till I reached an
impassable rift. Beyond this I saw that the steep grew lower, but it
was impossible to proceed farther. Higher up the descent might be
practicable, and though more distant from Solebury, it was better to
reach the road, even at that distance, than never to reach it.
Changing my course, therefore, I explored the spaces above. The
night was rapidly advancing, the grey clouds gathered in the
south-east, and a chilling blast, the usual attendent of a night in
October, began to whistle among the pigmy cedars that scantily grew
upon these heights. My progress would quickly be arrested by
darkness, and it behoved me to provide some place of shelter and
repose. No recess, better than an hollow in the rock, presented itself
to my anxious scrutiny.
Meanwhile I would not dismiss the hope of reaching the road, which
I saw some hundred feet below, winding along the edge of the river,
before daylight should utterly fail. Speedily these hopes derived new
vigour from meeting a ledge that irregularly declined from the brow of
the hill. It was wide enough to allow of cautious footing. On a
similar stratum, or ledge, projecting still further from the body of
the hill, and close to the surface of the river, was the road. This
stratum ascended from the level of the stream, while that on which I
trod rapidly descended. I hoped that they would speedly be blended,
or at least approach so near as to allow me to leap from one to the
other without enormous hazard.
This fond expectation was frustrated. Presently I perceived that
the ledge below began to descend, while that above began to tend
upward, and was quickly terminated by the uppermost surface of the
cliff. Here it was needful to pause. I looked over the brink and
considered whether I might not leap from my present station, without
endangering my limbs. The road into which I should fall was a rocky
pavement far from being smooth. The descent could not be less than
forty or fifty feet. Such an attempt was, to the last degree,
hazardous, but was it not better to risque my life by leaping from
this eminence, than to remain and perish on the top of this
inhospitable mountain. The toils which I had endured, in reaching
this height appeared to my panic-struck fancy, less easy to be borne
again than death.
I know not but that I should have finally resolved to leap, had not
different views been suggested by observing that the outer edge of
the road was, in like manner, the brow of a steep which terminated in
the river. The surface of the road, was twelve or fifteen feet above
the level of the stream, which, in this spot was still and smooth.
Hence I inferred that the water was not of inconsiderable depth. To
fall upon rocky points was, indeed, dangerous, but to plunge into
water of sufficient depth, even from an height greater than that at
which I now stood, especially to one to whom habit had rendered water
almost as congenial an element as air, was scarcely attended with
inconvenience. This expedient was easy and safe. Twenty yards from
this spot, the channel was shallow, and to gain the road from the
stream, was no difficult exploit.
Some disadvantages, however, attended this scheme. The water was
smooth, but this might arise from some other cause than its depth. My
gun, likewise, must be left behind me, and that was a loss to which I
felt invincible repugnance. To let it fall upon the road, would put
it in my power to retrieve the possession, but it was likely to be
irreparably injured by the fall.
While musing upon this expedient, and weighing injuries with
benefits, the night closed upon me. I now considered that should I
emerge in safety from the stream, I should have many miles to travel
before I could reach an house. My clothes meanwhile would be loaded
with wet. I should be heart-pierced by the icy blast that now blew,
and my wounds and bruises would be chafed into insupportable pain.
I reasoned likewise on the folly of impatience and the necessity of
repose. By thus long continuance in one posture, my sinews began to
stiffen, and my reluctance to make new exertions to encrease. My
brows were heavy, and I felt an irresistible propensity to sleep. I
concluded to seek some shelter, and resign myself, my painful
recollections, and my mournful presages to sweet forgetfulness. For
this end, I once more ascended to the surface of the cliff. I
dragged my weary feet forward, till I found somewhat that promised me
the shelter that I sought.
A cluster of cedars appeared, whose branches over-arched a space
that might be called a bower. It was a slight cavity, whose flooring
was composed of loose stones and a few faded leaves blown from a
distance, and finding a temporary lodgement here. On one side was a
rock, forming a wall rugged and projecting above. At the bottom of
the rock was a rift, some-what resembling a coffin in shape, and not
much larger in dimensions. This rift terminated on the opposite side
of the rock, in an opening that was too small for the body of a man to
pass. The distance between each entrance was twice the length of a
This bower was open to the South-east whence the gale now blew. It
therefore imperfectly afforded the shelter of which I stood in need;
but it was the best that the place and the time afforded. To stop the
smaller entrance of the cavity with a stone, and to heap before the
other, branches lopped from the trees with my hatchet, might somewhat
contribute to my comfort.
This was done, and thrusting myself into this recess, as far as I
was able, I prepared for repose. It might have been reasonably
suspected to be the den of rattle-snakes or panthers; but my late
contention with superior dangers and more formidable enemies made me
reckless of these, but another inconvenience remained. In spite of my
precautions, my motionless posture and slender covering exposed me so
much to the cold that I could not sleep.
The air appeared to have suddenly assumed the temperature of
mid-winter. In a short time, my extremeties were benumbed, and my
limbs shivered and ached as if I had been seized by an ague. My bed
likewise was dank and uneven, and the posture I was obliged to
assume, unnatural and painful. It was evident that my purpose could
not be answered by remaining here.
I, therefore, crept forth, and began to reflect upon the
possibility of continuing my journey. Motion was the only thing that
could keep me from freezing, and my frame was in that state which
allowed me to take no repose in the absence of warmth; since warmth
were indispensible. It now occurred to me to ask whether it were not
possible to kindle a fire.
Sticks and leaves were at hand. My hatchet and a pebble would
enable me to extract a spark. From this, by suitable care and
perseverance, I might finally procure sufficient fire to give me
comfort and ease, and even enable me to sleep. This boon was
delicious and I felt as if I were unable to support a longer
deprivation of it.
I proceeded to execute this scheme. I took the dryest leaves, and
endeavoured to use them as tinder, but the driest leaves were
moistened by the dews. They were only to be found in the hollows, in
some of which were pools of water and others were dank. I was not
speedily discouraged, but my repeated attempts failed, and I was
finally compelled to relinquish this expedient.
All that now remained was to wander forth and keep myself in motion
till the morning. The night was likely to prove tempestuous and long.
The gale seemed freighted with ice, and acted upon my body like the
points of a thousand needles. There was no remedy, and I mustered my
patience to endure it.
I returned again, to the brow of the hill. I ranged along it till I
reached a place where the descent was perpendicular, and, in
consequence of affording no sustenance to trees or bushes, was nearly
smooth and bare. There was no road to be seen, and this circumstance,
added to the sounds which the ripling current produced, afforded me
some knowledge of my situation.
The ledge, along which the road was conducted, disappeared near
this spot. The opposite sides of the chasm through which flowed the
river, approached nearer to each other, in the form of jutting
promontories. I now stood upon the verge of that on the northern
side. The water flowed at the foot, but, for the space of ten or
twelve feet from the rock, was so shallow as to permit the traveller
and his horse to wade through it, and thus to regain the road which
the receding precipice had allowed to be continued on the farther
I knew the nature and dimensions of this ford. I knew that, at a
few yards from the rock, the channel was of great depth. To leap into
it, in this place, was a less dangerous exploit, than at the spot
where I had formerly been tempted to leap. There I was unacquainted
with the depth, but here I knew it to be considerable. Still there
was some ground of hesitation and fear. My present station was
loftier, and how deeply I might sink into this gulf, how far the fall
and the concussion would bereave me of my presence of mind, I could
not determine. This hesitation vanished, and placing my tom-hawk and
fusil upon the ground, I prepared to leap.
This purpose was suspended, in the moment of its execution, by a
faint sound, heard from the quarter whence I had come. It was the
warning of men, but had nothing in common with those which I had been
accustomed to hear. It was not the howling of a wolf or the yelling
of a panther. These had often been overheard by night during my last
year's excursion to the lakes. My fears whispered that this was the
vociferation of a savage.
I was unacquainted with the number of the enemies who had
adventured into this district. Whether those whom I had encountered
at Deb's hut were of that band whom I had met with in the
cavern, was merely a topic of conjecture. There might be an
half-score of troops, equally numerous, spread over the wilderness,
and the signal I had just heard might betoken the approach of one of
these. Yet by what means they should gain this nook, and what prey
they expected to discover, were not easily conceived.
The sounds, somewhat diversified, nearer and rising from different
quarters, were again heard. My doubts and apprehensions were
increased. What expedient to adopt for my own safety, was a subject
of rapid meditation. Whether to remain stretched upon the ground or to
rise and go forward. Was it likely the enemy would coast along the
edge of the steep? Would they ramble hither to look upon the ample
scene which spread on all sides around the base of this rocky
pinnacle? In that case, how should I conduct myself! My arms were
ready for use. Could I not elude the necessity of shedding more
blood? Could I not anticipate their assault by casting myself without
delay into the stream.
The sense of danger demanded more attention to be paid to external
objects than to the motives by which my future conduct should be
influenced. My post was on a circular projecture, in some degree,
detached from the body of the hill, the brow of which continued in a
streight line, uninterrupted by this projecture, which was somewhat
higher than the continued summit of the ridge. This line ran at the
distance of a few paces from my post. Objects moving along this line
could merely be perceived to move, in the present obscurity.
My scrutiny was entirely directed to this quarter. Presently the
treading of many feet was heard, and several figures were discovered,
following each other in that streight and regular succession which is
peculiar to the Indians. They kept along the brow of the hill joining
the promontory. I distinctly marked seven figures in succession.
My resolution was formed. Should any one cast his eye hither,
suspect, or discover an enemy, and rush towards me, I determined to
start upon my feet, fire on my foe as he advanced, throw my piece on
the ground, and then leap into the river.
Happily, they passed unobservant and in silence. I remained, in the
same posture, for several minutes. At length, just as my alarms began
to subside, the hollows, before heard, arose, and from the same
quarter as before. This convinced me that my perils were not at an
end. This now appeared to be merely the vanguard, and would speedily
be followed by others, against whom the same caution was necessary to
My eye, anxiously bent the only way by which any one could
approach, now discerned a figure, which was indubitably that of a man
armed, none other appeared in company, but doubtless others were
near. He approached, stood still, and appeared to gaze stedfastly at
the spot where I lay.
The optics of a
Lennilennapee I knew to be far keener than
my own. A log or a couched fawn would never be mistaken for a man,
nor a man for a couched fawn or a log. Not only a human being would
be instantly detected, but a decision be unerringly made whether it
were friend or foe. That my prostrate body was the object on which
the attention of this vigilant and stedfast gazer was fixed, could
not be doubted. Yet, since he continued an inactive gazer, there was
ground for a possibility to stand upon, that I was not recognized. My
fate, therefore, was still in suspense.
This interval was momentary. I marked a movement, which my fears
instantly interpreted to be that of leveling a gun at my head. This
action was sufficiently conformable to my prognostics. Supposing me
to be detected, there was no need for him to change his post. Aim
might too fatally be taken, and his prey be secured, from the
distance at which he now stood.
These images glanced upon my thought, and put an end to my
suspense. A single effort placed me on my feet. I fired with
precipitation that precluded the certainty of hitting my mark, dropped
my piece upon the ground, and leaped from this tremendous height into
the river, I reached the surface, and sunk in a moment to the bottom.
Plunging endlong into the water, the impetus created by my fall
from such an height, would be slowly resisted by this denser element.
Had the depth been less, its resistance would not perhaps have
hindered me from being mortally injured against the rocky bottom. Had
the depth been greater, time enough would not have been allowed me to
regain the surface. Had I fallen on my side, I should have been
bereaved of life or sensibility by the shock which my frame would
have received. As it was, my fate was suspended on a thread. To have
lost my presence of mind, to have forborne to counteract my sinking,
for an instant, after I had reached the water, would have made all
exertions to regain the air, fruitless. To so fortunate a concurrence
of events, was thy friend indebted for his safety!
Yet I only emerged from the gulf to encounter new perils. Scarcely
had I raised my head above the surface, and inhaled the vital breath,
when twenty shots were aimed at me from the precipice above. A shower
of bullets fell upon the water. Some of them did not fall further
than two inches from my head. I had not been aware of this new
danger, and now that it assailed me continued gasping the air, and
floundering at random. The means of eluding it did not readily occur.
My case seemed desperate and all caution was dismissed.
This state of discomfiting surprise quickly disappeared. I made
myself acquainted, at a glance, with the position of surrounding
objects. I conceived that the opposite bank of the river would afford
me most security, and thither I tended with all the expedition in my
Meanwhile, my safety depended on eluding the bullets that continued
incessantly to strike the water at an arm's length from my body. For
this end I plunged beneath the surface, and only rose to inhale fresh
air. Presently the firing ceased, the flashes that lately illuminated
the bank disappeared, and a certain bustle and murmur of confused
voices gave place to solitude and silence.
I reached without difficulty the opposite bank, but the steep was
inaccessible. I swam along the edge in hopes of meeting with some
projection or recess where I might, at least, rest my weary limbs,
and if it were necessary to recross the river, to lay in a stock of
recruited spirits and strength for that purpose. I trusted that the
water would speedily become shoal, or that the steep would afford
rest to my feet. In both these hopes I was disappointed.
There is no one to whom I would yield the superiority in swimming,
but my strength, like that of other human beings, had its limits. My
previous fatigues had been enormous, and my clothes, heavy with
moisture, greatly incumbered and retarded my movements. I had
proposed to free myself from this imprisonment, but I foresaw the
inconveniences of wandering over this scene in absolute nakedness,
and was willing therefore, at whatever hazard, to retain them. I
continued to struggle with the current and to search for the means of
scaling the steeps. My search was fruitless, and I began to meditate
the recrossing of the river.
Surely my fate has never been paralleled! Where was this series of
hardships and perils to end? No sooner was one calamity eluded, than
I was beset by another. I had emerged from abhorred darkness in the
heart of the earth, only to endure the extremities of famine and
encounter the fangs of a wild beast. From these I was delivered only
to be thrown into the midst of savages, to wage an endless and
hopeless war with adepts in killing; with appetites that longed to
feast upon my bowels and to quaff my heart's-blood. From these
likewise was I rescued, but merely to perish in the gulfs of the
river, to welter on unvisited shores or to be washed far away from
curiosity or pity.
Formerly water was not only my field of sport but my sofa and my
bed. I could float for hours on the surface, enjoying its delicious
cool, almost without the expense of the slightest motion. It was an
element as fitted for repose as for exercise, but now the buoyant
spirit seemed to have flown. My muscles were shrunk, the air and
water were equally congealed, and my most vehement exertions were
requisite to sustain me on the surface.
At first I had moved along with my wonted celerity and ease, but
quickly my forces were exhausted. My pantings and efforts were
augmented and I saw that to cross the river again was impracticable.
I must continue, therefore, to search out some accessible spot in the
bank along which I was swimming.
Each moment diminished my stock of strength, and it behoved me to
make good my footing before another minute should escape. I continued
to swim, to survey the bank, and to make ineffectual attempts to
grasp the rock. The shrubs which grew upon it would not uphold me,
and the fragments which, for a moment, inspired me with hope,
crumbled away as soon as they were touched.
At length, I noticed a pine, which was rooted in a crevice near the
water. The trunk, or any part of the root, was beyond my reach, but I
trusted that I could catch hold of the branch which hung lowest, and
that, when caught, it would assist me in gaining the trunk, and thus
deliver me from the death which could not be otherwise averted.
The attempt was arduous. Had it been made when I first reached the
bank, no difficulty had attended it, but now, to throw myself some
feet above the surface could scarcely be expected from one whose
utmost efforts seemed to be demanded to keep him from sinking. Yet
this exploit, arduous as it was, was attempted and accomplished.
Happily the twigs were strong enough to sustain my weight till I
caught at other branches and finally placed myself upon the trunk.
This danger was now past, but I admitted the conviction that
others, no less formidable remained to be encountered and that my
ultimate destiny was death. I looked upward. New efforts might enable
me to gain the summit of this steep, but, perhaps, I should thus be
placed merely in the situation from which I had just been delivered.
It was of little moment whether the scene of my imprisonment was a
dungeon not to be broken, or a summit from which descent was
The river, indeed, severed me from a road which was level and safe,
but my recent dangers were remembered only to make me shudder at the
thought of incurring them a second time, by attempting to cross it. I
blush at the recollection of this cowardice. It was little akin to
the spirit which I had recently displayed. It was, indeed, an alien
to my bosom, and was quickly supplanted by intrepidity and
I proceeded to mount the hill. From root to root, and from branch
to branch, lay my journey. It was finished, and I sat down upon the
highest brow to meditate on future trials. No road lay along this
side of the river. It was rugged and sterile, and farms were sparingly
dispersed over it. To reach one of these was now the object of my
wishes. I had not lost the desire of reaching Solebury before
morning, but my wet clothes and the coldness of the night seemed to
have bereaved me of the power.
I traversed this summit, keeping the river on my right hand.
Happily, its declinations and ascents were by no means difficult, and
I was cheered in the midst of my vexations, by observing that every
mile brought me nearer to my uncle's dwelling. Meanwhile I anxiously
looked for some tokens of an habitation. These at length presented
themselves. A wild heath, whistled over by October blasts, meagrely
adorned with the dry stalks of scented shrubs and the bald heads of
the sapless mullen, was succeeded by a fenced field and a corn-stack.
The dwelling to which these belonged was eagerly sought.
I was not surprised that all voices were still and all lights
extinguished, for this was the hour of repose. Having reached a
piazza before the house, I paused. Whether, at this drousy time, to
knock for admission, to alarm the peaceful tenants and take from them
the rest which their daily toils and their rural innocence had made
so sweet, or to retire to what shelter an hay-stack or barn could
afford, was the theme of my deliberations.
Meanwhile I looked up at the house. It was the model of cleanliness
and comfort. It was built of wood; but the materials had undergone
the plane, as well as the axe and the saw. It was painted white, and
the windows not only had sashes, but these sashes were supplied,
contrary to custom, with glass. In most cases, the aperture where
glass should be is stuffed with an old hat or a petticoat. The door
had not only all its parts entire, but was embellished with mouldings
and a pediment. I gathered from these tokens that this was the abode
not only of rural competence and innocence, but of some beings,
raised by education and fortune, above the intellectual mediocrity of
Methought I could claim consanguinity with such beings. Not to
share their charity and kindness would be inflicting as well as
receiving injury. The trouble of affording shelter, and warmth, and
wholesome diet to a wretch destitute as I was, would be eagerly
sought by them.
Still I was unwilling to disturb them. I bethought myself that
their kitchen might be entered, and all that my necessities required
be obtained without interrupting their slumber. I needed nothing but
the warmth which their kitchen hearth would afford. Stretched upon
the bricks, I might dry my clothes, and perhaps enjoy some unmolested
sleep. In spite of presages of ill and the horrid remembrances of
what I had performed and endured. I believed that nature would afford
a short respite to my cares.
I went to the door of what appeared to be a kitchen. The door was
wide open. This circumstance portended evil. Though it be not
customary to lock or to bolt, it is still less usual to have entrances
unclosed. I entered with suspicious steps, and saw enough to confirm
my apprehensions. Several pieces of wood half burned, lay in the
midst of the floor. They appeared to have been removed hither from
the chimney, doubtless with a view to set fire to the whole building.
The fire had made some progress on the floor, but had been
seasonably extinguished by pail's-full of water, thrown upon it. The
floor was still deluged with wet, the pail not emptied of all its
contents stood upon the hearth. The earthen vessels and plates whose
proper place was the dresser, were scattered in fragments in all
parts of the room. I looked around me for some one to explain this
scene, but no one appeared.
The last spark of fire was put out, so that had my curiosity been
idle, my purpose could not be accomplished. To retire from this
scene, neither curiosity nor benevolence would permit. That some
mortal injury had been intended was apparent. What greater mischief
had befallen, or whether greater might not, by my interposition, be
averted, could only be ascertained by penetrating further into the
house. I opened a door on one side which led to the main body of the
building and entered to a bed-chamber. I stood at the entrance and
knocked, but no one answered my signals
The sky was not totally clouded, so that some light pervaded the
room. I saw that a bed stood in the corner, but whether occupied or
not, its curtains hindered me from judging. I stood in suspense a few
minutes, when a motion in the bed shewed me that some one was there.
I knocked again but withdrew to the outside of the door. This roused
the sleeper, who, half-groaning and puffing the air through his
nostrils, grumbled out in the hoarsest voice that I ever heard, and
in a tone of surly impatience... Who is there?
I hesitated for an answer, but the voice instantly continued in the
manner of one half-asleep and enraged at being disturbed... Is't you
Peg? Damn ye, stay away, now; I tell ye stay away, or, by God I will
cut your throat... I will... He continued to mutter and swear, but
without coherence or distinctness.
These were the accents of drunkenness, and denoted a wild and
ruffian life. They were little in unison with the external
appearances of the mansion, and blasted all the hopes I had formed of
mecting under this roof with gentleness and hospitality. To talk with
this being, to attempt to reason him into humanity and soberness, was
useless. I was at a loss in what manner to address him, or whether it
was proper to maintain any parley. Meanwhile, my silence was supplied
by the suggestions of his own distempered fancy. Ay, said he, ye
will, will ye? well come on, let's see who's the better at the
oak-stick. If I part with ye, before I have bared your bones... I'll
teach ye to be always dipping in my dish, ye devil's dam! ye!
So saying, he tumbled out of bed. At the first step, he struck his
head against the bed-post, but setting himself upright, he staggered
towards the spot where I stood. Some new obstacle occurred. He
stumbled and fell at his length upon the floor.
To encounter or expostulate with a man in this state was plainly
absurd. I turned and issued forth, with an aching heart, into the
court before the house. The miseries which a debauched husband or
father inflicts upon all whom their evil destiny allies to him were
pictured by my fancy, and wrung from me tears of anguish. These
images, however, quickly yielded to reflections on my own state. No
expedient now remained, but to seek the barn, and find a covering and
a bed of straw.
I had scarcely set foot within the barn-yard when I heard a sound
as o the crying of an infant. It appeared to issue from the barn. I
approached softly and listened at the door. The cries of the babe
continued, but were accompanied by intreaties of a nurse or a mother
to be quiet. These intreaties were mingled with heart-breaking sobs
and exclamations of... Ah! me, my babe! Canst thou not sleep and
afford thy unhappy mother some peace? Thou art cold, and I have not
sufficient warmth to cherish thee! What will become of us? Thy
deluded father cares not if we both perish.
A glimpse of the true nature of the scene seemed to be imparted by
these words. I now likewise recollected incidents that afforded
additional light. Somewhere on this bank of the river, there formerly
resided one by name Selby. He was an aged person, who united science
and taste to the simple and laborious habits of an husbandman. He had
a son who resided several years in Europe, but on the death of his
father, returned home, accompanied by a wife. He had succeeded to the
occupation of the farm, but rumour had whispered many tales to the
disadvantage of his morals. His wife was affirmed to be of delicate
and polished manners, and much unlike her companion.
It now occured to me that this was the dwelling of the Selby's, and
I seemed to have gained some insight into the discord and domestic
miseries by which the unhappy lady suffered. This was no time to
waste my sympathy on others. I could benefit her nothing. Selby had
probably returned from a carousal, with all his malignant passions
raised into phrensy by intoxication. He had driven his desolate wife
from her bed and house, and to shun outrage and violence she had fled,
with her helpless infant, to the barn. To appease his fury, to
console her, to suggest a remedy for this distress, was not in my
power. To have sought an interview would be merely to excite her
terrors and alarm her delicacy, without contributing to alleviate her
calamity. Here then was no asylum for me. A place of rest must be
sought at some neighbouring habitation. It was probable that one
would be found at no great distance, the path that led from the spot
where I stood, through a gate into a meadow, might conduct me to the
nearest dwelling, and this path I immediately resolved to explore.
I was anxious to open the gate without noise, but I could not
succeed. Some creaking of its hinges, was unavoidably produced, which
I feared would be overheard by the lady and multiply her
apprehensions and perplexities. This inconvenience was irremediable.
I therefore closed the gate and pursued the foot way before me with
the utmost expedition. I had not gained the further end of the meadow
when I lighted on something which lay across the path, and which, on
being closely, inspected, appeared to be an human body. It was the
corse of a girl, mangled by an hatchet. Her head gory and deprived of
its looks, easily explained the kind of enemies by whom she had been
assailed. Here was proof that this quiet and remote habitation had
been visited, in their destructive progress by the Indians. The girl
had been slain by them, and her scalp, according to their savage
custom, had been torn away to be preserved as a trophy.
The fire which had been kindled on the kitchen floor was now
remembered, and corroborated the inferences which were drawn from
this spectacle. And yet that the mischief had been thus limited, that
the besotted wretch who lay helpless on his bed, and careless of
impending danger, and that the mother and her infant should escape,
excited some degree of surprise. Could the savages have been
interrupted in their work, and obliged to leave their vengeance
Their visit had been recent. Many hours had not elapsed since they
prowled about these grounds. Had they wholly disappeared and meant
they not to return? To what new danger might I be exposed in
remaining thus guideless and destitute of all defence?
In consequence of these reflections, I proceeded with more caution.
I looked with suspicious glances, before and on either side of me. I
now approached the fence which, on this side, bounded the meadow.
Something was discerned or immagined, stretched close to the fence,
on the ground, and filling up the path-way. My apprehensions of a
lurking enemy, had been previously awakened, and my fancy instantly
figured to itself an armed man, lying on the ground and waiting to
assail the unsuspecting passenger.
At first I was prompted to fly, but a second thought shewed me that
I had already approached near enough to be endangered.
Notwithstanding my pause, the form was motionless. The possibility of
being misled in my conjectures was easily supposed. What I saw might
be a log or it might be another victim to savage ferocity. This tract
was that which my safety required me to pursue. To turn aside or go
back would be merely to bewilder myself anew.
Urged by these motives, I went nearer, and at least was close
enough to perceive that the figure was human. He lay upon his face,
near his right hand was a musquet, unclenched. This circumstance, his
death-like attitude and the garb and ornaments of an Indian, made me
readily suspect the nature and cause of this catastrophe. Here the
invaders had been encountered and repulsed, and one at least of their
number had been left upon the field.
I was weary of contemplating these rueful objects. Custom,
likewise, even in so short a period, had innured me to spectacles of
horror. I was grown callous and immoveable. I staid not to ponder on
the scene, but snatching the musquet, which was now without an owner,
and which might be indispensable to my defence, I hastened into the
wood. On this side the meadow was skirted by a forest, but a beaten
road lead into it, and might therefore be attempted without danger.
The road was intricate and long. It seemed designed to pervade the
forest in every possible direction. I frequently noticed cut wood,
piled in heaps upon either side, and rejoiced in these tokens that
the residence of men was near. At length I reached a second fence,
which proved to be the boundary of a road still more frequented. I
pursued this, and presently beheld, before me, the river and its
This object afforded me some knowledge of my situation. There was a
ford over which travellers used to pass, and in which the road that I
was now pursuing terminated. The stream was rapid and tumultuous, but
in this place it did not rise higher than the shoulders. On the
opposite side was an highway, passable by horses and men, though not
carriages, and which led into the midst of Solebury. Should I not
rush into the stream, and still aim at reaching my uncle's house
before morning? Why should I delay?
Thirty hours of incessant watchfulness and toil, of enormous
efforts and perils, preceded and accompanied by abstinence and
wounds, were enough to annihilate the strength and courage of
ordinary men. In the course of them, I had frequently believed myself
to have reached the verge beyond which my force would not carry me,
but experience as frequently demonstrated my error. Though many
miles, were yet to be traversed, though my clothes were once more to
be drenched and loaded with moisture, though every hour seemed to add
somewhat to the keenness of the blast: yet how should I know, but by
trial, whether my stock of energy was not sufficient for this last
My resolution to proceed was nearly formed, when the figure of a
man moving slowly across the road, at some distance before me, was
observed. Hard by this ford lived a man by name Bisset, of whom I had
slight knowledge. He tended his two hundred acres with a plodding and
money-doating spirit, while his son overlooked a Grist-mill, on the
river. He was a creature of gain, coarse and harmless. The man whom I
saw before me might be he, or some one belonging to his family. Being
armed for defence, I less scrupled a meeting with any thing in the
shape of man. I therefore called. The figure stopped and answered me,
without surliness or anger. The voice was unlike that of Bisset, but
this person's information I believed would be of some service.
Coming up to him, he proved to be a clown, belonging to Bisset's
habitation. His panic and surprise on seeing me made him aghast. In
my present garb I should not have easily been recognized by my
nearest kinsman, and much less easily by one who had seldom met me.
It may be easily conceived that my thoughts, when allowed to wander
from the objects before me, were tormented with forebodings and
inquietudes on account of the ills which I had so much reason to
believe had befallen my family. I had no doubt that some evil had
happened, but the full extent of it was still uncertain. I desired
and dreaded to discover the truth, and was unable to interrogate this
person in a direct manner. I could deal only in circuities and hints.
I shuddered while I waited for an answer to my inquiries.
Had not Indians, I asked, been lately seen in this neighbourhood?
Were they not suspected of hostile designs? Had they not already
committed some mischief? Some passenger, perhaps, had been attacked;
or fire had been set to some house? On which side of the river had
their steps been observed, or any devastation been committed? Above
the ford or below it? At what distance from the river?
When his attention could be withdrawn from my person and bestowed
upon my questions, he answered that some alarm had indeed been spread
about Indians, and that parties from Solebury and Chetasko were out
in pursuit of them, that many persons had been killed by them, and
that one house in Solebury had been rifled and burnt on the night
before the last.
These tidings were a dreadful confirmation of my fears. There
scarcely remained a doubt: but still my expiring hope prompted me to
inquire to whom did the house belong?
He answered that he had not heard the name of the owner. He was a
stranger to the people on the other side of the river.
Were any of the inhabitants murdered?
Yes. All that were at home except a girl whom they carried off.
Some said that the girl had been retaken?
What was the name? Was it Huntly?
Huntly? yes. No. He did not know. He had forgotten.
I fixed my eyes upon the ground. An interval of gloomy meditation
succeeded. All was lost, all for whose sake I desired to live, had
perished by the hands of these assassins. That dear home, the scene
of my sportive childhood, of my studies, labours and recreations, was
ravaged by fire and the sword: was reduced to a frightful ruin.
Not only all that embellished and endeared existence was destroyed,
but the means of subsistence itself. Thou knowest that my sisters and
I were dependants on the bounty of our uncle. His death would make
way for the succession of his son, a man fraught with envy and
malignity: who always testified a mortal hatred to us, merely because
we enjoyed the protection of his father. The ground which furnished
me with bread was now become the property of one, who, if he could
have done it with security, would gladly have mingled poison with my
All that my imagination or my heart regarded as of value had
likewise perished. Whatever my chamber, my closets, my cabinets
contained, my furniture, my books, the records of my own skill, the
monuments of their existence whom I loved, my very cloathing, were
involved in indiscriminate and irretreivable destruction. Why should
I survive this calamity?
But did not he say that one had escaped? The only females in the
family were my sisters. One of these had been reserved for a fate
worse than death; to gratify the innate and insatiable cruelty of
savages by suffering all the torments their invention can suggest, or
to linger out years of dreary bondage and unintermitted hardship in
the bosom of the wilderness. To restore her to liberty; to cherish
this last survivor of my unfortunate race was a sufficient motive to
life and to activity.
But soft! Had not rumour whispered that the captive was retaken?
Oh! who was her angel of deliverance? Where did she now abide?
Weeping over the untimely fall of her protector and her friend.
Lamenting and upbraiding the absence of her brother? Why should I not
haste to find her? To mingle my tears with hers, to assure her of my
safety and expiate the involuntary crime of my desertion, by devoting
all futurity to the task of her consolation and improvement?
The path was open and direct. My new motives, would have trampled
upon every impediment and made me reckless of all dangers and all
toils. I broke from my reverie, and without taking leave or
expressing gratitude to my informant, I ran with frantic expedition
towards the river, and plunging into it gained the opposite side in a
I was sufficiently acquainted with the road. Some twelve or fifteen
miles remained to be traversed. I did not fear that my strength would
fail in the performance of my journey. It was not my uncle's
habitation to which I directed my steps. Inglefield was my friend. If
my sister had existence, or was snatched from captivity, it was here
that an asylum had been afforded to her, and here was I to seek the
knowledge of my destiny. For this reason having reached a spot where
the road divided into two branches, one of which led to Inglefield's
and the other to Huntly's, I struck into the former.
Scarcely had I passed the angle when I noticed a building, on the
right hand, at some distance from the road. In the present state of
my thoughts, it would not have attracted my attention, had not a
light gleamed from an upper window, and told me that all within were
not at rest.
I was acquainted with the owner of this mansion. He merited esteem
and confidence, and could not fail to be acquainted with recent
events. From him I should obtain all the information that I needed,
and I should be delivered from some part of the agonies of my
suspense. I should reach his door in a few minutes, and the
window-light was a proof that my entrance at this hour would not
disturb the family, some of whom were stirring.
Through a gate, I entered an avenue of tall oaks, that led to the
house. I could not but reflect on the effect which my appearance
would produce upon the family. The sleek locks, neat apparel, pacific
guise, sobriety and gentleness of aspect by which I was customarily
distinguished, would in vain be sought in the apparition which would
now present itself before them. My legs, neck and bosom were bare,
and their native hue were exchanged for the livid marks of bruises
and scarrifications. An horrid scar upon my cheek, and my uncombed
locks; hollow eyes, made ghastly by abstinence and cold, and the
ruthless passions of which my mind had been the theatre, added to the
musquet which I carried in my hand, would prepossess them with the
notion of a maniac or ruffian.
Some inconveniences might hence arise, which however could not be
avoided. I must trust to the speed with which my voice and my words
should disclose my true character and rectify their mistake.
I now reached the principal door of the house. It was open, and I
unceremoniously entered. In the midst of the room stood a German
stove, well heated. To thaw my half frozen limbs was my first care.
Meanwhile, I gazed around me, and marked the appearances of things.
Two lighted candles stood upon the table. Beside them were
cyder-bottles and pipes of tobacco. The furniture and room was in
that state which denoted it to have been lately filled with drinkers
and smokers, yet neither voice, nor visage, nor motion were any where
observable. I listened but neither above nor below, within or
without, could any tokens of an human being be perceived.
This vacancy and silence must have been lately preceded by noise
and concourse and bustle. The contrast was mysterious and ambiguous.
No adequate cause of so quick and absolute a transition occured to
me. Having gained some warmth and lingered some ten or twenty minutes
in this uncertainty, I determined to explore the other apartments of
the building. I knew not what might betide in my absence, or what I
might encounter in my search to justify precaution, and, therefore,
kept the gun in my hand. I snatched a candle from the table and
proceeded into two other apartments on the first floor and the
kitchen. Neither was inhabited, though chairs and tables were arranged
in their usual order, and no traces of violence or hurry were
Having gained the foot of the staircase, I knocked, but my knocking
was wholly disregarded. A light had appeared in an upper chamber. It
was not, indeed, in one of those apartments which the family
permanently occupied, but in that which, according to rural custom,
was reserved for guests; but it indubitably betokened the presence of
some being by whom my doubts might be solved. These doubts were too
tormenting to allow of scruples and delay.— I mounted the stairs.
At each chamber door I knocked, but I knocked in vain. I tried to
open, but found them to be locked. I at length reached the entrance
of that in which a light had been discovered. Here, it was certain,
that some one would be found; but here, as well as elsewhere, my
knocking was unnoticed.
To enter this chamber was audacious, but no other expedient was
afforded me to determine whether the house had any inhabitants. I,
therefore, entered, though with caution and reluctance. No one was
within, but there were sufficient traces of some person who had lately
been here. On the table stood a travelling escrutoire, open, with
pens and ink-stand. A chair was placed before it, and a candle on the
right hand. This apparatus was rarely seen in this country. Some
traveller it seemed occupied this room, though the rest of the mansion
was deserted. The pilgrim, as these appearances testified, was of no
vulgar order, and belonged not to the class of periodical and
It now occurred to me that the occupant of this appartment could
not be far off, and that some danger and embarrassment could not fail
to accrue from being found, thus accoutred and garbed, in a place
sacred to the study and repose of another. It was proper, therefore,
to withdraw, and either to resume my journey, or wait for the
stranger's return, whom perhaps some temporary engagement had called
away, in the lower and public room. The former now appeared to be the
best expedient, as the return of this unknown person was uncertain,
as well as his power to communicate the information which I wanted.
Had paper, as well as the implements of writing, lain upon the
desk, perhaps my lawless curiosity would not have scrupled to have
pryed into it. On the first glance nothing of that kind appeared, but
now, as I turned towards the door, somewhat, lying beside the desk, on
the side opposite the candle, caught my attention. The impulse was
instantaneous and mechanical, that made me leap to the spot, and lay
my hand upon it. Till I felt it between my fingers, till I brought it
near my eyes and read frequently the inscriptions that appeared upon
it, I was doubtful whether my senses had deceived me.
Few, perhaps, among mankind have undergone vicissitudes of peril
and wonder equal to mine. The miracles of poetry, the transitions of
enchantment, are beggarly and mean compared with those which I had
experienced: Passage into new forms, overleaping the bars of time and
space, reversal of the laws of inanimate and intelligent existence had
been mine to perform and to witness.
No event had been more fertile of sorrow and perplexity than the
loss of thy brother's letters. They went by means invisible, and
disappeared at a moment when foresight would have least predicted
their disappearance. They now placed themselves before me, in a
manner equally abrupt, in a place and by means, no less contrary to
expectation. The papers which I now seized were those letters. The
parchment cover, the string that tied, and the wax that sealed them,
appeared not to have been opened or violated.
The power that removed them from my cabinet, and dropped them in
this house, a house which I rarely visited, which I had not entered
during the last year, with whose inhabitants I maintained no cordial
intercourse, and to whom my occupations and amusements, my joys and
my sorrows, were unknown, was no object even of conjecture. But they
were not possessed by any of the family. Some stranger was here, by
whom they had been stolen, or into whose possession, they had, by
some incomprehensible chance, fallen.
That stranger was near. He had left this apartment for a moment. He
would speedily return. To go hence, might possibly occasion me to
miss him. Here then I would wait, till he should grant me an
interview. The papers were mine, and were recovered. I would never
part with them. But to know by whose force or by whose stratagems I
had been bereaved of them thus long, was now the supreme passion of
my soul, I seated myself near a table and anxiously awaited for an
interview, on which I was irresistably persuaded to believe that much
of my happiness depended.
Meanwhile, I could not but connect this incident with the
destruction of my family. The loss of these papers had excited
transports of grief, and yet, to have lost them thus, was perhaps the
sole expedient, by which their final preservation could be rendered
possible. Had they remained in my cabinet, they could not have
escaped the destiny which overtook the house and its furniture.
Savages are not accustomed to leave their exterminating work
unfinished. The house which they have plundered, they are careful to
level with the ground. This not only their revenge, but their caution
prescribes. Fire may originate by accident as well as by design, and
the traces of pillage and murder are totally obliterated by the
These thoughts were interrupted by the shutting of a door below,
and by foot-steps ascending the stairs. My heart throbbed at the
sound. My seat became uneasy and I started on my feet. I even
advanced half way to the entrance of the room. My eyes were intensely
fixed upon the door. My impatience would have made me guess at the
person of this visitant by measuring his shadow, if his shadow were
first seen; but this was precluded by the position of the light. It
was only when the figure entered, and the whole person was seen, that
my curiosity was gratified. He who stood before me was the parent and
fosterer of my mind, the companion and instructor of my youth, from
whom I had been parted for years; from whom I believed myself to be
forever separated;—Sarsefield himself!
My deportment, at an interview so much desired and so wholly
unforeseen, was that of a maniac. The petrifying influence of
surprise, yielded to the impetuosities of passion. I held him in my
arms: I wept upon his bosom, I sobbed with emotion which, had it not
found passage at my eyes, would have burst my heart-strings. Thus I
who had escaped the deaths that had previously assailed me in so many
forms, should have been reserved to solemnize a scene like this by...
dying for joy!
The sterner passions and habitual austerities of my companion,
exempted him from pouring out this testimony of his feelings. His
feelings were indeed more allied to astonishment and incredulity than
mine had been. My person was not instantly recognized. He shrunk from
my embrace, as if I were an apparition or impostor. He quickly
disengaged himself from my arms, and withdrawing a few paces, gazed
upon me as on one whom he had never before seen.
These repulses were ascribed to the loss of his affection. I was
not mindful of the hideous guise in which I stood before him, and by
which he might justly be misled to imagine me a ruffian or a lunatic.
My tears flowed now on a new account, and I articulated in a broken
and faint voice—My master! my friend! Have you forgotten! have you
ceased to love me?
The sound of my voice made him start and exclaim—Am I alive? am I
awake? Speak again I beseech you, and convince me that I am not
dreaming or delirious.
Can you need any proof, I answered, that it is Edgar Huntly, your
pupil, your child that speaks to you?
He now withdrew his eyes from me and fixed them on the floor. After
a pause he resumed, in emphatic accents. Well, I have lived to this
age in unbelief. To credit or trust in miraculous agency was foreign
to my nature, but now I am no longer sceptical. Call me to any bar,
and exact from me an oath that you have twice been dead and twice
recalled to life; that you move about invisibly, and change your
place by the force, not of muscles, but of thought, and I will give
How came you hither? Did you penetrate the wall? Did you rise
through the floor?
Yet surely 'tis an error. You could not be he whom twenty witnesses
affirmed to have beheld a lifeless and mangled corpse upon the
ground, whom my own eyes saw in that condition.
In seeking the spot once more to provide you a grave, you had
vanished. Again I met you. You plunged into a rapid stream, from an
height from which it was impossible to fall and to live: yet, as if
to set the limits of nature at defiance; to sport with human
penetration, you rose upon the surface: You floated; you swam: Thirty
bullets were aimed at your head, by marks-men celebrated for the
exactness of their sight. I myself was of the number, and I never
missed what I desired to hit.
My predictions were confirmed by the event. You ceased to struggle;
you sunk to rise no more, and yet after these accumulated deaths, you
light upon this floor: so far distant from the scene of your
catastrophe; over spaces only to be passed, in so short a time as has
since elapsed, by those who have wings.
My eyes, my ears bear testimony to your existence now, as they
formerly convinced me of your death—What am I to think; What proofs
am I to credit?— There he stopped.
Every accent of this speech added to the confusion of my thoughts.
The allusions that my friend had made were not unintelligible. I
gained a glimpse of the complicated errors by which we had been
mutually deceived. I had fainted on the area before Deb's hut. I was
found by Sarsefield in this condition, and imagined to be dead.
The man whom I had seen upon the promontory was not an Indian. He
belonged to a numerous band of pursuers, whom my hostile and
precipitate deportment caused to suspect me for an enemy. They that
fired from the steep were friends. The interposition that screened me
from so many bullets, was indeed miraculous. No wonder that my
voluntary sinking, in order to elude their shots, was mistaken for
death, and that, having accomplished the destruction of this foe,
they resumed their pursuit of others. But how was Sarsefield apprized
that it was I who plunged into the river? No subsequent event was
possible to impart to him the incredible truth.
A pause of mutual silence ensued. At length, Sarsefield renewed his
expressions of amazement at this interview, and besought me to
explain why I had disappeared by night from my Uncle's house, and by
what series of unheard of events this interview was brought about. Was
it indeed Huntly whom he examined and mourned over at the threshold
of Deb's hut? Whom he had sought in every thicket and cave in the
ample circuit of Norwalk and Chetasco? Whom he had seen perish in the
current of the Delaware?
Instead of noticing his questions, my soul was harrowed with
anxiety respecting the fate of my uncle and sisters. Sarsefield could
communicate the tidings which would decide on my future lot, and set
my portion in happiness or misery. Yet I had not breath to speak my
inquiries. Hope tottered, and I felt as if a single word would be
sufficient for its utter subversion. At length, I articulated the
name of my Uncle.
The single word sufficiently imparted my fears, and these fears
needed no verbal confirmation. At that dear name, my companion's
features were overspread by sorrow—Your Uncle, said he, is dead.
Dead? Merciful Heaven! And my sisters too! Both?
Your Sisters are alive and well.
Nay, resumed I, in faultering accents, jest not with my feelings.
Be not cruel in your pity. Tell me the truth.
I have said the truth. They are well, at Mr. Inglefield's.
My wishes were eager to assent to the truth of these tidings. The
better part of me was then safe: but how did they escape the fate
that overtook my uncle? How did they evade the destroying hatchet and
the midnight conflagration? These doubts were imparted in a
tumultuous and obscure manner to my friend. He no sooner fully
comprehended them, than he looked at me, with some inquietude and
Huntly, said he, are you mad—What has filled you with these
hideous prepossessions? Much havoc has indeed been committed in
Chetasco and the wilderness; and a log hut has been burnt by design
or by accident in Solebury, but that is all. Your house has not been
assailed by either fire-brand or tom-hawk. Every thing is safe and in
its ancient order. The master indeed is gone, but the old man fell a
victim to his own temerity and hardihood. It is thirty years since he
retired with three wounds, from the field of Braddock; but time, in no
degree, abated his adventurous and military spirit. On the first
alarm, he summoned his neighbours, and led them in pursuit of the
invaders. Alas! he was the first to attack them, and the only one who
fell in the contest.
These words were uttered in a manner that left me no room to doubt
of their truth. My uncle had already been lamented, and the discovery
of the nature of his death, so contrary to my forebodings, and of the
safety of my girls, made the state of my mind partake more of
exultation and joy, than of grief or regret.
But how was I deceived? Had not my fusil been found in the hands of
an enemy? Whence could he have plundered it but from my own chamber?
It hung against the wall of a closet; from which no stranger could
have taken it except by violence. My perplexities and doubts were not
at an end, but those which constituted my chief torment were removed.
I listened to my friend's intreaties to tell him the cause of my
elopement, and the incidents that terminated in the present interview.
I began with relating my return to consciousness in the bottom of
the pit; my efforts to free myself from this abhorred prison; the
acts of horror to which I was impelled by famine, and their
excruciating consequences; my gaining the outlet of the cavern, the
desperate expedient by which I removed the impediment to my escape,
and the deliverance of the captive girl; the contest I maintained
before Deb's hut; my subsequent wanderings; the banquet which
hospitality afforded me; my journey to the river-bank; my meditations
on the means of reaching the road; my motives for hazarding my life,
by plunging into the stream; and my subsequent perils and fears till
I reached the threshold of this habitation.
Thus, continued I, I have complied with your request. I have told
all that I, myself, know. What were the incidents between my sinking
to rest at Inglefield's, and my awaking in the chambers of the hill;
by which means and by whose contrivance, preternatural or human, this
transition was effected, I am unable to explain; I cannot even guess.
What has eluded my sagacity may not be beyond the reach of another.
Your own reflections on my tale, or some facts that have fallen under
your notice, may enable you to furnish a solution. But, meanwhile,
how am I to account for your appearance on this spot? This meeting
was unexpected and abrupt to you, but it has not been less so to me.
Of all mankind, Sarsefield was the farthest from my thoughts, when I
saw these tokens of a traveller and a stranger.
You were imperfectly acquainted with my wanderings. You saw me on
the ground before Deb's hut. You saw me plunge into the river. You
endeavoured to destroy me while swimming; and you knew, before my
narrative was heard, that Huntly was the object of your enmity. What
was the motive of your search in the desert, and how were you
apprized of my condition? These things are not less wonderful than
any of those which I have already related.
During my tale the features of Sarsefield betokened the deepest
attention. His eye strayed not a moment from my face. All my perils
and forebodings, were fresh in my remembrance, they had scarcely gone
by; their skirts, so to speak, were still visible. No wonder that my
eloquence was vivid and pathetic, that I pourtrayed the past as if it
were the present scene; and that not my tongue only, but every muscle
and limb, spoke.
When I had finished my relation. Sarsefield sunk into
thoughtfulness. From this, after a time, he recovered and said: Your
tale, Huntly; is true, yet, did I not see you before me, were I not
acquainted with the artlessness and rectitude of your character, and,
above all, had not my own experience, during the last three days,
confirmed every incident, I should question its truth. You have amply
gratified my curiosity, and deserve that your own, should be gratified
as fully. Listen to me.
Much has happened since we parted, which shall not be now
mentioned. I promised to inform you of my welfare by letter, and did
not fail to write, but whether my letters were received, or any were
written by you in return, or if written were ever transmitted, I
cannot tell; none were ever received.
Some days since, I arrived, in company with a lady who is my wife,
in America. You have never been forgotten by me. I knew your
situation to be little in agreement with your wishes, and one of the
benefits which fortune has lately conferred upon me, is the power of
snatching you from a life of labour and obscurity; whose goods,
scanty as they are, were transient and precarious; and affording you
the suitable leisure and means of intellectual gratification and
Your silence made me entertain some doubts concerning your welfare,
and even your existence. To solve these doubts, I hastened to
Solebury, some delays upon the road, hindered me from accomplishing
my journey by day-light. It was night before I entered the Norwalk
path, but my ancient rambles with you made me familiar with it, and I
was not affraid of being obstructed or bewildered.
Just as I gained the southern outlet, I spied a passenger on foot,
coming towards me with a quick pace. The incident was of no moment,
and yet the time of night, the seeming expedition of the walker,
recollection of the mazes and obstacles which he was going to
encounter, and a vague conjecture that, perhaps, he was unacquainted
with the difficulties that awaited him, made me eye him with
attention as he passed.
He came near, and I thought I recognized a friend in this
traveller. The form, the gesture, the stature bore a powerful
resemblance to those of Edgar Huntly. This resemblance was so strong,
that I stopped, and after he had gone by, called him by your name.
That no notice was taken of my call proved that the person was
mistaken, but even though it were another, that he should not even
hesitate or turn at a summons which he could not but perceive to be
addressed, though erroneously, to him, was the source of some
surprize. I did not repeat my call, but proceeded on my way.
All had retired to repose in your uncle's dwelling. I did not
scruple to rouse them, and was received with affectionate and joyous
greetings. That you allowed your uncle to rise before you, was a new
topic of reflection. To my inquiries concerning you, answers were
made that accorded with my wishes. I was told that you were in good
health and were then abed. That you had not heard and risen at my
knocking, was mentioned with surprise, but your uncle accounted for
your indolence by saying that during the last week you had fatigued
yourself by rambling night and day, in search of some maniac, or
visionary who was supposed to have retreated into Norwalk.
I insisted upon awakening you myself. I anticipated the effect of
this sudden and unlooked for meeting, with some emotions of pride as
well as of pleasure. To find, in opening your eyes, your old preceptor
standing by your bed-side and gazing in your face, would place you, I
conceived, in an affecting situation.
Your chamber door was open, but your bed was empty. Your uncle and
sisters were made acquainted with this circumstance. Their surprise
gave way to conjectures that your restless and romantic spirit, had
tempted you from your repose, that you had rambled abroad on some
phantastic errand, and would probably return before the dawn. I
willingly acquiesced in this opinion, and my feelings being too
thoroughly aroused to allow me to sleep, I took possession of your
chamber, and patiently awaited your return.
The morning returned but Huntly made not his appearance. Your uncle
became somewhat uneasy at this unseasonable absence. Much speculation
and inquiry, as to the possible reasons of your flight was made. In
my survey of your chamber, I noted that only part of your cloathing
remained beside your bed. Coat, hat, stockings and shoes lay upon the
spot where they had probably been thrown when you had disrobed
yourself, but the pantaloons, which according to Mr. Huntly's report,
completed your dress, were no where to be found. That you should go
forth on so cold a night so slenderly appareled, was almost
incredible. Your reason or your senses had deserted you, before so
rash an action could be meditated.
I now remembered the person I had met in Norwalk. His resemblance
to your figure, his garb, which wanted hat, coat, stockings and
shoes, and your absence from your bed at that hour, were remarkable
coincidences: but why did you disregard my call? Your name, uttered
by a voice that could not be unknown, was surely sufficient to arrest
Each hour added to the impatience of your friends; to their
recollections and conjectures, I listened with a view to extract from
them some solution of this mystery. At length, a story was alluded
to, of some one who, on the preceding night, had been heard walking
in the long room; to this was added, the tale of your anxieties and
wonders occasioned by the loss of certain manuscripts.
While ruminating upon these incidents, and endeavouring to extract
from this intelligence a clue, explanatory of your present situation,
a single word, casually dropped by your uncle, instantly illuminated
my darkness and dispelled my doubts.—After all, said the old man,
ten to one, but Edgar himself was the man whom we heard walking, but
the lad was asleep, and knew not what he was about.
Surely said I, this inference is just. His manuscripts could not be
removed by any hands but his own, since the rest of mankind were
unacquainted not only with the place of their concealment, but with
their existence. None but a man, insane or asleep, would wander forth
so slightly dressed, and none but a sleeper would have disregarded my
calls. This conclusion was generally adopted, but it gave birth in my
mind, to infinite inquietudes. You had roved into Norwalk, a scene of
inequalities, of prominences and pits, among which, thus destitute of
the guidance of your senses, you could scarcely fail to be destroyed,
or at least, irretreivably bewildered. I painted to myself the
dangers to which you were subjected. Your careless feet would bear
you into some whirlpool or to the edge of some precipice, some
internal revolution or outward shock would recall you to
consciousness at some perilous moment. Surprise and fear would
disable you from taking seasonable or suitable precautions, and your
destruction be made sure.
The lapse of every new hour, without bringing tidings of your
state, enhanced these fears. At length, the propriety of searching
for you occurred, Mr. Huntly and I determined to set out upon this
pursuit, as well as to commission others. A plan was laid by which
every accessible part of Norwalk, the wilderness beyond the flats of
Solebury, and the valey of Chetasco, should be traversed and explored.
Scarcely had we equipped ourselves for this expedition, when a
messenger arrived, who brought the disastrous news of Indians being
seen within these precincts, and on the last night a farmer was shot
in his fields, a dwelling in Chetasco was burnt to the ground, and its
inhabitants murdered or made captives. Rumour and inquiry had been
busy, and a plausible conjecture had been formed, as to the course
and number of the enemies. They were said to be divided into bands,
and to amount in the whole to thirty or forty wariors. This messenger
had come to warn us of danger which might impend, and to summon us
to join in the pursuit and extirpation of these detestable foes.
Your uncle, whose alacrity and vigour age had not abated, eagerly
engaged in this scheme. I was not averse to contribute my efforts to
an end like this. The road which we had previously designed to take,
in search of my fugitive pupil, was the same by which we must trace
or intercept the retreat of the savages. Thus two purposes, equally
momentous, would be answered by the same means.
Mr. Huntly armed himself with your fusil; Inglefield supplied me
with a gun; during our absence the dwelling was closed and locked,
and your sisters placed under the protection of Inglefield, whose age
and pacific sentiments unfitted him for arduous and sanguinary
enterprises. A troop of rustics was collected, half of whom remained
to traverse Solebury and the other, whom Mr. Huntly and I
accompanied, hastened to Chetasco.
It was noon day before we reached the theatre of action. Fear and
revenge combined to make the people of Chetasco diligent and zealous
in their own defence. The havock already committed had been mournful.
To prevent a repetition of the same calamities, they resolved to hunt
out the hostile foot-steps and exact a merciless retribution.
It was likely that the enemy, on the approach of day, had withdrawn
from the valley and concealed themselves in the thickets, between the
parrallel ridges of the mountain. This space, which, according to the
object with which it is compared is either a vale or the top of an
hill, was obscure and desolate. It was undoubtedly the avenue by which
the robbers had issued forth, and by which they would escape to the
Ohio. Here they might still remain, intending to immerge from their
concealment on the next night, and perpetrate new horrors.
A certain distribution was made of our number, so as to move in all
directions at the same time. I will not dwell upon particulars. It
will suffice to say that keen eyes and indefatigable feet, brought us
at last to the presence of the largest number of these marauders.
Seven of them were slain by the edge of a brook, where they sat
wholly unconscious of the danger which hung over them. Five escaped,
and one of these secured his retreat by wresting your fusil from your
uncle, and shooting him dead. Before our companion could be rescued
or revenged, the assassin, with the remnant of the troop, disappeared,
and bore away with him the fusil as a trophy of his victory.
This disaster was deplored not only on account of that life which
had thus been sacrificed, but because a sagacious guide and intrepid
leader was lost. His acquaintance with the habits of the Indians, and
his experience in their wars made him trace their foot-steps with more
certainty than any of his associates.
The pursuit was still continued, and parties were so stationed that
the escape of the enemy was difficult, if not impossible. Our search
was unremitted, but during twelve or fourteen hours, unsuccessful.
Queen Mab did not elude all suspicion. Her hut was visited by
different parties, but the old woman and her dogs had disappeared.
Meanwhile your situation was not forgotten. Every one was charged
to explore your foot-steps as well as those of the savages, but this
search was no less unsuccessful than the former. None had heard of
you or seen you.
This continued till midnight. Three of us, made a pause at a brook,
and intended to repair our fatigues by a respite of a few hours, but
scarcely had we stretched ourselves on the ground when we were
alarmed by a shot which seemed to have been fired at a short distance.
We started on our feet and consulted with each other on the measures
to be taken. A second, a third and a fourth shot, from the same
quarter, excited our attention anew. Mab's hut was known to stand at
the distance and in the direction of this sound, and hither we
resolved to repair.
This was done with speed but with the utmost circumspection. We
shortly gained the road that leads near this hut and at length gained
a view of the building. Many persons were discovered, in a sort of
bustling inactivity, before the hut. They were easily distinguised to
be friends, and were therefore approached without scruple.
The objects that presented themselves to a nearer view were five
bodies stretched upon the ground. Three of them were savages. The
fourth was a girl, who though alive seemed to have received a mortal
wound. The fifth, breathless and mangled and his features almost
concealed by the blood that overspread his face, was Edgar; the
fugitive for whom I had made such anxious search.
About the same hour on the last night I had met you hastening into
Norwalk. Now were you, lying in the midst of savages, at the distance
of thirty miles from your home, and in a spot, which it was
impossible for you to have reached unless by an immense circuit over
rocks and thickets. That you had found a rift at the basis of the
hill, and thus permeated its solidities, and thus precluded so
tedious and circuitous a journey as must otherwise have been made,
was not to be imagined.
But whence arose this scene? It was obvious to conclude that my
associates had surprised their enemies in this house, and exacted
from them the forfeit of their crimes, but how you should have been
confounded with their foes, or whence came the wounded girl was a
subject of astonishment.
You will judge how much this surprise was augmented when I was
informed that the party whom we found had been attracted hither by
the same signals, by which we had been alarmed. That on reaching this
spot you had been discovered, alive, seated on the ground and still
sustaining the gun with which you had apparently completed the
destruction of so many adversaries. In a moment after their arrival
you sunk down and expired.
This scene was attended with inexplicable circumstances. The
musquet which lay beside you appeared to have belonged to one of the
savages. The wound by which each had died was single. Of the four
shots we had distinguished at a distance, three of them were
therefore fatal to the Indians and the fourth was doubtless that by
which you had fallen, yet three musquets only were discoverable.
The arms were collected, and the girl carried to the nearest house
in the arms of her father. Her situation was deemed capable of
remedy, and the sorrow and wonder which I felt at your untimely and
extraordinary fate, did not hinder me from endeavouring to restore
the health of this unfortunate victim. I reflected likewise that some
light might be thrown upon transactions so mysterious, by the
information which might be collected from her story. Numberless
questions and hints were necessary to extract from her a consistent
or intelli gible tale. She had been dragged, it seems, for miles, at
the heels of her conquerors, who at length, stopped in a cavern for
the sake of some repose; all slept but one, who sat and watched.
Something called him away, and, at the same moment, you appeared at
the bottom of the cave half naked and without arms. You instantly
supplied the last deficiency, by seizing the gun and tomhawk of him
who had gone forth, and who had negligently left his weapons behind.
Then stepping over the bodies of the sleepers, you rushed out of the
She then mentioned your unexpected return, her deliverance and
flight, and arrival at Deb's hut. You watched upon the hearth and she
fell asleep upon the blanket. From this sleep she was aroused by
violent and cruel blows. She looked up:—you were gone and the bed
on which she lay was surrounded by the men from whom she had so lately
escaped. One dragged her out of the hut and levelled his gun at her
breast. At the moment when he touched the trigger, a shot came from
an unknown quarter, and he fell at her feet. Of subsequent events she
had an incoherent recollection. The Indians were successively slain,
and you came to her, and interrogated and consoled her.
In your journey to the hut you were armed. This in some degree
accounted for appearances, but where were your arms? Three musquets
only were discovered and these undoubtedly belonged to your enemies.
I now had leisure to reflect upon your destiny. I had arrived soon
enough on this shore merely to witness the catastrophe of two beings
whom I most loved. Both were overtaken by the same fate, nearly at
the same hour. The same hand had possibly accomplished the destruction
of uncle and nephew.
Now, however, I began to entertain an hope that your state might
not be irretreivable. You had walked and spoken after the firing had
ceased, and your enemies had ceased to contend with you. A wound had,
no doubt, been previously received. I had hastily inferred that the
wound was mortal, and that life could not be recalled. Occupied with
attention to the wailings of the girl, and full of sorrow and
perplexity I had admitted an opinion which would have never been
adopted in different circumstances. My acquaintance with wounds would
have taught me to regard sunken muscles, lividness and cessation of
the pulse as mere indications of a swoon, and not as tokens of death.
Perhaps my error was not irreparable. By hastening to the hut, I
might ascertain your condition and at least transport your remains to
some dwelling and finally secure to you the decencies of burial.
Of twelve savages, discovered on the preceding day, ten were now
killed. Two, at least remained, after whom the pursuit was still
zealously maintained. Attention to the wounded girl, had withdrawn me
from the party, and I had now leisure to return to the scene of these
disasters. The sun had risen, and, accompanied by two others, I
A sharp turn in the road, at the entrance of the field, set before
us a starting spectacle. An Indian, mangled by repeated wounds of
bayonet and bullet, was discovered. His musquet was stuck in the
ground, by way of beacon attracting our attention to the spot. Over
this space I had gone a few hours before, and nothing like this was
then seen. The parties abroad, had hied away to a distant quarter.
Some invisible power seemed to be enlisted in our defence and to
preclude the necessity of our arms.
We proceeded to the hut. The savages were there, but Edgar had
risen and flown! Nothing now seemed to be incredible. You had slain
three foes, and the weapon with which the victory had been achieved,
had vanished. You had risen from the dead, had assailed one of the
surviving enemies, had employed bullet and dagger in his destruction,
with both of which you could only be supplied by supernatural means,
and had disappeared. If any inhabitant of Chetasco had done this, we
should have heard of it.
But what remained? You were still alive. Your strength was
sufficient to bear you from this spot. Why were you still invisible
and to what dangers might you not be exposed, before you could
disinvolve yourself from the mazes of this wilderness?
Once more I procured indefatigable search to be made after you. It
was continued till the approach of evening and was fruitless.
Inquiries were twice made at the house where you were supplied with
food and intelligence. On the second call I was astonished and
delighted by the tidings received from the good woman. Your person
and demeanour and arms were described, and mention made of your
resolution to cross the southern ridge, and traverse the Solebury
road with the utmost expedition.
The greater part of my inquietudes were now removed. You were able
to eat and to travel, and there was little doubt that a meeting would
take place between us on the next morning. Meanwhile, I determined to
concur with those who pursued the remainder of the enemy. I followed
you, in the path that you were said to have taken, and quickly joined
a numerous party who were searching for those who, on the last night,
had attacked a plantation that lies near this, and destroyed the
I need not dwell upon our doublings and circuities. The enemy was
traced to the house of Selby. They had entered, they had put fire on
the floor, but were compelled to relinquish their prey. Of what
number they consisted could not be ascertained, but one, lingering
behind his fellows, was shot, at the entrance of the wood, and on the
spot where you chanced to light upon him.
Selby's house was empty, and before the fire had made any progress
we extinguished it. The drunken wretch whom you encountered, had
probably returned from his nocturnal debauch, after we had left the
The flying enemy was pursued with fresh diligence. They were found,
by various tokens, to have crossed the river, and to have ascended
the mountain. We trod closely on their heels. When we arrived at the
promontory, described by you, the fatigues of the night and day
rendered me unqualified to proceed, I determined that this should be
the bound of my excursions. I was anxious to obtain an interview with
you, and unless I paused here, should not be able to gain
Inglefield's as early in the morning as I wished. Two others
concurred with me in this resolution and prepared to return to this
house which had been deserted by its tenants till the danger was past
and which had been selected as the place of rendezvous.
At this moment, dejected and weary, I approached the ledge which
severed the head-land from the mountain. I marked the appearance of
some one stretched upon the ground where you lay. No domestic animal
would wander hither and place himself upon this spot. There was
something likewise in the appearance of the object that bespoke it to
be man, but if it were man, it was, incontrovertibly, a savage and a
foe. I determined therefore to rouse you by a bullet.
My decision was perhaps absurd. I ought to have gained more
certainty before I hazarded your destruction. Be that as it will, a
moments lingering on your part would have probably been fatal. You
started on your feet, and fired. See the hole which your random shot
made through my sleeve! This surely was a day destined to be
signalized by hair-breadth escapes.
Your action seemed incontestably to confirm my prognostics. Every
one hurried to the spot and was eager to destroy an enemy. No one
hesitated to believe that some of the shots aimed at you, had reached
their mark, and that you had sunk to rise no more.
The gun which was fired and thrown down was taken and examined. It
had been my companion in many a toilsome expedition. It had rescued
me and my friends from a thousand deaths. In order to recognize it, I
needed only to touch and handle it. I instantly discovered that I
held in my hand the fusil which I had left with you on parting, with
which your uncle had equipped himself, and which had been ravished
from him by a savage. What was I hence to infer respecting the person
of the last possessor?
My inquiries respecting you of the woman whose milk and bread you
had eaten, were minute. You entered, she said, with an hatchet and
gun in your hand. While you ate, the gun was laid upon the table. She
sat near, and the piece became the object of inquisitive attention.
The stock and barrels were described by her in such terms as left no
doubt that this was the Fusil.
A comparison of incidents enabled me to trace the manner in which
you came into possession of this instrument. One of those whom you
found in the cavern was the assassin of your uncle. According to the
girl's report, on issuing from your hiding place, you seized a gun
that was unoccupied, and this gun chanced to be your own.
Its two barrels was probably the cause of your success in that
unequal contest at Mab's hut. On recovering from deliquium,
you found it where it had been dropped by you, out of sight and
unsuspected by the party that had afterwards arrived. In your passage
to the river had it once more fallen into hostile hands, or, had you
missed the way, wandered to this promontory, and mistaken a troop of
friends for a band of Indian marauders?
Either supposition was dreadful. The latter was the most plausible.
No motives were conceivable by which one of the fugitives could be
induced to post himself here, in this conspicuous station: whereas,
the road which lead you to the summit of the hill, to that spot where
descent to the river road was practicable, could not be found but by
those who were accustomed to traverse it. The directions which you
had exacted from your hostess, proved your previous unacquaintance
with these tracts.
I acquiesced in this opinion with an heavy and desponding heart.
Fate had led us into a maze, which could only terminate in the
destruction of one or of the other. By the breadth of an hair, had I
escaped death from your hand. The same fortune had not befriended
you. After my tedious search, I had lighted on you, forlorn,
bewildered, perishing with cold and hunger. Instead of recognizing
and affording you relief, I compelled you to leap into the river,
from a perilous height, and had desisted from my persecution only
when I had bereaved you of life, and plunged you to the bottom of the
My motives in coming to America were numerous and mixed. Among
these was the parental affection with which you had inspired me. I
came with fortune and a better gift than fortune in my hand. I
intended to bestow both upon you, not only to give you competence,
but one who would endear to you that competence, who would enhance,
by participating, every gratification.
My schemes were now at an end. You were gone, beyond the reach of
my benevolence and justice. I had robbed your two sisters of a friend
and guardian. It was some consolation to think that it was in my
power to stand, with regard to them, in your place, that I could
snatch them from the poverty, dependence and humiliation, to which
your death and that of your uncle had reduced them.
I was now doubly weary of the enterprise in which I was engaged,
and returned, with speed, to this rendezvouz. My companions have gone
to know the state of the family who resided under this roof and left
me to beguile the tedious moments in whatever manner I pleased.
I have omitted mentioning one incident that happened between the
detection of your flight and our expedition to Chetasco. Having
formed a plausible conjecture as to him who walked in the Long-room,
it was obvious to conclude that he who purloined your manuscripts and
the walker were the same personage. It was likewise easily inferred
that the letters were secreted in the Cedar Chest or in some other
part of the room. Instances similar to this have heretofore occurred.
Men have employed anxious months in search of that which, in a freak
of Noctambulation, was hidden by their own hands.
A search was immediately commenced, and your letters were found,
carefully concealed between the rafters and shingles of the roof, in
a spot, where, if suspicion had not been previously excited, they
would have remained till the vernal rains and the summer heats, had
insensibly destroyed them. This pacquet I carried with me, knowing
the value which you set upon them, and there being no receptacle
equally safe, but your own cabinet, which was locked.
Having, as I said, reached this house, and being left alone, I
bethought me of the treasure I possessed. I was unacquainted with the
reasons for which these papers were so precious. They probably had
some momentous and intimate connection with your own history. As such
they could not be of little value to me, and this moment of
inoccupation and regrets, was as suitable as any other to the task of
perusing them. I drew them forth, therefore, and laid them on the
table in this chamber.
The rest is known to you. During a momentary absence you entered.
Surely no interview of ancient friends ever took place in so
unexpected and abrupt a manner. You were dead. I mourned for you, as
one whom I loved, and whom fate had snatched forever from my sight.
Now, in a blissful hour, you had risen, and my happiness in thus
embracing you, is tenfold greater than would have been experienced,
if no uncertainties and perils had protracted our meeting.
Here ended the tale of Sarsefield. Humiliation and joy were mingled
in my heart. The events that preceded my awakening in the cave were
now luminous and plain. What explication was more obvious? What but
this solution ought to have been suggested by the conduct I had
witnessed in Clithero?
Clithero! Was not this the man whom Clithero had robbed of his
friend? Was not this the lover of Mrs. Lorimer, the object of the
persecutions of Wiatte? Was it not now given me to investigate the
truth of that stupendous tale? To dissipate the doubts which
obstinately clung to my imagination respecting it?
But soft! Had not Sarsefield said that he was married? Was Mrs.
Lorimer so speedily forgotten by him, or was the narrative of
Clithero the web of imposture or the raving of insantiy?
These new ideas banished all personal considerations from my mind.
I looked eagerly into the face of my friend, and exclaimed in a
dubious accent—How say you? Married? When? To whom?
Yes, Huntly, I am wedded to the most excellent of women. To her am
I indebted for happiness and wealth and dignity and honour. To her do
I owe the power of being the benefactor and protector of you and your
sisters. She longs to embrace you as a son. To become truly her son,
will depend upon your own choice and that of one, who was the
companion of our voyage.
Heavens! cried I, in a transport of exultation and astonishment. Of
whom do you speak. Of the mother of Clarice? The sister of Wiatte?
The sister of the ruffian who laid snares for her life? Who pursued
you and the unhappy Clithero, with the bitterest animosity?
My friend started at these sounds as if the earth had yawned at his
feet. His countenance was equally significant of terror and rage. As
soon as he regained the power of utterance, he spoke—Clithero!
Curses light upon thy lips for having uttered that detested name!
Thousands of miles have I flown to shun the hearing of it. Is the
madman here? Have you set eyes upon him? Does he yet crawl upon the
face of the earth? Unhappy? Unparalleled, unheard of, thankless
miscreant! Has he told his execrable falsehoods here? Has he dared to
utter names so sacred as those of Euphemia Lorimer and Clarice?
He has: He has told a tale, that had all the appearances of truth—
Out upon the villain! The truth! Truth would prove him to be
unnatural; develish; a thing for which no language has yet provided a
name! He has called himself unhappy? No doubt, a victim to injustice!
Overtaken by unmerited calamity. Say! Has he fooled thee with such
No. His tale was a catalogue of crimes and miseries of which he was
the author and sufferer. You know not his motives, his horrors:—
His deeds were monstrous and infernal. His motives were sordid and
flagitious. To display all their ugliness and infamy was not his
province. No: He did not tell you that he stole at midnight to the
chamber of his mistress: a woman who astonised the world by her
loftiness and magnanimity; by indefatigable beneficence and
unswerving equity; who had lavished on this wretch, whom she snatched
from the dirt, all the goods of fortune; all the benefits of
education; all the treasures of love; every provocation to gratitude;
every stimulant to justice.
He did not tell you that in recompense for every benefit, he stole
upon her sleep and aimed a dagger at her breast. There was no room
for flight or ambiguity or prevarication. She whom he meant to murder
stood near, saw the lifted weapon, and heard him confess and glory in
No wonder that the shock bereft her, for a time, of life. The
interval was seized by the ruffian to effect his escape. The rebukes
of justice, were shunned by a wretch conscious of his inexpiable
guilt. These things he has hidden from you, and has supplied their
place by a tale specious as false.
No. Among the number of his crimes, hypocrisy is not to be
numbered. These things are already known to me: he spared himself too
little in the narrative. The excellencies of his lady; her claims to
gratitude and veneration, were urged beyond their true bounds. His
attempts upon her life, were related. It is true that he desired and
endeavoured to destroy her.
How? Has he told you this?
He has told me all. Alas! the criminal intention has been amply
What mean you? Whence and how came he hither. Where is he now? I
will not occupy the same land, the same world with him. Have this
woman and her daughter lighted on the shore haunted by this infernal
and implacable enemy?
Alas! It is doubtful whether he exists. If he lives, he is no
longer to be feared; but he lives not. Famine and remorse have
utterly consumed him.
Famine? Remorse? You talk in riddles.
He has immured himself in the desert. He has abjured the
intercourse of mankind. He has shut himself in caverns where famine
must inevitably expedite that death for which he longs as the only
solace of his woes. To no imagination are his offences blacker and
more odious than to his own. I had hopes of rescuing him from this
fate, but my own infirmities and errors have afforded me sufficient
Sarsefield renewed his imprecations on the memory of that
unfortunate man: and his inquiries as to the circumstances that led
him into this remote district. His inquiries were not to be answered
by one in my present condition—My languors and fatigues had now
gained a pitch that was insupportable. The wound in my face had been
chafed, and inflamed by the cold water and the bleak air; and the
pain attending it, would no longer suffer my attention to stray. I
sunk upon the floor, and intreated him to afford me the respite of a
few hours repose.
He was sensible of the deplorableness of my condition, and child
himself for the negligence of which he had already been guilty. He
lifted me to the bed, and deliberated on the mode he should pursue
for my relief. Some molifying application to my wound, was immediately
necessary; but in our present lonely condition, it was not at hand.
It could only be procured from a distance. It was proper therefore to
hasten to the nearest inhabited dwelling, which belonged to one, by
name Walton, and supply himself with such medicines as could be found.
Meanwhile there was no danger of molestation and intrusion. There
was reason to expect the speedy return of those who had gone in
pursuit of the savages. This was their place of rendezvous, and
hither they appointed to re-assemble before the morrow's dawn. The
distance of the neighbouring farm was small, and Sarsefield promised
to be expeditious. He left me to myself and my own ruminations.
Harrassed by fatigue and pain, I had yet power to ruminate on that
series of unparalleled events, that had lately happened. I wept, but
my tears flowed from a double source; from sorrow, on account of the
untimely fate of my uncle, and from joy, that my sisters were
preserved, that Sarsefield had returned and was not unhappy.
I reflected on the untoward destiny of Clithero. Part of his
calamity consisted in the consciousness of having killed his
patronness; but it now appeared, though by some infatuation, I had not
previously suspected, that the first impulse of sorrow in the lady,
had been weakened by reflection and by time. That the prejudice
persuading her that her life and that of her brother were to endure
and to terminate together, was conquered by experience or by argument.
She had come, in company with Sarsefield and Clarice to America. What
influence might these events have upon the gloomy meditations of
Clithero. Was it possible to bring them together; to win the maniac
from his solitude, wrest from him his fatal purposes, and restore him
to communion with the beings whose imagined indignation is the
torment of his life.
These musings were interrupted by a sound from below which were
easily interpreted into tokens of the return of those with whom
Sarsefield had parted at the promontory, voices were confused and
busy but not turbulent. They entered the lower room and the motion of
chairs and tables shewed that they were preparing to rest themselves
after their toils.
Few of them were unacquainted with me, since they probably were
residents in this district. No inconvenience, therefore, would follow
from an interview, though, on their part, wholly unexpected. Besides,
Sarsefield would speedily return and none of the present visitants
would be likely to withdraw to this apartment.
Meanwhile I lay upon the bed, with my face turned towards the door,
and languidly gazing at the ceiling and walls. Just then a musquet
was discharged in the room below. The shock affected me mechanically
and the first impulse of surprise, made me almost start upon my feet.
The sound was followed by confusion and bustle. Some rushed forth
and called on each other to run different ways, and the words "That
is he"— "Stop him" were spoken in a tone of eagerness, and rage. My
weakness and pain were for a moment forgotten, and my whole attention
was bent to discover the meaning of this hubbub. The musquet which I
had brought with me to this chamber, lay across the bed. Unknowing of
the consequences of this affray, with regard to myself, I was
prompted by a kind of self-preserving instinct, to lay hold of the
gun, and prepare to repell any attack that might be made upon me.
A few moments elapsed when I thought I heard light footsteps in the
entry leading to this room. I had no time to construe these signals,
but watching fearfully the entrance, I grasped my weapon with new
force, and raised it so as to be ready at the moment of my danger. I
did not watch long. A figure cautiously thrust itself forward. The
first glance was sufficient to inform me that this intruder was an
Indian, and, of consequence, an enemy. He was unarmed. Looking
eagerly on all sides, he at last spied me as I lay. My appearance
threw him into consternation, and after the fluctuation of an
instant, he darted to the window, threw up the sash, and leaped out
upon the ground.
His flight might have been easily arrested by my shot, but
surprize, added to my habitual antipathy to bloodshed, unless in
cases of absolute necessity, made me hesitate. He was gone, and I was
left to mark the progress of the drama. The silence was presently
broken by firing at a distance. Three shots, in quick succession,
were followed by the deepest pause.
That the party, recently arrived, had brought with them one or more
captives, and that by some sudden effort, the prisoners had attempted
to escape, was the only supposition that I could form. By what
motives either of them could be induced to seek concealment in my
chamber, could not be imagined.
I now heard a single step on the threshold below. Some one entered
the common room. He traversed the floor during a few minutes, and
then, ascending the stair-case, he entered my chamber. It was
Sarsefield. Trouble and dismay were strongly written on his
countenance. He seemed totally unconscious of my presence, his eyes
were fixed upon the floor, and as he continued to move across the
room, he heaved forth deep sighs.
This deportment was mournful and mysterious. It was little in
unison with those appearances which he wore at our parting, and must
have been suggested by some event that had since happened. My
curiosity impelled me to recall him from his reverie. I rose and
seizing him by the arm, looked at him with an air of inquisitive
anxiety. It was needless to speak.
He noticed my movement, and turning towards me, spoke in a tone of
some resentment—Why did you deceive me? Did you not say Clithero
I said so because it was my belief. Know you any thing to the
contrary? Heaven grant that he is still alive, and that our mutual
efforts may restore him to peace.
Heaven grant, replied my friend, with a vehemence that bordered
upon fury. Heaven grant that he may live thousands of years, and know
not, in their long course, a moments respite from remorse and from
anguish; but this prayer is fruitless. He is not dead, but death
hovers over him. Should he live, he will live only to defy justice and
perpetrate new horrors. My skill might perhaps save him, but a finger
shall not be moved to avert his fate.
Little did I think, that the wretch whom my friends rescued from
the power of the savages, and brought wounded and expiring hither was
Clithero. They sent for me in haste to afford him surgical
assistance. I found him stretched upon the floor below, deserted,
helpless and bleeding. The moment I beheld him, he was recognized.
The last of evils was to look upon the face of this assassin, but
that evil is past, and shall never be endured again.
Rise and come with me. Accommodation is prepared for you at
Walcots. Let us leave this house, and the moment you are able to
perform a journey, abandon forever this district.
I could not readily consent to this proposal. Clithero had been
delivered from captivity but was dying for want of that aid which
Sarsefield was able to afford. Was it not inhuman to desert him in
this extremity? What offence had he committed that deserved such
implacable vengeance? Nothing I had heard from Sarsefield was in
contradiction to his own story. His deed, imperfectly observed, would
appear to be atrocious and detestable, but the view of all its
antecedent and accompanying events and motives, would surely place it
in the list not of crimes, but of misfortunes.
But what is that guilt which no penitence can expiate? Had not
Clithero's remorse been more than adequate to crimes far more deadly
and enormous than this? This, however, was no time to argue with the
passions of Sarsefield. Nothing but a repetition of Clithero's tale,
could vanquish his prepossessions and mollify his rage, but this
repetition was impossible to be given by me, till a moment of safety
These thoughts made me linger, but hindered me from attempting to
change the determination of my friend. He renewed his importunities
for me to fly with him. He dragged me by the arm, and wavering and
reluctant I followed where he chose to lead. He crossed the
common-room, with hurried steps and eyes averted from a figure, which
instantly fastened my attention.
It was, indeed, Clithero, whom I now beheld, supine, polluted with
blood, his eyes closed and apparently insensible. This object was
gazed at with emotions that rooted me to the spot. Sarsefield,
perceiving me determined to remain where I was, rushed out of the
house, and disappeared.
I hung over the unhappy wretch whose emaciated form and rueful
features, sufficiently bespoke that savage hands had only completed
that destruction which his miseries had begun. He was mangled by the
tom-hawk in a shocking manner, and there was little hope that human
skill could save his life.
I was sensible of nothing but compassion. I acted without design,
when seating myself on the floor I raised his head and placed it on
my knees. This movement awakened his attention, and opening his eyes
he fixed them on my countenance. They testified neither insensibility,
nor horror nor distraction. A faint emotion of surprise gave way to
an appearance of tranquillity—Having perceived these tokens of a
state less hopeless than I at first imagined, I spoke to him:—My
friend! How do you feel? Can any thing be done for you?
He answered me, in a tone more firm and with more coherence of
ideas than previous appearances had taught me to expect. No, said he,
thy kindness good youth, can avail me nothing. The end of my
existence here is at hand. May my guilt be expiated by the miseries
that I have suffered, and my good deeds only attend me to the
presence of my divine judge.
I am waiting, not with trembling or dismay, for this close of my
sorrows. I breathed but one prayer, and that prayer has been
answered. I asked for an interview with thee, young man, but feeling
as I now feel, this interview, so much desired, was beyond my hope.
Now thou art come, in due season, to hear the last words that I shall
need to utter.
I wanted to assure thee that thy efforts for my benefit were not
useless. They have saved me from murdering myself, a guilt more
inexpiable than any which it was in my power to commit.
I retired to the innermost recess of Norwalk, and gained the summit
of an hill, by subterranean paths. This hill I knew to be on all
sides inaccessible to human footsteps, and the subterranean passages
was closed up by stones. Here I believed my solitude exempt from
interruption and my death, in consequence of famine, sure.
This persuasion was not taken away by your appearance on the
opposite steep. The chasm which severed us I knew to be impassable. I
withdrew from your sight.
Some time after, awakening from a long sleep, I found victuals
beside me. He that brought it was invisible. For a time, I doubted
whether some messenger of heaven had not interposed for my salvation.
How other than by supernatural means, my retreat should be explored,
I was unable to conceive. The summit was encompassed by dizzy and
profound gulfs, and the subterranean passages was still closed.
This opinion, though corrected by subsequent reflection, tended to
change the course of my desperate thoughts. My hunger, thus
importunately urged, would not abstain, and I ate of the food that
was provided. Henceforth I determined to live, to resume the path of
obscurity and labour, which I had relinquished, and wait till my God
should summon me to retribution. To anticipate his call, is only to
redouble our guilt.
I designed not to return to Inglefield's service, but to chuse some
other and remoter district. Meanwhile, I had left in his possession,
a treasure, which my determination to die, had rendered of no value,
but which, my change of resolution, restored. Inclosed in a box at
Inglefield's, were the memoirs of Euphemia Lorimer, by which in all
my vicissitudes, I had been hitherto accompanied, and from which I
consented to part only because I had refused to live. My existence
was now to be prolonged and this manuscript was once more to
constitute the torment and the solace of my being.
I hastened to Inglefield's by night. There was no need to warn him
of my purpose. I desired that my fate should be an eternal secret to
my ancient master and his neighbours. The apartment, containing my
box was well known, and easily accessible.
The box was found but broken and rifled of its treasure. My
transports of astonishment, and indignation and grief yielded to the
resumption of my fatal purpose. I hastened back to the hill, and
determined anew to perish.
This mood continued to the evening of the ensuing day. Wandering
over rocks and pits, I discovered the manuscript, lying under a
jutting precipice. The chance that brought it hither was not less
propitious and miraculous than that by which I had been supplied with
food. It produced a similar effect upon my feelings, and, while in
possession of this manuscript I was reconciled to the means of life.
I left the mountain, and traversing the wilderness, stopped in
Chetasco. That kind of employment which I sought was instantly
procured; but my new vocation was scarcely assumed when a band of
savages invaded our security.
Rambling in the desert, by moonlight, I encountered these foes.
They rushed upon me, and after numerous wounds which, for the
present, neither killed nor disabled me, they compelled me to keep
pace with them in their retreat. Some hours have passed since the
troop was overtaken, and my liberty redeemed. Hardships, and repeated
wounds, inflicted at the moment when the invaders were surprised and
slain, have brought me to my present condition. I rejoice that my
course is about to terminate.
Here the speaker was interrupted by the tumultuous entrance of the
party, by whom he had been brought hither. Their astonishment at
seeing me, sustaining the head of the dying man, may be easily
conceived. Their surprise was more strongly excited by the
disappearance of the captive whom they had left in this apartment,
bound hand and foot. It now appeared that of the savage troop who had
adventured thus far in search of pillage and blood, all had been
destroyed but two, who, had been led hither as prisoners. On their
entrance into this house, one of the party had been sent to Walcot's
to summon Sarsefield to the aid of the wounded man, while others had
gone in search of chords to secure the arms and legs of the captives,
who had hitherto been manacled imperfectly.
The chords were brought and one of them was bound, but the other,
before the same operation was begun upon him, broke, by a sudden
effort, the feeble ligatures by which he was at present constrained,
and seizing a musquet that lay near him, fired on his enemies, and
then rushed out of doors. All eagerly engaged in the pursuit. The
savage was fleet as a deer and finally eluded his pursuers.
While their attention was thus engaged abroad, he that remained
found means to extricate his wrists and ancles from his bonds and
betaking himself to the stairs, escaped, as I before described,
through the window of the room which I had occupied. They pestered me
with their curiosity and wonder, for I was known to all of them; but
waving the discussion of my own concerns I intreated their assistance
to carry Clithero to the chamber and the bed which I had just
I now in spite of pain, fatigue and watchfulness, set out to go to
Walton's. Sarsefield was ready to receive me at the door, and the
kindness and compassion of the family were active in my behalf. I was
conducted to a chamber and provided with suitable attendance and
I was not unmindful of the more deplorable condition of Clithero. I
incessantly meditated on the means for his relief. His case stood in
need of all the vigilance and skill of a physician, and Sarsefield
was the only one of that profession whose aid could be seasonably
administered. Sarsefield therefore must be persuaded to bestow this
There was but one mode of conquering his abhorrence of this man.
To prepossess my friend with the belief of the innocence of Clithero,
or to soothe him into pity by a picture of remorse and suffering.
This could best be done, and in the manner most conformable to truth,
by a simple recital of the incidents that had befallen, and by
repeating the confession which had been extorted from Clithero.
I requested all but my friend to leave my chamber, and then,
soliciting a patient hearing, began the narrative of Waldegrave's
death! of the detection of Clithero beneath the shade of the elm! of
the suspicions which were thence produced; and of the forest interview
to which these suspicions gave birth; I then repeated, without
variation or addition, the tale which was then told. I likewise
mentioned my subsequent transactions in Norwalk so far as they
illustrated the destiny of Clithero.
During this recital, I fixed my eyes upon the countenance of
Sarsefield, and watched every emotion as it rose or declined. With
the progress of my tale, his indignation and his fury grew less, and
at length gave place to horror and compassion.
His seat became uneasy, his pulse throbbed with new vehemence. When
I came to the motives which prompted the unhappy man to visit the
chamber of his mistress, he started from his seat, and sometimes
strode across the floor in a troubled mood, and sometimes stood
before me, with his breath almost suspended in the eagerness of his
attention. When I mentioned the lifted dagger, the shriek from
behind, and the apparition that interposed, he shuddered and drew
back as if a dagger had been aimed at his breast.
When the tale was done, some time elapsed in mutual and profound
silence. My friend's thoughts were involved in a mournful and
indefinable reverie. From this he at length recovered and spoke.
It is true. A tale like this could never be the fruit of invention
or be invented to deceive. He has done himself injustice. His
character was spotless and fair: All his moral properties seemed to
have resolved themselves into gratitude fidelity and honour.
We parted at the door, late in the evening, as he mentioned, and he
guessed truly that subsequent reflection had induced me to return and
to disclose the truth to Mrs. Lorimer. Clarice relieved by the sudden
death of her friend, and unexpectedly by all, arrived at the same
These tidings, astonished, afflicted, and delighted the lady. Her
brother's death had been long believed by all but herself. To find
her doubts verified, and his existence ascertained was the dearest
consolation that he ever could bestow. She was afflicted at the proofs
that had been noted of the continuance of his depravity, but she
dreaded no danger to herself from his malignity or vengeance.
The ignorance and prepossessions of this woman were remarkable. On
this subject only she was perverse, headlong, obstinate. Her anxiety
to benefit this arch-ruffian occupied her whole thoughts and allowed
her no time to reflect upon the reasonings or remonstrances of
others. She could not be prevailed on to deny herself to his visits,
and I parted from her in the utmost perplexity.
A messenger came to me at mid-night intreating my immediate
presence. Some disaster had happened, but of what kind the messenger
was unable to tell. My fears easily conjured up the image of Wiatte.
Terror scarcely allowed me to breathe. When I entered the house of
Mrs. Lorimer, I was conducted to her chamber. She lay upon the bed in
a state of stupefaction, that rose from some mental cause. Clarice
sat by her, wringing her hands and pouring forth her tears without
intermission. Neither could explain to me the nature of the scene. I
made inquiries of the servants and attendants. They merely said that
the family as usual had retired to rest, but their lady's bell rung
with great violence, and called them in haste, to her chamber, where
they found her in a swoon upon the floor and the young lady in the
utmost affright and perturbation.
Suitable means being used Mrs. Lorimer had, at length, recovered,
but was still nearly insensible. I went to Clithero's apartments but
he was not to be found, and the domestics informed me that since he
had gone with me, he had not returned. The doors between this chamber
and the court were open; hence that some dreadful interview had taken
place, perhaps with Wiatte, was an unavoidable conjecture. He had
withdrawn, however, without committing any personal injury.
I need not mention my reflections upon this scene. All was
tormenting doubt and suspence till the morning arrived, and tidings
were received that Wiatte had been killed in the streets: This event
was antecedent to that which had occasioned Mrs. Lorimer's distress
and alarm. I now remembered that fatal prepossession by which the
lady was governed, and her frantic belief that her death and that of
her brother were to fall out at the same time. Could some witness of
his death, have brought her tidings of it: Had he penetrated,
unexpected and unlicensed to her chamber, and were these the effects
produced by the intelligence?
Presently I knew that not only Wiatte was dead, but that Clithero
had killed him. Clithero had not been known to return and was no
where to be found. He then was the bearer of these tidings, for none
but he could have found access or egress without disturbing the
These doubts were at length at an end. In a broken and confused
manner, and after the lapse of some days the monstrous and portentous
truth was disclosed. After our interview, the lady and her daughter
had retired to the same chamber; the former had withdrawn to her
closet and the latter to bed. Some one's entrance alarmed the lady,
and coming forth after a moment's pause, the spectacle which Clithero
has too faithfully described, presented itself.
What could I think? A life of uniform hypocrisy or a sudden loss of
reason were the only suppositions to be formed. Clithero was the
parent of fury and abhorrence in my heart. In either case I started
at the name. I shuddered at the image of the apostate or the maniac.
What? Kill the brother whose existence was interwoven with that of
his benefactress and his friend? Then hasten to her chamber, and
attempt her life? Lift a dagger to destroy her who had been the
author of his being and his happiness?
He that could meditate a deed like this was no longer man. An agent
from Hell had mastered his faculties. He was become the engine of
infernal malice against whom it was the duty of all mankind to rise
up in arms and never to desist till, by shattering it to atoms, its
power to injure was taken away.
All inquiries to discover the place of his retreat were vain. No
wonder methought that he wrapt himself in the folds of impenetrable
secrecy. Curbed, checked, baffled in the midst of his career, no
wonder that he shrunk into obscurity, that he fled from justice and
revenge, that he dared not meet the rebukes of that eye which,
dissolving in tenderness or flashing with disdain, had ever been
But how shall I describe the lady's condition? Clithero she had
cherished from his infancy. He was the stay, the consolation, the
pride of her life. His projected alliance with her daughter, made him
still more dear. Her eloquence was never tired of expatiating on his
purity and rectitude. No wonder that she delighted in this theme, for
he was her own work. His virtues were the creatures of her bounty.
How hard to be endured was this sad reverse? She can be tranquil,
but never more will she be happy. To promote her forgetfulness of
him, I persuaded her to leave her country, which contained a thousand
memorials of past calamity, and which was lapsing fast into civil
broils. Clarice has accompanied us, and time may effect the happiness
of others, by her means, though she can never remove the melancholy
of her mother.
I have listened to your tale, not without compassion. What would
you have me to do? To prolong his life, would be merely to protract
He can never be regarded with complacency by my wife. He can never
be thought of without shuddering by Clarice. Common ills are not
without a cure less than death, but here, all remedies are vain.
Consciousness itself is the malady; the pest; of which he only is
cured who ceases to think.
I could not but assent to this mournful conclusion; yet, though
death was better to Clithero than life, could not some of his
mistakes be rectified? Euphemia Lorimer, contrary to his belief, was
still alive. He dreamed that she was dead, and a thousand evils were
imagined to flow from that death. This death and its progeny of ills,
haunted his fancy, and added keenness to his remorse. Was it not our
duty to rectify this error?
Sarsefield reluctantly assented to the truth of my arguments on
this head. He consented to return, and afford the dying man, the
consolation of knowing that the being whom he adored as a benefactor
and parent, had not been deprived of existence, though bereft of
peace by his act.
During Sarsefield's absence my mind was busy in revolving the
incidents that had just occured. I ruminated the last words of
Clithero. There was somewhat in his narrative that was obscure and
contradictory. He had left the manuscript which he so much and so
justly prized, in his cabinet. He entered the chamber in my absence,
and found the cabinet unfastened and the manuscript gone. It was I by
whom the cabinet was opened, but the manuscript supposed to be
contained in it, was buried in the earth beneath the elm. How should
Clithero be unacquainted with its situation, since none but Clithero
could have dug for it this grave?
This mystery vanished when I reflected on the history of my own
manuscript. Clithero had buried his treasure with his own hands as
mine had been secreted by myself, but both acts had been performed
during sleep. The deed was neither prompted by the will, nor noticed
by the senses of him, by whom it was done. Disastrous and humiliating
is the state of man! By his own hands, is constructed the mass of
misery and error in which his steps are forever invol ved.
Thus it was with thy friend. Hurried on by phantoms too indistinct
to be now recalled, I wandered from my chamber to the desart. I
plunged into some unvisited cavern, and easily proceeded till I
reached the edge of a pit. There my step was deceived, and I tumbled
headlong from the precipice. The fall bereaved me of sense, and I
continued breathless and motionless during the remainder of the night
and the ensuing day.
How little cognizance have men over the actions and motives of each
other? How total is our blindness with regard to our own
performances! Who would have sought me in the bowels of this
mountain? Ages might have passed away, before my bones would be
discovered in this tomb, by some traveller whom curiosity had
prompted to explore it.
I was roused from these reflections by Sarsefield's return.
Inquiring into Clithero's condition; he answered that the unhappy man
was insensible, but that notwithstanding numerous and dreadful
gashes, in different parts of his body, it was possible that by
submitting to the necessary treatment, he might recover.
Encouraged by this informntion, I endeavoured to awaken the zeal
and compassion of my friend in Clithero's behalf. He recoiled with
involuntary shuddering from any task which would confine him to the
presence of this man. Time and reflection he said, might introduce
different sentiments and feelings, but at present he could not but
regard this person as a maniac, whose disease was irremediable, and
whose existence could not be protracted, but to his own misery and
the misery of others.
Finding him irreconcilably averse to any scheme, connected with the
welfare of Clithero, I began to think that his assistance as a
surgeon was by no means necessary. He had declared that the sufferer
needed nothing more than common treatment, and to this the skill of a
score of aged women in this district, furnished with simples culled
from the forest, and pointed out, of old time, by Indian Leeches
was no less adequate than that of Sarsefield. These women were ready
and officious in their charity, and none of them were prepossessed
against the sufferer by a knowledge of his genuine story.
Sarsefield, meanwhile, was impatient for my removal to Inglefield's
habitation, and that venerable friend was no less impatient to
receive me. My hurts were superficial, and my strength sufficiently
repaired by a night's repose. Next day, I went thither, leaving
Clithero to the care of his immediate neighbours.
Sarsefield's engagements compelled him to prosecute his journey
into Virginia, from which he had somewhat deviated, in order to visit
Solebury. He proposed to return in less than a month and then to take
me in his company to New-York. He has treated me with paternal
tenderness, and insists upon the previlege of consulting for my
interest, as if he were my real father. Meanwhile, these views have
been disclosed to Inglefield, and it is with him that I am to remain,
with my sisters, until his return.
My reflections have been various and tumultuous. They have been
busy in relation to you, to Weymouth, and especially to Clithero. The
latter polluted with gore and weakened by abstinence, fatigue and the
loss of blood, appeared in my eyes, to be in a much more dangerous
condition than the event proved him to be. I was punctually informed
of the progress of his cure, and proposed in a few days to visit him.
The duty of explaining the truth, respecting the present condition of
Mrs. Lorimer, had devolved upon me. By imparting this intelligence, I
hoped to work the most auspicious revolutions in his feelings, and
prepared therefore, with alacrity, for an interview.
In this hope I was destined to be disappointed. On the morning on
which I intended to visit him, a messenger arrived from the house in
which he was entertained, and informed us that the family on entering
the sick man's apartment, had found it deserted. It appeared that
Clithero, had, during the night, risen from his bed, and gone secretly
forth. No traces of his flight have since been discovered.
But, O! my friend? The death of Waldegrave, thy brother, is at
length divested of uncertainty and mystery. Hitherto, I had been able
to form no conjecture respecting it, but the solution was found
shortly after this time.
Queen Mab, three days after my adventure, was seized in her hut on
suspicion of having aided and counselled her countrymen, in their
late depredations. She was not to be awed or intimidated by the
treatment she received, but readily confessed and gloried in the
mischief she had done; and accounted for it by enumerating the
injuries which she had received from her neighbours.
These injuries consisted in contemptuous or neglectful treatment,
and in the rejection of groundless and absurd claims. The people of
Chetasco were less obsequious to her humours than those of Solebury,
her ancient neighbourhood, and her imagination brooded for a long
time, over nothing but schemes of revenge. She became sullen,
irascible and spent more of her time in solitude than ever.
A troop of her countrymen at length visited her hut. Their
intentions being hostile, they concealed from the inhabitants their
presence in this quarter of the country. Some motives induced them to
withdraw and postpone, for the present, the violence which they
meditated. One of them, however, more sanguinary and audacious than
the rest would not depart, without some gratification of his
vengeance. He left his associates and penetrated by night into
Solebury, resolving to attack the first human being whom he should
meet. It was the fate of thy unhappy brother to encounter this
ruffian, whose sagacity made him forbear to tear away the usual
trophy from the dead, least he should afford grounds for suspicion as
to the authors of the evil.
Satisfied with this exploit he rejoined his companions, and after
an interval of three weeks returned with a more numerous party, to
execute a more extensive project of destruction. They were councelled
and guided, in all their movements, by Queen Mab, who now explained
these particulars, and boldly defied her oppressors. Her usual
obstinacy and infatuation induced her to remain in her ancient
dwelling and prepare to meet the consequences.
This disclosure awakened anew all the regrets and anguish which
flowed from that disaster. It has been productive, however, of some
benefit. Suspicions and doubts, by which my soul was harrassed, and
which were injurious to the innocent are now at an end. It is
likewise some imperfect consolation to reflect that the assassin has
himself been killed and probably by my own hand. The shedder of blood
no longer lives to pursue his vocation, and justice is satisfied.
Thus have I fulfilled my promise to compose a minute relation of my
sufferings. I remembered my duty to thee, and as soon as I was able
to hold a pen, employed it to inform thee of my welfare. I could not
at that time enter into particulars, but reserved a more copious
narrative till a period of more health and leisure.
On looking back I am surprised at the length to which my story has
run. I thought that a few days would suffice to complete it, but one
page has insensibly been added to another till I have consumed, weeks
and filled volumes. Here I will draw to a close; I will send you what
I have written, and discuss with you in conversation, my other
immediate concerns, and my schemes for the future. As soon as I have
seen Sarsefield, I will visit you.
E. H. Solebury, November, 10.
TO Mr. SARSEFIELD.
I CAME hither but ten minutes ago, and write this letter in the bar
of the Stagehouse. I wish not to lose a moment in informing you of
what has happened. I cannot do justice to my own feelings when I
reflect upon the rashness of which I have been guilty.
I will give you the particulars to-morrow. At present, I shall only
say that Clithero is alive, is apprised of your wife's arrival and
abode in New-York, and has set out, with mysterious intentions to
May heaven avert the consequences of such a design. May you be
enabled by some means to prevent their meeting. If you cannot prevent
it—but I must not reason on such an event, nor lengthen out this
TO THE SAME.
I WILL now relate the particulars which I yesterday promised to
send you. You heard through your niece of my arrival at Inglefield's
in Solebury: My inquiries, you may readily suppose, would turn upon
the fate of my friend's servant, Clithero, whose last disappearance
was so strange and abrupt, and of whom since that time, I had heard
nothing. You are indifferent to his fate and are anxious only that
his existence and misfortunes may be speedily forgotten. I confess
that it is somewhat otherwise with me. I pity him: I wish to relieve
him, and cannot admit the belief that his misery is without a cure. I
want to find him out? I want to know his condition, and if possible
to afford him comfort, and inspire him with courage and hope.
Inglefield replied to my questions. O yes! He has appeared. The
strange being is again upon the stage. Shortly after he left his sick
bed, I heard from Philip Beddington, of Chetasco, that Deb's hut had
found a new tenant. At first, I imagined that the Scotsman who built
it had returned, but making closer inquiries, I found that the new
tenant was my servant. I had no inclination to visit him myself, but
frequently inquired respecting him of those, who lived or past that
way, and find that he still lives there.
But how, said I. What is his mode of subsistance. The winter has
been no time for cultivation, and he found, I presume, nothing in the
Deb's hut, replied my friend, is his lodging and his place of
retirement, but food and cloathing he procures by labouring on a
neighbouring farm. This farm is next to that of Beddington, who
consequently knows something of his present situation. I find little
or no difference in his present deportment; and those appearances
which he assumed, while living with me, except that he retires every
night to his hut, and holds as little intercourse as possible with the
rest of mankind. He dines at his employers table, but his supper,
which is nothing but rye-bread, he carries home with him, and at all
those times when disengaged from employment, he secludes himself in
his hut, or wanders nobody knows whither.
This was the substance of Inglefield's intelligence. I gleaned from
it some satisfaction. It proved the condition of Clithero to be less
deplorable and desperate than I had previously imagined. His fatal
and gloomy thoughts seemed to have somewhat yielded to tranquillity.
In the course of my reflections, however, I could not but perceive,
that his condition, though eligible when compared with what it once
was, was likewise disastrous and humiliating, compared with his
youthful hopes and his actual merits. For such an one to mope away
his life in this unsocial and savage state, was deeply to be
deplored. It was my duty, if possible, to prevail on him to
relinquish his scheme. And what would be requisite, for that end, but
to inform him of the truth?
The source of his dejection was the groundless belief that he had
occasioned the death of his benefactress. It was this alone that
could justly produce remorse or grief. It was a distempered
imagination both in him and in me, that had given birth to this
opinion, since the terms of his narrative, impartially considered,
were far from implying that catastrophe. To him, however, the
evidence which he possessed was incontestable. No deductions from
probability could overthrow his belief. This could only be affected
by similar and counter evidence. To apprize him that she was now
alive, in possession of some degree of happiness, the wife of
Sarsefield, and an actual resident on this shore, would dissipate the
sanguinary apparition that haunted him; cure his diseased intellects,
and restore him to those vocations for which his talents, and that
rank in society for which his education had qualified him. Influenced
by these thoughts, I determined to visit his retreat. Being obliged
to leave Solebury the next day, I resolved to set out the same
afternoon, and stopping in Chetasco, for the night, seek his
habitation at the hour when he had probably retired to it.
This was done. I arrived at Beddington's, at night-fall. My
inquiries respecting Clithero obtained for me the same intelligence
from him, which I had received from Inglefield. Deb's hut was three
miles from this habitation, and thither, when the evening had somewhat
advanced, I repaired. This was the spot which had witnessed so many
perils during the last year, and my emotions, on approaching it, were
awful. With palpitating heart and quick steps I traversed the road,
skirted on each side by thickets, and the area before the house. The
dwelling was by no means in so ruinous a state as when I last visited
it. The crannies between the logs had been filled up, and the light
within was perceivable only at a crevice in the door.
Looking through this crevice I perceived a fire in the chimney, but
the object of my visit was no where to be seen. I knocked and
requested admission, but no answer was made. At length I lifted the
latch and entered. Nobody was there.
It was obvious to suppose that Clithero had gone abroad for a short
time, and would speedily return, or perhaps some engagement had
detained him at his labour, later than usual. I therefore seated
myself on some straw near the fire, which, with a woollen rug,
appeared to constitute his only bed. The rude bedstead which I
formerly met with, was gone. The slender furniture, likewise, which
had then engaged my attention, had disappeared. There was nothing
capable of human use, but a heap of faggots in the corner, which
seemed intended for fuel. How slender is the accommodation which
nature has provided for man, and how scanty is the portion which our
physical necessities require.
While ruminating upon this scene, and comparing past events with
the objects before me, the dull whistling of the gale without gave
place to the sound of foot-steps. Presently the door opened, and
Clithero entered the apartment. His aspect and guise were not
essentially different from those which he wore when an inhabitant of
To find his hearth occupied by another, appeared to create the
deepest surprise. He looked at me without any tokens of remembrance!
His features assumed a more austere expression, and after scowling on
my person for a moment, he withdrew his eyes, and placing in a
corner, a bundle which he bore in his hand, he turned and seemed
preparing to withdraw.
I was anxiously attentive to his demeanor, and as soon as I
perceived his purpose to depart, leaped on my feet to prevent it. I
took his hand, and affectionately pressing it, said, do you not know
me? Have you so soon forgotten me who is truly your friend?
He looked at me with some attention, but again withdrew his eyes,
and placed himself in silence on the seat which I had left. I seated
myself near him, and a pause of mutual silence ensued.
My mind was full of the purpose that brought me hither, but I knew
not in what manner to communicate my purpose. Several times I opened
my lips to speak, but my perplexity continued, and suitable words
refused to suggest themselves. At length, I said, in a confused tone;
I came hither with a view to benefit a man, with whose misfortunes
his own lips have made me acquainted, and who has awakened in my
breast the deepest sympathy. I know the cause and extent of his
dejection. I know the event which has given birth to horror and
remorse in his heart. He believes that, by his means, his patroness
and benefactress has found an untimely death.
These words produced a visible shock in my companion, which evinced
that I had at least engaged his attention. I proceeded:
This unhappy lady was cursed with a wicked and unnatural brother.
She conceived a disproportionate affection for this brother, and
erroneously imagined that her fate was blended with his; that their
lives would necessarily terminate at the same period, and that
therefore, whoever was the contriver of his death, was likewise, by a
fatal and invincible necessity, the author of her own.
Clithero was her servant, but was raised by her bounty, to the
station of her son and the rank of her friend. Clithero, in
self-defence took away the life of that unnatual brother, and, in that
deed, falsely but cogently believed, that he had perpetrated the
destruction of his benefactress.
To ascertain the truth, he sought her presence. She was found, the
tidings of her brother's death were communicated, and she sunk
breathless at his feet.
At these words Clithero started from the ground, and cast upon me
looks of furious indignation—And come you hither, he muttered, for
this end; to recount my offences, and drive me again to despair?
No, answered I, with quickness, I come to out-root a fatal, but
powerful illusion. I come to assure you that the woman, with whose
destruction you charge yourself, is not dead.
These words, uttered with the most emphatical solemnity, merely
produced looks in which contempt was mingled with anger. He continued
I perceive, resumed I, that my words are disregarded. Would to
Heaven I were able to conquer your incredulity, could shew you not
only the truth, but the probability of my tale. Can you not confide
in me? that Euphemia Lorimer is now alive, is happy, is the wife of
Sarsefield; that her brother is forgotten and his murderer regarded
without enmity or vengeance?
He looked at me with a strange expression of contempt—Come, said
he, at length, make out thy assertion to be true. Fall on thy knees
and invoke the thunder of heaven to light on thy head if thy words be
false. Swear that Euphemia Lorimer is alive; happy; forgetful of
Wiatte and compassionate of me Swear that thou hast seen her; talked
with her; received from her own lips the confession of her pity for
him who aimed a dagger at her bosom. Swear that she is Sarsefield's
I put my hands together, and lifting my eyes to heaven, exclaimed:
I comply with your conditions; I call the omniscient God to witness
that Euphemia Lorimer is alive; that I have seen her with these eyes;
have talked with her; have inhabited the same house for months.
These asseverations were listened to with shuddering. He laid not
aside, however, an air of incredulity and contempt. Perhaps, said he,
thou canst point out the place of her abode. Canst guide me to the
city, the street, the very door of her habitation?
I can. She rises at this moment in the city of New-York; in
Broadway; in an house contiguous to the...
'Tis well, exclaimed my companion, in a tone, loud, abrupt, and in
the utmost degree, vehement. 'Tis well. Rash and infatuated youth.
Thou hast ratified, beyond appeal or forgiveness, thy own doom. Thou
hast once more let loose my steps, and sent me on a fearful journey.
Thou hast furnished the means of detecting thy imposture. I will fly
to the spot which thou describest. I will ascertain thy falsehood
with my own eyes. If she be alive then am I reserved for the
performance of a new crime. My evil destiny will have it so. If she
be dead, I shall make thee expiate.
So saying, he darted through the door, and was gone in a moment,
beyond my sight and my reach. I ran to the road, looked on every
side, and called; but my calls were repeated in vain. He had fled
with the swiftness of a deer.
My own embarrassment, confusion and terror were enexpressible. His
last words were incoherent. They denoted the tumult and vehemence of
phrenzy. They intimated his resolution to seek the presence of your
wife. I had furnished a clue, which could not fail to conduct him to
her presence. What might not be dreaded from the interview? Clithero
is a maniac. This truth cannot be concealed. Your wife can with
difficulty preserve her tranquillity, when his image occurs to her
remembrance. What must it be when he starts up before her in his
neglected and ferocious guise, and armed with purposes, perhaps as
terrible as those, which had formerly led him to her secret chamber,
and her bed side?
His meaning was obscurely conveyed. He talked of a deed, for the
performance of which, his malignant fate had reserved him; which was
to ensue their meeting, and which was to afford disastrous testimony
of the infatuation which had led me hither.
Heaven grant that some means may suggest themselves to you of
intercepting his approach. Yet I know not what means can be
conceived. Some miraculous chance may befriend you; yet this is
scarcely to be hoped. It is a visionary and fantastic base on which to
rest our security.
I cannot forget that my unfortunate temerity has created this evil.
Yet who could foresee this consequence of my intelligence. I
imagined, that Clithero was merely a victim of erroneous gratitude, a
slave of the errors of his education, and the prejudices of his rank,
that his understanding was deluded by phantoms in the mask of virtue
and duty, and not as you have strenuously maintained, utterly
I shall not escape your censure, but I shall, likewise, gain your
compassion. I have erred, not through sinister or malignant
intentions, but from the impulse of misguided, indeed, but powerful
TO EDGAR HUNTLY.
After the fatigues of the day, I returned home. As I entered, my
wife was breaking the seal of a letter, but, on seeing me, she
forbore and presented the letter to me.
I saw, said she, by the superscription of this letter, who the
writer was. So agreeably to your wishes, I proceeded to open it, but
you have come just time enough to save me the trouble.
This letter was from you. It contained information relative to
Clithero. See how imminent a chance it was that saved my wife from a
knowledge of its contents. It required all my efforts to hide my
perturbation from her, and excuse myself from shewing her the letter.
I know better than you the character of Clithero, and the
consequences of a meeting between him and my wife. You may be sure
that I would exert myself to prevent a meeting.
The method for me to pursue was extremely obvious. Clithero is a
madman whose liberty is dangerous, and who requires to be fettered
and imprisoned as the most atrocious criminal.
I hastened to the chief Magistrate, who is my friend, and by proper
representations, obtained from him authority to seize Clithero
wherever I should meet with him, and effectually debar him from the
perpetration of new mischiefs.
New-York does not afford a place of confinement for lunatics, as
suitable to his case, as Pennsylvania. I was desirous of placing him
as far as possible from the place of my wife's residence. Fortunately
there was a packet for Philadelphia, on the point of setting out on
her voyage. This vessel I engaged to wait a day or two, for the
purpose of conveying him to the Pennsylvania hospital. Meanwhile,
proper persons were stationed at Powels-hook, and at the quays where
the various stageboats from Jersey arrive.
These precautions were effectual. Not many hours after the receipt
of your intelligence, this unfortunate man applied for a passage at
Elizabeth-town, was seized the moment he set his foot on shore, and
was forthwith conveyed to the packet, which immediately set sail.
I designed that all these proceedings should be concealed from the
women, but unfortunately neglected to take suitable measures for
hindering the letter which you gave me reason to expect on the
ensuing day, from coming into their hands. It was delivered to my
wife in my absence and opened immediately by her.
You know what is, at present, her personal condition. You know what
strong reasons I had to prevent any danger or alarm from approaching
her. Terror could not assume a shape, more ghastly than this. The
effects have been what might have been easily predicted. Her own life
has been imminently endangered and an untimely birth, has blasted my
fondest hope. Her infant, with whose future existence so many
pleasures were entwined, is dead.
I assure you Edgar, my philosophy has not found itself lightsome
and active under this burden. I find it hard to forbear commenting on
your rashness in no very mild terms. You acted in direct opposition
to my council, and to the plainest dictates of propriety. Be more
circumspect and more obsequious for the future.
You knew the liberty that would be taken of opening my letters; you
knew of my absence from home, during the greatest part of the day,
and the likelihood therefore that your letters would fall into my
wife's hands before they came into mine. These considerations should
have prompted you to send them under cover to Whitworth or Harvey,
with directions to give them immediately to me.
Some of these events happened in my absence, for I determined to
accompany the packet myself and see the madman safely delivered to
the care of the hospital.
I will not torture your sensibility by recounting the incidents of
his arrest and detention. You will imagine that his strong, but
perverted reason exclaimed loudly against the injustice of his
treatment. It was easy for him to outreason his antagonist, and
nothing but force could subdue his opposition. On me devolved the
province of his jailor and his tyrant; a province which required an
heart more steeled by spectacles of suffering and the exercise of
cruelty, than mine had been.
Scarcely had we passed
The Narrows, when the lunatic, being
suffered to walk the deck, as no apprehensions were entertained of
his escape in such circumstances, threw himself overboard, with a
seeming intention to gain the shore. The boat was immediately manned,
the fugitive was pursued, but at the moment, when his flight was
overtaken, he forced himself beneath the surface, and was seen no
With the life of this wretch, let our regrets and our forebodings
terminate. He has saved himself from evils, for which no time would
have provided a remedy, from lingering for years in the noisome
dungeon of an hospital. Having no reason to continue my voyage, I put
myself on board a coasting sloop, and regained this city in a few
hours. I persuade myself that my wife's indisposition will be
temporary. It was impossible to hide from her the death of Clithero,
and its circumstances. May this be the last arrow in the quiver of