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groan issued from the windpipe of the defunct; the stroke was repeated without producing a repetition of the note, so that the assassins concluded the work was effectually done, and retired for the present, with a design to return and rife the deceased at their leisure.
Never had our hero spent a moment in such agony as he felt during this operation. The whole surface of his body was covered with a cold sweat, and his nerves were relaxed with an universal palsy. In short, he remained in a trance, that in all probability contributed to his safety; for had he retained the use of his senses, he might have been discovered by the transports of his fear. The first use he made of his retrieved recollection, was to perceive that the assassins had left the door open in their retreat; and he would have instantly availed himself of this their neglect, by sallying out upon them at the hazard of his life, had not he been restrained by a conversation he overheard in the room below, importing that the ruffians were going to set out upon another expedition, in hopes of finding more prey. They accordingly departed, after having laid strong injunctions on the old woman to keep the door fast locked during their absence; and Ferdinand took his resolution without further delay. So soon as, by his conjecture, the robbers were at a sufficient distance from the house, he rose from his lurking-place, moved softly towards the bed, and rummaging the pockets of the deceased, found a purse well stored with ducats, of which, together with a silver watch and a diamond ring, he immediately possessed bimself without scruple; and then, descending with great care and circumspection into the lower apartment, stood before the old beldame, before she had the least intimation of his approach.
Accustomed as she was to the trade of blood, the hoary hag did not behold this apparition without giving sigus of
infinite terror and astonishment. Believing it was no other than the spirit of her second guest, who had been murdered, she fell upon her knees, and began to recommend herself to the protection of the saints, crossing herself with as much devotion as if she had been entitled to the particular care and attention of Heaven. Nor did her anxiety abate when she was undeceived in this her supposition, and understood it was no phantom, but the real substance of the stranger; who, without staying to upbraid her with the enormity of her crimes, commanded her, on pain of immediate death, to produce his horse; to which being conducted, he set her on the saddle without delay, and mounting behind, invested her with the management of the reins, swearing, in a most peremptory tone, that the only chance for her life was in directing him to the next town; and that as soon as she should give him the least cause to doubt her fidelity in the performance of that task, he would on the instant act the part of her executioner.
This declaration had its effect on the withered Hecate, who, with many supplications for mercy and forgiveness, promised to guide him in safety to a certain village at the distance of two leagues, where he might lodge in security, and be provided with a fresh horse, or other conveniences for pursuing his route. On these conditions he told her she might deserve his clemency; and they accordingly took their departure together, she being placed astride upon the saddle, holding the bridle in one hand, and a switch in the other, and our adventurer sitting on the crupper, superintending her conduct, and keeping the muzzle of a pistol close at her
In this equipage they travelled across part of the same wood in which his guide had forsaken him: and it is not to be supposed that he passed his time in the most agreeable reverie, while he found himself involved in the labyrinth of
those shades, which he considered as the haunts of robbery and assassination.
Common fear was a comfortable sensation to what he felt. in this excursion. The first steps he had taken for his preservation were the effect of mere instinct, while his faculties were extinguished or suppressed by despair; but now, as his reflection began to recur, he was haunted by the most intolerable apprehensions. Every whisper of the wind through the thickets was swelled into the hoarse menaces of murder; the shaking of the boughs was construed into the brandishing of poniards; and every shadow of a tree became the apparition of a ruffian eager for blood. In short, at each of these occurrences he felt what was infinitely more tormenting than the stab of a real dagger; and at every fresh fillip of his fear, he acted as a remembrancer to his conductress in a new volley of imprecations, importing, that her life was absolutely connected with his opinion of his own safety.
Human nature could not long subsist under such complicated terror; but at last he found himself clear of the forest, and was blessed with a distant view of an inhabited place. He then began to exercise his thoughts on a new subject. He debated with himself whether lie should make a parade of his intrepidity and public spirit, by disclosing his achievement, and surrendering his guide to the penalty of the law, or leave the old hag and her accomplice to the remorse of their own consciences, and proceed quietly on his journey to Paris, in undisturbed possession of the prize he had already obtained. This last step he determined to take upon
recollecting, that, in the course of his information, the story of the murdered stranger would infallibly attract the attention of justice, and, in that case, the effects he had borrowed from the defunct must be refunded for the benefit of those who had a right to the succession. This was an argument which
our adventurer could not resist : he foresaw that he should be stripped of his acquisition, which he looked upon as the fair fruits of his valor and sagacity; and moreover, be detained as an evidence against the robbers, to the manifest detriment of his affairs. Perhaps, too, he bad motives of conscience that dissuaded him from bearing witness against a set of people whose principles did not much differ from his
Influenced by such considerations, he yielded to the first importunity of the beldame, whom he dismissed at a very small distance from the village, after he had earnestly exhorted her to quit such an atrocious course of life, and atone for her past crimes by sacrificing her associates to the demands of justice. She did not fail to vow a perfect reformation, and to prostrate herself before him for the favor she had found; then she betook herself to her habitation, with the full purpose of advising her fellow-murderers to repair with all despatch to the village and impeach our hero; who, wisely distrusting her professions, stayed no longer in the place than to hire a guide for the next stage, which brought him to the city of Chalons-Sur-Marne.
We know not how it is with others, but we never think of Parnell's Hermit without tranquillizing and grateful feelings. Parnell was a true poet of a minor order; he saw nature for himself, though he wrote a book style; and this, and one or two other poems of his, such as the eclogue on Health, and the Fairy Tale, have inclined us to believe that there is something in the very name of “Parnell” peculiarly gentle and agreeable. Hermits themselves, in poetry, are almost always interesting and soothing people. We see nothing but their brooks, their solitude, and their resignation, their hermitage and their crust; and long to be like them, and play at loneliness.
And may at last my weary age
So, who does not love Goldsmith's Edwin and Angelina, and the gentle line with which it sets out ?
“Turn, gentle herinit of the dale."
Drayton tears himself away with reluctance from a long list of herbs,