Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

more ample means than myself, were making offerings to the dæmon of Rouge et Noir. Should this brief memoir fall beneath the eye of any of my quondam friends, they may not impossibly derive benefit from its perusal: at all events they may be pleased to know that I have not forgotten their kindness. I am aware that I abused their assistance, and wore out their patience ; but I never anticipated the horror to which the exhaustion of my own means, and the inability to extort more from others, would reduce me. The anguish of my losses, the misery of my degradation, the agony of mind with which I reflected upon my impoverished wife and family, were nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the racking torment of being compelled to refrain from gambling. It sounds incredible, but it is strictly true. To sit at the table with empty pockets and see others playing, was absolutely insupportable. I envied even the heaviest losers—could I have found an antagonist, I would have gambled for an eye, an arm, a leg—for life itself. A thousand devils seemed to be gnawing at my heart I believe I was mad-I even hope I was.

Yes; I have tasked myself to detail my moral degradation and utter prostration of character, with a fidelity worthy of Rousseau himself, and I feel it a duty not to shrink from my complete exposure. After a night passed in the state of mind I have been describing, in one of those haunts which I was justly entitled to denominate a Hell, I wandered out at daybreak towards the Pont de Jena, as if I could cool my parched lips and burning brain by the heavy

shower that was then falling. As the dripping rustics passed me on their market-horses, singing and whistling, their happiness, seeming to be a mockery of my wretchedness, filled me with malignant rage. By the time I had reached the bridge, the rain had ceased, the rising sun, glancing upon the river, threw a bloom over the woods in the direction of Sèvres and St. Cloud, and the birds were piping in the air. Ever a passionate admirer of Nature, her charms stole me for a moment from myself, but presently my thoughts reverting from the heaven without to the hell within, I gnashed my teeth, and fell back into a double bitterness and despair of soul.

I have always been a believer in sudden and irresistible impulses; an idea which will not appear ridiculous to those who are conversant with the records of crime. A portrait of Sarah Malcolm the murderess, which I had seen many years ago in the possession of Lord Mulgrave, leading me to the perusal of her trial and execution in the Newgate Calendar, induced me to give perfect credit to the averment, that the idea of the crime came suddenly into her head without the least solicitation, and that she felt driven forward to its accomplishment by some invisible power. Similar declarations from many other offenders offer abundant confirmation of the same fact; and it will be in the recollection of many, that the murderer of Mr. and Mrs. Bonar at Chiselhurst repeatedly declared that he had never dreamt of the enormity ten minutes before its commission, but that the thought suddenly rushed into his mind, and pushed him forward to the bloody

deed. Many people cannot look over a precipice without feeling tempted to throw themselves down: I know a most affectionate father who never approaches a window with his infant child without being haunted by solicitations to cast it into the street; and a gentleman of unimpeachable honour, who if he happens, in walking the highway, to see a note-case or handkerchief emerging from a passenger's pocket, is obliged to stop short or cross over the way, so vehemently does he feel impelled to withdraw them. These “toys of desperation,” generated in the giddiness of the mind at the bare imagination of any horror, drive it to commit the reality as a relief from the fearful vision, upon the same principle that delinquents voluntarily deliver themselves up to justice, because death itself is less intolerable than the fear of it, Let it not be imagined that I am seeking to screen any of these unhappy men from the consequences of their hallucination; I am merely asserting a singular property of the mind, of which I myself am about to record a frightful confirmation. Standing on the bridge, and turning away my

looks from the landscape in that despair of heart which I have described, my downcast eyes fell upon the waters gliding placidly beneath me. They seemed to invite me to quench the burning fire with which I was consumed; the river whispered to me with a distinct utterance that peace and oblivion were to be found in its Lethean bed :-every muscle of my body was animated by an instant and insuperable impulse ; and within half a minute from its first maddening sensa

tion, I had climbed over the parapet, and plunged headlong into the water !—The gushing of waves in my ears, and the rapid flashing of innumerable lights before my eyes, are the last impressions I recollect. Into the circumstances of my preservation I never had the heart to inquire : when consciousness revisited me, I found myself lying upon my own bed, with my wife weeping beside me, though she instantly assumed a cheerful look, and told me that I had met with a dreadful accident, having fallen into the river when leaning over to examine some object beneath. That she knows the whole truth I am perfectly convinced, but we scrupulously avoid the subject, by an understood though unexpressed compact. It is added in her mind to the long catalogue of my offences, never to be alluded to, and, alas! never to be forgotten. She left my bedside for a moment to return with my children, who rushed up to me with a cry of joy ; and as they contended for the first kiss, and inquired my health with glistening eyes, the cruelty, the atrocity of my cowardly attempt, struck with a withering remorse upon my heart.-0 villain! villain!

INVOCATION TO THE CUCKOO.

O Pursuivant and Herald of the Spring !

Whether thou still dost dwell

In some rose-laurell'd dell
Of that charm'd Island, whose magician king

Bade all its rocks and caves,

Woods, winds, .and waves,
Thrill to the dulcet chant of Ariel,

Until he broke the spell
And cast his wand into the shuddering sea,

O hither, hither fleet,

Upon the south wind sweet,
And soothe us with thy vernal melody!
Or whether to the redolent Azores,

Amid whose tufted sheaves

The floral Goddess weaves Her garland, breathing on the glades and shores

Intoxicating air,

Truant ! thou dost repair :-
Or lingerest still in that meridian nest,

Where myriad piping throats

Rival the warbler's notes,
The saffron namesakes of those Islands blest,

O hither, hither wing
Thy flight, and to our longing woodlands sing !
Or in those sea-girt gardens dost thou dwell,

Of plantain, cocoa, palm,

And that red tree whose balm Fumed in the holocausts of Israel;

Beneath Banana shades,

Guava, and fig-tree glades,
Painting thy plumage in the sapphirine hue,

Thrown from the heron blue,

« AnteriorContinuar »