« PreviousContinue »
gazes on nature with an admiration which only heightens his inward anguish. In the most soft and alluring periods of pleasure, the loathsome image of a grave continually obtrudes itself upon his imagination; the icy hand of death is ever on his shoulder, and he hears the phantom whispering, "Victim of my unrelenting power, haste ye through these sunny scenes; in a short time you must quit them for ever." I hav felt all this; who can wonder that I am tired of life? I have loved in this world but few, and none successfully. No man, nor woman, nor child has ever been to me other than as gleamings of what my fellow creatures have enjoyed.
recoil from one who excites in me any feelings of affection. No one shall suffer the fatality of my friendship. Who is shocked to learn that I covet my last sleep? Death, mysterious power! language cannot express the intense curiosity with which I have watched every thing appertaining to it. Yes, I have pursued the ghastly phantom in all its forms. I have gone to the prison house, and pryed into the mind of the felon who was at the break of day to expiate his crimes on the scaffold. I have planted myself there to behold him take his last gaze for ever and for ever on the sky, the green earth, the river, the light. How strange it has seemed that he, that being, that breathing, living creature, formed as I am, who speaks, and thinks, and utters requests, and walks, and takes me by the hand to say farewell; how difficult to conceive, how awful, how deeply thrilling to reflect that, in one minute more he will not exist! That which addresses you now will not be. Its semblance only will remain, to mock you, with a vivid recollection of the original nature you had held communion with. I once formed a vague resolution of suicide, and I thus strengthened it. I wished to become familiar with death. I would gaze quietly on him, and apply what I saw concerning him to myself. I strained my fancy to conceive how I should feel, and act, and appear in such a crisis. I have held a loaded pistol to my brain sometimes, or a viol of poison to my lips; or I have stood leaning over the edge of a dizzy height; or I have looked down into the clear ocean billows, and goaded myself on to pass the dreadful gulf. Alas! coward that I was, I feared to die as well as to live, and have turned
to my lonely walk with a relief, and put off till some other period the execution of the design.
One day I met a fine fellow, from whom I had been separated many years. He was a scholar and an observer, and, some how or other, he had the art to draw from me an account of the true state of my feelings. Pray," said he, when I had finished pretty much what I have related above; " pray what time do you rise?"
"At ten," said I, rather surprised at the oddity of the question.
"And what time do you retire to bed?
"At one, two, or three o'clock,” said I, “Just as it happens.
And how is your appetite?"
"And you gratify it to―?" "The full extent."
"What do you drink ?”
Brandy and water, gin and water, &c."
He laughed heartily, although it made me angry; also, I confess, it made me excessively ashamed to have talked about suicide.
"Do you know what ails you?" said he.
"Yes," I replied, "I have a broken heart."
"Broken fiddlestick," said he, " you have the dyspepsia. Diet yourself; go to bed early; rise early; exercise much."
I have done so; I am now a healthy and a happy man, I smile to think I was going to blow my brains out, because I had the dyspepsia.
I was busily writing in my narrow dark back officea partly smothered laugh struck my ear-I looked up, a bright face peeped in at the door. It was dear little Charley. The rim of his hat was turned up to leave his blue eyes unshaded. In a moment his hand was in mine, and his rosy pouting lips were put up sweetly for
me to kiss, an operation which I should have performed even in more dangerous situations. He pulled me by the hand as he spoke,
"You must come out into the street and walk. I want you to buy me some torpedoes and a top. Ah, do come."
He pulled me again, and looked up with that eager real earnestness which in a child is so graceful. His mother's very face and voice. It was a pleasant afternoon. My hand was tired, my eyes wearied, and my mind sick of the tedious jargon which I was scrawling; at the instant a gleam of yellow sunlight fell upon the wall, and a breeze blew in softly from the window, and lifted the hair from my forehead. Charley knew his moment, brought me my hat, and gave me another pull. "Well, come," said I, "if I must, I must." A child can drag us to what we wish.
So, off we went; he buoyant with hope, I quietly pursuing my own recollections, until, with a succession of "pulls," which had commenced so successfully, he conducted me into the toy shop, whose multifarious and heterogeneous treasures had dazzled his fancy. I could fully enter into his feelings as he reached this attractive scene. His full dilated eyes wandered over the medley of infant wonders, very much as I suppose a child of larger growth would gaze about him if he were introduced into some vast magic garden, crowded with golden bars, precious stones, horses, carriages, pleasure boats, books, paintings, and idle heaps of newly-coined silver dollars and shining guineas. There were valuable little wooden trumpets, "those clamorous harbingers of blood and death," and appalling tin swords, of a gory red hue, leaden dragoons on horseback and in full gallop, but whether to or from the fight was wisely left to the conjectures of the spectator, humming tops, colored like the rainbow, a handsome set of tea things constructed out of pewter, one or two little "spirit stirring drums," some wax ladies in full dress, beside other expensive and useful articles.
Charley took a pretty deliberate survey of the scene, and gave many objects a careful examination before his important purchases were completed. He blew several blasts "long and loud " upon the trumpets, drew forth
the tin sword, ran his eye along the innocent blade, and made several menacing flourishes, as if he were just about to cut off the head off some rascally Algerine; he cracked the whip, bounced the ball, spun the top, and took up the dragoon, horse and all, in his hand, with such a look, that I feared the poor gentleman's fate was sealed, his unsheathed blade to the contrary notwithstanding; when a mask, which might have been moulded on the physiognomy of Caliban, caught his attention. The good natured old lady who presided over these fairy scenes smiled as she yielded to each wandering caprice and changing impulse, and I smiled myself as the sweet and girlish face of the delightful boy was encased in the uncouth and monstrous countenance which he had selected, and his soft voice came out from the hideous lips, and his golden clustering hair burst forth over the rough, wrinkled forehead. There are men who dislike children; but I think they are a great source of amusement. Their graceful actions, their outbreakings of feeling, the artless ideas which rise in their minds, and of which they can give but an imperfect expression-I am pleased to observe them, just as I love to watch the passage of a clear stream in the woods, when there are diamond sands on the bottom, and green sedges which wave with the very motion of the water; and the silver fishes are darting, while some old root or rugged stone juts out, and half dams up the brook, till the beautiful element loses its airy placidity, and gurgles over the obstruction like the purest liquid crystal.
Well, the bargain is made-Charley has taken the mask under one arm and six torpedoes in his hand. Some cake and a top fill his pocket, and full of sparkling pleasure we resume our journey. In short time the torpedoes are gone, the last at a large majestic dog, with the walk of a lion. The fellow turned around, and looked at us with much seriousness and dignity. The boy was absolutely hushed for a moment with the awe of his presence, and took my hand; but the worthy individual deigning us no further notice, found a place to his liking, and quietly laid himself to sleep.
There are certain moods of my mind when Charles is a more agreeable companion than many older and wiser. Life has a tendency to make us all hypocrites. As we
grow old we grow mistrustful and artificial. There is a kind of unmeaning good nature worn only for the sake of fashion, and often disguising angry or careless feelings. It flings a sort of mystery about the character of all other people, so that it takes some time to find them out. But there is a trusting spirit about a young child which exposes to your notice every operation of the mind. When I am with such a being my observation is not confined to his infant form and features; I cannot help perceiving the fragility of his mind and character. I believe I can in some degree enter into the fears and feelings of a sensitive mother when she gazes on her boy. She is familiar not only with his outward shape and bearing, but with his peculiar ways of thinking. She sees a mind and heart wonderfully delicate and feeble, exposed to innumerable influences, which may either close their existence or destroy their purity. Even in the stillness of her own apartment she can scarcely regulate their infant wanderings. How must she tremble then at the thoughts of what may happen when she shall be gone, and he committed alone to the dangers of the world, to disappointment, anguish, temptation, disease, and despair. It is as if one should fashion a light boat to float only on the waters of a summer lake, and should behold it gliding with the current through some widening and deepening river toward the stormy and boundless waste of ocean,
WHAT a life is a coward's! He is all agitation. He should have been born a woman. Then his trembling would have been so graceful in the eyes of the beauxso many whiskered lips would murmur, "do not be under the slightest apprehension, my dear, I will take care of you." What a mistake in nature to put the soul of a girl in a body six feet high !—to let the heart of a hare beat in the ample chest of a lion-to give a pair of great flashing eyes to express, instead of exciting terror