« AnteriorContinuar »
of the manners and behaviour of the young man taught me to believe that he had done so successfully; that he had rendered him suspicious, distrustful of me; that by means of an incongruous collection of charges ; for they were so, and would so have appeared to the world at large ; he had made himself the too easy instrument of utterly alienating Frederick’s affections from his friend, his guardian, and his benefactor.
I watched the young man closely, I have said, and I was confirm. ed in my suspicions. He knows but little of my nature who supposes I could bear that certainty with patience. His constraint in my presence became more and more manifest; I could see that he felt it more. He was uneasy, embarrassed in my company; I on my part was taciturn, gloomy, and morose. I had collected mate. rials on which to act; it was now my purpose to put them into shape.
That he--the only being in the world for whom I cared a rush against whom the whole world would have weighed as lightly—that he who had been indebted to me, as an infant, for his life; as a boy, for his maintenance and protection ; as a man, for his station and prospects in the world ; who owed me more affection than he could have repaid by gratitude, if he did not repay it as I had hoped with affection ; that he should have turned against me—silently, without inquiry, without scruple : this was more than I could bear. It stung me; no, no—it maddened me! And yet what was to be done ? No more wild justice--no more revenge.
I could execute that no longer. I strove for once in my life to think and to act camly and dispassionately, and to be directed by the result of sober reflection, and the result of my reflections was madness, and yet I pondered deeply too.
Hartwell I despised too much to hate : I contemned and forgave him. Steiner was yet very young. I had hitherto given him credit for generosity of nature : inexperienced as he was, the subtle plau. sibility of a villain might have misled him. I had suffered so much from falsehood heretofore, I would now see what effect truth might have, the whole truth.
Frederick was too young when his father left England to remember him, and consequently he would not regret his loss. His mother had been dead many years. He should know all the physical calamity that when injured converted me into a madman ; the injuries I had en. dured ; all, he should know all.
If after hearing, he hated me, could he respect Hartwell? I had no longer a wish to live. If he was generous he would pity me; if otherwise, he might if he so pleased betray me. I made myself up for that, and I was pleased with it.
I met him early on the following morning. He entered the room hastily, looking wild and haggard.
“ You were late last night, sir," I remarked.
“ With Hartwell, I presume? He has told you something new respecting me."
“ He will tell me no more,” said he: “I have heard too much al. ready."
“ Not enough,” I replied, smiling bitterly : “I also have some. thing for your private ear. Sit down, sir!" and I seized him by the arm.
" Let me go !-I must not stay here! he exclaimed, striving to break from me; but I held him fast.
“ Nay but Frederick Steiner, you must stay. Promise me that you will hear me patiently; I will not detain you long.”
He sat down, covering his face with his hands. “I obey you, sir."
“ You must not interrupt me," I said.
Calmly,—for madness is sometimes calm-and with a studied emphasis,—for I had rehearsed it on the previous night, I confessed every thing, and paused, awaiting his answer.
I noted well the immovable gaze which was lifted up to me when I detailed the circumstances of my
first crime; that
which continued without intermission, without alteration, without meaning. I awaited his answer. Some minutes elapsed. I became alarmed; and rising, took him by the shoulder.
He shook me from him as though I had been a reptile, and bounded to his feet.
“ What have I done ?” he exclaimed, suddenly recollecting himself. • My great God! what have I done ?—Come not near me ! come not near me!”
I approached to pacify him. He seized me by the shoulders, and dashing me violently to the ground, rushed from the room. I had scarcely risen from the floor when he returned, and falling at my feet, clasped my knees.
benefactor, my friend, my father, forgive me !” he ex. claimed. “I knew not what I did ! What a dreadful, miserable mistake is this! I see it all now. You suspected me of having listened to Hartwell, of having believed him, which I never did. I thought from your manner you felt aggrieved by his calumnies -for calumnies, yes, by Heaven, they were! I met him this morning.”
There was a knocking at the door. “ Rise! for God's sake, rise !" I exclaimed. “No one should see you thus !"
A young gentleman entered the room.
“ Has not your nephew told you, sir," said Harris, raising his friend, “of the duel between Hartwell and himself this morning ? The man is dead. Prevail upon your nephew to fly.”
“Yes, I. must fly!” cried Frederick, breaking from him; “I must fly; but whither, and from whom? Oh, sir !" and he cast an imploring gaze towards me, “I am a murderer-a murderer !”
I was affected. He perceived it and fell upon my neck; and tak. ing my hands between his own, he raised and kissed them.
Oh, my best, my only friend, forgive me! as I shall pray, as I do now pray-what did I say?—for forgiveness for you."
He said no more, but hastened up stairs.
“Is he not rather long gone, sir?" said Harris. He need make no preparation under circumstances like these.”
«Gone ?-where?" said l. I had not been heeding the time. A thought, almost a conviction, flashed across me. “Run up stairs instantly!" I exclaimed, “ or you will be too late."
The words were scarce spoken ere the report of a pistol was heard. Harris had come too late. He had shot himself through the heart!.
What followed I cannot tell. I knew not-I felt not that he was dead for months afterwards.
Need I add more? What I have been the reader will conclude. What I am it were needless and profitless to tell. What I feel—if I feel aught now—may be best expressed in the words of an obscure author, whose name I have forgotten, but whose lines I remember.
“But we are strong, as we have need of strength,
One stirs it not, nor can the other move,
LINES WRITTEN IN A BALL-ROOM.
gay is this scene! where the music is breathing,
And Flattery's soft-utter'd whisper is found;
And eyes which are glancing like starlight around.
The long dreary silence of midnight away,
To all that behold them distribute their ray,-
The joy of such feelings must early decay.
At midnight, in silence, their tears of perfume,
Enamour'd, on beds of the hyacinth's bloom ;
Those eyes, which the purest of feelings illume;
For thee would the joy of existence resign,
Can gaze on no beauty so cherish'd as thine.
To find the deep stillness of midnight--divine.