Imágenes de página

powerful, and headlong; and I felt as if nothing short of a miracle could

save me.

I really believe that Lockwood chiefly interpreted the truth of the inward effort my heart was making to be released from its second thraldom of revenge; for as I was pausing after his last exclamation, he again interposed to hurry me on into the sea of passion.

"What," cried he, "will you echo my cry of revenge,' and then, when I exclaim it is ours,' do you desert me? Or is it true, that the fearful story of your parents' undoing, joined to that of the thousand worldheaped insults yourself have received, needs no further avengement? For shame, Ambrose, for shame!Grasp that which I now offer; let this one week make all I desire complete, and the next shall bear us away from this cursed land for ever, to begin a new life, with new prospects and new happiness, in some country where justice yet lives, and has a practical acknowledgment."

Yes, yes, my father must have read my thoughts; for if any thing could have confirmed me in the path that he was dictating, it was that last hope that he had presented to me; and I exclaimed, as I listened to his words, "You have but to command, for me to obey. Let us fly this hateful Eng. land; and let us, ere we go, make a fearful reckoning for the injuries under which we have had to writhe."

"My own Ambrose! now you have spoken words that make me proud of my son. It only remains to put you in possession of my meaning to make you feel in your judgment, that which already has impress in your mind. When I related to you, six months since, the tale of the sufferings I had received at the hands of Foster, I was so wrapt in his crimes, that I forgot to advert to the only in dividual that he had made the sharer of his confidence and the upholder of his sins; for when the prime instigator of mischief is within our clutch, it is the nature of man to overlook the more humble accomplice. But no sooner had the monster suffered retribution by your hands, than my attention was directed to him, who, Foster being dead, stalked before my eyes like his ghost, mowing and chattering scornfully in my ears, as though

Foster in me lives

he would say, again-lives to spurn at Ellen's tomb -to spit at and disdain your husband


"And what has become of this wretch ?" demanded I, heated almost to fury by my father's words.

"Aye, aye," replied Lockwood, "I like that question;-it bespeaks a mind panting for justice. This miserable reflector of Foster's enormities is within our power; he lies hard by in one of the dungeons of the townprison; he, too, has been caught in the fangs of the law, and execution three days hence is to be done upon him. Ambrose, do you understand me? Three days hence he is to be hanged; and you are in the town,-— nay, within one little furlong of the jail! Do you not comprehend, dear Ambrose ?"

"More blood for Ambrose, wherewith to stain his soul! Oh God, my father, I cannot do it!"

[ocr errors]

"Not do it!" shouted Lockwood; cry shame upon the puling words, and thank me for having thus a second time fostered your revenge, till it has arrived at full maturity. Think you I have worked only for myself? No; it was you that were the prime mover of all my efforts,-you, the only being in this world I have to love, to care for, or avenge. And will you now desert the glorious result that I tender ready to your hands ?"

"And shall we, this accomplished, indeed quit England for evermore ?"

"I swear it, Ambrose! It was for this last act alone that I have delayed our departure since Foster's death."

"Then let us go this very day," I cried. "Is it not enough that we leave the wretch in the law's allpowerful grasp, but that I must again be its executioner ?"


"There lies the sum of all!" vehemently exclaimed my father. pine to stand below the gallows, even as I did at Okeham, and shout as I see the body of my foe swing nerveless in the air;-I long to be able to inform myself with endless repetition, 'It was Ambrose that did this good deed.""

"No, no, no!" cried I; "it will be that repetition that will kill me.” "Not when you know all!" "Know all, my father ?"

"Aye," returned he; "you have

not yet heard who this fresh victim of our hatred is. Did I not tell you, when first you heard my story, that it was with joy I learned that Foster had dared to marry, that all his ties of nature might be withered by my hand? His wife, alas, escaped me by dying too early for my schemes; but the boy she left behind-Foster's only son-his dear Charles-his pride Charles!-Ha, ha! it is he that is to suffer three days hence!-it is he that I call on you to immolate, for the sake of mine and your mother's wrongs!" Oh God, how the words of Lockwood struck upon my soul! It seemed to me as if he had felled me with some mighty mental machine, and my whole brain staggered beneath the blow. Charles-the gentle, kindhearted Charles,-he, the chosen single one of all the human race-the only being that had ever volunteered the wretched outcast Ambrose an act of grace—was to be the victim of my butchery! I verily believe, that had the mere recollection of the youth occurred while my father had been prompting me to fresh revenge, that alone would have been sufficient to have checked his weightiest word, to have brought from my lips a steady refusal to his plans.

And I was to be this angel's executioner!

[ocr errors]

No, no, no!"-Aye, I screamed aloud with agony, as again I uttered, "No, no, no!"

Lockwood appeared astounded at the sudden change I presented to his view. He gazed upon me as if to read my motive; and not meeting with the solution, he demanded sternly "What now, Ambrose?-what is this, boy ?"

Again I shouted, "No, no, no! I would not harm a hair of Charles's head to serve myself everlastingly!" "And our revenge"

"Talk not of revenge, father! It will be no revenge that Charles should die. Nay, for mercy's sake, as you have plotted his death-now, at my entreaty, help to save him!"

"Save him!" exclaimed he; "I would not save him if I had ten times the power to do it. But who is to save him? He is marked for execution!"

"I will save him, if Heaven will give me strength!"

"You, Ambrose !"—and, as he


spoke, Lockwood put on those looks that once, at the cottage in the fens, had so overruled my words and very thoughts. "You save him, Ambrose! Hark ye, boy; I know not what this change portends, but I command that here it cease. We have met for business, not for silly exclamations that want a meaning.'

But the reign of my father's power was fast growing to an end. Impulse, that till now had been in its favour, was at last arrayed against it. Nor was I still the unknowing child I had been when he had last resorted to the same means; and even were I, the image of Charles seemed to have a supernatural power over my every sensation. I had picked him, as it were, from the rest of mankind

divested him of his mortality-and enthroned him in my heart, the very god of my admiration.

It was under this influence that I replied-" They do not want a meaning, sir. On my soul, they mean, that if man can save Charles from execution, I will accomplish it. And you, too, must assist. When it was vengeance on Foster that you asked, I assisted you; now, that it is mercy on his son that I require, you must assist me."

Lockwood seemed wonderstruck at my manner; but the more he marvelled, the more was he enraged.

"Dog!" cried he, "do you talk of mercy when I talk of vengeance? Down, sir, down on your knees, and swear to do my bidding; or I will curse you with news that shall make your heart sicken, and the very life shrink from your bosom."

"You have cursed me with news," I exclaimed, half mad; "news more bitter than aught else could conjure into mischief. But Charles shall be saved. I will go to the magistrates and tell all I know."

Lockwood absolutely foamed with passion at the audacity of my words; but at length he muttered, as though he were grinding the words between his teeth-"Yes, or no-will you do my office?"

<< No, no!" I exclaimed, with a fierceness that seemed to excite him ten times more; "No, no! I will have Charles's life saved, and his course made happy."

"Then art thou utterly damned!" shouted Lockwood-"Listen, listen, 2 I

while I curse you with words only exceeded in their sharpness by their truth-You are no son of mine!" "For that I bless God," was my answer. Say it again, that I may humble myself before Heaven in thanksgiving!"

[ocr errors]

"I do say it again; and this time I add the name of your real parent -It was Edward Foster!-Come with me, thou wretch, through the streets of this great town, that I may point out to the multitude aghast, the man that hanged his father!"

I gazed on him who had uttered these appalling words; or, rather, seemed to gaze on him; for my eyes, though there fixed, saw nothing. "All my senses flocked into my ear," which still rang with the dreadful sounds it had heard.

"Fool," continued Lockwood, "stand not staring there! But laugh -laugh, as I do, to think how deep in parricidal wickedness your soul is steeped.-Ha ha! So the puler at last has qualms; and he who so blithely hanged his father, cannot fit the noose to his brother's neck! Well, well, poor wretch, the common hangman must do it instead; and you shall stand side by side with me below the gallows, and help me to count his dying agonies."

The very excess of anguish that these words inflicted, forced me into motion. My limbs unlocked, and my tongue loosened, as I faltered in reply Monster beyond belief, why has this been done? How did I ever injure you, to be exposed to misery so unutterable ?"


"Can you have heard my story," replied Lockwood, "and yet ask that question? Are you not the son of Foster? and did not Foster steal Ellen from her husband ?"


"Oh! Lockwood," I exclaimed, minute since, in the folly of my heart, I blessed Heaven when you told me that I was not your son. Now, I will bless you-nay, on my bended knees, will pray God to bless you, if you will retract those words, and once more tell me that I am yoursor only that I am not Foster's child!" "Then should I tell a lie !" replied the fiend-"Have you not had enough of those already from me? But you shall hear all, since this has turned out to be my day of truth-telling.Foster, by all that is sacred, is your

father; as for the rest of the story, I altered it a little to allow me to call you mine. It is true, that I left Ellen for two years-not exactly on your father's business, by the bybut I left no child; and you were not born till I had been absent a year. It was this, fool, and no silly dallying of parental nonsense, that made me steal you from the pony-chaise, and take such cunning steps that Foster, with all his anxious search, could never discover your retreat. All the rest is true. I watched him till the law better provided for him; and sent you as his executioner. The solitary life that you had led, and the insults you had received in your short progress towards Okeham, rendered you ripe for my scheme, which ever was to mingle you and Charles in Foster's ruin;-and if you do not recollect the rest, it shall be my daily delight to remind you of it; to"

"Never, never!"

"To sit by your side, and tell how Foster died!"

"Oh God, spare me!"

"To cheer your spirits, by chuckling in your ear an echo of the_glad laugh that burst from me when I saw his dead body dancing in the wind!”

"Wretch !-Monster!-Devil!"

"To wake you at night with an imitation of your father's groan;and to welcome you in the morning with a copy of the execration that has since attended you."

I could endure it no longer. I was mad-mad-mad! And, unwitting what influence ruled me, I rushed from the room, while he roared after me- Stay, good father-killer, your brother Charles lies waiting for your further practice !"

From the moment that I thus extricated myself from the piercing words uttered by the wretch, who, under the name of father, had seduced me to my undoing, I seemed to be in that state of bewilderment, when to think would be as easy as to lift a mountain in my arms. I stalked along, without noticing aught of the outward objects that surrounded me, and was employed in the endless repetition of the words, "good father-killer." It was well that I could not think-it was well that I was so amazed and horror-struck, that my mind was incapable of reaching any conclusion; for, had it been

otherwise, dreadful and instantaneous must have been the catastrophe. But, before I had really re-obtained the use of my reason, I had added to the words, "good father-killer," the rest of the demon's anathema-"your brother Charles lies waiting for your further practice." Those words, intended to curse me beyond redemp tion, were my salvation. He waited for my further practice.-Yes, for him I would practise; but it should be for his life, and not for his death; and if I failed, I swore by heaven and hell, that one hour should be hold the end of both,

The thought of the possibility of my being able to save Charles, made me for the moment forget the crime that I had committed at Okeham; the hope of preserving his life spread over my brain as the influence of brandy had formerly done; and it was under a sort of mental intoxication that I addressed myself to the labour.

I cannot pause to detail all that passed. Even now that I write these events, instead of enacting them, my brain is on fire, and I am ready to rend my lungs with shouts of joy, or tear my hair for maddening grief, according as the alternate picture of my brother or my father flashes across my mind.

It was Lockwood's wicked counsel that helped me in my first progress. I succeeded in getting myself appointed executioner to my brother; and, subsequently, by dint of such bribes as my slender means would allow, and large promises to the extent of the credulity of my instrument, I obtained ingress to his dungeon by favour of one of the turnkeys. It was midnight when I entered, and found him gently slumbering on his miserable pallet. As I leaned over, to watch a sleep such as I could never hope to enjoy, the mould of his features brought back to my recollection, with irresistible force, the countenance of my father, when, at the last moment of his existence, he bestowed on me his forgiveness. The thought that rushed into my mind overcame me, and I burst into a passionate flood of tears. One of those scalding drops fell upon the cheek of my brother, and roused him from his repose. He looked up, and gently cried-" Is

the hour arrived? So be it. I am ready!"

Oh, merciful Heaven! how his quiet accents ran through my blood! I could not answer him.

As he perceived my agitation, he rose from his bed-" Who are you," he cried, "that come with tears of pity?-Let me gaze on one that speaks so comfortably to my spirit."

I had turned away my head; but his words were all-persuasive; and, forgetting that my face was already too well known to him, I turned it towards him at his bidding. A shriek, that seemed to come from the bottom of his soul, told me how well I was recognised, and he, in his turn, averted his countenance, as if in dis gust at my presence.

A minute, or perhaps more, elapsed before either of us uttered a word. But at length he cried," Why is this? Or is it necessary that the executioner should come to tell me that all is prepared ?"

Words in seeming-daggers in sooth! The scathing scene of my father's death was again placed before me in all the horrid freshness of reality. But even that was softened by the influence of the errand that had brought me to my brother's dungeon; and I wept as if my heart would burst.

Charles seemed astonished; and the sound of my sobbing again induced him to turn his head towards me-"Yes, yes!" said he, after a second gaze,-" I cannot forget that face! You do not come here to mock me ?"

"To mock you, Charles ?"
"Charles !"

"Dear Charles," I replied, "I have been praying that my tongue might have power to reveal to you the very truth of my soul. But it cannot be ! It is beyond the reach of words; and I must be content to let my deeds stand alone. I have stolen hither to concert means by which you may be saved."

"Saved!" he exclaimed:-" Who are you? Are you not he that"

"Mercy! mercy!" I interrupted; "do not you remind me of that, lest in my madness I should think that you were Lockwood, and forego my task."

"Lockwood!" screamed my brother; aye, that is the villain's


name, who, not content with robbing my father, stealing his child, and murdering Ellen, crowned all by a dreadful betrayal of him to the scaffold."

I staggered with horror at the words that were uttered by Charles. Great God! could this be possible, after the story that Lockwood had narrated to me? At length I mustered words to exclaim-" Again,again,- -once more;-was Lockwood that villain ?"

"Too surely," replied Charles; "he was tried for breaking open my father's escritoire, and stealing money to a considerable amount. His sentence was two years' imprisonment, at the expiration of which he waylaid his wife, who, ill-used beyond endurance, had yielded in the interim to my father's addresses, and the next morning she was found drowned in the park lake. The infant that was with her could not be traced; and though Lockwood was subsequently apprehended and tried, he met with an acquittal, from the absence of a link in the circumstantial evidence, that otherwise carried with it full moral conviction of his guilt." "And the child?"

"The child was never found! But my father to his dying day felt persuaded that the hour would arrive when he would be forthcoming; and in this belief he gave me, on his last farewell, the portrait of the mother set in diamonds, under a strict injunction to deliver it, with his blessing, to my brother, when that happy discovery should be made.


alas! he has never been heard of: -and there will be no friend, no relation, to watch my last moments, when I am to undergo that death which has been unjustly awarded me."

[blocks in formation]

shall live-live to bless-to curse your brother!"

And in very agony of spirit I clasped my hands, and sank on my knees before his feet.

He started, as if afraid to listen to my words, while I almost unconsciously ejaculated," Brother, brother!"

"Call me not by that name," at length he said; "I would not in these last moments be at enmity with any-even you I would forgive.— But do not insult me with that appellation, lest I forget my forbearance, and spurn you as the murderer of my father."

"Yes, yes; I deserve even that but not from you! Oh, Charles ! if time permitted me to tell you how bitterly I have been deceived-how Lockwood has ever brought me up as his child, and roused me to the frightful stigma that has just escaped your lips by a thousand falsehoods, in the detail of my mother's miserable fate, you would not quite hate me, for the intervention of pity would prevent it. But the precious minutes fly! I have arranged a plan for your escape"

At this moment our conversation was interrupted by the friendly turnkey who had admitted me, shewing himself at the door, and exclaiming, in a low whisper, " Come, come, my lad, your time is up. I dare not give you more for ten times the sum you have promised."

"One minute, and I come," I cried; and with a sort of growling assent he withdrew.

[ocr errors]

"I have not time," I continued, turning to my brother, to explain. One word must do-sustain yourself even to the last moment; and when you get the signal from me, follow my bidding to the very letter! I shall be by your side!"


Charles looked at me doubtingly, and shook his head.

Again I kneeled-" Hear me heaven!" I exclaimed-" as I hope for mercy-as I do not expect it for the parricide-as I am a ruined, heart-riven man-I have not uttered one syllable that is not true! Farewell, dear brother-and-and do not refuse me the precious portrait of my mother, in token of your belief of my penitence."

« AnteriorContinuar »