Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

distance, and the bank of the river forms a margin wide enough for many horsemen to ride abreast on it. By these banks a retirement much more pleasing than any pleasure which is to be found in scenes of "painted pomp," can be easily procured by following the winding of the stream for a short distance from the town of Clonmel.

Very shortly after Frederick's arrival his notice was arrested by the appearance of the fair Quakeress. Very many were the occasions that he passed and looked in, without further ostensible object than the purchase of what the shop afforded. Very frequent was their conversation on matters which their mutual positions rendered unimportant-and apparently on most common-place subjects-previous to his taking an opportunity of showing the interest which she excited in his mind. Many and many times repeated also was this before she even appeared to notice it, more than as the light ebullition of a young and impetuous mind, or the casual display of a thoughtless and mirth-loving spirit. But the plainspoken and homely nature of the language which those professing her creed were in the habit of using, led her to lend easy and confiding credence to any declaration which assumed the appearance of sincerity, and her mind had never been initiated into the artificial and deceitful plausibility which those long habituated to the ways of the world are so well aware of; so, when he told her so often that he felt an interest in her welfare, that he loved her, and that he cared for nothing but her, she began at last to suppose that these protestations were only preliminaries to his more serious intentions, and to flatter herself with a belief that he who talked so much of her welfare would eventually take the honourable steps which were necessary to ensure it. From listening to approving, from allowing of private conversation to sanctioning private interview, the gradations proceeded in a way most dangerous to the hopes and the prospects of a girl professing strict propriety; and she, unconsciously as it were, was dragged into a surreptitious compromise of her self-respect, which compromise at first she would have looked upon with horror, but eventually she was tempted to disregard. But further than the lightness of behaviour of granting a stolen interview to one whom she fully believed was about to declare himself more openly, no individual has ever laid to her charge, and no breath of disparagement to her virtue has ever ventured to mingle with the mention of her name. After some time their acquaintance had become, from his frequent visits, so intimate, that he used to visit in the evenings at her house, and to converse with her family. These visits were, however, short, and evidently meant by him as a blind to lull her suspicions, and to induce her sister to believe that all was going on honourably and favourably to her interests. They were also studiously timed, so as to take place when her father was away from home. That his conversation and his manuers should have been in the highest degree interesting to her, and that her love had become of the strongest character, no one could possibly doubt, and it was, accordingly, no matter of surprise that after a process of time he induced her to allow of their meeting together unknown to others, to walk by any of the roads where they might be likely to remain most unobserved. The road by the river Suir was selected as a place the most favourable for those interviews, and many autumn evenings used they to walk there, and to con

verse on the many subjects which his art of pleasing, or his talent of making himself interesting to fair listeners, rendered so easy and familiar to him. At first, the long evenings of autumn rendered those walks a much less formidable occurrence to a young female than a nocturnal ramble would be, but as the season advanced, and the nights fell early, the necessity of meeting him at hours which would have quite appalled her to have even entertained a thought of, was urged by him, and at last consented to reluctantly by her, and eventually many nights in the week he used to repair to the bridge which lies at one entrance to the walk leading from Clonmel onwards to Carrick-on-Suir, and she, wrapped up in her cloak and shawl, used to be also sure to join him there. As her sister was her confidante and attendant as far as the bridge, her progress out of the town did not alarm the suspicion of any of her friends who resided there; but after their separation, and her joining him for their ramble together, some young men belonging to the town were frequently observed by him to make their appearance suddenly from some turn of the roads which branched from the river-side, or sometimes from the fields on the side of the country which they passed as they proceeded down the course of the road leading to Carrick. Had this occurrence taken place only once or twice it would not have caused them any disturbance; but the frequency of the interruption, and the circumstance of the parties who caused it following him and Miss Graves at some little distance as they pursued their walk, irritated and annoyed him excessively, and caused her great uneasiness. Who the parties were, what their object, and why they dogged him in this disagreeable and unmanly manner, he was totally unable to find out, and she was equally in the dark on the subject. It might have been that the men were in hopes that he would propitiate them by giving them some douceur, to ensure their permitting him and his companion to proceed unobserved; or it might have been, though not probable, that some jealous admirer of the lady had watched the progress of their intercourse, and taken steps to molest the privacy of their meeting, though he could not prevent its occurrence. From those who were her well-wishers, such conduct could never have arisen; and from any enemy of his, the secret, the dishonest breaking in upon his path, was so contemptible and hateful, that few could wonder at his rage in finding himself so frequently and so unpleasantly harassed. Of any feeling bordering on enmity which could exist between her and any inhabitant of the town, she was totally unconscious. But, notwithstanding all this, very seldom indeed did they proceed on their walk without encountering the appearance of some of these young people. At length he was so far exasperated with their conduct that he resolved to inflict a corporal punishment upon the first intruder who should make his appearance; and, previous to his leaving his quarters for the intention of joining Miss Graves, he one evening armed himself with a cudgel, for the purpose of putting this design into execution. He was not at all the sort of person who pursues the path of pleasure in secret, and prudentially avoids the publicity which sometimes is fatal to the object he wishes to attain; he, on the contrary, with a confidence of spirit and buoyancy of mind congenial to ardent temperaments, and common to those possessed of peculiarly fine personal appearance, was frequently in the habit of alluding to his pursuits and contemplated exploits, and he often mentioned young friends-the officers of the regiment which he belonged to

to his

-the various circumstances attending this affair. He told them of the annoyance he experienced from the unknown parties, and from one of them he borrowed the stick with which he was armed on the occasion that I speak of. His air, his manner, his attitude, the confident words, the oaths, the exposition of his disgust at the baseness, the meanness, the cowardice of the parties who thus dogged him, and his frequent reiteration of the assertion that he would treat them as they deserved, are now as vividly impressed on my mind as though they had appeared before my view yesterday. I do not coin it from my fancy, it passed before my eyes. What morals, what lessons, what warnings do the numerous events which we meet with in our career through life afford to point us to what Scripture and truth inculcate as errors and snares to be avoided, and delusions of Satan to be shunned! If we would look around us, or recollect what has passed to our knowledge, there is much, very much, to corroborate the truth, "Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." And many are the instances of a headlong course of vice being arrested by Him who holds the weaving of our earthly thread of life at His own disposal, and whose almighty decree ofttimes wills it that

-our pleasant vices Make instruments to scourge us.

He proceeded then, in the highest zest of good spirits, to the appointment which he had made to meet the young lady at the bridge. On his approach, she, according to her custom, parted from her sister and joined him. Her only sister was her sole friend and counsellor. She had not trusted to her mother early in the transaction, and was, consequently, deprived of the comfort which the admonition and guidance of one more elderly and nearly allied to her could have at first given her. Afterwards, as the matter began to be more serious, shame prevented her from opening her heart to her mother, and thus the first step of transgression led to consequences which she never could have contemplated. Under pretence of visiting a relative, her sister and herself used to leave the paternal roof, and the interview which took place between her and young Mr. Clany did not ever last very long; but while they were engaged together, her sister used to go to the house of their relative, and return from thence in time to meet her at the bridge after her walk, and then would accompany her home. Such was the usual order of the interview. But, on the night that I speak of, when he left the barracks and met her at the bridge, he was surprised to find her alone. They joined company, and proceeded on the walk down the river Suir, leading on towards Carrick. They did not speak much for the first hundred yards, but when they found themselves in a part that was not overlooked, and where they could converse unobserved, he paused and turned to the figure which was beside him. He found she was in tears. On his asking her what grieved her, it was long before she found words to answer him. She shed floods of tears, she buried her face in her handkerchief, and seemed as if it was impossible she could find comfort. At last she spoke. She addressed him in a mournful manner, entreating him to recollect the time, the situation, and the circumstances under which she first met him; the hopes that she entertained of his acting so that she might be placed in a situation not to be spurned and slighted by her friends; the cruel shock that his long delay of declaring himself had given to her feelings; and many more expostu

lations and expressions of grief she used, but ended by saying that it was the last, positively the last, time that she could ever consent to be in his society until he spoke seriously to her friends, and that now their intercourse had proceeded so far that her sister had told her she would not any longer allow herself to be her associate in those excursions from home, and that she fully intended to inform their parents of all that had passed between him and her that had come to her knowledge.

When the weeping girl, in her heart-stricken accents, implored and appealed to him to show that he was indeed friendly and honourably disposed, by relieving her of a doubt more bitter than any actual pain could be to her namely, the doubt of whether his affection was real or feignedwhether he wished to make her honourably regarded or slighted and scorned by the world-whilst she was conversing, they walked onwards, and arrived at a part of the road where there is a lane branching outwards from the river. But there was a high bank between the road and the country, and on the other side of this bank her sister had walked unperceived, and overheard what passed between them. On their arrival at the turn of the lane, her sister hurried homewards by the way she came, and did not wait to hear more, nor yet stay at the bridge for her return. For her return, alas! The next day neither did her friends see or hear more intelligence of Miss Graves, or the officers of the regiment gain any information in answer to their inquiries for Mr. Clany. Many and various were the rumours; her family supposed that they had eloped. The roads, the different stage-coach offices, the drivers of cars, and the police,—all these were resorted to and those examined; but no trace, no news, no clue to lead to the truth of what had transpired or what had become of the youthful couple. It was, however, so far evident that they had not taken their departure in any vehicle from the town, but it was barely possible that they might have walked to some distance and engaged some driver by a large reward to take them up and drive to some place where they might find some public conveyance. However, no pains were spared to make the inquiry effective. The officer in command wrote to the persons in the stage-coach offices in the several towns of the neighbourhood, detailing the descriptions of both, and the circumstances attending their absence. The police repaired to the river-side and searched eagerly to find, by the trace of footsteps or by any mark that could show themselves, as to what could have taken place in the spot where they were last seen. One of the policemen found a hat near the road or lane which branched off from the river-side, and proceeded with it to the barracks. On this the supposition immediately suggested itself that some struggle had taken place between some party unknown and Mr. Clany, and that the hat had fallen off and the unfortunate young man been thrown into the river. On further inquiry, the hat was identified by a hatter in the town as one which had been purchased by the young officer. After this, the excitement that ensued was immense. The officer in command wrote to the friends of Mr. Clany, informing them of the mysterious and unfortunate transaction, and all the officers of the regiment agreed upon giving a large reward to any person who could give effective information relative to it.

The feeling that prevailed amongst the soldiers was so strong against the inhabitants of the town, that, after about a week, the authorities of the district judged it proper to remove the regiment to a distant quarter. But, previously, the commanding officer had put Mr. Clany's friends in pos

session of all the facts that could be elicited, and submitted to their choice whether he should then have the river dragged, or wait until the arrival of some responsible friend of his to superintend the mournful task. Mr. Clany's brother wrote to say that he would forthwith take his departure for Clonmel. He went, but did not reach the town till after the regiment had left it. Taking into consideration the interest created by the mysterious event, and also the great likelihood of animosity ensuing in consequence of it between the military and the civilians of the town, it was no matter of surprise that the general of the district should advise the removal of the regiment.

When the brother of Mr. Clany arrived, he first hired men, under the superintendence of the police magistrates, to drag the river in the vicinity of the spot where the hat was found. It was well that, during this anxious and dreadful process, there were not present any of the soldiers who had served under the command of the young officer. This additional stimulus to the excited feelings which moved all of them would doubtless have been productive of the most serious consequences to the peace of the town, and would probably have caused bloodshed; for there was something of so harrowing a nature in the doubt and anxiety which dwelt in the minds of all those who superintended the fearful task, that the effect which its operation might have worked in acting upon ignorant and passionate young men might have been appalling. After several hours' labour in the deep and fast-flowing waters of the Suir, the dragsmen struck upon a body that was lying still at the bottom of the river, about two hundred yards from the place where the hat was found, and a short way from the shore. They drew it up. There was now no doubt. It was the corpse of the unfortunate young man-poor Frederick Clany. His countenance was quite serene; his clothes were not in any way displaced; his face or body bore no mark of violence. He had been lying probably in that position and place for several days, and no sign of any decomposition had ensued. The frame, the stature, the features, were all exhibiting the finest symmetry of the human figure. The youthful spirit cut short in its very spring-time of fervent energy! the wild exuberance of temperament extinguished in the very heyday of youthful joyousness! the pale, cold corpse, all that remained to remind those that knew him of the frail

ure which binds the leasehold of our mortal existence, the miserably poor hope of happiness which dazzles before the eye of the world's votaries! But only half of the sad catastrophe which had befallen to the youthful pair had as yet been disclosed, and the friends of the young lady, as well as the elder Mr. Clany, remained still at the river-side, and renewed their injunctions to the dragmen to continue their search, when, after the lapse of half an hour, about fifty yards from where the officer's body was found, the men succeeded in lighting upon the lady's. It was raised up. The same peaceful, calm, beautiful repose which marked the character of her countenance when living, was set and fixed upon her features in death.

In life itself she was so still and fair,

That death with gentler aspect withered there.

It was truly touching. But the sad consolation still showed itself to her friends, that no violence of any kind could have been used before throwing her into the river, and that the fiends in human shape who were the guilty perpetrators of this diabolical deed, had inflicted no previous

« AnteriorContinuar »