Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

in the air and what little sunlight was occa- posture, and seizing in his right hand his sionally thrown upon it through the dense musket, which he continued at the trail, purbranches of the forest.

sued his route to the haystacks as directed. There are situations in which the mind is In the mean time, Corporal Nixon, with the nerved to do that from which, in cooler mo- remainder of the fishing party, was slowly ments, it would shrink with disgust. It descending the river, hugging the eastern shore chanced that Collins had retained the scalp so as closely as possible, in order that if, suddenly singularly found at the bottom of the river by attacked, they might on the instant leap into Corporal Nixon, and this circumstance at once the river, and, covering themselves by the boat, determined him.

fight their enemies at less disadvantage. The Instead of hastening by an object so appalling, Corporal himself and Weston kept a vigilant Collins rested his musket against a tree, and look-out, the one at the bow, the other at the taking the scalp from between the ramrod and stern, while the four remaining men, Jackson, the stock, where he had introduced it, knelt by Green, Philips, and Cass, pulled so noiselessly the body, and spreading out the humid skin to that the dip of their oars, and the unavoidable its fullest extent, applied it to the bleeding ex- jar of the rowlocks could not be heard at a cavation. As he had suspected, they corre- distance of more than ten yards. At this slow sponded exactly, making due allowance for the rate much time was necessarily consumed, so time they had been separated, and he had now that it was quite dark when they reached the no longer a doubt that the mutilated boy was traverse opposite the farm where Eph Giles Wilton, one of Mr. Heywood's “helps." A had crossed, and whither Collies had been much more important discovery than this, despatched to make his observations. however, resulted from his vain endeavours to The patience of the latter had been much recognise the boy from his features—these were tried, for it had seemed to him that his comso contracted with terror, as has already been rades had been an age in making their appearsaid, and so covered with blood, as to be undis- ance. The sun was just setting as he had reached tinguishable. But on turning him on his back the outermost haystack, and his anxiety for and passing his hands over his face, Collins his charge had become intense. Seeing the was surprised to find that there was not that canoe drawn up on the beach, and the paddles icy chill which he had expected; on the con- | in it, he had felt a strong inclination to cross, trary, the faint warmth which indicates sus- and procure some efficient relief for the insenpended animation; and deeper yet was the sible boy, but the silence that reigned around gratification of the rude soldier when, on the dwelling had awed him, and checked this opening the shirt, and placing his hand on the first and natural impulse. Not a soul was to heart of the boy, he felt an occasional and be seen-not a voice to be heard—not even the spasmodic pulsation, denoting hat life was barking of Loup Garou, the bleating of a sheep, not utterly extinct.

or the lowing of an ox. What could this mean? With an eagerness to preserve life in strong and was the fate of the boy connected with that contrast with his recent triumph at destroying of the other inmates of the farm ? If so, where it, his anxiety for the recovery of the boy was were they? almost paternal. Fortunately, the latter part Another consideration induced Collins to of the day had been free from the chilliness of suppress his first impulse, and that was the the morning, so that although the naked skull apprehension that his strange charge might be must have been for some hours exposed, the detained by Mr. Heywood, when his only genial state of the atmosphere gave fair ear- chance of recovery lay in the speedy examinanest that the brain itself, even if affected, had tion and dressing of his injuries by the surgeon. not sustained mortal injury. Spreading wide There was no alternative then but to wait the scalp in his open palms, Collins now patiently for the arrival of the boat, into which breathed heavily upon it until it attained what the boy could be placed, and so conveyed to he conceived to be the necessary warmth, the Fort. Meanwhile, as the night air was when, gently applying it to the denuded crown, becoming chill, and a slight fog rising from the to which he fitted it as well as he could, he water, the considerate soldier did all he could passed his handkerchief, which he had removed to shield his protégé from their pernicious from his throat, over it and under the chin of effect. Strewing on the ground a few armsful the boy, securing it in such manner as to pre- of hay taken from the stack around which the vent the chill of the approaching night from hungry cattle now gathered, eager for food, he affecting the injured part. This done, he extended on it the yet inanimate form of the poured a few drops of whiskey from his can- youth, embracing the body in order to impart teen through his closed lips, then wrapping to it the benefit of animal heat, and in this him up in the bearskin, and raising him gently position, his head being slightly raised, engerly on his left shoulder, he rose from his stooping endeavoured to discern, through the darkness, not only what might be seen on the opposite “ Yes, and what would that sweet young shore, but the approach of the party in the lady, Miss Heywood, think of us if we returned boat.

without giving some good news of her father? The sun had now been down more than two Why she would never look upon us kindly hours, and so dark was it, that in that narrow again." space, obscured by the blending shadows of the “Right, Philips," said Weston, “and I'm tall forests on either shore, it was difficult, at sure I'd rather offend the Captain himself, and five yards' distance, to distinguish anything stand a picketing, than do anything to dismoving on the water, unaccompanied by light please her. God grant we bring her no bad or sound. This silence was anything but news." agreeable to Collins, whose imagination, excited “ Amen," said the Corporal gravely, for he, by the later occurrences of the day, was filled like Collins, had some strange misgivings, with strange misgivings, as he looked in vain arising naturally from the utter silence and for the customary lights in the farm-house. darkness that continued to prevail in and The fishing party had never been out so late, around the farm-house. “Are you all loaded : and yet, at the very first fall of darkness, they Look to your primings, but make no noise. had been accustomed to see the place exhibit- Somebody must take charge of the boat though. ing at least one light, and the absence of this Who volunteers to remain, while the rest follow now caused Collins heartily to wish himself in

me to the house ?" the boat, and safely moored under cover of the

"I do ; I'll remain,” said Collins; "one of Fort. Not that the soldier was influenced by

you can take my musket.” apprehensions of personal danger, but because the darkness, the solitude and silence of the

“What, Collins, do you shirk the thing?" scene, coupled with his newly-awakened interest

remarked the morose-looking man with the in the almost corpse that lay in close contact long hooked nose and the peaked chin ; “ have

ay, or do you with his person, impressed him with a sort of you had enough work to superstitious feeling, not at all lessened by the fear the ghost of the fellow you knocked

over?" knowledge that his only companion at that moment belonged rather to the grave than to

“I fear neither man nor ghost, as you well upper earth.

know, Nutcrackers," warmly returned Collins ; At length his anxiety was relieved. The“ but I take it there's no great courage in sound of the oars, cautiously pulled, faintly making a fuss about going where there's no met his ears, and then the boat could be indis- enemy to be found. If there has been danger tinctly seen approaching the canoe.

To this there, it's passed over now, and as somebody succeeded a low call uttered by the Corporal. must stop in the boat, why not me as well as Collins replied in a similar tone, and then,

another?” bearing the body of the boy, still enveloped in “Just so," said the Corporal. “Cass, this is the bearskin, he, in less than a minute, rejoined no time to run your rigs. You see well enough his party.

that Collins wishes to stop behind on account The astonishment of the latter may be well of the boy he hopes to bring to life. Little conceived in witnessing so unexpected a sight, chance of that, I fear; but if he thinks so, it nor was their feeling of awe at all diminished would be unchristian to disappoint him. And when their comrade briefly related what had now push off, but make no noise." occurred since he left them.

The order was obeyed. In a few minutes “Strange enough this,” said the Corporal the bow of the boat touched the opposite landmusingly, “ stranger still that there's no lighting-place, when all but Collins, who was at the in the house. It is neither too early nor too helm, stepped noiselessly ashore. The Corporal late for that. I'll tell you what, my lads, if repeated his instructions how to act under anything has happened, we must know the emergency, and if separated; and moved along worst. It will never do to go back to the Fort the path leading to the house. Meanwhile without being able to give some notion of what Collins pulled back into the stream, and retook place under our very noses.”

mained stationary in the centre. “What would Mr. Renayne say if we did ?" added Jackson.

(To be continued.)

66

THE CREVASSE,

OR THE WIDOW MORE L.

BY E. B. GARDETTE, M.D.

The spring rains in the latitude of New Or- Mrs. Morel, though still in the prime of life, leans are so heavy and incessant, as to astonish was suffering from a rheumatic affection, which and even terrify those who are unaccustomed scarcely permitted her, on that morning, to to that climate, and sometimes involve a serious reach the neighbouring market-place, supplied danger to person and property, from the singu- with green-house plants and flowers, and where lar rapidity with which the city may be flooded. she habitually procured those she needed for The rain falls in such torrents, as almost to her holy purpose. Her lameness tempted her lose, or to seem to lose, its character of multi- now, for the first time, to permit Leopold to go plied drops of water, and become as one wide- alone to the cemetery, about a mile distant spread stream pouring from the mouth of some from her humble dwelling. Accordingly he was enormous vessel, upheld by mighty and invisi- soon dressed in his best suit, and in his hand ble hands, above this deluged spot of earth. held the little basket of sweet flowers, as he The suddenness too with which these rain-clouds listened attentively to his good mother's parting burst, affords but little notice to the unprotected instructions. She had more than once repeated pedestrian, who is often drenched before he has her earnest injunctions “not to stop by the fairly thought of the necessity for seeking shel- wayside,” either going or returning, and “Reter or a safe footing.

member, my darling boy," said the fond mother, About the year 1810, no attempt had yet as she constrained his eagerness to start upon been made to pave the streets of New Orleans, his proud errand, and recalled inwardly the and indeed the character of the soil, which sentiments associated with flowers, “ remember, seems but a crust of earth with water a few my son, these are the blue violets and half-blown inches below its surface, still induced the belief roses (expressing love); these the passion-flowers, that paving was impracticable. At this period amaranths and white daisies (hope and immortality the citizens often witnessed the curious sight and innocence), which you will carefully place of navigation immediately through the streets at the head of sister's grave.” With her hand boats traversing the town, as the only medium still on the basket, she continued pointing to the of intercourse between the inhabitants for two flowers: “Next are the yellow and purple heart's or three days together; while through the same ease (forget me not); the rosemary (for rememaquatic channel came the necessary supplies brance)—these are for the centre of the tomb; from the butcher and the baker.

and then the heliotrope and locust (devotion and It was but a few hours in advance of one of affection beyond the grave) are for the foot.” these heavy deluging rains in the month of Mrs. Morel made her interpretations of the April, that the poor Widow Morel had sent her language of flowers in thought only, and yet little son, now about eight years of age, with they seemed comforting to her heart. She now the early flowers of the South, to deck his little terminated her instructions by saying, “You sister's grave;—a pious duty, which yearly until will be sure to place the flowers, my son, as that day, since the death of her promising mother has directed you, and then think of the Emma, had been faithfully performed by the little prayer she has taught you to say at sister's fond mother. Leopold, the only remaining grave." Imprinting a gentle kiss upon his cheek, child of Mrs. Morel, was a fair-haired boy, that now was blooming with excitement, the whose pale cheek and languid blue eye bespoke mother, from her doorstep, saw her boy depart an appearance of more fragile health than was upon his sacred duty; her heart was sad with really his portion; for this resulted rather from the associations of the past, and her eyes watched sedentary habits and close and constant com- his cherished form, until it was no longer panionship with his mother, than from any visible in the dim distance, and then with a bodily ailment. The boy's heart beat proudly feeling of irresistible melancholy, she returned at the suggestion that he should go alone and to her neat little apartment, and sat down to perform the sacred task they had many times her needlework. accomplished together, of strewing fresh flowers In the first half hour after Leopold's deparupon the tomb of their dear Emma.

ture, Mrs. Morel drew from her bosom an old silver lever watch, one of the few legacies that and exposed. No rheumatic pain could be imastill remained of her late husband's limited pro- gined as having recently afilicted her, whilst perty; and she was greatly surprised to discover with a scanty umbrella, upheld by a more that only thirty minutes had elapsed; it seemed fragile hand, she started at a rapid pace, seemso much longer, and yet ere another half hour ing rather to run than walk. At the end of had slowly passed away, the mother opened a the first square, the high wind dragged the door leading out upon her front balcony, and poor covering from her grasp, and her umbrella looked in the direction of the cemetery. The in another moment, was seen whirling round beloved object her eyes were in search of, was the corner, far beyond reach or recovery. But nowhere visible, but she plainly and quickly this did not delay her steps; her thin locks and saw a coming storm; black clouds were rapidly clothing drenched, with uplifted hands, and and fearfully gathering, with all the indications calling aloud for Leopold! Leopold ! she still of heavy thunder; and ere Mrs. Morel had attempted to make “headway” against the

swelling streams that rushed across or followed her path, with equal danger at the various angles, as the ungraded streets' might direct them. From several windows as she passed, the promptly lifted sash and unheeded expressions, bespoke hospitable, kind hearts within, offering shelter from the storm; but so long as her strength endured she struggled onward, paying no heed to summons of kindness, or dangers and suffering to herself.

Had the alarmed and excited feelings of Mrs. Morel permitted her to notice the scene of passing events around her, at such a moment of general consternation, her better judgment would have pointed out the fruitless helplessness of her attempt. At one point, ere she reached it, she might have seen the long line of a funeral procession, with priests at its head, greatly quicken the slow dignified movement ha

bitual in the journeys reached the chamber for preparations to go with the dead, and eventually take shelter, as after her son, and again returned to the front best they could, within the houses in front of of the house, the rain was already falling fast. which they were passing. Had she then paused Her anxiety of mind hurried her on, heedless for a short time, she might have observed the of exposure and forgetful of her lameness or drenched driver of the lightly framed hearse delicate health. She knew the dangerous cha- quit his sent for safety, as he found his horse racter of the floods at that season, and her about to be swamped and eventually disappear heart now pictured them in their most exagge- in the middle of Custom-house Street. rated form, when her little Leopold was alone But the poor mother saw none of these trou

[graphic]

*

bles or difficulties; her own were too overwhelm- moment, as he thought, to observe them, while ing to allow attention to any others. Her pro- interest in the scene made him a poor judge gress had been but slight in comparison with how rapidly the minutes were passing away. her wishes or her exertions, and she had The cemetery was situated in the lowest scarcely accomplished more than half the dis- ground about New Orleans, and presented at tance to the cemetery, when the cry of“ Crevasse! the period we speak of, an appearance quite Crevasse !'' was hoarsely shouted in her ears by peculiar to itself, and very different from such a man, who ran past her at the top of his speed. domiciles for the dead, at the North. The This startling word added greatly to the existing shallow earth did not permit the digging of terror of the drooping woman, and she fell pros-graves, * and hence the bodies are disposed of trate upon the door-sill of the nearest house, (we cannot say buried) above the ground in a fainting with suffering and fatigue. She was soon species of ovens or narrow vaults, several of perceived by the family and carried in, the citi- which often cluster together, both side by side zens being very generally watchful at such mo- and over one another; a few are sufficiently ments, either to succour the helpless and dis- spacious to bear some resemblance upon the tressed, or to laugh at the precipitate movements surface of the earth, to our vaults below it. of those who are unwilling to receive such duck- The shrubs and flowers indigenous to the cliings upon broadcloth.

mate, ornament the grounds, but the deficiency Whilst the cries of“ Crevasse !” were multiply- of shade trees, and especially of solemn lofty ing with the increasing sense of danger, too well evergreens, deprived the spot of an important understood in those days by the inhabitants of feature, lending an air of sanctity and quietude New Orleans, the poor widow was kindly and such as belong to “ Laurel Hill” and “ Mount tenderly cared for under the hospitable roof of Auburn." & wealthy lady; and while dry clothing and The storm came up suddenly, as we have said, restoratives were being provided for her, little and it had begun to rain quite fast ere Leopold Leopold was not so lucky in misfortune. The was conscious of it, and when, with the rest of city had become at once in a convulsed condi- the boys, he felt its rapid increase, in his tion of excitement and apprehension, from the momentary fright at seeing himself thus caught announcement by many voices that the long- unprotected, he started to run with all possible feared crevasse had at last taken place. For speed, as he thought, towards his home. But some weeks, rumour, with her many exagge- he had unluckily gone up the wrong street, at rating tongues, had alarmed the timid, and right angles with that he should have taken to roused the preparations of the prudent, with reach his mother's house, and was unconsciously unfounded reports of a break in the Levee at directing his course towards a bayou or basin one point or another above the town. The on the outskirts of the town. The increasing high state of the waters in the Mississippi at rain and fast-swelling waters hastened him this season of floods, gave good grounds for along, and amounted to a stream that would fear, and now they were destined to be realized have greatly impeded his progress had he been by this sweeping and frightful visitation. So going in the opposite direction; but its even well is the danger of a crevasse understood on more unfortunate tendency was towards the the Mississippi, that the dwellings, and parti- low grounds of the bayou, and when, after a cularly those out of the city in isolated situa- short time, there came added to the rain, a tions, are built upon piers, with hydraulic sudden and heavy rush of waters in the rear cement, eight or ten feet high, which brings of poor little Leopold, he was soon overtaken the first floors above high-water mark. In the by a strong, irresistible current, and his feet city of New Orleans this may be the reason were carried from under him. The efforts of why the basement story, in those days of inse- the alarmed boy to regain his footing were curity, was generally devoted to horses and unavailing, and his resisting limbs were overCows, while the family resided above them. powered by the violence with which he was,

But to return to Leopold. Intent upon the from time to time, thrown against projecting strict performance of the duty entrusted to

* It is among the painful tales connected with this fact, him, he had quickly reached his little sister's

that at periods of great mortality from the yellow fever, a tomb, and the fresh flowers were disposed of summary mode of disposing of the dead was adopted, by according to his mother's directions. He had opening a small hole about eighteen inches square, and of murmured the inward prayer, and rubbing off no greater depth, into which one end of the coffin being the tear from his cheek, he started on his placed, a single kick from the undertaker at once and

effectually finished the job. The coffin instantly disapreturn homeward. Not many paces from the peared, and the same opening admitted of as many repetigate of the cemetery, Leopold encountered tions of the same quick ceremony as might be needed. boys at play. The marble-ring and chalked fin

But whether any increased faith in the theory of Captain

Semmes and his big hollow at the north pole, resulted to gers were rare and seducing sights to one of the people of Louisiana from this mysterious disposition of bis domestic habits, and he stopped but a brief their dead, we are unable to determine.

17

VOL. VI.

« ForrigeFortsæt »