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She lingereth not in her course,
With a rapid and soundless motion,
At home, in Eternity's ocean!
There, a sea of saints redeemed,
For Christ hath gone before us :
As we join the loud angel-chorus.
A NIGHT OF TERROR.
"A fearful night!
The rain poured in torrents from the darkened heavens, the thun. der roared, the lightning flashed, and it almost seemed as if the fate of Gomorrah hung over the city, so fearful was the strife, so endless the war of the angry elements. The deluged streets were perfectly deserted; apparently, no human being dared to venture forth. The hour of midnight had already sounded from the different clocks in the town, and all animate nature seemed awed into silence; when suddenly, by the occasional flashes, a carriage was seen to dash through the streets with a rapidity scarcely equalled by the lightning itself; it might have been the chariot of some Spirit of the Tempest flying from the pursuit of a victorious enemy, so recklessly did it rush through the thick darkness which enveloped all around.
It stopped before the door of a small, obscurely-situated house, when a tall figure, closely wrapped in a cloak, sprang from the box where, apparently regardless of all risk, he had sat enacting the part of coachman; and pulling the bell with a violence which threatened its destruction, he at length succeeded in rousing one of the inmates of the dwelling.
So strangely-timed a visit probably excited the apprehension of the individual thus imperatively summoned; for instead of opening the
* If our readers would learn somewhat more of the work from which this 'Night of Terror is taken, and something farther of the ultimate bearing of the scene itself, they are respectfully referred to the ` Editor's Table' of the present number.
door, a female voice was heard to demand from a window above, the name and purpose of the impatient visitor.
• In the name of all that is good, for the love of heaven, and the fear of hell, come down instantly, and do not stop to ask any more questions, or you may have the life of a fellow creature to answer for !' was the hurried reply.
The woman seemed less surprised than might have been expected from the impetuous manner of the strange visitor. She was evidently one accustomed to witness the agitated and anxious sympathy they generally betray who watch the agonizing throes of her whose appointed task it is, through groans and suffering, to bring into the world an accountable being. It was her business to usher into life these little heirs of immortality; and she knew that the joys of parents are often purchased by some hours of anxiety to the one, and no slight meed of previous bodily suffering to the other; she therefore did not much wonder at the excited manner of the individual who had called upon her at such an unseasonable hour; but supposing it might be some case of peculiar urgency, for which he thus hurried her to the exertion of her skill, she hastily provided herself, as she best could, with protection against the storm which still raged with unabated fury, and ran down stairs without farther questioning.
But what was her horror on descending, to perceive that not only was his figure completely muffled in a cloak, but that his face was entirely concealed by a mask! She was about to rush back up stairs, when he seized her with a grasp which set all resistance at defiance, and proceeded to bandage her eyes with his handkerchief. As was to be expected, she struggled violently, and reiterated the question as to who he was, and what was his plea for such unwarrantable usage. He replied by drawing from beneath his cloak a pistol, which instantly silenced the frightened woman.
• Be still,' he said, and I pledge you my honor as a gentleman that you shall receive no injury; but give vent to one scream, call once for assistance, and you shall never utter sound again, until the last dread trump wakens the dead! It is for the good of others, and not for any harm to yourself, that I call upon you to submit to all that I shall see fit to do. You are wanted for one to whom your assistance is imperiously and immediately necessary, and you must accompany me, and do your duty without inquiry and without remonstrance. I repeat, any struggle for assistance or escape will be fatal to you. 1 never threaten twice!'
All this was said rapidly, and although with dreadful energy and emphasis, in a suppressed tone of voice, the mysterious stranger having closed the street door as soon as the female admitted him. He now again opened it, and beckoning the footman who, masked like his master, stood ready with his hand on the carriage door; the steps were instantly let down, and the woman, reflecting that not only might any objection on her part occasion instant death, but that it might also de prive a fellow creature of the aid which, from what had taken place, must have been considered imperatively necessary, she suffered herself to be thrust into the carriage, the door was immediately closed, and
uttering the single word • Beware! the disguised stranger again mounted the coach-box, and urging the horses to their utmost speed, they were soon flying through the storm with the same mysterious swiftness as before.
More than once was the woman tempted to burst the door open, and by springing into the street, endeavor to make her escape; but the risk of being arrested, and the benevolent anxiety already alluded to, withheld her, and in almost breathless silence she kept her seat. Every precaution had been taken to prevent her discovering the course of the vehicle, for not trusting to the darkness of the night, the blinds were so securely fastened that it was impossible for her to let them down for an instant, and she could by no means catch a glimpse of the streets through which they passed. It seemed evident to her, however, that instead of pursuing a direct course, the carriage went more than once round the same square, and backward and forward through the same street: at last it stopped suddenly; the door was immediately opened ; she was almost dragged out; the same strange hoarse voice muttered 'Come!' and without being allowed an instant to take breath, she was hurried through what seemed a long passage, and up a flight of stairs; a door evidently opened, she was led in, and it was again closed ; then, and not till then, was the bandage withdrawn from her eyes.
Having regained the use of her sight, she began to look eagerly around her; but the stranger, without taking off his mask, drew her quickly to the bedside, and pointing to a female who lay thereon, bade her render her the necessary assistance. This unfortunate being was evidently in a state of extreme suffering. • The hour of Nature's sorrow' pressed heavily upon her, and she lay on her side and groaned piteously: no human being stood near to alleviate the pangs she endured ; and as if to add as much as possible to their poignancy, a mask closely covered her face, and thus as it were threw back upon her the burthen of the long deep groans, which seemed to be forced upon her in spite of her evident efforts to restrain them.
The woman's first idea was, it appeared, to relieve her patient from this extraordinary and cruel encumbrance; but the man, as soon as he perceived her benevolent intention, grasped her hand, and muttered in a low but stern voice, ' It must not be removed.' She felt that no remon. strance would avail with the awful and mysterious being into whose power she had been strangely thrown, and proceeded to do what she could for the relief of the poor creature who lay prostrate before her, in. sensible apparently, to every thing but the agony she endured.
Nature struggled long ; it seemed as if the infant, thus about to be smuggled into life, dreaded to enter a world where so strange, so stern a reception awaited it ; until at length the delicate frame of the future mother could no longer endure the mortal anguish, and she fainted.
Instinctively, and if not forgetful, at least heedless of the imperative commands of the stranger, the woman, without stopping to consider the risk she might incur by thus braving him, tore the mask from the face of the insensible sufferer, and disclosed to her astonished' gaze one of the lovliest faces she had ever beheld.
· would you
Woman ! exclaimed the man, in a tone of suppressed rage, did I not command
you ?' • Brute !' retorted she, would you destroy two at once ? murder both mother and child ? See, her strength has failed; her pulse is gone; she may be dead in five minutes, if she is stifled by this hor. rid mask.
• Dead !' muttered the man, in a low deep voice of uncontrollable anguish; dead! oh, no! any thing but that!'
The woman was too much engrossed by her needful care of her patient, to heed his words; and he, perceiving that she had succeeded in restoring the fainting form to animation, returned to the occupation which seemed to have shared his attention with the business of keeping a watchful eye upon the proceedings of the woman, viz., that of heaping log after log upon an already blazing fire in an adjoining room. This seemed the more extraordinary as the Spring was far advanced, and the tightly.closed doors and windows rendered the atmosphere of the room more than sufficiently warm without such unseasonable aid. The door between the two rooms opened just opposite the bed ; and as he paced up and down between it and the fire-place, he at each turn added to the immense pile, spite of the woman's more than once venturing to suggest to him that the room was already oppressively hot.
At length the struggle ceased, and the voice of a living child greeted the newly-made mother's ear; but no muttered sound of thanksgiving breathed in joyful contrast to the feeble wail of the infant; no beloved voice bade her “remember no more her anguish, for joy that a man was born into the world. The strange being did indeed spring forward as the woman announced to him (hoping thereby perhaps to soften the asperity of his apparently demoniacal temperament) that a noble boy, straight in limb and perfect in proportion, lived to bless his parents; but it was not to bestow a father's blessing on his first-born; it was not to imprint a father's kiss upon the miniature features: no, it was not the warm pressure of parental affection ; but rather the savage grasp of a fiend, with which he seized the new-born infant, even before the woman had time to cover the little quivering frame with a single garment, and with rapid strides advanced with it to the fire, which has been already alluded to. The unfortunate mother seemed partly aware of the man's horrid purpose, even before her attendant, engrossed with the necessary cares for her restoration, had perceived his approach, and in the most piteous accents besought him to replace the child beside her; a name evidently trembled on her lips; but even in that awful moment, caution prevailed, and no word which could betray him escaped her. She pleaded however in vain ; the mysterious wretch, for such he truly seemed, stopped indeed, apparently in spite of himself, at every new entreaty, but his purpose, as it appeared, remained unaltered, for he replied in the same hoarse voice : • It must be done — you know it must be done!
• Gracious Heaven! and by your hands!'
· Are they not fittest for such a deed ?' replied he, in a tone of intense bitterness.
• No! no! no!' almost screamed the miserable mother; it shall not
be; Heaven and Earth alike forbid it. Oh! do you take it from him !' continued she, addressing the woman; “you who have been rudely dragged to this house of guilt and misery ; forgive me,' (and here her eye turned to the masked figure, while as before a name trembled on her lips, though still she did not utter it,) • I know it was for my sake : but even this woman, who has no reason to feel grateful to either of us, she I am sure will add her prayer to mine.'
• Take it then !' said the man, almost flinging the infant into the woman's arms, without giving her time to recover her powers of speech, benumbed as she was with horror, sufficiently to make any answer, 6 and let it be done quickly.'
What ?' demanded she.
• Destroy it, and that instantly, in that fire; and let not a trace of it remain !
A faint scream of deep agony broke from the enfeebled mother, while the woman exclaimed: · Wretch! do you think any thing could tempt me to such a deed ?'
• Then give it to me!' He was about to snatch the infant from her arms, but the mother, turning on her a look of mingled despair and entreaty, besought her not to suffer him to take it from her. The woman, apparently struck with compassion at the piteous words, which indeed seemed the last the poor sufferer might ever utter, seeing that she now sank back upon her pillow, with but little sign of life, retreated before his approach, pressing her burden more tightly in her arms.
• Then,' said he, you must do the deed; for I swear to you it shall be done, and that instantly!'
Without farther remonstrance, the woman now wrapped the little trembling, wailing infant in her cloak, which she threw hastily around her, and with an air of desperate resolution walked toward the door, saying:
* If I am to execute your horrid purpose, you must remain by the bedside of that poor victim of your's; she must not be left an instant in her present state ; you must also suffer me to close the door, that the screams of the poor baby may not quite pierce its mother's ears; and give her this,' she added, pouring something from a vial; “it may dull the consciousness of her misery, at least for a while.'
The man acquiesced without making any answer; administered the draught ; and sternly folding his arms, took his place by the side of the unhappy sufferer, who, completely exhausted by the efforts she had just made, still lay almost insensible, only giving evidence of life by the labored heaving of the snow-white chest, which had been completely bared to prevent her from sinking under the excessive heat; and an intense stare, which showed but too plainly that consciousness had survived her strength.
Almost immediately after the woman had shut the door, the screams of the infant became fearfully audible; the man struck his closed fist rudely against his breast, as if to lay prostrate any feeling of compassion that might lurk there; and planting his foot firmly on the floor, seemed determined to continue resolutely insensible to the pleadings of nature,