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fancy the notion that within the dim confines of the “labouring air," mischief was working to the world.
The heat was intolerable, keeping almost every body within doors. The dogs, and other cattle in the streets, stood every where panting and loath to move. There was no small excitement, or rather agitation, diffused throughout the country, especially London; for, strange to say (and many must recollect the circumstance), it had been for some time confidently foretold by certain enthusiasts, religious as well as philosophic, that the earth was to be destroyed that very day; in short, that the tremendous JUDGMENT was at hand! Though not myself over credulous, or given to superstitious fears, I own that on coupling these fearful predictions with the unusual, and almost preternatural aspect of the day, I more than once experienced sudden qualms of apprehension as I rode along on my daily rounds. I did not so much communicate alarm to the various circles I entered, as catch it from them. Then, again, I would occasionally pass a silent group of passengers clustering round a street-preacher, who, true to his vocation, "redeeming the time," seemed by his gestures, and the disturbed countenances around him, to be foretelling all that was frightful. The tone of excitement which pervaded my feelings was further heightened by a conversation on the prevailing topic which I had in the course of the morning with the distinguished poet and scholar, Mr. With what fearful force did he suggest possibilities! what vivid, startling colouring did he throw over them! It was, indeed, a topic congenial to his gloomy imagination. He talked to me, in short, till my disturbed fancy began to realize the wildest chimeras.
“Great God, Dr. - !” said he, laying his hand suddenly on my arm, his great black eyes gleaming with mysterious awe “Think, only think! What if, at the moment we are talking together, a comet, whose track the peering eye of science has never traced -- whose very existence is known to none but God, is winging its fiery way towards our earth, swist as the lightning, and with force inevitable! Is it at this instant dashing to fragments some mighty orb that obstructed its progress, and then passing on towards us, disturbing system after system in its way?-How
when will the frightful crash be felt? Is its heat now blighting our atmosphere? — Will combustion first commence, or shall we be at once split asunder into innumerable fragments, and sent drifting through infinite space? Whither - whither shall we fly! what must become of our species ? - Is the Scriptural JUDGMENT then coming? - Oh, Doctor, what if all these things are really ut hand?"
Was this imaginative raving calculated to calm one's feelings? - By the time I reached home, late in the afternoon, I felt in a fever of excitement. I found an air of apprehension throughout the whole house. My wife, children, and a young lady, a visitor, were all together in the parlour, looking out for me, through the window, anxiously — and with paler faces than they perhaps were aware of. The visitor just alluded to, by the way, was a Miss Agnes P --, a girl of about twenty-one, the daughter of an old friend and patient of mine. Her mother, a widow (with no other child than this), resided in a village about fifty miles fror town from wbich she was expected, in a few days' time, to take her daughter back again into the country. Miss P — was a very charming young woman. There was a softness of expression about her delicate features, that in my opinion constitutes the highest style of feminine loveliness. Her dark, pensive, searching eyes, spoke a soul full of feeling. The tones of her voice, mellow and various — and her whole carriage and demeanour, were in accordance with the expression of her features. In person she was about the average height, and perfectly well moulded and proportioned; and there was a Hebe-like ease and grace about all her gestures. She excelled in most feminine accomplishments; but her favourite objects were music and ro
A more imaginative creature was surely never known. It required all the fond and anxious surveillance of her friends to prevent her carrying her tastes to excess, and becoming, in a manner, unfitted for the “dull commerce of a duller earth!”
No sooner had this young lady made her appearance in my house, and given token of something like a prolonged stay, than I became the most popular man in the circle of my acquaintance. Such assiduous calls to inquire after my health, and that of my
family!-- Such a multitude of men young ones, to boot- and so embarrassed with a consciousness of the poorness of the pretence that drew them to my house! Such matronly inquiries from mothers and elderly female relatives, into the nature and extent of “sweet Miss P - 's expectations !” During a former stay at my house, about six months before the period of which I am writing, Miss P - surrendered her affections — (to the delighted surprise of all her friends and relatives) — to the quietest, and perhaps worthiest of her claimants a young man, then preparing for orders at Oxford. Never, sure, was there a greater contrast between the tastes of a pledged couple; she all feeling, romance, enthusiasm; he serene, thoughtful, and matter-of-fact. It was most amusing to witness their occasional collisions on subjects which developed their respective tastes and qualities; and interesting to note that the effect was invariably to raise the one in the other's estimation as if each prized most the qualities of the other. Young N had spent two days in London
the greater portion of them, I need hardly say, at my house- about a week before the period of which I am writing; and he and his fair mistress had disputed rather keenly on the topic of general discussion the predicted event of the 10th of July. If she did not repose implicit faith in the prophecy, her belief had , somehow or another, acquired a most disturbing strength. He laboured hard to disabuse her of her awful apprehensions and she as hard to overcome his obstinate incredulity. Each was a little too eager about the matter: and, for the first time since they had known each other, they parted with a little coldness — yes, although he was to set off the next morning for Oxford ! In short, scarcely any thing was talked about by Agnes but the coming 10th of July; and if she did not anticipate the actual destruction of the globe, and the final judgment of mankind - she at least looked forward to some event, mysterious and tremendous. The eloquent enthusiastic creature almost brought over my placid, little, matterof-fact wife to her way of thinking!
To return from this long digression — which, however, will be presently found to have been not unnecessary. After staying a few minutes in the parlour, I retired to my library, for the purpose, among other things, of making those entries in my Diary from which these “Passages” are taken - but the pen lay useless in my hand. With my chip resting on the palm of my left hand, I sat at my desk lost in a reverie; my eyes fixed on the tree which grew in the yard and overshadowed my windows. How still-how motionless was every leaf! What sultry oppressive — unusual repose! How it would have cheered me to hear the faintest “sough” of wind — to see the breeze sweep freshening through the leaves, rustling and stirring them into life! - I opened my window, untied my neckerchief, and loosened my shirt collar for I felt suffocated with the heat. I heard at length a faint pattering sound among the leaves of the tree and presently there fell on the window-frame three or four large ominous drops of rain. After gazing upwards for a moment or two on the gloomy aspect of the sky - I once more settled down to writing; and was dipping my pen into the inkstand, when there blazed about me a flash of lightning with such a ghastly, blinding splendour, as defies all description. It was like what one might conceive to be a glimpse of hell and yet not a glimpse merely – for it continued, I think, six or seven seconds. It was followed, at scarce an instant's interval, with a crash of thunder as if the world had been smitten out of its sphere, and was rending asunder!
I hope these expressions will not be considered hyperbolical. No one, I am sure, who recollects the occurrence I am describing, will require the appeal! May I never see or hear the like again! I leaped from my chair with consternation; and could think of nothing, at the moment, but closing my eyes, and shutting out from my ears the stunning sound of the thunder. * For a moment I stood literally stupified. On recovering myself, my first impulse was to spring to the door, and rush down stairs in search of my wife and children. I heard, on my way, the sound of shrieking proceed from the parlour in which I had left them. In a moment I had my wife folded in my arms, and my children clinging with screams round my knees. My wife had fainted. While I was endeavouring to restore her, there came a second flash of lightning, equally terrible with the first — and a second explosion of thunder, loud as one could imagine the discharge of a thousand parks of artillery directly over head. The windows - in fact the whole house quivered with the shock. The noise helped to recover my wise from her swoon.
* The following fine description of a storm at sea, is to be found in Mr. James Montgomery's “Pelican Island." I shall, I hope, be excused for transcribing it, as I believe it is not very generally known:
“Dreary and bollow moans foretold a gale;
“Kneel down! Love! Husband !” - she gasped, endeavouring to drop upon her knees “Kneel down! Pray It is at hand!” After shouting several times pretty loudly, and pulling the bell repeatedly and violently, one of the servants made her appearance
but evidently terrified and bewildered. She and her mistress, however, recovered themselves in a few minutes, roused by the cries of the children. “Wait a moment, love,” said I, “and I will bring you a little sal-volatile!” I stepped into the back-room, where I generally kept a few phials of drugs,
and poured out what I wanted. The thought then for the first time struck me, that I had not seen Miss P- in the parlour I had just quitted. Where was she? What would she say
pray for us!
Till ocean, breaking from his black supineness,