Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

time! Mother, will you watch over your prodigal son ?" How little he thought of the affecting recollections he had called forth in my mind, by mentioning--the prodigal son.

I left him about nine o'clock, recommending him to retire to rest, and not expose himself to the cool of the evening. I felt excited myself by the tone of our conversation, which I suspected, however, had on his part verged far into occasional flightiness. I had not such sanguine hopes for him, as he entertained for himself—I suspected that his constitution, however it might rally for a time from its present prostration, had received a shock before which it must erewhile fall !

About five o'clock the next morning, I and all my family were alarmed by one of the most violent and continued ringings and thunderings at the door I ever heard. On looking out of my bedroom window, I saw Mr Beauchamp's valet below, wringing his hands, and stamping about the steps like one distracted.

Full of fearful apprehension, I dressed myself in an instant, and came down stairs.

“In the name of God, what is the matter?” I enquired, seeing the man pale as ashes.

“ Oh! my master !-come--come”-he gasped, and could get out no more. We both ran at a top speed to Mr Beauchamp's lodgings. Even at that early hour, there was an agitated group before the door. I rushed up stairs, and soon learned all. About a quarter of an hour before, the family were disturbed by hearing Mr Beauchamp's Newfoundland dog, which always slept at his master's bedroom door, howling, whining, and scratching against it. The valet and some one else came to see what was the matter. They found the dog trembling violently, his eyes fixed on the floor; and, on looking down, they saw blood flowing from under the door. The valet threw himself, half frantic, against the door, and burst it open; he rushed in, and saw all! Poor Beauchamp, with his razor grasped in his right hand, was lying on the floor lifeless!

I never now hear of a young man-especially of fortune frequenting the GAMING-TABLE, but I think, with a sigh, of Henry Beauchamp.

I CANNOT resist the opportunity of appending to this narrative the following mournful testimony to its fidelity, which appeared in the Morning Herald newspaper of the 19th October 1831:

SIR—There is an awful narrative in the current number of BLACKWOOD's Magazine, of the fate of a gamester, which, in addition to the writer's assurances, bears intrinsic evidence of truth. Independent even of this, I can believe it all, highly coloured as some may consider it—for I am a ruined gamester!

Yes, Sir, I am here, lying, as it were, rotting in jail, because I have, like a fool, spent over the gaming-table all my patrimony! Twenty-five thousand pounds are all gone at Rouge et Noir and Hazard! All gone! I could not help thinking that the writer of that terrible account had me in his eye, or has been told something of my history!

When I shall be released from my horrid prison I know not; but even when I am, life will have lost all its relish, for I shall be a beggar!

If I had a hundred pounds to spare, I would spend it all in reprinting the “ Gambler” from Blackwood's MAGAZINE, and distributing it among the frequenters of C—'s and F—'s, and other hells! I am sure its overwhelming truth and power would shock some into pausing on the brink of ruin!

I address you, because your paper has been one of the most determined and successful enemies to gaming.— I am, obediently,

A RUINED GAMESTER. Prison, Oct. 17.

Sir, yours CHAPTER XXIV.

THE THUNDER-STRUCK.--THE BOXER,

In the summer of 18—, London was visited by one of the most tremendous thunder-storms that have been known in this climate. Its character and effects—some of which latter form the subject of this chapter-will make me remember it to the latest hour of my life.

There was something portentous—a still, surcharged airabout the whole of Tuesday, the 10th of July 18—, as though nature were trembling and cowering beneath a common shock. In the exquisite language of one of our old dramatists, there seemed

“A calm
Before a tempest, when the gentle air
Lays her soft ear close to the earth, to listen
For that she fears steals on to ravish her."

From about eleven o'clock at noon, the sky wore a lurid threatening aspect that shot awe into the beholder; suggesting to startled 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 excite. ment, or rather agitation, diffused throughout the country, especially London ; fur, 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 streetpreacher, 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, MrWith 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.

* This is a narrative-for obvious reasons somewhat varied in circumstances -of a lamentable occurrence in the author's family. About fourteen years ago, a very beautiful girl, eighteen years old, terrified at a violent thunder-storm, rushed into a cellar to escape, as she thought, from the danger, and was found there in the state described in the text. She died four days afterwards.

† Marlow.

• 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 Godis winging its fiery way towards our earth, swift 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 ?—Whitherwhither shall we fly? what must become of our species ?—Is the Scriptural JUDGMENT then coming ?-Oh, doctor, what if all these things are really at 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 visiter, were all together in the parlour, looking out for me, through

99

[ocr errors]

the window, anxiously—and with paler faces than they perhaps were aware of. The visiter 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 from town—from which she was expected, in a few days' time, to take her daughter back again into the country. Miss Pwas 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 Hebelike ease and grace about all her gestures. She excelled in most feminine accomplishments; but her favourite objects were music and romance. 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 enquire 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 enquiries from mothers and elderly female relatives, into the nature and extent of a 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

« ZurückWeiter »