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caught the light, I perceived that it was a gilded envelope-case, which had, doubtless, fallen on the ground when I moved the table. Emboldened by this discovery to seek the cause of the receding grave, I found that it was neither more nor less than the dark shade of my own body thrown down by the suspended lamp. I despised myself for having paused and shuddered, still more for having been deceived, for most men had rather be frightened out of their wits by a real, than outwitted by a fancied cause of terror.
I turned round, the imaginary grave had disappeared, the shadows being now behind me, and I could not help exclaiming,
" What a poor, nervous simpleton have I been ! I am not usually superstitious, never was a believer in omens, have always felt a contempt for those who credit the existence of apparitions, goblins, spectral manifestations, and all the raw-head and bloody-bones of the nursery. Ridiculous trash! fit only for brain-sick old women of either sex, and chickenhearted girls."
Scarcely had these words escaped my lips, when, with an involuntary cry, and a shuddering start, I stood transfixed and aghast, my eyes distended, my teeth chattering, the perspiration oozing from my brow. Another living being stood in the room, or rather beyond the room, and yet distinctly visible, for it seemed to be staring at me out of the dim vacuity beyond the walls of my study.. I rubbed my eyes, to assure myself that I was not dreaming, and leaned forwards, fixing my looks piercingly upon the phenomenon before me. The apparition moved, it appeared to be advancing towards me, and as my boasted disbelief in spectres began to be converted into a vague but intense terror, I will frankly confess that I felt strongly tempted to make an immediate escape from the room. Deciding, after a moment's further deliberation, upon instant flight, I moved towards the door at the opposite extremity of the room; but as the figure did the same, with the manifest intention of intercepting me, I suddenly drew up and stood still, utterly paralysed by conflicting emotions, and my spectral antagonist made no further approaches. My retreat cut off
, and my suspense becoming intolerable, 1 exclaimed, in a faltering voice,
“Who are you? Why do you thus haunt me ? Avaunt-begone-unreal mockery, hence !"
The lips of the vision moved, but I could hear nothing except the faint echo of my own words. It has spoken, thought I to myself, but as a spirit, I presume its revelations are not audible “ to ears of flesh and blood."
To be made desperate is to be frightened out of fear, and such being my plight, I determined to meet my supernatural visitant face to face, and solve the mystery of its nature whatever might be the result. For this purpose, I summoned all my courage, and took three steps forward. The spectre did the same, eyeing me all the time with a keen and startled scrutiny, as if it were scarcely less bewildered than myself. Three steps more; we were within an arm's length of each other, I panted with agitation, so did the phantom, this was somewhat encouraging ; I slowly put forth my hand, mentally ejaculating “now shall I know what thou art.” My trembling hand encountered a cold gleaming substance, the very touch of which revealed its nature, and I recovered the self-possession which had so strangely deserted me when I beheld before me a large
cheval-glass, which had been placed in my study a few hours before, preparatory to its being removed into one of the bedrooms. In the excited and disordered state of my mind, and in the dimness of the room that rendered every thing indistinct, I had actually been haunted by the reflection of my own figure !
Relieved from the oppression of this self-created nightmare, my heart leaped up, I breathed more freely, and would fain have smiled at my own folly, but I felt both indignant and ashamed, and petulantly turning round the glass with its face to the wall so that it could not again delude me, I threw myself back into my arm chair.
But my mind could not recover its serenity, nor could I altogether, even when my eyes were shut, shake off the impression that a figure from the world of spirits was still standing before me. Nay, as I gazed, or seemed to gaze at it through my closed lids, methought that its lips again moved, and that a deep and solemn voice distinctly articulated the following words,
“ Man of seventy! what have Heaven and the world done for thee? What hast thou done for Heaven and the world? Render unto thyself an account of thy stewardship!"
Although the silence and the reflection of a few minutes convinced me that this imagined mandate was the mere illusion of my own excited senses, it weighed heavily upon my mind, and my self-accusing meditations assumed the form of the following reply to the injunction. In answer to the first question, this is my deposition.
Born at a lucky and interesting period, in the freest, happiest, and most civilised country of the world, I received from Heaven a vigorous and healthy frame, and more than an average share of mental faculties, however I may have neglected to cultivate and improve them. At the age of twenty-one, my father having died when I was a minor, I suc.. ceeded to a landed estate of 30001. a year, and as I always lived up to my income, I have actually spent upon the enjoyments and luxuries of life nearly 150,0001. Even as a child I was petted and spoiled, so that it is almost impossible to estimate what the world has done for me since my birth, in the multiform and incessant tribute that it pays to the individual demands of wealth and civilisation. Hardly would it be an exaggeration were I to exclaim,
Creation's heir, the world, the world is mine! for it has offered up sacrifices to me as if I were its absolute lord and master. In South America, miners have been digging the ore for my gold and silver plate, and for the minor magic coin that supplies almost every want; in North America, innumerable labourers have been producing rice and other edibles, and cotton and tobacco for my food, raiment, and cigars : African nations have made war upon each other that slaves, transported to the West Indies, might supply sugar and coffee for my delectation : in Asia, millions have toiled, during their whole lives, that I might never have a moment's want of tea, silk, spices, and other products : while Europe has lavished upon me all the luxuries which her arts, her science, and her manufactures have enabled her to pour forth with such unbounded prodigality and in such inimitable perfection. Upon every sea, and upon every road, and with every wind, by night and by day, have the purveyors to my pleasures been hurrying towards me with their offerings. My victuallers are ubiquitous. The cattle on a hundred hills are mine ; so are the corn, milk, and honey of our English valleys; so are the grapes that empurple the sunny slopes of France and Germany. Air yields me up its tenants ; so does the ocean, from the turtle of the Western Isles, to the humble herring of our British coasts.
How many droves and flocks of cattle, how many flights of birds, how many shoals of fish, have been entombed in this omnivorous body, 'twere yain to calculate ; but reckoning my consumption of claret at only a bottle per diem, commencing with my entrance at college, where I first learnt to be a tippler, I find that I must have swallowed nearly 20,000 bottles, exclusive of other wines !
That I, an absolute idler, doing and producing nothing myself, might enjoy this Sybarite life in perfect security from either foreign or domestic assailants,- formidable fleets have sailed around my native coasts, powerful armies have guarded the interior of the country, a numerous and vigilant police has protected me wherever I resided; and while the whole subject world has thus ministered to my corporeal wants and personal safety, the tributaries to my mental gratifications have been equally numerous and diligent. Artists of every description, my ubiquitous masters of the revels, have toiled incessantly for my delight. Architects, sculptors, painters, have exhausted their invention and their skill to recreate mine eye ; dramatists, musicians, composers, dancers, have devoted years to their respective callings that I might lounge away a few pleasant hours at an opera or a play ; printers and pressmen and editors have worked through the whole night in order that the very latest public or private intelligence, illustrated by the comments of enlightened minds, may be conveyed to me in the morning paper that awaits my coming down stairs after a long night's tranquil rest ; novelists have racked their brains that my mind's eye, when it wanted amusement, may gaze upon scenes of mimic life displayed before me in all the variety of a never-ending drama ; bards have outwatched the midnight lamp, or soared with air-cleaving pinions into the realms of fancy, that they may spread before me an intellectual banquet, adorned with sweet and brilliant flowers fresh gathered from the Poet's Paradise ; and as if the present had not lavished offerings enough to surfeit me with pleasures, historians have conjured up the actors and the actions of the past, parading the dead centuries before me with all the vividness and the magnificence of a living pageant.*
This is a portion, and only a portion, of what Heaven and the world have done for me. And in return for this prodigality of blessings, for this subservient tribute from earth and its inhabitants, what have I done ? What acknowledgment have I made to the Divine Donor of all leges and enjoyments? Ingrate that I am! I have never recognised them as I ought ; never felt that while they gave me superior rights, they imposed upon me commensurate duties ; never reflected that the bestower of all my gifts and advantages would one day demand from me an exact account of my stewardship. Occasional dozings and the rotemuttering of responses in a curtained pew, and such cold observance of forms and conventionalities as might just preserve my character for decorum, have constituted the whole of my pharisaical devotion ; but as to that vital and practical religion which shows its love of the Creator by
* Suggested by a passage in Dr. Arnott's “ Elements of Physics."
loving all that he has created; which makes a man sensible that he has a high mission to perform, and that life has been given to him as a trust for his own moral advancement, and for the benefit of his fellow-creatures : —for all these high purposes, the only ones that can give a dweller upon earth a claim upon Heaven, alas ! for these I have lived utterly and miserably in vain. “Oh, my offence is rank !" No defence, no excuse, no palliation, no plea is left to me,-and no resource, except to confess my life-long culpability, and to throw myself upon the mercy of my Judge.
And what have I done for the world; I have given up to it my threescore years and ten. But how hast thou spent them, man of seventy? Render unto thyself an account of thy stewardship. Humiliating task ! but it shall be performed. Truth imposes upon me the degrading, but richly-merited penance of committing the following record to paper as
THE TIME-TABLE OF A RICII SEPTUAGENARY.
I will begin with the years which, from the requirements of our
common nature, or from my habitual waste of time, may be considered, so far as regards any serviceable purpose, to have been absolutely lost. Including the somnolent periods of infancy and childhood, and making allowance for the sluggish habits of my whole after-life, I calculate that I have slept, and dozed, and dreamed away nine or ten hours in every twenty-four, which, for seventy years absorbs about
32 At school, with tutors, at college, I spent about twenty years, and
having forgotten, in two or three, all the Latin and Greek and nearly every thing else that I had learnt, except my collegiate vices and expensive habits, I cannot put down for actual loss of
time less than Wasted, not in doing nothings, for that would embrace nearly my
whole life, but literally in doing nothing, two hours a day, about 6 Expended in stag, fox, hare, and badger hunting ; in coursing,
racing, cockfighting, fishing ; in shooting birds and beasts of all
N.B.- Estimating my slaughter as an ainateur butcher at the very moderate number of only two lives a day, exclusively of the innumerable sufferers that I have maimed and lacerated, leaving most of them to die in anguish, I find that in sixty years (excluding sabbaths), I have, for my mere amusement, destroyed nearly
thirty-eight thousand of God's innocent creatures !) In smoking, from my entrance at college to the present day, I cannot have puffed out less than two hours diem, or about
4 In gambling, steeple-chasing, hurdle-racing, drinking bouts, yacht
ing, lounging at club windows but stay, let me reckon uphey-how-what! does the sum total do my wasted years already amount to
God forgive me! it is even so, and there are items still to be added to
the frightful catalogue. Oh that the recording angel would let fall a tear upon the figures, “and blot them out for ever!" Oh that I couldf orget the past, and cease to fear for the future. But it may not be. To me, henceforth, every day shall be as a day of judgment, and before mine eyes shall I ever behold “the great book," with the blazon of
wasted years, written in the indelible ink of a conscience that cannot take refuge in oblivion. Wretch that I am! Titus complained that he had lost a day because he had not done a good action. Alas! I have similarly lost a life, a whole life, a long life! Were I to die this day, what record of my existence could be inscribed on my tombstone? It would exhibit the dates of my birth and of my death, with an interval between them of seventy years
, through which I shall have passed, like an arrow through the blank air, without leaving a trace of my passage, or even a shadow
to mark my path. Atonement! atonement! is there not time for making some sort of retribution ? I must not die, I am afraid of death, because I am utterly ashamed of my life. It may still be prolonged. Men by their strength may reach fourscore years, saith the Psalmist, yet is their age but labour and sorrow. Not thus shall it be with me, if I am longer spared. My labour shall be a labour of love ; my sorrow shall be for the past, not for the coming time. My future existence, whatever be its term, shall be offered up as an expiatory sacrifice for the offences and omissions of threescore years and ten. Not a day, not an hour, will I pass without endeavouring to deposit an offering upon the altar of human happiness and advancement, without ardently seeking to discharge some portion of the long long, career that I owe to Heaven and to the world.
Go and do thou likewise, O septuagenarian reader, if, unfortunately, thy “ Time-table” should have borne any resemblance to mine.
BY THOMAS ROSCOE, ESQ.
Lost joys of innocence and childhood! fled
Fled is your light of Heaven that rose so fair,
When time was young and lovely; grief and care
Ah, could we kneel as then we knelt in prayer,
Adore with thoughts no taints of earth impair,
Methought I stray'd where fadeless flowers were springing,
And in your solitude those birds were singing,
An angel talked with me, and all seemed bliss,