« IndietroContinua »
black, and cabbaged at the end, and dimmed the little light that remained in the chamber. The gloom that now prevailed was contagious. Around hung the shapeless, and almost spectral, box-coats of departed travellers, long since buried in deep sleep. I only heard the ticking of the clock, with the deep-drawn breathings of the sleeping toper, and the drippings of the rain, drop-drop-drop, from the eaves of the house. The church bells chimed midnight. All at once the Stout Gentleman began to walk over head, pacing slowly backwards and forwards.
There was something extremely awful in all this, especially to one in my state of nerves. These ghastly great coats, these guttural breathings, and the creaking footsteps of this mysterious being. His steps grew fainter and fainter, and at length died away. I could bear it no longer. I was wound up to the desperation of a hero of romance. “ Be he who or what he may,” said I to myself, “ I'll have a sight of him !” I seized a chamber candle, and hurried up to No. 13. The door stood ajar. I hesitated-I entered : the room was deserted. There stood a large, broad bottomed elbow-chair at a table, on which was an empty tumbler, and a 6 Times” newspaper, and the room smelt powerfully of Stilton cheese.
The mysterious stranger had evidently but just retired. I turned off, sorely disappointed, to my room, which had been changed to the front of the house. As I went along the corridor, I saw a large pair of boots, with dirty, waxed tops, standing at the door of a bed-chamber. They doubtless belonged to the unknown; but it would not do to disturb so redoubtable a personage in his den ; he might discharge a pistol, or something worse at my head. I went to bed, therefore, and lay awake half the night in a terribly nervous state, and even when I fell asleep, I was still haunted in my dreams by the idea of the Stout Gentleman and his wax-toped boots.
I slept rather late the next morning, and was awakened by some stir and bustle in the house, which I could not at first comprehend ; until getting more awake, I found there was a mail-coach starting from the door. Suddenly there was a cry from below, “ The gentleman has forgot his umbrella ! look for the gentleman's umbrella in No. 13. I heard an immediate scampering of a chambermaid along the passage, and a shrill reply as she ran, “ here it is ! here's the gentleman's umbrella !”
The mysterious stranger then was on the point of setting off. This was the only chance I should ever have of knowing him. I sprang out of bed, scrambled to the window, snatched aside the curtains, and just caught a glimpse of the rear of a person getting in at the coach-door. The skirts of a brown coat parted behind, and gave me a full view of the broad disk of a pair of drab breeches. The door closed_" all right !" was the word—the coach whirled off :--and that was all I ever saw of the Stout Gentleman !
(Job iii. ECCLESIASTES i.)
From Knox’s “ Songs of Israel."*
O Why should the spirit of mortal be proud !
II. The leaves of the oak and the willows shall fade, Be scattered around, and together be laid; And the young and the old, and the low and the high, Shall moulder to dust, and together shall lie.
The child that a mother attended and loved,
The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
* Just published-a volume of the most beautiful Sacred Lyrics which we have seen,-ED.
The saint that enjoyed the communion of heaven,
The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think,
XI. They loved_but their story we cannot unfold; They scorned--but the heart of the haughty is cold, They grieved_but no wail from their slumbers may come, They joyed—but the voice of their gladness is dumb.
They died—ay, they died ! and we things that are now,
'Tis the twink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
From “ D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature.”
THE close of the life of Sir Walter Rawleigh was as extraordinary as many parts of his varied history: the promptitude and sprightliness of his genius, his carelessness of life, and the equanimity of that great spirit in quitting the world, can only be paralleled by a few other heroes and sages :~ Rawleigh was both! but it is not simply his dignified yet active conduct on the scaffold, nor his admirable speech on that occasion,-circumstances by which many great men are judged, when their energies are excited for a moment to act so great a part before the eyes of the world assembled at their feet, it is not these only which claim our notice.
We pause with admiration on the real grandeur of Rawleigh's character ; not from a single circumstance, however great, but from a tissue of continued little incidents, which occurred from the moment of his condemnation till he laid his head on the block. Rawleigh was a man of such mark, that he deeply engaged the attention of his contemporaries, and to this we owe the preservation of several interesting particulars of what he did and what he said, which have been entered into his life; but all has not been told in the published narratives. Contemporary writers, in their letters, have set down every fresh incident, and eagerly caught up his sense, his wit, and, what is more delightful, those marks of natural cheerfulness, of his invariable presence of mind ; nor could these have arisen from any affectation or parade, and for we shall see that they served him even in his last tender farewell to his lady, and on un. premeditated occasions.
I have drawn together into a short compass every fact concerning the feelings and conduct of Rawleigh at these solemn moments of his life, which my researches have furnished, not omitting those which are known : to have preserved only the new, would be to mutilate the statue, and to injure the whole by an imperfect view.
Rawleigh one morning was taken out of his bed, in a fit of fever, and unexpectedly hurried, not to his trial, but to a sentence of death. The story is well known..Yet pleading with “ a voice grown weak by sickness, and an ague he had at that instant on him,” he used every means to avert his fate : he did, therefore, value the life he could so easily part with. His judges there, at least, respected their state criminal ; and they addressed him in a far different tone than he had fifteen years before listened to from Coke, Yelverton, the Attorney-General, said, “ Sir Walter Rawleigh hath been as a star at which the world have gazed ; but stars may fall, nay, they must fall, when they trouble the sphere where they abide.” And the Lord Chief Justice noticed Rawleigh's great work ;-" I know that you have been valiant and wise, and I doubt not but you retain both these virtues, for now you shall have occasion to use them. Your book is an admirable work. I would give you counsel, but I know you can apply unto yourself far better than I am able to give you.” But the judge ended with saying, “ execution is granted.” It was stifling Rawleigh with roses ; and it was listening to fame from the voice of death.
He declared that, now being old, sickly, and in disgrace, and « certain were he allowed to live, to go to it again, life was wearisome to him, and all he entreated was to have leave to speak freely at his farewell, to satisfy the world that he was ever loyal to the king, and a true lover of the common-wealth ; for this he would seal with his blood.
Rawleigh, on his return to his prison, while some were deploring his fate, observed, that “ the world itself is but a larger prison, out of which some are daily selected for execution.”
That last night of his existence was occupied by writing what the letter-writer calls “ a remembrancer to be left with his lady,” to acquaint the world with his sentiments, should he be denied their delivery from the scaffold, as he had been at the bar of the King's Bench. His lady visited him that night, and amidst her tears acquainted him, that she had obtained the favour of disposing of his body ; to which he'answered, smiling, “ It is well, Bess, that thou mayst dispose of that dead, theu hadst not always the disposing of it when alive." At midnight he intreated her to leave him. It must have been then, that, with unshaken fortitude, Rawleigh sat down to compose those verses on his death, which being short, the most appropriate may be repeated.
6 Even such is Time, that takes on trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
Who in the dark and silent grave,
He has added two other lines, expressive of his trust in his resurrection. Their authenticity is confirmed by the writer of the present letter, as well as another writer, inclosing “half a dozen verses, which Sir Walter made the night before his death, to take his farewell of poetry, wherein he had been a scribbler even from his youth.” The inclosure is not now with the letter. Chamberlain, the writer, was an intelligent man of the world, but not imbued with any deep tincture of literature. On the same night RAWLEIGH wrote this distich on the candle burning dimly :
“ Cowards fear to die ; but courage stout,