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Title: Eugene Aram — Volume 05
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Eugene Aram — Volume 05" ***

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                             EUGENE ARAM

                       By Edward Bulwer-Lytton



                                 BOOK V.

                Surely the man that plotteth ill against his
                neighbor perpetrateth ill against himself,
                and the evil design is most evil to him that
                deviseth it.
                         --Hesiod


                               CHAPTER I.

GRASSDALE.--THE MORNING OF THE MARRIAGE.--THE CRONES GOSSIP.--THE BRIDE
                      AT HER TOILET.--THE ARRIVAL.

           JAM veniet virgo, jam dicetur Hymenaeus,
           Hymen, O Hymenae!  Hymen ades, O Hymenae!
                             CATULLUS: Carmen Nuptiale.

It was now the morning in which Eugene Aram was to be married to Madeline
Lester. The student's house had been set in order for the arrival of the
bride; and though it was yet early morn, two old women, whom his domestic
(now not the only one, for a buxom lass of eighteen had been transplanted
from Lester's household to meet the additional cares that the change of
circumstances brought to Aram's) had invited to assist her in arranging
what was already arranged, were bustling about the lower apartments and
making matters, as they call it, "tidy."

"Them flowers look but poor things, after all," muttered an old crone,
whom our readers will recognize as Dame Darkmans, placing a bowl of
exotics on the table. "They does not look nigh so cheerful as them as
grows in the open air."

"Tush!  Goody Darkmans," said the second gossip. "They be much prettier
and finer, to my mind; and so said Miss Nelly when she plucked them last
night and sent me down with them. They says there is not a blade o' grass
that the master does not know. He must be a good man to love the things
of the field so."

"Ho!" said Dame Darkmans, "ho!  When Joe Wrench was hanged for shooting
the lord's keeper, and he mounted the scaffold wid a nosegay in his hand,
he said, in a peevish voice, says he: 'Why does not they give me a
tarnation?  I always loved them sort o' flowers,--I wore them when I
went a courting Bess Lucas,--an' I would like to die with one in my
hand!'  So a man may like flowers, and be but a hempen dog after all!"

"Now don't you, Goody; be still, can't you?  What a tale for a marriage
day!"

"Tally vally!"  returned the grim hag, "many a blessing carries a curse
in its arms, as the new moon carries the old. This won't be one of your
happy weddings, I tell ye."

"And why d' ye say that?"

"Did you ever see a man with a look like that make a happy husband?  No,
no!  Can ye fancy the merry laugh o' childer in this house, or a babe on
the father's knee, or the happy, still smile on the mother's winsome
face, some few years hence?  No, Madge! the devil has set his black claw
on the man's brow."

"Hush, hush, Goody Darkmans; he may hear o' ye!" said the second gossip,
who, having now done all that remained to do, had seated herself down by
the window, while the more ominous crone, leaning over Aram's oak chair,
uttered from thence her sibyl bodings.

"No," replied Mother Darkmans, "I seed him go out an hour agone, when the
sun was just on the rise; and I said, when I seed him stroam into the
wood yonder, and the ould leaves splashed in the damp under his feet, and
his hat was aboon his brows, and his lips went so,--I said, says I, 't is
not the man that will make a hearth bright that would walk thus on his
marriage day. But I knows what I knows, and I minds what I seed last
night."

"Why, what did you see last night?" asked the listener, with a trembling
voice; for Plother Darkmans was a great teller of ghost and witch tales,
and a certain ineffable awe of her dark gypsy features and malignant
words had circulated pretty largely throughout the village.

"Why, I sat up here with the ould deaf woman, and we were a drinking the
health of the man and his wife that is to be, and it was nigh twelve o'
the clock ere I minded it was time to go home. Well, so I puts on my
cloak, and the moon was up, an' I goes along by the wood, and up by
Fairlegh Field, an' I was singing the ballad on Joe Wrench's hanging, for
the spirats had made me gamesome, when I sees somemut dark creep, creep,
but iver so fast, arter me over the field, and making right ahead to the
village. And I stands still, an' I was not a bit afeared; but sure I
thought it was no living cretur, at the first sight. And so it comes up
faster and faster, and then I sees it was not one thing, but a many, many
things, and they darkened the whole field afore me. And what d' ye think
they was?  A whole body o' gray rats, thousands and thousands on 'em; and
they were making away from the outbuildings here. For sure they knew, the
witch things, that an ill luck sat on the spot. And so I stood aside by
the tree, an' I laughed to look on the ugsome creturs as they swept close
by me, tramp, tramp!  and they never heeded me a jot; but some on 'em
looked aslant at me with their glittering eyes, and showed their white
teeth, as if they grinned, and were saying to me, 'Ha, ha!  Goody
Darkmans, the house that we leave is a falling house, for the devil will
have his own.'"

In some parts of the country, and especially in that where our scene is
laid, no omen is more superstitiously believed evil than the departure of
these loathsome animals from their accustomed habitation; the instinct
which is supposed to make them desert an unsafe tenement is supposed also
to make them predict, in desertion, ill fortune to the possessor. But
while the ears of the listening gossip were still tingling with this
narration, the dark figure of the student passed the window, and the old
women, starting up, appeared in all the bustle of preparation, as Aram
now entered the apartment.

"A happy day, your honor; a happy good morning," said both the crones in
a breath; but the blessing of the worse-natured was vented in so harsh a
croak that Arum turned round as if struck by the sound, and still more
disliking the well-remembered aspect of the person from whom it came,
waved his hand impatiently, and bade them begone.

"A-whish, a-whish!"  muttered Dame Darkmans,--"to spake so to the poor;
but the rats never lie, the bonny things!"

Aram threw himself into his chair, and remained for some moments absorbed
in a revery, which did not bear the aspect of gloom. Then, walking once
or twice to and fro the apartment, he stopped opposite the chimney-piece,
over which were slung the firearms, which he never omitted to keep
charged and primed.

"Humph!" he said, half aloud, "ye have been but idle servants; and now ye
are but little likely ever to requite the care I have bestowed upon you."

With that a faint smile crossed his features; and turning away, he
ascended the stairs that led to the lofty chamber in which he had been so
often wont to outwatch the stars,--

          "The souls of systems, and the lords of life,
           Through their wide empires."

Before we follow him to his high and lonely retreat we will bring the
reader to the manor-house, where all was already gladness and quiet but
deep joy.

It wanted about three hours to that fixed for the marriage; and Aram was
not expected at the manor-house till an hour before the celebration of
the event. Nevertheless, the bells were already ringing loudly and
blithely; and the near vicinity of the church to the house brought that
sound, so inexpressibly buoyant and cheering, to the ears of the bride
with a noisy merriment that seemed like the hearty voice of an old-
fashioned friend who seeks in his greeting rather cordiality than
discretion. Before her glass stood the beautiful, the virgin, the
glorious form of Madeline Lester; and Ellinor, with trembling hands
(and a voice between a laugh and a cry), was braiding up her sister's
rich hair, and uttering her hopes, her wishes, her congratulations. The
small lattice was open, and the air came rather chillingly to the bride's
bosom.

"It is a gloomy morning, dearest Nell," said she, shivering; "the winter
seems about to begin at last."

"Stay, I will shut the window. The sun is struggling with the clouds at
present, but I am sure it will clear up by and by. You don't, you don't
leave us--the word must out--till evening."

"Don't cry!" said Madeline, half weeping herself, and sitting down, she
drew Ellinor to her; and the two sisters, who had never been parted since
birth, exchanged tears that were natural, though scarcely the unmixed
tears of grief.

"And what pleasant evenings we shall have," said Madeline, holding her
sister's hands, "in the Christmas time!  You will be staying with us, you
know; and that pretty old room in the north of the house Eugene has
already ordered to be fitted up for you. Well, and my dear father, and
dear Walter, who will be returned long ere then, will walk over to see
us, and praise my housekeeping, and so forth. And then, after dinner,
we will draw near the fire,--I next to Eugene, and my father, our guest,
on the other side of me, with his long gray hair and his good fine face,
with a tear of kind feeling in his eye,--you know that look he has
whenever he is affected. And at a little distance on the other side of
the hearth will be you--and Walter; I suppose we must make room for him.
And Eugene, who will be then the liveliest of you all, shall read to us
with his soft, clear voice, or tell us all about the birds and flowers
and strange things in other countries. And then after supper we will walk
half-way home across that beautiful valley--beautiful even in winter--
with my father and Walter, and count the stars, and take new lessons in
astronomy, and hear tales about the astrologers and the alchemists, with
their fine old dreams. Ah!  it will be such a happy Christmas!  And then,
when spring comes, some fine morning--finer than this--when the birds are
about, and the leaves getting green, and the flowers springing up every
day, I shall be called in to help your toilet, as you have helped mine,
and to go with you to church, though not, alas! as your bridesmaid. Ah!
whom shall we have for that duty?"

"Pshaw!" said Ellinor, smiling through her tears.

While the sisters were thus engaged, and Madeline was trying, with her
innocent kindness of heart, to exhilarate the spirits, so naturally
depressed, of her doting sister, the sound of carriage-wheels was heard
in the distance,--nearer, nearer; now the sound stopped, as at the gate;
now fast, faster,--fast as the postilions could ply whip and the horses
tear along. While the groups in the church-yard ran forth to gaze, and
the bells rang merrily all the while, two chaises whirled by Madeline's
window and stopped at the porch of the house. The sisters had flown in
surprise to the casement.

"It is, it is--good God! it is Walter," cried Ellinor; "but how pale he
looks!"

"And who are those strange men with him?"  faltered Madeline, alarmed,
though she knew not why.



                              CHAPTER II.

  THE STUDENT ALONE IN HIS CHAMBER.--THE INTERRUPTION.--FAITHFUL LOVE.

                NEQUICQUAM thalamo graves
                Hastas . . . .
                Vitabis strepitumque et celerem sequi
                Ajacem.
                            --HORACE: Od. xv. lib. 1.

                ["In vain within your nuptial chamber will you
                shun the deadly spears, ... the hostile shout,
                and Ajax eager in pursuit."]

Alone in his favorite chamber, the instruments of science around him,
and books, some of astronomical research, some of less lofty but yet
abstruser lore, scattered on the tables, Eugene Aram indulged the last
meditation he believed likely to absorb his thoughts before that great
change of life which was to bless solitude with a companion.

"Yes," said he, pacing the apartment with folded arms, "yes, all is safe!
He will not again return; the dead sleeps now without a witness. I may
lay this working brain upon the bosom that loves me, and not start at
night and think that the soft hand around my neck is the hangman's gripe.
Back to thyself, henceforth and forever, my busy heart!  Let not thy
secret stir from its gloomy depth!  The seal is on the tomb; henceforth
be the spectre laid. Yes, I must smooth my brow, and teach my lip
restraint, and smile and talk like other men. I have taken to my hearth a
watch, tender, faithful, anxious,--but a watch. Farewell the unguarded
hour!  The soul's relief in speech, the dark and broken, yet how
grateful, confidence with self, farewell!  And come, thou veil! subtle,
close, unvarying, the everlasting curse of entire hypocrisy, that under
thee, as night, the vexed world within may sleep, and stir not! and all,
in truth concealment, may seem repose!"

As he uttered these thoughts, the student paused and looked on the
extended landscape that lay below. A heavy, chill, and comfortless mist
sat saddening over the earth. Not a leaf stirred on the autumnal trees,
but the moist damps fell slowly and with a mournful murmur upon the
unwaving grass. The outline of the morning sun was visible, but it gave
forth no lustre: a ring of watery and dark vapor girded the melancholy
orb. Far at the entrance of the valley the wild fern showed red and
faded, and the first march of the deadly winter was already heralded by
that drear and silent desolation which cradles the winds and storms. But
amidst this cheerless scene the distant note of the merry marriage-bell
floated by, like the good spirit of the wilderness, and the student
rather paused to hearken to the note than to survey the scene. "My
marriage-bell!"  said he. "Could I, two short years back, have dreamed of
this?  My marriage-bell!  How fondly my poor mother, when first she
learned pride for her young scholar, would predict this day, and blend
its festivities with the honor and the wealth her son was to acquire!
Alas! can we have no science to count the stars and forebode the black
eclipse of the future?  But peace! peace! peace!  I am, I will, I shall
be happy now!  Memory, I defy thee!"

He uttered the last words in a deep and intense tone; and turning away as
the joyful peal again broke distinctly on his ear,--

"My marriage-bell!  Oh, Madeline, how wondrously beloved, how unspeakably
dear thou art to me!  What hast thou conquered!  How many reasons for
resolve, how vast an army in the Past, has thy bright and tender purity
overthrown!  But thou--No, never shalt thou repent!"  And for several
minutes the sole thought of the soliloquist was love. But scarce
consciously to himself, a spirit, not, to all seeming, befitted to that
bridal-day,--vague, restless, impressed with the dark and fluttering
shadow of coming change,--had taken possession of his breast, and did not
long yield the mastery to any brighter and more serene emotion.

"And why," he said, as this spirit regained its empire over him, and he
paused before the "starred tubes" of his beloved science,--"and why this
chill, this shiver, in the midst of hope?  Can the mere breath of the
seasons, the weight or lightness of the atmosphere, the outward gloom or
smile of the brute mass called Nature, affect us thus?  Out on this empty
science, this vain knowledge, this little lore, if we are so fooled by
the vile clay and the common air from our one great empire, self!  Great
God! hast thou made us in mercy, or in disdain?  Placed in this narrow
world, darkness and cloud around us; no fixed rule for men; creeds,
morals, changing in every clime, and growing like herbs upon the mere
soil,--we struggle to dispel the shadows; we grope around; from our own
heart and our sharp and hard endurance we strike our only light. For
what?  To show us what dupes we are,--creatures of accident, tools of
circumstance, blind instruments of the scorner Fate; the very mind, the
very reason, a bound slave to the desires, the weakness of the clay;
affected by a cloud, dulled by the damps of the foul marsh; stricken from
power to weakness, from sense to madness, to gaping idiocy, or delirious
raving, by a putrid exhalation!  A rheum, a chill, and Caesar trembles!
The world's gods, that slay or enlighten millions, poor puppets to the
same rank imp which calls up the fungus or breeds the worm,--pah!  How
little worth is it in this life to be wise!  Strange, strange, how my
heart sinks. Well, the better sign, the better sign!  In danger it never
sank."

Absorbed in these reflections, Aram had not for some minutes noticed the
sudden ceasing of the bell; but now, as he again paused from his
irregular and abrupt pacings along the chamber, the silence struck him,
and looking forth, and striving again to catch the note, he saw a little
group of men, among whom he marked the erect and comely form of Rowland
Lester, approaching towards the house.

"What!"  he thought, "do they come for me?  Is it so late?  Have I played
the laggard?  Nay, it yet wants near an hour to the time they expected
me. Well, some kindness, some attention from my good father-in-law; I
must thank him for it. What! my hand trembles. How weak are these poor
nerves; I must rest and recall my mind to itself!"

And indeed, whether or not from the novelty and importance of the event
he was about to celebrate, or from some presentiment, occasioned, as he
would fain believe, by the mournful and sudden change in the atmosphere,
an embarrassment, a wavering, a fear, very unwonted to the calm and
stately self-possession of Eugene Aram, made itself painfully felt
throughout his frame. He sank down in his chair and strove to re-collect
himself; it was an effort in which he had just succeeded, when a loud
knocking was heard at the outer door; it swung open; several voices were
heard. Aram sprang up, pale, breathless, his lips apart.

"Great God!" he exclaimed, clasping his hands. "'Murderer!'--was that the
word I heard shouted forth?  The voice, too, is Walter Lester's. Has he
returned?  Can he have learned--?"

To rush to the door, to throw across it a long, heavy iron bar, which
would resist assaults of no common strength, was his first impulse. Thus
enabled to gain time for reflection, his active and alarmed mind ran over
the whole field of expedient and conjecture. Again, "Murderer!"  "Stay me
not," cried Walter, from below; "my hand shall seize the murderer!"

Guess was now over; danger and death were marching on him. Escape,--how?
whither?  The height forbade the thought of flight from the casement!
The door?--he heard loud steps already hurrying up the stairs; his hands
clutched convulsively at his breast, where his fire-arms were generally
concealed,--they were left below. He glanced one lightning glance round
the room; no weapon of any kind was at hand. His brain reeled for a
moment, his breath gasped, a mortal sickness passed over his heart, and
then the MIND triumphed over all. He drew up to his full height, folded
his arms doggedly on his breast, and muttering, "The accuser comes,--I
have it still to refute the charge!"  he stood prepared to meet, nor
despairing to evade, the worst.

As waters close over the object which divided them, all these thoughts,
these fears, and this resolution had been but the work, the agitation,
and the succeeding calm of the moment; that moment was past.

"Admit us!" cried the voice of Walter Lester, knocking fiercely at the
door.

"Not so fervently, boy," said Lester, laying his hand on his nephew's
shoulder; "your tale is yet to be proved,--I believe it not. Treat him as
innocent, I pray,--I command,--till you have shown him guilty."

"Away, uncle!" said the fiery Walter; "he is my father's murderer. God
hath given justice to my hands."  These words, uttered in a lower key
than before, were but indistinctly heard by Aram through the massy door.

"Open, or we force our entrance!"  shouted Walter again; and Aram,
speaking for the first time, replied in a clear and sonorous voice, so
that an angel, had one spoken, could not have more deeply impressed the
heart of Rowland Lester with a conviction of the student's innocence,

"Who knocks so rudely?  What means this violence?  I open my doors to my
friends. Is it a friend who asks it?"

"I ask it," said Rowland Lester, in a trembling and agitated voice.
"There seems some dreadful mistake: come forth, Eugene, and rectify it by
a word."

Is it you, Rowland Lester?  It is enough. I was but with my books, and
had secured myself from intrusion. Enter."  The bar was withdrawn, the
door was burst open, and even Walter Lester, even the officers of justice
with him, drew back for a moment as they beheld the lofty brow, the
majestic presence, the features so unutterably calm, of Eugene Aram.
"What want you, sirs?"  said he, unmoved and unfaltering, though in the
officers of justice he recognized faces he had known before, and in that
distant town in which all that he dreaded in the past lay treasured up.
At the sound of his voice the spell that for an instant had arrested the
step of the avenging son melted away.

"Seize him!" he cried to the officers; "you see your prisoner."

"Hold!"  cried Aram, drawing back. "By what authority is this outrage,
--for what am I arrested?"

"Behold," said Walter, speaking through his teeth, "behold our warrant!
You are accused of murder!  Know you the name of Richard Houseman,--
pause, consider,--or that of Daniel Clarke?"

Slowly Aram lifted his eyes from the warrant, and it might be seen that
his face was a shade more pale, though his look did not quail, or his
nerves tremble. Slowly he turned his gaze upon Walter; and then, after
one moment's survey, dropped it once more on the paper.

"The name of Houseman is not unfamiliar to me," said he calmly, but with
effort.

"And knew you Daniel Clarke

"What mean these questions?" said Aram, losing temper, and stamping
violently on the ground. "Is it thus that a man, free and guiltless, is
to be questioned at the behest, or rather outrage, of every lawless boy?
Lead me to some authority meet for me to answer; for you, boy, my answer
is contempt."

"Big words shall not save thee, murderer!" cried Walter, breaking from
his uncle, who in vain endeavored to hold him, and laying his powerful
grasp upon Aram's shoulder. Livid was the glare that shot from the
student's eye upon his assailer; and so fearfully did his features work
and change with the passions within him that even Walter felt a strange
shudder thrill through his frame.

"Gentlemen," said Aram at last, mastering his emotions, and resuming some
portion of the remarkable dignity that characterized his usual bearing,
as he turned towards the officers of justice, "I call upon you to
discharge your duty. If this be a rightful warrant, I am your prisoner,
but I am not this man's. I command your protection from him!"

Walter had already released his gripe, and said, in a muttered voice,

"My passion misled me; violence is unworthy my solemn cause. God and
Justice--not these hands--are my avengers."

"Your avengers!"  said Aram. "What dark words are these?  This warrant
accuses me of the murder of one Daniel Clarke. What is he to thee?"

"Mark me, man!" said Walter, fixing his eyes on Aram's countenance.
"The name of Daniel Clarke was a feigned name; the real name was Geoffrey
Lester: that murdered Lester was my father, and the brother of him whose
daughter, had I not come to-day, you would have called your wife!"

Aram felt, while these words were uttered, that the eyes of all in the
room were on him; and perhaps that knowledge enabled him not to reveal by
outward sign what must have passed within during the awful trial of that
moment.

"It is a dreadful tale," he said, "if true,--dreadful to me, so nearly
allied to that family. But as yet I grapple with shadows."

"What! does not your conscience now convict you?"  cried Walter,
staggered by the calmness of the prisoner. But here Lester, who could no
longer contain himself, interposed; he put by his nephew, and rushing to
Aram, fell, weeping, upon his neck.

"I do not accuse thee, Eugene, my son, my son!  I feel, I know thou art
innocent of this monstrous crime; some horrid delusion darkens that poor
boy's sight. You, you, who would walk aside to save a worm!"  and the
poor old man, overcome with his emotions, could literally say no more.

Aram looked down on Lester with a compassionate expression; and soothing
him with kind words, and promises that all would be explained, gently
moved from his hold, and, anxious to terminate the scene, silently
motioned the officers to proceed. Struck with the calmness and dignity of
his manner, and fully impressed by it with the notion of his innocence,
the officers treated him with a marked respect; they did not even walk by
his side, but suffered him to follow their steps. As they descended the
stairs, Aram turned round to Walter, with a bitter and reproachful
countenance,

"And so, young man, your malice against me has reached even to this!
Will nothing but my life content you?"

"Is the desire of execution on my father's murderer but the wish of
malice?"  retorted Walter; though his heart yet well-nigh misgave him
as to the grounds on which his suspicion rested.

Aram smiled, as half in scorn, half through incredulity; and, shaking his
head gently, moved on without further words.

The three old women, who had remained in listening astonishment at the
foot of the stairs, gave way as the men descended; but the one who so
long had been Aram's solitary domestic, and who, from her deafness, was
still benighted and uncomprehending as to the causes of his seizure,
though from that very reason her alarm was the greater and more acute,
she, impatiently thrusting away the officers, and mumbling some
unintelligible anathema as she did so, flung herself at the feet of a
master whose quiet habits and constant kindness had endeared him to her
humble and faithful heart, and exclaimed,--

"What are they doing?  Have they the heart to ill-use you?  O master, God
bless you!  God shield you!  I shall never see you, who was my only
friend--who was every one's friend--any more!"

Aram drew himself from her, and said, with a quivering lip to Rowland
Lester,--

"If her fears are true--if--if I never more return hither, see that her
old age does not starve--does not want."  Lester could not speak for
sobbing, but the request was remembered. And now Aram, turning aside his
proud head to conceal his emotion, beheld open the door of the room so
trimly prepared for Madeline's reception: the flowers smiled upon him
from their stands. "Lead on, gentlemen," he said quickly. And so Eugene
Aram passed his threshold!

"Ho, ho!" muttered the old hag whose predictions in the morning had
been so ominous,--"ho, ho! you'll believe Goody Darkmans another time!
Providence respects the sayings of the ould. 'T was not for nothing the
rats grinned at me last night. But let's in and have a warm glass. He,
he! there will be all the strong liquors for us now; the Lord is merciful
to the poor!"

As the little group proceeded through the valley, the officers first,
Aram and Lester side by side, Walter, with his hand on his pistol and his
eye on the prisoner, a little behind, Lester endeavored to cheer the
prisoner's spirits and his own by insisting on the madness of the charge
and the certainty of instant acquittal from the magistrate to whom they
were bound, and who was esteemed the one both most acute and most just in
the county. Aram interrupted him somewhat abruptly,

"My friend, enough of this presently. But Madeline, what knows she as
yet?"

"Nothing; of course, we kept--"

"Exactly, exactly; you have done wisely. Why need she learn anything as
yet?  Say an arrest for debt, a mistake, an absence but of a day or so at
most,--you understand?"

"Yes. Will you not see her, Eugene, before you go, and say this
yourself?"

"I!--O God!--I! to whom this day was--No, no; save me, I implore you,
from the agony of such a contrast,--an interview so mournful and
unavailing. No, we must not meet!  But whither go we now?  Not, not,
surely, through all the idle gossips of the village,--the crowd already
excited to gape and stare and speculate on the--"

"No," interrupted Lester; "the carriages await us at the farther end of
the valley. I thought of that,--for the rash boy behind seems to have
changed his nature. I loved--Heaven knows how I loved my brother!  But
before I would let suspicion thus blind reason, I would suffer inquiry to
sleep forever on his fate."

"Your nephew," said Aram, "has ever wronged me. But waste not words on
him; let us think only of Madeline. Will you go back at once to her,--
tell her a tale to lull her apprehensions, and then follow us with haste?
I am alone among enemies till you come."

Lester was about to answer, when, at a turn in the road which brought the
carriage within view, they perceived two figures in white hastening
towards them; and ere Aram was prepared for the surprise, Madeline had
sunk pale, trembling, and all breathless on his breast.

"I could not keep her back," said Ellinor, apologetically, to her father.

"Back! and why?  Am I not in my proper place?" cried Madeline, lifting
her face from Aram's breast; and then, as her eyes circled the group,
and rested on Aram's countenance, now no longer calm, but full of woe,
of passion, of disappointed love, of anticipated despair, she rose, and
gradually recoiling with a fear which struck dumb her voice, thrice
attempted to speak, and thrice failed.

"But what--what is--what means this?"  exclaimed Ellinor. "Why do you
weep, father?  Why does Eugene turn away his face?  You answer not.
Speak, for God's sake!  These strangers,--what are they?  And you,
Walter, you,--why are you so pale?  Why do you thus knit your brows and
fold your arms!  You, you will tell me the meaning of this dreadful
silence,--this scene. Speak, cousin, dear cousin, speak!"

"Speak!"  cried Madeline, finding voice at length, but in the sharp and
straining tone of wild terror, in which they recognized no note of the
natural music. The single word sounded rather as a shriek than an
adjuration; and so pierciugly it ran through the hearts of all present
that the very officers, hardened as their trade had made them, felt as if
they would rather have faced death than answered that command.

A dead, long, dreary pause, and Aram broke it. "Madeline Lester," said
he, "prove yourself worthy of the hour of trial. Exert yourself; arouse
your heart; be prepared!  You are the betrothed of one whose soul never
quailed before man's angry word. Remember that, and fear not!"

"I will not, I will not, Eugene!  Speak, only speak!"

"You have loved me in good report; trust me now in ill. They accuse me of
a crime,--a heinous crime!  At first I would not have told you the real
charge. Pardon me, I wronged you,--now, know all!  They accuse me, I say,
of crime. Of what crime?  you ask. Ay, I scarce know, so vague is the
charge, so fierce the accuser; but prepare, Madeline,--it is of murder!"

Raised as her spirits had been by the haughty and earnest tone of Aram's
exhortation, Madeline now, though she turned deadly pale, though the
earth swam round and round, yet repressed the shriek upon her lips as
those horrid words shot into her soul.

"You!--murder!--you!  And who dares accuse you?"

"Behold him,--your cousin!"

Ellinor heard, turned, fixed her eyes on Walter's sullen brow and
motionless attitude, and fell senseless to the earth. Not thus Madeline.
As there is an exhaustion that forbids, not invites repose, so when the
mind is thoroughly on the rack, the common relief to anguish is not
allowed; the senses are too sharply strung, thus happily to collapse into
forgetfulness; the dreadful inspiration that agony kindles, supports
nature while it consumes it. Madeline passed, without a downward glance,
by the lifeless body of her sister; and walking with a steady step to
Walter, she laid her hand upon his arm, and fixing on his countenance
that soft clear eye, which was now lit with a searching and preternatural
glare, and seemed to pierce into his soul, she said,

"Walter, do I hear aright?  Am I awake?  Is it you who accuse Eugene
Aram,--your Madeline's betrothed husband,--Madeline, whom you once loved?
Of what?  Of crimes which death alone can punish. Away!  It is not you,
--I know it is not. Say that I am mistaken,--that I am mad, if you will.
Come, Walter, relieve me; let me not abhor the very air you breathe!"

"Will no one have mercy on me?"  cried Walter, rent to the heart, and
covering his face with his hands. In the fire and heat of vengeance he
had not reeked of this. He had only thought of justice to a father,
punishment to a villain, rescue for a credulous girl. The woe, the horror
he was about to inflict on all he most loved: this had not struck upon
him with a due force till now!

"Mercy--you talk of mercy!  I knew it could not be true!" said Madeline,
trying to pluck her cousin's hand from his face; "you could not have
dreamed of wrong to Eugene and--and upon this day. Say we have erred,
or that you have erred, and we will forgive and bless you even now!"
Aram had not interfered in this scene; he kept his eyes fixed on the
cousins, not uninterested to see what effect Madeline's touching words
might produce on his accuser. Meanwhile she continued: "Speak to me,
Walter, dear Walter, speak to me'. Are you, my cousin, my playfellow,
--are you the one to blight our hopes, to dash our joys, to bring dread
and terror into a home so lately all peace and sunshine, your own home,
your childhood's home?  What have you done?  What have you dared to do?
Accuse him!  Of what?  Murder!  Speak, speak. Murder, ha! ha!--murder!
nay, not so!  You would not venture to come here, you would not let me
take your hand, you would not look us, your uncle, your more than
sisters, in the face if you could nurse in your heart this lie,--this
black, horrid lie!"

Walter withdrew his hands, and as he turned his face said,--

"Let him prove his innocence. Pray God he do!  I am not his accuser,
Madeline. His accusers are the bones of my dead father!  Save these,
Heaven alone and the revealing earth are witness against him!"

"Your father!" said Madeline, staggering back,--"my lost uncle!  Nay, now
I know indeed what a shadow has appalled us all!  Did you know my uncle,
Eugene?  Did you ever see Geoffrey Lester?"

"Never, as I believe, so help me God!" said Aram, laying his hand on his
heart. "But this is idle now," as, recollecting himself, he felt that the
case had gone forth from Walter's hands, and that appeal to him had
become vain. "Leave us now, dearest Madeline, my beloved wife that shall
be, that is!  I go to disprove these charges. Perhaps I shall return
to-night. Delay not my acquittal, even from doubt,--a boy's doubt. Come,
sirs."

"O Eugene!  Eugene!"  cried Madeline, throwing herself on her knees
before hint, "do not order me to leave you now, now in the hour of dread!
I will not. Nay, look not so!  I swear I will not!  Father, dear father,
come and plead for me,--say I shall go with you. I ask nothing more. Do
not fear for my nerves,--cowardice is gone. I will not shame you, I will
not play the woman. I know what is due to one who loves him. Try me, only
try me. You weep, father, you shake your head. But you, Eugene,
--you have not the heart to deny me?  Think--think if I stayed here to
count the moments till you return, my very senses would leave me. What do
I ask?  But to go with you, to be the first to hail your triumph!  Had
this happened two hours hence, you could not have said me nay,--I should
have claimed the right to be with you; I now but implore the blessing.
You relent, you relent; I see it!"

"O Heaven!"  exclaimed Aram, rising, and clasping her to his breast, and
wildly kissing her face, but with cold and trembling lips, "this is
indeed a bitter hour; let me not sink beneath it. Yes, Madeline, ask your
father if he consents; I hail your strengthening presence as that of an
angel. I will not be the one to sever you from my side."

"You are right, Eugene," said Lester, who was supporting Ellinor, not yet
recovered,--"let her go with us; it is but common kindness and common
mercy."

Madeline uttered a cry of joy (joy even at such a moment!), and clung
fast to Eugene's arm, as if for assurance that they were not indeed to be
separated.

By this time some of Lester's servants, who had from a distance followed
their young mistresses, reached the spot. To their care Lester gave the
still scarce reviving Ellinor; and then, turning round with a severe
countenance to Walter, said, "Come, sir, your rashness has done
sufficient wrong for the present; come now, and see how soon your
suspicions will end in shame."

"Justice, and blood for blood!"  said Walter, sternly; but his heart felt
as if it were broken. His venerable uncle's tears, Madeline's look of
horror as she turned from him, Ellinor all lifeless, and he not daring to
approach her,--this was HIS work!  He pulled his hat over his eyes, and
hastened into the carriage alone. Lester, Madeline, and Aram followed in
the other vehicle; and the two officers contented themselves with
mounting the box, certain the prisoner would attempt no escape.



                               CHAPTER III.

     THE JUSTICE--THE DEPARTURE--THE EQUANIMITY OF THE CORPORAL IN
     BEARING THE MISFORTUNES OF OTHER PEOPLE.--THE EXAMINATION; ITS
       RESULT.--ARAM'S CONDUCT IN PRISON.--THE ELASTICITY OF OUR
            HUMAN NATURE.--A VISIT FROM THE EARL.--WALTER'S
                       DETERMINATION.--MADELINE.

                   Bear me to prison, where I am committed.
                                --Measure for Measure.

On arriving at Sir--'s, a disappointment, for which, had they previously
conversed with the officers they might have been prepared, awaited them.
The fact was, that the justice had only endorsed the warrant sent from
Yorkshire; and after a very short colloquy, in which he expressed his
regret at the circumstance, his conviction that the charge would be
disproved, and a few other courteous common-places, he gave Aram to
understand that the matter now did not rest with him, but that it was to
Yorkshire that the officers were bound, and before Mr. Thornton, a
magistrate of that country, that the examination was to take place. "All
I can do," said the magistrate, "I have already done; but I wished for an
opportunity of informing you of it. I have written to my brother justice
at full length respecting your high character, and treating the habits
and rectitude of your life alone as a sufficient refutation of so
monstrous a charge."

For the first time a visible embarrassment came over the firm nerves of
the prisoner: he seemed to look with great uneasiness at the prospect of
this long and dreary journey, and for such an end. Perhaps, the very
notion of returning as a suspected criminal to that part of the country
where a portion of his youth had been passed, was sufficient to disquiet
and deject him. All this while his poor Madeline seemed actuated by a
spirit beyond herself; she would not be separated from his side--she held
his hand in hers--she whispered comfort and courage at the very moment
when her own heart most sank. The magistrate wiped his eyes when he saw a
creature so young, so beautiful, in circumstances so fearful, and bearing
up with an energy so little to be expected from her years and delicate
appearance. Aram said but little; he covered his face with his right hand
for a few moments, as if to hide a passing emotion, a sudden weakness.
When he removed it, all vestige of colour had died away; his face was
pale as that of one who has risen from the grave; but it was settled and
composed.

"It is a hard pang, Sir," said he, with a faint smile; "so many miles--so
many days--so long a deferment of knowing the best, or preparing to meet
the worst. But, be it so! I thank you, Sir,--I thank you all,--Lester,
Madeline, for your kindness; you two must now leave me; the brand is on
my name--the suspected man is no fit object for love or friendship!
Farewell!"

"We go with you!" said Madeline firmly, and in a very low voice.

Aram's eye sparkled, but he waved his hand impatiently.

"We go with you, my friend!" repeated Lester.

And so, indeed, not to dwell long on a painful scene, it was finally
settled. Lester and his two daughters that evening followed Aram to the
dark and fatal bourne to which he was bound.

It was in vain that Walter, seizing his uncle's hands, whispered,

"For Heaven's sake, do not be rash in your friendship! You have not yet
learnt all. I tell you, that there can be no doubt of his guilt!
Remember, it is a brother for whom you mourn! will you countenance his
murderer?"

Lester, despite himself, was struck by the earnestness with which his
nephew spoke, but the impression died away as the words ceased: so strong
and deep had been the fascination which Eugene Aram had exercised over
the hearts of all once drawn within the near circle of his attraction,
that had the charge of murder been made against himself, Lester could not
have repelled it with a more entire conviction of the innocence of the
accused. Still, however, the deep sincerity of his nephew's manner in
some measure served to soften his resentment towards him.

"No, no, boy!" said he, drawing away his hand, "Rowland Lester is not the
one to desert a friend in the day of darkness and the hour of need. Be
silent I say!--My brother, my poor brother, you tell me, has been
murdered. I will see justice done to him: but, Aram! Fie! fie! it is a
name that would whisper falsehood to the loudest accusation. Go, Walter!
go! I do not blame you!--you may be right--a murdered father is a dread
and awful memory to a son! What wonder that the thought warps your
judgment? But go! Eugene was to me both a guide and a blessing; a father
in wisdom, a son in love. I cannot look on his accuser's face without
anguish. Go! we shall meet again.--How! Go!"

"Enough, Sir!" said Walter, partly in anger, partly in sorrow--"Time be
the judge between us all!"

With those words he turned from the house, and proceeded on foot towards
a cottage half way between Grassdale and the Magistrate's house, at
which, previous to his return to the former place, he had prudently left
the Corporal--not willing to trust to that person's discretion, as to the
tales and scandal that he might propagate throughout the village on a
matter so painful and so dark.

Let the world wag as it will, there are some tempers which its
vicissitudes never reach. Nothing makes a picture of distress more sad
than the portrait of some individual sitting indifferently looking on in
the back-ground. This was a secret Hogarth knew well. Mark his deathbed
scenes:--Poverty and Vice worked up into horror--and the Physicians in
the corner wrangling for the fee!--or the child playing with the coffin-
-or the nurse filching what fortune, harsh, yet less harsh than humanity,
might have left. In the melancholy depth of humour that steeps both our
fancy and our heart in the immortal Romance of Cervantes (for, how
profoundly melancholy is it to be compelled by one gallant folly to laugh
at all that is gentle, and brave, and wise, and generous!) nothing grates
on us more than when--last scene of all, the poor Knight lies dead--his
exploits for ever over--for ever dumb his eloquent discourses: than when,
I say, we are told that, despite of his grief, even little Sancho did not
eat or drink the less:--these touches open to us the real world, it is
true; but it is not the best part of it. What a pensive thing is true
humour! Certain it was, that when Walter, full of contending emotions at
all he had witnessed,--harassed, tortured, yet also elevated, by his
feelings, stopped opposite the cottage door, and saw there the Corporal
sitting comfortably in the porch,--his vile modicum Sabini before him--
his pipe in his mouth, and a complacent expression of satisfaction
diffusing itself over features which shrewdness and selfishness had
marked for their own;--certain it was, that, at this sight Walter
experienced a more displeasing revulsion of feeling--a more entire
conviction of sadness--a more consummate disgust of this weary world and
the motley masquers that walk thereon, than all the tragic scenes he had
just witnessed had excited within him.

"And well, Sir," said the Corporal, slowly rising, "how did it go off?--
Wasn't the villain bash'd to the dust?--You've nabbed him safe, I hope?"

"Silence," said Walter, sternly, "prepare for our departure. The chaise
will be here forthwith; we return to Yorkshire this day. Ask me no more
now."

"A--well--baugh!" said the Corporal.

There was a long silence. Walter walked to and fro the road before the
cottage. The chaise arrived; the luggage was put in. Walter's foot was on
the step; but before the Corporal mounted the rumbling dickey, that
invaluable domestic hemmed thrice.

"And had you time, Sir, to think of poor Jacob, and look at the cottage,
and slip in a word to your uncle about the bit tato ground?"

We pass over the space of time, short in fact, long in suffering, that
elapsed, till the prisoner and his companions reached Knaresbro'. Aram's
conduct during this time was not only calm but cheerful. The stoical
doctrines he had affected through life, he on this trying interval called
into remarkable exertion. He it was who now supported the spirits of his
mistress and his friend; and though he no longer pretended to be sanguine
of acquittal--though again and again he urged upon them the gloomy fact--
first, how improbable it was that this course had been entered into
against him without strong presumption of guilt; and secondly, how little
less improbable it was, that at that distance of time he should be able
to procure evidence, or remember circumstances, sufficient on the instant
to set aside such presumption,--he yet dwelt partly on the hope of
ultimate proof of his innocence, and still more strongly on the firmness
of his own mind to bear, without shrinking, even the hardest fate.

"Do not," he said to Lester, "do not look on these trials of life only
with the eyes of the world. Reflect how poor and minute a segment in the
vast circle of eternity existence is at the best. Its sorrow and its
shame are but moments. Always in my brightest and youngest hours I have
wrapt my heart in the contemplation of an august futurity.

                   "'The soul, secure in its existence, smiles
                   At the drawn dagger, and defies its point.'

"If I die even the death of the felon, it is beyond the power of fate to
separate us for long. It is but a pang, and we are united again for ever;
for ever in that far and shadowy clime, where the wicked cease from
troubling, and the weary are at rest.' Were it not for Madeline's dear
sake, I should long since have been over weary of the world. As it is,
the sooner, even by a violent and unjust fate, we leave a path begirt
with snares below and tempests above, the happier for that soul which
looks to its lot in this earth as the least part of its appointed doom."

In discourses like this, which the nature of his eloquence was peculiarly
calculated to render solemn and impressive, Aram strove to prepare his
friends for the worst, and perhaps to cheat, or to steel, himself. Ever
as he spoke thus, Lester or Ellinor broke on him with impatient
remonstrance; but Madeline, as if imbued with a deeper and more mournful
penetration into the future, listened in tearless and breathless
attention. She gazed upon him with a look that shared the thought he
expressed, though it read not (yet she dreamed so) the heart from which
it came. In the words of that beautiful poet, to whose true nature, so
full of unuttered tenderness--so fraught with the rich nobility of love-
-we have begun slowly to awaken,

             "Her lip was silent, scarcely beat her heart.
             Her eye alone proclaimed 'we will not part!'
             Thy 'hope' may perish, or thy friends may flee.
             Farewell to life--but not adieu to thee!"
                         --[Lara]

They arrived at noon at the house of Mr. Thornton, and Aram underwent his
examination. Though he denied most of the particulars in Houseman's
evidence, and expressly the charge of murder, his commitment was made
out; and that day he was removed by the officers, (Barker and Moor, who
had arrested him at Grassdale,) to York Castle, to await his trial at the
assizes.

The sensation which this extraordinary event created throughout the
country, was wholly unequalled. Not only in Yorkshire, and the county in
which he had of late resided, where his personal habits were known, but
even in the Metropolis, and amongst men of all classes in England, it
appears to have caused one mingled feeling of astonishment, horror, and
incredulity, which in our times has had no parallel in any criminal
prosecution. The peculiar turn of the prisoner--his genius--his learning-
-his moral life--the interest that by students had been for years
attached to his name--his approaching marriage--the length of time that
had elapsed since the crime had been committed--the singular and abrupt
manner, the wild and legendary spot, in which the skeleton of the lost
man had been discovered--the imperfect rumours--the dark and suspicious
evidence--all combined to make a tale of such marvellous incident, and
breeding such endless conjecture, that we cannot wonder to find it
afterwards received a place, not only in the temporary chronicles, but
even the most important and permanent histories of the period.

Previous to Walter's departure from Knaresbro' to Grassdale, and
immediately subsequent to the discovery at St. Robert's Cave, the
coroner's inquest had been held upon the bones so mysteriously and
suddenly brought to light. Upon the witness of the old woman at whose
house Aram had lodged, and upon that of Houseman, aided by some
circumstantial and less weighty evidence, had been issued that warrant on
which we have seen the prisoner apprehended.

With most men there was an intimate and indignant persuasion of Aram's
innocence; and at this day, in the county where he last resided, there
still lingers the same belief. Firm as his gospel faith, that conviction
rested in the mind of the worthy Lester; and he sought, by every means he
could devise, to soothe and cheer the confinement of his friend. In
prison, however (indeed after his examination--after Aram had made
himself thoroughly acquainted with all the circumstantial evidence which
identified Clarke with Geoffrey Lester, a story that till then he had
persuaded himself wholly to disbelieve) a change which, in the presence
of Madeline or her father, he vainly attempted wholly to conceal, and to
which, when alone, he surrendered himself with a gloomy abstraction--came
over his mood, and dashed him from the lofty height of Philosophy, from
which he had before looked down on the peril and the ills below.

Sometimes he would gaze on Lester with a strange and glassy eye, and
mutter inaudibly to himself, as if unaware of the old man's presence; at
others, he would shrink from Lester's proffered hand, and start abruptly
from his professions of unaltered, unalterable regard; sometimes he would
sit silently, and, with a changeless and stony countenance, look upon
Madeline as she now spoke in that exalted tone of consolation which had
passed away from himself; and when she had done, instead of replying to
her speech, he would say abruptly, "Ay, at the worst you love me, then--
love me better than any one on earth--say that, Madeline, again say
that!"

And Madeline's trembling lips obeyed the demand.

"Yes," he would renew, "this man, whom they accuse me of murdering,
this,--your uncle,--him you never saw since you were an infant, a mere
infant; him you could not love! What was he to you?--yet it is dreadful
to think of--dreadful, dreadful;" and then again his voice ceased; but
his lips moved convulsively, and his eyes seemed to speak meanings that
defied words. These alterations in his bearing, which belied his steady
and resolute character, astonished and dejected both Madeline and her
father. Sometimes they thought that his situation had shaken his reason,
or that the horrible suspicion of having murdered the uncle of his
intended wife, made him look upon themselves with a secret shudder, and
that they were mingled up in his mind by no unnatural, though unjust
confusion, with the causes of his present awful and uncertain state. With
the generality of the world, these two tender friends believed Houseman
the sole and real murderer, and fancied his charge against Aram was but
the last expedient of a villain to ward punishment from himself, by
imputing crime to another. Naturally, then, they frequently sought to
turn the conversation upon Houseman, and on the different circumstances
that had brought him acquainted with Aram; but on this ground the
prisoner seemed morbidly sensitive, and averse to detailed discussion.
His narration, however, such as it was, threw much light upon certain
matters on which Madeline and Lester were before anxious and inquisitive.

"Houseman is, in all ways," said he, with great and bitter vehemence,
"unredeemed, and beyond the calculations of an ordinary wickedness; we
knew each other from our relationship, but seldom met, and still more
rarely held long intercourse together. After we separated, when I left
Knaresbro', we did not meet for years. He sought me at Grassdale; he was
poor, and implored assistance; I gave him all within my power; he sought
me again, nay, more than once again, and finding me justly averse to
yielding to his extortionate demands, he then broached the purpose he has
now effected; he threatened--you hear me--you understand--he threatened
me with this charge--the murder of Daniel Clarke, by that name alone I
knew the deceased. The menace, and the known villainy of the man,
agitated me beyond expression. What was I? a being who lived without the
world--who knew not its ways--who desired only rest! The menace haunted
me--almost maddened! Your nephew has told you, you say, of broken words,
of escaping emotions, which he has noted, even to suspicion, in me; you
now behold the cause! Was it not sufficient? My life, nay more, my fame,
my marriage, Madeline's peace of mind, all depended on the uncertain fury
or craft of a wretch like this! The idea was with me night and day; to
avoid it, I resolved on a sacrifice; you may blame me, I was weak, yet I
thought then not unwise; to avoid it, I say I offered to bribe this man
to leave the country. I sold my pittance to oblige him to it. I bound him
thereto by the strongest ties. Nay, so disinterestedly, so truly did I
love Madeline, that I would not wed while I thought this danger could
burst upon me. I believed that, before my marriage day, Houseman had left
the country. It was not so, Fate ordered otherwise. It seems that
Houseman came to Knaresbro' to see his daughter; that suspicion, by a
sudden train of events, fell on him, perhaps justly; to skreen himself he
has sacrificed me. The tale seems plausible; perhaps the accuser may
triumph. But, Madeline, you now may account for much that may have
perplexed you before. Let me remember--ay--ay--I have dropped mysterious
words--have I not? have I not?--owning that danger was around me--owning
that a wild and terrific secret was heavy at my breast; nay, once,
walking with you the evening before, before the fatal day, I said that we
must prepare to seek some yet more secluded spot, some deeper retirement;
for, despite my precautions, despite the supposed absence of Houseman
from the country itself, a fevered and restless presentiment would at
some times intrude itself on me. All this is now accounted for, is it
not, Madeline? Speak, speak!"

"All, love all! Why do you look on me with that searching eye, that
frowning brow?"

"Did I? no, no, I have no frown for you; but peace, I am not what I ought
to be through this ordeal."

The above narration of Aram's did indeed account to Madeline for much
that had till then remained unexplained; the appearance of Houseman at
Grassdale,--the meeting between him and Aram on the evening she walked
with the latter, and questioned him of his ill-boding visitor; the
frequent abstraction and muttered hints of her lover; and as he had said,
his last declaration of the possible necessity of leaving Grassdale. Nor
was there any thing improbable, though it was rather in accordance with
the unworldly habits, than with the haughty character of Aram, that he
should seek, circumstanced as he was, to silence even the false accuser
of a plausible tale, that might well strike horror and bewilderment into
a man much more, to all seeming, fitted to grapple with the hard and
coarse realities of life, than the moody and secluded scholar. Be that as
it may, though Lester deplored, he did not blame this circumstance, which
after all had not transpired, nor seemed likely to transpire; and he
attributed the prisoner's aversion to enter farther on the matter, to the
natural dislike of so proud a man to refer to his own weakness, and to
dwell upon the manner in which, despite of that weakness, he had been
duped. This story Lester retailed to Walter, and it contributed to throw
a damp and uncertainty over those mixed and unquiet feelings with which
the latter waited for the coming trial. There were many moments when the
young man was tempted to regret that Aram had not escaped a trial which,
if he were proved guilty, would for ever blast the happiness of his
family; and which might, notwithstanding such a verdict, leave on
Walter's own mind an impression of the prisoner's innocence; and an
uneasy consciousness that he, through his investigations, had brought him
to that doom.

Walter remained in Yorkshire, seeing little of his family, of none indeed
but Lester; it was not to be expected that Madeline would see him, and
once only he caught the tearful eyes of Ellinor as she retreated from the
room he entered, and those eyes beamed kindness and pity, but something
also of reproach.

Time passed slowly and witheringly on: a man of the name of Terry having
been included in the suspicion, and indeed committed, it appeared that
the prosecutor could not procure witnesses by the customary time, and the
trial was postponed till the next assizes. As this man was however, never
brought up to trial, and appears no more, we have said nothing of him in
our narrative, until he thus became the instrument of a delay in the fate
of Eugene Aram. Time passed on, Winter, Spring, were gone, and the glory
and gloss of Summer were now lavished over the happy earth. In some
measure the usual calmness of his demeanour had returned to Aram; he had
mastered those moody fits we have referred to, which had so afflicted his
affectionate visitors; and he now seemed to prepare and buoy himself up
against that awful ordeal of life and death, which he was about so soon
to pass. Yet he,--the hermit of Nature, who--

                                "Each little herb
             That grows on mountain bleak, or tangled forest,
             Had learnt to name;"
                         --Remorse, by S. T. Coleridge

he could not feel, even through the bars and checks of a prison, the soft
summer air, 'the witchery of the soft blue sky;' he could not see the
leaves bud forth, and mellow into their darker verdure; he could not hear
the songs of the many-voiced birds; or listen to the dancing rain,
calling up beauty where it fell; or mark at night, through his high and
narrow casement, the stars aloof, and the sweet moon pouring in her
light, like God's pardon, even through the dungeon-gloom and the desolate
scenes where Mortality struggles with Despair; he could not catch,
obstructed as they were, these, the benigner influences of earth, and not
sicken and pant for his old and full communion with their ministry and
presence. Sometimes all around him was forgotten, the harsh cell, the
cheerless solitude, the approaching trial, the boding fear, the darkened
hope, even the spectre of a troubled and fierce remembrance,--all was
forgotten, and his spirit was abroad, and his step upon the mountain-top
once more.

In our estimate of the ills of life, we never sufficiently take into our
consideration the wonderful elasticity of our moral frame, the unlooked
for, the startling facility with which the human mind accommodates itself
to all change of circumstance, making an object and even a joy from the
hardest and seemingly the least redeemed conditions of fate. The man who
watched the spider in his cell, may have taken, at least, as much
interest in the watch, as when engaged in the most ardent and ambitious
objects of his former life; and he was but a type of his brethren; all in
similar circumstances would have found some similar occupation. Let any
man look over his past life, let him recall not moments, not hours of
agony, for to them Custom lends not her blessed magic; but let him single
out some lengthened period of physical or moral endurance; in hastily
reverting to it, it may seem at first, I grant, altogether wretched; a
series of days marked with the black stone,--the clouds without a star;--
but let him look more closely, it was not so during the time of
suffering; a thousand little things, in the bustle of life dormant and
unheeded, then started froth into notice, and became to him objects of
interest or diversion; the dreary present, once made familiar, glided
away from him, not less than if it had been all happiness; his mind dwelt
not on the dull intervals, but the stepping-stone it had created and
placed at each; and, by that moral dreaming which for ever goes on within
man's secret heart, he lived as little in the immediate world before him,
as in the most sanguine period of his youth, or the most scheming of his
maturity.

So wonderful in equalizing all states and all times in the varying tide
of life, are these two rulers yet levellers of mankind, Hope and Custom,
that the very idea of an eternal punishment includes that of an utter
alteration of the whole mechanism of the soul in its human state, and no
effort of an imagination, assisted by past experience, can conceive a
state of torture which custom can never blunt, and from which the
chainless and immaterial spirit can never be beguiled into even a
momentary escape.

Among the very few persons admitted to Aram's solitude, was Lord--That
nobleman was staying, on a visit, with a relation of his in the
neighbourhood, and he seized with an excited and mournful avidity, the
opportunity thus afforded him of seeing, once more, a character that had
so often forced itself on his speculation and surprise. He came to offer
not condolence, but respect; services, at such a moment, no individual
could render,--he gave however, what was within his power--advice,--and
pointed out to Aram the best counsel to engage, and the best method of
previous inquiry into particulars yet unexplored. He was astonished to
find Aram indifferent on these points, so important. The prisoner, it
would seem, had even then resolved on being his own counsel, and
conducting his own cause; the event proved that he did not rely in vain
on the power of his own eloquence and sagacity, though he might on their
result. As to the rest, he spoke with impatience, and the petulance of a
wronged man. "For the idle rumours of the world, I do not care," said he,
"let them condemn or acquit me as they will;--for my life, I might be
willing indeed, that it were spared,--I trust it may be, if not, I can
stand face to face with Death. I have now looked on him within these
walls long enough to have grown familiar with his terrors. But enough of
me; tell me, my Lord, something of the world without, I have grown eager
about it at last. I have been now so condemned to feed upon myself, that
I have become surfeited with the diet;"--and it was with great difficulty
that the Earl drew Aram back to speak of himself: he did so, even when
compelled to it, with so much qualification and reserve, mixed with some
evident anger at the thought of being sifted and examined--that his
visitor was forced finally to drop the subject, and not liking, nor
indeed able, at such a time, to converse on more indifferent themes, the
last interview he ever had with Aram terminated much more abruptly than
he had meant it. His opinion of the prisoner was not, however, shaken in
the least. I have seen a letter of his to a celebrated personage of the
day, in which, mentioning this interview, he concludes with saying,--"In
short, there is so much real dignity about the man, that adverse
circumstances increase it tenfold. Of his innocence I have not the
remotest doubt; but if he persist in being his own counsel, I tremble for
the result,--you know in such cases how much more valuable is practice
than genius. But the judge you will say is, in criminal causes, the
prisoner's counsel,--God grant he may here prove a successful one! I
repeat, were Aram condemned by five hundred juries, I could not believe
him guilty. No, the very essence of all human probabilities is against
it."

The Earl afterwards saw and conversed with Walter. He was much struck
with the conduct of the young Lester, and much impressed with a feeling
for a situation, so harassing and unhappy.

"Whatever be the result of the trial," said Walter, "I shall leave the
country the moment it is finally over. If the prisoner be condemned,
there is no hearth for me in my uncle's home; if not, my suspicions may
still remain, and the sight of each other be an equal bane to the accused
and to myself. A voluntary exile, and a life that may lead to
forgetfulness, are all that I covet.--I now find in my own person," he
added, with a faint smile, "how deeply Shakspeare had read the mysteries
of men's conduct. Hamlet, we are told, was naturally full of fire and
action. One dark discovery quells his spirit, unstrings his heart, and
stales to him for ever the uses of the world. I now comprehend the
change. It is bodied forth even in the humblest individual, who is met by
a similar fate--even in myself."

"Ay," said the Earl, "I do indeed remember you a wild, impetuous,
headstrong youth. I scarcely recognize your very appearance. The elastic
spring has left your step--there seems a fixed furrow in your brow. These
clouds of life are indeed no summer vapour, darkening one moment and gone
the next. But my young friend, let us hope the best. I firmly believe in
Aram's innocence--firmly!--more rootedly than I can express. The real
criminal will appear on the trial. All bitterness between you and Aram
must cease at his acquittal; you will be anxious to repair to him the
injustice of a natural suspicion: and he seems not one who could long
retain malice. All will be well, believe me."

"God send it!" said Walter, sighing deeply.

"But at the worst," continued the Earl, pressing his hand in parting, "if
you should persist in your resolution to leave the country, write to me,
and I can furnish you with an honourable and stirring occasion for doing
so.--Farewell."

While Time was thus advancing towards the fatal day, it was graving deep
ravages within the pure breast of Madeline Lester. She had borne up, as
we have seen, for some time, against the sudden blow that had shivered
her young hopes, and separated her by so awful a chasm from the side of
Aram; but as week after week, month after month rolled on, and he still
lay in prison, and the horrible suspense of ignominy and death still hung
over her, then gradually her courage began to fail, and her heart to
sink. Of all the conditions to which the heart is subject, suspense is
the one that most gnaws, and cankers into, the frame. One little month of
that suspense, when it involves death, we are told, in a very remarkable
work lately published by an eye-witness. [Note: See Mr. Wakefield's work
on 'The Punishment of Death.'] is sufficient to plough fixed lines and
furrows in the face of a convict of five-and-twenty--sufficient to dash
the brown hair with grey, and to bleach the grey to white. And this
suspense--suspense of this nature, for more than eight whole months, had
Madeline to endure!

About the end of the second month the effect upon her health grew
visible. Her colour, naturally delicate as the hues of the pink shell or
the youngest rose, faded into one marble whiteness, which again, as time
proceeded, flushed into that red and preternatural hectic, which once
settled, rarely yields its place but to the colours of the grave. Her
flesh shrank from its rounded and noble proportions. Deep hollows traced
themselves beneath eyes which yet grew even more lovely as they grew less
serenely bright. The blessed Sleep sunk not upon her brain with its
wonted and healing dews. Perturbed dreams, that towards dawn succeeded
the long and weary vigil of the night, shook her frame even more than the
anguish of the day. in these dreams one frightful vision--a crowd--a
scaffold--and the pale majestic face of her lover, darkened by
unutterable pangs of pride and sorrow, were for ever present before her.
Till now, she and Ellinor had always shared the same bed: this Madeline
would not now suffer. In vain Ellinor wept and pleaded. "No," said
Madeline, with a hollow voice; "at night I see him. My soul is alone with
his; but--but,"--and she burst into an agony of tears--"the most
dreadful thought is this, I cannot master my dreams. And sometimes I
start and wake, and find that in sleep I have believed him guilty. Nay, O
God! that his lips have proclaimed the guilt! And shall any living being-
-shall any but God, who reads not words but hearts, hear this hideous
falsehood--this ghastly mockery of the lying sleep? No, I must be alone!
The very stars should not hear what is forced from me in the madness of
my dreams."

But not in vain, or not excluded from her, was that elastic and consoling
spirit of which I have before spoken. As Aram recovered the tenor of his
self-possession, a more quiet and peaceful calm diffused itself over the
mind of Madeline. Her high and starry nature could comprehend those
sublime inspirations of comfort, which lift us from the lowest abyss of
this world to the contemplation of all that the yearning visions of
mankind have painted in another. She would sit, rapt and absorbed for
hours together, till these contemplations assumed the colour of a gentle
and soft insanity. "Come, dearest Madeline," Ellinor would say,--"Come,
you have thought enough; my poor father asks to see you."

"Hush!" Madeline answered. "Hush, I have been walking with Eugene in
heaven; and oh! there are green woods, and lulling waters above, as there
are on earth, and we see the stars quite near, and I cannot tell you how
happy their smile makes those who look upon them. And Eugene never starts
there, nor frowns, nor walks aside, nor looks on me with an estranged and
chilling look; but his face is as calm and bright as the face of an
angel;--and his voice!--it thrills amidst all the music which plays there
night and day--softer than their softest note. And we are married,
Ellinor, at last. We were married in heaven, and all the angels came to
the marriage! I am now so happy that we were not wed before! What! are
you weeping, Ellinor? Ah, we never weep in heaven! but we will all go
there again--all of us, hand in hand!"

These affecting hallucinations terrified them, lest they should settle
into a confirmed loss of reason; but perhaps without cause. They never
lasted long, and never occurred but after moods of abstraction of unusual
duration. To her they probably supplied what sleep does to others--a
relaxation and refreshment--an escape from the consciousness of life. And
indeed it might always be noted, that after such harmless aberrations of
the mind, Madeline seemed more collected and patient in thought, and for
the moment, even stronger in frame than before. Yet the body evidently
pined and languished, and each week made palpable decay in her vital
powers.

Every time Aram saw her, he was startled at the alteration; and kissing
her cheek, her lips, her temples, in an agony of grief, wondered that to
him alone it was forbidden to weep. Yet after all, when she was gone, and
he again alone, he could not but think death likely to prove to her the
most happy of earthly boons. He was not sanguine of acquittal, and even
in acquittal, a voice at his heart suggested insuperable barriers to
their union, which had not existed when it was first anticipated.

"Yes, let her die," he would say, "let her die; she at least is certain
of Heaven!" But the human infirmity clung around him, and notwithstanding
this seeming resolution in her absence, he did not mourn the less, he was
not stung the less, when he saw her again, and beheld a new character
from the hand of death graven upon her form. No; we may triumph over all
weakness, but that of the affections. Perhaps in this dreary and haggard
interval of time, these two persons loved each other more purely, more
strongly, more enthusiastically, than they had ever done at any former
period of their eventful history. Over the hardest stone, as over the
softest turf, the green moss will force its verdure and sustain its life!



                              CHAPTER IV.

       THE EVENING BEFORE THE TRIAL.--THE COUSINS.--THE CHANGE IN
     MADELINE.--THE FAMILY OF GRASSDALE MEET ONCE MORE BENEATH ONE
                                 ROOF.

             Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows,
             For Sorrow's eye, glazed with blinding tears,
             Divides one thing entire to many objects.
                   . . . . . . . . . . . . .
                          [Hope] is a flatterer,
             A parasite, a keeper back of death;
             Who gently would dissolve the bands of death
             Which false Hope lingers in extremity?
                                      --Richard II.

It was the evening before the trial. Lester and his daughters lodged at a
retired and solitary house in the suburbs of the town of York; and
thither, from the village some miles distant, in which he had chosen his
own retreat, Walter now proceeded across fields laden with the ripening
corn. The last and the richest month of summer had commenced, but the
harvest was not yet begun, and deep and golden showed the vegetation of
life, bedded among the dark verdure of the hedge-rows, and "the merrie
woods!" The evening was serene and lulled; at a distance arose the spires
and chimneys of the town, but no sound from the busy hum of men reached
the ear. Nothing perhaps gives a more entire idea of stillness than the
sight of those abodes where "noise dwelleth," but where you cannot now
hear even its murmurs. The stillness of a city is far more impressive
than that of Nature; for the mind instantly compares the present silence
with the wonted uproar. The harvest-moon rose slowly from a copse of
gloomy firs, and diffused its own unspeakable magic into the hush and
transparency of the night. As Walter walked slowly on, the sound of
voices from some rustic party going homeward, broke jocundly on the
silence, and when he paused for a moment at the stile, from which he
first caught a glimpse of Lester's house, he saw, winding along the green
hedgerow, some village pair, the "lover and the maid," who could meet
only at such hours, and to whom such hours were therefore especially
dear. It was altogether a scene of pure and true pastoral character, and
there was all around a semblance of tranquillity, of happiness, which
suits with the poetical and the scriptural paintings of a pastoral life;
and which perhaps, in a new and fertile country, may still find a
realization. From this scene, from these thoughts, the young loiterer
turned with a sigh towards the solitary house in which this night could
awaken none but the most anxious feelings, and that moon could beam only
on the most troubled hearts.

             "Terra salutiferas herbas, eademque nocentes
             Nutrit; et urticae proxima saepe rosa est."

He now walked more quickly on, as if stung by his reflections, and
avoiding the path which led to the front of the house, gained a little
garden at the rear, and opening a gate that admitted to a narrow and
shaded walk, over which the linden and nut trees made a sort of
continuous and natural arbour, the moon, piercing at broken intervals
through the boughs, rested on the form of Ellinor Lester.

"This is most kind, most like my own sweet cousin," said Walter
approaching; "I cannot say how fearful I was, lest you should not meet me
after all."

"Indeed, Walter," replied Ellinor, "I found some difficulty in concealing
your note, which was given me in Madeline's presence; and still more, in
stealing out unobserved by her, for she has been, as you may well
conceive, unusually restless the whole of this agonizing day. Ah, Walter,
would to God you had never left us!"

"Rather say," rejoined Walter--"that this unhappy man, against whom my
father's ashes still seem to me to cry aloud, had never come into our
peaceful and happy valley! Then you would not have reproached me, that I
have sought justice on a suspected murderer; nor I have longed for death
rather than, in that justice, have inflicted such distress and horror on
those whom I love the best!"

"What! Walter, you yet believe--you are yet convinced that Eugene Aram is
the real criminal?"

"Let to-morrow shew," answered Walter. "But poor, poor Madeline! How does
she bear up against this long suspense? You know I have not seen her for
months."

"Oh! Walter," said Ellinor, weeping bitterly, "you would not know her, so
dreadfully is she altered. I fear--" (here sobs choaked the sister's
voice, so as to leave it scarcely audible)--"that she is not many weeks
for this world!"

"Great God! is it so?" exclaimed Walter, so shocked, that the tree
against which he leant scarcely preserved him from falling to the ground,
as the thousand remembrances of his first love rushed upon his heart.
"And Providence singled me out of the whole world, to strike this blow!"

Despite her own grief, Ellinor was touched and smitten by the violent
emotion of her cousin; and the two young persons, lovers--though love was
at this time the least perceptible feeling of their breasts--mingled
their emotions, and sought, at least to console and cheer each other.

"It may yet be better than our fears," said Ellinor, soothingly. "Eugene
may be found guiltless, and in that joy we may forget all the past."

Walter shook his head despondingly. "Your heart, Ellinor, was always kind
to me. You now are the only one to do me justice, and to see how utterly
reproachless I am for all the misery the crime of another occasions. But
my uncle--him, too, I have not seen for some time: is he well?"

"Yes, Walter, yes," said Ellinor, kindly disguising the real truth, how
much her father's vigorous frame had been bowed by his state of mind.
"And I, you see," added she, with a faint attempt to smile,--"I am, in
health at least, the same as when, this time last year, we were all happy
and full of hope."

Walter looked hard upon that face, once so vivid with the rich colour and
the buoyant and arch expression of liveliness and youth, now pale,
subdued, and worn by the traces of constant tears; and, pressing his hand
convulsively on his heart, turned away.

"But can I not see my uncle?" said he, after a pause.

"He is not at home: he has gone to the Castle," replied Ellinor.

"I shall meet him, then, on his way home," returned Walter. "But,
Ellinor, there is surely no truth in a vague rumour which I heard in the
town, that Madeline intends to be present at the trial to-morrow."

"Indeed, I fear that she will. Both my father and myself have sought
strongly and urgently to dissuade her; but in vain. You know, with all
that gentleness, how resolute she is when her mind is once determined on
any object."

"But if the verdict should be against the prisoner, in her state of
health consider how terrible would be the shock!--Nay, even the joy of
acquittal might be equally dangerous--for Heaven's sake! do not suffer
her."

"What is to be done, Walter?" said Ellinor, wringing her hands. "We
cannot help it. My father has, at last, forbid me to contradict the wish.
Contradiction, the physician himself says, might be as fatal as
concession can be. And my father adds, in a stern, calm voice, which it
breaks my heart to hear, 'Be still, Ellinor. If the innocent is to
perish, the sooner she joins him the better: I would then have all my
ties on the other side the grave!'"

"How that strange man seems to have fascinated you all!" said Walter,
bitterly.

Ellinor did not answer: over her the fascination had never been to an
equal degree with the rest of her family.

"Ellinor!" said Walter, who had been walking for the last few moments to
and fro with the rapid strides of a man debating with himself, and who
now suddenly paused, and laid his hand on his cousin's arm--"Ellinor! I
am resolved. I must, for the quiet of my soul, I must see Madeline this
night, and win her forgiveness for all I have been made the unintentional
agent of Providence to bring upon her. The peace of my future life may
depend on this single interview. What if Aram be condemned--and--and--in
short, it is no matter--I must see her."

"She would not hear of it, I fear," said Ellinor, in alarm. "Indeed, you
cannot--you do not know her state of mind."

"Ellinor!" said Walter, doggedly, "I am resolved." And so saying, he
moved towards the house.

"Well, then," said Ellinor, whose nerves had been greatly shattered by
the scenes and sorrow of the last several months, "if it must be so, wait
at least till I have gone in, and consulted or prepared her."

"As you will, my gentlest, kindest cousin; I know your prudence and
affection. I leave you to obtain me this interview; you can, and will, I
am convinced."

"Do not be sanguine, Walter. I can only promise to use my best
endeavours," answered Ellinor, blushing as he kissed her hand; and,
hurrying up the walk, she disappeared within the house.

Walter walked for some moments about the alley in which Ellinor had left
him, but growing impatient, he at length wound through the overhanging
trees, and the house stood immediately before him,--the moonlight shining
full on the window-panes, and sleeping in quiet shadow over the green
turf in front. He approached yet nearer, and through one of the windows,
by a single light in the room, he saw Ellinor leaning over a couch, on
which a form reclined, that his heart, rather than his sight, told him
was his once-adored Madeline. He stopped, and his breath heaved thick;--
he thought of their common home at Grassdale--of the old Manor-house--of
the little parlour with the woodbine at its casement--of the group
within, once so happy and light-hearted, of which he had formerly made
the one most buoyant, and not least-loved. And now this strange--this
desolate house--himself estranged from all once regarding him,--(and
those broken-hearted,)--this night ushering what a morrow!--he groaned
almost aloud, and retreated once more into the shadow of the trees. In a
few minutes the door at the right of the building opened, and Ellinor
came forth with a quick step.

"Come in, dear Walter," said she; "Madeline has consented to see you--
nay, when I told her you were here, and desired an interview, she paused
but for one instant, and then begged me to admit you."

"God bless her!" said poor Walter, drawing his hand across his eyes, and
following Ellinor to the door.

"You will find her greatly changed!" whispered Ellinor, as they gained
the outer hall; "be prepared!"

Walter did not reply, save by an expressive gesture; and Ellinor led him
into a room, which communicated, by one of those glass doors often to be
seen in the old-fashioned houses of country towns, with the one in which
he had previously seen Madeline. With a noiseless step, and almost
holding his breath, he followed his fair guide through this apartment,
and he now stood by the couch on which Madeline still reclined. She held
out her hand to him--he pressed it to his lips, without daring to look
her in the face; and after a moment's pause, she said--

"So, you wished to see me, Walter! It is an anxious night this for all of
us!"

"For all!" repeated Walter, emphatically; and for me not the least!"

"We have known some sad days since we last met!" renewed Madeline; and
there was another, and an embarrassed pause.

"Madeline--dearest Madeline!" said Walter, at length dropping on his
knee; "you, whom while I was yet a boy, I so fondly, passionately loved;-
-you, who yet are--who, while I live, ever will be, so inexpressibly dear
to me--say but one word to me on this uncertain and dreadful epoch of our
fate--say but one word to me--say you feel you are conscious that
throughout these terrible events I have not been to blame--I have not
willingly brought this affliction upon our house--least of all upon that
heart which my own would have forfeited its best blood to preserve from
the slightest evil;--or, if you will not do me this justice, say at least
that you forgive me!"

"I forgive you, Walter! I do you justice, my cousin!" replied Madeline,
with energy; and raising herself on her arm. "It is long since I have
felt how unreasonable it was to throw any blame upon you--the mere and
passive instrument of fate. If I have forborne to see you, it was not
from an angry feeling, but from a reluctant weakness. God bless and
preserve you, my dear cousin! I know that your own heart has bled as
profusely as ours; and it was but this day that I told my father, if we
never met again, to express to you some kind message as a last memorial
from me. Don't weep, Walter! It is a fearful thing to see men weep! It is
only once that I have seen him weep,--that was long, long ago! He has no
tears in the hour of dread and danger. But no matter, this is a bad
world, Walter, and I am tired of it. Are not you? Why do you look so at
me, Ellinor? I am not mad! Has she told you that I am, Walter? Don't
believe her! Look at me! I am calm and collected! Yet to-morrow is--O
God! O God!--if--if!--"

Madeline covered her face with her hands, and became suddenly silent,
though only for a short time; when she again lifted up her eyes, they
encountered those of Walter; as through those blinding and agonised
tears, which are only wrung from the grief of manhood, he gazed upon that
face on which nothing of herself, save the divine and unearthly
expression which had always characterised her loveliness, was left.

"Yes, Walter, I am wearing fast away--fast beyond the power of chance!
Thank God, who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, if the worst happen,
we cannot be divided long. Ere another Sabbath has passed, I may be with
him in Paradise! What cause shall we then have for regret?"

Ellinor flung herself on her sister's neck, sobbing violently.--"Yes, we
shall regret you are not with us, Ellinor; but you will also soon grow
tired of the world; it is a sad place--it is a wicked place--it is full
of snares and pitfalls. In our walk to-day lies our destruction for to-
morrow! You will find this soon, Ellinor! And you, and my father, and
Walter, too, shall join us! Hark! the clock strikes! By this time to-
morrow night, what triumph!--or to me at least (sinking her voice into a
whisper, that thrilled through the very bones of her listeners) what
peace!"

Happily for all parties, this distressing scene was here interrupted.
Lester entered the room with the heavy step into which his once elastic
and cheerful tread had subsided.

"Ha, Walter!" said he, irresolutely glancing over the group; but Madeline
had already sprang from her seat.

"You have seen him!--you have seen him! And how does he--how does he
look? But that I know; I know his brave heart does not sink. And what
message does he send to me? And--and--tell me all, my father: quick,
quick!"

"Dear, miserable child!--and miserable old man!" muttered Lester, folding
her in his arms; "but we ought to take courage and comfort from him,
Madeline. A hero, on the eve of battle, could not be more firm--even more
cheerful. He smiled often--his old smile; and he only left tears and
anxiety to us. But of you, Madeline, we spoke mostly: he would scarcely
let me say a word on any thing else. Oh, what a kind heart!--what a
noble spirit! And perhaps a chance tomorrow may quench both. But, God! be
just, and let the avenging lightning fall on the real criminal, and not
blast the innocent man!"

"Amen!" said Madeline deeply.

"Amen!" repeated Walter, laying his hand on his heart.

"Let us pray!" exclaimed Lester, animated by a sudden impulse, and
falling on his knees. The whole group followed his example; and Lester,
in a trembling and impassioned voice, poured forth an extempore prayer,
that Justice might fall only where it was due. Never did that majestic
and pausing Moon, which filled that lowly room as with the presence of a
spirit, witness a more impressive adjuration, or an audience more
absorbed and rapt. Full streamed its holy rays upon the now snowy locks
and upward countenance of Lester, making his venerable person more
striking from the contrast it afforded to the dark and sunburnt cheek--
the energetic features, and chivalric and earnest head of the young man
beside him. Just in the shadow, the raven locks of Ellinor were bowed
over her clasped hands,--nothing of her face visible; the graceful neck
and heaving breast alone distinguished from the shadow;--and, hushed in
a death-like and solemn repose, the parted lips moving inaudibly; the eye
fixed on vacancy; the wan transparent hands, crossed upon her bosom; the
light shone with a more softened and tender ray upon the faded but all-
angelic form and countenance of her, for whom Heaven was already
preparing its eternal recompense for the ills of Earth!



                         CHAPTER V. THE TRIAL.

             "Equal to either fortune."--Speech of Eugene Aram.


A thought comes over us, sometimes, in our career of pleasure, or the
troublous exultation of our ambitious pursuits; a thought come over us,
like a cloud, that around us and about us Death--Shame--Crime--Despair,
are busy at their work. I have read somewhere of an enchanted land, where
the inmates walked along voluptuous gardens, and built palaces, and heard
music, and made merry; while around, and within, the land, were deep
caverns, where the gnomes and the fiends dwelt: and ever and anon their
groans and laughter, and the sounds of their unutterable toils, or
ghastly revels, travelled to the upper air, mixing in an awful
strangeness with the summer festivity and buoyant occupation of those
above. And this is the picture of human life! These reflections of the
maddening disparities of the world are dark, but salutary:--

      "They wrap our thoughts at banquets in the shroud;" [Young.]

but we are seldom sadder without being also wiser men!

The third of August 1759 rose bright, calm, and clear: it was the morning
of the trial; and when Ellinor stole into her sister's room, she found
Madeline sitting before the glass, and braiding her rich locks with an
evident attention and care.

"I wish," said she, "that you had pleased me by dressing as for a
holiday. See, I am going to wear the dress I was to have been married
in."

Ellinor shuddered; for what is more appalling than to find the signs of
gaiety accompanying the reality of anguish!

"Yes," continued Madeline, with a smile of inexpressible sweetness, "a
little reflection will convince you that this day ought not to be one of
mourning. It was the suspense that has so worn out our hearts. If he is
acquitted, as we all believe and trust, think how appropriate will be the
outward seeming of our joy! If not, why I shall go before him to our
marriage home, and in marriage garments. Ay," she added after a moment's
pause, and with a much more grave, settled, and intense expression of
voice and countenance--"ay; do you remember how Eugene once told us, that
if we went at noonday to the bottom of a deep pit, [Note: The remark is
in Aristotle. Buffon quotes it, with his usual adroit felicity, in, I
think, the first volume of his great work.] we should be able to see the
stars, which on the level ground are invisible. Even so, from the depths
of grief--worn, wretched, seared, and dying--the blessed apparitions and
tokens of Heaven make themselves visible to our eyes. And I know--I have
seen--I feel here," pressing her hand on her heart, "that my course is
run; a few sands only are left in the glass. Let us waste them bravely.
Stay, Ellinor! You see these poor withered rose-leaves: Eugene gave them
to me the day before--before that fixed for our marriage. I shall wear
them to-day, as I would have worn them on the wedding-day. When he
gathered the poor flower, how fresh it was; and I kissed off the dew: now
see it! But, come, come; this is trifling: we must not be late. Help me,
Nell, help me: come, bustle, quick, quick! Nay, be not so slovenly; I
told you I would be dressed with care to-day."

And when Madeline was dressed, though the robe sat loose and in large
folds over her shrunken form, yet, as she stood erect, and looked with a
smile that saddened Ellinor more than tears at her image in the glass,
perhaps her beauty never seemed of a more striking and lofty character,--
she looked indeed, a bride, but the bride of no earthly nuptials.
Presently they heard an irresolute and trembling step at the door, and
Lester knocking, asked if they were prepared.

"Come in, father," said Madeline, in a calm and even cheerful voice; and
the old man entered.

He cast a silent glance over Madeline's white dress, and then at his own,
which was deep mourning: the glance said volumes, and its meaning was not
marred by words from any one of the three.

"Yes, father," said Madeline, breaking the pause,--"We are all ready. Is
the carriage here?"

"It is at the door, my child."

"Come then, Ellinor, come!"--and leaning on her arm, Madeline walked
towards the door. When she got to the threshold, she paused, and looked
round the room.

"What is it you want?" asked Ellinor.

"I was but bidding all here farewell," replied Madeline, in a soft and
touching voice: "And now before we leave the house, Father,--Sister, one
word with you;--you have ever been very, very kind to me, and most of all
in this bitter trial, when I must have taxed your patience sadly--for I
know all is not right here, (touching her forehead)--I cannot go forth
this day without thanking you. Ellinor, my dearest friend--my fondest
sister--my playmate in gladness--my comforter in grief--my nurse in
sickness;--since we were little children, we have talked together, and
laughed together, and wept together, and though we knew all the thoughts
of each other, we have never known one thoughts that we would have
concealed from God;--and now we are going to part?--do not stop me, it
must be so, I know it. But, after a little while may you be happy again,
not so buoyant as you have been, that can never be, but still happy!--You
are formed for love and home, and for those ties you once thought would
be mine. God grant that I may have suffered for us both, and that when we
meet hereafter, you may tell me you have been happy here!"

"But you, father," added Madeline, tearing herself from the neck of her
weeping sister, and sinking on her knees before Lester, who leaned
against the wall convulsed with his emotions, and covering his face with
his hands--"but you,--what can I say to you?--You, who have never,--no,
not in my first childhood, said one harsh word to me--who have sunk all a
father's authority in a father's love,--how can I say all that I feel for
you?--the grateful overflowing, (paining, yet--oh, how sweet!)
remembrances which crowd around and suffocate me now?--The time will come
when Ellinor and Ellinor's children must be all in all to you--when of
your poor Madeline nothing will be left but a memory; but they, they will
watch on you and tend you, and protect your grey hairs from sorrow, as I
might once have hoped I also was fated to do."

"My child! my child! you break my heart!" faltered forth at last the poor
old man, who till now had in vain endeavoured to speak.

"Give me your blessing, dear father," said Madeline, herself overcome by
her feelings;--"Put your hand on my head and bless me--and say, that if I
have ever unconsciously given you a moment's pain--I am forgiven!"

"Forgiven!" repeated Lester, raising his daughter with weak and trembling
arms as his tears fell fast upon her cheek,--"Never did I feel what an
angel had sate beside my hearth till now!--But be comforted--be cheered.
What, if Heaven had reserved its crowning mercy till this day, and Eugene
be amongst us, free, acquitted, triumphant before the night!"

"Ha!" said Madeline, as if suddenly roused by the thought into new life:-
-"Ha! let us hasten to find your words true. Yes! yes!--if it should be
so--if it should. And," added she, in a hollow voice, (the enthusiasm
checked,) "if it were not for my dreams, I might believe it would be so:-
-But--come--I am ready now!"

The carriage went slowly through the crowd that the fame of the
approaching trial had gathered along the streets, but the blinds were
drawn down, and the father and daughter escaped that worst of tortures,
the curious gaze of strangers on distress. Places had been kept for them
in court, and as they left the carriage and entered the fatal spot, the
venerable figure of Lester, and the trembling and veiled forms that clung
to him, arrested all eyes. They at length gained their seats, and it was
not long before a bustle in the court drew off attention from them. A
buzz, a murmur, a movement, a dread pause! Houseman was first arraigned
on his former indictment, acquitted, and admitted evidence against Aram,
who was thereupon arraigned. The prisoner stood at the bar! Madeline
gasped for breath, and clung, with a convulsive motion, to her sister's
arm. But presently, with a long sigh she recovered her self-possession,
and sat quiet and silent, fixing her eyes upon Aram's countenance; and
the aspect of that countenance was well calculated to sustain her
courage, and to mingle a sort of exulting pride, with all the strained
and fearful acuteness of her sympathy. Something, indeed, of what he had
suffered, was visible in the prisoner's features; the lines around the
mouth in which mental anxiety generally the most deeply writes its
traces, were grown marked and furrowed; grey hairs were here and there
scattered amongst the rich and long luxuriance of the dark brown locks,
and as, before his imprisonment, he had seemed considerably younger than
he was, so now time had atoned for its past delay, and he might have
appeared to have told more years than had really gone over his head; but
the remarkable light and beauty of his eye was undimmed as ever, and
still the broad expanse of his forehead retained its unwrinkled surface
and striking expression of calmness and majesty. High, self-collected,
serene, and undaunted, he looked upon the crowd, the scene, the judge,
before and around him; and, even among those who believed him guilty,
that involuntary and irresistible respect which moral firmness always
produces on the mind, forced an unwilling interest in his fate, and even
a reluctant hope of his acquittal.

Houseman was called upon. No one could regard his face without a certain
mistrust and inward shudder. In men prone to cruelty, it has generally
been remarked, that there is an animal expression strongly prevalent in
the countenance. The murderer and the lustful man are often alike in the
physical structure. The bull-throat--the thick lips--the receding
forehead--the fierce restless eye--which some one or other says reminds
you of the buffalo in the instant before he becomes dangerous, are the
outward tokens of the natural animal unsoftened--unenlightened--
unredeemed--consulting only the immediate desires of his nature,
whatever be the passion (lust or revenge) to which they prompt. And this
animal expression, the witness of his character, was especially wrought,
if we may use the word, in House-man's rugged and harsh features;
rendered, if possible, still more remarkable at that time by a mixture of
sullenness and timidity. The conviction that his own life was saved,
could not prevent remorse at his treachery in accusing his comrade--a
sort of confused principle of which villains are the most susceptible,
when every other honest sentiment has deserted them.

With a low, choked, and sometimes a faltering tone, Houseman deposed,
that, in the night between the 7th and 8th of January 1744-5, sometime
before 11 o'clock, he went to Aram's house--that they conversed on
different matters--that he stayed there about an hour--that some three
hours afterwards he passed, in company with Clarke, by Aram's house, and
Aram was outside the door, as if he were about to return home--that Aram
invited them both to come in--that they did so--that Clarke, who intended
to leave the town before day-break, in order, it was acknowledged, to
make secretly away with certain property in his possession, was about to
quit the house, when Aram proposed to accompany him out of the town--that
he (Aram) and Houseman then went forth with Clarke--that when they came
into the field where St. Robert's Cave is, Aram and Clarke went into it,
over the hedge, and when they came within six or eight yards off the
Cave, he saw them quarrelling--that he saw Aram strike Clarke several
times, upon which Clarke fell, and he never saw him rise again--that he
saw no instrument Aram had, and knew not that he had any--that upon this,
without any interposition or alarm, he left them and returned home--that
the next morning he went to Aram's house, and asked what business he had
with Clarke last night, and what he had done with him? Aram replied not
to this question; but threatened him, if he spoke of his being in
Clarke's company that night; vowing revenge either by himself or some
other person if he mentioned any thing relating to the affair. This was
the sum of Houseman's evidence.

A Mr. Beckwith was next called, who deposed that Aram's garden had been
searched, owing to a vague suspicion that he might have been an
accomplice in the frauds of Clarke--that some parts of clothing, and also
some pieces of cambric which he had sold to Clarke a little while before,
were found there.

The third witness was the watchman, Thomas Barnet, who deposed, that
before midnight (it might be a little after eleven) he saw a person come
out from Aram's house, who had a wide coat on, with the cape about his
head, and seemed to shun him; whereupon he went up to him, and put by the
cape of his great coat, and perceived it to be Richard Houseman. He
contented himself with wishing him good night.

The officers who executed the warrant then gave their evidence as to the
arrest, and dwelt on some expressions dropped by Aram before he arrived
at Knaresbro', which, however, were felt to be wholly unimportant.

After this evidence there was a short pause;--and then a shiver, that
recoil and tremor which men feel at any exposition of the relics of the
dead, ran through the court; for the next witness was mute--it was the
skull of the Deceased! On the left side there was a fracture, that from
the nature of it seemed as it could only have been made by the stroke of
some blunt instrument. The piece was broken, and could not be replaced
but from within.

The surgeon, Mr. Locock, who produced it, gave it as his opinion that no
such breach could proceed from natural decay--that it was not a recent
fracture by the instrument with which it was dug up, but seemed to be of
many years' standing.

This made the chief part of the evidence against Aram; the minor points
we have omitted, and also such as, like that of Aram's hostess, would
merely have repeated what the reader knew before.

And now closed the criminatory evidence--and now the prisoner was asked,
in that peculiarly thrilling and awful question--What he had to say in
his own behalf? Till now, Aram had not changed his posture or his
countenance--his dark and piercing eye had for one instant fixed on each
witness that appeared against him, and then dropped its gaze upon the
ground. But at this moment a faint hectic flushed his cheek, and he
seemed to gather and knit himself up for defence. He glanced round the
court, as if to see what had been the impression created against him. His
eye rested on the grey locks of Rowland Lester, who, looking down, had
covered his face with his hands. But beside that venerable form was the
still and marble face of Madeline; and even at that distance from him,
Aram perceived how intent was the hush and suspense of her emotions. But
when she caught his eye--that eye which even at such a moment beamed
unutterable love, pity, regret for her--a wild, a convulsive smile of
encouragement, of anticipated triumph, broke the repose of her colourless
features, and suddenly dying away, left her lips apart, in that
expression which the great masters of old, faithful to Nature, give alike
to the struggle of hope and the pause of terror.

"My Lord," began Aram, in that remarkable defence still extant, and still
considered as wholly unequalled from the lips of one defending his own,
and such a, cause;--"My Lord, I know not whether it is of right, or
through some indulgence of your Lordship, that I am allowed the liberty
at this bar, and at this time, to attempt a defence; incapable and
uninstructed as I am to speak. Since, while I see so many eyes upon me,
so numerous and awful a concourse, fixed with attention, and filled with
I know not what expectancy, I labour, not with guilt, my Lord, but with
perplexity. For, having never seen a court but this, being wholly
unacquainted with law, the customs of the bar, and all judiciary
proceedings, I fear I shall be so little capable of speaking with
propriety, that it might reasonably be expected to exceed my hope, should
I be able to speak at all.

"I have heard, my Lord, the indictment read, wherein I find myself
charged with the highest of human crimes. You will grant me then your
patience, if I, single and unskilful, destitute of friends, and
unassisted by counsel, attempt something perhaps like argument in my
defence. What I have to say will be but short, and that brevity may be
the best part of it.

"My Lord, the tenor of my life contradicts this indictment. Who can look
back over what is known of my former years, and charge me with one vice--
one offence? No! I concerted not schemes of fraud--projected no violence-
-injured no man's property or person. My days were honestly laborious--my
nights intensely studious. This egotism is not presumptuous--is not
unreasonable. What man, after a temperate use of life, a series of
thinking and acting regularly, without one single deviation from a sober
and even tenor of conduct, ever plunged into the depth of crime
precipitately, and at once? Mankind are not instantaneously corrupted.
Villainy is always progressive. We decline from right--not suddenly, but
step after step.

"If my life in general contradicts the indictment, my health at that time
in particular contradicts it yet more. A little time before, I had been
confined to my bed, I had suffered under a long and severe disorder. The
distemper left me but slowly, and in part. So far from being well at the
time I am charged with this fact, I never, to this day, perfectly
recovered. Could a person in this condition execute violence against
another?--I, feeble and valetudinary, with no inducement to engage--no
ability to accomplish--no weapon wherewith to perpetrate such a fact;--
without interest, without power, without motives, without means!

"My Lord, Clarke disappeared: true; but is that a proof of his death? The
fallibility of all conclusions of such a sort, from such a circumstance,
is too obvious to require instances. One instance is before you: this
very castle affords it.

"In June 1757, William Thompson, amidst all the vigilance of this place,
in open daylight, and double-ironed, made his escape; notwithstanding an
immediate inquiry set on foot, notwithstanding all advertisements, all
search, he was never seen or heard of since. If this man escaped unseen
through all these difficulties, how easy for Clarke, whom no difficulties
opposed. Yet what would be thought of a prosecution commenced against any
one seen last with Thompson?

"These bones are discovered! Where? Of all places in the world, can we
think of any one, except indeed the church-yard, where there is so great
a certainty of finding human bones, as a hermitage? In times past, the
hermitage was a place, not only of religious retirement, but of burial.
And it has scarce, or never been heard of, but that every cell now known,
contains, or contained these relics of humanity; some mutilated--some
entire! Give me leave to remind your Lordship, that here sat SOLITARY
SANCTITY, and here the hermit and the anchorite hoped that repose for
their bones when dead, they here enjoyed when living. I glance over a few
of the many evidences that these cells were used as repositories of the
dead, and enumerate a few of the many caves similar in origin to St.
Robert's, in which human bones have been found." Here the prisoner
instanced, with remarkable felicity, several places, in which bones had
been found, under circumstances, and in spots analogous to those in
point. [Note: See his published defence.] And the reader, who will
remember that it is the great principle of the law, that no man can be
condemned for murder unless the body of the deceased be found, will
perceive at once how important this point was to the prisoner's defence.
After concluding his instances with two facts of skeletons found in
fields in the vicinity of Knaresbro', he burst forth--"Is then the
invention of those bones forgotten or industriously concealed, that the
discovery of these in question may appear the more extraordinary?
Extraordinary--yet how common an event! Every place conceals such
remains. In fields--in hills--in high-way sides--on wastes--on commons,
lie frequent and unsuspected bones. And mark,--no example perhaps occurs
of more than one skeleton being found in one cell. Here you find but one,
agreeable to the peculiarity of every known cell in Britain. Had two
skeletons been discovered, then alone might the fact have seemed
suspicious and uncommon. What! Have we forgotten how difficult, as in the
case of Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Symnell, it has been sometimes to
identify the living; and shall we now assign personality to bones--bones
which may belong to either sex? How know you that this is even the
skeleton of a man? But another skeleton was discovered by some labourer!
Was not that skeleton averred to be Clarke's full as confidently as this?

"My Lord, my Lord--must some of the living be made answerable for all the
bones that earth has concealed and chance exposed? The skull that has
been produced, has been declared fractured. But who can surely tell
whether it was the cause or the consequence of death. In May, 1732 the
remains of William Lord Archbishop of this province were taken up by
permission in their cathedral, the bones of the skull were found broken
as these are. Yet he died by no violence! by no blow that could have
caused that fracture. Let it be considered how easily the fracture on the
skull produced is accounted for. At the dissolution of religious houses,
the ravages of the times affected both the living and the dead. In search
after imaginary treasures, coffins were broken, graves and vaults dug
open, monuments ransacked, shrines demolished, Parliament itself was
called in to restrain these violations. And now are the depredations, the
iniquities of those times, to be visited on this? But here, above all,
was a castle vigorously besieged; every spot around was the scene of a
sally, a conflict, a flight, a pursuit. Where the slaughtered fell, there
were they buried. What place is not burial earth in war? How many bones
must still remain in the vicinity of that siege, for futurity to
discover! Can you, then, with so many probable circumstances, choose the
one least probable? Can you impute to the living what Zeal in its fury
may have done; what Nature may have taken off and Piety interred, or what
War alone may have destroyed, alone deposited?

"And now, glance over the circumstantial evidence, how weak, how frail! I
almost scorn to allude to it. I will not condescend to dwell upon it. The
witness of one man, arraigned himself! Is there no chance that to save
his own life he might conspire against mine?--no chance that he might
have committed this murder, if murder hath indeed been done? that
conscience betrayed to his first exclamation? that craft suggested his
throwing that guilt on me, to the knowledge of which he had unwittingly
confessed? He declares that he saw me strike Clarke, that he saw him
fall; yet he utters no cry, no reproof. He calls for no aid; he returns
quietly home; he declares that he knows not what became of the body, yet
he tells where the body is laid. He declares that he went straight home,
and alone; yet the woman with whom I lodged declares that Houseman and I
returned to my house in company together;--what evidence is this? and
from whom does it come?--ask yourselves. As for the rest of the evidence,
what does it amount to? The watchman sees Houseman leave my house at
night. What more probable, but what less connected with the murder, real
or supposed, of Clarke? Some pieces of clothing are found buried in my
garden. But how can it be shewn that they belonged to Clarke? Who can
swear to, who can prove any thing so vague? And if found there, even if
belonging to Clarke, what proof that they were there deposited by me? How
likely that the real criminal may in the dead of night have preferred any
spot, rather than that round his own home, to conceal the evidence of his
crime!

"How impotent such evidence as this! and how poor, how precarious, even
the strongest of mere circumstantial evidence invariably is! Let it rise
to probability, to the strongest degree of probability; it is but
probability still. Recollect the case of the two Harrisons, recorded by
Dr. Howell; both suffered on circumstantial evidence on account of the
disappearance of a man, who, like Clarke, contracted debts, borrowed
money, and went off unseen. And this man returned several years after
their execution. Why remind you of Jaques du Moulin, in the reign of
Charles the Second?--why of the unhappy Coleman, convicted, though
afterwards found innocent, and whose children perished for want, because
the world believed the father guilty? Why should I mention the perjury of
Smith, who, admitted king's-evidence, screened himself by accusing
Fainloth and Loveday of the murder of Dunn? the first was executed, the
second was about to share the same fate, when the perjury of Smith was
incontrovertibly proved.

"And now, my Lord, having endeavoured to shew that the whole of this
charge is altogether repugnant to every part of my life; that it is
inconsistent with my condition of health about that time; that no
rational inference of the death of a person can be drawn from his
disappearance; that hermitages were the constant repositories of the
bones of the recluse; that the proofs of these are well authenticated;
that the revolutions in religion, or the fortune of war, have mangled or
buried the dead; that the strongest circumstantial evidence is often
lamentably fallacious, that in my case, that evidence, so far from being
strong, is weak, disconnected, contradictory; what remains? A conclusion,
perhaps, no less reasonably than impatiently wished for. I, at last,
after nearly a year's confinement, equal to either fortune, entrust
myself to the candour, the justice, the humanity of your Lordship, and to
yours, my countrymen, gentlemen of the jury."

The prisoner ceased: and the painful and choking sensations of sympathy,
compassion, regret, admiration, all uniting, all mellowing into one
fearful hope for his acquittal, made themselves felt through the crowded
court.

In two persons only, an uneasy sentiment remained--a sentiment that the
prisoner had not completed that which they would have asked from him. The
one was Lester;--he had expected a more warm, a more earnest, though,
perhaps, a less ingenious and artful defence. He had expected Aram to
dwell far more on the improbable and contradictory evidence of Houseman,
and above all, to have explained away, all that was still left
unaccounted for in his acquaintance with Clarke (as we will still call
the deceased), and the allegation that he had gone out with him on the
fatal night of the disappearance of the latter. At every word of the
prisoner's defence, he had waited almost breathlessly, in the hope that
the next sentence would begin an explanation or a denial on this point:
and when Aram ceased, a chill, a depression, a disappointment, remained
vaguely on his mind. Yet so lightly and so haughtily had Aram approached
and glanced over the immediate evidence of the witnesses against him,
that his silence her might have been but the natural result of a disdain,
that belonged essentially to his calm and proud character. The other
person we referred to, and whom his defence had not impressed with a
belief in its truth, equal to an admiration for its skill, was one far
more important in deciding the prisoner's fate--it was the Judge!

But Madeline--Great God! how sanguine is a woman's heart, when the
innocence, the fate of the one she loves is concerned!--a radiant flush
broke over a face so colourless before; and with a joyous look, a kindled
eye, a lofty brow, she turned to Ellinor, pressed her hand in silence,
and once more gave up her whole soul to the dread procedure of the court.

The Judge now began.--It is greatly to be regretted, that we have no
minute and detailed memorial of the trial, except only the prisoner's
defence. The summing up of the Judge was considered at that time scarce
less remarkable than the speech of the prisoner. He stated the evidence
with peculiar care and at great length to the jury. He observed how the
testimony of the other deponents confirmed that of Houseman; and then,
touching on the contradictory parts of the latter, he made them
understand, how natural, how inevitable was some such contradiction in a
witness who had not only to give evidence against another, but to refrain
from criminating himself. There could be no doubt but that Houseman was
an accomplice in the crime; and all therefore that seemed improbable in
his giving no alarm when the deed was done, was easily rendered natural,
and reconcileable with the other parts of his evidence. Commenting then
on the defence of the prisoner (who, as if disdaining to rely on aught
save his own genius or his own innocence, had called no witnesses, as he
had employed no counsel), and eulogizing its eloquence and art, till he
destroyed their effect by guarding the jury against that impression which
eloquence and art produce in defiance of simple fact, he contended that
Aram had yet alleged nothing to invalidate the positive evidence against
him.

I have often heard, from men accustomed to courts of law, that nothing is
more marvellous, than the sudden change in a jury's mind, which the
summing up of the Judge can produce; and in the present instance it was
like magic. That fatal look of a common intelligence, of a common assent,
was exchanged among the doomers of the prisoner's life and death as the
Judge concluded.

They found the prisoner guilty.

The Judge drew on the black cap.



                              CHAPTER VI.

          THE DEATH.--THE PRISON.--AN INTERVIEW.--ITS RESULT.

                                 "Lay her i' the earth,
                   And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
                   May violets spring."
                          . . . . . . . . . . .
                   "See in my heart there was a kind of fighting

                   That would not let me sleep."
                                             --Hamlet.

"Bear with me a little longer," said Madeline. "I shall be well, quite
well presently."

Ellinor let down the carriage window, to admit the air; and she took the
occasion to tell the coachman to drive faster. There was that change in
Madeline's voice which alarmed her.

"How noble was his look! you saw him smile!" continued Madeline, talking
to herself: "And they will murder him after all. Let me see, this day
week, ay, ere this day week we shall meet again."

"Faster; for God's sake, Ellinor, tell them to drive faster!" cried
Lester, as he felt the form that leant on his bosom wax heavier and
heavier. They sped on; the house was in sight; that lonely and cheerless
house; not their sweet home at Grassdale, with the ivy round its porch,
and the quiet church behind. The sun was setting slowly, and Ellinor drew
the blind to shade the glare from her sister's eyes.

Madeline felt the kindness, and smiled. Ellinor wiped her eyes, and tried
to smile again. The carriage stopped, and Madeline was lifted out; she
stood, supported by her father and Ellinor, for a moment on the
threshold. She looked on the golden sun, and the gentle earth, and the
little motes dancing in the western ray--all was steeped in quiet, and
full of the peace and tranquillity of the pastoral life! "No, no," she
muttered, grasping her father's hand. "How is this? this is not his hand!
Ah, no, no; I am not with him! Father," she added in a louder and deeper
voice, rising from his breast, and standing alone and unaided. "Father,
bury this little packet with me, they are his letters; do not break the
seal, and--and tell him that I never felt how deeply I--I--loved him--
till all--the world--had--deserted him!"--

She uttered a faint cry of pain, and fell at once to the ground; she
lived a few hours longer, but never made speech or sign, or evinced token
of life but its breath, which died at last gradually,--imperceptibly--
away.

On the following evening Walter obtained entrance to Aram's cell: that
morning the prisoner had seen Lester; that morning he had heard of
Madeline's death. He had shed no tear; he had, in the affecting language
of Scripture, "turned his face to the wall;" none had seen his emotions;
yet Lester felt in that bitter interview, that his daughter was duly
mourned.

He did not lift his eyes, when Walter was admitted, and the young man
stood almost at his knee before he perceived him. He then looked up and
they gazed on each other for a moment, but without speaking, till Walter
said in a hollow voice: "Eugene Aram!"

"Ay!"

"Madeline Lester is no more."

"I have heard it! I am reconciled. Better now than later."

"Aram!" said Walter, in a tone trembling with emotion, and passionately
clasping his hands, "I entreat, I implore you, at this awful time, if it
be within your power, to lift from my heart a load that weighs it to the
dust, that if left there, will make me through life a crushed and
miserable man;--I implore you, in the name of common humanity, by your
hopes of Heaven, to remove it! The time now has irrevocably passed when
your denial or your confession could alter your doom; your days are
numbered, there is no hope of reprieve; I implore you then, if you were
led, I will not ask how or wherefore, to the execution of the crime for
the charge of which you die, to say, to whisper to me but one word of
confession, and I, the sole child of the murdered man, will forgive you
from the bottom of my soul."

Walter paused, unable to proceed.

Aram's brow worked; he turned aside; he made no answer; his head dropped
on his bosom, and his eyes were unmovedly fixed on the earth.

"Reflect," continued Walter, recovering himself, "Reflect! I have been
the mute instrument in bringing you to this awful fate, in destroying the
happiness of my own house--in--in--in breaking the heart of the woman
whom I adored even as a boy. If you be innocent, what a dreadful memory
is left to me! Be merciful, Aram! be merciful. And if this deed was done
by your hand, say to me but one word to remove the terrible uncertainty
that now harrows up my being. What now is earth, is man, is opinion, to
you? God only now can judge you. The eye of God reads your heart while I
speak, and in the awful hour when Eternity opens to you, if the guilt has
been indeed committed, think, oh think, how much lighter will be your
offence, if, by vanquishing the stubborn heart, you can relieve a human
being from a doubt that otherwise will make the curse--the horror of an
existence. Aram, Aram, if the father's death came from you, shall the
life of the son be made a burthen to him, through you also?"

"What would you have of me? speak!" said Aram, but without lifting his
face from his breast.

"Much of your nature belies this crime.--You are wise, calm, beneficent
to the distressed. Revenge, passion,--nay, the sharp pangs of hunger, may
have urged to one deed; but your soul is not wholly hardened: nay, I
think I would so far trust you, that, if at this dread moment--the clay
of Madeline Lester scarce yet cold, woe busy and softening at your
breast, and the son of the murdered dead before you;--if at this moment
you can lay your hand on your heart, and say: 'Before God, and at peril
of my soul, I am innocent of this deed,' I will depart--I will believe
you, and bear, as bear I may, the reflection, that, in any way I have
been one of the unconscious agents of condemning to a fearful death an
innocent man! If innocent in this--how good! how perfect in all else!
But, if you cannot at so dark a crisis take that oath,--then! oh then! be
just--be generous, even in guilt, and let me not be haunted throughout
life by the spectre of a ghastly and restless doubt! Speak! oh! speak!"

Well, well may we judge how crushing must have been that doubt in the
breast of one naturally bold and fiery, when it thus humbled the very son
of the murdered man to forget wrath and vengeance, and descend to prayer!
But Walter had heard the defence of Aram; he had marked his mien: not
once in that trial had he taken his eyes from the prisoner, and he had
felt, like a bolt of ice through his heart, that the sentence passed on
the accused, his judgment could not have passed! How dreadful must then
have been the state of his mind when, repairing to Lester's house he
found it the house of death--the pure, the beautiful spirit gone--the
father mourning for his child, and not to be comforted--and Ellinor!--No!
scenes like these, thoughts like these, pluck the pride from a man's
heart.

"Walter Lester!" said Aram, after a pause; but raising his head with
dignity, though on the features there was but one expression--woe,
unutterable woe. "Walter Lester! I had thought to quit life with my tale
untold: but you have not appealed to me in vain! I tear the self from my
heart!--I renounce the last haughty dream, in which I wrapt myself from
the ills around me. You shall learn all, and judge accordingly. But to
your ear the tale can scarce be told:--the son cannot hear in silence
that which, unless I too unjustly, too wholly condemn myself, I must say
of the dead! But Time," continued Aram, mutteringly, and with his eyes on
vacancy, "Time does not press too fast. Better let the hand speak than
the tongue:--yes; the day of execution is--ay, ay--two days yet to it--
to-morrow? no! Young man," he said abruptly, turning to Walter, "on the
day after to-morrow, about seven in the evening, the eve before that morn
fated to be my last--come to me. At that time I will place in your hands
a paper containing the whole history that connects myself with your
father. On the word of a man on the brink of another world, no truth that
imparts your interest therein shall be omitted. But read it not till I am
no more; and when read, confide the tale to none, till Lester's grey
hairs have gone to the grave. This swear! 'tis an oath difficult perhaps
to keep, but--" "As my Redeemer lives, I will swear to both conditions!"
cried Walter, with a solemn fervour.

"But tell me now at least"--"Ask me no more!" interrupted Aram, in his
turn. "The time is near, when you will know all! Tarry that time, and
leave me! Yes, leave me now--at once--leave me!"

To dwell lingeringly over those passages which excite pain without
satisfying curiosity, is scarcely the duty of the drama, or of that
province even nobler than the drama; for it requires minuter care--
indulges in more complete description--yields to more elaborate
investigation of motives--commands a greater variety of chords in the
human heart--to which, with poor and feeble power for so high, yet so
ill-appreciated a task we now, not irreverently if rashly, aspire!

We pass at once--we glance not around us at the chamber of death--at the
broken heart of Lester--at the two-fold agony of his surviving child--the
agony which mourns and yet seeks to console another--the mixed emotions
of Walter, in which, an unsleeping eagerness to learn the fearful all
formed the main part--the solitary cell and solitary heart of the
convicted--we glance not at these;--we pass at once to the evening in
which Aram again saw Walter Lester, and for the last time.

"You are come, punctual to the hour," said he, in a low clear voice: "I
have not forgotten my word; the fulfilment of that promise has been a
victory over myself which no man can appreciate: but I owed it to you. I
have discharged the debt. Enough!--I have done more than I at first
purposed. I have extended my narration, but, superficially in some parts,
over my life: that prolixity, perhaps I owed to myself. Remember your
promise: this seal is not broken till the pulse is stilled in the hand
which now gives you these papers!"

Walter renewed his oath, and Aram, pausing for a moment, continued in an
altered and softening voice:

"Be kind to Lester: soothe, console him--never by a hint let him think
otherwise of me than he does. For his sake more than mine I ask this.
Venerable, kind old man! the warmth of human affection has rarely glowed
for me. To the few who loved me, how deeply I have repaid the love! But
these are not words to pass between you and me. Farewell! Yet, before we
part, say this much: whatever I have revealed in this confession--
whatever has been my wrong to you, or whatever (a less offence) the
language I have now, justifying myself, used to--to your father--say,
that you grant me that pardon which one man may grant another."

"Fully, cordially," said Walter.

"In the day that for you brings the death that to-morrow awaits me," said
Aram, in a deep tone, "be that forgiveness accorded to yourself!
Farewell. In that untried variety of Being which spreads beyond us, who
knows, but progressing from grade to grade, and world to world, our
souls, though in far distant ages, may meet again!--one dim and shadowy
memory of this hour the link between us, farewell--farewell!"

For the reader's interest we think it better (and certainly it is more
immediately in the due course of narrative, if not of actual events) to
lay at once before him the Confession that Aram placed in Walter's hands,
without waiting till that time when Walter himself broke the seal of a
confession, not of deeds alone, but of thoughts how wild and entangled--
of feelings how strange and dark--of a starred soul that had wandered
from, how proud an orbit, to what perturbed and unholy regions of night
and chaos! For me, I have not sought to derive the reader's interest from
the vulgar sources, that such a tale might have afforded; I have suffered
him, almost from the beginning, to pierce into Aram's secret; and I have
prepared him for that guilt, with which other narrators of this story
might have only sought to surprise.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                     THE CONFESSION.--AND THE FATE.


                "In winter's tedious nights, sit by the fire
                With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales
                Of woful ages long ago betid:
                And ere thou bid good night, to quit their grief,
                Tell them the lamentable fall of me."
                                            --Richard II.

"I was born at Ramsgill, a little village in Netherdale. My family had
originally been of some rank; they were formerly lords of the town of
Aram, on the southern banks of the Tees. But time had humbled these
pretensions to consideration; though they were still fondly cherished by
the heritors of an ancient name, and idle but haughty recollections. My
father resided on a small farm, and was especially skilful in
horticulture, a taste I derived from him. When I was about thirteen, the
deep and intense Passion that has made the Demon of my life, first
stirred palpably within me. I had always been, from my cradle, of a
solitary disposition, and inclined to reverie and musing; these traits of
character heralded the love that now seized me--the love of knowledge.
Opportunity or accident first directed my attention to the abstruser
sciences. I poured my soul over that noble study, which is the best
foundation of all true discovery; and the success I met with soon turned
my pursuits into more alluring channels. History, poetry, the mastery of
the past, the spell that admits us into the visionary world, took the
place which lines and numbers had done before. I became gradually more
and more rapt and solitary in my habits; knowledge assumed a yet more
lovely and bewitching character, and every day the passion to attain it
increased upon me; I do not, I have not now the heart to do it--enlarge
upon what I acquired without assistance, and with labour sweet in
proportion to its intensity.

      [We learn from a letter of Eugene Aram's, now extant, that his
      method of acquiring the learned lauguages, was, to linger over five
      lines at a time, and never to quit a passage till he thought he had
      comprehended its meaning.]

The world, the creation, all things that lived, moved, and were, became
to me objects contributing to one passionate, and, I fancied, one exalted
end. I suffered the lowlier pleasures of life, and the charms of its more
common ties, to glide away from me untasted and unfelt. As you read, in
the East, of men remaining motionless for days together, with their eyes
fixed upon the heavens, my mind, absorbed in the contemplation of the
things above its reach, had no sight of what passed around. My parents
died, and I was an orphan. I had no home, and no wealth; but wherever the
field contained a flower, or the heavens a star, there was matter of
thought and food for delight to me. I wandered alone for months together,
seldom sleeping but in the open air, and shunning the human form as that
part of God's works from which I could learn the least. I came to
Knaresbro': the beauty of the country, a facility in acquiring books from
a neighbouring library that was open to me, made me resolve to settle
there. And now, new desires opened upon me with new stores: I became
seized, possessed, haunted with the ambition of enlightening my race. At
first, I had loved knowledge solely for itself: I now saw afar an object
grander than knowledge. To what end, said I, are these labours? Why do I
feed a lamp which consumes itself in a desert place? Why do I heap up
riches, without asking who shall gather them? I was restless and
discontented. What could I do? I was friendless; I was strange to my
kind; I was shut out from all uses by the wall of my own poverty. I saw
my desires checked when their aim was at the highest: all that was proud,
and aspiring, and ardent in my nature, was cramped and chilled. I
exhausted the learning within my reach. Where, with my appetite excited
not slaked, was I, destitute and penniless, to search for more? My
abilities, by bowing them to the lowliest tasks, but kept me from
famine:--was this to be my lot for ever? And all the while, I was thus
grinding down my soul in order to satisfy the vile physical wants, what
golden hours, what glorious advantages, what openings into new heavens of
science, what chances of illumining mankind were for ever lost to me!
Sometimes when the young, whom I taught some elementary, all-unheeded,
initiations into knowledge, came around me; when they looked me in the
face with their laughing eyes; when, for they all loved me, they told me
their little pleasures and their petty sorrows, I have wished that I
could have gone back again into childhood, and becoming as one of them,
enter into that heaven of quiet which was denied me now. Yet more often
it was with an indignant and chafed rather than a sorrowful spirit that I
looked upon my lot; and if I looked beyond it, what could I see of hope?
Dig I could; but was all that thirsted and swelled within to be dried up
and stifled, in order that I might gain the sustenance of life? Was I to
turn menial to the soil, and forget that knowledge was abroad? Was I to
starve my mind, that I might keep alive my body? Beg I could not. Where
ever lived the real student, the true minister and priest of knowledge,
who was not filled with the lofty sense of the dignity of his calling?
Was I to shew the sores of my pride, and strip my heart from its
clothing, and ask the dull fools of wealth not to let a scholar starve?
Pah!--He whom the vilest poverty ever stooped to this, may be the quack,
but never the trne disciple, of Learning. Steal, rob--worse--ay, all
those I or any of my brethren might do:--beg? never! What did I then? I
devoted the lowliest part of my knowledge to the procuring the bare means
of life, and the grandest,--the knowledge that pierced to the depths of
earth, and numbered the stars of heaven--why, that was valueless, save to
the possessor.

"In Knaresbro', at this time, I met a distant relation, Richard Houseman.
Sometimes in our walks we encountered each other; for he sought me, and I
could not always avoid him. He was a man like myself, born to poverty,
yet he had always enjoyed what to him was wealth. This seemed a mystery
to me; and when we met, we sometimes conversed upon it. 'You are poor,
with all your wisdom,' said he. 'I know nothing; but I am never poor. Why
is this? The world is my treasury.--I live upon my kind.--Society is my
foe.--Laws order me to starve; but self-preservation is an instinct more
sacred than society, and more imperious then laws.'

"The undisguised and bold manner of his discourse impressed while it
revolted me. I looked upon him as a study, and I combated, in order to
learn, him. He had been a soldier--he had seen the greatest part of
Europe--he possessed a strong shrewd sense--he was a villain--but a
villain bold--adroit--and not then thoroughly unredeemed. His
conversation created dark and perturbed reflections. What was that state
of society--was it not at war with its own elements--in which vice
prospered more than virtue? Knowledge was my dream, that dream I might
realize, not by patient suffering, but by active daring. I might wrest
from society, to which I owed nothing, the means to be wise and great.
Was it not better and nobler to do this, even at my life's hazard, than
lie down in a ditch and die the dog's death? Was it not better than such
a doom--ay better for mankind--that I should commit one bold wrong, and
by that wrong purchase the power of good? I asked myself that question.
It is a fearful question; it opens a labyrinth of reasonings, in which
the soul may walk and lose itself for ever.

"One day Houseman met me, accompanied by a stranger who had just visited
our town, for what purpose you know already. His name--supposed name--was
Clarke. Man, I am about to speak plainly of that stranger--his character
and his fate. And yet--yet you are his son! I would fain soften the
colouring; but I speak truth of myself, and I must not, unless I would
blacken my name yet deeper than it deserves, varnish truth when I speak
of others. Houseman joined, and presented to me this person. From the
first I felt a dislike creep through me at the stranger, which indeed it
was easy to account for. He was of a careless and somewhat insolent
manner. His countenance was impressed with the lines and character of a
thousand vices: you read in the brow and eye the history of a sordid yet
reckless life. His conversation was repellent to me beyond expression. He
uttered the meanest sentiments, and he chuckled over them as the maxims
of a superior sagacity; he avowed himself a knave upon system, and upon
the lowest scale. To overreach, to deceive, to elude, to shuffle, to
fawn, and to lie, were the arts that he confessed to with so naked and
cold a grossness, that one perceived that in the long habits of
debasement he was unconscious of what was not debased. Houseman seemed to
draw him out: he told us anecdotes of his rascality, and the distresses
to which it had brought him; and he finished by saying: 'Yet you see me
now almost rich, and wholly contented. I have always been the luckiest of
human beings; no matter what ill-chances to-day, good turns up to-morrow.
I confess that I bring on myself the ill, and Providence sends me
the good.' We met accidentally more than once, and his conversation was
always of the same strain--his luck and his rascality: he had no other
theme, and no other boast. And did not this stir into gloomy speculation
the depths of my mind? Was it not an ordination that called upon men to
take fortune in their own hands, when Fate lavished her rewards on this
low and creeping thing, that could only enter even Vice by its sewers and
alleys? Was it worth while to be virtuous, and look on, while the bad
seized upon the feast of life? This man was instinct with the basest
passions, the pettiest desires: he gratified them, and Fate smiled upon
his daring. I, who had shut out from my heart the poor temptations of
sense--I, who fed only the most glorious visions, the most august
desires--I, denied myself their fruition, trembling and spell-bound in
the cerements of human laws, without hope, without reward,--losing the
very powers of virtue because I would not stray into crime.

"These thoughts fell on me darkly and rapidly; but they led to no result.
I saw nothing beyond them. I suffered my indignation to gnaw my heart;
and preserved the same calm and serene demeanour which had grown with my
growth of mind. Nay, while I upbraided Fate, I did not cease to love
mankind. I envied--what? the power to serve them! I had been kind and
loving to all things from a boy; there was not a dumb animal that would
not single me from a crowd as its protector, [Note: All the authentic
anecdotes of Aram corroborate the fact of his natural gentleness to all
things. A clergyman (the Rev. Mr. Hinton) said that he used frequently to
observe Aram, when walking in the garden, stoop down to remove a snail or
worm from the path, to prevent its being destroyed. Mr. Hinton
ingeniously conjectured that Aram wished to atone for his crime by
shewing mercy to every animal and insect: but the fact is, that there are
several anecdotes to shew that he was equally humane before the crime was
committed. Such are the strange contradictions of the human heart!] and
yet I was doomed--but I must not premeditate my tale. In returning, at
night, to my own home, from my long and solitary walks, I often passed
the house in which Clarke lodged; and sometimes I met him reeling by the
door, insulting all who passed; and yet their resentment was absorbed in
their disgust. 'And this loathsome, and grovelling thing,' said I, inly,
'squanders on low excesses, wastes upon outrages to society, that with
which I could make my soul as a burning lamp, that should shed a light
over the world!"

"There was that in this man's vices which revolted me far more than the
villainy of Houseman. The latter had possessed no advantages of
education; he descended to no minutiae of sin, he was a plain, blunt,
coarse wretch, and his sense threw something respectable around his
vices. But in Clarke you saw the traces of happier opportunities of
better education; it was in him not the coarseness of manner so much as
the sickening, universal canker of vulgarity of mind. Had Houseman money
in his purse, he would have paid a debt and relieved a friend from mere
indifference; not so the other. Had he been overflowing with wealth, he
would have slipped from a creditor, and duped a friend; there was a
pitiful and debasing weakness in his nature, which made him regard the
lowest meanness as the subtlest wit. His mind too was not only degraded,
but broken by his habits of life; a strange, idiotic folly, that made him
love laughing at his own littleness, ran through his character. Houseman
was young; he might amend; but Clarke had grey hairs and dim eyes; was
old in constitution, if not years; and every thing in him was hopeless
and confirmed; the leprosy was in the system. Time, in this, has made
Houseman what Clarke was then.

"One day, in passing through the street, though it was broad noon, I
encountered Clarke in a state of intoxication, and talking to a crowd he
had collected around him. I sought to pass in an opposite direction; he
would not suffer me; he, whom I sickened to touch, to see, threw himself
in my way, and affected gibe and insult, nay even threat. But when he
came near, he shrank before the mere glance of my eye, and I passed on
unheeding him. The insult galled me; he had taunted my poverty, poverty
was a favourite jest with him; it galled me; anger, revenge, no! those
passions I had never felt for any man. I could not rouse them for the
first time for such a cause; yet I was lowered in my own eyes, I was
stung. Poverty! he taunt me! He dream himself, on account of a little
yellow dust, my superior! I wandered from the town, and paused by the
winding and shagged banks of the river. It was a gloomy winter's day, the
waters rolled on black and sullen, and the dry leaves rustled desolately
beneath my feet. Who shall tell us that outward nature has no effect upon
our mood? All around seemed to frown upon my lot. I read in the face of
heaven and earth a confirmation of the curse which man hath set upon
poverty. I leant against a tree that overhung the waters, and suffered my
thoughts to glide on in the bitter silence of their course. I heard my
name uttered--I felt a hand on my arm, I turned, and Houseman was by my
side.

"'What, moralizing?' said he, with his rude smile.

"I did not answer him.

"'Look,' said he, pointing to the waters, 'where yonder fish lies waiting
his prey, that prey his kind. Come, you have read Nature, is it not so
universally?'

"I did not answer him.

"'They who do not as the rest,' he renewed, 'fulfil not the object of
their existence; they seek to be wiser than their tribe, and are fools
for their pains. Is it not so? I am a plain man, and would learn.'

"Still I did not answer.

"'You are silent,' said he; 'do I offend you?'

"'No!'

"'Now, then,' he continued, 'strange as it may seem, we, so different in
mind, are at this moment alike in fortunes. I have not a guinea in the
wide world; you, perhaps, are equally destitute. But mark the difference,
I, the ignorant man, ere three days have passed, will have filled my
purse; you, the wise man, will be still as poor. Come, cast away your
wisdom, and do as I do.'

"'How?'

"'Take from the superfluities of others what your necessities crave. My
horse, my pistol, a ready hand, a stout heart, these are to me, what
coffers are to others. There is the chance of detection and of death; I
allow it. But is not this chance better than some certainties?'

"I turned away my face. In the silence of my chamber, and in the solitude
of my heart, I had thought, as the robber spoke--there was a strife
within me.

"'Will you share the danger and the booty?' renewed Houseman, in a low
voice.

"I turned my eyes upon him. 'Speak out,' said I; 'explain your purpose!'

"Houseman's looks brightened.

"'Listen!' said he; 'Clarke, despite his present wealth lawfully gained,
is about to purloin more; he has converted his legacy into jewels; he has
borrowed other jewels on false pretences; he purposes to make these also
his own, and to leave the town in the dead of night; he has confided to
me his intention, and asked my aid. He and I, be it known to you, were
friends of old; we have shared together other dangers, and other spoils;
he has asked my assistance in his flight. Now do you learn my purpose?
Let us ease him of his burthen! I offer to you the half; share the
enterprise and its fruits.'

"I rose, I walked away, I pressed my hands on my heart; I wished to
silence the voice that whispered me within. Houseman saw the conflict; he
followed me; he named the value of the prize he proposed to gain; that
which he called my share placed all my wished within my reach!--the
means of gratifying the one passion of my soul, the food for knowledge,
the power of a lone blessed independence upon myself,--and all were in my
grasp; no repeated acts of fraud; no continuation of sin, one single act
sufficed! I breathed heavily, but I threw not off the emotion that seized
my soul; I shut my eyes and shuddered, but the vision still rose before
me.

"'Give me your hand,' said Houseman. [Note: Though, in the above part of
Aram's confession, it would seem as if Houseman did not allude to more
than the robbery of Clarke; it is evident from what follows, that the
more heinous crime also was then at least hinted at by Houseman.]

"'No, no,' I said, breaking away from him. 'I must pause--I must
consider--I do not yet refuse, but I will not now decide.'--

"Houseman pressed, but I persevered in my determination;--he would have
threatened me, but my nature was haughtier than his, and I subdued him.
It was agreed that he should seek me that night and learn my choice--the
next night was the one on which the deed was to be done. We parted--I
returned an altered man to my home. Fate had woven her mesh around me--a
new incident had occurred which strengthened the web: there was a poor
girl whom I had been accustomed to see in my walks. She supported her
family by her dexterity in making lace,--a quiet, patient-looking, gentle
creature. Clarke had, a few days since, under pretence of purchasing
lace, decoyed her to his house (when all but himself were from home),
where he used the most brutal violence towards her. The extreme poverty
of the parents had enabled him easily to persuade them to hush up the
matter, but something of the story got abroad; the poor girl was marked
out for that gossip and scandal, which among the very lowest classes are
as coarse in the expression as malignant in the sentiment; and in the
paroxysm of shame and despair, the unfortunate girl had that day
destroyed herself. This melancholy event wrung forth from the parents the
real story: the event and the story reached my ears in the very hour in
which my mind was wavering to and fro. Can you wonder that they fixed it
at once, and to a dread end? What was this wretch? aged with vice--
forestalling time--tottering on to a dishonoured grave--soiling all that
he touched on his way--with grey hairs and filthy lewdness, the
rottenness of the heart, not its passion, a nuisance and a curse to the
world. What was the deed--that I should rid the earth of a thing at once
base and venomous? Was it crime? Was it justice? Within myself I felt the
will--the spirit that might bless mankind. I lacked the means to
accomplish the will and wing the spirit. One deed supplied me with the
means. Had the victim of that deed been a man moderately good--pursuing
with even steps the narrow line between vice and virtue--blessing none
but offending none,--it might have been yet a question whether mankind
would not gain more by the deed than lose. But here was one whose steps
stumbled on no good act--whose heart beat to no generous emotion;--there
was a blot--a foulness on creation,--nothing but death could wash it out
and leave the world fair. The soldier receives his pay, and murthers, and
sleeps sound, and men applaud. But you say he smites not for pay, but
glory. Granted--though a sophism. But was there no glory to be gained in
fields more magnificent than those of war--no glory to be gained in the
knowledge which saves and not destroys? Was I not about to strike for
that glory, for the means of earning it? Nay, suppose the soldier struck
for patriotism, a better feeling than glory, would not my motive be yet
larger than patriotism? Did it not body forth a broader circle? Could the
world stop the bound of its utilities? Was there a corner of the earth--
was there a period in time, which an ardent soul, freed from, not chained
as now, by the cares of the body, and given wholly up to wisdom, might
not pierce, vivify, illumine? Such were the questions which I asked:--
time only answered them.

"Houseman came, punctual to our dark appointment. I gave him my hand in
silence. We understood each other. We said no more of the deed itself,
but of the manner in which it should be done. The melancholy incident I
have described made Clarke yet more eager to leave the town. He had
settled with Houseman that he would abscond that very night, not wait for
the next, as at first he had intended. His jewels and property were put
in a small compass. He had arranged that he would, towards midnight or
later, quit his lodging; and about a mile from the town, Houseman had
engaged to have a chaise in readiness. For this service Clarke had
promised Houseman a reward, with which the latter appeared contented. It
was arranged that I should meet Houseman and Clarke at a certain spot in
their way from the town, and there--! Houseman appeared at first fearful,
lest I should relent and waver in my purpose. It is never so with men
whose thoughts are deep and strong. To resolve was the arduous step--once
resolved, and I cast not a look behind. Houseman left me for the present.
I could not rest in my chamber. I went forth and walked about the town;
the night deepened--I saw the lights in each house withdrawn, one by one,
and at length all was hushed--Silence and Sleep kept court over the
abodes of men. That stillness--that quiet--that sabbath from care and
toil--how deeply it sank into my heart! Nature never seemed to me to make
so dread a pause. I felt as if I and my intended victim had been left
alone in the world. I had wrapped myself above fear into a high and
preternatural madness of mind. I looked on the deed I was about to commit
as a great and solemn sacrifice to Knowledge, whose Priest I was. The
very silence breathed to me of a stern and awful sanctity--the repose,
not of the charnel-house, but the altar. I heard the clock strike hour
after hour, but I neither faltered nor grew impatient. My mind lay hushed
in its design.

"The Moon came out, but with a pale and sickly countenance. Winter was
around the earth; the snow, which had been falling towards eve, lay deep
upon the ground; and the Frost seemed to lock the Universal Nature into
the same calm and deadness which had taken possession of my soul.

"Houseman was to have come to me at midnight, just before Clarke left his
house, but it was nearly two hours after that time ere he arrived. I was
then walking to and fro before my own door; I saw that he was not alone,
but with Clarke. 'Ha!' said he, 'this is fortunate, I see you are just
going home. You were engaged, I recollect, at some distance from the
town, and have, I suppose, just returned. Will you admit Mr. Clarke and
myself for a short time--for to tell you the truth,' said he, in a lower
voice--'The watchman is about, and we must not be seen by him! I have
told Clarke that he may trust you, we are relatives!'

"Clarke, who seemed strangely credulous and indifferent, considering the
character of his associate,--but those whom fate destroys she first
blinds, made the same request in a careless tone, assigning the same
cause. Unwillingly, I opened the door and admitted them. We went up to my
chamber. Clarke spoke with the utmost unconcern of the fraud he purposed,
and with a heartlessness that made my veins boil, of the poor victim his
brutality had destroyed. All this was as iron bands round my purpose.
They stayed for nearly an hour, for the watchman remained some time in
that beat--and then Houseman asked me to accompany them a little way out
of the town. Clarke seconded the request. We walked forth; the rest--why
need I repeat? Houseman lied in the court; my hand struck--but not
thedeath-blow: yet, from that hour, I have never given that right hand in
pledge of love or friendship--the curse of memory has clung to it.

"We shared our booty; mine I buried, for the present. Houseman had
dealings with a gipsy hag, and through her aid removed his share, at
once, to London. And now, mark what poor strugglers we are in the eternal
web of destiny! Three days after that deed, a relation who neglected me
in life, died, and left me wealth!--wealth at least to me!--Wealth,
greater than that for which I had . . .! The news fell on me as a
thunderbolt. Had I waited but three little days! Great God! when they
told me,--I thought I heard the devils laugh out at the fool who had
boasted wisdom! Tell me not now of our free will--we are but the things
of a neverswerving, an everlasting Necessity!--pre-ordered to our doom--
bound to a wheel that whirls us on till it touches the point at which we
are crushed! Had I waited but three days, three little days!--Had but a
dream been sent me, had but my heart cried within me,--'Thou hast
suffered long, tarry yet!' [Note: Aram has hitherto been suffered to tell
his own tale without comment or interruption. The chain of reasonings,
the metaphysical labyrinth of defence and motive, which he wrought around
his act, it was, in justice to him, necessary to give at length, in order
to throw a clearer light on his character--and lighten, perhaps, in some
measure the heinousness of his crime. No moral can be more impressive
than that which teaches how man can entangle himself in his own sophisms-
-that moral is better, viewed aright, than volumes of homilies. But here
I must pause for one moment, to bid the reader mark, that that event
which confirmed Aram in the bewildering doctrines of his fatalism, ought
rather to inculcate the Divine virtue--the foundation of all virtues,
Heathen or Christian--that which Epictetus made clear, and Christ sacred
--FORTITUDE. The reader will note, that the answer to the reasonings that
probably convinced the mind of Aram, and blinded him to his crime, may be
found in the change of feelings by which the crime was followed. I must
apologize for this interruption--it seemed to me advisable in this
place;--though, in general, the moment we begin to inculcate morality as
a science, we ought to discard moralizing as a method.] No, it was for
this, for the guilt and its penance, for the wasted life and the shameful
death--with all my thirst for good, my dreams of glory--that I was born,
that I was marked from my first sleep in the cradle!

"The disappearance of Clarke of course created great excitement;--those
whom he had over-reached had naturally an interest in discovering him.
Some vague surmises that he might have been made away with, were rumoured
abroad. Houseman and I, owing to some concurrence of circumstance, were
examined,--not that suspicion attached to me before or after the
examination. That ceremony ended in nothing. Houseman did not betray
himself; and I, who from a boy had mastered my passions, could master
also the nerves, which are the passions' puppets: but I read in the face
of the woman with whom I lodged, that I was suspected. Houseman told me
that she had openly expressed her suspicion to him; nay, he entertained
some design against her life, which he naturally abandoned on quitting
the town. This he did soon afterwards. I did not linger long behind him.
I dug up my jewels,--I concealed them about me, and departed on foot to
Scotland. There I converted my booty into money. And now I was above
want--was I at rest? Not yet. I felt urged on to wander--Cain's curse
descends to Cain's children. I travelled for some considerable time,--I
saw men and cities, and I opened a new volume in my kind. It was strange;
but before the deed, I was as a child in the ways of the world, and a
child, despite my knowledge, might have duped me. The moment after it, a
light broke upon me,--it seemed as if my eyes were touched with a charm,
and rendered capable of piercing the hearts of men! Yes, it was a charm--
a new charm--it was Suspicion! I now practised myself in the use of
arms,--they made my sole companions. Peaceful, as I seemed to the world,
I felt there was that eternally within me with which the world was at
war.

"I do not deceive you. I did not feel what men call remorse! Having once
convinced myself that I had removed from the earth a thing that injured
and soiled its tribes,--that I had in crushing one worthless life, but
without crushing one virtue--one feeling--one thought that could benefit
others, strode to a glorious end;--having once convinced myself of this,
I was not weak enough to feel a vague remorse for a deed I would not
allow, in my case, to be a crime. I did not feel remorse, but I felt
regret. The thought that had I waited three days I might have been saved,
not from guilt, but from the chance of shame,--from the degradation of
sinking to Houseman's equal--of feeling that man had the power to hurt
me--that I was no longer above the reach of human malice, or human
curiosity--that I was made a slave to my own secret--that I was no longer
lord of my heart, to shew or to conceal it--that at any hour, in the
possession of honours, by the hearth of love, I might be dragged forth
and proclaimed a murderer--that I held my life, my reputation, at the
breath of accident--that in the moment I least dreamed of, the earth
might yield its dead, and the gibbet demand its victim;--this could I
feel--all this--and not make a spectre of the past:--a spectre that
walked by my side--that slept at my bed--that rose from my books--that
glided between me and the stars of heaven, that stole along the flowers,
and withered their sweet breath--that whispered in my ear, 'Toil, fool,
and be wise; the gift of wisdom is to place us above the reach of
fortune, but thou art her veriest minion!' Yes; I paused at last from my
wanderings, and surrounded myself with books, and knowledge became once
more to me what it had been, a thirst; but not what it had been, a
reward. I occupied my thoughts--I laid up new hoards within my mind--I
looked around, and I saw few whose stores were like my own,--but where,
with the passion for wisdom still alive within me--where was that once
more ardent desire which had cheated me across so dark a chasm between
youth and manhood--between past and present life--the desire of applying
that wisdom to the service of mankind? Gone--dead--buried for ever in my
bosom, with the thousand dreams that had perished before it! When the
deed was done, mankind seemed suddenly to have grown my foes. I looked
upon them with other eyes. I knew that I carried within, that secret
which, if bared to-day, would make them loath and hate me,--yea, though I
coined my future life into one series of benefits on them and their
posterity! Was not this thought enough to quell my ardour--to chill
activity into rest? The more I might toil, the brighter honours I might
win--the greater services I might bestow on the world, the more dread and
fearful might be my fall at last! I might be but piling up the scaffold
from which I was to be hurled! Possessed by these thoughts, a new view of
human affairs succeeded to my old aspirings;--the moment a man feels that
an object has ceased to charm, he reconciles himself by reasonings to his
loss. 'Why,' said I; 'why flatter myself that I can serve--that I can
enlighten mankind? Are we fully sure that individual wisdom has ever, in
reality, done so? Are we really better because Newton lived, and happier
because Bacon thought?' This dampening and frozen line of reflection
pleased the present state of my mind more than the warm and yearning
enthusiasm it had formerly nourished. Mere worldly ambition from a boy I
had disdained;--the true worth of sceptres and crowns--the inquietude of
power--the humiliations of vanity--had never been disguised from my
sight. Intellectual ambition had inspired me. I now regarded it equally
as a delusion. I coveted light solely for my own soul to bathe in. I
would have drawn down the Promethean fire; but I would no longer have
given to man what it was in the power of circumstance alone (which I
could control not) to make his enlightener or his ruin--his blessing or
his curse. Yes, I loved--I love still;--could I live for ever, I should
for ever love knowledge! It is a companion--a solace--a pursuit--a
Lethe. But, no more!--oh! never more for me was the bright ambition that
makes knowledge a means, not end. As, contrary to the vulgar notion, the
bee is said to gather her honey unprescient of the winter, labouring
without a motive, save the labour, I went on, year after year, hiving all
that the earth presented to my toils, and asking not to what use. I had
rushed into a dread world, that I might indulge a dream. Lo! the dream
was fled; but I could not retrace my steps.

"Rest now became to me the sole to kalon--the sole charm of existence. I
grew enamoured of the doctrine of those old mystics, who have placed
happiness only in an even and balanced quietude. And where but in utter
loneliness was that quietude to be enjoyed? I no longer wondered that men
in former times, when consumed by the recollection of some haunting
guilt, fled to the desert and became hermits. Tranquillity and Solitude
are the only soothers of a memory deeply troubled--light griefs fly to
the crowd--fierce thoughts must battle themselves to rest. Many years had
flown, and I had made my home in many places. All that was turbulent, if
not all that was unquiet, in my recollections, had died away. Time had
lulled me into a sense of security. I breathed more freely. I sometimes
stole from the past. Since I had quitted Knaresbro' chance had thrown it
in my power frequently to serve my brethren--not by wisdom, but by
charity or courage--by individual acts that it soothed me to remember. If
the grand aim of enlightening a world was gone--if to so enlarged a
benevolence had succeeded apathy or despair, still the man, the human
man, clung to my heart--still was I as prone to pity--as prompt to
defend--as glad to cheer, whenever the vicissitudes of life afforded me
the occasion; and to poverty, most of all, my hand never closed. For oh!
what a terrible devil creeps into that man's soul, who sees famine at his
door! One tender act and how many black designs, struggling into life
within, you may crush for ever! He who deems the world his foe, convince
him that he has one friend, and it is like snatching a dagger from his
hand!

"I came to a beautiful and remote part of the country. Walter Lester, I
came to Grassdale!--the enchanting scenery around--the sequestered and
deep retirement of the place arrested me at once. 'And among these
valleys,' I said, 'will I linger out the rest of my life, and among these
quiet graves shall mine be dug, and my secret shall die with me!'

"I rented the lonely house in which I dwelt when you first knew me--
thither I transported my books and instruments of science. I formed new
projects in the vast empire of wisdom, and a deep quiet, almost amounting
to content, fell like a sweet sleep upon my soul!

"In this state of mind, the most free from memory and from the desire to
pierce the future that I had known for twelve years, I first saw Madeline
Lester. Even with that first time a sudden and heavenly light seemed to
dawn upon me. Her face--its still--its serene--its touching beauty,
shone upon me like a vision. My heart warmed as I saw it--my pulse seemed
to wake from its even slowness. I was young once more. Young! the youth,
the freshness, the ardour--not of the frame only, but of the soul. But I
then only saw, or spoke to her--scarce knew her--not loved her--nor was
it often that we met. When we did so, I felt haunted, as by a holy
spirit, for the rest of the day--an unquiet yet delicious emotion
agitated all within--the south wind stirred the dark waters of my mind,
but it passed, and all became hushed again. It was not for two years from
the time we first saw each other, that accident brought us closely
together. I pass over the rest. We loved! Yet oh what struggles were mine
during the progress of that love! How unnatural did it seem to me to
yield to a passion that united me with my kind; and as I loved her more,
how far more urgent grew my fear of the future! That which had almost
slept before awoke again to terrible life. The soil that covered the past
might be riven, the dead awake, and that ghastly chasm separate me for
ever from HER! What a doom, too, might I bring upon that breast which had
begun so confidingly to love me! Often--often I resolved to fly--to
forsake her--to seek some desert spot in the distant parts of the world,
and never to be betrayed again into human emotions! But as the bird
flutters in the net, as the hare doubles from its pursuers, I did but
wrestle--I did but trifle--with an irresistible doom. Mark how strange
are the coincidences of fate--fate that gives us warnings and takes away
the power to obey them--the idle prophetess--the juggling fiend! On the
same evening that brought me acquainted with Madeline Lester, Houseman,
led by schemes of fraud and violence into that part of the country,
discovered and sought me! Imagine my feelings, when in the hush of night
I opened the door of my lonely home to his summons, and by the light of
that moon which had witnessed so never-to-be-forgotten a companionship
between us, beheld my accomplice in murder after the lapse of so many
years. Time and a course of vice had changed and hardened, and lowered
his nature; and in the power, at the will of that nature, I beheld myself
abruptly placed. He passed that night under my roof. He was poor. I gave
him what was in my hands. He promised to leave that part of England--to
seek me no more.

"The next day I could not bear my own thoughts, the revulsion was too
sudden, too full of turbulent, fierce, torturing emotions; I fled for a
short relief to the house to which Madeline's father had invited me. But
in vain I sought, by wine, by converse, by human voices, human kindness,
to fly the ghost that had been raised from the grave of time. I soon
returned to my own thoughts. I resolved to wrap myself once more in the
solitude of my heart. But let me not repeat what I have said before,
somewhat prematurely, in my narrative. I resolved--I struggled in vain,
Fate had ordained, that the sweet life of Madeline Lester should wither
beneath the poison tree of mine. Houseman sought me again, and now came
on the humbling part of crime, its low calculations, its poor defence,
its paltry trickery, its mean hypocrisy! They made my chiefest penance! I
was to evade, to beguile, to buy into silence, this rude and despised
ruffian. No matter now to repeat how this task was fulfilled; I
surrendered nearly my all, on the condition of his leaving England for
ever: not till I thought that condition already fulfilled, till the day
had passed on which he should have left England, did I consent to allow
Madeline's fate to be irrevocably woven with mine. Fool that I was, as if
laws could bind us closer than love had done already.

"How often, when the soul sins, are her loftiest feelings punished
through her lowest! To me, lone, rapt, for ever on the wing to unearthly
speculation, galling and humbling was it indeed, to be suddenly called
from the eminence of thought, to barter, in pounds and pence, for life,
and with one like Houseman. These are the curses that deepen the tragedy
of life, by grinding down our pride. But I wander back to what I have
before said. I was to marry Madeline,--I was once more poor, but want did
not rise before me; I had succeeded in obtaining the promise of a
competence from one whom you know. For that I had once forced from my
kind, I asked now, but not with the spirit of the beggar, but of the just
claimant, and in that spirit it was granted. And now I was really happy;
Houseman I believed removed for ever from my path; Madeline was about to
be mine: I surrendered myself to love, and blind and deluded, I wandered
on, and awoke on the brink of that precipice into which I am about to
plunge. You know the rest. But oh! what now was my horror! It had not
been a mere worthless, isolated unit in creation that I had blotted out
of the sum of life. I had shed the blood of his brother whose child was
my betrothed! Mysterious avenger--weird and relentless fate! How, when I
deemed myself the farthest from her, had I been sinking into her grasp!
Mark, young man, there is a moral here that few preachers can teach thee!
Mark. Men rarely violate the individual rule in comparison to their
violation of general rules. It is in the latter that we deceive by
sophisms which seem truths. In the individual instance it was easy for me
to deem that I had committed no crime. I had destroyed a man, noxious to
the world; with the wealth by which he afflicted society I had been the
means of blessing many; in the individual consequences mankind had really
gained by my deed; the general consequence I had overlooked till now, and
now it flashed upon me. The scales fell from my eyes, and I knew myself
for what I was! All my calculations were dashed to the ground at once,
for what had been all the good I had proposed to do--the good I had done-
-compared to the anguish I now inflicted on your house? Was your father
my only victim? Madeline, have I not murdered her also? Lester, have I
not shaken the sands in his glass? You, too, have I not blasted the prime
and glory of your years? How incalculable--how measureless--how viewless
the consequences of one crime, even when we think we have weighed them
all with scales that would have turned with a hair's weight! Yes; before
I had felt no remorse. I felt it now. I had acknowledged no crime, and
now crime seemed the essence itself of my soul. The Theban's fate, which
had seemed to the men of old the most terrible of human destinies, was
mine. The crime--the discovery--the irremediable despair--hear me, as
the voice of a man who is on the brink of a world, the awful nature of
which Reason cannot pierce--hear me! when your heart tempts to some
wandering from the line allotted to the rest of men, and whispers 'This
may be crime in others, but is not so in thee'--tremble; cling fast, fast
to the path you are lured to leave. Remember me!

"But in this state of mind I was yet forced to play the hypocrite. Had I
been alone in the world--had Madeline and Lester not been to me what they
were, I might have avowed my deed and my motives--I might have spoken out
to the hearts of men--I might have poured forth the gloomy tale of
reasonings and of temptings, in which we lose sense, and become the
archfiend's tools! But while their eyes were on me; while their lives and
hearts were set on my acquittal, my struggle against truth was less for
myself than them. For them I girded up my soul, a villain I was; and for
them, a bold, a crafty, a dexterous, villain I became! My defence
fulfilled its end: Madeline died without distrusting the innocence of him
she loved. Lester, unless you betray me, will die in the same belief. In
truth, since the arts of hypocrisy have been commenced, the pride of
consistency would have made it sweet to me to leave the world in a like
error, or at least in doubt. For you I conquer that desire, the proud
man's last frailty. And now my tale is done. From what passes at this
instant within my heart, I lift not the veil! Whether beneath, be
despair, or hope, or fiery emotions, or one settled and ominous calm,
matters not. My last hours shall not belie my life: on the verge of death
I will not play the dastard, and tremble at the Dim Unknown. The thirst,
the dream, the passion of my youth, yet lives; and burns to learn the
sublime and shaded mysteries that are banned Mortality. Perhaps I am not
without a hope that the Great and Unseen Spirit, whose emanation within
me I have nursed and worshipped, though erringly and in vain, may see in
his fallen creature one bewildered by his reason rather than yielding to
his vices. The guide I received from Heaven betrayed me, and I was lost;
but I have not plunged wittingly from crime to crime. Against one guilty
deed, some good, and much suffering may be set: and, dim and afar off
from my allotted bourne, I may behold in her glorious home the starred
face of her who taught me to love, and who, even there, could scarce be
blessed without shedding the light of her divine forgiveness upon me.
Enough! ere you break this seal, my doom rests not with man nor earth.
The burning desires I have known--the resplendent visions I have nursed--
the sublime aspirings that have lifted me so often from sense and clay--
these tell me, that, whether for good or ill--I am the thing of an
Immortality, and the creature of a God! As men of the old wisdom drew
their garments around their face, and sat down collectedly to die, I wrap
myself in the settled resignation of a soul firm to the last, and taking
not from man's vengeance even the method of its dismissal. The courses of
my life I swayed with my own hand: from my own hand shall come the manner
and moment of my death!
                                         "Eugene Aram."


On the day after that evening in which Aram had given the above
confession to Walter Lester;--on the day of execution, when they entered
the condemned cell, they found the prisoner lying on the bed; and when
they approached to take off the irons, they found, that he neither
stirred nor answered to their call. They attempted to raise him, and he
then uttered some words in a faint voice. They perceived that he was
covered with blood. He had opened his veins in two places in the arm with
a sharp instrument he had some time since concealed. A surgeon was
instantly sent for, and by the customary applications the prisoner in
some measure was brought to himself. Resolved not to defraud the law of
its victim, they bore him, though he appeared unconscious of all around,
to the fatal spot. But when he arrived at that dread place, his sense
suddenly seemed to return. He looked hastily round the throng that swayed
and murmured below, and a faint flush rose to his cheek: he cast his eyes
impatiently above, and breathed hard and convulsively. The dire
preparations were made, completed; but the prisoner drew back for an
instant--was it from mortal fear? He motioned to the Clergyman to
approach, as if about to whisper some last request in his ear. The
clergyman bowed his head,--there was a minute's awful pause--Aram seemed
to struggle as for words, when, suddenly throwing himself back, a bright
triumphant smile flashed over his whole face. With that smile, the
haughty Spirit passed away, and the law's last indignity was wreaked upon
a breathless corpse!



                             CHAPTER VIII.

      AND LAST. THE TRAVELLER'S RETURN.--THE COUNTRY VILLAGE ONCE
      MORE VISITED;--ITS INHABITANTS.--THE REMEMBERED BROOK.--THE
     DESERTED MANOR-HOUSE.--THE CHURCHYARD.--THE TRAVELLER RESUMES
     HIS JOURNEY.--THE COUNTRY TOWN.--A MEETING OF TWO LOVERS AFTER
               LONG ABSENCE AND MUCH SORROW.--CONCLUSION.

                    "The lopped tree in time may grow again,
                   Most naked plants renew both fruit and flower;
                   The sorriest wight may find release from pain,
                   The driest soil suck in some moistening shower:
                   Time goes by turns, and chances change by course
                   From foul to fair."
                                       --Robert Southwell, the Jesuit.

Sometimes towards the end of a gloomy day, the sun before but dimly
visible, breaks suddenly out, and clothes the landscape with a smile;
then beneath your eye, which during the clouds and sadness of day, had
sought only the chief features of the prospect around, (some grey hill,
or rising spire, or sweeping wood,) the less prominent, yet not less
lovely features of the scene, mellow forth into view; over them, perhaps,
the sun sets with a happier and richer glow than over the rest of Nature;
and thus they leave upon your mind its last grateful impression, and
console you for the gloom and sadness which the parting light they catch
and reflect, dispels.

Just so in our tale; it continues not in cloud and sorrow to the last;
some little ray breaks forth at the close; in that ray, characters which
before received but a slight portion of the interest that prouder and
darker ones engrossed, are thrown into light, and cheer from the mind of
him who hath watched and tarried with us till now,--we will not say all
the sadness that may perhaps linger on his memory,--and yet something of
the gloom.

It was some years after the date of the last event we have recorded, and
it was a fine warm noon in the happy month of May, when a horseman was
slowly riding through the long--straggling--village of Grassdale. He was
a man, though in the prime of youth, (for he might yet want some two
years of thirty,) that bore the steady and earnest air of one who has
seen not sparingly of the world; his eye keen but tranquil, his sunburnt
though handsome features, which either exertion or thought, or care, had
despoiled of the roundness of their early contour, leaving the cheek
somewhat sunken, and the lines somewhat marked, were impressed with a
grave, and at that moment with a melancholy and soft expression; and now,
as his horse proceeded slowly through the green lane, which in every
vista gave glimpses of rich verdant valleys, the sparkling river, or the
orchard ripe with the fragrant blossoms of spring; his gaze lost the calm
expression it habitually wore, and betrayed how busily Remembrance was at
work. The dress of the horseman was of foreign fashion, and at that day,
when the garb still denoted the calling, sufficiently military to show
the profession he had belonged to. And well did the garb become the short
dark moustache, the sinewy chest and length of limb of the young
horseman: recommendations, the two latter, not despised in the court of
the great Frederic of Prussia, in whose service he had borne arms. He had
commenced his career in that battle terminating in the signal defeat of
the bold Daun, when the fortunes of that gallant general paled at last
before the star of the greatest of modern kings. The peace of 1763 had
left Prussia in the quiet enjoyment of the glory she had obtained, and
the young Englishman took the advantage it afforded him of seeing as a
traveller, not despoiler, the rest of Europe.

The adventure and the excitement of travel pleased and left him even now
uncertain whether or not his present return to England would be for long.
He had not been a week returned, and to this part of his native country
he had hastened at once.

He checked his horse as he now past the memorable sign, that yet swung
before the door of Peter Dealtry; and there, under the shade of the broad
tree, now budding into all its tenderest verdure, a pedestrian wayfarer
sate enjoying the rest and coolness of his shelter. Our horseman cast a
look at the open door, across which, in the bustle of housewifery, female
forms now and then glanced and vanished, and presently he saw Peter
himself saunter forth to chat with the traveller beneath his tree. And
Peter Dealtry was the same as ever, only he seemed perhaps shorter and
thinner than of old, as if Time did not so much break as wear mine host's
slender person gradually away.

The horseman gazed for a moment, but observing Peter return the gaze, he
turned aside his head, and putting his horse into a canter, soon passed
out of cognizance of the Spotted Dog.

He now came in sight of the neat white cottage of the old Corporal, and
there, leaning over the pale, a crutch under one arm, and his friendly
pipe in one corner of his shrewd mouth, was the Corporal himself. Perched
upon the railing in a semi-doze, the ears down, the eyes closed, sat a
large brown cat: poor Jacobina, it was not thyself! death spares neither
cat nor king; but thy virtues lived in thy grandchild; and thy
grandchild, (as age brings dotage,) was loved even more than thee by the
worthy Corporal. Long may thy race flourish, for at this day it is not
extinct. Nature rarely inflicts barrenness on the feline tribe; they are
essentially made for love, and love's soft cares, and a cat's lineage
outlives the lineage of kaisars.

At the sound of hoofs the Corporal turned his head, and he looked long
and wistfully at the horseman, as, relaxing his horse's pace into a walk,
our traveller rode slowly on.

"'Fore George," muttered the Corporal, "a fine man--a very fine man;
'bout my inches--augh!"

A smile, but a very faint smile, crossed the lip of the horseman, as he
gazed on the figure of the stalwart Corporal.

"He eyes me hard," thought he; "yet he does not seem to remember me. I
must be greatly changed. 'Tis fortunate, however, that I am not
recognised: fain, indeed, at this time, would I come and go unnoticed and
alone."

The horseman fell into a reverie, which was broken by the murmur of the
sunny rivulet, fretting over each little obstacle it met, the happy and
spoiled child of Nature! That murmur rang on the horseman's ear like a
voice from his boyhood, how familiar was it, how dear! No tone of music
--no haunting air, ever recalled so rushing a host of memories and
associations as that simple, restless, everlasting sound! Everlasting!--
all had changed,--the trees had sprung up or decayed,--some cottages
around were ruins,--some new and unfamiliar ones supplied their place,
and on the stranger himself--on all those whom the sound recalled to his
heart, Time had been, indeed, at work, but with the same exulting bound
and happy voice that little brook leaped along its way. Ages hence, may
the course be as glad, and the murmur as full of mirth! They are blessed
things, those remote and unchanging streams!--they fill us with the same
love as if they were living creatures!--and in a green corner of the
world there is one that, for my part, I never see without forgetting
myself to tears--tears that I would not lose for a king's ransom; tears
that no other sight or sound could call from their source; tears of what
affection, what soft regret; tears that leave me for days afterwards, a
better and a kinder man!

The traveller, after a brief pause, continued his road; and now he came
full upon the old Manorhouse. The weeds were grown up in the garden, the
mossed paling was broken in many places, the house itself was shut up,
and the sun glanced on the deep-sunk casements without finding its way
into the desolate interior. High above the old hospitable gate hung a
board, anouncing that the house was for sale, and referring the curious,
or the speculating, to the attorney of the neighbouring town. The
horseman sighed heavily, and muttered to himself; then turning up the
road that led to the back entrance, he came into the court-yard, and
leading his horse into an empty stable, he proceeded on foot through the
dismantled premises, pausing with every moment, and holding a sad and
ever-changing commune with himself. An old woman, a stranger to him, was
the sole inmate of the house, and imagining he came to buy, or at least,
examine, she conducted him through the house, pointing out its
advantages, and lamenting its dilapidated state. Our traveller scarcely
heard her,--but when he came to one room which he would not enter till
the last, (it was the little parlour in which the once happy family had
been wont to sit,) he sank down in the chair that had been Lester's
honoured seat, and covering his face with his hands, did not move or look
up for several moments. The old woman gazed at him with surprise.--
"Perhaps, Sir, you knew the family, they were greatly beloved."

The traveller did not answer; but when he rose, he muttered to himself,--
"No, the experiment is made in vain! Never, never could I live here again
--it must be so--my forefathers' house must pass into a stranger's
hands." With this reflection he hurried from the house, and re-entering
the garden, turned through a little gate that swung half open on its
shattered hinges, and led into the green and quiet sanctuaries of the
dead. The same touching character of deep and undisturbed repose that
hallows the country church-yard,--and that more than most--yet brooded
there as when, years ago, it woke his young mind to reflection then
unmingled with regret.

He passed over the rude mounds of earth that covered the deceased poor,
and paused at a tomb of higher, though but of simple pretensions; it was
not yet discoloured by the dews and seasons, and the short inscription
traced upon it was strikingly legible, in comparison with those around.

                            Rowland Lester,
                          Obiit 1760, aet. 64.
       Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

By that tomb the traveller remained in undisturbed contemplation for some
time, and when he turned, all the swarthy colour had died from his cheek,
his eyes were dim, and the wonted pride of a young man's step and a
soldier's bearing, was gone from his mien.

As he looked up, his eye caught afar, embedded among the soft verdure of
the spring, one lone and grey house, from whose chimney there rose no
smoke--sad, inhospitable, dismantled as that beside which he now stood;--
as if the curse which had fallen on the inmates of either mansion, still
clung to either roof. One hasty glance only, the traveller gave to the
solitary and distant abode,--and then started and quickened his pace.

On re-entering the stables, the traveller found the Corporal examining
his horse from head to foot with great care and scrupulosity.

"Good hoofs too, humph!" quoth the Corporal, as he released the front
leg; and, turning round, saw, with some little confusion, the owner of
the steed he had been honouring with so minute a survey. "Oh,--augh!
looking at the beastie, Sir, lest it might have cast a shoe. Thought your
honour might want some intelligent person to shew you the premises, if so
be you have come to buy; nothing but an old 'oman there; dare say your
honour does not like old 'omen--augh!"

"The owner is not in these parts?" said the horseman.

"No, over seas, Sir; a fine young gentleman, but hasty; and--and--but
Lord bless me! sure--no, it can't be--yes, now you turn--it is--it is my
young master!" So saying, the old Corporal, roused into affection,
hobbled up to the wanderer, and seized and kissed his hand. "Ah, Sir, we
shall be glad, indeed, to see you back after such doings. But's all
forgotten now, and gone by--augh! Poor Miss Ellinor, how happy she'll be
to see your honour. Ah! how she be changed, surely!"

"Changed; ay, I make no doubt! What! does she look in weak health?"

"No; as to that, your honour, she be winsome enough still," quoth the
Corporal, smacking his lips; "I seed her the week afore last, when I went
over to--, for I suppose you knows as she lives there, all alone like, in
a small house, with a green rail afore it, and a brass knocker on the
door, at top of the town, with a fine view of the--hills in front? Well,
Sir, I seed her, and mighty handsome she looked, though a little thinner
than she was; but, for all that, she be greatly changed."

"How! for the worse?"

"For the worse, indeed," answered the Corporal, assuming an air of
melancholy and grave significance; "she be grown religious, Sir, think of
that--augh--bother--whaugh!"

"Is that all?" said Walter, relieved, and with a slight smile. "And she
lives alone?"

"Quite, poor young lady, as if she had made up her mind to be an old
maid; though I know as how she refused Squire Knyvett of the Grange
waiting for your honour's return, mayhap!"

"Lead out the horse, Bunting; but stay, I am sorry to see you with a
crutch; what's the cause? no accident, I trust?"

"Merely rheumatics--will attack the youngest of us; never been quite
myself since I went a travelling with your honour--augh!--without going
to Lunnon arter all. But I shall be stronger next year, I dare to say--!"

"I hope you will, Bunting. And Miss Lester lives alone, you say?"

"Ay; and for all she be so religious, the poor about do bless her very
footsteps. She does a power of good; she gave me half-a-guinea, your
honour; an excellent young lady, so sensible like!"

"Thank you; I can tighten the girths!--so!--there, Bunting, there's
something for old companion's sake."

"Thank your honour; you be too good, always was--baugh! But I hopes your
honour be a coming to live here now; 'twill make things smile agin!"

"No, Bunting, I fear not," said Walter, spurring through the gates of the
yard; "Good day."

"Augh, then," cried the Corporal, hobbling breathlessly after him, "if so
be as I shan't see your honour agin, at which I am extramely consarned,
will your honour recollect your promise, touching the 'tato ground? The
steward, Master Bailey, 'od rot him, has clean forgot it--augh!"

"The same old man, Bunting, eh? Well, make your mind easy, it shall be
done."

"Lord bless your honour's good heart; thankye; and--and"--laying his hand
on the bridle--"your honour did say, the bit cot should be rent-free. You
see, your honour," quoth the Corporal, drawing up with a grave smile, "I
may marry some day or other, and have a large family; and the rent won't
sit so easy then--augh!"

"Let go the rein, Bunting--and consider your house rent-free."

"And, your honour--and--"

But Walter was already in a brisk trot; and the remaining petitions of
the Corporal died in empty air.

"A good day's work, too," muttered Jacob, hobbling homeward. "What a
green un 'tis still! Never be a man of the world--augh!"

For two hours Walter did not relax the rapidity of his pace; and when he
did so at the descent of a steep hill, a small country town lay before
him, the sun glittering on its single spire, and lighting up the long,
clean, centre street, with the good old-fashioned garden stretching
behind each house, and detached cottages around, peeping forth here and
there from the blossoms and verdure of the young may. He rode into the
yard of the principal inn, and putting up his horse, inquired in a tone
that he persuaded himself was the tone of indifference, for Miss Lester's
house.

"John," said the landlady, (landlord there was none,) summoning a little
boy of about ten years old--"run on, and shew this gentleman the good
lady's house: and--stay--his honour will excuse you a moment--just take
up the nosegay you cut for her this morning: she loves flowers. Ah! Sir,
an excellent young lady is Miss Lester," continued the hostess, as the
boy ran back for the nosegay; "so charitable, so kind, so meek to all.
Adversity, they say, softens some characters; but she must always have
been good. And so religious, Sir, though so young! Well, God bless her!
and that every one must say. My boy John, Sir, he is not eleven yet, come
next August--a 'cute boy, calls her the good lady: we now always call
her so here. Come, John, that's right. You stay to dine here, Sir? Shall
I put down a chicken?"

At the farther extremity of the town stood Miss Lester's dwelling. It was
the house in which her father had spent his last days; and there she had
continued to reside, when left by his death to a small competence, which
Walter, then abroad, had persuaded her, (for her pride was of the right
kind,) to suffer him, though but slightly, to increase. It was a detached
and small building, standing a little from the road; and Walter paused
for some moments at the garden-gate, and gazed round him before he
followed his young guide, who, tripping lightly up the gravel-walk to the
door, rang the bell, and inquired if Miss Lester was within?

Walter was left for some moments alone in a little parlour:--he required
those moments to recover himself from the past that rushed sweepingly
over him. And was it--yes, it was Ellinor that now stood before him!
Changed she was, indeed; the slight girl had budded into woman; changed
she was, indeed; the bound had for ever left that step, once so elastic
with hope; the vivacity of the quick, dark eye was soft and quiet; the
rich colour had given place to a hue fainter, though not less lovely. But
to repeat in verse what is poorly bodied forth in prose--

             "And years had past, and thus they met again;
             The wind had swept along the flower since then,
             O'er her fair cheek a paler lustre spread,
             As if the white rose triumphed o'er the red.
             No more she walk'd exulting on the air;
             Light though her step, there was a languour there;
             No more--her spirit bursting from its bound,--
             She stood, like Hebe, scattering smiles around."


"Ellinor!" said Walter mournfully, "thank God! we meet at last."

"That voice--that face--my cousin--my dear, dear Walter!"

All reserve--all consciousness fled in the delight of that moment; and
Ellinor leant her head upon his shoulder, and scarcely felt the kiss that
he pressed upon her lips.

"And so long absent!" said Ellinor, reproachfully.

"But did you not tell me that the blow that had fallen on our house had
stricken from you all thoughts of love--had divided us for ever? And
what, Ellinor, was England or home with out you?"

"Ah!" said Ellinor, recovering herself, and a deep paleness succeeding to
the warm and delighted flush that had been conjured to her cheek, "Do not
revive the past--I have sought for years--long, solitary, desolate
years, to escape from its dark recollections!"

"You speak wisely, dearest Ellinor; let us assist each other in doing so.
We are alone in the world--let us unite our lot. Never, through all I
have seen and felt,--in the starry nightwatch of camps--in the blaze of
courts--by the sunny groves of Italy--in the deep forests of the Hartz--
never have I forgotten you, my sweet and dear cousin. Your image has
linked itself indissolubly with all I conceived of home and happiness,
and a tranquil and peaceful future; and now I return, and see you, and
find you changed, but, oh, how lovely! Ah, let us not part again! A
consoler, a guide, a soother, father, brother, husband,--all this my
heart whispers I could be to you!"

Ellinor turned away her face, but her heart was very full. The solitary
years that had passed over her since they last met, rose up before her.
The only living image that had mingled through those years with the
dreams of the departed, was his who now knelt at her feet;--her sole
friend--her sole relative--her first--her last love! Of all the world, he
was the only one with whom she could recur to the past; on whom she might
repose her bruised, but still unconquered affections.

And Walter knew by that blush--that sigh--that tear, that he was
remembered--that he was beloved--that his cousin was his own at last!

"But before you end," said my friend, to whom I shewed the above pages,
originally concluding my tale with the last sentence, "you must, it is a
comfortable and orthodox old fashion, tell us a little about the fate of
the other persons, to whom you have introduced us;--the wretch
Houseman?"--

"True; in the mysterious course of mortal affairs, the greater villain
had escaped, the more generous and redeemed one fallen. But though
Houseman died without violence, died in his bed, as honest men die, we
can scarcely believe that his life was not punishment enough. He lived in
strict seclusion--the seclusion of poverty, and maintained himself by
dressing flax. His life was several times attempted by the mob, for he
was an object of universal execration and horror; and even ten years
afterwards, when he died, his body was buried in secret at the dead of
night, for the hatred of the world survived him!"

"And the Corporal, did he marry in his old age?"

"History telleth of one Jacob Bunting, whose wife, several years younger
than himself, played him certain sorry pranks with the young curate of
the parish: the said Jacob, knowing nothing thereof, but furnishing great
oblectation unto his neighbours, by boasting that he turned an excellent
penny by selling poultry to his reverence above market prices,--'For
Bessy, my girl, I'm a man of the world--augh!'"

"Contented! a suitable fate for the old dog--But Peter Dealtry?"

"Of Peter Dealtry know we nothing more, save that we have seen at
Grassdale church-yard, a small tombstone inscribed to his memory, with
the following sacred poesy thereto appended,--

                   "'We flourish, saith the holy text
                   One hour, and are cut down the next:
                   I was like grass but yesterday,
                   But Death has mowed me into hay.'"

"And his namesake, Sir Peter Grindlescrew Hales?"

"Went through a long life, honoured and respected, but met with domestic
misfortunes in old age. His eldest son married a maid servant, and his
youngest daughter--"

"Eloped with the groom?"

"By no means,--with a young spendthrift;--the very picture of what Sir
Peter was in his youth: they were both disinherited, and Sir Peter died
in the arms of his eight remaining children, seven of whom never forgave
his memory for not being the eighth, viz. chief heir."

"And his cotemporary, John Courtland, the non-hypochondriac?"

"Died of sudden suffocation, as he was crossing Hounslow Heath."

"But Lord--?"

"Lived to a great age; his last days, owing to growing infirmities, were
spent out of the world; every one pitied him,--it was the happiest time
of his life!"

"Dame Darkmans?"

"Was found dead in her bed, from over fatigue, it was supposed, in making
merry at the funeral of a young girl on the previous day."

"Well!--hem,--and so Walter and his cousin were really married; and did
they never return to the old Manor-house?"

"No; the memory that is allied only to melancholy, grows sweet with
years, and hallows the spot which it haunts; not so the memory allied to
dread, terror, and something too of shame. Walter sold the property with
some pangs of natural regret; after his marriage with Ellinor he returned
abroad for some time, but finally settling in England, engaged in active
life, and left to his posterity a name they still honour; and to his
country, the memory of some services that will not lightly pass away."

But one dread and gloomy remembrance never forsook his mind, and
exercised the most powerful influence over the actions and motives of his
life. In every emergency, in every temptation, there rose to his eyes the
fate of him so gifted, so noble in much, so formed for greatness in all
things, blasted by one crime--self-sought, but self-denied; a crime, the
offspring of bewildered reasonings--all the while speculating upon
virtue. And that fate revealing the darker secrets of our kind, in which
the true science of morals in chiefly found, taught him the twofold
lesson, caution for himself, and charity for others. He knew henceforth
that even the criminal is not all evil; the angel within us is not easily
expelled; it survives sin, ay, and many sins, and leaves us sometimes in
amaze and marvel, at the good that lingers round the heart even of the
hardiest offender.

And Ellinor clung with more than revived affection to one with whose lot
she was now allied. Walter was her last tie upon earth, and in him she
learnt, day by day, more lavishly to treasure up her heart. Adversity and
trial had ennobled the character of both; and she who had so long seen in
her cousin all she could love, beheld now in her husband that greater and
more enduring spell--all that she could venerate and admire. A certain
religious fervour, in which, after the calamities of her family, she had
indulged, continued with her to the last; but, (softened by human ties,
and the reciprocation of earthly duties and affections,) it was
fortunately preserved either from the undue enthusiasm or the undue
austerity into which it would otherwise, in all likelihood, have merged.
What remained, however, uniting her most cheerful thoughts with something
serious, and the happiest moments of the present with the dim and solemn
forecast of the future, elevated her nature, not depressed, and made
itself visible rather in tender than in sombre, hues. And it was sweet
when the thought of Madeline and her father came across her, to recur at
once for consolation to that Heaven in which she believed their tears
were dried, and their past sorrows but a forgotten dream! There is,
indeed, a time of life when these reflections make our chief, though a
melancholy, pleasure. As we grow older, and sometimes a hope, sometimes a
friend, is shivered from our path, the thought of an immortality will
press itself forcibly upon us! and there, by little and little, as the
ant piles grain after grain, the garners of a future sustenance, we learn
to carry our hopes, and harvest, as it were, our wishes.

Our cousins then were happy. Happy, for they loved one another entirely;
and on those who do so love, I sometimes think, that, barring physical
pain and extreme poverty, the ills of life fall with but idle malice.
Yes, they were happy in spite of the past, and in defiance of the future.

"I am satisfied then," said my friend,--"and your tale is fairly done!"

And now, Reader, farewell! If, sometimes as thou hast gone with me to
this our parting spot, thou hast suffered thy companion to win the
mastery over thine interest, to flash now on thy convictions, to touch
now thy heart, to guide thy hope, to excite thy anxiety, to gain even
almost to the sources of thy tears--then is there a tie between thee and
me which cannot readily be broken! And when thou hearest the malice that
wrongs affect the candour which should judge, thou wilt be surprised to
feel how unconsciously He who has, even in a tale, once wound himself
around those feelings not daily excited, can find in thy sympathies the
defence, or, in thy charity the indulgence,--of a friend!





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