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"Father, father, what words are these ?"
"Milk-livered boy! Why blanches your cheek, when I hold within your clutch the very satiety of vengeance? Why clench you not the precious boon? Or are you a man but in seeming, and a puling infant in resolve?"
"Speak on, father-speak on,-it seems to me as if each word you utter burns deeper and deeper into my brain-searing, as it goes, those doubtful agitations of my soul, that would raise a trembling opposition to your bidding. But they shall not! No, no! Down, down! Your wrongs shall answer the cry of humanitymy mother's fatal end the appeals of tenderness!"
"Now," cried Lockwood," I know you for my son. But we have talked too much-action should be doing. The death of our foe is appointed for the third day from this; and I have learned, beyond doubt, that owing to there not having been an execution in Okeham for many years, the Sheriff finds great difficulty in procuring the proper functionary. It was this that stirred me to the hope that you would volunteer to the office; and I thank you that my hope has not been deceived. You must away to the Sheriff instantly, and get appointed; that attained, I trust to be able so to instruct you, that failure in the performance will be impossible."
I obeyed-ay, I obeyed! I was successful! The honesty of human nature was scouted from my heart by the towering voice of the worst passion that ever cursed the breast of man.
The morning of execution arrived, and found me ready for my office. As the time had gradually grown nearer and nearer, my father had perceived, with dread, that misgivings, in spite of myself, shook my whole frame; and, in order to be more sure, he had kept me at carouse the whole of the previous night, in the miserable back street lodging that afforded us shelter.
The morning arrived; and, drunk with passion, vengeance, and brandy, it found me ready for my office. The solemn tolling of the prison bell announced the hour of death to be at hand, as I awaited the coming
of the prisoner in the outer cell. How I looked-how I acted-I know not; but, as well as I remember, it seems to me now as if I was awakened from a torpor of stupefaction on hearing the clanking of the chains that announced the approach of Foster; the sound reached my ear, more heart-chilling than the heavy tolling knell, that answered as if in echo; but I had not forgotten my lesson; I beat my hand against my brow, and whispered vengeance" to the spirit that was so ill at ease within. It was at that moment, that, for the first time, I beheld Edward Foster; he was not such as my soul had depicted. I pined for him to look hateful, ferocious, and bloody; but his aspect was placid, gentle, and subdued. I could have stormed in agony at the disappointment.
My first duty was to loosen his arms from the manacles that held them, and supply their place with a cord. As I fumbled at the task, I could feel myself trembling to the very fingers' ends; and it seemed as if I could not summon strength to remove the irons. My agitation must have attracted Foster's notice; for he looked at me, and gently sighed.
Gracious God, a sigh! I could as little have believed in Foster sighing as in a tigress dandling a kid. Was it possible that he was human after all? How frightfully was I mistaken! I had imagined that I had come to officiate at the sacrifice of something more infernal than a demon!
At length, with the assistance of a turnkey, every thing was prepared, and we mounted the scaffold of death. Short shrift was there; but it seemed to me as if the scene was endless; and when I looked around on the assembled multitude, I imagined that it was to gaze on me, and not on Foster, that they had congregated.
All was prepared. With some confused recollections of my father's instructions, I had adjusted the implement of death; and the priest had arrived at his last prayer, when the dying man murmured, "I would bid farewell to my executioner.” The clergyman whispered to me to put my hand within those of Foster.
I did do it! By Heaven,I did do it! But it seemed as though I were
heaving a more than mountain load, and cracking my very heart-strings at the task, as I directed my hand towards his. He gently grasped it, and spoke almost in a whisper.
"Young man," said he, " I know not how this bitter duty fell to your lot-yours is no countenance for the office; and yet it comes upon my vision as a reproach. God bless you, sir! This is my world-farewelling word; and I use it to say-I forgive you, as I hope to be forgiven."
My hand, no longer held, dropped from his; and the priest resumed his praying. I could not pray! Each holy word that was uttered, seemed not for Foster, but for me-stabbing, not soothing.
At length the dread signal was given; and mechanically—it must have been, for the action of my mind seemed dead within me-mechanically I withdrew the bolt, and Foster was dead-swinging to the play of the winds-the living soul rudely dismissed, the body a lifeless mass of obliterated sensations.
A deep hoarse groan ran round the multitude-that groan was for me. It gave token of an eternal line of separation drawn between me and the boundaries of humanity.
Oh, that the groan had been all !— But there was one solitary laugh, too-dreadful and searching. It was my father that laughed, and it struck [To be concluded
more horror to my soul than the groan of a myriad.
Oh, that the groan and the laugh had been all! As I crept away through the prison area, where each one shrank from me with disgust, I passed close to a youth deep bathed in tears, and some one whispered to another, "It is poor Foster's son!" What devil tempted me to look in his face? I know not the impulse; but I know I looked-and he looked!Oh, consummation of wretchedness, it was Foster's son-and it was he also who had offered to share with me his slender pittance on my first arríval at Okeham! As he gazed on me, a deep heavy sob seemed as though his heart was breaking.
I rushed from the spot like one mad. In all my misery, in all my wickedness, I had fondly clung to the recollection of that youth and his goodness, as the shipwrecked mariner to the creed-born cherub that he pictures forth as the guardian of his destiny. But this blow seemed to have destroyed my only Heaven. I had not even this one poor pleasurable thought left me to feed upon. His sob thrilled in my ear, as though it would never end; and the womanly sound was more overwhelming and more excruciating than the despising groan of the mob, or the atrocious laugh of Lockwood.
in next Number.]
THE HUMOURS OF HERMES.
SING me of Hermes, son of Jove,
And flock-engendering Arcady-
Then Hermes sprang to birth.
And many the wonders, strange and wild,
A gazer of stars, a driver of beeves,
The very compound of art and trick,
For, on the fourth day of the moon,
It was not for him, with sleepy eye,
To jump out of his skin,
When he saw the creature's crawling pace,
As it was creeping in ;
Then stooping him down with hand on knee, With curious eye he peer'd into his face, And laughing out loud, quoth he,
"Now good greeting,
Thou pretty sweet thing,
To my welcoming;
Oh! thou shalt be mine own plaything,
Not leave thee to linger in luckless plight.
Thou hast power and spell
To guard me from magic, while yet in life, Yet its ways are rough, and its troubles are
And I'll make all smooth with my little knife
And bethink thee how thou wilt sing when dead."
With both his hands, as this he said,
Or a thought, when thoughts do quickest fly,
Of life, but scoop'd it cleanly out; This Hermes did from tail to snout. Then cutting reeds he fixed them in, At proper distances, along
The back, and stretch'd a leather thong
He made a bridge, from bend to bend,
This done, he aptly held his new-wrought toy,
And with his plectrum smartly struck
The strings alternate, that off shook
Up from beneath his hands sounds of wild joy Wondrously bright.—Then gain'd he skill to reach
A prelude in true notes, to each
Carelessly humming, not with speech
Till warm'd he reach'd his infant glory,
He sang of the passion of Jove
For the nymph of the sandall'd feet, Fair Maia their meetings of love
That were both stolen and sweet. He sang of his birth, as became
The son of his father and mother; Without them adopted his name :
Of the servants one after the other He sang, of the pots and pans
In the nymph's magnificent hall; Of the nipperkins, cups, and cans,
The skillets, and kettles, and all.
The hall it rang with the merry twang,
Therefore his lyre, his well-scoop'd thing, Within his sacred crib hid he;
And after due depositing,
Schooling his wits, like a perfect knave,
Phoebus was sunk to his ocean bed,
And never forgot his stratagem
Of walking backwards; and first discreet
An old man in his vineyard turn'd,
First with these words the man of age: "Old fellow there, with thy broad shoulders bent,
Delving and digging, have a care, good friend, Thou dost not, ere thy fruit-time, sore lament; Old men are given to blabbing without end; Be blind, be deaf, and, above all, be dumb, Or thou wilt find thy talking troublesome." Nor more said he, but urged with speed
His herd, that jostled horn with horn, O'er hill and echoing dale, and mead Dappled with fresh flowers newly born. Now night that served him in good stead, Was yielding to the dawning morn, And the pale Pallantean-moon divine Had just walk'd forth abroad to shine, New-glistening from her own boudoir. Farther the Godhead drove his kine
To lofty stalls and reservoir,
From which th' Alphæus' streams were flowing,
With verdure round them ever growing.
To fashion fire, and rack'd his wits anew. (Hermes first taught how sparks would catch, And thus invented tinder-box and match.)
Where thick the bay-trees grew, A dry branch took, and stripp'd the bark, Rubb'd piece 'gainst piece, till spark by spark Was kindled, and the flame upflew. Then on the ground into a pit A fagot threw, and lighted it, And ere the fire was yet quite fit For roasting, out he dragg'd two cows Bellowing, and on the earth hard by Upon their backs he threw them wondrous
And while their gusty nostrils blew
Then commenced busy work, with spits,
Forcing the morsels, and he made
No morsel reach'd his sacred throat :
And when the cinders now were cool,
BUT at the peep of dawn he sought
Like a light blast of autumn, or thin fog. Straight through his cavernous temple then he stepp'd
On tiptoe trippingly, so light
He touch'd the ground, and crept
As if he were some new-born babe that slept ; And wrapp'd his swaddling clothes about him well,
His right hand round his knees, and slid
His fingers, playing with the coverlid,
Whence comest thou? Latona's son
Canst thou cajole him with lying lip,
Out on thee, mischievous !—or rather, Would thou hadst never been born! thy father
Begat thee a great plague to gods and men."
"Is it so?" quoth crafty Hermes; "then, Good mother mine, now what's the use Of all this nonsense and abuse; As if I were some baby thing, That fear'd a mother's bothering; Nor had one grain of sense to tell The difference 'twixt ill and well? I lack not wits, and, mother, rest Assured I'll use them for the best; And will most thoroughly provide For both of us; nor here abide In dismal cave to fast and pine, Alone of all the race divine Ungifted and unfed—not I— Though you advise-Divinity Is a fine thing, to share in all
The wealth, feasts, offerings that befall
The gods in heaven; not here to mope,
My asking, I can still contrive, and use
And take my own without their godships' leaves.
Now to the matter of the beeves,
And this search-warrant of Apollo's-
His fine big temple, through and through
Pots, tripods, cauldron, ewer, brass and gold,
And thus Apollo the old man bespake : "Old fellow there, that mak'st thy shoulders ache,
About thy vineyard gath'ring hedge-row thorns,
In this Onchestus, peering 'mong the boughs,
For he was in a meadow separate-
Left too the dogs and bull behind, to me
And some with evil thoughts perhaps, some good,
But which have which is rarely understood.
And curiously he drove them backward-wise;
Did Phoebus on his way proceed;
From which, and skill in augury,
These lead not from their home, but to it.