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A TALE.

BY

THE AUTHOR OF “CALEB WILLIAMS.”

IN THREE VOLUMES.

VOL. III.

LONDON:

HENRY COLBURN AND RICHARD BENTLEY,

NEW BURLINGTON STREET.

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CLOUDESLEY.

CHAPTER I.

ELEVEN years had now elapsed since I first received the letter from Cloudesley, which threatened me with what I regarded as the consummation of mortal evils. That consummation did not arrive. But in what respect was I the better? The expectation of what is tremendous is perhaps more dreadful than the event. He who is cast prostrate to the earth can fall no lower. If I had been driven from the society of my fellow men, if I had inhabited a wretched hovel on a barren heath, if I had

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had nothing to subsist on but the roots that my own hand had cultivated, if I had known that, wherever my name was repeated among the inhabitants of earth, I was regarded as a monster, betraying the most sacred trust, and perpetrating the most cold-hearted villainy, I should then have known the worst. There is a principle in human nature, hy which the sufferer in almost all cases reconciles himself to what is inevitable, is complete, and cannot be reversed. He looks round, and considers rather what he has left, than what he has lost. He gathers up the fragments of the wreck; he arranges them along the walls of his cell; he says to himself, This is my dowry and inheritance for the remainder of my existence; he desperately adapts himself to the hardness of his fortune, and con

siders how he shall make the best of it.

But the man who, every morning that he wakes, wakes with a dull, aching pain, with a mighty depression of spirits, with an indescribable load weighing at his heart, and who after a few moments recollects what all this means, and what he has to expect, he is truly a wretch. Expectation, fearful expectation, is to him the vulture of Prometheus, preying on his liver, which still grows again, as fast as it is devoured. His wound is ever fresh; no time cures it; no balm has the virtue to skin it over. I knew not on what day the final mischief would arrive; but I had an assured conviction that arrive it

must.

sorrow.

Yet my days and my hours were not all of

I had a wife, the most exemplary of her sex; I had children that improved every day in towardliness and beauty. I looked upon them, and was joyful: I looked a second time, and my agonies grew a thousand times the fiercer, because I had such relations and holds on my affection.

Fool that I was! Why had I not had the courage to take the hard lot which I had brought upon myself, alone, and

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