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their ranks, and hurled themselves upon the foe, each striving to be first, each fighting as if it were his own personal quarrel, and the pent-up vengeance of years were bursting forth ; more than all, that high, piercing cry which shook the sulphury clouds above them, woke in me a fierce feeling of madness and delight, and made me scorn the useful occupation which left me a non-combatant, and long to be the humblest private in the ranks.
Memories like these are often with me; but still farther back among the receding shadows of the past, loom up those events before mentioned, and a deeper and more solemn chord of memory vibrates at the sight. Believe me, reader, there is no spot on earth where one's courage is wound up to the same painful pitch of intensity as in a grave-yard at midnight, while engaged in the jackal trade of the resurrectionist. The deep silence of the scene; the darkness; the whispered word of consultation; the fear of interruption; the white monuments about you; the open grave at your feet, and the shrouded corpse within it, all combine to send a chill to the stoutest heart. And now, sitting safely in my office, how deep a chill pervades me as I think of the events of that night, and day, and night again, which I am about to relate for your benefit !
We were bound to have that subject.' As Seth said, it was gone up;' and it was ridiculous, nay more, it was ungenerous and mean in the citizens of C to keep watch and ward over the grave of one whom they knew not, save as a stranger, passing through and dying in their town. So, with an experienced party of four, beside our trusty old driver, (most trusty when most drunk,) we set out at an early hour in the evening, our object being to do our work and get away before the guard reached the spot at about nine o'clock. In this we succeeded. The grave was left as we found it; and so artfully had every thing been replaced, that had we left five minutes sooner, no suspicion would ever have been excited. But alas! we had gone but a little distance on our return home, when we heard the tramp of horses in pursuit. Old H- -, the driver, laid on the whip most vigorously, but to no purpose. With muddy roads, five persons in a wagon, and a 'caput mortuum' to boot, we were no match in speed for our pursuers, all on horseback, and, as we had reason to suspect, all well armed. There was no alternative; we must be overtaken. How to save the body' was the question. A quarter of a mile ahead we were to turn a corner in the road. Lying in that corner was a recently cleared field, with many stumps of trees remaining, which offered some chances for concealment. Accordingly, some of us left the wagon, taking the subject' with us,' while II – drove more slowly around the corner. Before I knew how it happened, or by what process of discovery we had hit upon so lucky a hiding-place, we had mounted upon a high stump, and with some effort I had succeeded in dropping the dead-head' into the cavity of an adjoining stub, which had broken off at about twelve feet from the ground.
But we were late about it. Our pursuers were already in the field. I was perched upon the top of the stub, and so near were they, that to spring to the ground would betray our cache,' and most probably lead to my capture. The boys were making for the wagon at a very praiseworthy rate of speed. So I gently lowered myself down into the cavity where we had just “buried our dead,' hanging on to the top with my hands, to avoid too low a descent. In a moment our followers were about me. They had noticed our pause at this spot, and supposing that we had abandoned the subject, commenced a careful search for it. Of course I maintained a strict reserve as to my whereabouts. An unlucky cough or sneeze would betray me; and in that case I was elected for an 'imprisonment of not less than two, nor more than five years;' all of which I thought of during their tedious stay. At last they left, with an agreement to return in the morning and complete their search.
But my troubles were not over. I had hung so long suspended at arms' length by the hands, that on attempting to swing up again to the top of the stub, I found it was no go; and after several attempts, my cramped hands gave way, and down I went upon the head and shoulders of my departed friend and fellow-prisoner. The position was disagreeable, but I was ever a plucky fellow, and felt no wise discouraged until, after resting a while, I tried to clamber up out of my long chimney of a grave, and found the sides so smooth and slippery with damp as to serve an effectual' ne exeat' upon me. Verily, thought I, “the way of the transgressor is hard !'
I consoled myself for a while with the hope of a speedy return of my party, but hour after hour passed on, and they did not come. Day broke, and as the sun rose in the heavens, the light crept down into my prison and illuminated the ghastly countenance of my fellow-captive. His eyes were half opened ; and at last, my nerves growing weak from hunger and long confinement in one position, I fancied that I saw upon his upturned face a strange and cunning leer; a triumphant expression, as if he were chuckling over the horrible scrape into which my attempt to disturb his rest had brought me. I shifted my position so that I could only see the back of his head and his bare shoulders, but the rascal had a kind of French shrug in the latter, which still left the same impression on my excited fancy.
It grew cloudy and cold, and sleet and rain began to fall. My enemies of the night before returned, and completed their unsuccessful search. I felt a strange temptation to cry out and reveal my hiding-place; and had they come later in the day, I believe I should have done so. Noon
Hitherto my position had been one of great discomfort, but not of actual suffering; but as the day wore on, (and oh, how slowly !) I began to feel the effects of fatigue, hunger, wet, and cold. I bly nervous ! I wept, and prayed, and cursed by turns. My companion too— how I grew to hate him, and at last to look upon him as a sentient and intelligent demon, who, by some horrible diablerie, had drawn me into a living grave with him—and then I thought of how, when the old tree should have crumbled down with time, two skeletons would be found there, and only one suit of clothes; and how people would wonder; what they would say about me, should the truth become known; and whether they would pity me or not. Perhaps they would burn the field over, and we should both be burned up, “burned up with fire;' and I repeated it over and over again, “burned up with fire.' Then I thought how cold and hungry I was, and what my mother would say, could she know my situation, and I grew childish, and wept with the same passionate grief as when a child. Toward the close of the day I had fretied myself into a quarrel with the dead man, and curling down within reach, I struck him with my fist, and stamped upon him.
When night came, I was glad. I was so cold and benumbed that I felt no longer the gnawings of hunger, and from sheer exhaustion my nerves had grown quiet. For the first time I wished to sleep. I fixed myself as easily as possible, and repeating the old nursery lines,
Now I lay me down to sleep,' I dropped off into a quiet slumber. I had slept some hours when I woke suddenly at the sound of a foot-fall. In a moment the whole truth flashed over me. The boys had returned in search of me, and, without waiting to ascertain the facts, I called out, “Here I am! Here I am! Come and pull me out!' A moment more, and after a word of explanation, a strong arm grasped me, and I was drawn out to the living world again.
Few words were spoken then, but half an hour later, seated once more in the wagon beside old - well wrapped up in a buffalo-robe, my pleasant companion of that long, weary day beneath our feet, my hunger satisfied by sundry dough-nuts and cold sausages, and my nerves set right by a pull at the brandy-bottle
, so long and uninterrupted that Seth inquired if I had ever been a pearl-diver, I listened to their explanations of the impossibility of any earlier relief to me, and of the anxiety they had suffered during the day, lest I had been captured.
I slept soundly that night, but for many nights thereafter, horrid dreams of ghouls and vampires; of going down and down through Simms' Hole with a dead man's arms locked around my neck, haunted my pillow, and destroyed my rest.
Reader, do you wonder that an adventure like this should be graven with a deeper pencil on my memory than any or all of the scenes of battle, tempest, and wreck I have since encountered ?
Love came to me the other day,
His wings down drooping by his side;
Gone was his joy and look of pride;
Hath pricked thee sick with damnéd needles.'
E'en the chimney-smoke ascending
Quickens pulses in his heart, While the noble elms o'erbending
Beckon him where dwells no art.
There are longings at deep midnight,
When no step nor sound is near, As upon the restless pillow
Frequent drops the scalding tear; When the quivering, half-checked sigh
Tells its tale to silent halls, And the rent heart mournfully
Sinks beneath its bosom walls.
There are longings when the clank
Of the chain in dungeon deep Echoes to the ceiling dank
O'er the couch where dwells no sleep: HEAVEN hears that prisoner's groan,
And the all-avenging Eye
Who would from his fury fly.
There are longings in the city;
There are longings in the wood; Tender yearnings, anxious longings
For the beautiful and good; As the rapt soul forward reaches,
Spurning scenes of earth and time, And amid the stars forth wanders,
Holding converse with sublime.
There are longings when the Christian
Suffers 'neath the tempter's rod -
In the city of his God;
By that city's golden walls,
Man is striving, longing ever,
Longing for he knows not what, While his
every soul's endeavor Is for something he has not: Closely guard those tender yearnings
Rising from the heart's deep flood : Eyer cherish higher longings
For the beautiful and good.