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'RE MINISCENCES OF AN OLD MAN.'
OUR readers will no doubt remember the account given by us some two years since of a myste. rious correspondent, whom we saw but for a moment, yet whose presence produced upon us a remarkable effect. After publishing a succession of numbers of the 'REMINISCENCES OF AN OLD MAN, our strange visitor discontinued his favors. We waited with much anxiety for a whole year, and were often on the point of venturing upon a visit to him. Still, we were unwilling to intrude upon the privacy of one who evidently desired to remain in undisturbed retirement; and just as our desire to hear from the Reminiscent was getting the better of this delicacy, we received the subjoined communication, accompanying a large package.
TO TEE EDITOR OF THE KNICKERBOCKER.
It is more than a year since I have communicated to you my sombre reminiscences. As you had a right to expect a continuation of them, you shall know why they have not been furnished. Events beyond my control, and entirely unexpected, sent me once more where I had de. clared my feet should never wander. Again I have beheld the old world. Again I have seen the foot of the tyrant upon the neck of his victim ; have beheld the oppression of a whole race, and heard their cries go up to the Mighty GOD OF SABAOTH !
· But the time is not yet fully come.
• Once more I have returned to the peaceful retirement of my quiet chamber. When resting in it before, I thought my lot was cast there for the remainder of my pilgrimage. But Providence willed otherwise. Now, I trust, I shall be permitted to spend the remainder of my days in soli. tary quiet. But God's will be done! And if in the fulfilment of His will I must again be disturbed, must again become a wanderer, so mote it be! And believe me, though the saddened heart may suffer in the lonely retreat, yet it is among the throng, in the midst of the busy multitude, that its sufferings press heaviest, because there it recognizes humanity, but finds, alas ! no sympathy from his kind. Yet again I say, God's will be done!
· The experience of my whole life, my sojournings, my wanderings, the tumult and the calm, peace and war; all impress me with the solemn conclusion, that. The thing that hath been is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done.'
· Who dare add more to the record of man's experience ?' [The package accompanying this remarkable communication was marked • The St. Leger Papers.' Upon the outside of it was written the following :)
• At the age of twenty-three years I find myself upon the threshold of two worlds. The Past summons the thousand incidents which have operated to determine me as a responsible being, and presents them with fearful vividness in
before me. The PRESENT seems like nothing beneath my feet. And the Future, no longer a shadowy dream, throws open its endless vista, and whispers that I must soon enter upon all its untried, unknown realities. Here I am permitted to pause a moment, ere I commence upon that new existence which ends only with the INFINITE !
• I have finished
earth. The ties which connect me with the world have parted. I have to do now only with eternity. Yet something which I may not resist, impels me to retrospection. I look back over my short pilgrimage, and feel a yearning which I cannot restrain, to put down a narrative of my brief existence, and to mark the several changes which have come over my spirit, in the hope that the young, with whom I chiefly sympathize, may profit by the recital.
But of what use will the record of my experience prove to youthful spirits, flushed with the glow of health, secure in their fancied strength, and determined on enjoyment ? To them the world is every thing. Alas! they know not that the world will reward them with infamy, if they trust alone to it. Yet it is to such I would make my appeal. I would fain arrest them, before they shall cease to have sympathy with every saving influence, because of their habitual opposition to it.
• But I will not anticipate the moral of my life. Let this be gathered from the record of it.'
The St. Leger family have resided in Warwickshire for a very long period. My father, who was fond of tracing genealogies, affirmed that the estate upon which we lived was bestowed upon Bertold St. Leger by Richard the Lion-hearted, on his return from the Crusade, for the conspicuous services which he had rendered that monarch in his war with the Saracen. How such an uninterrupted possession had been maintained, for so long a time, and through every successive revolution, my father did not explain. The task might have proved difficult. At any rate, it was very well to rest satisfied with an account which appeared every way authentic. Be this as it may, our family was certainly an ancient one.
My grand-father, Hugh St. Leger, by his marriage with a lady of large fortune, became possessed of the valuable estate which joined Bertold.Castle, and was considered one of the wealthiest gentlemen in Warwickshire. This large patrimony fell to my father, who was an only child.
Bertold Castle, was a singular, grotesque-looking pile, half ancient, half modern in its appearance. Up to the time of my father's marriage, it remained as it had stood for generations. The castle was built upon the very brink of the Avon, and its foundations were deeper, it was said, than the bed of the river. The old moss, which covered its walls, extended down into the stream, so that the castle seemed to rise directly from the water. Many were the dismal stories which were told of the dungeons far under ground ; secret passages, beneath the bed of the river, communicating with the other side, and of the cruelties practised upon the unhappy prisoners confined in them in days of yore, and espe. cially in the time of the famous Guy, Earl of Warwick, of whom my ancestor was a firm adherent. It was said, too, that the spirits of these unfortunate persons still haunted the neighborhood, and made the green banks of the Avon their place of meeting. The low murmur of the stream, as it swept gently under the walls of the Castle, was said to be but the voices of these spirits, as they breathed their lamentations over the waters which had been the only witness of their sufferings. I speak of nursery-tales and neighborhood-gossip, not of course credited by the enlightened, but which served to fill my infarrt mind with terror and awe. And as this sketch is intended to give the history of my mental as well as of my external life, I dwell with the more minuteness on those things which first affected it most powerfully.
On my father's marriage with a daughter of one of the noble families in Warwickshire, the Castle was almost completely metamorphosed. His family pride would not permit him to throw down a single stone of the staunch pile which had stood so long and so firmly a defence for his ancestors; while the improvements of the age required a mansion more in accordance with its refined and peaceful spirit. It was consequently resolved to add to the pile a splendid modern structure, which was to become
excellence the residence of the family. The old dininghall and the state-rooms were however allowed to remain in all their sombre grandeur. The library was not quite dismantled ; although all of the handsomer books were removed into the new room, built for that purpose. Enough nevertheless remained to save the room from utter neglect, although the dusty cob-webs around its walls gave evidence of the slight attention it received.
The older servants saw with dismay the preparations for enlarging the establishment; looking upon it as a virtual abandonment of the Old Castle.' This was considered a bad omen, and to augur the downfall or termination of our house. A prophecy was quoted relative to the dreaded event, now about to take place, which was said to be of great antiquity :
"WHEN ye St. Leger shal marrie a virgyn fair,
Shal build a new castel both wondrous and rare,
My grand-father held this prophecy in great veneration. He was wont to say, “With so plain a warning in view, the St. Legers would stand an unbroken name for countless generations. The consequence was, that nothing was done even to the old castle, except what came strictly under the denomination of repairs. Improvements were not thought of. At length, Hugh St. Leger was gathered to his fathers, and the great gong of the castle struck his last requiem amid the weeping and lamentation of relatives, servants and retainers; for he was a man of many virtues; both generous and kind, though stern in his manner, and possessing somewhat of the haughty bearing of the preceding age.
My father was educated at a more enlightened period, when improvements waxed rife; when distinctions began to soften, and changes to be thought necessary. He affected to disregard the prophecy which had been so religiously believed by his ancestors. He maintained that the old castle was built mainly with a view to defence, in case of assault; that it possessed great conveniences for a garrison, but comparatively few for a family residence; and while he revered it as the home of his fathers, regarding with ancestral pride its staunch battlements, which had stood firm against every assault, still he maintained that there could exist no reason why improvements should not be made, which might accord with the present state of things. The addition' was consequently resolved upon. My father was particular always to give it that name, secretly deciding, I have no doubt, that by keeping within the letter of the prophecy, he should not incur the threatened penalty. The new mansion was built. My father married. Years rolled happily away. He was blessed with three promising children ; and every thing went on joyously and well. My own recollections are of
home in the improved state I have described. From the old servants how. ever I learned at an early age the existence of the prophecy, and the fearful construction which superstition had given it. Little was said openly; but the deprecatory air, the sombre, melancholy look, which two or three of the old crones who had become superannuated in our service constantly wore, were always a sore interruption to our childish sports. Did we meet them while full of the elastic happy feeling which child.' hood so much enjoys, it was always : “Poor children! God preserve ye ! Who knows what ye may come to! God send ye an easy death! and the like.
My brother - I had but one, and he was my senior- seemed but little affected by these prophecies of evil, while upon my own mind they produced a chilling and lasting effect. Like the insect that flutters nearer and nearer the flame which is to prove its destruction, I used to steal away and hold daily conferences with these old creatures; and hour after hour was wont to be entertained with stories of the bloody wars in which old Bertold St. Leger figured; of the exploits of the famous Guy of Warwick; and of my brave grand-father, Hugh St. Leger, the last worthy of the race, as they were pleased to style him; always concluding how. ever, by quoting the dreaded prophecy, and assuring me that I was doomed.
These lessons, so often inculcated, began to produce their impression. Somehow I took to myself the whole force of the prophecy, regarding my brother and sister as in some way exempt from its influence.
The result was, that in my very childhood I become serious and thoughtful. Life, even in its spring-time, was losing every charm. The world looked no longer gladsome and gay.
I had begun to suffer.
STRANGE season of childhood ! marked by cloud and sunshine; full of light-hearted pleasures and fresh griefs! Yet how fraught with consequences when the new-created being ushered into life commences upon immortality! Precious season! when every new object makes an impression, and every impression is indelible! And what fearful
, issues hang upon each! Issues which reach through time, and peradventure into eternity. VOL. XXV.
In order to present a proper narrative of my life, I should give some account of those who exercised most influence upon it. My father was in many respects a singular man. He possessed in a great degree
. the stern nature of my grandfather, which was nevertheless considerably modified by a natural urbanity of manner, which old Hugh St. Leger never manifested. He had a warm, generous heart, and was devotedly attached to his wife and children. Although a younger brother, I never could perceive any difference in the treatment of his
He was equally affectionate toward both, yet never familiar with either. His urbanity was manifested in social life with his friends and acquaintances; but when any one sought his intimacy, a repulse was certain. Yet he was neither haughty nor overbearing. Pride he certainly possessed; yet it seemed a just and honest pride, rather than the vain conceit of a weak mind. From his children he not only expected obedience, to the letter, but he never suffered his commands or wishes to be questioned. I well remember once unconsciously asking him why I must do some act which he had commanded, and the withering sternness of his response as he reëchoed the command, without deigning any explanation. In justice I should add, that his require. ments were reasonable and proper, although to a wayward child they might seem otherwise. In his religion my father was strict and devoted. He hated Popery with a pious indignation, and early instilled into the minds of his children an abhorrence of the Romish Church. Frenchmen were his peculiar aversion, and it was with difficulty that he could bring himself to treat one with civility. Possessing in the main sound views, he entertained violent prejudices, which it was impossible to change. He was not ambitious, except for his children. He omitted nothing which might insure to them every advantage, as well in education as personal advancement. For them he labored and planned. No expense was too great, no sacrifice too large. But if my father was ready to do all this, much did he expect in return. What he thought we could accomplish, we were compelled to accomplish, no matter though the task were difficult, nay overwhelming. No excuse was accepted. In vain we sometimes pleaded that our companions were not tasked so heavily. With something very like a sneer, he would reply, 'If you ever wish to be any thing, do not talk about what others do, but set your mark away beyond them all, and when once the mark is fixed, let there be no drawing back, no whining. Try, and the thing will be done.' And try we did, until it seemed as if no labor was half so hard as ours. Yet after all, we generally fulfilled what was required, and had the satisfaction of making glad a parent's heart.
I do not think I could have borne so cheerfully all that my father imposed upon me, had it not been for my mother. Oh! what a world of feeling and tenderness is in that name! Though still living, let me pay her the tribute which I cannot withhold. I should think my duty but half accomplished, did I omit to record what I owe to her. In disposition she was angelic. I think I never saw her ruffled in temper, or discomposed. She was mild, yet dignified, and possessed a sweetness of manner which was perfectly fascinating. Above all, she was devotedly pious, and it was her first care to instil into the minds of her