Page images
PDF
EPUB

'I am glad you have returned, continued my mother, ‘for your father has just received news which obliges him to go to NewYork, and he purposes taking us with him. He thinks change of air will benefit you.'

This information, which once would have given me the liveliest delight, now brought only a dull satisfaction that I should leave this place which I so detested, and which I feared would become insupportable to me, when my victim escaped from the living tomb in which I had engulfed him. I retired to my room, and made the excuse of a headache not to leave it all day. I felt the necessity of caution, and was determined to betray no outward emotion. I know not if I can describe my feelings at this period. Not one thought of relenting crossed my mind. I would not have reëntered the Cave for ten thousand worlds. No! his words of love for her rang too vividly in my recollection; and the haughty pride with which he turned away from me, was too fresh a memory. I felt a savage delight in the fright, the terror, the despair, into which I had plunged him. I knew there would be hours of searching before he could be found, and I thought of the tortures he was then enduring with positive delight. But I never dreamed of his death. No! I can truly say, that the idea of that never crossed my mind. I had quitted him in one of the thoroughfares of the Cave, the most likely place to be searched. When I left him there alone, I had no thought but of the dreaded hours of loneliness, which would seem like ages to him, that must elapse before he was discovered by his friends. No one, to my knowledge, had ever been entirely lost in the Cave; and I never contemplated the possibility that he would head the list of those who have perished in that awful darkness and silence.

Late in the afternoon, I heard the quick tramp of a horse, and looking out, I saw John Haywood, Minnie's brother and Mr. Beverleigh's pupil. He looked pale and frightened, and I knew his errand before I heard him call my father out into the piazza, and hastily tell him that my former tutor was lost in the Cave. moment, my father summoned three or four negroes, armed them with rude torches, and leaving a message for my mother, went off to join the search.

So then he was not yet found. My woman's heart began to relent, as I thought of the long hours he had been alone there, and how faint and weary he must be. I began to feel that his punishment was heavier than I intended. During the night that followed, in which no news came, I endured agonies as great as any he was then suffering. I pictured to myself his desperate struggles to regain the path, and the unendurable horror of the profound darkness around him. Then I thought if he should by any chance fall into one of the yawning pits with which the Cave abounds: and my head swam and

my

heart almost ceased to beat at the awful suggestion. At length the morning dawned, and my father returned quite worn out. All the household rushed to meet him, but the sad look of his kind face told us, before he spoke, that no trace of Mr. Beverleigh had yet been found. I asked a few eager questions, and

In a

a

heard that the spot where I had parted from him had been searched again and again, so that there was no necessity for me to betray my dark secret, and I felt that, for my parents sakes, it must be buried in my own breast.

I will not linger over the horrors of those next few days. At one time they found his lantern, and that renewed hope; I alone knew on how slender a foundation. Then the cap he wore was picked up; but after that, though all the neighborhood was roused to join the search, and the great cavern was illuminated as it had never been before, with the glare of a hundred torches, no farther trace was ever discovered to point out which of the many fearful dooms he might have encountered, was the fate of William Beverleigh.

A week passed, and all hope was given up, and I knew the brand of Cain was on my brow, and that I was a murderess. I had caused that man, whose life I would have saved at the sacrifice of my own, to perish by a death too frightful to contemplate. That being whom I would have surrounded with every luxury, had pillowed his dying head on the cold stones of that remorseless cavern, and had breathed out his last sigh amid its unutterable stillness and gloom. This conviction has never left me, day nor night. I have wept tears of blood to wipe out my awful crime, but all in vain. I am ever consumed by the fires of an unavailing remorse, which is burning away my life.

My dark story draws to a close, and it is well my task is almost done, for my failing strength, and trembling hand, warn me to hasten its completion.

My father took us North, and himself carried to Mr. Beverleigh's parents the news of his loss. But there were many children, and theirs was the sorrow which is softened bytime, and cheered by hope. His affianced bride, on whom he had lavished the affection for which I had vainly yearned, found consolation in her widowhood in another love: and I alone mourned and wept over his memory. But all my tears were shed in secret. Outwardly I was calm, though my health failed so entirely that I did not return with my parents to Kentucky, but, by the advice of my physician, went abroad with some friends. Since that time, I have been a constant wanderer in search of health and happiness, always in vain : no other man has ever offered to fill the place of my murdered idol. I have lived a lone, sad, and unloved woman. I feel now that my

hours on earth are numbered, and that the deadly disease which for years has tormented me, is about to claim its prey. Before these few lines shall reach the public eye, I shall have buried myself in a living tomb. I am going to reënter that dark Cave, the threshold of which I have not crossed for fifteen years, and there I will patiently await the coming of that death, which I hope to me will be a blessed release. The gloom and horror to which, years ago, I doomed my victim, shall be around me when I die: for I think that perhaps from amid the silent rocks which witnessed my crime, my last prayer for forgiveness will find acceptance.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

We clasped the precious casket now,

We wildly kissed the precious clay,

And wildly kissed the tears away
That fell upon the pure white brow!
Since then have passed — ah! many years ;

But often do we speak of her,

And that expected Messenger,

With bitter tears with bitter tears! Allegheny City, Oct. 20th.

HELEN EARLE.

CONFESSIONS OF A COUNTRY EDITOR.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

I WONDER if the reader of this sketch ever edited a country newspaper; one of those four-paged sheets which are always hebdomadally behind with intelligence, which has been fully digested by every body that lives every where, except in the village where your map of busy life’ is issued ? Our mutual friend after twenty-five years' superintend

C ance of his cherished · KNICK,' can give you some idea of what the editor of a country journal has to undergo, but not of those petite miseries he suffers, if he be the unfortunate publisher of his own sheet.

‘John Smith, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER,' looks well, to the uninitiated, at the head of the Oaktown Bugle;' but, in reality, it is an honor without a redeeming trait, if it covers a realizing sense of personal debts, non-paying subscribers, bad writing, dough-head correspondents, dictating partisan leaders, and printers' troubles generally. Among the worst of these, are editorial leaders, so called because the printer inserts leads between his lines of type, or because old Moneypenny leads you, by promises strongly resembling threats, to write them as he may suggest, without reference to your own opinions.

I once had a year's service at the business, as editor and publisher of the “Wolftown Banner,' away out in Illinois; and I oftentimes found myself without sufficient rocks' to purchase a day's fodder, which as often was bought with a fulsome puff of the

Wolftown Exchange, at which hotel I would be thus enabled to achieve' a common dinner.

Then there was one annoyance which, from its continuity, became the rule, and its exceptions were but few and widely separated by time. The paper-seller did a "cash or approved paper' business, and all the loose change of the office, tightly collected, went into his pockets. More frequently, old Moneypenny was called in to give his personal security by indorsement, to keep up the regular issue; and these transactions soon led him to consider the ‘Banner' as his own private property. This illusion caused him to domineer largely in the style of the politics and general course of the ‘Banner. One of the oldest settlers of the county, wealthy beyond his neighbors, the founder of the village, he became the “Sir Oracle of all things therein, and aspired mightily to congressional honors. Not few were the stormy articles which he wrote against opposing men and measures, and which I silently fathered as my own offspring, fearing his displeasure, much as I detested their tone and abusive personalities; for, with the privileges conferred on him by his station in life, he became a little tyrannical and garrulous with his years. Once he led me into a serious difficulty, which, while it laid me up in bed, and stopped the issue of the ‘Banner' for a fortnight, ultimately redounded to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the benefit of that journal, and cancelled all the notes held against me by the paper-seller.

I had written a contemptuous notice of a public meeting of the opposition party, held on a previous evening. It disgusted me while I wrote it: but we were short of paper; the funds were low, and before my next issue, I should have to call upon Moneypenny for his valuable aid in getting a supply.

Just as I had finished the article, in came my dictator. Picking up my manuscript, he glanced over it.

'Pretty fair shot !- very fair! But, bless your soul, not half enough mustard and pepper in it: and you have n't done that scoundrel Meggles justice, blast him! Give me that pen: I'll set him up as he should be !»

So he scratched down an addition to my article, wherein Mr. Meggles, the opposition candidate for Congress, was set up' in a spirit and language so excessively strong and flowing that the Evil One himself might consider himself holy in comparison with the character sketched by Moneypenny. I objected to its harshness and to its going in' in that shape, but the curses of my wealthy owner soon led me to an acquiescence. The consequences, I felt,

I would prove disastrous, but — well, interest smothered my terrors, and 'in' it went.

I do not care to depict the sequel in detail, or the commotion the next · Banner' created. The exasperated Meggles attacked me alone in the office, with a loaded cane-head, pied the standing “ forms' of the paper into a chaotic mass; poured on my prostrate form the contents of the type-cases, and left me pounded into the consistency of a jelly, and insensible.

Two weeks elapsed before I ventured from my bed-room. I found the office in the hands of my journeyman, and under the personal supervision of Moneypenny, fast assuming its quondam quietude and regularity. My dictator was there when I entered.

“Glorious !' he exclaimed, when he saw me; 'never was such a glorious action !

I wondered what he meant. If he alluded to the fight in which I had been engaged, I could not, in my bones, feel the glory of it. If he meant the action of the types as they rattled on the floor and over my fallen form, on that memorable occasion, I still could not coïncide with him. But his explanation, filled as it was with unpicked maledictions, soon enlightened me. He proposed the commencement of suit on suit in the Circuit Court against the victorious Meggles for assaults, and damages laid at fabulous figures.

In vain I remonstrated, but, too weak to argue, I succumbed to his will. Mr. Meggles was forthwith attacked, with the aid of my lawyer, on every vulnerable side. In three weeks the trials began. On the charge of assault, Mr. Meggles was fined one hundred dollars and costs. On the claim for personal damages, he was mulcted in the sum of three hundred dollars and costs.'

Out of this windfall, I reserved the price of one coat, to replace the one demolished by my assailant, and with the balance, paid up

[ocr errors]

1

[ocr errors]

6

« PreviousContinue »