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wan, unwarming rays pointed out to him the convulsive, conflicting agonies of his sister's countenance, as she supplicated for mercy, and implored for life; while he unmoved by her shrieks and groans, as she lay writhing in the pangs of death, held her down steadily with an extended arm, till he deemed that her life was no
He raised his murderous arm, the body of his sister rose slowly floating on the stream ; he thought that it moved, as yet in sign of life ; he grasped it once again, and held it firmly fixed unto the bottom of the river's oozy bed, till he was well assured that the waters of bitterness had gone over her soul, and that her spirit was no longer an inhabitant of earth.
He then left her floating on her watery bier, and returned unto his own house; his wife, who was in the eighth month of her pregnancy, asked him, mildly, where he had been, and where his sister was. He grinned horrible a ghastly smile, and said-What, you are suspicious are you? but I will take especial care of your tongue; dead people tell no tales.-Saying which he dragged his wife from her bed, and strangled her with his own hands as she lay on the floor: he replaced the body in bed, and was proceeding to leave the house, in order to abscond; but some of the neighbours, who had heard a noise, occasioned by the struggles of the woman before she was quite murdered, gathered round the door, and secured him. This morning he has made a full confession before a magistrate, and is committed for trial at the next assizes.
Now, Edward, let this circumstance teach you, first, that throughout your life, you never stoop to use a woman ill, and, secondly, that all guilt is absolute folly and ignorance, always defeating its own end; this man thought, that by killing his sister, he should secure her property to himself; but he was mistaken in his calculation ; the murder of his sister brought on the murder of his wife, and he is now on his road to the gallows to forfeit his life to the laws of his country.”
This scene and his father's words made an indelible impression upon Edward's mind; and gave much of the hue and colouring to that complexion, which clothed his after life.
Edward now told his father,that he saw a poor boy, about fourteen years of age, brought down by his uncle to be cured of the scrofula by touching the eyelids, nose and chin of the drowned woman ; that the boy screamed and cried in an agony of horror, beseeching, that he might not be compelled to touch the dead corse ; but his uncle forced him to come in contact with the body. Edward's father then represented to him the absurdity of such a proceeding,
and taught him the folly of superstition in such strong colours, that Edward never forgot their impresssion ; but always endeavoured to fan the flame of devotion in his heart by the breath of pure religion, separated from the obscure and misty notions of ignorant fanaticism. His father bade him remember, even unto his dying day, that whenever it was possible to reason upon any matter offered to his consideration he should do it, and when human reason had no ground, on which to act, he should bow in silence and with all humility, before the hidden misteries of God, and the unsearchable secrets of his wisdom ; that belief was a sacred, individual right, and that he must never presume to attempt to force his creed down another's throat, but must treat with respect the religious opinions of all orders and all sects of men.
Edward glided all cheerily down the current of existence, rapidly improving in all the elements of knowledge, when, in the commencement of his ninth year, happened a little occurrence, which served to confirm his father's precepts, as to the absurdity of superstition. According to custom, he one day, repaired to the shop of an old pie-woman, in order to purchase some pastry; while he was there, and while two or three poor women were also in the act of buying some small wares, clouds thick and heavy darkened the sky,the storm rolled onward, and a most terrible tempest of rain and hail shook the crazy habitation of the pastry-cook to its very centre.
The old woman, whose religion was not entirely free from the obscurity of superstition, was very much alarmed, and, in good truth, believed that the world was immediately to be at an end, and that the day of judgment was now come, she had been often told by the worthy clergyman of the parish, who knew not the meaning of the text, that charity covereth a multitude of sins; and in order to save her soul from everlasting perdition, she was determined to do a violence to her long confirmed habits of parsimony, to put on a compelled liberality, and give an alms before she died. She, therefore, earnestly besought Edward, and the females who were present, to eat as much pastry and ginger-bread as they could devour; at the same time assuring them, that it should not cost them a single farthing.
“ The Lord have mercy upon me! there, my dear, do eat this tart-Our Father, which art in Heaven-here, Molly, take this plumb cake. I believe in God the Father-Lord! how fierce the lightning is! what shall I do? Here, Betty, take this lump of barley sugar, and swallow it as fast as you can for your life.-0! what a dreadful clap of thunder -Good Lord deliver us.”- In the
midst of all her terror and alarm, this pious woman, observing that Edward, with the utmost unconcern as to the scene around him, was very speedily devouring her pastry, could not refrain from exclaiming,—“Dear me, how much that boy eats! Why he will swallow as many tarts as cost a shilling.”
Here another peal of thunder, with a vivid flash of lightning, called off her attention from Edward, and roused afresh all her horrors as to the situation of her own soul, and she began, with reiterated vigour, again to scream out her ejaculations of devotion, and again to press upon her company the necessity of their eating out her salvation.
This exhibition had lasted a considerable time, when the clouds began to roll away upon the retiring blast, and the storm abated. The devout vender of gingerbread peeped out at the window, and said Bless me I do not think that the world will be at an end this bout.”--Saying which, she grew vigorous upon the conviction, that the day of judgment was put off, and forthwith, clapping her back to the door, she swore stoutly that no one should leave her shop until every article, which had been eaten, was paid for, to the uttermost farthing..
The poor women rather than incur the pastry-cook's anger, submitted to her will, and paid for all the trash that had been actually forced down their throats, in order to prepare the way to Heaven for the religious fabricator of pies. But Edward, when called
upon to pay his share of the reckoning, said—“No, not a single farthing will I pay, you gave me the cakes and tarts in order to save yourself from hell, and I ate them purely for the good of your soul; and if you do not immedtately let me out of your shop, I will break every window in your house, and dash to pieces all your sweet-meats and jellies.”—Terrified by this threat, and alarmed at the danger offered to her property, the old woman dismissed him with many a benediction, and comforted herself by telling him that he would certainly be turned over unto Satan, and be everlastingly tormented for his wickedness in not paying for the tarts which he had eaten.
Edward went home, and told his father what had happened; his father smiled, and bade him never forget the absurdity of the old woman, in thinking that she could impose upon God, and thus cheat herself into heaven by forcing a few tarts down the throats of her customers, during the violence of a thunder-storm.
Edward's father was, as usual, in London, during the winter, and left Edward alone in the country to the care of his tutor. One
afternoon, while Edward was yet in his ninth year, he entered his father's study, and, happening to cast his eyes upward, saw a mahogany shelf fastened to the wall near the ceiling, and two green cloth covers which concealed from his view the things which stood on the shelf. Edward immediately proceeded to place a table under this shelf, and, to pile up stools and chairs in succesive order upon the table, and climbed up, in order to discover what was hidden under the green cloths. With his left hand he grasped the iron clamp, which fastened the shelf to the wall, and slinging the whole weight of his body suspended by his left hand, he proceeded with his right to lift up the veil, which concealed the object of his investigation from sight; while he was in the act of elevating the veil the iron clamp gave way, and down came the shelf, and Edward, and the chairs, and the stool and the table to the ground in one great crash of destruction. Edward now perceived, that the objects of his curiosity had once been two large globes, a celestial and a terrestrial globe; but that now the lakes, and rivers, and seas, and hills, and valleys, and the sun, and moon, and stars, and signs of the zodiac,were scattered over all the floor in irregular and wild confusion.
The noise of this downfal brought the tutor into the room. What have you been doing, you little inischievous brat? said the ecclesiastic, trembling with rage.--Edward. I have pulled down this shelf, Sir, and broke these globes to pieces - Tutor. You shall be locked up in the great library till your father comes down into the country.-Edward. Pray, do not lock me up in that horrid gloomy room, so far away from the house; let the appeal be made to my father, aud let him pronounce the decree.-Tutor. Your father will not come down here these three weeks, and before that time shall ha "elapsed, you will have pulled the house down; why those globes cost a hundred guineas; therefore, say no more, but go quietly into the library, and be locked up.
To this proposal Edward still demurred, and the pious tutor, by main force, dragged him out of the room, and led him across a large yard to an old building, far remote from the house, and thrust him into the library, an old, gloomy, spacious, gothic apartment, thickly ranged round with paintings, and with books. Edward earnestly besought his tutor not to confine him in this dismal place ; but in vain, the good clergyman turned the bolts of the lock into their rest, and departed.
Edward immediately examined if there might be any possibility of escaping; and having sqeezed himself through the space left VI.. I.
by the upright iron bars, which guarded the western window of the room, that looked into a pleasure-garden, he had the mortification of finding, as he stood on a narrow ledge of stone, jutting out from the wall, that he was full forty feet from the ground, and that he would, inevitably, break his neck, if he leaped down; he, therefore, retired into the room and closed the window.
It was the month of February; the weather was cold, and the evening began to set in. Edward, in looking round the room had his attention arrested by a picture, as large as the life, which stood on the floor at the upper end of the library; it was the representation of an assassin in the very act of plunging a dagger into the heart of a venerable old man, whose grey beard, and expressive supplicating look were particularly calculated to inspire the beholder with compassion ; the assassin had seized the old man by the throat, and wore the scowl of hell upon his terrific aspect. Edward was not altogether free from the terrors of superstition, notwithstanding his father's endeavours to guard him from its horrid evils; for the nursery maids, and even the worthy tutor himself, had too often regaled him with tales of ghosts, and hob-goblins, and frightful spirits ; so that he had some very obscure and misty notions as to the existence of these ideal gentry.
The dim, disastrous twilight, which now obscured, and added to the accustomed gloom of the apartment, the solemn stilness all around, which was, at intervals, interrupted by the dismal shrieking of the bird of night; and the horrid expression of the assassin's countenance on the picture, inspired more terror into Edward's heart than he had ever before experienced. All the stories of apparitions and of ghosts, which he had ever heard, rushed to his recollection, and the form of the murdered woman, which he had seen extended on the river's brink, casting the fixed glare of her deadly eye-balls upon him, and smiling ghastly with her livid lips encircled with foam, seemed to glide in bitter mockery before his entranced sight.
The joints of his loins were loosened, his little knees smote against each other, his knotted and combined locks were parted, and each perpendicular hair upon his head stood erect, as quills upon the fretful porcupine, and in all the agony of conflicting terror he marched up to the picture, and, for a moment, assuming a courage, which he did not feel, he dashed his clenched fist through the canvass, and tore away the countenance of the assassin.
No sooner was this feat performed, than Edward recollected, that the picture was deemed a piece of great value, and he began to be