Page images
PDF
EPUB

waving to and fro; but the flash and report of muskets at the cutposts told that it was the savage horde that came almost with the speed of the wind upon the encampment, expecting to surprise the whites-uttering the war-whoop and the most fiendish yells. But the whites, instead of being found sleeping and in confusion, were fully prepared for the encounter, and repulsed them with steady valour. It was about two o'clock when the attack commenced ; the clouds that had spread such universal gloom over the camp in the early part of the night had now separated, allowing the light of the stars to fall on the scene of carnage. Although the light was so far unfavourable to the whites as to show them more plainly, yet it discovered the painted savages who before would have been invisible.

For a long time it seemed doubtful which should conquer. Albert and his enthusiastic followers fought like tigers; they rushed impetuously on the foe, strewing the ground with the dead wherever they went. The brave boy, elated with the success of his little band, and seeing the chief of the Indians, sprang forward with his comrades at his heels, and, with about a dozen others, was surrounded. They soon discovered their predicament. Aware that no quarter would be given, were they dis. posed to ask it, they plied their weapons with almost supernatural strength ; but they must inevitably have been overpowered by the superior numbers of the savages had not some of the strongest of the villagers come to the rescue, wielding their heavy ploughshares with both hands, and felling three or four of the enemy at a time. The savages, seeing the power of the assailants, began to give way, till at length the whole body retreated into the deep shadow of the lofty wood, where they had great advantage over the whites, whose pale faces showed them to the unerring aim of the Indian rifle or their gleaming tomahawks.

It was not the policy of the veteran Lovell to follow the retreating foe; but the sanguine spirits of Albert's band led the way, and there was no alternative but for the more prudent to assist them or see them perish. The first was of course adopted, but the villagers soon found that they were fighting at great disadvantage, and were firing at random. The two captains meeting, they were about to propose withdrawing their suffering army, when Foolish Joe came with the fleetness of a deer, bearing a lighted pitch-pine torch, which he applied to the dry underbrush. The blaze spread like wild-fire, the flames shot up the tall pines, bathing the forest and the foe, the mountain and the sky, in one lurid glare.

Our brave fellows were once more inspired with hope, and, from some one of Albert's followers crying aloud the names Henry and Lucy so enthusiastically, they were at once adopted as an universal watchword a wild spirit of revenge awakened the latent energies of the assailants; the consequence of which was that the Indians were driven across a deep stream, where they could only maintain the fight with fire-arms and stones. By this time day had begun to dawn, and many of the muskets and rifles had become so foul as to be rendered useless. Among those of the whites who retired from the scene of action, a little down the brook, to cleanse their fire-arms, was Albert. In descending the bank to the edge of the stream, he was accosted by the chief of the savages, who, in the coolest manner possible, said to him, “ You get your gun washed first, you shoot me-me get mine washed first, I shoot you.”

Nov.-VOL. LIV, NO, ccxv.

Z

[ocr errors]

Here, indeed, was a case of life and death, and for life did they work the hour for one or both had come: the rifles were washed, loaded, and aimed, simultaneously. But by the dispensation of Providence Albert was destined to be the victor. The ball from his rifle struck the guard of the chief's, mangled the hand, and, entering his brain, he fell a lifeless corpse on the sand.

Albert again joined his men. The news of the death of the Penobscot leader, while it put new hopes into the hearts of the whites, filled the savages with doubt; yet they fought bravely, and the action might still have continued some hours, had not an honest and grateful friend of Albert's taken an axe from one of his dead comrades, and felled a couple of trees across the stream, some way above where the conflict was in its full fury, by which means he enabled a division, headed by the zealous parson, to cross the rivulet, and attack the Indians in the rear, most of them were slain ; a few who took to fight were pursued, and one who stopped to kill a prisoner, who lay bound about a mile from the brook, was cut down by the huge sword of the parson, before he could accomplish his purpose.

The good old man cut the thongs with which the prisoner was bound, and took him to Albert, and, presenting his young prize with one hand, and his sword with the other, he said, “ Victory is ours, and I resign my commission.” The young captain, unheeding the priest's sword, caught the dear boy in his arms, pressed him to his heart, while the tears of joy and gratitude rolled down his cheeks, as he turned his full blue eye to heaven to give thanks for the mercy of God in restoring to him his half-famished brother. Some of the young men bore Henry in their arms, while the rest of the living gathered up the dead, and returned triumphant to the church.

Shall I follow them ?-no, I will not; and yet I have a lingering curiosity to look on the scene of wretchedness which must follow even the most triumphant victory. The criminal upon the gallows, at the moment he is about to be dropped into eternity, becomes an object of more interest than at any other period during his whole life-time. Thousands of every age and description—both male and female--gather around his elevated situation, eyeing him with breathless interest. 'Tis our nature to seek the most appalling sights of woe; anything for excitement. Of this we have sufficient proof in the numbers which had collected to witness the meeting between the living wife and dead husband, and the wounded son and the shrieking mother. heart's-blood of many of the spectators seemed to flow with that of the bleeding soldier and the tears of his friends, yet they would still look till nature gave way to unsatiated curiosity, and some fainted and fell upon the floor with their eyes still bent towards the horrifying sight. It is said there is no shade without light; and the joy that beamed in the hearts of those, and the friends of those, that returned in safety, presented a brilliant contrast to the mourned and mourning beneath the roof of the village church. Yet that contrast was to be enhanced, and a mother's breast to heave, with emotions too strong to be controlled; even now her eyes were strained to see some one afar off. How eagerly she watches! She stands amid an hundred, yet is not one of them. Her senses, mind, feeling, life--all, all, save her earthly frame, are centered in that form borne in the arms of him who approaches the

The very

[ocr errors]

church-door; she tries in vain to move forward ; at length the lost Lucy is clasped in the arms of her mother, who sinks in the agony of joy upon the floor. Albert, Henry, and Eastman, are all here, with many others whose sympathies are intensely interested in this ray of suvlight among the clouds of sorrow.

But who is he that stands there apparently unconscious of all around ? 'Tis Foolish Joe, he who had restored the child to the once afflicted family. He heeds not the delight he has imparted-he beeds not the groans of the dying—his expression is vacant. The last night's exertion, mental and bodily, together with the emotions occasioned by this last act of humanity, had been too powerful for his weak intellect, and the star of reason, that had only dawned in the meridian of his life, was extinguished for ever.

CARLOS SEGUNDO EL HECHIZADO; OR, KING CHARLES

THE SECOND THE BEWITCHED.

In most cases when those splendid lights of literature which have left the talent of their day behind them to shine with unfading lustre as stars to their posterity, one of the effects of their acknowledged greatness has been to call forth a host of imitators ; not merely that class of writers obnoxious to the reproach of Horace, but men who, from their own powers, were entitled to follow with honour," haud æquis passibus,who, though they could not lead, still put forth strong claims to lasting admiration ; great in their own right, though incapable of rivalling their matchless original. Shakspeare exhibits in his train Ben Jonson, Massinger, Beaumont and Fletcher ; Milton was followed by Young, Thomson, and other favourite writers of blank verse. Each master seems in our firmament of letters a Jupiter with his attendant satellites; the latter admirable, though the former stands pre-eminent.

But not such has been the case in Spain. There we see two superb names, revelling in solitary glory to the absolute extinction of all others. Cervantes and Lope de Vega not only ruled, but absorbed the whole world of Spanish literature, at least so far as ingenious fiction and the drama are concerned. The matchless talent of Cervantes appears to have created an impression that nothing remained to be done, if, indeed, his unhappy lot has not made those who followed feel too acutely that to do well for the world might not, in the case of a writer, be to do well for himself; that his writings could indeed give fame, but not only fail to bring fortune, but even leave him to a precarious struggle for food. After his death it is said Madrid, Seville, Lucinia, and Alcala contended for the honour of having given birth to the author of " Don Quixote,” but no record exists to tell that while he lived, these or any other places of opulence contended for the honour of giving him bread.

The case of Lope de Vega was different. His genius and the astonishing rapidity with which his productions were thrown off, came like a deluge on the Spanish stage, and swept away all contemporary dramatists, Cervantes, then a play-wright, with the rest. But here it

would seem that the redundant supply his inexhaustible fancy could offer was such that no Spanish scribe could approach, and the consequence has been what we have stated. Two illustrious names appear to have tamed down all subsequent aspirants, so that these only are known to the world at large as the representatives of Spanish literature.

Such being the fact, the Spanish public had got into the habit of regarding the efforts of modern writers with almost perfect apathy. Perhaps a cause widely different from that which we have supposed may be assigned for their indifference. For the last thirty years Spain has been the theatre of such stirring events, of such unlooked-for changes, and startling tragedies, that writers of fiction had not a fair chance. The real incidents of Spanish history within the period we have mentioned, have caused the attention of readers to turn for the most exciting scenes and narratives to the bulletins of their commanders, and the journals of the day.

In the last year, however, one author had the good fortune to distinguish himself by the production of a tragedy which revived in his countrymen a passion for the drama; Antonio Gil y Zarati, in his “ Carlos Segundo el Hechizado; or, Charles the Second the Bewitched," has given a play to the Spanish stage, which the enthusiasm of the moment has pronounced to excel everything that preceded it for the last three centuries.

Positively to affirm that this is true, or untrue, would be to pretend to a critical acquaintance with all that has been done since the time of Lope de Vega. Without affirming that praise so great is strictly due to “ Carlos Segundo,” it may safely be asserted that the work in question has sufficient merit to account for its success. When it is recollected with what diligence the managers of our theatres have traversed France and Germany in search of plays and performers, we may be allowed to feel some surprise that while a “ Carlos Segundo” 'was attracting the admiration of all Madrid, it never occurred to them to journey into Spain. The horrors of civil war probably deterred them from venturing in that direction, as it certainly was not extremely improbable that they might have been compelled to take a part in scenes to the full as thrilling as any they desired to import.

An analysis of this admired tragedy will be read with interest. Its plot turns on the weakness of King Charles, who, in his declining days, notwithstanding the flattery plentifully supplied by his confessor Froilan and his courtiers, feels much disturbed by the recollection of his former life. Charles feels that his political power is not less wasted than his bodily strength, and, sinking childless to the tomb, he mournfully recals the images of a youthful beauty and her child, by him, both of whom he had deserted. Florencio, a mirthful page, is the only one who can occasionally win hinn from his woe, and to this youth he is so much attached that he proposes to honour him so far as to give Ines, his affianced bride, to him at the altar. The King is in most things directed by Froilan, who admits to him the important fact that he is believed by the Holy Inquisition to be labouring under an infernal spell. The miserable monarch is dreadfully shocked at receiving this confirmation of his worst fears. In the midst of his own distress, however, he is anxious for the happiness of his favourite, and desires to see the bride of Florencio. Ines is in consequence brought to court. Her beauty

attracts universal admiration, and inspires a very strong interest in her favour. It appears that she has no parents, and is in mourning for the recent death of her mother, who had fallen a victim to a mysterious sorrow, the cause of which she would never reveal, Ines speaks with horror of a dreaded enemy who had assailed her peace, when Froilan, the confessor, stands before her, is recognised as the being of whom she speaks, and his presence awes her into silence. It then transpires that, despite of those vows which were supposed to sever him from the world and its pleasures, Froilan had dared to pursue the youthful Ines. She is anxious to avoid his presence, but unexpectedly finds herself with him alone. Froilan renews his solicitations in the hope of winning her from Florencio. His suit is spurned, and he then indulges in the most ferocious threats, and while doing this is interrupted by Florencio, who thus becomes acquainted with so much of the friar's history as related to Ines, and both become the objects of his unsparing vengeance. - In the second act a grand procession is seen connected with a solemn religious ceremony, intended to propitiate heaven in favour of the afflicted King. Besides this devotional effort, a celebrated exorcist has arrived who is to expel the demon from the possessed. In him Froilan finds an instrument fit for his purpose. A knowledge of the exorcist's former character puts the latter completely in his power; and he therefore, as the main object of his coming is to discover the authors of the King's affliction, enjoins him to name Ines as the guilty one who, by infernal arts, had destroyed the health of the monarch.

While this plot is forming, preparations for the marriage of the lovers are supposed to go on. The courtiers finding how much the King favours it, though at first disposed to treat Florencio slightingly, vie with each other which shall render him greatest honour. The Count de Oropesa, president of Castile, offers his palace for the celebration of their nuptials, and there, in the third act, a splendid assembly meets for the purpose of witnessing the last solemnities. Dark presentiments come over the bride, and in the midst of the festive scene the malignant threatening scowl of Froilan, who is not an invited guest, terrifies her. Charles joins the wedding party, but is sad from the recollection of the cruelties which had been sanctioned at an auto-da-at the time of his own marriage. Ines soothes his melancholy by the music of her harp, and an elegant little song is there introduced. This ended, a procession is formed to the chapel where the indissoluble knot is to be tied. The doors are thrown open, and Froilan appears attended by the officers of the Inquisition, when, instead of proceeding with the expected ceremony, Ines is accused of being the witch whose criminal plots had broken the repose and endangered the life of the miserable King. is worked upon so as to believe that all which had previously charmed him were but the diabolical arts of a sinful instrument of the Prince of Darkness. His superstitious horrors bade him to abhor what he had once admired, and finally, despite of the grief and unavailing rage of Florencio, the guiltless Ines is handed over to her persecutors and abandoned to her fate.

We next find the destined victim in the dungeons of the Inquisition, and a highly-wrought scene follows, in which Froilan appears and acts the part of the dread tempter of mankind. He persecutes her with his

He

« PreviousContinue »