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coal has been removed. They have been successively left, as soon as excavated, to cave in, or be filled with culm,' as the refuse coal is termed. While working in the chambers, the miners leave large pillars of coal to support the roof; but when they have exhausted that part of the vein, they dig away the pillars, and let it sink in.
After travelling in this manner for about three quarters of a mile, as our guide informed us, the signs of recent work began to appear; and in a few moments we saw the distant glimmering of lights. We soon arrived at the spot. Here the rail-road separated into different branches, which either led to the other chambers, or communicated with some other mine. We descended from the car, and having trimmed our lights, prepared to follow our conducter on foot. As the part of the mine we were about to visit was considerably higher than the main road, an inclined plane, some two or three hundred feet in length, had been made between them. On this the empty cars are drawn up by the loaded train, their motion being regulated by a machine, which retarded the swiftness of the latter.
Following up this plane, we picked our dismal way along, stumbling, ever and anon, over heaps of slate and culm, and at length arrived at the end. Here was the chamber. It was a large irregular apartment; the space once occupied by the coal being dimly lighted by the miners' lamps. Every few feet, there were large props, to sustain the roof; and at greater distances from each other, were columns of coal, several feet square. Some twenty or thirty men were engaged in the different parts, either mining or loading the cars, each one provided with a little tin lamp, which he either hooked in his cap, or placed by his side.
The miners are chiefly Welsh. They are large, iron-framed men, and have been accustomed to the mines from earliest childhood. The boys drive the mules, until large enough to work with their fathers, and then commence their dismal trade. Though they are said to be very healthful, they seldom live to old age, but generally die in their prime. Their life is one of constant danger; and without great care, they are liable to be blown up by the powder which they use in blasting, or to be crushed by the masses of coal which they undermine. Notwithstanding this, however, and although such accidents do frequently occur, they are much attached to their occupation, and refuse to work at any other trade.
The vein which they were then working, was between four and five feet in thickness, and formed one of the sides of the chamber. About a foot from the bottom of every vein, there is a layer of earth, or soft slate, a few inches in thickness. This divides it into footcoal' and upper coal. The upper coal is, I believe, removed first, leaving the other as a floor. The miner drills a bole for blasting, in the top of the vein; this being done, he lays himself on his right side, and commences undermining. With a sharp pick, he digs away this layer of earth, for several feet under, propping up with blocks of wood the mass of coal that overhangs him. Having undermined it sufficiently, the blast is put in and fired. Several tons are thus often blown down at once.
We stood for some time, and watched the progress of a miner, from the time he set his drill,' until the blast was fired, and the large
fragments were blown from the top, and rolled down into the midst of the chamber. Our feelings, bow beit, were by no means those of ease. For the first time in life, we were far in the interior of the earth, with tons of rock piled above us : and although the hardy miner laughed at our fears, yet the awful gloom of the place, that made every step uncertain; the flickering of our lights, which made the darkness seem still more intense ; the clicking of the pick, and the noise of the blast, all conspired to chill us with an undefined terror. Imagiuation could easily have changed the place into a haunt of demons, or of one of those fearful conceptions of old Superstition. What marvel that, in the days when the fire, the water, and the clouds, and every elewent, had its respective kings, there should have been conjured up a. Monarch of the Mine ?'
Not sprang art thou from mortal blood,
Nor of old Glengyle's lofty line;
Thy sire, the Monarch of the Mine! We were filled, too, with awe, as well as fear, at standing in places which had been entombed in darkness for centuries, yet were now open to the rapacity of man, from which even the depths of the earth cannot escape:
On the roof, where the coal had separated from the slate which surrounded it, we saw impressions of the plants that once flourished on the surface of the earth, and which, yielding to those mysterious laws that still govern our planet, have been gradually changing, through the course of countless years. Stamped deeply in the rock, were the forms of reeds, as large as saplings, and the leaves of mammoth ferns. Perhaps they grew in the waters that nourished the Saurian monsters, or in the fens where basked the huge Iguanodon ! We endeavored to detach some of them from the rock, but they broke as we forced them off. In the Company's office, however, we saw some fine specimens, which had been preserved unmutilated. In these, every fibre and every leaf are as distinctly defined, as though the impression had been taken in wax; and at one glance, the naturalist may tell the species to which the plant belonged.
At length, having seen all the wonders of the nines, and satisfied the curiosity which had brought us so far into the interior of the earth, we prepared to return. We retraced our way down the plane, and again took our seats on the little car which had brought us in. The Welsh boy renewed his shouts and blows; the mule trotted off briskly; and after riding for a considerable time, a sudden bend in the road brought us to the mouth of the mine. Our eyes had become so accustomed to the darkness we had just left, that at first the light was painful, and they were dazzled by the brightness of the day. But it was only for a moment; and we then proceeded to the Company's office, where we left our lamps, and arranged our dresses. Then, after many thanks to our urbane guide, we turned our faces homeward.
J, W. s.
That dark haired fairy! she you thought
Would make of earih a glimpse of heaven,
(How can she ever be forgiven ?)
And she 10 whom the tale was told,
When I was five brief summers old;
Has grown to be a dandy-boy,
As any mother's baby-toy;
Alas! when I run over all
The girls we loved in youth together,
With whom we strolled in moonlight weather,
I never urge a needle on,
Between the first and second bells,
In thrilling tones of misery tells
And yet, and yet, 'r is not too late!
We'll both repent, and banish gloom,
And I'll be gay - alas! with whom?
Boston, Jan., 1840.
THE KNIGHT OF MALTA.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE KNICKERBOCKER.
SIR : In the course of a tour which I made in Sicily, in the days of my juvenility, I passed some little time at the ancient city of Catania, at the foot of Mount Æina. Here I became acquainted with the Chevalier L—, an old Knight of Malta. It was not many years after the time that Napoleon had dislodged the knights from their island, and he still wore the insignia of his order. He was not, however, one of those reliques of that once chivalrous body, who have been described as a few worn-out old men, creeping about certain parts of Europe, with the Maltese cross on their breasts ;' on the contrary, though advanced in life, his form was still light and vigorous : he had a pale, thin, intellectual visage, with a high forehead, and a bright, visionary eye. He seemed to take a fancy to me, as I certainly did to him, and we soon became intimate. I visited him occasionally, at his apartments, in the wing of an old palace, looking toward Mount Ætna. He was an antiquary, a virtuoso, and a connoisseur. His rooms were decorated with mutilated statues, dug up from Grecian and Roman ruins; old vases, lachrymals, and sepulchral lamps. He had astronomical and chemical instruments, and blackletter books, in various languages. I found that he had dipped a little in chimerical studies, and had a hankering after astrology and alchymy. He effected to believe in dreams and visions, and delighted in the fanciful Rosicrucian doctrines. I cannot persuade myself, however, that he really believed in all these : I rather think he loved to let his imagination carry him away into the boundless fairy land which they unfolded.
In company with the chevalier, I took several excursions on horseback about the environs of Catania, and the picturesque skirts of Mount Ætna. One of these led through a village, which had sprung up on the very tract of an ancient eruption, the houses being built of lava. At one time we passed, for some distance, along a narrow lane, between two high dead convent walls. It was a cut-throat looking place, in a country where assassinations are frequent; and just about midway through it, we observed blood upon the pavement and the walls, as if a murder had actually been committed there.
The chevalier spurred on his horse, until he had extricated himself completely from this suspicious neighborhood. He then observed, that it reminded him of a similar blind alley in Malta, infamous on account of the many assassinations that had taken place there; concerning one of which, he related a long and tragical story, that lasted until we reached Catania. It involved various circumstances of a wild and supernatural character, but which he assured me were handed down in tradition, and generally credited by the old inhabitants of Malta.
As I like to pick up strange stories, and as I was particularly struck with several parts of this, I made a minute of it, on my return to my lodgings. The memorandum was lost, with several others of my travelling papers, and the story had faded from my mind, when
recently, in perusing a French memoir, I came suddenly upon it, dressed up, it is true, in a very different manner, but agreeing in the leading facts, and given upon the word of that famous adventurer, the Count Cagliostro.
I have amused myself, during a snowy day in the country, by rendering it roughly into English, for the entertainment of a youthful circle round the Christmas fire. It was well received by my auditors, who, however, are rather easily pleased. One proof of its merits is, that it sent some of the youngest of them quaking to their beds, and gave them
very fearful dreams. Hoping that it may have the same effect upon your ghost-hunting readers, I offer it, Mr. Editor, for insertion in your Magazine. I would observe, that wherever I have modified the French version of the story, it has been in conformity to some recollection of the narrative of my friend, the Knight of Malta.
Your obt. servt.,
G R A N D
A VERITABLE GHOST STORY.
* KEEP my wits, heaven! They say spirits appear
ABOUT the middle of the last century, while the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem still maintained something of their ancient state and sway in the Island of Malta, a tragical event took place there, which is the ground work of the following narrative.
It may be as well to premise, that at the time we are treating of, the order of Saint John of Jerusalem, grown excessively wealthy, had degenerated from its originally devout and warlike character. Instead of being a hardy body of monk-knights,' sworn soldiers of the cross, fighting the Paynim in the Holy Land, or scouring the Mediterranean, and scourging the Barbary coasts with their galleys, or feeding the poor, and attending upon the sick at their hospitals, they led a life of luxury and libertinism, and were to be found in the most voluptuous courts of Europe. The order, in fact, had become a mode of providing for the needy branches of the Catholic aristocracy of Europe. "A commandery,' we are told, was a splendid provision for a younger brother; and men of rank, however dissolute, provided they belonged to the highest aristocracy, became Knights of Malta, just as they did bishops, or colonels of regiments, or court chamberlains. After a brief residence at Malta, the knights passed the rest of their time in their own countries, or only made a visit now and then to the island. While there, having but little military duty to perform, they beguiled their idleness by paying attentions to the fair. There was
one circle of society, however, into which they could not obtain currency. This was composed of a few families of the old Maltese nobility, natives of the island. These families, not being permitted to enrol any of their members in the order, affected to hold no intercourse with its chevaliers; admitting none into their exclusive coteries, but the Grand Master, whom they acknowledged as their