The spring rains in the latitude of New Or-1 Mrs. Morel, though still in the prime of life, leans are so heavy and incessant, as to astonish was suffering from a rheumatic affection, which and even terrify those who are unaccustomed scarcely permitted her, on that morning, to to that climate, and sometimes involve a serious reach the neighbouring market-place, supplied danger to person and property, from the singu- with green-house plants and flowers, and where lar rapidity with which the city may be flooded. she habitually procured those she needed for The rain falls in such torrents, as almost to her holy purpose. Her lameness tempted her lose, or to seem to lose, its character of multi- now, for the first time, to permit Leopold to go plied drops of water, and become as one wide- alone to the cemetery, about a mile distant spread stream pouring from the mouth of some from her humble dwelling. Accordingly he was enormous vessel, upheld by mighty and invisi-soon dressed in his best suit, and in his hand ble hands, above this deluged spot of earth. held the little basket of sweet flowers, as he The suddenness too with which these rain-clouds listened attentively to his good mother's parting burst, affords but little notice to the unprotected instructions. She had more than once repeated pedestrian, who is often drenched before he has her earnest injunctions “not to stop by the fairly thought of the necessity for seeking shel- wayside," either going or returning, and “Reter or a safe footing.

member, my darling boy,” said the fond mother, About the year 1810, no attempt had yet as she constrained his eagerness to start upon been made to pave the streets of New Orleans, his proud errand, and recalled inwardly the and indeed the character of the soil, which sentiments associated with flowers, “remember, seems but a crust of earth with water a few my son, these are the blue violets and half-blown inches below its surface, still induced the belief roses (expressing love); these the passion-flowers, that paving was impracticable. At this period amaranths and white daisies (hope and immortality the citizens often witnessed the curious sight and innocence), which you will carefully place of navigation immediately through the streets at the head of sister's grave." With her hand boats traversing the town, as the only medium still on the basket, she continued pointing to the of intercourse between the inhabitants for two flowers: “Next are the yellow and purple heart's or three days together; while through the same ease ( forget me not); the rosemary (for reme aquatic channel came the necessary supplies brance)—these are for the centre of the tomb; from the butcher and the baker.

and then the heliotrope and locust (devotion and It was but a few hours in advance of one of affection beyond the grave) are for the foot.” these heavy deluging rains in the month of Mrs. Morel made her interpretations of the April, that the poor Widow Morel had sent her language of flowers in thought only, and yet little son, now about eight years of age, with they seemed comforting to her heart. She now the early flowers of the South, to deck his little terminated her instructions by saying, “You sister's grave;-a pious duty, which yearly until will be sure to place the flowers, my son, as that day, since the death of her promising mother has directed you, and then think of the Emma, had been faithfully performed by the little prayer she has taught you to say at sister's fond mother. Leopold, the only remaining grave." Imprinting a gentle kiss upon his cheek, child of Mrs. Morel, was a fair-haired boy, | that now was blooming with excitement, the whose pale cheek and languid blue eye bespoke mother, from her doorstep, saw her boy depart an appearance of more fragile health than was upon his sacred duty; her heart was sad with really his portion; for this resulted rather from the associations of the past, and her eyes watched sedentary habits and close and constant com- his cherished form, until it was no longer panionship with his mother, than from any visible in the dim distance, and then with a bodily ailment. The boy's heart beat proudly feeling of irresistible melancholy, she returned at the suggestion that he should go alone and to her neat little apartment, and sat down to perform the sacred task they had many times her needlework. accomplished together, of strewing fresh flowers In the first half hour after Leopold's deparupon the tomb of their dear Emma.

ture, Mrs. Morel drew from her bosom an old

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

silver lever watch, one of the few legacies that and exposed. No rheumatic pain could be imastill remained of her late husband's limited pro- gined as having recently afflicted her, whilst perty; and she was greatly surprised to discover with a scanty umbrella, upheld by 2 more that only thirty minutes had elapsed; it seemed fragile hand, she started at a rapid pace, seemso much longer, and yet ere another half hour ing rather to run than walk. At the end of had slowly passed away, the mother opened a the first square, the high wind dragged the door leading out upon her front balcony, and poor covering from her grasp, and her umbrella looked in the direction of the cemetery. The in another moment, was seen whirling round beloved object her eyes were in search of, was the corner, far beyond reach or recovery. But nowhere visible, but she plainly and quickly this did not delay her steps; her thin locks and saw a coming storm; black clouds were rapidly clothing drenched, with uplifted hands, and and fearfully gathering, with all the indications calling aloud for Leopold! Leopold! she still of heavy thunder; and ere Mrs. Morel had attempted to make “headway" against the

swelling streams that
rushed across or followed
her path, with equal
danger at the various

angles, as the ungraded

streets ' might direct
them. From several
windows as she passed,
the promptly lifted sash
and unheeded expres-
sions, bespoke hospita-
ble, kind hearts within,
offering shelter from the
storm; but so long as
her strength endured
she struggled onward,
paying no heed to sum-
mons of kindness, or
dangers and suffering
to herself.

Had the alarmed and excited feelings of Mrs. Morel permitted her to notice the scene of passing events around her, at such a moment of general consternation, her better judgment would have pointed out the fruitless helplessness of her attempt. At one point, ere she reached it, she might have seen the long line of a funeral procession, with priests at its head, greatly quicken the slow dignified movement ha

bitual in the journeys reached the chamber for preparations to go with the dead, and eventually take shelter, 23 after her son, and again returned to the front best they could, within the houses in front of of the house, the rain was already falling fast. which they were passing. Had she then paused Her anxiety of mind hurried her on, heedless for a short time, she might have observed the of exposure and forgetful of her lameness or drenched driver of the lightly framed hearse delicate health. She knew the dangerous cha- | quit his seat for safety, as he found his horse racter of the floods at that season, and her about to be swamped and eventually disappear heart now pictured them in their most exagge- | in the middle of Custom-house Street. rated form, when her little Leopold was alone But the poor mother saw none of these trou

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

bles or difficulties; her own were too overwhelm- , moment, as he thought, to observe them, while ing to allow attention to any others. Her pro- interest in the scene made him a poor judge gress had been but slight in comparison with how rapidly the minutes were passing away. her wishes or her exertions, and she had The cemetery was situated in the lowest scarcely accomplished more than half the dis- ground about New Orleans, and presented at tance to the cemetery, when the cry of“ Crevasse! | the period we speak of, an appearance quite Crevasse !” was hoarsely shouted in her ears by peculiar to itself, and very different from such a man, who ran past her at the top of his speed. domiciles for the dead, at the North. The This startling word added greatly to the existing shallow earth did not permit the digging of terror of the drooping woman, and she fell pros- graves, * and hence the bodies are disposed of trate upon the door-sill of the nearest house, (we cannot say buried) above the ground in a fainting with suffering and fatigue. She was soon species of ovens or narrow vaults, several of perceived by the family and carried in, the citi which often cluster together, both side by side zens being very generally watchful at such mo and over one another; a few are sufficiently ments, either to succour the helpless and dis spacious to bear some resemblance upon the tressed, or to laugh at the precipitate movements surface of the earth, to our vaults below it. of those who are unwilling to receive such duck The shrubs and flowers indigenous to the cliings upon broadcloth.

ir mate, ornament the grounds, but the deficiency Whilst the cries of “ Crevasse !!were multiply- of shade trees, and especially of solemn lofty ing with the increasing sense of danger, too well evergreens, deprived the spot of an important understood in those days by the inhabitants of feature, lending an air of sanctity and quietude New Orleans, the poor widow was kindly and such as belong to “ Laurel Hill” and “ Mount tenderly cared for under the hospitable roof of Auburn." i & wealthy lady; and while dry clothing and The storm came up suddenly, as we have said, restoratives were being provided for her, little and it had begun to rain quite fast ere Leopold Leopold was not so lucky in misfortune. The was conscious of it, and when, with the rest of city had become at once in a convulsed condi- the boys, he felt its rapid increase, in his tion of excitement and apprehension, from the momentary fright at seeing himself thus caught announcement by many voices that the long-unprotected, he started to run with all possible feared crevasse had at last taken place. For speed, as he thought, towards his home. But some weeks, rumour, with her many exagge- he had unluckily gone up the wrong street, at rating tongues, had alarmed the timid, and right angles with that he should have taken to roused the preparations of the prudent, with reach his mother's house, and was unconsciously unfounded reports of a break in the Levee at directing his course towards a bayou or basin one point or another above the town. The on the outskirts of the town. The increasing high state of the waters in the Mississippi at rain and fast-swelling waters hastened him this season of floods, gave good grounds for along, and amounted to a stream that would fear, and now they were destined to be realized have greatly impeded his progress had he been by this sweeping and frightful visitation. So going in the opposite direction; but its even well is the danger of a crevasse understood on more unfortunate tendency was towards the the Mississippi, that the dwellings, and parti- | low grounds of the bayou, and when, after a cularly those out of the city in isolated situa- short time, there came added to the rain, a tions, are built upon piers, with hydraulic sudden and heavy rush of waters in the rear cement, eight or ten feet high, which brings of poor little Leopold, he was soon overtaken the first floors above high-water mark. In the by a strong, irresistible current, and his feet city of New Orleans this may be the reason were carried from under him. The efforts of why the basement story, in those days of inse- the alarmed boy to regain his footing were curity, was generally devoted to horses and unavailing, and his resisting limbs were overCows, while the family resided above them. powered by the violence with which he was,

But to return to Leopold. Intent upon the from time to time, thrown against projecting strict performance of the duty entrusted to

* It is among the painful tales connected with this fact, him, he had quickly reached his little sister's

that at periods of great mortality from the yellow fever, a tomb, and the fresh flowers were disposed of summary mode of disposing of the dead was adopted, by according to his mother's directions. He had opening a small hole about eighteen inches square, and of murmured the inward prayer, and rubbing off no greater depth, into which one end of the coffin being

placed, a single kick from the undertaker at once and the tear from his cheek, he started on his

effectually finished the job. The coffin instantly disapreturn homeward. Not many paces from the peared, and the same opening admitted of as many repetigate of the cemetery, Leopold encountered tions of the same quick ceremony as might be needed.

But whether any increased faith in the theory of Captain boys at play. The marble-ring and chalked fin

Semmes and his big hollow at the north pole, resulted to gers were rare and seducing sights to one of the people of Louisiana from this mysterious disposition of his domestic habits, and he stopped but a brief their dead, we are unable to determine.



[ocr errors]

fragments of trees or other obstructions encoun- 1 The Levee, banking out the river and reclaimtered as they were hurled along, by the swollen, ing thousands of acres of valuable land between discoloured torrent. The little sufferer was its channel and the more or less distant bluffs, deprived of all sensibility, and his piteously consists of artificial mounds, thrown up, and bruised and lacerated person was now unresist-composed of cypress logs and clay, to the ingly tossed about and hurried onward by the height of about fifteen feet, and thirty at their muddy stream, amid logs and portions of build-base. At New Orleans, the spring floods often ings or trees, into the bayou, where the angry create a rise of twelve feet in the Mississippi, element sought its level.

causing the singular spectacle of a city lying Meanwhile the cries of “Crevasse !" had as many feet below the threatening level of sounded in the ears of Mrs. Morel with fearful that mighty stream first seen by De Soto, associations of danger to her precious boy, until which receives the swelling waters of numerous the loss of all consciousness gave the relief of tributaries, during its circuitous and hurried temporary death. When sufficiently recovered, course of more than three thousand miles. the presence of strange faces around her for the two or three succeeding days after brought back the reality of her sad position. that on which the Widow Morel was left under Her first words were to call for Leopold, whilst the surveillance of strangers, who had mistaken the frantic manner and unintelligible nature of her misery for madness, the flooded city was her demand, to the strangers with whom she still navigated by small boats; and each day now chanced to be, gave rise to the thought brought intelligence to the housed inhabitants, that they had sheltered a poor maniac. When of newly discovered calamities. Among these the distressed mother more calmly insisted upon painful recitals was one of a fair-haired boy, personally going in search of her Leopold, at apparently nine years of age, drowned in the a moment when the streets were scarcely safe bayou, whose body, rescued by two sailors, to the stoutest man, there remained no doubt remained unclaimed by his friends. This sad in the minds of those around her, as to the story, on the third day of the flood, reached nature of the duty they had to perform. Gen- | the mansion where Mrs. Morel was still a guest tle but positive restraint was now resorted to, against her will, and at the moment too when and the suffering stranger, while in a supposed its misjudging inmates had succeeded in securlucid interval, was promised that efforts more ing a place in the lunatic department of the effective than her own should at once be made, hospital, for the bereaved mother whom Heato find her lost Leopold. Orders were accord-ven had permitted them thus accidentally to ingly given in her hearing, but with the accom- succour. panying wink that negatives their fulfilment, Expressions of regret and well-founded symthat the servants of the house should with all pathy now came too late, as they mostly do, possible speed and assistance, go towards the when deep and irreparable injuries or neglect cemetery in search of the lost boy.

have been inflicted. The opulent are as helpThe poor afflicted widow gradually sank into less in restoring life, as the poor and suffering a state of calm submission to the will of heaven; to whom it is equally precious; and the beher good sense told her how vain were her own reaved mother heard the idle words, feeling individual exertions to aid in finding her son, that God alone could bring quiet or resignation and her drooping heart seemed yet sustained to her lonely heart. by hope, and her burning brain relieved by Each succeeding spring, for some years after tears. Her mind dwelt unavoidably upon the the date of our story, a fragile pale woman dreadful consequences to life and property that might be seen strewing fresh flowers upon an had been known to follow a serious break or unostentatious tomb, where more newly-made crevasse in the Levee, occasioned by a sudden or letters from the sculptor's chisel had added to great rise in the Mississippi; and then she the words “My EMMA," those of “MY LEOwould attempt to persuade herself, against her POLD," with only these simple lines : better judgment, that possibly Leopold had

“Twins in a mother's love and care, been able to reach his home before the severity

Though doomed this narrow grave to share, of the storm, or at least before the greater

Their spirits shall in union rise, danger from the crevasse.

To claim the mansion of the skies."



ITURRAH for the snow, the winter snow,

It peepeth in at the window pane,
It cometh with stealthy tread,

It lodgeth upon the sill,
It covers the ground with a robe of white,

And we sing, as its white flakes come and go,
It falleth between us and the light,

Hurrah for the snow, the winter snow,
And it whirleth overhead.

Though its stormy breath be chill

« 上一页继续 »