图书图片
PDF
ePub

strate, and talked about him just as they would about a wild animal in chains. I paid no attention to them, but kept looking at my patient. "I say, you owl's head!" said he. "Dr. Asher is my name, if you please, Mr. Braisley," said I.

"Well then, Asher, Dasher, Thrasher, Smasher, whatever you be, you're a queer one. Why, don't you know for what they put these things on me, eh?"

"How should I know, when no one ever told me? For some crime, doubtless?"

"Yon may well say that. Why, Doctor, I bought all the cotton in creation; I have stripped the country of clothing,—I have ruined thousands and thousands of families, widows, orphans,—ay, orphans 1—Thousands and millions of orphan$ !—no wonder they put me in irons. All ruined, starving, ruined!" And horribly did he gnash his teeth, and shake his irons. I calmly repeated my question, "Will you be quiet and gentle if I'll take them off?" "I'll try, Doctor."

In a few minutes the irons were off, he stretched himself up to his full height, and lifted up his arms, as if to strike. But it was jost as I expected. His arms were so stiff from long confinement, and felt so strange that he knew not what to make of it. The men who brought him hurried out, as if a tiger had been unchained. I bade my men show him hie room, and to my joy, he followed mechanically. I had fitted up a neat room for him, with a door so strong that he could not break it, and with iron bars across his window on the outside. He was about fifty years old, a powerful frame, and a man of great muscular strength. He evidently tried to restrain himself for a time, and to keep his promise. But by night he was howling, screaming, and tearing his clothes. I did not go near him that night, though neither he nor I slept much. Bat in the morning what a sight! He had torn everything in the shape of clothing into the smallest shreds, and rubbed the straw in his bed till it was literally powder. Bed-clothes and all were used up, and there the creature was without an article of dress of any kind. 1 went into his room alone, leaving my men just at the door, and ready to jump at my call.

"Well, Mr. Braisley, I hope you find yourself well this morning, after a comfortable night's rest. How soundly you must have slept, not to have heard any of my insane patients."

"Why, Doctor," still panting from exertion, "I have n't slept a wink all night." "Ah, why not?"

"I've been making flour, Doctor. See there —five hundred barrels of best Baltimore, Howard Street brand, all ground in one night!

What say you to that, Doctor?" And he came up and began with both hands to rub my face.

"A good night's work, truly. You'll pay all your debts soon, at that rate!"

"Debts," said he with a start, "what debts?"

"Why the families you told me you had ruined by the cotton speculation."

"Oh, yes; you know about that, do you? Who told you? Well, their cries and groans do ring in my cars day and night . The orphans !—Oh, the orphans!"

I now left him, directing my men to dress him, soothe him, and prepare him for breakfast. To my surprise, he made no objections to being clothed, or to have his room cleansed. To humour him, the dirt was put into a clean flour-barrel. Just before his breakfast, Fairlong and Stacy presented him a tumbler, desiring him to drink it, with my best wishes for his health. It was an ounce of Epsom salts dissolved in water.

"The Doctor wants I should drink that stuff! The Doctor! Tell the meaching, cowardly, ignorant rantum-scantum scaliwag that I won't, that's all!"

"But you don't mean to send that word to the Doctor, do you?" said Stacy.

"Yes I do, though."

In an instant Stacy and Fairlong chucked him down in a chair, had his arms and body lashed in, his mouth open, and the salts down. He could make no resistance; all he could do was to swallow. He was then liberated, much humbled at the victory, and amazed at their quickness. At the breakfast table I had him with me, but neither of us made any allusion to the salts. My men were at hand, but not in sight. I treated him, not as an insane man, but as a visiter. He was very talkative, and had to go over all his story of having ruined so many thousands of widows and orphans. After breakfast, I merely said, "Mr. Braisley, Fairlong will show you a pleasant walk, and I think it will be beneficial for your health to take a good long walk." I saw by the flash of his eye that ho thought he could now run away, and the proposal was received with glee. To Fairlong my instructions were,—keep in sight of him, and let him walk or run to his heart's content. But don't lose sight of him. Away they went, Braisley half running, muttering to himself, and steering right onward, while poor Fairlong had need of all his legs, long as they were, to keep up with him. On they went, walk—walk—walk,—five, six, eight, and nine miles out. There seemed to be no tire to him. Suddenly he stopped, and waited for Fairlong to come up with him. "There, now, you pill-smeller, what do you think of that? Don't you wish you had a pair of legs, hey? And what will the Doctor say to you, to drivel, and lag, and can't keep up?"

"The Doctor will never believe you beat me in walking, unless he sees it with his own eyes."

"He won't? Well, just for the joke of it, he shall see it." And greatly to the delight of the weary attendant, he wheeled about and put back again, and was at home again in less than five hours from the time he left. I was watching anxiously the result, when in he bounded, apparently fresh, while Fairlong came limping after him, hardly able to stand.

"Doctor, can't you send somebody with me next time that can walk some? That curmudgeon has no walk in him."

I did not fail to congratulate him on having beaten one of the greatest walkers in the state. "But, Mr. Braisley, Stacy will show you a warm bath, which you will have just time to take before dinner."

That night he actually slept quietly more than half the night, and I felt that I had got in the right path. The next morning, as Fairlong was too much used up to walk, I directed Stacy to bring out the two horses saddled, to tie one, and leave the other with the bridle carelessly thrown over his head, and then for himself to be rather out of sight. Presently I came walking round the house arm-in-arm with my patient, and as we came near the horses, I said, "Excuse me a moment, Mr. Braisley, I must get an outside garment before I leave." Scarcely had I turned my back ere he was in the saddle of the loose horse, and clattering out of the yard—the very trap that I had set. Stacy mounted the other horse instantly and was after him. The horse on which Braisley had mounted could by no matter of arguments be made to canter, and his trot was long, and terribly hard. But away he went, and Stacy in an easy gallop, after him. After he had ridden about ten miles, he began to sober down. Stacy designedly kept back. At length he came to a road which seemed to run parallel with his. It led directly back again, though not quite as direct. It was now that Stacy screamed for him to stop, and put up his own horse. But the fellow got it into his head that he was certainly running away, and that Stacy was trying to stop him, and he cheered, and kicked, and made his horse almost break his hard trot, when, before he knew where he was,—pop! the horse bolted directly into the yard whence he had started. I was out in a moment, admiring his horsemanship, and inwardly laughing at his evident chagrin and fatigue.

"Doctor, what's the name of this brute?"

"Trip, I believe."

"Trip—hammer, you mean! Why I had

rather ride a trip-hammer all day than mount the brute again!"

"I believe nobody asked you to ride it," said I rather drily.

"Stacy," said he, as he was going to his bath, "do horses, and roads, and men, and everything here do just as the Doctor wants to have them?"

"Yes, everything except his patients,—they sometimes try to run away, but always contrive to fetch up here again."

By kind treatment, daily and severe exercise, and the cooling draught of salts on alternate days, I thought in a few weeks I could see a little improvement in my patient. Still he was at times wild, excited, and furious; but we could make him swallow his salts without confining, and take exercise at my bidding. But he harped upon his crime of ruining so many families, till I was fairly worn down with it. One morning he rushed into my room and began to mourn and lament over the same old story, when turning round suddenly and glaring him in the face, I said, "Mr. Braisley, I think on the whole, that you are the greatest villain I ever met with!" I had heretofore heard him with great urbanity, and even delicacy. He started, as if stung by an adder. "What do you mean, Doctor?"

"I mean just what I say. I think you the greatest villain that ever lived!"

"Ah ! has Lucy told you—the minx! What makes you say so?"

"Why, from your own lips. You tell me again and again that you have ruined thousands and thousands of families, robbed widows and plundered orphans. Now I know enough of mercantile business, to know that nobody could do all this mischief without coolly sitting down for years and planning and plotting to do it. You must have been years in thus planning before you effected your object! What am I to think of such villany?"

He was thunderstruck and taken all aback. He saw that my conclusions were correctly drawn from the premises, and the premises he had himself furnished. He merely said in a subdued voice, "I protest, Doctor, I never was so bad as that!"

The shock was beneficial. He never mentioned his supposed crime again. But my task was no easy one. Sometimes he would contrive to elude our vigilance unaccountably and get away. I remember one day Stacy came to me in distress, saying that Mr. Braisley was gone. Stacy had slept in the room with him, and having locked the door, placed the key under his pillow. But the patient watched him till sound asleep; then he crept and got the key, opened the door, and was gone. Our search was long and anxious, looking into wells, examining river-banks and cisterns, till at length we heard him singing! We found him in a tall grove, perched in the very top of one of the tallest trees. We tried to coax and flatter him down, all to no purpose. At length I called for an axe and began to cut the tree down. He rubbed his hands with delight: "That's it, Doctor! that's it! Now m have a good ride!"

"Mr. Braisley," said I, resting as if exhausted with fatigue, "Mr. Braisley, I always thought you were a gentleman before!"

"And why ain't I now?"

"Would a gentleman sit there to ride, and make me cut down the tree! No, he would come down and cut it down himself."

In a minute he was down and pecking away at the tree. We then assured him that the axe was too dull, and that dinner would wait too long,—and thus we got him home.

He had been with me about eight months, gradually growing calmer and better; but there was something which I could not understand. He was moody, solemn, and gloomy during the day, and restless during the night. He would start, and talk in his sleep. During this time my interviews with the niece, Lucy Braisley, were frequent—to report progress, to express my hopes and fears, and to explain my reason for such and such treatment. Her aunt, the wife, was too feeble and too nervous to attend to it, and so she resided in the city, and left it all to her niece and myself. Was it wonderful that she should think my plans wise and judicious, and that I should admire a beautiful orphan who was watching over a maniac with so much interest, and who could so readily appreciate my services?

It was evident that my calling him a villain had made a deep impression upon Braisley. I could detect him fishing for my real sentiments on that point, and so apparent was his desire to know what I thought of him, that my own suspicions began to be awakened. He had now, ten months after he came to me, become almost entirely rational; and yet there was a dark streak from the cloud still left, which I could not explain or fathom. This I was anxious to unravel, and I set myself to work accordingly. After he had retired to his rest and was asleep, I slipped into his room in the place of Stacy, every other night for a fortnight. These were sleepless nights to me, but I was well compensated. Before this, I had offered an empty hand but a true and sincere heart to Lucy, the portionless orphan, and she had consented to unite her destiny with mine. We looked forward to privations and perhaps poverty, but youth looks only on the sunny side of the future, and hope peeps out from the darkest shade. Without telling her

or any one my suspicions, I laid a plan of my own. Braisley was so nearly recovered, that he began to talk of resuming his business. He evidently felt grateful to me for what I had done for him. But he never spoke of Lucy— never inquired after her any more than if there had been no such person created. And now the time had arrived, when my patient was pronounced by all to be cured, and was to leave me on the morrow. I had one test yet to apply. If he could bear that, he was cured. He did bear it. It was thus. The day before he was to leave me, I sent for him to come to me in my little parlour. He came in and sat down in a chair which I had designedly placed in a strong light. I arose and locked the doors and put the keys in my pocket. I then sat down before him and looked him full in the face. He was troubled, but said nothing.

"Mr. Braisley, months ago you used to talk and groan about having ruined and robbed orphans! I want to know how much of it was insanity, and how much was living truth?"

"What makes you ask me such a question?" said he haughtily.

"Because, sir, I have my suspicions."

"Where did you get them? Has Lucy Braisley been putting them into your head? I hear you are thick with her."

"No, sir. Lucy never said a word, and I presume never indulged a thought prejudicial to you. I have it from a better witness."

"Whom do you mean?"

"Yourself."

"I?"

"Yes. I have slept in your room, or rather watched in your room, while you were sleeping, for a fortnight at a time; and I have heard the revelations of a conscience which sleep could not quiet." He was now pale, and shook in every joint and limb.

"What do you suspect, Doctor?"

"That you have robbed Lucy of seventy-five thousand dollars."

Hardly gasping as he tried to breathe, he added, "This is all you suspect?"

"No, sir, I suspect you murdered your brother John for the sake of robbing his child."

"How could I, when he died away from home?"

"By slow Poison!"

He said not a word, but sank down on the floor like lead, faint, and hardly breathing. Now, then, thought I, a few moments will decide whether he is to be a maniac for life or not. I threw water on him, and after awhile he opened his eyes and looked anxiously round. It was not the eye of a madman.

"Doctor! Oh! just heavens! Iam in your hands. What shall I do? As you would have mercy at the Great Day, show mercy to me!"

"Mr. Braisley, I shall require you to do two things — first, to restore to your niece the seventy-five thousand dollars, with interest from the death of her father; and second, that within two months you leave your country for ever. On these two conditions I promise never to divulge your secret, and on their fulfilment, I can safely promise you that you will never again divulge them in your sleep."

Never did a poor wretch more cheerfully make the required promises than did he. Nay, it seemed to take a load off his mind and heart at once. We were both aware that I had no legal evidence that could convict him, and yet he as gladly accepted my proposals, as I made them. He kept his word to the letter. He paid over the money, and poor Lucy always supposed it was the recovery of debts due her

father,—unexpectedly recovered. I need not tell you how I married the beautiful girl— what a pattern of a wife she was—how many years she was the light of my dwelling, and a blessing to me and mine—how she left me at length in my age, when I needed her the most, and loved her the most—left me and went up to that pure world where there is no death because there is no sin—how my aged eyes weep at the remembrance of what she was, and weep, too, with joy at the thought of what she will be when I meet her again. I am now an old man, I have had many, many cases of insanity since, and have had many years of anxiety in my profession, but no year has been so anxious, and no patient has been of such consequence to me as My Third

PATIENT.

BUSH-LIFE.

BY ME8. 0. M. KIRKLAND.

"Adieu, thou beautiful land! Canaan of the exiles, and Ararat to many a shattered ark! Fair cradle of a race for whom the unbounded heritage of a future that no sage can conjecture, no prophet divine, lies afar in the golden promise-light of Time. . . . None can tell how dear the memory of that wild bush-life becomes to him who has tried it with a fitting spirit. How often it haunts him in the commonplace of more civilized scenes! With what an effort we reconcile ourselves to the trite cares and vexed pleasures, 'the quotidian ague of frigid impertinences,' to which we return!"

So sings, in mellifluous prose, the fastidious author of "Pelham" in his latest and healthiest work, "The Caxtons," goodly fruit, it is said, of the purifying influences of water! When Wordsworth boasted of being a water-drinker, Professor Wilson jocosely observed that he could well believe it, from the lack of spirit in his poems. But Bulwer shows no diminution of spirit in the new novel; he has only changed from a wrong spirit to a right one. The book abounds in manly sentiments, in place of the old, tedious, sentimental dandyism, and one of the most striking things is the boldness which sends forth his heroes to brave the hardships and trials of new-country life.

England seems learning, in a new and unexpected way, to sympathize with the United States. She has looked upon the rapid settlement of our new, western country, as from a far height of civilization, holding up dainty

hands at the idea of such rudeness of manners, and considering our whole country as tinged— as indeed it is—by certain results of the growth and activity of the West. But lately her turn has come. She is now sending not only her convicts, but her younger sons, her too-active reformers, her scapegraces, and her youth of more nerve than fortune, to people her distant islands; to hunt wild asses, and to tame kangaroos. Then, like a good mother as she is, spreading her wings for the protection of her brood, she begins to tell us what a fine manly thing emigration is, how much better it is for young men—and young women, too,—to brave the disagreeablcncss of bush-life, than to remain idle and effeminate, and unprovided for at home. Two of the most striking fictions of the day (not to speak of inferior specimens), the one to which we have alluded, and another —a poem in hexameters—called "The Bothy of Toper-na-Fuosich,"—send their heroes to Australia, with a heartiness of approval which makes light of the roughness of life in the wilderness, and seems for the time to find the boasted civilization of the mother country rather sickly and feverish by comparison. This is charming! It foretells some diminution of national prejudice; for whatever may be the feelings cherished by London and Liverpool towards New York and Boston, a brotherhood will surely spring up between Australia and the wide West; nor will home influence on either side be able to counteract the sympathy which common toils, privations, customs, hopes naturally originate. The Bushman of Australia is essentially the same being with the western settler. AngloSaxons both, and too strongly characterized by that potent stock to show much subjection to the accidental traits which have been the consequence of the rending of the race into two half-inimical portions in the old and new worlds, the circumstances of bush-life will restore the pristine unity, and awaken a feeling of brotherhood too strong for the pride, prejudice, and jealousy of cither party to resist. Every book, therefore, that depicts bush-life helps on this unity. In discovering how completely the hopes, occupations, habits, labours, privations, and pleasures of a new-country life, are one and the same, whether the mild skies of Van Diemen's Land, or the brilliant ones of Wisconsin bend above the settler, we are brought at once to a mutual recognition of the natural bonds that bind man to his fellow, and learn to acknowledge gladly all our human ties, and with an especial warmth those which unite us to brethren in a common fortune.

It is cheering to find the subjects of an ancient and over-ripe civilization, which has begun to produce some ruinous as well as some splendid fruits, beginning to recognise the dignity of labour—at least beginning to own that labour and hard living are not necessarily degrading. A character once familiar to English writers and readers—that of a younger son too proud to work, and too self-indulgent to endure the privations attendant upon small means, existing as a hanger-on in the family of the heir—will never come within the cognizance of the next generation. The axiom once accepted that a man, in whatever station, is exalted and not debased by work, the class will disappear. Add to this new doctrine a recognition of the benefits attending self-denying and robust personal habits, and the law of primogeniture will in part become its own antidote, by supplying the out-crops of the great island with a class of settlers at once hardy and generous, thrifty and noble-minded. Leaving field-sports to their elder brothers, these more hopeful sons of old England will make sport of earnest, and feel none the less proud of the antlers on their walls, because the venison to which they belonged was a necessary of life instead of a luxury.

People who have only heard or read of life in the wilderness have but crude notions of its actual characteristics. No way of life more absolutely requires to be tried, in order to be understood. The accepted idea perhaps includes wolf-hunts, and bear-fights, and deer-shooting; sleeping in the woods, fording rivers, following Indian trails, or wading streams in search offish. This view of things is a poor preparation for

the reality of life in the wilderness. It makes charming books, as witness the many of which it has formed the staple, but for the plain truth of the matter, such as forces itself upon every man's convictions, after he has transferred his domicile and his household gods to the woods, we might as well go to the melancholy Jacques when he lies

"Weeping and commenting
Upon the sobbing deer"—

for a practical notion of forest life. It is, indeed, a life of hardship, but "with a difference."

Hardships are not always trials. There is a rousing power in wild adventure, which makes hunger and cold and hard lodging and press of danger only inspiring. These are not the things that try the souls of those who exchange a condition of high civilization for the privations of the woods. Far more wearisome, because somewhat mortifying, are the petty circumstances attending the daily cares for mere subsistence which form the staple of sober existence in a new country; where a man goes not to hunt and fish, but to repair his fortunes by industry and economy; to "buy and sell and get gain;" to win the treasures of the soil with hands used only to the pen; to fell primeval trees with an axe that has never cut anything larger than a fishingrod. Such an adventurer may carry everything with him but the one thing needful, viz., habits suited to the exigence. Even a stout frame and a stout heart will not suffice at first. Time alone can accomplish the assimilating process, and for time he cannot wait.

Emigrants are apt, at the outset, to feel somewhat of reforming zeal. They have just left regions where life wears a smooth aspect; where convention hides much that is coarse and unpleasant; where the round of human business and duty is comprised in a few convenient formulas, or seems to be so; and where each man, using, as it were, the common sense and experience of the whole, naturally fancies himself wiser than he really is, and where he is indeed practically wiser than isolated man can easily be. So the emigrant feels as if he had much to tell; something to teach, as well as something to learn. If he must depend somewhat on his neighbours for an insight into the peculiar needs of his new position, he is disposed to return the favour by correcting, both by precept and example, some of the awkward habits, the ear-wounding modes of speech, and unnecessary coarseness which he sees about him. Above all does he determine that the excellent treatises on farming which he has studied and brought with him shall aid him in introducing, before very long, something like a rational system, instead of the short

« 上一页继续 »