網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

had been bitterly taught in the school of experience, and who having casually heard of my quarrel, considered it a duty to prevent what might have been the fatal consequences. To it I owe the change of my viewsmy peace-my happiness--perhaps my life. I shall therefore read it to you without further preface."

“I heard, my young friend, that you bave received a challenge, and I have further understood that your intention is to accept it. Permit me to request, before the die is cast, that you will pause one moment, and listen to the story of one, who like you was once happy, and might still have been so had the voice of friendly admonition been sounded before him. How miserable he has been, how wretched he now is, tongue cannot tell.

" It is not my intention to enter into argument with you on the subject. Objections to duelling have been often repeated, and your own good sense will suggest them all; I shall merely offer you a recital of my sorrows and sufferings, and leave you to feel for yourself.

• One of my earliest friends and associates, was Albert Harding. We had known each other from infancy-we had conned our tasks, and played our games, and shared our grievances together,—and we had grown up like two twin trees, that cling closer as they advanced in size. Many is the hour of unalloyed bliss that winged its unobserved flight over us, in that sweet season of innocence, when our sports had no pleasure, unless they were mutually partaken. Would that I had sunk into death at that blessed period, for then I should have been spared the pain of that dreadful reverse, which I have since experienced! But I must not dwell upon that period : for it makes my heart ache, and my eyes tearful, whenever I look back into the past, and see those happy days, like a bright constellation, shining through the darkness of succeeding years. Suffice it to say, that our childhood passed serenely away, amidst the interchange of more than fraternal affections, till at length the lapse of eighteen years. gave us the signal of approach to manhood.

We now both entered into the world-but it was not capable of changing our hearts; we had not indeed the opportunity of meeting so frequently as we had before done, but our frindship remained unbroken. At length, however, an incident occurred, wbich was destined to mar our peace for ever.

I had casually discovered that Albert was attached to an amiable young lady in our vicinity, with whom I also had some acquaintance : but I did not then know that his affections were so deeply engaged. as I had afterward reason to believe they were. I undertook to rally him on the subject, and at first he bore with

VOL. 1. -No. III. 32

me calmly and patiently. I was in a most mischievous humour at the time, and pursued my raillery with little mercy. Still he continued to take my impertinence in good part. I urged the seige, until at leugth I fairly ran down his good nature, and he lost his equanimity, denouncing me in round terms as an absolute fool.” I told him that was an expression I had not expected from him, but still I continued to teaze him, and left little unsaid that could make him and the object of his attentions appear ridiculous. All this was done in a spirit of good humour on my part, but I ought to have known that it was trifling too much with an easy and pliant temper. One bitter word led to another, till we both became fairly irritated, and forgot what we owed to each other as fellow creatures and as friends. A vague and hasty insinuation against my character, which he threw out in the height of his anger, I considered as an unpardonable offence. I told him fiercely that he should repent the words he had uttered, and flung from him full of the inspiration of revenge.

"1 immediately went home, and in the extacy of my rage, wrote and despatched him a challenge to meet me the next morning. It was briefly answered in the course of a few hours, with the expression of a perfect willingness on his part to give me all the satisfaction my rage could desire, and concluding with a taunting threat, that I should“ meet the chastisement my insolence deserved.

“I did not sleep much that night ; for I must confess I had begun to repent somewhat of my rashness. I saw that I had effected a fearful change in my condition. I had made my bosom friend my open enemy; I had turned myself in burning wrath against him, whom I had before loved with the warmest affection; in short, I had, through my own imprudence, lost the playmate of my childhood, the companion of my riper years,—my best and only confident. Conscience loudly declared that an apology might restore him, and that it was no more than my duty, under all the circumstances of the case, to make one ; but pride stepped in and whispered that I had been insulted --that an apology on my part would be degradation—and that now I had entered upon the business, there was no retreating with honour, and I just go on. So I discharged conscience from her duty, and deliberately resolved to murder my dearest friend!

“ After a night of restless agitation, the fatal morning came; and though it arose in its usual brightness, with all its dewy softness and beauty, yet it was a morning of gloom to me : for I was going to the commission of a deed, which my heart could not warrant, nor my conscience approve. I dressed myself

with an agitated band,--put my pistols into my pocket, and slipping quietly out of the house, hastened to the appointed spot. Albert was already waiting with his second, and mine had also preceded me.--I scowled darkly on my opponent, but I thought he looked as if he pitied me. Why should he do so?-I did not want his pity —The pity of an enemy! Oh! no! I hated him the worse that he should look compassionate. The seconds examined our weapons, and ten paces were agreed on as the distance. We took our stations, back to back-measured the ground-reached the point-turned-and fired!!-Albert's pistol was first discharged, and ere I had time to know that I was uninjured, mine had taken its effect. The first thing that I beheld after the awful momentary shudder had passed, was the victim of my revenge stretched insensible on the ground !—Shall I pretend to describe my sensations at this moment? 0! no! were I to make the attempt, I should do injustice to feelings, for which language has no parallel. He was wounded in the breast, and the crimson stream of life was pouring forth in torrents. With the first gush, my hatred died away.- I now felt that I loved him more than ever; but alas! it was too late! I threw myself on my knees beside him ; I clasped his cold hand, and sat watching in mute and breathless agony for the appearance of that animation, which I feared would never return. How long I remained in this situation I cannot tell-for insensibility came to my relief, and when I recovered I found myself lying at home on my bed. I saw the anxious faces of my friends about me, but the memory of what had passed, was confused, dim and indistinct. I was in a state of high fever, and it was necessary I should be kept quiet. All my friends left me but my mother, and she sat silently watching at my bed side. There I lay-tearless and sleepless —and the remembrance of the direful incidents came upon me, one by one, in thoughts of burning agony. I tossed and turned and turmoiled on my couch, but there was no rest, and it seemed as if my whole body was wrapped in one sheet of fame!0! that I could forget the horrors of that dreadful night! that I could cast them for ever into the depths of oblivion, where they should be remembered no more! After a while they gave me an opiate, and I slept—but sleep was worse than wakefulness, for it brought with it dreams so terrific, that the very recollection of them is anguish. Methought I was in some place of wild unreality, such as we often traverse in our night visions, and was standing there alone, with a naked poignard in my hand; presently there came one whom I knew to be my friend, and he smiled upon me ; but I was full of strong passions, and his smile was like poison, and I seemed hurried forward by some invisible power, which I struggled to resist, until iny dagger

had pierced the heart of the phantom before me. Then as I drew it away, I thought the blood bursted forth and covered me with a shower. At length he vanished, and I thought there arose in his place, a frightful demon, who seized me ere I was aware, and dragging me to the end of a dreadful precipice,' made me look down into a bideous abyss, into which, every moment, he threatened to plunge me. I shuddered and awoke with a scream.

“ After a long and dreary night, the day dawned, and then for the first time I thought to enquire of Albert. They told me he was alive. With the word, hope come to my pillow, and I enjoyed a short and quiet slumber. After this refreshment, I felt myself better, and I began rapidly to mend. The next day I was able to go out, and my first object was to visit my poor victim. I went into his chamber-he was lying on his bed, pale and languid ; it was a sight I could scarcely endure, for my heart said within me 6 Thou art the fiend who has created this !” I sat down by his side-took his hand and burst into tears. I could not articulate a word. When I had become somewhat composed I said, “ Albert, I hope". -But he interrupted me. "Oh no!" said he “do not hope! there is no hope now! it is too late ; I cannot live it will all soon be over! but I wanted to see you, Charles, before I departed, that I might ask your forgiveness!” “Forgiveness!” cried I, “ forgiveness! it is / who need forgiveness at your hands, and it was that which I came to ask! Am I not your murderer? It is the injurer and not the injured, who stands in need of pardon. Oh! Albert! do not ask forgiveness of me!" “ Yes, Charles, I must: I am deeply to blame for having accepted your call; had my pride only allowed me to refuse, how much anguish I should have saved you. For myself, it is no matter!" Albert! Albert! do not talk thus, you will drive me mad! I have nothing against you ; every thing is forgiven; only say that you pardon me!" He raised himself gently in the bed, and opened his arms; I threw myself upon his bosom. “Yes. Charles, all that I have to pardon in thee is past, and as we forgive each other now, so may we find mercy at the throne of Heaven!” These were his last words-he sunk quietly back upon the pillow—and shortly after was no more.

It is awful to think how I stood tottering on the narrow isthmus between hope and despair. 0! that I could blot that period forever from the annals of existence! I would not live it over, if by doing so I could purchase worlds.

“I stood and gazed upon his cold and pallid form as he lay extended in death, and as I gazed, the world and all its pleasures seemed like vanity to me. Above all I could not help reflecting with intolerable anguish, how utterly insignificant had been the

cause of all the distress before me. A few idle words, unguardedly uttered, had done all this! And what were they at last? Merely the thoughtless effervescence of a ruffled temper! And yet insignificant as they were, they had quenched life-thev bad destroyed peace-they had blasted hopes--they had blighted prospects they had cut down the flower that ought to have bloomed for many a long year, in the midst of its youthful glory - they had made me the assassin of my friend! These were my own thoughts, tearing at the root of my happiness ; while the bereaved mother, and the sighs and tears of mourning brothers and sisters were every moment fixing the arrows of remorse in my heart! Oh! what would I not have given, had I possesed the power to restore the life I had taken away!-- But I am going beyond bounds; I did not intend to have carried my narration so far; but it seemed to be my duty to warn you of the horrors that await such a course as that I have pursued. From that time to the present, I have never known the sweet peace which I enjoyed before. I have indeed derived some consolation from the remembrance that I obtained my friend's forgiveness ; and I trust I have now also obtained it from a higher source; but the recollection of that period is a gloomy spectre that haunts me in every walk of life, and its evil events have cast a deep shade over my existence. that will stretch forward even to the very verge of the grave! Pardon me, my young friend, for detaining you so long; but believe me, I have your welfare much at heart. Í leave this detail without comment, trusting it may warn you against the commission of an error, which will bring with it unceasing repentance, and unconquerable misery. if it have the least effect in preserving you in peace and innocence, I shall then have the satisfaction of believing, that my many sufferings have not been entirely in vain.”

“CHARLES WOODLEY."

“ After reading this” said Henry, as he laid down the letter, “my views were entrely altered, and "turned with horror from the project, which I was before in the very act of undertaking. The pen which I had taken up to write an acceptance to the chal. lenge. I now used to endite an apology. An explanation fol. lowed in course--our disagreement was adjusted--and our friendship restored. What the result would have been had I acted otherwise, it is impossible to say ; but there is reason to believe that the consequences of an opposite course. however they might have eventuated, would have been of a nature most truly deplorable and unhappy."

« 上一頁繼續 »