網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

THE LIMERICK BELLS.

BY ANNAM. HEFFERNAN.

And passing his arm around the blushing girl, he led her ont beneath the vine-wreathed porch, there to converse of their future happi

ness.

ITALY, thy very name breathes enchantment of bright skies, music, and song. It conjures up the recollection of the beautiful and the chivalrous, the tender and absorbing -united to passions fierce and ungovernable as ever throbbed in the bosom of man. Even thy broken columns and prostrated grandeur will furnish future themes for history and song.

The traveller who has journeyed along by the mountains of the Abruzzi, will remember a beautiful little village situated at their base, whose vine-clad cottages and picturesque dress of its inhabitants, afford a quiet and lovely contrast to the lofty mountains which rear their wooded heights in towering grandeur above the fearful scene that seems sleeping beneath.

The sun had nearly set, but its last rays seemed to linger as if loth to leave that tranquil valley to darkness, now bright and glorious, as though an angel's wing rested above it.

The twilight was deepening around the cottage of Pietro Garceoli, but so intent was he at his work, that the coming night was unheeded. At length, he starts from his seat, and with an exclamation of joy,—“Finished ! finished !-my labor is ended."

Happy Pietro! the weary toil of years will now be repaid with wealth, and the possession of her you love ; and prostrating himself before a shrine of the Virgin, he devoutly thanked her for his good fortune. His devotions were interrupted by a light step approaching--on looking around his betrothed stood beside him.

“What has happened, dear Pietro ?” cried the astonished girl, as she beheld the agitation he was in. “Ah ! I see, you have toiled too much of late ; you are ill and need rest. Why will you, mio caro? We are both young, and lo, Santa Madonna will answer our prayers."

“She has, my Teresa, and I was but thanking her when you came in. I have finished my bells, and this morning Father Ambrose purchased them for a sum that will enable us to accomplish all we desire.”

Clear and unclouded shone the sky on Pietro's wedding morn, and his heart beat high with rapture as he surveyed his beautiful home, shady gardens, fragrant vineyards, and felt that he was master of them all. On the air arose the sound of merry voices, while a train of white-robed maidens approached, and in their midst, fairer than them all, the bright-eyed Teresa, her dark hair wreathed with the sweet orange blossom, blushing and smiling at the gay sallies of her fair companions. As they moved on towards the chapel, the “bells” rang forth a peel of gladness—their melody rising and swelling in soft cadence, until the echo was lost far away among the distant hills.

Years passed on—the springtime and the busy vintage came and went ;-still Pietro was happy. Time had but added new joys to his life, and left hope's blossoms unfaded.

But war, the canker of a fallen land that internally consumes it, at length ravished and desolated the sunny land of Italy. The fierce soldiers entered the quiet village where Pietro dwelt, and after destroying all around them, they razed to the ground the convent in which the “bells,” the chef d'æuvre of his skill, were

hung

It was night, but no sound, save the distant revels of the soldiers, awoke the stillness, when Pietro stole unobserved from his home and hastened to the smoking ruins to discover if his “bells” had escaped the general destruction. Heaps of stones and rubbish obstructed him at every step, but pushing his way through all obstacles, he at length reached the interior of the chapel. ray of moonlight streamed through a crevice in the broken wall, and revealed to him his treasure. Bathed in tears of joy, he knelt beside them, and thanked the Virgin for their safety. How to securo

[blocks in formation]

them from the gaze of the lawless soldiers was his next thought, for at dawn they would return and carry off whatever would be found of

any value.

After some labor he succeeded in concealing them until he could remove them to a more secure place. Consigning them to the care of their patron saint, he hurriedly retraced his steps homeward.

Alas! what mean the clouds of smoke that hover above his loved dwelling? Why those cries of distress that pierce the midnight air ? Onward he speeds, to save his loved ones. Frantic with despair, he would have rushed into the flames, but the bayonets of the soldiers drove him back. When wounded and exhausted, he would have been trampled to death, had not a faithful servant borne him from the place unnoticed, beyond the reach of danger.

Days elapsed ere poor Pietro awoke to consciousness, when a recollection of the dreadful events that had transpired flashed madly through his brain. Unheeding the entreaties of those who had sheltered him to remain longer concealed, he wandered forth. All around was bright and beautiful; the heavens were clear and calm, as if in mockery of the desolation of his soul, that felt no sympathy with the gladness of nature, and almost looked outwardly for an identity of his own wild feelings. Before him stretched out his native valley, blooming and fertile, as though no unwelcome foot had passed it.

Now, he was near his own vineyard, and the fragrance of its lemon and orange blossoms revived the weary man.

It was the hour for the matin bell, but it rang not forth its accustomed peal.

Alas ! each moment his heart grew weaker, and his step more slow, and when at length he stood before the blackened ruins that covered the bones of his wife and children, he bowed himself before their funeral pyre, in an agony of grief that found no utterance. Hours passed on; the daylight faded away, and night, as if in sympathy with his sorrow, threw her gemmed mantle on the earth, and veiled the sad scene he gazed upon.

He pursued his way on to the convent walls that held his last treasure. The moon had not yet risen, and through the darkness, like gigantic spectres, frowned the dark mountains of the Abruzzi--gloomy as the shadow that rested on bis soul,

He entered the ruins and proceeded to the

spot where he had concealed his bells. In vain his search ; they were gone, and with them faded the last hope from his soul.

Years passed on. Alone and friendless he roamed from land to land, seeking for rest but finding it not. His eye grew dim and lustreless, his step weak and faltering, his heart became withered and broken; but home and friends he never found again.

Through some unaccountable impulse he formed a resolution of visiting the place where he understood his bells had been finally borne. He sailed for Ireland, and when the vessel anchored near Limerick, he hired a small boat for the purpose of proceeding to the shore. The city was stretched out before him in all its tranquil loveliness—in its midst the old cathedral of St. Mary's proudly raising its turretted head, and glittering in the rays of the setting sun. Fondly his eye rested upon it, as the evening, so calm and serene, recalled the recollection of his own loved land, in her sweet springtime—so like the beautiful scene on which he gazed. The silver Shannon glided along by deep banks, noble mansions, and timeworn towers, like a broad mirror reflecting on its bosom countless images of beauty and grandeur; part of its waters rushing over a huge mass of rocks, called the Dunass. Further on the frowning battlements of King John's Castle, the scene of many a wild and daring deed. In the background the mountains of Clare and Tipperary, rising in bold and striking outline, their huge shadows falling on the tranquil waters, beneath which the Shannon, through many a devious winding, resumes at Killaloe the appearance of an ordinary river.

“River of chieftains, whose baronial halls,
Like veteran warders, watch each wave-worn steep;
Portmunna's towers, Bunratty's regal walls,
Carrick's stern rock, the Geraldine's gray keep."

Suddenly the bells from the cathedral chimed forth the vesper hymn, and broke the hushed stillness breathed around. The men rested on their oars, yielding to the soft influence of the moment; the boat gently glided on, impelled by the impetus it had gained. Pietro crossed his arms on his breast and bent eagerly forward. Who can tell the emotions that thronged his heart?

Home, family, friends, arose before him, and lingered around that well-known sound ; and ere the last echoes floated above the green woods and died away in the distance, soft as

[blocks in formation]

THE LOST CHILD.

The incident here narrated occurred in the State of Michigan, in March, 1845. Being absent during the day on which the event transpired, on arriving at home my wife immediately asked me if I had seen or heard anything of Mr. McDonald's little John as I passed through the forest, saying the father had just been inquiring for his child, who was lost in the woods, and who had then been absent several hours.

Johnny was a favorite with us, having spent many a gleesome day under the oaks that raised their proud trunks and swayed their heads over our log cabin. McDonald and his wife, Mary, were emigrants from Ireland, and had with much taste selected a location on the margin of a beautiful sheet of water known in this region as Fish Lake. It was one of our own American lakes in miniature. With pebbly shores and sloping banks, it lay quietly sleeping ainong the gentle swells with which the western solitudes abound. On its surface the fisherman's boat was frequently seen, for its crystal waters were the home of the pickerel and the bass. The wild deer, as he grazed quietly by its bank or approached to slake his thirst, was occasionally startled by pleasure parties from the surrounding settlements, assembled here to sail upon its placid bosom. The wild goose, duck, and loon dwelt securely and contentedly upon its waters and in its coves. The latter makes a loud and doleful noise, and if disturbed by the fisherman or passing hunter upon the shore, it immediately dives, is absent several minutes, and then appears away in the distance, secure from harm from the intruder. Its perception of danger and its disappearance are so quick, and the great distance it is able to swim under water, render him comparatively secure from the rifle's aim, and wary indeed must the hunter be who carries him home as a trophy of his skill. Here, too, was heard by night the bark of the wolf disturbing the quiet of these woodland retreats.

Upon the border of this wild though beautiful lake, Martin McDonald and Mary, his wife, had resided some eight years. They had grown familiar with the deer as they gambolled through the beautiful sparse opening wood,

and had learned to laugh at the wolves as they barked around their cabin by night.

They had known sorrow before, but never until now had they experiepced such agonizing suspense as now awaited them. I had living with me at this time a man by the name of Shannon, also an Irishman, and as faithful and warm-hearted as ever came from Erin's isle. McDonald and I had frequent occasions to interchange kindly offices with each other, and this day Shannon was assisting him in hauling hay from a stack standing on a marsh some two miles distant. My residence was a mile from his, and upon a swell of land half a mile from the lake.

After eating a hasty meal, I immediately went over to ascertain if there were any tidings from the lost boy, and if none, to aid in the search.

It was one of those deceptive days we frequently experience in March. The ground was bare of snow, and the sun was shining pleasantly at noon when they left home for the purpose of removing the hay. Johnny was but four years old, and dressed in thin cotton clothes, having been kept within doors most of the time during the winter, getting out on the sunny side of the cabin only in pleasant weather; but to-day he thought he would follow his father to the marsh. A sad tramp was that for Johnny, and long will be remembered the many weary miles that were trod on that day by the agonized father and that noble-hearted Irishman. But Mary McDonald, the wife and mother! those only who have passed through similar scenes can conceive the wild agony that swayed the breast of that mother, who knew her child was suffering and perishing with cold; and perhaps before she could have the cold comfort of even beholding his stiffened corpse, he would become the food of hungry wolves.

It was three o'clock. The day that had opened so beautifully, and at midday was so sunny, had become suddenly overclouded, and the snow was now falling rapidly. The father and William, as we sometimes called our hired man, had just appeared with a load of hay. Mary eagerly inquired for Johnny, who she supposed was with his father. You may ima.

[blocks in formation]

gine how like lead the answer of her husband fell upon her heart, as he replied he had not seen his boy. The anxiety that reigned in that household can better be conceived than described. The lake was on one side, the forest on the other, and the marsh beyond. The little clearing was soon explored; the child was not there. The shores of the lake were searched and the marsh revisited, but all to no effect. The forest was next threaded, and every swell of land they mounted, the wood was made to echo with “ Johnny! O ho, Johnny!" But Johnny answered not. Were his limbs already stiff in death ? and that little voice forever hushed ? If not dead, he must be wandering in the forest or traversing those lonely marshes.

Still the snow kept falling, and every fake seemed like an avalanche to the agonized heart of poor Mary. Together with his tender age, thin garments, and the severity of the weather, if yet alive, he could not possibly survive the storm much longer. But the mother-where was she during this suspense ?

She could not witness this fruitless search and not brave the storm herself, for the same storm was beating upon her lost and unprotected offspring. Her heart yearning for the wanderer, with an infant of only four weeks old, she threaded the forest and searched the marsh and lake shore for whole hours together. It was now dusk ; nature could endure no more. The infant at her breast would perish should she continue the search ; besides, her own life was in jeopardy, but that she heeded not in her anxiety for the lost one.

The father and William were just emerging from the forest, and the boy was not with them. At this stage of affairs I arrived. I attempted to calm the agitated feelings of Mary, and inspire her with hope that the child might yet be restored to her. But as well might I have attempted to allay the tempest as to assuage the hitherto pent-up feelings of her warm Irish heart. Previously there had been hope ; but now the sun had been down some time. Darkness was settling over the forest and lakedarkness the most terrible that ever brooded over their woodland horne. As night began to throw its shades deeper and blacker over the surrounding forest, there remained but a slight probability of finding him that night. Mary's reason had well nigh fled, from the intensity of her anxiety; and her exhaustion and duties to her infant precluded any further assistance from her in the search.

There were now none but McDonald, William, and myself to hunt for the wanderer. My cabin was a mile distant, and there was no other within one and a half miles; and no available force for a thorough search could be obtained short of a village five miles from McDonald's. That distance must be traversed on foot through the forest, the settlers aroused, and the distance retraced ; and ere that could be done, the child, if still living, must inevitably perish with cold. I was resolved to spare no effort to return him to his mother's arms, if alive; and if dead, to rescue him from the jaws of the wolves.

I had left the clearing and was just entering the forest, and was fast speeding my way to the distant village to rally the necessary force for a general search, when the solitude was made to echo with the joyous shout of McDonald and William. I listened, and the solitude again resounded with their loud “hilloa," and this time was distinctly borne to my ears the joyous shout of “ The child is found." I immediately returned, and on entering the cabin beheld Johnny clasped in his mother's arms, alive, and no harm having befallen him.

I have seen a man bowed down with grief, and woman with her heartstrings ready to burst with sorrow. I have also seen them with their hearts bounding with delight on account of some joyous event; but never till now did I witness the extremes of sorrow and joy in the same bosom ; the one so wild, so overwhelming, and so uncontrollable, and the other so subdued and so absorbing. All Mary could say was, • Oh, Johnny !" and press him to her bosom, which she did again and again. These passionate embraces were nature's language. The father wept, nor were his the only moist eyes in that little group. Johnny looked first at one and then at another in silent amazement, little divining what the excitement meant. He could not conceive that all these wild embraces and tears, and all this anxiety were occasioned by his absence. I now recognized another person in the scene, in a backwoodsman living four miles distant. It was his brawny arm that bore the child to its grateful parents.

His wanderings and providential escape are briefly told. In endeavoring to follow his father and William to the marsh, he came to a place where several waggon tracks and paths diverged, one of which would have led him to his father; any of the others would have led

« 上一頁繼續 »