Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

acquaintance with the mystery and horror of its actual presence. After a long time spent in this intense gaze and silence, his first motion was of his right hand, with which he lifted that little hand so often placed affectionately in his; then let it go, and it dropped ! fell as if it had never sought his, never thrilled by its innocent pressure, had always been that mere mass of perishable figured clay its drop confessed it to be, instead of—“Peter's hand!” Then he stamped on the ground hollowly, saying, earth! what, already ? earth? oh, rapid death! confusion, destruction! torment! mischief! death! and hell! now welcome, welcome! he then secured the door, and all night watched by the body without again touching it, yet forbidding all those little attendances that seem so necessary to minds at ease, such idle shocking impertinences to that sad sublime of unearthly thought to which death and despair exalt a true mourner.

It was during the dead of the second night when a terrible storm of thunder and lightning occurred, while the father watched the remains of his fair boy, gleaning ghastly in the blue brilliant day of a moment, which, at short intervals, the opening sky shot into the fatal chamber, that some new fierce passion seemed to arise, (like that unnatural brightness in the midnight,) from out of the blackness and sunkenness of his heart and mind.

He was heard to utter ejaculations like cursing, and murmur solemn inarticulate sounds, like deadly vows not to be breathed to the living, hardly to darkness itself, and that death for everin his view. Suddenly he mounted his horse and rode off, in the height of the storm, in the direction of Cwm Carneddau, his wife's residence. Revenge, it could hardly be doubted, was the new passion, that last effort of nature against the deadliness of despair, giving a short vitality to a heart doomed, a spirit crushed, like that brief, yet vivacious, mock-life with which Galvanism can convulse a

corpse

for space, but must leave to the work of time and corruption at last. Death met the wretched solitary again, and perhaps prevented some horrid tragedy which that spirit up and raging within him, like the storm through which he scoured the mountain ridges and vales, might have wrought. She, whose fatal lie had produced such effects, had not long survived that cruel parting which so suddenly followed the tenderest reconcilement. He found her in her coffin, and as he had stood in his home, no more a father; so there, on his arrival, he found himself no longer a husband. Other ties he

a

had none on earth. Strange rumours prevailed of his conduct there, of what he said and did to the guilty cause of his child's death, even as she lay in the awfulness of death herself; but why repeat what none suffered themselves to believe!

As what little I have more to relate of my master shepherd represents him in a new and fearful character, let me here sum up his natural original one, as it appeared to me, exhibited by the traits just shown, and others too minute for record.

David Beynon was a man of most violent passions, which circumstances and the habits of his life had subdued into outward quietude. Though the woman he married was not his first love, perhaps, by many, she was the choice of his mind at least, and formed the object, round which those passions might have rallied for life; but events, as has been shown, quickly set them loose again, and at the same time called into action the darker ones of jealousy, wrath, and strong resentment; these still aggravated by the pain of that pent up tenderness of which his nature was so capable. Thus made a solitary at the very period when his social existence was beginning, at a stage of life, too, when reason begins to demand such placid blessings, his passions preyed upon himself, he sunk into that blackest kind of melancholy, the eternal void and sick-heartedness of strong feelings utterly unemployed. Conscious of his own capacity for the most passionate affection, for the gentlest, sweetest emotions, while his wedded singleness cut him off from such, and the bickerings with his wife's family doomed him to the thrall of furious and unamiable ones; this perpetual state of intestine bosom-war, made him, for a long time, an unhappy and repulsive character. Misunderstood by all, (another source of impatience,) this highly social feeling, loving-natured man, dividing between a homeless home and mountain woods his listless hours,-morose from very kindness of heart, a heart sick for sympathy, and ever lonely from being wretched, and wretched from impatience of that selfishseeming solitariness,-became by report, a sort of rural Timon, leading the very life of one who delighted in separation from his species, whereas, in fact, that very separation was the source of his seclusion.

But his child was growing into companionship, and to them who can conceive such a state of existence as is here described, the extravagance of this man's love for his child will appear, at least, less extravagant. That child's growing

The very

power to interest him was not, as to other fathers, a new tender pleasure only, but a sort of salvation. It drew him out of himself, weaned him from his black nurse—melancholy. His stern-grown long-imprisoned heart began to recover its own better nature, its life and health, under the impulse, while his beautiful boy slept in his lap, then acquired the strength to climb to it, and then the sense to enter into the spirit of a little play. “Measter be clean changed from what he did use to be,” was the frequent remark of the farm servants, at that era, though they knew not the cause. For benefits received, for ease after pain, for pleasant hours after heavy ones, we cannot but conceive a gratitude, even towards an unconscious ministrant: thus, gratitude was added to the love of a father in his heart. Moreover, David was in that period of life which Byron so feelingly describes as more intolerable than downright hoary old age, that “most barbarous" of middle ages, man's! God's wisdom none but fools can doubt; but, perhaps, few but fools will pretend to fathom it; to reconcile it with the constitution of things; still less, with this constant beneficence to man. short period of human life, compared with that of beasts, to which Providence has allotted human beauty, love-worthiness for soul and eye, is, perhaps, one of those irreconcilable enigmas. Beasts exhibit and seem to feel no withering but one, the blight of death. Love in them seems coeval with life. I have seen a mare twenty-three years old, really pretty faced. The “human face divine," on the contrary, is often the very charnel-house of beauty, the melancholy place of relics of dead charms, while nature is still vigorous, and the heart alive as ever. Does not this eternity of spring, that laughs at age in the unchangeable frontispiece of a brute, almost entitle it to the epithet, "divine," above that of a lord of creation? Our master shepherd, I say, was at that period of life, when, perhaps, most men of healthy and of unbroken constitutions, are conscious of a strange disparity between the withered face and the unwithered heart. An autumn aspect and summer nature is a perplexing contrariety, and David, who had made love too much the business of life formerly, had food for thought, in his solitude. growing old,” said he; "old Time will have it that I am, (though I can't feel it,) for I find his mark on my brow, visible as Cain's, to 'frighten love away.' When, after angry intercourse with his wife's family, David would compose himself in a twilight mountain's recess:

Aye,” he would say, for he was a sort of humourist,these passions a

" I am

man may always indulge and excite be he ever so old, while love, the delicious,—the antidote to those poisons of existence, love, he is either too young to feel, or too old to inspire, the greater part of his life. Hatred, malice, injustice, envy, &c. these are allotted to him in perpetuity; of these he is the object for life; these begin with his first nurse, who shakes him for crying, as nature taught him, and only leaves him with the last, who closes his eyes, straightens him out on a board, spreads a sheet over him, and sits down to tea! Love, on the contrary—” But enough.

1 deemed it worth while to digress here into these bygone moods of the father, because they not only exhibit his character, but also “cast the shadows before" it may be suspected, of that long, deeper, dreadful shade, in which his remaining span of life was so soon to be involved, and all character blotted out for ever.

This sensitiveness, this moody melancholy, by cutting him off from more satisfying objects, concentrated all his affections on that boy. Perhaps instead of rendering that soft and gentle passion, a parent's love, insipid to him or less powerful, those baffled stronger ones imparted to it an exalting force, and gave to his fondness all their own intensity and fulness divested of fury. Might we wanton in similitudes, their influence might be resembled to the sway and swell of a high sea, just visible and audible in the waters of a little blue bay among the mountains, whitening with spar and blushing with purple heath all round it, like the fairness and the rosiness above the pure serene of a child's bosom. There those waves which are raging without, grow beautiful in their sunken mightiness, heave softly and play musically on the little beach where never wreck lay. Said we never? alas for man, that there the parallel must fail! that even there, in that peaceful haven of the human passions, which love for a child might seem to promise assuredly, should lie a total wreck, a human heart! that

tears, such as tender fathers shed,” should become as tears of blood to that tender father! that so soft, so bright, so cherub-eyed a cynosure as a little loving eye of“ our own, should prove to the mind it riveted on itself, as the very fire of God's judgment thunder; fatal as the bolt that strikes the most guilty passion fixed on the most unworthy object !

Such was, however, the result of loving even a child too well. David returned not from his journey in the storm till the following evening. Then he came home without horse;

even

he had lost his hat; his clothes were covered with the pitchlike mire of the pits of mawn,* into which his horse had fallen, and left him middeep. His looks were wild: his journey between death and death, from one house of mourning to another; the rage of heaven in the elements above his head, and that of hell probably in his heart, seemed to have shaken his reason. But when he found no where the body of his child, which they had buried in his absence, fearful of further prevention, the paroxysms of rage into which it threw him completed his mind's ruin.

My next visit to Llandevillog was as sad as its aim was hopeless, to “minister to a mind diseased:” and sadder still was the change in that quiet, pastoral home. The altered father death-pale, and his beard let to grow, was held between two of his own shepherds, who humoured his wild fancy of searching for his child every where. Behind bags of wool and coffers of old oak, and through chinks in the rough wall of the large old rooms above, containing many beds, all which he searched, he would thrust himself, and call through, in alternate rage and sorrow.

« Where is he? where is he? where is he? I demand him of you, I demand him; I, his father, demand him at your hands," was the first I heard of his voice as I lifted the latch-a voice of thunder heard through the clefts of the flooring above, whither he had just then dragged those who held him. But as I arrived at the top of the stairs I found that he had seated himself on the ground, in the most disconsolate attitude, and he looked despair at me, without knowing me, as I entered. “I shall never see him more!” said he, “I look across the world, and I cannot find him! I look up to heaven and listen, and cannot see, cannot hear him! He was dragging me by the hand to come with him and see him milk his own little ewe by the prill (brook) side, that he brought up from a lamb, and I would not go with him; and I took my hand from his, and God made that a sign that I should never, never, bold it more!”

But what may be more deserving of record in these wanderings of a lost mind, was the wildness with which he mingled the superstitions of his land, prevalent in such lone districts, with his own bosom pains and memories. His immersion in the bogs of the hill-top, visible on his dress, may serve to explain part of his delusion; and the dismal scenery of such heights in night and storm, fitfully given to view by a faint moon, through hurrying clouds, other parts.

* Turbary.

XVII.

E

« ПредишнаНапред »