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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesEdgar Huntley; Or, Memoirs Of A Sleep-walker - Chapter 27
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Edgar Huntley; Or, Memoirs Of A Sleep-walker - Chapter 27 Post by :JayBeau Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Brockden Brown Date :May 2012 Read :2501

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Edgar Huntley; Or, Memoirs Of A Sleep-walker - Chapter 27

Chapter XXVII

I hung over the unhappy wretch, whose emaciated form and rueful features sufficiently bespoke that savage hands had only completed that destruction which his miseries had begun. He was mangled by the tomahawk in a shocking manner, and there was little hope that human skill could save his life.

I was sensible of nothing but compassion. I acted without design, when, seating myself on the floor, I raised his head and placed it on my knees. This movement awakened his attention, and, opening his eyes, he fixed them on my countenance. They testified neither insensibility, nor horror, nor distraction. A faint emotion of surprise gave way to an appearance of tranquillity. Having perceived these tokens of a state less hopeless than I at first imagined, I spoke to him:--"My friend, how do you feel? Can any thing be done for you?"

He answered me in a tone more firm and with Inore coherence of ideas than previous appearances had taught me to expect. "No," said he; "thy kindness, good youth, can avail me nothing. The end of my existence here is at hand. May my guilt be expiated by the miseries that I have suffered, and my good deeds only attend me to the presence of my divine Judge!

"I am waiting, not with trembling or dismay, for this close of my sorrows. I breathed but one prayer, and that prayer has been answered. I asked for an interview with thee, young man; but, feeling as I now feel, this interview, so much desired, was beyond my hope. Now thou art come, in due season, to hear the last words that I shall need to utter.

"I wanted to assure thee that thy efforts for my benefit were not useless. They have saved me from murdering myself, a guilt more inexpiable than any which it was in my power to commit.

"I retired to the innermost recess of Norwalk, and gained the summit of a hill, by subterranean paths. This hill I knew to be on all sides inaccessible to human footsteps, and the subterranean passages were closed up by stones. Here I believed my solitude exempt from interruption, and my death, in consequence of famine, sure.

"This persuasion was not taken away by your appearance on the opposite steep. The chasm which severed us I knew to be impassable. I withdrew from your sight.

"Some time after, awakening from a long sleep, I found victuals beside me. He that brought it was invisible. For a time, I doubted whether some messenger of heaven had not interposed for my salvation. How other than by supernatural means my retreat should be explored, I was unable to conceive. The summit was encompassed by dizzy and profound gulfs, and the subterranean passages were still closed.

"This opinion, though corrected by subsequent reflection, tended to change the course of my desperate thoughts. My hunger, thus importunately urged, would not abstain, and I ate of the food that was provided. Henceforth I determined to live, to resume the path of obscurity and labour which I had relinquished, and wait till my God should summon me to retribution. To anticipate his call is only to redouble our guilt.

"I designed not to return to Inglefield's service, but to choose some other and remoter district. Meanwhile, I had left in his possession a treasure, which my determination to die had rendered of no value, but which my change of resolution restored. Enclosed in a box at Inglefield's w^ere the memoirs of Euphemia Lorimer, by which, in all my vicissitudes, I had been hitherto accompanied, and from which I consented to part only because I had refused to live. My existence was now to be prolonged, and this manuscript was once more to constitute the torment and the solace of my being.

"I hastened to Inglefield's by night. There was no need to warn him of my purpose. I desired that my fate should be an eternal secret to my ancient master and his neighbours. The apartment containing my box was well known, and easily accessible.

"The box was found, but broken and rifled of its treasure. My transports of astonishment, and indignation, and grief, yielded to the resumption of my fatal purpose. I hastened back to the hill, and determined anew to perish.

"This mood continued to the evening of the ensuing day. Wandering over rocks and pits, I discovered the manuscript lying under a jutting precipice. The chance that brought it hither was not less propitious and miraculous than that by which I had been supplied with food. It produced a similar effect upon my feelings, and, while in possession of this manuscript, I was reconciled to the means of life. I left the mountain, and, traversing the wilderness, stopped in Chetasco. That kind of employment which I sought was instantly procured; but my new vocation was scarcely assumed when a band of savages invaded our security.

"Rambling in the desert by moonlight, I encountered these foes. They rushed upon me, and, after numerous wounds, which for the present neither killed nor disabled me, they compelled me to keep pace with them in their retreat. Some hours have passed since the troop was overtaken and my liberty redeemed. Hardships, and repeated wounds, inflicted at the moment when the invaders were surprised and slain, have brought me to my present condition. I rejoice that my course is about to terminate."

Here the speaker was interrupted by the tumultuous entrance of the party by whom he had been brought hither. Their astonishment at seeing me sustaining the head of the dying man may be easily conceived. Their surprise was more strongly excited by the disappearance of the captive whom they had left in this apartment, bound hand and foot. It now appeared that, of the savage troop who had adventured thus far in search of pillage and blood, all had been destroyed but two, who had been led hither as prisoners. On their entrance into this house, one of the party had been sent to Walcot's to summon Sarsefield to the aid of the wounded man, while others had gone in search of cords to secure the arms and legs of the captives, who had hitherto been manacled imperfectly.

The cords were brought and one of them was bound; but the other, before the same operation was begun upon him, broke, by a sudden effort, the feeble ligatures by which he was at present constrained, and, seizing a musket that lay near him, fired on his enemies, and then rushed out of doors. All eagerly engaged in the pursuit. The savage was fleet as a deer, and finally eluded his pursuers.

While their attention was thus engaged abroad, he that remained found means to extricate his wrists and ankles from his bonds, and, betaking himself to the stairs, escaped, as I before described, through the window of the room which I had occupied. They pestered me with their curiosity and wonder, for I was known to all of them; but, waiving the discussion of my own concerns, I entreated their assistance to carry Clithero to the chamber and the bed which I had just deserted.

I now, in spite of pain, fatigue, and watchfulness, set out to go to Walton's. Sarsefield was ready to receive me at the door, and the kindness and compassion of the family were active in my behalf. I was conducted to a chamber and provided with suitable attendance and remedies.

I was not unmindful of the more deplorable condition of Clithero. I incessantly meditated on the means for his relief. His case stood in need of all the vigilance and skill of a physician, and Sarsefield was the only one of that profession whose aid could be seasonably administered. Sarsefield, therefore, must be persuaded to bestow this aid.

There was but one mode of conquering his abhorrence of this man,--to prepossess my friend with the belief of the innocence of Clithero, or to soothe him into pity by a picture of remorse and suffering. This could be done, and in the manner most conformable to truth, by a simple recital of the incidents that had befallen, and by repeating the confession which had been extorted from Clithero.

I requested all but my friend to leave my chamber, and then, soliciting a patient hearing, began the narrative of Waldegrave's death; of the detection of Clithero beneath the shade of the elm; of the suspicions which were thence produced; and of the forest interview to which these suspicions gave birth. I then repeated, without variation or addition, the tale which was then told. I likewise mentioned my subsequent transactions in Norwalk, so far as they illustrated the destiny of Clithero.

During this recital, I fixed my eyes upon the countenance of Sarsefield, and watched every emotion as it arose or declined. With the progress of my tale, his indignation and his fury grew less, and at length gave place to horror and compassion.

His seat became uneasy; his pulse throbbed with new vehemence. When I came to the motives which prompted the unhappy man to visit the chamber of his mistress, he started from his seat, and sometimes strode across the floor in a troubled mood, and sometimes stood before me, with his breath almost suspended in the eagerness of his attention. When I mentioned the lifted dagger, the shriek from behind, and the apparition that interposed, he shuddered and drew back, as if a dagger had been aimed at his breast.

When the tale was done, some time elapsed in mutual and profound silence. My friend's thoughts were involved in a mournful and indefinable reverie. From this he at length recovered and spoke:--

"It is true. A tale like this could never be the fruit of invention, or be invented to deceive. He has done himself injustice. His character was spotless and fair. All his moral properties seemed to have resolved themselves into gratitude, fidelity, and honour.

"We parted at the door, late in the evening, as he mentioned, and he guessed truly that subsequent reflection had induced me to return and to disclose the truth to Mrs. Lorimer. Clarice, relieved by the sudden death of her friend, and unexpectedly by all, arrived at the same hour.

"These tidings astonished, afflicted, and delighted the lady. Her brother's death had been long believed by all but herself. To find her doubts verified, and his existence ascertained, was the dearest consolation that he ever could bestow. She was afflicted at the proofs that had been noted of the continuance of his depravity, but she dreaded no danger to herself from his malignity or vengeance.

"The ignorance and prepossessions of this woman were remarkable. On this subject only she was perverse, headstrong, obstinate. Her anxiety to benefit this archruffian occupied her whole thoughts, and allowed her no time to reflect upon the reasonings or remonstrances of others. She could not be prevailed on to deny herself to his visits, and I parted from her in the utmost perplexity.

"A messenger came to me at midnight, entreating my immediate presence. Some disaster had happened, but of what kind the messenger was unable to tell. My fears easily conjured up the image of Wiatte. Terror scarcely allowed me to breathe. When I entered the house of Mrs. Lorimer, I was conducted to her chamber. She lay upon the bed in a state of stupefaction, that arose from some mental cause. Clarice sat by her, wringing her hands, and pouring forth her tears without intermission. Neither could explain to me the nature of the scene. I made inquiries of the servants and attendants. They merely said that the family as usual had retired to rest, but their lady's bell rung with great violence, and called them in haste to her chamber, where they found her in a swoon upon the floor, and the young lady in the utmost affright and perturbation.

"Suitable means being used, Mrs. Lorimer had, at length, recovered, but was still nearly insensible. I went to Clithero's apartments; but he was not to be found, and the domestics informed me that, since he had gone with me, he had not returned. The doors between this chamber and the court were open; hence, that some dreadful interview had taken place, perhaps with Wiatte, was an unavoidable conjecture. He had withdrawn, however, without committing any personal injury.

"I need not mention my reflections upon this scene. All was tormenting doubt and suspense, till the morning arrived, and tidings were received that Wiatte had been killed in the streets. This event was antecedent to that which had occasioned Mrs. Lorimer's distress and alarm. I now remembered that fatal prepossession by which the lady was governed, and her frantic belief that her death and that of her brother were to fall out at the same time. Could some witness of his death have brought her tidings of it? Had he penetrated, unexpected and unlicensed, to her chamber? and were these the effects produced by the intelligence?

"Presently I knew that not only Wiatte was dead, but that Clithero had killed him. Clithero had not been known to return, and was nowhere to be found. He, then, was the bearer of these tidings, for none but he could have found access or egress without disturbing the servants.

"These doubts were at length at an end. In a broken and confused manner, and after the lapse of some days, the monstrous and portentous truth was disclosed. After our interview, the lady and her daughter had retired to the same chamber; the former had withdrawn to her closet, and the latter to bed. Some one's entrance alarmed the lady, and, coming forth after a moment's pause, the spectacle which Clithero has too faithfully described presented itself.

"What could I think? A life of uniform hypocrisy, or a sudden loss of reason, were the only suppositions to be formed. Clithero was the parent of fury and abhorrence in my heart. In either case I started at the name. I shuddered at the image of the apostate or the maniac.

"What? Kill the brother whose existence was interwoven with that of his benefactress and his friend? Then hasten to her chamber, and attempt her life? Lift a dagger to destroy her who had been the author of his being and his happiness?

"He that could meditate a deed like this was no longer man. An agent from hell had mastered his faculties. He was become the engine of infernal malice, against whom it was the duty of all mankind to rise up in arms and never to desist till, by shattering it to atoms, its power to injure was taken away.

"All inquiries to discover the place of his retreat were vain. No wonder, methought, that he wrapped himself in the folds of impenetrable secrecy. Curbed, checked, baffled in the midst of his career, no wonder that he shrunk into obscurity, that he fled from justice and revenge, that he dared not meet the rebukes of that eye which, dissolving in tenderness or flashing with disdain, had ever been irresistible.

"But how shall I describe the lady's condition? Clithero she had cherished from his infancy. He was the stay, the consolation, the pride of her life. His projected alliance with her daughter made him still more dear. Her eloquence was never tired of expatiating on his purity and rectitude. No wonder that she delighted in this theme, for he was her own work. His virtues were the creatures of her bounty.

"How hard to be endured was this sad reverse! She can be tranquil, but never more will she be happy. To promote her forgetfulness of him, I persuaded her to leave her country, which contained a thousand memorials of past calamity, and which was lapsing fast into civil broils. Clarice has accompanied us, and time may effect the happiness of others by her means, though she can never remove the melancholy of her mother.

"I have listened to your tale, not without compassion. What would you have me to do? To prolong his life would be merely to protract his misery.

"He can never be regarded with complacency by my wife. He can never be thought of without shuddering by Clarice. Common ills are not without a cure less than death, but here all remedies are vain. Consciousness itself is the malady, the pest, of which he only is cured who ceases to think."

I could not but assent to this mournful conclusion: yet, though death was better to Clithero than life, could not some of his mistakes be rectified? Euphemia Lorimer, contrary to his belief, was still alive. He dreamed that she was dead, and a thousand evils were imagined to flow from that death. This death, and its progeny of ills, haunted his fancy, and added keenness to his remorse. Was it not our duty to rectify this error?

Sarsefield reluctantly assented to the truth of my arguments on this head. He consented to return, and afford the dying man the consolation of knowing that the being whom he adored as a benefactor and parent had not been deprived of existence, though bereft of peace by his act.

During Sarsefield's absence my mind was busy in revolving the incidents that had just occurred. I ruminated on the last words of Clithero. There was somewhat in his narrative that was obscure and contradictory. He had left the manuscript, which he so much and so justly prized, in his cabinet. He entered the chamber in my absence, and found the cabinet unfastened and the manuscript gone. It was I by whom the cabinet was opened; but the manuscript supposed to be contained in it was buried in the earth beneath the elm. How should Clithero be unacquainted with its situation, since none but Clithero could have dug for it this grave?

This mystery vanished when I reflected on the history of my own manuscript. Clithero had buried his treasure with his own hands, as mine had been secreted by myself; but both acts had been performed during sleep. The deed was neither prompted by the will nor noticed by the senses of him by whom it was done. Disastrous and humiliating is the state of man! By his own hands is constructed the mass of misery and error in which his steps are forever involved.

Thus it was with thy friend. Hurried on by phantoms too indistinct to be now recalled, I wandered from my chamber to the desert. I plunged into some unvisited cavern, and easily proceeded till I reached the edge of a pit. There my step was deceived, and I tumbled headlong from the precipice. The fall bereaved me of sense, and I continued breathless and motionless during the remainder of the night and the ensuing day.

How little cognizance have men over the actions and motives of each other! How total is our blindness with regard to our own performances! Who would have sought me in the bowels of this mountain? Ages might have passed away, before my bones would be discovered in this tomb by some traveller whom curiosity had prompted to explore it.

I was roused from these reflections by Sarsefield's return. Inquiring into Clithero's condition, he answered that the unhappy man was insensible, but that, notwithstanding numerous and dreadful gashes in different parts of his body, it was possible that, by submitting to the necessary treatment, he might recover.

Encouraged by this information, I endeavoured to awaken the zeal and compassion of my friend in Clithero's behalf. He recoiled with involuntary shuddering from any task which would confine him to the presence of this man. Time and reflection, he said, might introduce different sentiments and feelings, but at present he could not but regard this person as a maniac, whose disease was irremediable, and whose existence could not be protracted but to his own misery and the misery of others.

Finding him irreconcilably averse to any scheme connected with the welfare of Clithero, I began to think that his assistance as a surgeon was by no means necessary. He had declared that the sufferer needed nothing more than common treatment; and to this the skill of a score of aged women in this district, furnished with simples culled from the forest, and pointed out, of old time, by Indian _leeches_, was no less adequate than that of Sarsefield. These women were ready and officious in their charity, and none of them were prepossessed against the sufferer by a knowledge of his genuine story.

Sarsefield, meanwhile, was impatient for my removal to Inglefield's habitation, and that venerable friend was no less impatient to receive me. My hurts were superficial, and my strength sufficiently repaired by a night's repose. Next day I went thither, leaving Clithero to the care of his immediate neighbours.

Sarsefield's engagements compelled him to prosecute his journey into Virginia, from which he had somewhat deviated in order to visit Solesbury. He proposed to return in less than a month, and then to take me in his company to New York. He has treated me with paternal tenderness, and insists upon the privilege of consulting for my interest as if he were my real father. Meanwhile these views have been disclosed to Inglefield, and it is with him that I am to remain, with my sisters, until his return.

My reflections have been various and tumultuous. They have been busy in relation to you, to Weymouth, and especially to Clithero. The latter, polluted with gore and weakened by abstinence, fatigue, and the loss of blood, appeared in my eyes to be in a much more dangerous condition than the event proved him to be. I was punctually informed of the progress of his cure, and proposed in a few days to visit him. The duty of explaining the truth, respecting the present condition of Mrs. Lorimer, had devolved upon me. By imparting this intelligence, I hoped to work the most auspicious revolutions in his feelings, and prepared, therefore, with alacrity, for an interview.

In this hope I was destined to be disappointed. On the morning on which I intended to visit him, a messenger arrived from the house in which he was entertained, and informed us that the family, on entering the sick man's apartment, had found it deserted. It appeared that Clithero had, during the night, risen from his bed and gone secretly forth. No traces of his flight have since been discovered.

But, oh, my friend, the death of Waldegrave, thy brother, is at length divested of uncertainty and mystery. Hitherto, I had been able to form no conjecture respecting it; but the solution was found shortly after this time.

Queen Mab, three days after my adventure, was seized in her hut on suspicion of having aided and counselled her countrymen in their late depredations. She was not to be awed or intimidated by the treatment she received, but readily confessed and gloried in the mischief she had done, and accounted for it by enumerating the injuries which she had received from her neighbours.

These injuries consisted in contemptuous or neglectful treatment, and in the rejection of groundless and absurd claims. The people of Chetasco were less obsequious to her humours than those of Solesbury, her ancient neighbourhood, and her imagination brooded for a long time over nothing but schemes of revenge. She became sullen, irascible, and spent more of her time in solitude than ever.

A troop of her countrymen at length visited her hut. Their intentions being hostile, they concealed from the inhabitants their presence in this quarter of the country. Some motives induced them to withdraw and postpone, for the present, the violence which they meditated. One of them, however, more sanguinary and audacious than the rest, would not depart without some gratification of his vengeance. He left his associates and penetrated by night into Solesbury, resolving to attack the first human being whom he should meet. It was the fate of thy unhappy brother to encounter this ruffian, whose sagacity made him forbear to tear away the usual trophy from the dead, lest he should afford grounds for suspicion as to the authors of the evil.

Satisfied with this exploit, he rejoined his companions, and, after an interval of three weeks, returned with a more numerous party, to execute a more extensive project of destruction. They were counselled and guided, in all their movements, by Queen Mab, who now explained these particulars and boldly defied her oppressors. Her usual obstinacy and infatuation induced her to remain in her ancient dwelling and prepare to meet the consequences.

This disclosure awakened anew all the regrets and anguish which flowed from that disaster. It has been productive, however, of some benefit. Suspicions and doubts, by which my soul was harassed, and which were injurious to the innocent, are now at an end. It is likewise some imperfect consolation to reflect that the assassin has himself been killed, and probably by my own hand. The shedder of blood no longer lives to pursue his vocation, and justice is satisfied.

Thus have I fulfilled my promise to compose a minute relation of my sufferings. I remembered my duty to thee, and, as soon as I was able to hold a pen, employed it to inform thee of my welfare. I could not at that time enter into particulars, but reserved a more copious narrative till a period of more health and leisure.

On looking back, I am surprised at the length to which my story has run. I thought that a few days would suffice to complete it; but one page has insensibly been added to another, till I have consumed weeks and filled volumes. Here I will draw to a close; I will send you what I have written, and discuss with you in conversation my other immediate concerns, and my schemes for the future. As soon as I have seen Sarsefield, I will visit you. FAREWELL. E. H.

SOLESBUEY, November 10.


Letter I.

_To Mr. Sarsefield.



I came hither but ten minutes ago, and write this letter in the bar of the stage-house. I wish not to lose a moment in informing you of what has happened. I cannot do justice to my own feelings when I reflect upon the rashness of which I have been guilty.

I will give you the particulars to-morrow. At present, I shall only say that Clithero is alive, is apprized of your wife's arrival and abode in New York, and has set out with mysterious intentions to visit her.

May Heaven avert the consequences of such a design! May you be enabled, by some means, to prevent their meeting! If you cannot prevent it--but I must not reason on such an event, nor lengthen out this letter.

E. H.


Letter II.

_To the Same.


I will now relate the particulars which I yesterday promised to send you. You heard through your niece of my arrival at Inglefield's, in Solesbury: my inquiries, you may readily suppose, would turn upon the fate of my friend's servant Clithero, whose last disappearance was so strange and abrupt, and of whom, since that time, I had heard nothing. You are indifferent to his fate, and are anxious only that his existence and misfortunes may be speedily forgotten. I confess that it is somewhat otherwise with me. I pity him; I wish to relieve him, and cannot admit the belief that his misery is without a cure. I want to find him out. I want to know his condition, and, if possible, to afford him comfort and inspire him with courage and hope.

Inglefield replied to my questions:--"Oh yes! He has appeared. The strange being is again upon the stage. Shortly after he left his sick-bed, I heard from Philip Beddington, of Chetasco, that Deb's hut had found a new tenant. At first I imagined that the Scotsman who built it had returned; but, making closer inquiries, I found that the new tenant was my servant. I had no inclination to visit him myself, but frequently inquired respecting him of those who lived or passed that way, and find that he still lives there."

"But how!" said I: "what is his mode of subsistence? The winter has been no time for cultivation; and he found, I presume, nothing in the ground."

"Deb's hut," replied my friend, "is his lodging and his place of retirement, but food and clothing he procures by labouring on a neighbouring farm. This farm is next to that of Beddington, who consequently knows something of his present situation. I find little or no difference in his present deportment and those appearances which he assumed while living with me, except that he retires every night to his hut, and holds as little intercourse as possible with the rest of mankind. He dines at his employer's table; but his supper, which is nothing but rye-bread, he carries home with him, and, at all those times when disengaged from employment, he secludes himself in his hut, or wanders nobody knows whither."

This was the substance of Inglefield's intelligence. I gleaned from it some satisfaction. It proved the condition of Glithero to be less deplorable and desperate than I had previously imagined. His fatal and gloomy thoughts seemed to have somewhat yielded to tranquillity.

In the course of my reflections, however, I could not but perceive that his condition, though eligible when compared with what it once was, was likewise disastrous and humiliating, compared with his youthful hopes and his actual merits. For such a one to mope away his life in this unsocial and savage state was deeply to be deplored. It was my duty, if possible, to prevail on him to relinquish his scheme. And what would be requisite, for that end, but to inform him of the truth?

The source of his dejection was the groundless belief that he had occasioned the death of his benefactress. It was this alone that could justly produce remorse or grief. It was a distempered imagination both in him and in me that had given birth to this opinion, since the terms of his narrative, impartially considered, were far from implying that catastrophe. To him, however, the evidence which he possessed was incontestable. No deductions from probability could overthrow his belief. This could only be effected by similar and counter evidence. To apprize him that she was now alive, in possession of some degree of happiness, the wife of Sarsefield, and an actual resident on this shore, would dissipate the sanguinary apparition that haunted him, cure his diseased intellects, and restore him to those vocations for which his talents, and that rank in society for which his education, had qualified him. Influenced by these thoughts, I determined to visit his retreat. Being obliged to leave Solesbury the next day, I resolved to set out the same afternoon, and, stopping in Chetasco for the night, seek his habitation at the hour when he had probably retired to it.

This was done. I arrived at Beddington's at nightfall. My inquiries respecting Clithero obtained for me the same intelligence from him which I had received from Inglefield. Deb's hut was three miles from this habitation, and thither, when the evening had somewhat advanced, I repaired. This was the spot which had witnessed so many perils during the last year; and my emotions, on approaching it, were awful. With palpitating heart and quick steps I traversed the road, skirted on each side by thickets, and the area before the house. The dwelling was by no means in so ruinous a state as when I last visited it. The crannies between the logs had been filled up, and the light within was perceivable only at a crevice in the door.

Looking through this crevice, I perceived a fire in the chimney, but the object of my visit was nowhere to be seen. I knocked and requested admission, but no answer was made. At length I lifted the latch and entered. Nobody was there.

It was obvious to suppose that Clithero had gone abroad for a short time, and would speedily return; or perhaps some engagement had detained him at his labour later than usual. I therefore seated myself on some straw near the fire, which, with a woollen rug, appeared to constitute his only bed. The rude bedstead which I formerly met was gone. The slender furniture, likewise, which had then engaged my attention, had disappeared. There was nothing capable of human use but a heap of fagots in the corner, which seemed intended for fuel. How slender is the accommodation which nature has provided for man, and how scanty is the portion which our physical necessities require!

While ruminating upon this scene, and comparing past events with the objects before me, the dull whistling of the gale without gave place to the sound of footsteps. Presently the door opened, and Clithero entered the apartment. His aspect and guise were not essentially different from those which he wore when an inhabitant of Solesbury.

To find his hearth occupied by another appeared to create the deepest surprise. He looked at me without any tokens of remembrance. His features assumed a more austere expression, and, after scowling on my person for a moment, he withdrew his eyes, and, placing in a corner a bundle which he bore in his hand, he turned and seemed preparing to withdraw.

I was anxiously attentive to his demeanour, and, as soon as I perceived his purpose to depart, leaped on my feet to prevent it. I took his hand, and, affectionately pressing it, said, "Do you not know me? Have you so soon forgotten me, who is truly your friend?"

He looked at me with some attention, but again withdrew his eyes, and placed himself in silence on the seat which I had left. I seated myself near him, and a pause of mutual silence ensued.

My mind was full of the purpose that brought me hither, but I knew not in what manner to communicate my purpose. Several times I opened my lips to speak, but my perplexity continued, and suitable words refused to suggest themselves. At length I said, in a confused tone,--

"I came hither with a view to benefit a man with whose misfortunes his own lips have made me acquainted, and who has awakened in my breast the deepest sympathy. I know the cause and extent of his dejection. I know the event which has given birth to horror and remorse in his heart. He believes that, by his means, his patroness and benefactress has found an untimely death."

These words produced a visible shock in my companion, which evinced that I had at least engaged his attention. I proceeded:--

"This unhappy lady was cursed with a wicked and unnatural brother. She conceived a disproportionate affection for this brother, and erroneously imagined that her fate was blended with his, that their lives would necessarily terminate at the same period, and that, therefore, whoever was the contriver of his death was likewise, by a fatal and invincible necessity, the author of her own.

"Clithero was her servant, but was raised by her bounty to the station of her son and the rank of her friend. Clithero, in self-defence, took away the life of that unnatural brother, and, in that deed, falsely but cogently believed that he had perpetrated the destruction of his benefactress.

"To ascertain the truth, he sought her presence. She was found, the tidings of her brother's death were communicated, and she sank breathless at his feet."

At these words Clithero started from the ground, and cast upon me looks of furious indignation. "And come you hither," he muttered, "for this end?--to recount my offences and drive me again to despair?"

"No," answered I, with quickness; "I come to outroot a fatal but powerful illusion. I come to assure you that the woman with whose destruction you charge yourself is _not dead_."

These words, uttered with the most emphatical solemnity, merely produced looks in which contempt was mingled with anger. He continued silent.

"I perceive," resumed I, "that my words are disregarded. Would to Heaven I were able to conquer your incredulity, could show you not only the truth but the probability of my tale! Can you not confide in me? that Euphemia Lorimer is now alive, is happy, is the wife of Sarsefield? that her brother is forgotten and his murderer regarded without enmity or vengeance?"

He looked at me with a strange expression of contempt. "Come," said he, at length; "make out thy assertion to be true. Fall on thy knees, and invoke the thunder of Heaven to light on thy head if thy words be false. Swear that Euphemia Lorimer is alive; happy; forgetful of Wiatte and compassionate of me. Swear that thou hast seen her; talked with her; received from her own lips the confession of her pity for him who aimed a dagger at her bosom. Swear that she is Sarsefield's wife."

I put my hands together, and, lifting my eyes to heaven, exclaimed, "I comply with your conditions. I call the omniscient God to witness that Euphemia Lorimer is alive; that I have seen her with these eyes; have talked with her; have inhabited the same house for months."

These asseverations were listened to with shuddering. He laid not aside, however, an air of incredulity and contempt. "Perhaps," said he, "thou canst point out the place of her abode?--canst guide me to the city, the street, the very door of her habitation?"

"I can. She resides at this moment in the city of New York; in Broadway; in a house contiguous to the--."

"'Tis well!" exclaimed my companion, in a tone loud, abrupt, and in the utmost degree vehement. "'Tis well! Rash and infatuated youth, thou hast ratified, beyond appeal or forgiveness, thy own doom. Thou hast once more let loose my steps, and sent me on a fearful journey. Thou hast furnished the means of detecting thy imposture. I will fly to the spot which thou describest. I will ascertain thy falsehood with my own eyes. If she be alive, then am I reserved for the performance of a new crime. My evil destiny will have it so. If she be dead, I shall make thee expiate."

So saying, he darted through the door, and was gone in a moment beyond my sight and my reach. I ran to the road, looked on every side, and called; but my calls were repeated in vain. He had fled with the swiftness of a deer.

My own embarrassment, confusion, and terror were inexpressible. His last words were incoherent. They denoted the tumult and vehemence of frenzy. They intimated his resolution to seek the presence of your wife. I had furnished a clue which could not fail to conduct him to her presence. What might not be dreaded from the interview? Clithero is a maniac. This truth cannot be concealed. Your wife can with difficulty preserve her tranquillity when his image occurs to her remembrance. What must it be when he starts up before her in his neglected and ferocious guise, and armed with purposes perhaps as terrible as those which had formerly led him to her secret chamber and her bedside?

His meaning was obscurely conveyed. He talked of a deed for the performance of which his malignant fate had reserved him, which was to ensue their meeting, and which was to afford disastrous testimony of the infatuation which had led me hither.

Heaven grant that some means may suggest themselves to you of intercepting his approach! Yet I know not what means can be conceived. Some miraculous chance may befriend you; yet this is scarcely to be hoped. It is a visionary and fantastic base on which to rest our security.

I cannot forget that my unfortunate temerity has created this evil. Yet who could foresee this consequence of my intelligence? I imagined that Clithero was merely a victim of erroneous gratitude, a slave of the errors of his education and the prejudices of his rank; that his understanding was deluded by phantoms in the mask of virtue and duty, and not, as you have strenuously maintained, utterly subverted.

I shall not escape your censure, but I shall, likewise, gain your compassion. I have erred, not through sinister or malignant intentions, but from the impulse of misguided, indeed, but powerful, benevolence.


Letter III.

_To Edgar Huntly_.




After the fatigues of the day, I returned home. As I entered, my wife was breaking the seal of a letter; but, on seeing me, she forbore, and presented the letter to me.

"I saw," said she, "by the superscription of this letter, who the writer was. So, agreeably to your wishes, I proceeded to open it; but you have come just time enough to save me the trouble."

This letter was from you. It contained information relative to Clithero. See how imminent a chance it was that saved my wife from a knowledge of its contents! It required all my efforts to hide my perturbation from her and excuse myself from showing her the letter.

I know better than you the character of Clithero, and the consequences of a meeting between him and my wife. You may be sure that I would exert myself to prevent a meeting.

The method for me to pursue was extremely obvious. Clithero is a madman, whose liberty is dangerous, and who requires to be fettered and imprisoned as the most atrocious criminal.

I hastened to the chief-magistrate, who is my friend, and, by proper representations, obtained from him authority to seize Clithero wherever I should meet with him, and effectually debar him from the perpetration of new mischiefs.

New York does not afford a place of confinement for lunatics as suitable to his case as Pennsylvania. I was desirous of placing him as far as possible from the place of my wife's residence. Fortunately, there was a packet for Philadelphia on the point of setting out on her voyage. This vessel I engaged to wait a day or two, for the purpose of conveying him to Pennsylvania Hospital. Meanwhile, proper persons were stationed at Powles Hook, and at the quays where the various stage-boats from Jersey arrive.

These precautions were effectual. Not many hours after the receipt of your intelligence, this unfortunate man applied for a passage at Elizabethtown, was seized the moment he set his foot on shore, and was forthwith conveyed to the packet, which immediately set sail.

I designed that all these proceedings should be concealed from the women, but unfortunately neglected to take suitable measures for hindering the letter, which you gave me reason to expect on the ensuing day, from coming into their hands. It was delivered to my wife in my absence, and opened immediately by her.

You know what is, at present, her personal condition. You know what strong reasons I had to prevent any danger or alarm from approaching her. Terror could not assume a shape more ghastly than this. The effects have been what might have been easily predicted. Her own life has been imminently endangered, and an untimely birth has blasted my fondest hope. Her infant, with whose future existence so many pleasures were entwined, is dead.

I assure you, Edgar, my philosophy has not found itself lightsome and active under this burden. I find it hard to forbear commenting on your rashness in no very mild terms. You acted in direct opposition to my counsel and to the plainest dictates of propriety. Be more circumspect and more obsequious for the future.

You knew the liberty that would be taken of opening my letters; you knew of my absence from home during the greatest part of the day, and the likelihood, therefore, that your letters would fall into my wife's hands before they came into mine. These considerations should have prompted you to send them under cover to Whitworth or Harvey, with directions to give them immediately to me.

Some of these events happened in my absence; for I determined to accompany the packet myself, and see the madman safely delivered to the care of the hospital.

I will not torture your sensibility by recounting the incidents of his arrest and detention. You will imagine that his strong but perverted reason exclaimed loudly against the injustice of his treatment. It was easy for him to out-reason his antagonist, and nothing but force could subdue his opposition. On me devolved the province of his jailer and his tyrant,--a province which required a heart more steeled by spectacles of suffering and the exercise of cruelty than mine had been.

Scarcely had we passed the Narrows, when the lunatic, being suffered to walk the deck, (as no apprehensions were entertained of his escape in such circumstances,) threw himself overboard, with a seeming intention to gain the shore. The boat was immediately manned; the fugitive was pursued; but, at the moment when his flight was overtaken, he forced himself beneath the surface, and was seen no more.

With the life of this wretch, let our regrets and our forebodings terminate. He has saved himself from evils for which no time would have provided a remedy, from lingering for years in the noisome dungeon of a hospital. Having no reason to continue my voyage, I put myself on board a coasting-sloop, and regained this city in a few hours. I persuade myself that my wife's indisposition will be temporary. It was impossible to hide from her the death of Clithero, and its circumstances. May this be the last arrow in the quiver of adversity! Farewell.

Charles Brockden Brown's Gothic Novel: Edgar Huntley; or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker

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