Page images
PDF
EPUB

“Why, what a scene we are having! Pri- “Ogden, is it possible it is you ?” vate theatricals! When shall we perform in “None other than myself, my dear Gregory!" public?'

And I greeted heartily my old friend Archi“I thought she would have killed me with klaff, with whom I had contracted the closest the lightning from her eye-uttered bitter intimacy in the days of old. words and silenced me forever ; but what do “But what moans this garment?" I conyou think she did, Tom ? She looked me full tinued. “Where did you get that starved, pale in the face, and in the moonlight I saw tears countenance? I no longer recognize the gay gather in her eyes. Slowly they gathered there, and dashing hussar, the glory of the St. Petersand she did not wipe them away, but let them burg balls.” fall one by one. The light in those bright eyes The monk answered only by a sigh ; but some was softened. She looked sadly, reproachfully hours later, when we were together in his cell, at me, and I-well, I fell at her feet, implored he related his sad story to me.

, my dear

I

minute more I was kissing those very tears Ogden,” he said, “I obtained a furlough from away, and calling her my own, for she had prom- my commanding officer, and went home. I ised to be my wife.

found my mother very weak and ill; but I could “ So you see women can weep real tears, scarcely recognize my young brother, so much Tom, and melt a man's heart with them, too!" had he grown. It was five years since I had ".But, Bob, where is Eleanor Gray now? seen him, and he was now seventeen.

He was Did she die after that wonderful effort ?' truly a splendid young fellow, with the best

"Why, no, Tom, no—the fact is, she jilted disposition in the world. My mother wished to me in a week. But what did you make me keep him always near her; he was the only one spoil my story for? You'll never believe those of her children that she had nursed, and that were real tears now!'"

mysterious link of maternity bound the pair to

gether. A DUEL IN RUSSIA.

“ Vetcheslaff-that was my brother's name LEAPED from the carriage glad to find my had never until this time combated his mother's

self once more in St. Petersburg. I had desire to keep him at home; but when he saw been absent for many years, laboring at my pro- my brilliant uniform, and my mustaches-when fession of engineer in this country; but at the he heard me speak of my regiment, my gay desire of the Emperor, who had a mania for em- companions, the theatre, and all the pleasures ploying Americans, I consented to revisit Rus- of St. Petersburg—he forgot the wishes of his sia for the purpose of superintending the con- mother, and the promises he had made her, and struction of a railroad which was projected near never ceased supplicating her to allow him to the Tartar frontier. I still retained many pleas- enter the service. I joined my prayers to his, ing recollections of my first residence in Rus- and represented to my mother all the advantages sia, and counted upon meeting some of my old that would accrue from his embracing the same friends on my return. Having seen my lug- profession as myself. I showed her how we gage safely deposited in my hotel, I wandered would prove to each other a mutual support, at hazard into the street. There were many and finally promised never to part from Vetchesthings to recollect, and when one has been ab- laff, and to be to him not only a brother but a sent from a country for a long time there is a devoted father. wonderful pleasure in encountering the forms “ After many long discussions, my mother took of buildings and streets once so familiar. me aside one day and made me sit by her side

I arrived in front of the white walls of a con- on the sofa. vent; the bells were ringing, and scarce know- “It is impossible to resist your entreaties ing what I did, I entered the church. The any longer,' she said. I do not wish that my matins were ended. The early sunlight poured children shall ever have it in their power to rein long purple rays through the stained win- proach me with having opposed their happiness. dows, playing upon the thick clouds of incense Take Vetcheslaff with you, but my consent is that rolled along the roof, and on the golden not unconditional. You know not with what images that shone upon the altar. As I enter-responsibilities I charge you.

If I was able to ed, the congregation were fast issuing from the travel I would accompany you, but that, unhapdoors, followed by a file of long black figures, the pily, is impossible. After all, what does it matnuns of the adjoining convent. I remained there ter, poor old woman that I am! whether I am alone, for a church always seems to me more separated from you by a hundred versts or a hunmajestic and holy in solitude. While I was lost dred paces? I would only embarrass you, alin a vague reverie, I heard a faint murmur near though, as you know, I am not one of those egome. I turned and perceived a monk praying in tistical mothers who wish to keep their children a corner of the church. His devotions were evi- always in leading-strings, no matter how much dently at an end, for he rose from his prostrate it may annoy them. Listen to me, then! Vetposition, and as he did so the sunlight struck full cheslaff is a mere child; he does not know even upon his face. We looked at each other for a what he desires. He knows neither life nor few seconds. It seemed to me that he recognized men. But you have experience ; you are past me, for he approached me hesitatingly. the peculiar age when a man is scarce accountable for any thing that he does, and a single attitude. Then he would draw Bocks toward word will sometimes upset his purpose. Natu- him by the tail. rally you will have a great influence on your "Do you know, Bocks,' he would say, 'that brother. For some years to come he will think I am a cornet-an officer? Do you underand live only through you. Conduct him ; pro- stand? Do you know that hereafter you will tect him. I will take no excuse from you, and have the honor of walking on the Perspective will always hold you responsible for his conduct. Nevskoi with a cornet?' In your relations with him you must foresee “And Bocks seemed absolutely to understand every thing, forestall every thing. I place in him, at least he wagged his tail, and barked your hands his present and his future life.' an animated reply. Every one of those little

*These words still echo in my ears. My moth- incidents in our life, every little word of Vetcher was much moved, and I felt my own heart eslaff

, remains engraven in my memory.” palpitating. I assured her that her confidence Here the monk could no longer restrain his would not be placed in me in vain, and swore to tears. He sighed deeply, and, after stopping for her that the charge which she surrendered to a moment to gather his thoughts, resumed : me would be always sacred.

“One of our brother officers, named Vetsky, "My leave of absence expired. We tore our- had a brother officer in the civil service, who selves from our mother's arms, and I had to was an especial favorite of mine. He was a carry Vetcheslaff, half-fainting, to the carriage. man of singular intelligence, but I never saw He wept like a child.

a man so full of physical imperfections. II “I will not describe to you the first years that health had rendered him a species of abortion. we spent in St. Petersburg. I had no fault to He knew his weakness and his natural defects, find with my brother. He was wild, but amidst and carefully avoided all effort and all gymall his dissipations he preserved that innocence nastic exercises, leading a life of the utmost preof heart so rare in young men of the present caution. On horseback he was a terribly comic day. A mere nothing irritated him, but a mere spectacle, and whenever we arranged a ridingnothing also gave him pleasure. He was all party, he invariably chose the oldest, and least candor, and said the thing that was uppermost spirited of the horses. He had also a defect in his thoughts. In his joyous moments, he in his pronunciation, which obliged him to speak danced on the chairs and tables; in his hours very slowly in order to keep from stuttering. of sadness, he wept like a woman. He played You may imagine what a figure this unhappy for whole hours together with my old pointer man made, with his ailments and his precautions, Bocks, whom he called his best friend, because, among a band of vigorous young men, who nevhe said, one was as great a fool as the other. er looked before they leaped. Bocks, who toward me preserved always an air “Vetsky was nevertheless a good companion. of great dignity, let Vetcheslaff do what he We all were fond of him, but we made no alpleased with him, and played with him after lowance for the infirmities of his constitution, his the most absurd fashion. When the pair sky- awkwardness, and his excessive prudence, that larked together in my room, it was impossible bordered on cowardice. Vetsky took all our for me to prevent myself from laughing at jokes in good part, sometimes wittily retorting the drollery of the thing, or blushing at the upon us, sometimes joining in the laugh against silliness. Still, I admit that this childishness himself. Nevertheless, it frequently occurred of my brother pleased me more at bottom than that when some sudden raillery attacked him, the precocious maturity of some of my brother- he found himself at a loss for a reply. It seemed officers, who seemed to have been diplomats as if the faculties of his mirid, like those of his from the cradle. I presented Vetcheslaff in body, suffered occasional paralysis. He was society, and took him to some brilliant balls, one of those men whom it was easy to unseat where he danced with all his heart, and was as with a word, and who have not the power of immerry as a schoolboy. His free, innocent man-mediately regaining the saddle. In cases like ners, pleased every body. The women petted this, Vetsky evidently suffered very much, howhim, and made love to him as they would have ever strongly he forced himself to conceal it undone to a boy. The rogue permitted himself der a cold and calm exterior. Every one could to be caressed, and made the best of his op- see that he made every effort to remain master portunities. No father could have been more of himself, because, as he would say with a forced happy than I was, in watching this gay, high- smile, "To get angry would be to injure my souled young fellow enjoying life.

health.' At last the long-wished-for day arrived. “I had observed since a certain epoch that Vetcheslaff received his commission as cornet my brother was one of the most pitiless persecuin my regiment. It would be impossible to de- tors of poor Vetsky; but we had all so fallen into scribe his joy. As he was a perfect stranger to the habit of laughing at our petit maire' as the official dissimulation of the young men of we called him, and made this jocularity so much the present day, he never ceased gazing in the a regular pastime, that I paid no attention to mirror, first on one side, then on the other, in this childish waywardness. It seemed to us so order to admire his epaulettes. Now he would perfectly natural! All things, however, have run and embrace me; now he would cock his a secret cause; and the secret of this was, that military cap on one side, and assume a military my brother was desperately in love with a lady who, by a singular caprice, gave a marked pref-( if he could not break his neck in this foolish erence over the elegant Vetcheslaff to the dis- exploit. torted Vetsky.

"Now, what are you going to do ?' said my * When officers are newly appointed, it is the brother to Vetsky, when all had tried the peril, custom among us Russians to expect them to with a loud laugh.

baptize their epaulettes,' as we say. As we "I will not leap,' answered Vetsky, coldly. had some new-comers in the regiment, days ""No! But you must leap! were fixed when we should dine successively “'I have told you that I did not wish to with each of them. You have some idea of leap.' the style of what our fêtes used to be. You ««You don't wish to leap,' answered my have been ten years absent, and in Russia ten brother, in the heat of wine, because you are years is an age. The time is gone by for those a coward.' wild, frenzied revels that you knew once. Now "I advise you not to repeat that,' said Vetyoung men are very rational, even over the bot- sky. tle, and good taste reigns in their orgies. Their “My fool of a brother knew not what he said wives might preside over them without blush- or did. ing. It is not that wine is wanting. They do "«I not only repeat it,' said he, putting his not drink at present, it is true, until they are un- arms akimbo, “but I will tell it to the Countder the table; but they drink enough to become ess M- (the lady that both were paying gay and quarrelsome, and foolish sometimes, their court to). I will say to her, Your adorer and to say things in their cups that they regret is a coward! What will you bet that I will in sober moments.

not tell her ?' “We dined one day in a little country house (it “Vetsky, in spite of all his sang froid, could was the period when the troops were encamped not longer contain himself. He caught my in the suburbs of St. Petersburg for the summer brother by the throat. review), and our host was liberal of his Cham- "You fool!' he cried, 'if you darepagne. The dinner lasted a considerable time, "A blow on the face was the only reply. and all of us, including even Vetsky, were, “What remained to be done! For a moment to use a military phrase, charged up to the muz- I thought of reconciling the adversaries, but zle. It was two o'clock in the morning. The how to accomplish it? To force my brother to room was close, and I felt as if I was suffoca- apologize was impossible; for his officer's uniting; so I left the house to wander through the form had brought with it the most exalted ideas fields and fresh air. I remember it still. The of personal dignity. He felt that he was wrong, skies were pure; the country silent. A faint but to commence his military career with what morning breeze was arising, and I inhaled it might be called an act of cowardice, to recede with voluptuous delight. The fields, bathed in from his position-no power under heaven could the purple rays of the rising morning, made a have made him consent to it. As for me, I delicious picture. Not a sound was audible, had not the courage to face such an idea; and except in the direction of the cottage where we my only chance was to attack Vetsky, whose dined, through whose open windows fragments prudent timidity, instinctive moderation, and of laughter and snatches of song floated. Sud- general good sense gave me some hope. In my denly song and laughter ceased. This unex-selfishness I thought that, in order to save my pected change from noise to profound silence brother, this man would, as I would, recoil from alarmed me, and I shivered involuntarily. My nothing, not even public contempt. Stifling heart beat as if I had just learned evil news. my pride, I proceeded to Vetsky's house. By an involuntary movement I returned to the “When I entered his room I found him seatcottage. At the moment of crossing the thresh- ed at a writing-table tranquilly smoking a cigar. old, I met Vetsky coming out with his hat in His calmness disturbed me. his hand. He did not speak to me; but his "6"I wished,' said I, to have an interview face was white as a sheet, and he sought to dis- with you rather than your second. You are a semble some agitation beneath a smile. My man, and certainly must look upon my brother's presentiments were verified !

conduct as nothing but the rudeness of a boy, “My companions related all that had oc- entirely unworthy of your attention.' curred during my brief absence. It was a boy- “Vetsky looked surprised and smiled. ish freak, but one that I feared would lead to "Sir,' said he, 'you do not think what you bloodshed.

say. Be frank with me. What is the mat“Some of them had opened a window that ter?' looked out on a court-yard, and one young fel- “These few words gave me a new idea. I low, in a fit of gayety, leaped from it. A sec- would endeavor to touch his feelings. I picond followed, then a third. The window was tured our situation, my mother's feeble state of at a considerable height from the ground, and health, her farewell to us, and the promise she whoever was unfortunate enough to miss his had exacted of me. I did not spare poor Vetfooting would certainly be hurt. The laughter cheslaff either. I called him a fool and a provoked by the falls that some received, and scamp. I believe that I even muttered the the danger of the jump excited in all the young word 'pardon.' men present a reckless emulation. Each tried "A moment,' said Vetsky, with the cold smile that had never for an instant quitted his that agitated him. Poor young fellow! Life face. Is it on your brother's behalf, or on was, perhaps, never so attractive to him as at your own, that you apologize ?'

that moment. Who would blame him if he “I knew not what to answer. He fixed a grieved at the chance of quitting it? When I penetrating look upon me, and continued- saw his fair, young face, my heart bled. In the

““I understand your position perfectly. I few hours that preceded the duel I grew twenty know that your brother will never apologize- years older. he can not. I pity you as much as him. I am “In a very few minutes after this we were on not a fire-eater, and duels are not in my line. the ground. The thought that it was I who led I have always laid down as a rule for myself to my brother to take his stand before a pistol, deavoid every thing that might conduct to one; prived me of the faculty of either thinking or but,' he added, earnestly, not to recede a step acting. In vain I forced myself to exhibit the when a rencontre became inevitable. Put your- sang froid necessary under such circumstances; self in my place. How many times have I not but I was no longer myself. Vetsky's second been forced to turn off in a joke words that, if had to fulfill my duties. The fatal moment araddressed to another, would have provoked rived. I gathered all my strength, and examtwenty duels with your brother ? I took pity ined my brother's pistols ; they were in excelon his youth, and, I acknowledge, pity on my- lent order. Vetsky was cold as ice. An almost self also. Life is already sad and short enough, imperceptible smile wandered over his comwithout sacrificing it still further for a folly. pressed lips. One would have thought that he But this affair is more serious. What would was merely warming his back at his drawingthe world—which already finds me too prudent room fire-place. I looked at Vetcheslaff, and -say of me, if I were to let this affair pass as saw with terror that his hand trembled. something not meriting attention? You know “The signal was given. The antagonists apwhat prejudices exist. I would not know where proached each other slowly. The sight of the to hide my head. Every finger would be point- danger had driven from Vetcheslaff's memory ed at me! I would have nothing left but to blow all the instructions that I had given him. He my brains out; and that, you know, would not fired precipitately, and Vetsky staggered, but be prudent in a man of so much prudence ! did not fall. The bullet had broken his left

“ These words were delivered coldly and dis- shoulder. Controlling his agony, he made a dainfully, but I felt that I could not reply. sign to his antagonist to advance to the fixed

*** If it is to be so,' I cried, angrily, “it is limits. My brother obeyed, with a convulsive with me, Sir, that you will have to settle.' and involuntary movement.

“If it is agreeable to you,' said Vetsky, “I felt as if petrified. A cold sweat bathed shaking the ash off of his cigar ; 'but not be- my body. I saw Vetsky advance, step by step, fore your brother and myself have finished. pistol in hand; I saw his cold, pitiless eye. Besides, I am certain that your brother would He was only two paces distant from my brother. not listen to any other arrangement. I have Then I thought of my mother--her last words now to apologize to you—but I have some let- --my oath. I felt as if I were going mad. A ters to write.'

mist swam before my eyes; I forgot every thing “He bowed coldly, and I left the house with -honor, reason, the regulations of the duello. a despairing heart.

One sentence only rang in my ears : “Your "At my house I found Vetsky's second waiting brother is being murdered before your eyes !' for me. He announced to me that he had in- I could no longer support this agony. I sprang structions to refuse all accommodation, unless before my brother, and making a rampart of my my brother would apologize to his principal be- body, cried out to Vetsky, fore all the officers of the regiment. I know 66 Fire ! not how such an affair would strike me to-day, Vetsky lowered his pistol. but then such a condition appeared preposter- "Is this according to the rules of the du

ello ?' he asked, turning calmly to his second. “ One hope remained to me. Vetsky was a A cry of disapprobation came from every bad shot. I would naturally be my brother's mouth. Some of the by-standers dragged me second-it was a natural duty that I owed him. away from my brother. The next instant a Wishing, therefore, to give my brother all the pistol-shot was heard, and Vetcheslaff fell stone advantages possible, I proposed that they should dead. be placed at twenty paces, each advancing ten “ Then I lost all self-possession. I broke paces after the word was given, and firing at from the grasp of my friends, and flung myself discretion. I counted on Vetcheslaff's quick- on the corpse, yet convulsed with the last throes ness and correctness of eye. Vetsky's second of death. At this moment Bocks, our dog, accepted these terms.

came running toward us. He had broken his “We had scarcely finished this bloody com- chain, and tracked my poor brother. He leappact, when Vetcheslaff entered. Bocks bound-ed toward the body, and licked the blood that ed before him, barking with joy. My brother flowed from the wound. tried to put a brave face on the matter, and “ This sight recalled me to myself. I sprang played with the dog ; but one could see that he to my feet, and seized a pistol. Vetsky, faint could scarcely restrain the interior emotions from his wound, was lying on a species of litter.

ous.

Maddened with the thirst for vengeance, I the sublimest strains of the human voice or cunbounded toward him, with the intention of kill- ningly-played instrument as any post can posing him, but I was surrounded and pinioned, sibly be, and prefers the untuneful scream of and I heard, as in a dream, the reproaches and the cat's-meat man to the noblest compositions condemnations of my brother-officers.

of Beethoven. Still, as if Nature was determ“I have little to add,” continued the monk. ined to assert the triumph of harmony over *You know how they punish dueling in this every living thing, now and then a cat turns up country. I was deprived of my commission, who has a genuine musical ear, and will manand sent as a private soldier to the Caucasus. ifest unequivocal satisfaction and delight at But this punishment was light, for the true tor- harmonious combinations of sound.

We once ture lay in my own heart. For me life was owned a cat who would listen complacently to ended, and I longed for some friendly bullet to music by the hour together, always accompanyput me out of pain. But I had not the happi- ing it with a gentle purring—who would leave ness to fall in battle, and this retreat alone was her hunting-ground in garden or cellar whenleft me. I am unknown to all; and seek to ever music was going on in parlor or drawingstifle with penitential prayers the voice that room—who would scratch at the door, and croon rings in my heart. But I have not yet found and mew to be let in, and would resent a propeace. Every night terrible dreams come to longed exclusion by certain expressive displays

I sce Vetcheslaff covered with blood, my of disapprobation. When admitted, she would mother dying of despair, and I hear continually leap on the piano, and attempt, after the New those awful words, Cain, what hast thou done Zealand fashion of expressing regard, to rub with thy brother ?!"

noses with the performer.

An old friend of ours reports another instance, ANIMAL LOVE OF MUSIC. which is perhaps still more remarkable.

He THE sensibility of animals to music will hardly was in the habit, most evenings in the week, of

me,

manners and habits of all animated nature are studious labors of the day. His pet cat, though so thoroughly observed and studied. We no as a kitten indifferent to music, grew to like it, longer doubt the dictum of the poet, who sings, and regularly led the way to the piano when * Music hath charms to soothe the savage the business of the tea-table was done. Here breast;" and therefore, it is not so much in cor- she took post on a chair, and listened gravely roboration of his assertion, as in illustration of during the whole performance. When it ceased, a fact so interesting and pleasing in itself, that and the instrument was closed, she would rewe are about to bring to the notice of the reader turn to the rug, or to his knee, and sleep out some few instances of animal love of music the rest of the evening. Not so, however, if the which are too well authenticated to admit of a piano was left open; in that case Puss leaped doubt, and some of which are the records of our on the keys and pawed a performance of her personal observation and experience.

own, in which she showed an extreme partiality One of the German biographers of Mozart for the treble notes, and something like alarm makes mention of a tame pigeon, which was the at the big bass ones, when she happened to give companion and pet of that extraordinary genius them an extra vigorous kick with her heels. In when a child. The bird, when at liberty, would fact, a rousing discord would frighten her off never leave the side of the young composer while the keys, but she would return again and soothe he was playing any instrument, and had to be her feelings by a gentle pattering among the caught and confined in his cage to prevent him upper notes. These exploits she repeated when. from following his little favorite from room to ever the piano was left open, and whether she

Whenever the boy came into the pres- had auditors or not; so that it became necesence of the pigeon the latter manifested the ut- sary to close the instrument or exclude the cat most uneasiness until he began to play; if the from the room in order to insure a moment's door of the cage were opened, the bird would quietness. If by any chance her master spent fiy to the violin and peck at the strings, or to the evening from home, Puss showed her disapthe harpsichord and jump and flutter on the pointment and dissatisfaction by restlessness and keys, and would not be pacified until the child ill-temper. sat down to play, when it would perch quietly Twenty-five years ago the writer was one of on his shoulder, and sit there for hours almost a joint-stock proprietary who owned a boat on without moving a feather.

an inland river, winding through a retired and Cats have a species of undelightful music of picturesque tract of country. There were seven their own, performed, as we all know, at un- of us, all being either singers or players of inseasonable hours on the leads, house-tiles, and struments; and in this boat it was our custom garden walls of our dwellings. Puss's perform- to spend an occasional leisure hour in musical ances are generally too chromatic for ears not voyagings up and down the river. To many feline, and we humans are given to disconcert an old English melody on these occasions did their concertos with a shower from the water- the moss-covered rocks and precipitous banks jug, or any thing else that comes to hand, when return harmonious echoes. We made strange their untimely carols rouse us from our sleep. acquaintances on those long voyages, up a In revenge, Puss is generally as indifferent to stream navigated by no other keel than ours;

room.

« PreviousContinue »