Abbildungen der Seite

which she beheld—and she recognised the features of George Frederick Cooke !

Involuntarily she uttered a faint shriek-rather of surprise and horror than terror ; but, with characteristic self-possession, she the next instant bent the powers of her well-regulated mind in search of the readiest mode by which to overcome difficulties and procure relief to the sufferer, apparently unconscious, though so eminently in peril of immediate death.

The question for her to determine was, where could assis: tance for the unhappy man be obtained most promptly? She

thought of Kent's; but it was distant, and he was not in a state of mind or body-old, worn down, and afflicted—to bear the helpless man so far. Mrs. Johnson and Henry occurred to her—but she shrunk from alarming her, and thought more than one man necessary to carry the inert—perhaps dying-body. She recollected the City-Hall, and knew that it was not far off

, and afforded ample aid. She had heard that the central city-watch-house was there, and of course men ready, without loss of time, to fly to the aid of the distressed. She had often heard the sonorous notes of “ All's well” wafted through the trees of the park, and echoed by the surrounding buildings. Thought is more rapid than the pen or even the eye : these thoughts occupied but a moment, and the course to be pursued

“I will there seek assistance-there I am sure to find and obtain it without delay." She was unconscious of wind or snow, and exercise supplied heat to counteract the chilling

am rushing among strange and coarse men ; but 1 my sex must be respected. I am doing my duty; I shall soon

I may save this unfortunate gentleman!" Such were the replies that quieted her fears.

At first she almost ran, in her impatience to procure succour; but the snow impeded her feet, and she found her breath failing. She 'stopped. The picture of a watch-house such as she had seen described in books, occurred to her, and appeared appalling. She remembered the figures she had sometimes passed at night in the streets, covered with rough garments, armed with bludgeons, and made conspicuous by helmet-like hats. She had seen them gliding silently along like beings of another world

, or those startling things, creatures of darkness, who never appear by day. Her heart beat quick, and her courage began to fail. “ Heavenly father !” she ejaculated, "strengthen my purpose if it is right?” She felt that it was right, and she was strengthened. The image of the old man whom she had known 80

was resolved upon.

blasts. “I

be there;

[ocr errors]

kind and gentle in private life, was present to her mind; his life depended upon her exertion. She quickened her pace. ! Her impatience increased when she reached the park and saw the building before her which promised relief; she almost ran, in despite of impediment, as she passed along by the palings ons the west side of the enclosure ; she opened the gate nearest the hall, and glided along in front of the bridewell. She saw a light glimmering from a cellar-like passage; the entrance was by a few steps, and it appeared to lead, like a long arch-way, under | the massive edifice. She approached, and saw that the vaultlike place was lighted by a solitary lamp, suspended from the low-arched roof. Before she could descend the steps to this subterraneous abode she had another struggle with her fears. She stopped to listen, as her foot touched the second step. She heard a confused murmuring sound, and occasionally a hoarse, loud voice, grating and discordant. All was new-all was terrific to the affrighted maiden. The light from the lamp showed her what at first was an apparently interminable gloomy passage of dark massive stone-work, crossed by gates of iron gratings. She again heard a noise of human voices, which she perceived came from a lateral passage, leading to the left. That way

she must seek for aid. She descended the stone stairs, and stood (again hesitating) on the broad flagging of the floor; from whence, looking forward, she saw, through the iron bars, a distant pale light, which she knew, after a moment's reflection, must proceed from an opening at the other end of the building, similar to that she had entered, made visible by the snow beyond.

She heard a step behind her, and had scarcely turned her head, when a rude hand grasped her shoulder, and as rude a voice assailed her ear, with, “ What are you doing here,

girl ?

She, trembling, looked up and saw the gigantic figure of a man towering over her, and appearing more colossal from standing on the step from which she had just descended. This was one of the guardians of the night who had returned from his rounds, and seeing, as he approached, that some one was in the passage, had descended the steps cautiously, to take the supposed eave-dropper or outcast by surprise.

66 Your business here ?"

“ I have come here for help, sir," was the answer of the trembling maid.

" Why did you stand here ?"
66 I did not know which way to go.”

6 So this is your first visit to the watch-house? Come then! I'll introduce you to a plenty of good company."

Saying this he took her by the arm and led her forward to the passage from which she had heard the sound of voices. Into this, still dari er than the place from which they came, he turned and pressed forward.

Emma involuntarily shrunk, and held back, exclaiming, “ Heaven protect me! What a place is this !"

“Don't be alarmed, miss," said her conductor, seemingly impressed favourably by her words and voice, “ don't be alarmed—if you want help, this is the place—I'll speak to the captain.”

They reached a door, which he opened, and Emma found herself in an apartment lighted, by what appeared from the contrast, a noon-day blaze. Her conductor led her in, and leaving her to herself while he spoke to the captain, she gazed in amazement at a scene so utterly strange as that which surrounded her."

The place in which she stood, (environed by figures, some sitting, but most stretched upon benches ; some talking, others sleeping) was separated by gratings from an inner apartment, and, as her quick eye fell upon the prison-like bars, she saw within a motley crowd of every colour—rags and filth were commingled with dresses of pretension, and here and there flaring female ornaments, with feathers and silks, caught her bewildered sight. Curiosity, to see what new figure, what additional wretch, had been ushered in by the watchman, to be thrust into the den of misery as a companion to themselves, brought many to the bars of their cage ; and male and female, black and white visages, appeared, with eyes staring at the innocent and almost bewildered girl, like hideous phantasms in a feverish dream. The contrast formed by the flaunting finery of some females who had been hurried hither from a fancy-ball, with the forlorn expression of their faces, the degraded situation, and the squalid appearance of their companions, seemed to realize the fantastic incongruities of a vision in disturbed sleep. Close to the distorted and bloated countenance of an enraged drunkard might be seen the pale face of a wretched woman, whose tears had washed away the artificial colouring meant to represent health, and exhibited the wreck of beauty, a

Émma turned away her eyes in disgust from the spectrelike scene, which, at first, attracted them by the fascination of strangeness—a novelty beyond imagining. After the first


prey to disease.



glare of the room on entering, the light became dim, the air thick and offensive to the senses. The objects were becoming indistinct-a sickening oppression was stealing over the astonished maiden, when she was aroused by a voice demanding from her conductor, who she was ? and for what offence she was brought there?

She lifted her eyes and turning her head saw the captain of the watch, whose slumbers had been broken by the person who introduced her. The captain was at this moment sitting by the fire on the bench which had been his bed : his head was bound with a bandana handkerchief, and a blanket was partly wrapt around him. Emma's conductor was still explaining that she was not constrained to visit their place of guard, and came for assistance; but as the captain's words seemed to confound her with the criminals or rioters of the night, they awakened her energies. She advanced towards him.

I am not brought here against my will. I come to demand assistance.” The beautiful girl seemed at once restored to the possession of her courage and the exercise of her clear intellect. “ I coine for help to save a gentleman from death. There is not a moment to be lost-let me conduct some of the watch to his assistance. In a few moments he may be a frozen corpse—he is perishing in the street-helpless—in this killing—this dreadful night!”

As she spoke her mantle fell back from her head, for she had thrown it over her quilted hood as a further protection from the storm. The hood slipt off with it, and her face, beaming beauty, benevolence, and intelligence, appeared glowing in the full light of the fire : the comb,

which alone sustained the profusion of silken locks, lost its hold as the covering of her head was thrown off, and her long clustering tresses rolled over her slender form in luxuriant confusion.

The captain sprung upon his feet with intent to apologise for the rough reception she had met: he was prevented by one of his subordinates, who had, like himself, been slumbering at the fire; but, as if roused by the last words of Emma, started up-gazed at the unusual apparition, and cried out, as he advanced towards her, “ good heavens, Emma Portland! what? what brings you here?” She was employed in adjusting her dress when she heard this well known voice, and looking up beheld Henry Johnson!


A water-drinker and a wine-bibber in a snow-storm.

" Here is every thing advantageous to life.”

True : save means to live."

“ So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet."--Shakspeare.

When cold winter splits the rocks in twain, And ice the running rivers did restrain.”—Cowley. "But here on earth the guilty have in view

The mighty pains to mighty mischiefs due.--Dryden. "In whatsoever character

The book of fate is writ;

'Tis well we understand not it.”--Cowley. " In struggling with misfortunes

Lies the true proof of virtue.”Shakspeare.
“ Good fortune that comes seldom,

Comes most welcome.”Dryden.
"Now some men creep in skittish fortune's hall,
While others play the idiot in her eyes.”

Sometimes we are devils to ourselves,
When we will tempt the frailty of our powers.”
“He that wants money, means, and content, wants three good

* Credit it me, friend, it hath been ever thus,

Since the ark rested on Mount Ararat,
False man hath sworn, and woman hath believed -
Repented and reproach'd, and then believed once more."

Walter Scott.

We have seen that Spiffard, his wife, and her mother, had gone to their several duties at the theatre before Emma Portland, accompanied by black Rachel, braved the “ peltings of the pitiless storm” on her errand of charity: it was later than usual before they returned home, and found that the adventurous girl, beloved most sincerely by at least two of the

« ZurückWeiter »