« السابقةمتابعة »
they were deceitful. To crown all, there was a third timber, a movable post or beam, which, while the hindmost end of the fork was placed upon the pile or stool, was itself placed upright upon the fork, so as to hold the latter upon the stool at its bottom; while, at its top, it supported the slanting brick, or door, or lid, or cover, of the foul, misleading cave or chest! In a word, it was the whole mechanism, and most abhorred design, of this detested engine (too painfully successful, in my unfortunate case !) that when a deluded stranger, like myself, should but once have entered the horrid, gaping mouth (as I now, disabused, only too plainly understand it) of the devouring trap; then, the slightest touch of his gentle bill, or wings, or claws, disturbing the vile fork, should upset the post which rests upon it, and down come the slanting brick; and darkness, in the narrow and tomb-like precincts, envelope at once the fluttering bird, the falling timbers, and the insidious food! Think of me, then, as the victim of all this cunning, and a prisoner in this frightful dungeon!
After striking my wings, for a second or two, against the bricks and timbers, I sunk upon the earth, confounded, terrified, despairing, and too careless, for a long interval, of what was now to become of me, even to refold my wings against my sides. As to the loathsome food, the reader may well believe, that all of it lay beneath me, and around me, untouched and disregarded! What had I to do with food? Could food throw down my prison walls, or make them transparent to the light of heaven? No; I was plunged into a want more instantly pressing than that of food—the want of liberty! I thought of this only, and forgot, or refused to listen to, my stomach!
But when a quarter of an hour had passed over my head, and over the four bricks which enthralled and covered me; and when, now, my beating heart began to throb less violently, and less audibly, and to suffer, in the returning equilibrium of my faculties, the partial working of my brain; what perplexed me beyond measure was, to understand, both who could have built up this abominable bird-trap, and how it could have been built up at all, in the garden of Mr. Gubbins, and especially in that solitary and sequestered part of the garden in which I had found it, and which, for its sequestration and solitariness, had long been my sacred and my chosen haunt? I, by this time, had suffi. ciently recollected the figure of the trap, many of the likenesses of which I had seen in other gardens than that of Mr. Gubbins; though never, till now, had I been unwise enough to enter one! I had seen sparrows, and chaffinches, and greenfinches fall into such traps; I had seen boys build the traps; and had seen them carry off the prey; and I had heard Mr. Gubbins exclaim, time after time, against all such doings by his scholars, whom, besides, I knew that he prevented from intruding into that part of his garden, which, for this very reason, I considered my own purlieu and undisturbable retreat! How, then, could the odious brick-trap have been built in such a place ? Could it have been built for me? And by whom could it have been built ?-built, too, and baited with the delicious fare of Mrs. Gubbins's kitchen, and of Mary's platter ! Mr. Gubbins was a preacher against such acts; and. Mary and her mother were incapable of them by nature !
“ It is the boys, then,” cried I; “it is the boys,” and my heart fluttered anew ; " it is the rebellious urchins of the school-room that have done this thing;
that have stolen into the recesses of the most hospitable garden in the village; that have escaped the eye of the master, and bade defiance to his commandments; that have envied Mary Gubbins her little visitant, her little sprite; and Mrs. Gubbins her household deity; and Mr. Gubbins the ornament of his stone floor, and the recreation of his meal-times! They have stolen into the depths of his garden; they have built a decoy for his sacred Robin; they have profaned the good man's sanctuary; and ere long (perhaps warily, by night, or else tardily, to-morrow morning) they will lift the ponderous brick which keeps me here; clutch me, trembling and yet struggling, in their bold hands; bear me away to some frightful cage; treat me with a mockery of food; and see me pine and starve, and moping with closed eye, and with dirty, ruffled plumage, and day-sleeps; till, prone upon my back, I lie dead and uncomely, upon the gravel of the board! This is my fate! here ends my life of love, and peace, and music; I sing, now, my death song; I sing, now, my dirge and elegy! Farewell, my fellow Robins ! farewell, my mate and young ones! farewell, my loving mother! farewell, my brother songsters, to whom I have so often murmured forth my lays responsive ! farewell, ye lawns, and springs, and copses; ye val. leys and ye uplands ! farewell, ye juicy blackberries, ye scarlet haws; and you, ye blazing, fire-coloured hips! farewell, ye azure skies, thou western heaven, and that
" eastern gate, Where the great sun begins bis state !! Farewell, thou Burford Cottage, and ye hospitable providers of its table; farewell, ye tender children, Emily and Richard ; farewell the promise of your winter crumbs, and the sounds of your tinkling voices, as pleasing to my ears, as they have been emboldening. to my heart; and farewell, Mary and Mrs. and Mr. Gubbins, within whose own demesne I have fallen; fallen by traitorous hands, a victim to the contempt and contravention of all your precepts, cares, and anxious prohibitions !”
I should, perhaps, have added more to this long and deep lament, but that almost before I had uttered the concluding syllables which I here recite, my ears caught up the sounds of distant, but always approach. ing footsteps. They belonged but to a single pair of feet; and I thought I could distinguish, that, as they were not those of the light or hasty steps of youth, so, also, they were not the stealthy ones of him that, both as to place and purpose, is upon trespass, and fears either discovery or reproof: as for me, miserable and overwhelming as was my condition in the trap, I knew not whether to exult in the thought of a speedy deliverance from it, or to faint at the contemplation of the misery that was to follow; or, if I had room for choice, no time was left me for deliberation. The feet drew nearer and more near; the path received them heavier and more heavy; I heard the breathing of the fearful one that was moving toward me; the feet came close to the trap; the nearer sound of the breathing told me that my betrayer (or, could it be my deliverer ?) was stooping down to it; the upper brick was partly lifted; the light of heaven was partially admitted to me; I prepared to fly, to spring, to struggle, to escape to the woods and fields; but a large, strong hand encompassed my body, despised the bitings of my bill, compressed my wings, and held my feet; so that yielding, or rather powerless in limb, panting, breathless, but still unsubdued in spirit; I was lifted, motion
less, like a lock of wool, or like an apple, from the ground; helpless, but with a keen and investigating eye, to behold myself in the hand of—the venerable schoolmaster, Ephraim Gubbins !
New hopes, new doubts, new confusion, new perplexity! Was Mr. Gubbins, this time, my old friend, or my new foe? His right hand restrained me; it enclosed me: he did not let me fly; he did not launch me into the sweet evening air; yet he smoothed the feathers upon the crown of my head, with the fore finger of his left hand, carried my bill to his lips, and toiled to overcome my impatience of captivity, by addressing me, in soothing tones, with words of such equivocal meaning as these: “ Don't be frightened, my little fellow; no harm shall happen to thee; I would not hurt thee for the world. Wait but till to-morrow, and thee* shalt see, I warrant thee !"
“ Wait but till to-morrow !” “Wait only till tomorrow!” I was a prisoner, then, till the morrow, whatever after might befall me; I, that till this petrifying hour, bad known nothing but “ free Nature's grace,” and against whom no creature, and no thing, had ever “ barred the windows of the sky!” And what was Mr. Gubbins's purpose with me? Was he attempting, by smooth words, to reconcile me to enthralment ? Would he encage me, bind me, torture me; look on me, and see me die, a prisoner? “ Wait only till to-morrow!” Did he think, that from the experience of a night, even in the softest methods of confinement, I should renounce, contentedly, the use of my wings; and barter, without heart-breaking, the fields and gar
* Grammar would require thou for thee, in this part of Mr. Gubbins's discourse ; but it must have fallen under observation, that most of the theeing and thouing people among us, use thee in the nominative case, as well as in the others.