« السابقةمتابعة »
tiquity and eminent distinction, the post of honor was at first tendered to the Oldest Inhabitant. He, however, eschewed it, and requested the favor of a bowl of gruel at a side table, where he could refresh himself with a quiet nap. There was some little hesitation as to the next candidate, until Posterity took the Master Genius of our country by the hand and led him to the chair of state beneath the princely canopy. When once they beheld him in his true place, the company acknowledged the justice of the selection by a long thunder roll of vehement applause.
Then was served up a banquet, combining, if not all the delicacies of the season, yet all the rarities which careful purveyors had met with in the flesh, fish, and vegetable markets of the land of Nowhere. The bill of fare being unfortunately lost, we can only mention a phenix, roasted in its own flames, cold potted birds of paradise, ice creams from the Milky Way, and whip syllabubs and flummery from the Paradise of Fools, whereof there was a very great consumption. As for drinkables, the temperance people contented themselves with water as usual ; but it was the water of the Fountain of Youth ; the ladies sipped Nepenthe ; the lovelorn, the careworn, and the sorrow-stricken were supplied with brimming goblets of Lethe ; and it was shrewdly conjectured that a certain golden vase, from which only the more distinguished guests were invited to partake, contained nectar that had been mellowing ever since the days of classical mythology. The cloth being removed, the company, as usual, grew eloquent over their liquor and delivered themselves of a succession of brilliant speeches - the task of reporting which we resign to the more adequate ability of Counsellor Gill, whose indispensable coöperation the Man of Fancy had taken the precaution to secure.
When the festivity of the banquet was at its most ethereal point, the Clerk of the Weather was observed to steal from the table and thrust his head between the purple and golden curtains of one of the windows.
“My fellow-guests,” he remarked aloud, after carefully noting the signs of the night, “ I advise such of you as live at a distance to be going as soon as possible; for a thunder storm is certainly at hand.”
“Mercy on me!” cried Mother Carey, who had left her brood of chickens and come hither in gossamer drapery, with pink silk stockings. “How shall I ever get home?”
All now was confusion and hasty departure, with but little superfluous leavetaking. The Oldest Inhabitant, however, true to the rule of those long past days in which his courtesy had been studied, paused on the threshold of the meteor-lighted hall to express his vast satisfaction at the entertainment.
“ Never, within my memory,” observed the gracious old gentleman,“ has it been my good fortune to spend a pleasanter evening or in more select society.”
The wind here took his breath away, whirled his three-cornered hat into infinite space, and drowned what further compliments it had been his purpose to bestow. Many of the company had bespoken will-o'. the-wisps to convoy them home; and the host, in his general beneficence, had engaged the Man in the Moon, with an immense horn lantern, to be the guide of such desolate spinsters as could do no better for them.
selves. But a blast of the rising tempest blew out all their lights in the twinkling of an eye. How, in the darkness that ensued, the guests contrived to get back to earth, or whether the greater part of them contrived to get back at all, or are still wandering among clouds, mists, and puffs of tempestuous wind, bruised by the beams and rafters of the overthrown castle in the air, and deluded by all sorts of unrealities, are points that concern themselves much more than the writer or the public. People should think of these matters before they trust themselves on a pleasure party into the realm of Nowhere.
YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN.
· Young Goodman Brown came forth at sunset into the street of Salem village ; but put his head back, after crossing the threshold, to exchange a parting kiss with his young wife. And Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap while she called to Goodman Brown.
“ Dearest heart,” whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, “prithee put off your journey until sunrise and sleep in your own bed to-night. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she's afeard of herself sometimes. Pray tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year.”
“ My love and my Faith,” replied young Goodman Brown, “ of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee. My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back again, must needs be done 'twixt now and sunrise. What, my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou doubt me already, and we but three months married ? "
“ Then God bless you !” said Faith, with the pink ribbons ;“ and may you find all well when you come back.” “ Amen ! " cried Goodman Brown. "Say thy
prayers, dear Faith, and go to bed at dusk, and no harm will come to thee.”
So they parted; and the young man pursued his way until, being about to turn the corner by the meeting house, he looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him with a melancholy air, in spite of her pink ribbons.
“ Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought as she spoke there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done to-night. But no, no ; 'twould kill her to think it. Well, she's a blessed angel on earth ; and after this one night I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.”
With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be ; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead ; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.
6. There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree," said Goodman Brown to himself; and he glanced fear. fully behind him as he added, “ What if the devil him. self should be at my very elbow ! ” ,
His head being turned back, he passed a crook of the road, and, looking forward again, beheld the figure of a