« السابقةمتابعة »
Quanquam animus meminisse horret.
Though my shock'd soul recoils, my tongue shall tell.
THE following day, the abbé called upon his brother, and, with great complacency in his countenance, inquired after the officer's health. The innkeeper told him that the officer was well, and had set out early in the morning on his return to the army. "It is impossible," rejoined the abbé, with a smile. "That very officer will most assuredly dine with you to-day, and give you such a history of your son, as must be productive to you of a degree of joy, very little inferior to rapture. The landlord was astonished at these mysterious words, and asked his brother, if he was formerly acquainted with the gentleman. To which the minister answered in the affirmative. "Who is he," said the innkeeper, with great emotion. "The whole secret (returned the abbé) shall be revealed to you at dinner." Hereupon, the innholder appeared extremely agitated, and peremptorily asserted the departure of his guest at break of day.
"Indeed it cannot be so (replied the priest): there is a happiness in reserve for you, my dear brother, which my heart struggles to disclose; but the obligations I am under of secresy, will not permit me to unfold this interesting riddle."
The master of the inn, whose face abundantly bespoke the perturbation of his breast, stared upon the minister with a peculiar wildness in his eyes, and seemed entirely deprived of all power of utterance. "Ah! my brother (cried the abbé), this is too, too much. I cannot any longer keep you in this painful state of suspense. I beseech you to recollect the features of the military gentleman. Pray tell me, if you cannot trace out the lineaments of your darling son, under the badge of distinguished merit." This ecclaircissement had nearly proved fatal to the landlord, who turned very pale, trembled in every joint, and immediately sunk down in a swoon. The aged churchman blamed himself for the temerity of his proceedings, and wished a thousand times that he had suppressed this affecting part of his narrative. But, since he could not retract his story, he cherished hopes, that a fuller explanation of every circumstance might deliver his brother's mind from this distraction of contending passions. Wherefore, when the unhappy man was recovered from his
fits, the minister tenderly entreated him to compose the turbulency of his thoughts; and further informed him, that his son, by a late signal display of valour, had been rewarded with a hundred louis-d'ors and a lieutenancy. That the dear youth, noticing the officious assiduity of his father, presently inferred from thence his parent's ignorance of him; now disguised, as it were, by his improved stature, and the superiority of his attire. That, pleased with this uncommon adventure, he had apprised his friends thereof, and appointed them to dine with him, that they might share the joys of the family upon his discovery of himself. To all which the abbé subjoined, that this worthy and amiable child had brought his indigent father a purse of money, to obviate his present necessities, and to prevent future anxieties.
Scarce had the uncle mentioned this superlative instance of filial goodness, before the innkeeper dropped to the ground, writhed with frightful convulsions, while the ecclesiastic looked with inconceivable surprise upon the servants, who stood speechless round their seemingly dying master. Amidst these scenes of confusion, the maid recollected, that there was a phial of hartshorn-drops in a closet pertaining to the bed-chamber where the officer had lain the pre
ceding night. As she was running up stairs for the medicine, she was pursued by the minister, who endeavoured to arrest her in her flight, that he might learn from her, if it was possible, the true cause of these strange and formidable
With thoughts more disturbed and embroiled than the stormy deep, he entered the chamber; where, finding that his strength and spirits were hastily departing from him, he threw himself upon a couch, which was accidentally at hand. After he had continued a few minutes in this fainting state, he opened his eyes, and thought that he saw something like a human form lying under the bed. The figure powerfully attracted his sight for a while. But, when the abbé had gazed long enough to ascertain the reality of the object, he started up from his recumbent posture, and collecting all his shattered powers into one effort, eagerly dragged the body from its concealment. To his inexpressible consternation, horror, and anguish, the mangled corpse proved to be the remains of the military stranger. The pious clergyman, penetrated through very soul at this spectacle, fetched a deep groan, and instantly fell dead upon his murdered nephew.
By this time the innholder was restored from
those dreadful contorsions, which had threatened his immediate dissolution. Raising himself out of the chair in which his domestics had seated him, he desired to be taken before a ma
gistrate, to whom he confessed every particular of this bloody tragedy. It seemed, that the eldest son was the first who proposed the destruction of the officer. The father heard the overtures with detestation; but the young man, having bound himself in a joint bond with his father for the payment of a large sum of money, and hourly expecting his parent and himself to be thrown into a jail, urged the necessity of making the soldier's purse their own property, as the only expedient to secure themselves from the miseries of confinement. The father warmly remonstrated against the pursuit of such impious measures; and likewise observed, that the guilt thereof would be highly inflamed by the extra ́ordinary confidence which his guest had reposed in him. The son intimated that he thought it cruel usage to be made subject to the penalties of a bond, for which he had received no pecuniary consideration, and which he had entered into upon no other motive than the preservation of his father from the resentment of his creditors. The parent bewailed their complicated misfortunes; but persisted in suffering the ut