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I know not what others may think of this letter; but, " to my mind," a more interesting document can scarcely be imagined, whether we consider who the writer was, the simplicity of its style, or the singular error which it rectifies. For, be it observed, the question as to the place where the two illustrious commanders met, is not left to be decided by the comparative probabilities of conflicting testimonies; it is not which is the more likely to be correct-General Gneisenau, who says they met at La Belle Alliance, and that Blucher wished the battle to be called, The Battle of La Belle Alliance, in commemoration of the place of meeting, and of the alliance which subsisted between the English and Prussian nations, &c. (for this, I take it, is the legitimate inference from Gneisenau's denominating the occurrence 66 a happy chance;") or the Duke of Wellington, who says they met at Genappe, a place five or six miles in advance of La Belle Alliance. "It could not be otherwise," observes his Grace. And, truth to say, it could not; for any one, inspecting a correct plan of the battle, and of the operations, will at once see the impossibility. To such as have not a plan before them, or a distinct recollection of localities, this impossibility may be made familiar by supposing London the scene of action, Bonaparte retreating by Cheapside and Whitechapel, Wellington and Blucher pursuing by Fleet Street and Holborn, and then adding, that in the pursuit, they met by "happy chance" at Charing Cross!
But such is the uncertainty of human testimony, even where there exists no conceivable motive to disguise the truth. Nor was this the only lesson of the kind which my endeavours to verify facts by the authority of living witnesses, taught me. I had personal communications with several individuals who held distinguished posts during that memorable day. They all gave me their own observations of particular transactions, in which they bore a part; they all spoke of what they all saw, and of identical occurrences; but they all differed from each other. I especially remember receiving from three general officers the exact time at which the battle began, each of them remarking to me, that he pulled out his watch to note the very minute. There was only the difference of an hour and a half between the three accounts! Yet, who would impeach or question their veracity? They scrupulously asserted what they thoroughly believed; but what they believed, was not what had happened. Well might Sir Walter Raleigh cast the MS. of his second volume of the History of the World, just as he had finished it, into the fire, and exclaim, "Here am I, pretending to describe accurately what took place three thousand years ago, and I cannot get at the precise truth of a brawl which happened under my own window only ten minutes since!" Voltaire's History of Charles XII., too, is probably not a whit the less instructive or authentic, because, when some important documents that were in the state archives at Stockholm, and for which he had applied, were transmitted after considerable delay, he sent them back unopened, observing, 'that he had already finished that part of his history."
But, to return to my illustrious correspondent. My communications with his Grace did not terminate here, though here must terminate the use I feel myself at liberty to make of them. I shall only add one curious little document, which it will be impossible to read without wishing that the calculation it exhibits had been realised; for then, though the victory at Waterloo could not have been more complete, but might, perhaps, have been less miraculous, it would doubtless have been achieved with less sacrifice of human life. The document in question is a little slip of paper, written in his Grace's own hand, and delivered by him to the Secretary of the CommissaryGeneral, previously to the battle of Waterloo. It will be seen that it is a rough estimate of the force with which his Grace expected he should be able to take the field against Napoleon. With what a vastly inferior force he actually took it, is well known. It will also be seen, that the sum-total is wrong, arising from his Grace having altered the amount of the Hanoverian force from 24,600 to 25,600, after casting up the several items, for the ori
ginal figures are visible through those that were subsequently written. The following is the document:
“British, including German Legion
[Itisfit I should apprize the reader, that the preceding article appeared, about three or four years ago, in Blackwood's Magazine, where it formed the first of an intended series of articles, under the title of "Sorting my Letters and Papers." Other avocations interfering, the series was never continued: but, as I now propose to go on with it in the CANTERBURY MAGAZINE, it becomes necessary, in order that it may be complete, to reprint the above. The intrinsic value and interest, however, of the Duke of Wellington's letters may well supersede either explanation or apology.-GEOFFREY OLDCASTLE.]
VISITS FROM THE OTHER WOrld.
(The Skeleton Finger concluded.)
"But are there ghosts?" exclaimed a timid maid;
My father tells me not to be afraid;
He cries, when buried, we are safe enough,
And calls such stories execrable stuff."
"Your father, child," the former lady cried,
"Has learning much, but he has too much pride;
What things in nature are impossible
Or out of nature, or to prove to whom,
Or for what purposes, a ghost may come :
It may not be intelligence to bring,
But to keep up a notion of the thing:
And though from one such fact there may arise,
A hundred wild improbabilities,
Yet, had there never been the truth, I say,
The lies themselves had died away."
"True," said a friend; " Heaven, doubtless, may dispense
A kind of dark and clouded evidence;
God has not promised that he will not send
A spirit freed to either foe or friend;
He may such proof, and only such bestow,
Though we the certain truth can never know;
And therefore, though such floating stories bring
No strong or certain vouchers of the thing,
Still would I not, presuming, pass my word,
That all such tales were groundless or absurd."-CRABBE.
"As I was saying," continued Mrs. Trevanion, "I have reason to remember what happened after their inarriage. Poor Jane Acheson, or Jane Oliver rather, for so she had a right to be called, came to me one Sabbath morning, wringing her hands, and weeping most sorrowfully. What ails thee, girl?' said I, A bride but yesterday, as it were, and in tribulation?' Lord! Lord! what a tale she had to tell, and how it would grieve your hearts to hear it, if I could remember it."
"What!-and don't you remember it?" said Reginald, in a tone of impatient disappointment.
"Yes, yes, well enough in the main, but not just the full particulars as Jane related them," replied Mrs. Trevanion. "However, I recollect well enough, how the poor thing began, after I had made her take a little cherry brandy to cheer her. She said she was sitting with Robert, the evening before, when all at once he was seized with a burning pain in his side, as if it had been whipped with nettles, or stabbed with needles; and then he began to rave about apparitions which presented themselves and immediately vanished. Then he declared he saw a table spread with dainties, and heard a voice, as if from under the table, crying- Eat-eat-and take thy fill." "He must have been just mad, crazed, out of his wits," observed Mr. Pendlebury.
"He was just no such thing," replied Mrs. Trevanion; and then added, slowly and solemnly-"I'll tell you what he was-he was just possessed-Satan had gotten hold of him; and all the prayers and fastings of many godly ministers, and divers other pious people, myself among them, could never dispossess him. Oh! it was a terrible sight to see him!"
"It's getting very dark, Mrs. Trevanion," said Mr. Pendlebury. "Hadn't we better have lights?"
"We can hear, if we can't see," observed Hoodless Oliver, sullenly," and I suppose we are not afraid of my brother coming to tell his own story." "There's nothing to be afraid of," said Margaret Glenluce, in a whisper"but we may as well have candles," and she touched her brother's elbow, to ring the bell; which he would have done, only Hoodless Oliver was nearer to it than himself.
"You were saying it was a terrible sight to see him," said Mr. Pendlebury, addressing Mrs. Trevanion, when the candles were brought. "What was it like?"
"Like nothing I had ever seen before, or have ever seen since," replied Mrs. Trevanion, shaking her head. "There, he was, with six strong men trying to hold him down, while he kept screaming out-have done! have done!' yet his lips never moved, and his tongue was rolled into a lump within his mouth, and his eyeballs turned back, so that he seemed stark blind. Presently, he lay quite still, as if he were dead; and then, all at once, his body raised itself without its natural use of arms and legs, bearing up with it those who leaned on him to hold him. In this state he continued eleven days; and on the elventh day died horribly, in the gripe of the Evil One."
“Pish!" exclaimed Hoodless Oliver," my brother Robert had a brain fever, and died of that; nothing else."
"The Lord forgive thee, Hoodless!" said Mrs. Trevanion,-" the Lord forgive thee! you were gone on a voyage to Lisbon, and did not see him. I did. Besides, did not the minister hold parley with Satan? And did not Satan answer him in my hearing?"
"Is it possible !" exclaimed Mr. Pendlebury.
"It is not only possible, but the fact," replied the old lady; " for I could tell you not only what the minister said, but what Satan said in reply; and this was what came of playing wag with the apparition of his first wife." "It is a foolish piece of presumption," said Mr. Pendlebury, "to despise, or trifle with, warnings thus conveyed."
"There can be no manner of doubt," observed Mr. Randall, a grey diminutive old man, with a thin voice, sharp features, and dull grey eyes deep seated beneath a pair of beetling eye-brows, "there can be no manner of doubt, that a mysterious intercourse does exist between us and the creatures of an invisible world; but the manner in which it is permitted to be carried on, is as infinitely various as are the purposes for which it is per mitted. I remember a beautiful instance of this communion of spiritual with mortal natures, related to me by a bishop of the reformed church, when I was in Germany, five and thirty years ago. I remember, too, there were several circumstances which, at the time, made me suspect the narrator was the object of his own story; but he never confessed as much. I will
give it, as nearly as I can, in his own words. A great divine,' said he, once prayed to God, for the space of eight years, that it might be his good pleasure to direct him to a man who could teach him the true way to virtue. At length, when he was one day praying fervently, he heard a voice, which seemed to come from heaven, saying to him, Go unto such a church porch, and there shalt thou see a man who will instruct thee in spiritual life. Immediately, he rose from his knees, and, walking towards the church, he saw a poor beggar, whose feet were filthy and foul, and all naked, and whose clothes were not worth a halfpenny, whom he thus saluted. God give thee good morrow, my friend. The poor man answered, Sir, I do not remember that I ever had an evil morrow. The divine then said, God give you a good and happy life. Wherefore say you that, quoth the beggar, for I was never unhappy. The divine not understanding this, said to him again, God bless you, my friend, I pray you speak a little more clearly, for I know not what you mean. Then the poor beggar thus answered him. Good master Doctor, I shall do it willingly. You know you bad me good morrow; whereunto I replied, that I had never had any evil morrow; for, when I have hunger, I praise God; if it freeze, hail, rain, snow, be it fair or foul, I give praise to God; though I be poor, miserable, and despised of all, I give thanks unto God; and, therefore, I had never any evil morrow. You did wish unto me, also, a good and happy life; whereunto I made you answer, that I was never unfortunate, because I have learned always to resign myself unto the will of God, being certain, that all his works cannot but be very good: hence, all that happeneth to me, by his permission, be it prosperity or adversity, sweet or sour, I receive it as from his own hand, with great joy and comfort, and, therefore, I am never unfortunate, because I never desire anything but the good pleasure of God!' The doctor, learning from these answers, that a true resignation, accompanied with a profound humility of heart, is the shortest way to attain unto a love of God, asked the beggar, who it was that had brought him to so great perfection; and the beggar answered, it was silence; mine own high and lofty meditations, by means whereof I found out my God, who will comfort me, world without end.'
"That this supposed beggar," observed Mr. Randall, in conclusion," was no creature of earthly mould, but a phantom only, in the semblance of a man, sent by God himself, to reward the long and sincere supplications of a faithful servant, cannot, I think, be questioned."
"You will think it strange," said Hoodless Oliver," that I, who laugh at all these things, and do not believe there ever was, or ever will be, a ghostwhy do you pluck me thus by the coat?" he continued, addressing Reginald Glenluce, who sat next him.
"I plucked you not," replied Reginald.
Surely you, or some one did," observed Hoodless, "and with a stout pull, too.'
"On my troth," answered Reginald, "it was not I; and it could be no one else, for Margaret is sitting a good foot or two from thee."
"Well," rejoined Oliver, laughing, "then I suppose that was the freak of some goblin."
"Don't be fool-hardy and vain-glorious," said Mrs. Trevanion, looking round the room.
"As I was saying," continued Oliver, " you will think it strange, that I, who do not believe"
"Now, don't use those words again, or maybe you'll be again plucked by the coat," said Mrs. Trevanion interrupting him.
"Pooh!" exclaimed Hoodless.
"You may pooh, as much as you like Hoodless," continued the old lady, "but I warn you to be discreet. It is for your own good, aud all our comforts; for it is impossible to say what may happen if you are too dareful.” "Well," resumed Oliver, " then I will only say, that I once saw a ghost
myself, and a rare hurly burly he made before I saw him. Shall I tell you all about it?"
Margaret and her brother were for having it at once; but Mrs. Trevanion, Mr. Pendlebury, and Mr. Randall, were of opinion, that, as it was getting late, they would hear Oliver's story next morning at breakfast.
When they assembled at breakfast the following morning, they found an agreeable accession to their circle, in the persons of Eusebius Andrewe, Esq., a worshipful justice of the peace, verging upon seventy, and his maiden sister, Mrs. Penelope Andrewe, said by every one, save herself, to be older than her brother; cater cousins, both, of Mrs. Trevanion. The meal had scarcely begun, before Margaret Glenluce called upon Hoodless Oliver for his story, which led to inquiries on the part of Mr. Andrewe and his sister, that ended in a rather tedious recapitulation of the preceding evening's conversation, by Mrs. Trevanion.
"For my part, I am no believer in ghosts, witches, fairies, or anything of the kind," observed Mr. Andrewe," and yet, on two occasions in my life, I was sadly perplexed to account, in a natural way, for what happened to One of them, indeed, I have never been able to fathom; but the other, had a right merry ending to a fearful beginning."
It was unanimously resolved, Mr. Andrewe should have precedence of Hoodless Oliver. His worship cheerfully consented, (for he loved nothing better than talking about himself and his adventures, when a youngster) and began accordingly.
"About fifty years ago,” said he, “ when I had been settled some months in my chambers in Gray's Inn, up three pair of stairs, one night, coming home in the dark, I went to lay my gloves down upon the table in my study, when I felt a piece of money under my hand. It seemed to be a shilling; but, procuring a light, I found it was a guinea. I wondered how it came there, for I had no client, and moreover so few guineas of my own, at that time, that I could not have left it there myself. Well-about three weeks after, going again into my study in the dark, for precisely the same purpose, I found another guinea. Still, I could not unravel the mystery. However, not wishing to be negligent in the matter, I made it a rule every night to walk into my room after dark, and put my gloves upon the table; but I never found a guinea there when I went expecting to find one."
"No, no "-interrupted Mrs. Trevanion," leave the devil alone for watching his opportunities. He always lays his claws upon us at his own time.— What like were the guineas Mr. Andrewe? And did'nt you find them too
hot to hold ?"
"I think they must have been," answered Mr. Andrewe, with a sly look, " for I could never hold any of them above a day or two."
"Why, you surely did not go on picking upon the devil's temptations ?” said Mrs. Trevanion.
"No longer than he continued to put them in my way," replied Mr. Andrewe," which he did a third time, about a month after, when I found two guineas instead of one."
"Mr. Andrewe," said Mrs. Trevanion, "do you happen to remember how you became possessed of those gloves, or what kind of gloves they were? In my mind, they were the wicked cause of all."
“I think not, Mrs. Trevanion," rejoined Mr. Andrewe, "for I continued to wear them, and to lay them in the same place, long after I ceased to find any more guineas there, which I never did again, from the time I mentioned the circumstance to my aunt, Bridget Skipwith."
"Ah!" exclaimed Mrs. Trevanion-looking significantly at Mrs. Penelope our cousin Bridget is gone-gone to Heaven, I hope-but that black cat of her's, which she was so fond of, with a tail no longer than my little finger, and such eyes as I never saw a cat with before or since-God knows what that cat was! I only know, the day she died, it disappeared-mark that!"