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little point, which it was most certain they never would. Three weeks were occupied in trying to get over this difficulty, when I returned, leaving it to be got over by the lawyers.
Ďuring my absence, brief as it was, Hercules Huncks had paid the debt of nature. He was in full health when I went away—when came back, he had been ten days in his grave. Such is man! Doctors always know what kills us; but it may seem strange, that they cannot sometimes turn their knowledge to account, by not always letting us be killed. But they will say perhaps, how can they certainly know what will kill us, till we are certainly dead ? Poor Hercules Huncks, according to the doctor, died of an enlargement of the heart. One guess is as good as another in these cases.
He was ill only three days, and from the first, appeared to be aware of what the issue would be; a mysterious foreknowledge, which frequently, (perhaps always) comes with the sickness, that is, in very truth, to give us to the worm. It is easy to believe that that sickness is different to any we we may have suffered before, because the work it has to perform is so different; and why may it not convey to the spirit that is summoned, a presaging sentiment of its office ?
I heard with surprise and regret, that he repeatedly expressed a strong desire to see me, and that he inquired very anxiously whether it was probable I should soon return. With still greater surprise I learned, that he had left a sealed packet, with strict injunctions, that if anything prevented its being delivered into my hands, it should be committed to the flames. The person to whom he entrusted it was the worthy rector of
after receiving from him the sacrament.
The contents of this packet I am now about to communicate to the reader. With what emotions others may peruse them, I know not. My own I shall not attempt to describe. They were as follow :
“ Do you remember, in our last conversation,-(our last indeed--for I hear you are not expected to return this fortnight, and long before then life's idle scene will be over with me), that you spoke of the tale of horror which a suicide would have to tell, were it possible for him to return? You little knew that you were flinging open the portals of a scene, from which my spirit recoiled with agony. You little knew that you were breathing that half wish into the ears of one, who had gone through all of bodily pang, all of mental anguish, which the suicide can feel! I would fain have told you so then, but a convulsive pressure that seemed to grasp my throat, denied me all power of utterance; and the next day, when I was calmer, and could have spoken, you were gone, and now- -I have a warning within which tells me I must not hope to see you again.
“ Well then-lét my pen do the office of my tongue; not to gratify your curiosity, if any such curiosity you have, but to unburthen my own heart. I have lived to know that I committed an enormous crime-to repent me of it—and to feel, that false pride should not prevent me from humbling myself even before man, by the confession. You can never know what it has cost me to trace this picture, and when it lies before you, I shall be indifferent to the feelings with which, perhaps, you may contemplate it.
“ In my youth, I was proud of damnation. I gloried in mine own perdition! Í lived among those who robbed me of God—and gave me,-what else indeed could they give me ?-nothing but a passport to burning hell in return. I learned to be an atheist, and believed I had become a philosopher-a man of superior mind, who had discarded vulgar prejudices, and dared to think for himself. Miserable creed ! which annihilates happiness in this world, while it forbids us to hope for it in the next. I did not grope long in this benighted state ; hut long enough to shew its fruits.
" I can easily imagine that the vague contemplation of suicide, as a last and certain refuge, where religion has but a slight hold upon the mind, still more, where it has none, has presented itself to thousands, when afflictions have become intolerable, who yet could never see the moment that the burden of their sorrows was too great to be borne. But woe to the wretch who, at last, says to himself “ Now will I lay my burden down, for I faint, and can go no farther !'
“ I remember the first time I looked beyond the dark vista of my troubles, and saw, as it were, my grave opening its arms to me as a resting place. The world had frowned upon my hopes—had blighted them. I was in sore tribulation ; hemmed round with perplexities, and sick even to death, with long suffering. It was then, that, as I stood by the margin of a quiet lake, I looked upon its smooth surface, and thought how peaceful all beneath was! I cast a stone upon the waters. It sunk. The eye could scarcely discern where it sunk, so quickly all was calm and undisturbed again. Oh God! how I wished I were beside that stone! And how I pondered upon the one little step from where I stood --the plunge—the moment's strong buffeting with ihe wave-and then, the quiet sinking to the bottom, lifeless, and at rest! A dark, turbid, rolling river could not have whispered such a purpose to my heart. It would have been too much the image of what I was myself, to allure me to its troubled bosom. But this gentle, transparent lake, spread out in the solitude like an asylum for the wretched, seemed to woo me to its repose. I resisted the strong temptation only by the influence of that stronger principle, the mysterious love of life, which makes us unwilling to die, even when the chain that binds us to life is reduced to the solitary link of our prerogative to breathe.
“ I continued to breathe-but it was no more. I clung to a world which incessantly shook me off at each convulsive grasp. I was like the mariner who sees his bark drifting upon the rocks by the force of a current which he cannot stem. The hours of his safety are numbered, and he knows he must perish. It is well for them that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves on their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the middest of the stall,' to tell the forlorn of their race, that they may work, and eat, and live. To work, and eat, and live, are not the conditions of existence which will satisfy the desires of every heart. Man has his place in society, as the trees of the earth have theirs; and the towering cedar of the mountain will not flourish in the valley where the lowly shrub and the rank weed thrive. I felt I had my place, and my exclusion from it was dishonor.
“ I am giving you the picture of what I was ; unveiling the thoughts and feel ings of a period of life when youthful hopes, and the aspirings of young ambition, quicken the ardent pulses of generous enterprize : when what we aim at, is thai which we teach ourselves to call our right; and when less than all we seek, is too little to content our proud reckoning of the future. It is not
I have now learned to look upon the world as upon a crowded theatre, where he who has not secured his place must take the best he can find; or, as a much frequented thoroughfare, where all get along, because every one, in his turn, makes way for others.
“ I had been worn down by self-created disappointments when I made my last throw in the game of life. I lost it! Inquire not the stake for which I played. It matters not now. I lost it—and my resolution was taken: in no paroxysm of passion, in no frenzy of despair : but upon what I then called a calm, philosophical estimate of the value of life, in relation to its utility to myself and others. I placed before my mind every argument which it was at that moment capable of perceiving, in favor of a further struggle; and every argument against it. The former appeared to me as a grain of the vilest dust, in comparison with the riches of the east.
My resolution was confirmed. But oh! what a sickness of the heart came over me, in spite of myself, the moment I felt assured there was no tomorrow for me. Ii chanced, that as I returned home that night, I met a friend, whose cordial greeting smote my spirit like a malignant mockery.-His smile seemed the cold malice of a fiend, taunting me with his own better fortune; and his careless good night when we parted, pronounced as men
what I am.
bid good night who look to meet again, fell on my ear, like a voice from the tomb, proclaiming that I had done with time for this was my last night. In the chaos of my mind, I fancied he ought to have known what was about to happen, and have spared me such derision.
“When I closed the door of my chamber and bolted it—when I took from my pocket two loaded pistols, and laid them gently on the table—and when I seated myself beside that table calmnly and quietly-yes-calmly and quietly-for though each artery in my frame beat wildly, and though my brain seemed as if it were clasped in iron—and though my eyes burned in their sockets—there was not one tremulous pulse at my heart. When, I say, I thus sat, and gazed upon those little instruments of death which I had prepared—such visions grew upon my fancy as throng only about the dark confines of a future world. Do you ask their nature? The language of man was never framed to tell, what man himself can never know, till he has put off his mortal attributes ; which he does, the moment he vanquishes the fear of death; the moment he stands ready to welcome him. I speak not of that victory over death, which plucks out his sting by holy preparation for his coming, whensoever he may come; but of that stern victory over ourselves, which must precede a purpose such as mine was ; deliberately meditated and deliberately fulfilled; wherein the very intention is equivalent to the act, in all its mysterious operations upon the soul.
“ Lord God! what an utter oblivion of the past and of the present there was, as I placed the muzzle of one of the pistols in my mouth, clenching it involuntarily with my teeth, as if to steady its aim! My finger was on the trigger-and in my left hand I grasped the other. I cannot tell how long I paused : it might be a minute: it might be an hour: for time was already annihilated in my mind. I only know, that even in such a moment, there came over me the dread of hideous mutilation; the possible shattering of my head and face, without death, without the physical energy afterwards to complete my destruction; the image of a life saved, with a form Joathsome to myself and horrible to others. I can well remember, too, when this thought possessed me, with what an agony of caution I withdrew the weapon, lest mere accident should realize the thing I feared; but that danger past, I had no other fear. My nerves were strung for the shock itself. I had strained, as it were, my sinews to bear the sudden blow : and it called for no renewed effort to change the manner of receiving it.
“ It is not to inspire you with any false notion of my heroism, or of the stoical apathy of my feelings, that I mention the fact of my selecting from a case, containing several razors, the one which I considered best adapted for my purpose. I did do so: and I did so without perturbation. What followed, was one grim vision of blood and horror! All I distinctly recollect is, the pain of the first incision, and the desperate gash with which I frantically followed it up, from a desire to abridge my sufferings, and from a consciousness that I must go on. To me, too, it seemed as if the blade of the razor was a burning fire,--that it had buried itself in my neck,—and that I had not power to draw it out. Of my indistinct recollections, the most vivid are, my falling from my chair-as I fell, flashes of flame bursting from my eyes -a sense of weight on the top of my head, as if my skull were crushing in upon the brain
with ponderous bulk—the warm pool of my own blood in which I lay—and a noise in my ears like the booming of far off guns. There was a faint glimmering of consciousness pervading my mind of what I had done, not unmixed with shuddering anticipations of what was so soon to follow.
6 The rest was a blank! The grave itself cannot be more so. But it is no idle form of words to say, that language has no expression, no combination of phrases, which could even faintly shadow forth the marvellous images of two states of being-of death perfectly remembered—of returning life dimly comprehended—which reared themselves before my imagination as returning consciousness slowly revived. The doubts of what I was of where
I was--and the mingling, but undefined terrors of remorse and guilt, as I obscurely recalled the past, and yielded to the suggestions of the presentawakened emotions of such deep, such thrilling awe, that the memory of them has frequently come over me, like dim and fearful visions of another world. So, at least, I deemed them while this world had its place in my thoughts—but now, standing on its brink, and that OTHER world, whither Í am fast departing, revealed to me, the dream is over. Oh! the difference between life and death !—for death is not merely ceasing to breathe--not merely waiting till this vile shell drops off and frees the immortal soul—the difference of talking of the grave, when the pulse beats high, and all life's functions are healthfully at work, and looking beyond the grave, when every feeling tells us that a few hours, or days at most, will make us partakers of that great mystery, whose beginning was the first cry we uttered mingling with our mother's groans! I know that difference at this moment. The gates of death have been opened unto me--I have seen the doors of the shadow of death!'
• The world recedes; it disappears!
A NEW PLAN OF COTTAGE ALLOTMENTS.
To Geoffrey Oldcastle, Esq. SIR—In my last letter, I gave you a general sketch of a plan for providing cottages for the poor; but wishing to be brief, I did not enter into all the particulars of it.
One condition, on which the tenants should be entitled, at the end of the proposed term, to have the cottage, would be that he should not have received parish relief.
But it will be said this is a very hard condition; a man may tinued to pay his rent nearly to the end of his term, and may have fulfilled all the other conditions, and then by some illness, or mischance, be compelled to receive parish relief, and lose all the benefit. But I provide for this—and upon the great principle which I desire to promote, early and voluntary habits of foresight and econoiny:
It is to be remembered that my plan requires the objects of it to be young and unmarried men—that is, men in circumstances when, if they please, they can lay by a considerable portion of their earnings; and it also allows them to pay a larger sum than £6 per annum towards reducing the principal and interest of their cottage. On this surplus I would have a provision, that they might be allowed, in case of sickness or occasional pressure, to borrow money of the overseers. Thus they would have open to them two safeguards. First, by a proper exertion of economy and prudence a young man, having no family, might soon pay up a surplus, which would protect him against being thrown on parish relief, by an accidental want of employment.
Secondly-To guard against sickness, a very small monthly payment to the Kentish Friendly Association, established under the indefatigable and scientific exertions of the Rev. J. Hodgson, of Sittingbourne, would be sufficient. By a reference to the table of that Association, it will be seen that a young single man may assure, for support in sickness, by a sum which he could easily pay.
These two securities are completely within his reach, and if he will not take these precautions, and use that care and economy which are in his power, then he cannot complain if he should lose a benefit which he might have secured, and for which he is rendered unfit by his own imprudence.
I am, &c.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “ THE NO RT IIM EN."
Oh! there are Thoughts of fervent love! that thrill in youthful days,
Oh! there are thoughts of deadly hate! that cling around the soul,
Oh! there are thoughts of buoyant hope that deign with man to dwell,
Oh! there are tuovGuts of dark DESPAIR! when the seared heart is riven,
Oh! there are THOUGHTS of GLORY! when the warrior meets his foe,
Oh! there are THOUGHTS of LOVELINESS! uncalled, that come and go,