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duct of the son filled with grief the heart of the father : he sorrowed and sickened, and was at last confined to his room with wounded spirits and failing health. One night Master Harry, as we called him, gave a grand supper to all his reprobate friends; and when the orgies were at their height, it was noticed that there was one place at the table vacant.
"'I say,' roared one of the friends, shall we go up-stairs, and pull down the old man to give us a lecture on moral propriety? What say you, Harry, my boy?"
“With all my heart !' was the callous reply; and immediately a detachment of these ruffians rushed up to the sick man, dragged him down stairs, seated him at the head of the table, and then cried out,' Now, old fellow, give us a toast and a speech!'
“I shall never forget the agonised look of my old master, as he turned his countenance upon the gang that surrounded him : his eye became glassy, his lips quivered, and in the dim light his thin grey hair appeared like a halo round his brow; he , attempted to stand-he attempted to speak : but his limbs and his speech refused their office, and he fell back in his seat -dead!
“At the same moment some one put out the lights, and then followed a horrible uproar : that night my mistress's hair turned as white as snow, and Master Harry was found in the garden—a gibbering idiot!”
“ Mercy on us !” I exclaimed: “what did you do then ?”
“Do! why, after the funeral nearly everything was sold off, and the family removed to the Continent, whence they have never returned.”
This story was certainly not a good preparation for repose. As I walked through the long corridors to the chamber appointed for me, I felt as if I was surrounded with phantoms from another world. My shadow startled me, and as the light struggled through the mildewed atmosphere of the mansion it seemed to shape out the forms and features of the revellers, whose deeds had taken such possession of my mind.
The bed-room into which I now entered was old-fashioned and dreadfully still. I would have given a fortune for a good rousing familiar noise. A fire was burning in the grate, and tapestry lined the walls. The beans of the moon struggled in through the lattice windows apparently with the pleasant purpose of being my companions, and I felt soothed by the heavens thus sceking communion with a troubled soul.
I had not, in all probability, been asleep long when I was awakened by the noise of carriage-wheels coming up the avenue. At last I could distinctly hear the champing of the horses, the challenge of the grooms, the drawing up of the vehicle, the lowering of the steps, the thundering rap at the door, the descent of a visitor, and his entrance into the hall; the steps were then thrown up, the carriage wheeled round, and rapidly retreated down the avenue. I had scarcely done wondering at this arrival, when there came, in exactly the same manner, a second carriage, and a third, and a fourth, and then more, until I counted thirteen.
“Good Heaven !” I exclaimed, “what can be going forward in the house? Have the self-banished family returned unexpectedly, or is that old hag entertaining an assembly of guests ? There is something very strange occurring."
I then listened attentively, and I heard a human footstep approach my chamber, and a gentle tap at the door.
“Who is there ?” I asked in a faint tone.
“My master has returned and requests the honour of your company to supper," was the sepulchral reply.
“Give my compliments to your master, and tell him that I have been in bed some time, and I beg him to excuse me to-night."
The messenger retired; but in a few minutes he returned with a heavier tread and a more determined rap.
“My master desires me to say that he cannot possibly accept any excuses for your absence from his table.”
I began to tremble violently, and to utter a variety of disconnected apologies. I begged the messenger to say I was ill, and I could not, therefore, pay proper respect to the “gratifying invitation.”
Again all was silent for a minute, and I began to chuckle over my security, when feet shod with iron thundered along the corridor, and the next moment my door was almost burst from its hinges by an appalling blow. The messenger rather howled. than spoke this summons :
“My master is enraged at your refusal, and if you do not follow me immediately down stairs you shall be dragged by force.”
I now knew that it was useless to trifle any longer with such a determined and horrible invitation, so I slunk out of bed, put on my clothes, opened my door, and followed my mysterious guide through the dark passages, led by the heavy sound of his iron heel and the occasional flash of his armour. I advanced into the hall in which I had sat and conversed that evening ; but how different was its appearance! It was brilliantly illuminated and superbly furnished. A long table was covered with numerous delicacies, and down each side sat a splendid array of guests, clothed in the richest attire, and bearing flashing coronets of gold on their heads. There was one seat vacant, behind which a man in armour, with a drawn sword in his hand, appeared to be attentively watching the lord of the banquet. I stood in mute astonishment, while a majestic individual rose, pointed to the unoccupied chair, and, with a frown of fearful import, exclaimed, “You have kept us waiting too long. Guard, take care that your prisoner does not leave us, meanwhile let him join in the feast until - "
I felt that a demoniac spell was fast closing over my spirit, and that my destruction was contemplated. At that moment , a spark of courage flashed into my heart, and I said, “With all
deference to this august company, I cannot sit down to any entertainment without first saying grace; you must, therefore, permit me to ask a blessing.” As I spoke a kind of shuddering silence fell upon the assembly; the lights became paler, and each guest seemed to quiver with an evanescent transparency. I began, “ WE BESEECH THEE, O God! - " but before I could finish the sentence the scene vanished. . * * * * *
“ Here have I been rapping at your door for the last ten minutes ; it is quite time to get up.”
This expostulation proceeded from the hostess of HARTSORE Hall, and effectually awakened me. I rubbed my eyes, and very soon satisfied myself that a frightful dream had been playing its tricks in my brain. Ill and out of spirits I returned home immediately, and I have never since ventured on any quixotic expeditions. “My ministry of horrors” was effectually arrested by an incident in itself a horror. This adventure was thus not without its influence on my future life, for, while it fortified my disposition to look to Heaven for aid against all perils, it has taught me to be contented with the quiet practice of my social duties, and I now steadfastly believe that home is the chief sphere for the inculcation of our true precepts and the evidence of our good example. Virtue is better promoted by a simple and earnest demeanour than by thundering forth threatening theories and oracular vengeance.
BY ROBERT SNOW, ESQ.
The Child paced through the grey churchyard,
The Child here caught his Mother's eye;