Melmoth The Wanderer

John Melmoth, student at Trinity College, Dublin, having journeyed

to County Wicklow for attendance at the deathbed of his miserly

uncle, finds the old man, even in his last moments, tortured by

avarice, and by suspicion of all around him. He whispers to John:

"I want a glass of wine, it would keep me alive for some hours, but

there is not one I can trust to get it for me,--they'd steal a

bottle, and ruin me." John was greatly shocked. "Sir, for God's

sake, let ME get a glass of wine for you." "Do you know where?"

said the old man, with an expression in his face John could not

understand. "No, Sir; you know I have been rather a stranger here,

Sir." "Take this key," said old Melmoth, after a violent spasm;

"take this key, there is wine in that closet,--Madeira. I always

told them there was nothing there, but they did not believe me, or

I should not have been robbed as I have been. At one time I said

it was whisky, and then I fared worse than ever, for they drank

twice as much of it."

John took the key from his uncle's hand; the dying man pressed it

as he did so, and John, interpreting this as a mark of kindness,

returned the pressure. He was undeceived by the whisper that

followed,--"John, my lad, don't drink any of that wine while you

are there." "Good God!" said John, indignantly throwing the key on

the bed; then, recollecting that the miserable being before him was

no object of resentment, he gave the promise required, and entered

the closet, which no foot but that of old Melmoth had entered for

nearly sixty years. He had some difficulty in finding out the

wine, and indeed stayed long enough to justify his uncle's

suspicions,--but his mind was agitated, and his hand unsteady. He

could not but remark his uncle's extraordinary look, that had the

ghastliness of fear superadded to that of death, as he gave him

permission to enter his closet. He could not but see the looks of

horror which the women exchanged as he approached it. And,

finally, when he was in it, his memory was malicious enough to

suggest some faint traces of a story, too horrible for imagination,

connected with it. He remembered in one moment most distinctly,

that no one but his uncle had ever been known to enter it for many


Before he quitted it, he held up the dim light, and looked around

him with a mixture of terror and curiosity. There was a great deal

of decayed and useless lumber, such as might be supposed to be

heaped up to rot in a miser's closet; but John's eyes were in a

moment, and as if by magic, riveted on a portrait that hung on the

wall, and appeared, even to his untaught eye, far superior to the

tribe of family pictures that are left to molder on the walls of a

family mansion. It represented a man of middle age. There was

nothing remarkable in the costume, or in the countenance, but THE

EYES, John felt, were such as one feels they wish they had never

seen, and feels they can never forget. Had he been acquainted with

the poetry of Southey, he might have often exclaimed in his after-


"Only the eyes had life,

They gleamed with demon light."--THALABA.

From an impulse equally resistless and painful, he approached the

portrait, held the candle toward it, and could distinguish the

words on the border of the painting,--Jno. Melmoth, anno 1646.

John was neither timid by nature, nor nervous by constitution, nor

superstitious from habit, yet he continued to gaze in stupid horror

on this singular picture, till, aroused by his uncle's cough, he

hurried into his room. The old man swallowed the wine. He

appeared a little revived; it was long since he had tasted such a

cordial,--his heart appeared to expand to a momentary confidence.

"John, what did you see in that room?" "Nothing, Sir." "That's a

lie; everyone wants to cheat or to rob me." "Sir, I don't want to

do either." "Well, what did you see that you--you took notice of?"

"Only a picture, Sir." "A picture, Sir!--the original is still

alive." John, though under the impression of his recent feelings,

could not but look incredulous. "John," whispered his uncle;--

"John, they say I am dying of this and that; and one says it is for

want of nourishment, and one says it is for want of medicine,--but,

John," and his face looked hideously ghastly, "I am dying of a

fright. That man," and he extended his meager arm toward the

closet, as if he was pointing to a living being; "that man, I have

good reason to know, is alive still." "How is that possible, Sir?"

said John involuntarily, "the date on the picture is 1646." "You

have seen it,--you have noticed it," said his uncle. "Well,"--he

rocked and nodded on his bolster for a moment, then, grasping

John's hand with an unutterable look, he exclaimed, "You will see

him again, he is alive." Then, sinking back on his bolster, he

fell into a kind of sleep or stupor, his eyes still open, and fixed

on John.

The house was now perfectly silent, and John had time and space for

reflection. More thoughts came crowding on him than he wished to

welcome, but they would not be repulsed. He thought of his uncle's

habits and character, turned the matter over and over again in his

mind, and he said to himself, "The last man on earth to be

superstitious. He never thought of anything but the price of

stocks, and the rate of exchange, and my college expenses, that

hung heavier at his heart than all; and such a man to die of a

fright,--a ridiculous fright, that a man living 150 years ago is

alive still, and yet--he is dying." John paused, for facts will

confute the most stubborn logician. "With all his hardness of

mind, and of heart, he is dying of a fright. I heard it in the

kitchen, I have heard it from himself,--he could not be deceived.

If I had ever heard he was nervous, or fanciful, or superstitious,

but a character so contrary to all these impressions;--a man that,

as poor Butler says, in his 'Remains of the Antiquarian,' would

have 'sold Christ over again for the numerical piece of silver

which Judas got for him,'--such a man to die of fear! Yet he IS

dying," said John, glancing his fearful eye on the contracted

nostril, the glazed eye, the drooping jaw, the whole horrible

apparatus of the facies Hippocraticae displayed, and soon to cease

its display.

Old Melmoth at this moment seemed to be in a deep stupor; his eyes

lost that little expression they had before, and his hands, that

had convulsively been catching at the blankets, let go their short

and quivering grasp, and lay extended on the bed like the claws of

some bird that had died of hunger,--so meager, so yellow, so

spread. John, unaccustomed to the sight of death, believed this to

be only a sign that he was going to sleep; and, urged by an impulse

for which he did not attempt to account to himself, caught up the

miserable light, and once more ventured into the forbidden room,--

the BLUE CHAMBER of the dwelling. The motion roused the dying

man;--he sat bolt upright in his bed. This John could not see, for

he was now in the closet; but he heard the groan, or rather the

choked and gurgling rattle of the throat, that announces the

horrible conflict between muscular and mental convulsion. He

started, turned away; but, as he turned away, he thought he saw the

eyes of the portrait, on which his own was fixed, MOVE, and hurried

back to his uncle's bedside.

Old Melmoth died in the course of that night, and died as he had

lived, in a kind of avaricious delirium. John could not have

imagined a scene so horrible as his last hours presented. He

cursed and blasphemed about three halfpence, missing, as he said,

some weeks before, in an account of change with his groom, about

hay to a starved horse that he kept. Then he grasped John's hand,

and asked him to give him the sacrament. "If I send to the

clergyman, he will charge me something for it, which I cannot pay,--

I cannot. They say I am rich,--look at this blanket;--but I would

not mind that, if I could save my soul." And, raving, he added,

"Indeed, Doctor, I am a very poor man. I never troubled a

clergyman before, and all I want is, that you will grant me two

trifling requests, very little matters in your way,--save my soul,

and (whispering) make interest to get me a parish coffin,--I have

not enough left to bury me. I always told everyone I was poor, but

the more I told them so, the less they believed me."

John, greatly shocked, retired from the bedside, and sat down in a

distant corner of the room. The women were again in the room,

which was very dark. Melmoth was silent from exhaustion, and there

was a deathlike pause for some time. At this moment John saw the

door open, and a figure appear at it, who looked round the room,

and then quietly and deliberately retired, but not before John had

discovered in his face the living original of the portrait. His

first impulse was to utter an exclamation of terror, but his breath

felt stopped. He was then rising to pursue the figure, but a

moment's reflection checked him. What could be more absurd, than

to be alarmed or amazed at a resemblance between a living man and

the portrait of a dead one! The likeness was doubtless strong

enough to strike him even in that darkened room, but it was

doubtless only a likeness; and though it might be imposing enough

to terrify an old man of gloomy and retired habits, and with a

broken constitution, John resolved it should not produce the same

effect on him.

But while he was applauding himself for this resolution, the door

opened, and the figure appeared at it, beckoning and nodding to

him, with a familiarity somewhat terrifying. John now started up,

determined to pursue it; but the pursuit was stopped by the weak

but shrill cries of his uncle, who was struggling at once with the

agonies of death and his housekeeper. The poor woman, anxious for

her master's reputation and her own, was trying to put on him a

clean shirt and nightcap, and Melmoth, who had just sensation

enough to perceive they were taking something from him, continued

exclaiming feebly, "They are robbing me,--robbing me in my last

moments,--robbing a dying man. John, won't you assist me,--I shall

die a beggar; they are taking my last shirt,--I shall die a

beggar."--And the miser died.

. . . . .

A few days after the funeral, the will was opened before proper

witnesses, and John was found to be left sole heir to his uncle's

property, which, though originally moderate, had, by his grasping

habits, and parsimonious life, become very considerable.

As the attorney who read the will concluded, he added, "There are

some words here, at the corner of the parchment, which do not

appear to be part of the will, as they are neither in the form of a

codicil, nor is the signature of the testator affixed to them; but,

to the best of my belief, they are in the handwriting of the

deceased." As he spoke he showed the lines to Melmoth, who

immediately recognized his uncle's hand (that perpendicular and

penurious hand, that seems determined to make the most of the very

paper, thriftily abridging every word, and leaving scarce an atom

of margin), and read, not without some emotion, the following

words: "I enjoin my nephew and heir, John Melmoth, to remove,

destroy, or cause to be destroyed, the portrait inscribed J.

Melmoth, 1646, hanging in my closet. I also enjoin him to search

for a manuscript, which I think he will find in the third and

lowest left-hand drawer of the mahogany chest standing under that

portrait,--it is among some papers of no value, such as manuscript

sermons, and pamphlets on the improvement of Ireland, and such

stuff; he will distinguish it by its being tied round with a black

tape, and the paper being very moldy and discolored. He may read

it if he will;--I think he had better not. At all events, I adjure

him, if there be any power in the adjuration of a dying man, to

burn it."

After reading this singular memorandum, the business of the meeting

was again resumed; and as old Melmoth's will was very clear and

legally worded, all was soon settled, the party dispersed, and John

Melmoth was left alone.

. . . . .

He resolutely entered the closet, shut the door, and proceeded to

search for the manuscript. It was soon found, for the directions

of old Melmoth were forcibly written, and strongly remembered. The

manuscript, old, tattered, and discolored, was taken from the very

drawer in which it was mentioned to be laid. Melmoth's hands felt

as cold as those of his dead uncle, when he drew the blotted pages

from their nook. He sat down to read,--there was a dead silence

through the house. Melmoth looked wistfully at the candles,

snuffed them, and still thought they looked dim, (perchance he

thought they burned blue, but such thought he kept to himself).

Certain it is, he often changed his posture, and would have changed

his chair, had there been more than one in the apartment.

He sank for a few moments into a fit of gloomy abstraction, till

the sound of the clock striking twelve made him start,--it was the

only sound he had heard for some hours, and the sounds produced by

inanimate things, while all living beings around are as dead, have

at such an hour an effect indescribably awful. John looked at his

manuscript with some reluctance, opened it, paused over the first

lines, and as the wind sighed round the desolate apartment, and the

rain pattered with a mournful sound against the dismantled window,

wished--what did he wish for?--he wished the sound of the wind less

dismal, and the dash of the rain less monotonous.--He may be

forgiven, it was past midnight, and there was not a human being

awake but himself within ten miles when he began to read.

. . . . .

The manuscript was discolored, obliterated, and mutilated beyond

any that had ever before exercised the patience of a reader.

Michaelis himself, scrutinizing into the pretended autograph of St.

Mark at Venice, never had a harder time of it.--Melmoth could make

out only a sentence here and there. The writer, it appeared, was

an Englishman of the name of Stanton, who had traveled abroad

shortly after the Restoration. Traveling was not then attended

with the facilities which modern improvement has introduced, and

scholars and literati, the intelligent, the idle, and the curious,

wandered over the Continent for years, like Tom Corvat, though they

had the modesty, on their return, to entitle the result of their

multiplied observations and labors only "crudities."

Stanton, about the year 1676, was in Spain; he was, like most of

the travelers of that age, a man of literature, intelligence, and

curiosity, but ignorant of the language of the country, and

fighting his way at times from convent to convent, in quest of what

was called "Hospitality," that is, obtaining board and lodging on

the condition of holding a debate in Latin, on some point

theological or metaphysical, with any monk who would become the

champion of the strife. Now, as the theology was Catholic, and the

metaphysics Aristotelian, Stanton sometimes wished himself at the

miserable Posada from whose filth and famine he had been fighting

his escape; but though his reverend antagonists always denounced

his creed, and comforted themselves, even in defeat, with the

assurance that he must be damned, on the double score of his being

a heretic and an Englishman, they were obliged to confess that his

Latin was good, and his logic unanswerable; and he was allowed, in

most cases, to sup and sleep in peace. This was not doomed to be

his fate on the night of the 17th August 1677, when he found

himself in the plains of Valencia, deserted by a cowardly guide,

who had been terrified by the sight of a cross erected as a

memorial of a murder, had slipped off his mule unperceived,

crossing himself every step he took on his retreat from the

heretic, and left Stanton amid the terrors of an approaching storm,

and the dangers of an unknown country. The sublime and yet

softened beauty of the scenery around, had filled the soul of

Stanton with delight, and he enjoyed that delight as Englishmen

generally do, silently.

The magnificent remains of two dynasties that had passed away, the

ruins of Roman palaces, and of Moorish fortresses, were around and

above him;--the dark and heavy thunder clouds that advanced slowly,

seemed like the shrouds of these specters of departed greatness;

they approached, but did not yet overwhelm or conceal them, as if

Nature herself was for once awed by the power of man; and far

below, the lovely valley of Valencia blushed and burned in all the

glory of sunset, like a bride receiving the last glowing kiss of

the bridegroom before the approach of night. Stanton gazed around.

The difference between the architecture of the Roman and Moorish

ruins struck him. Among the former are the remains of a theater,

and something like a public place; the latter present only the

remains of fortresses, embattled, castellated, and fortified from

top to bottom,--not a loophole for pleasure to get in by,--the

loopholes were only for arrows; all denoted military power and

despotic subjugation a l'outrance. The contrast might have pleased

a philosopher, and he might have indulged in the reflection, that

though the ancient Greeks and Romans were savages (as Dr. Johnson

says all people who want a press must be, and he says truly), yet

they were wonderful savages for their time, for they alone have

left traces of their taste for pleasure in the countries they

conquered, in their superb theaters, temples (which were also

dedicated to pleasure one way or another), and baths, while other

conquering bands of savages never left anything behind them but

traces of their rage for power. So thought Stanton, as he still

saw strongly defined, though darkened by the darkening clouds, the

huge skeleton of a Roman amphitheater, its arched and gigantic

colonnades now admitting a gleam of light, and now commingling with

the purple thunder cloud; and now the solid and heavy mass of a

Moorish fortress, no light playing between its impermeable walls,--

the image of power, dark, isolated, impenetrable. Stanton forgot

his cowardly guide, his loneliness, his danger amid an approaching

storm and an inhospitable country, where his name and country would

shut every door against him, and every peal of thunder would be

supposed justified by the daring intrusion of a heretic in the

dwelling of an old Christian, as the Spanish Catholics absurdly

term themselves, to mark the distinction between them and the

baptized Moors.

All this was forgot in contemplating the glorious and awful scenery

before him,--light struggling with darkness,--and darkness menacing

a light still more terrible, and announcing its menace in the blue

and livid mass of cloud that hovered like a destroying angel in the

air, its arrows aimed, but their direction awfully indefinite. But

he ceased to forget these local and petty dangers, as the sublimity

of romance would term them, when he saw the first flash of the

lightning, broad and red as the banners of an insulting army whose

motto is Vae victis, shatter to atoms the remains of a Roman

tower;--the rifted stones rolled down the hill, and fell at the

feet of Stanton. He stood appalled, and, awaiting his summons from

the Power in whose eye pyramids, palaces, and the worms whose toil

has formed them, and the worms who toil out their existence under

their shadow or their pressure, are perhaps all alike contemptible,

he stood collected, and for a moment felt that defiance of danger

which danger itself excites, and we love to encounter it as a

physical enemy, to bid it "do its worst," and feel that its worst

will perhaps be ultimately its best for us. He stood and saw

another flash dart its bright, brief, and malignant glance over the

ruins of ancient power, and the luxuriance of recent fertility.

Singular contrast! The relics of art forever decaying,--the

productions of nature forever renewed.--(Alas! for what purpose are

they renewed, better than to mock at the perishable monuments which

men try in vain to rival them by.) The pyramids themselves must

perish, but the grass that grows between their disjointed stones

will be renewed from year to year.

Stanton was thinking thus, when all power of thought was suspended,

by seeing two persons bearing between them the body of a young, and

apparently very lovely girl, who had been struck dead by the

lightning. Stanton approached, and heard the voices of the bearers

repeating, "There is none who will mourn for her!" "There is none

who will mourn for her!" said other voices, as two more bore in

their arms the blasted and blackened figure of what had once been a

man, comely and graceful;--"there is not ONE to mourn for her now!"

They were lovers, and he had been consumed by the flash that had

destroyed her, while in the act of endeavoring to defend her. As

they were about to remove the bodies, a person approached with a

calmness of step and demeanor, as if he were alone unconscious of

danger, and incapable of fear; and after looking on them for some

time, burst into a laugh so loud, wild, and protracted, that the

peasants, starting with as much horror at the sound as at that of

the storm, hurried away, bearing the corpses with them. Even

Stanton's fears were subdued by his astonishment, and, turning to

the stranger, who remained standing on the same spot, he asked the

reason of such an outrage on humanity. The stranger, slowly

turning round, and disclosing a countenance which--(Here the

manuscript was illegible for a few lines), said in English--(A long

hiatus followed here, and the next passage that was legible, though

it proved to be a continuation of the narrative, was but a


. . . . .

The terrors of the night rendered Stanton a sturdy and unappeasable

applicant; and the shrill voice of the old woman, repeating, "no

heretic--no English--Mother of God protect us--avaunt Satan!"--

combined with the clatter of the wooden casement (peculiar to the

houses in Valencia) which she opened to discharge her volley of

anathematization, and shut again as the lightning glanced through

the aperture, were unable to repel his importunate request for

admittance, in a night whose terrors ought to soften all the

miserable petty local passions into one awful feeling of fear for

the Power who caused it, and compassion for those who were exposed

to it.--But Stanton felt there was something more than national

bigotry in the exclamations of the old woman; there was a peculiar

and personal horror of the English.--And he was right; but this did

not diminish the eagerness of his. . . .

. . . . .

The house was handsome and spacious, but the melancholy appearance

of desertion . . . .

. . . . .

--The benches were by the wall, but there were none to sit there;

the tables were spread in what had been the hall, but it seemed as

if none had gathered round them for many years;--the clock struck

audibly, there was no voice of mirth or of occupation to drown its

sound; time told his awful lesson to silence alone;--the hearths

were black with fuel long since consumed;--the family portraits

looked as if they were the only tenants of the mansion; they seemed

to say, from their moldering frames, "there are none to gaze on

us;" and the echo of the steps of Stanton and his feeble guide, was

the only sound audible between the peals of thunder that rolled

still awfully, but more distantly,--every peal like the exhausted

murmurs of a spent heart. As they passed on, a shriek was heard.

Stanton paused, and fearful images of the dangers to which

travelers on the Continent are exposed in deserted and remote

habitations, came into his mind. "Don't heed it," said the old

woman, lighting him on with a miserable lamp;--"it is only he. . . .

. . . . .

The old woman having now satisfied herself, by ocular

demonstration, that her English guest, even if he was the devil,

had neither horn, hoof, nor tail, that he could bear the sign of

the cross without changing his form, and that, when he spoke, not a

puff of sulphur came out of his mouth, began to take courage, and

at length commenced her story, which, weary and comfortless as

Stanton was, . . . .

. . . . .

Every obstacle was now removed; parents and relations at last gave

up all opposition, and the young pair were united. Never was there

a lovelier,--they seemed like angels who had only anticipated by a

few years their celestial and eternal union. The marriage was

solemnized with much pomp, and a few days after there was a feast

in that very wainscoted chamber which you paused to remark was so

gloomy. It was that night hung with rich tapestry, representing

the exploits of the Cid, particularly that of his burning a few

Moors who refused to renounce their accursed religion. They were

represented beautifully tortured, writhing and howling, and

"Mahomet! Mahomet!" issuing out of their mouths, as they called on

him in their burning agonies;--you could almost hear them scream.

At the upper end of the room, under a splendid estrade, over which

was an image of the blessed Virgin, sat Donna Isabella de Cardoza,

mother to the bride, and near her Donna Ines, the bride, on rich

almohadas; the bridegroom sat opposite to her, and though they

never spoke to each other, their eyes, slowly raised, but suddenly

withdrawn (those eyes that blushed), told to each other the

delicious secret of their happiness. Don Pedro de Cardoza had

assembled a large party in honor of his daughter's nuptials; among

them was an Englishman of the name of MELMOTH, a traveler; no one

knew who had brought him there. He sat silent like the rest, while

the iced waters and the sugared wafers were presented to the

company. The night was intensely hot, and the moon glowed like a

sun over the ruins of Saguntum; the embroidered blinds flapped

heavily, as if the wind made an effort to raise them in vain, and

then desisted.

(Another defect in the manuscript occurred here, but it was soon


. . . . .

The company were dispersed through various alleys of the garden;

the bridegroom and bride wandered through one where the delicious

perfume of the orange trees mingled itself with that of the myrtles

in blow. On their return to the ball, both of them asked, Had the

company heard the exquisite sounds that floated through the garden

just before they quitted it? No one had heard them. They

expressed their surprise. The Englishman had never quitted the

hall; it was said he smiled with a most particular and

extraordinary expression as the remark was made. His silence had

been noticed before, but it was ascribed to his ignorance of the

Spanish language, an ignorance that Spaniards are not anxious

either to expose or remove by speaking to a stranger. The subject

of the music was not again reverted to till the guests were seated

at supper, when Donna Ines and her young husband, exchanging a

smile of delighted surprise, exclaimed they heard the same

delicious sounds floating round them. The guests listened, but no

one else could hear it;--everyone felt there was something

extraordinary in this. Hush! was uttered by every voice almost at

the same moment. A dead silence followed,--you would think, from

their intent looks, that they listened with their very eyes. This

deep silence, contrasted with the splendor of the feast, and the

light effused from torches held by the domestics, produced a

singular effect,--it seemed for some moments like an assembly of

the dead. The silence was interrupted, though the cause of wonder

had not ceased, by the entrance of Father Olavida, the Confessor of

Donna Isabella, who had been called away previous to the feast, to

administer extreme unction to a dying man in the neighborhood. He

was a priest of uncommon sanctity, beloved in the family, and

respected in the neighborhood, where he had displayed uncommon

taste and talents for exorcism;--in fact, this was the good

Father's forte, and he piqued himself on it accordingly. The devil

never fell into worse hands than Father Olavida's, for when he was

so contumacious as to resist Latin, and even the first verses of

the Gospel of St. John in Greek, which the good Father never had

recourse to but in cases of extreme stubbornness and difficulty,--

(here Stanton recollected the English story of the Boy of Bilson,

and blushed even in Spain for his countrymen),--then he always

applied to the Inquisition; and if the devils were ever so

obstinate before, they were always seen to fly out of the

possessed, just as, in the midst of their cries (no doubt of

blasphemy), they were tied to the stake. Some held out even till

the flames surrounded them; but even the most stubborn must have

been dislodged when the operation was over, for the devil himself

could no longer tenant a crisp and glutinous lump of cinders. Thus

Father Olavida's fame spread far and wide, and the Cardoza family

had made uncommon interest to procure him for a Confessor, and

happily succeeded. The ceremony he had just been performing had

cast a shade over the good Father's countenance, but it dispersed

as he mingled among the guests, and was introduced to them. Room

was soon made for him, and he happened accidentally to be seated

opposite the Englishman. As the wine was presented to him, Father

Olavida (who, as I observed, was a man of singular sanctity)

prepared to utter a short internal prayer. He hesitated,--

trembled,--desisted; and, putting down the wine, wiped the drops

from his forehead with the sleeve of his habit. Donna Isabella

gave a sign to a domestic, and other wine of a higher quality was

offered to him. His lips moved, as if in the effort to pronounce a

benediction on it and the company, but the effort again failed; and

the change in his countenance was so extraordinary, that it was

perceived by all the guests. He felt the sensation that his

extraordinary appearance excited, and attempted to remove it by

again endeavoring to lift the cup to his lips. So strong was the

anxiety with which the company watched him, that the only sound

heard in that spacious and crowded hall was the rustling of his

habit as he attempted to lift the cup to his lips once more--in

vain. The guests sat in astonished silence. Father Olavida alone

remained standing; but at that moment the Englishman rose, and

appeared determined to fix Olavida's regards by a gaze like that of

fascination. Olavida rocked, reeled, grasped the arm of a page,

and at last, closing his eyes for a moment, as if to escape the

horrible fascination of that unearthly glare (the Englishman's eyes

were observed by all the guests, from the moment of his entrance,

to effuse a most fearful and preternatural luster), exclaimed, "Who

is among us?--Who?--I cannot utter a blessing while he is here. I

cannot feel one. Where he treads, the earth is parched!--Where he

breathes, the air is fire!--Where he feeds, the food is poison!--

Where he turns his glance is lightning!--WHO IS AMONG US?--WHO?"

repeated the priest in the agony of adjuration, while his cowl

fallen back, his few thin hairs around the scalp instinct and alive

with terrible emotion, his outspread arms protruded from the

sleeves of his habit, and extended toward the awful stranger,

suggested the idea of an inspired being in the dreadful rapture of

prophetic denunciation. He stood--still stood, and the Englishman

stood calmly opposite to him. There was an agitated irregularity

in the attitudes of those around them, which contrasted strongly

the fixed and stern postures of those two, who remained gazing

silently at each other. "Who knows him?" exclaimed Olavida,

starting apparently from a trance; "who knows him? who brought him


The guests severally disclaimed all knowledge of the Englishman,

and each asked the other in whispers, "who HAD brought him there?"

Father Olavida then pointed his arm to each of the company, and

asked each individually, "Do you know him?" No! no! no!" was

uttered with vehement emphasis by every individual. "But I know

him," said Olavida, "by these cold drops!" and he wiped them off;--

"by these convulsed joints!" and he attempted to sign the cross,

but could not. He raised his voice, and evidently speaking with

increased difficulty,--"By this bread and wine, which the faithful

receive as the body and blood of Christ, but which HIS presence

converts into matter as viperous as the suicide foam of the dying

Judas,--by all these--I know him, and command him to be gone!--He

is--he is--" and he bent forward as he spoke, and gazed on the

Englishman with an expression which the mixture of rage, hatred,

and fear rendered terrible. All the guests rose at these words,--

the whole company now presented two singular groups, that of the

amazed guests all collected together, and repeating, "Who, what is

he?" and that of the Englishman, who stood unmoved, and Olavida,

who dropped dead in the attitude of pointing to him.

. . . . .

The body was removed into another room, and the departure of the

Englishman was not noticed till the company returned to the hall.

They sat late together, conversing on this extraordinary

circumstance, and finally agreed to remain in the house, lest the

evil spirit (for they believed the Englishman no better) should

take certain liberties with the corse by no means agreeable to a

Catholic, particularly as he had manifestly died without the

benefit of the last sacraments. Just as this laudable resolution

was formed, they were roused by cries of horror and agony from the

bridal chamber, where the young pair had retired.

They hurried to the door, but the father was first. They burst it

open, and found the bride a corse in the arms of her husband.

. . . . .

He never recovered his reason; the family deserted the mansion

rendered terrible by so many misfortunes. One apartment is still

tenanted by the unhappy maniac; his were the cries you heard as you

traversed the deserted rooms. He is for the most part silent

during the day, but at midnight he always exclaims, in a voice

frightfully piercing, and hardly human, "They are coming! they are

coming!" and relapses into profound silence.

The funeral of Father Olavida was attended by an extraordinary

circumstance. He was interred in a neighboring convent; and the

reputation of his sanctity, joined to the interest caused by his

extraordinary death, collected vast numbers at the ceremony. His

funeral sermon was preached by a monk of distinguished eloquence,

appointed for the purpose. To render the effect of his discourse

more powerful, the corse, extended on a bier, with its face

uncovered, was placed in the aisle. The monk took his text from

one of the prophets,--"Death is gone up into our palaces." He

expatiated on mortality, whose approach, whether abrupt or

lingering, is alike awful to man.--He spoke of the vicisstudes of

empires with much eloquence and learning, but his audience were not

observed to be much affected.--He cited various passages from the

lives of the saints, descriptive of the glories of martyrdom, and

the heroism of those who had bled and blazed for Christ and his

blessed mother, but they appeared still waiting for something to

touch them more deeply. When he inveighed against the tyrants

under whose bloody persecution those holy men suffered, his hearers

were roused for a moment, for it is always easier to excite a

passion than a moral feeling. But when he spoke of the dead, and

pointed with emphatic gesture to the corse, as it lay before them

cold and motionless, every eye was fixed, and every ear became

attentive. Even the lovers, who, under pretense of dipping their

fingers into the holy water, were contriving to exchange amorous

billets, forbore for one moment this interesting intercourse, to

listen to the preacher. He dwelt with much energy on the virtues

of the deceased, whom he declared to be a particular favorite of

the Virgin; and enumerating the various losses that would be caused

by his departure to the community to which he belonged, to society,

and to religion at large; he at last worked up himself to a

vehement expostulation with the Deity on the occasion. "Why hast

thou," he exclaimed, "why hast thou, Oh God! thus dealt with us?

Why hast thou snatched from our sight this glorious saint, whose

merits, if properly applied, doubtless would have been sufficient

to atone for the apostasy of St. Peter, the opposition of St. Paul

(previous to his conversion), and even the treachery of Judas

himself? Why hast thou, Oh God! snatched him from us?"--and a deep

and hollow voice from among the congregation answered,--"Because he

deserved his fate." The murmurs of approbation with which the

congregation honored this apostrophe half drowned this

extraordinary interruption; and though there was some little

commotion in the immediate vicinity of the speaker, the rest of the

audience continued to listen intently. "What," proceeded the

preacher, pointing to the corse, "what hath laid thee there,

servant of God?"--"Pride, ignorance, and fear," answered the same

voice, in accents still more thrilling. The disturbance now became

universal. The preacher paused, and a circle opening, disclosed

the figure of a monk belonging to the convent, who stood among


. . . . .

After all the usual modes of admonition, exhortation, and

discipline had been employed, and the bishop of the diocese, who,

under the report of these extraordinary circumstances, had visited

the convent in person to obtain some explanation from the

contumacious monk in vain, it was agreed, in a chapter

extraordinary, to surrender him to the power of the Inquisition.

He testified great horror when this determination was made known to

him,--and offered to tell over and over again all that he COULD

relate of the cause of Father Olavida's death. His humiliation,

and repeated offers of confession, came too late. He was conveyed

to the Inquisition. The proceedings of that tribunal are rarely

disclosed, but there is a secret report (I cannot answer for its

truth) of what he said and suffered there. On his first

examination, he said he would relate all he COULD. He was told

that was not enough, he must relate all he knew.

. . . . .

"Why did you testify such horror at the funeral of Father

Olavida?"--"Everyone testified horror and grief at the death of

that venerable ecclesiastic, who died in the odor of sanctity. Had

I done otherwise, it might have been reckoned a proof of my guilt."

"Why did you interrupt the preacher with such extraordinary

exclamations?"--To this no answer. "Why do you refuse to explain

the meaning of those exclamations?"--No answer. "Why do you

persist in this obstinate and dangerous silence? Look, I beseech

you, brother, at the cross that is suspended against this wall,"

and the Inquisitor pointed to the large black crucifix at the back

of the chair where he sat; "one drop of the blood shed there can

purify you from all the sin you have ever committed; but all that

blood, combined with the intercession of the Queen of Heaven, and

the merits of all its martyrs, nay, even the absolution of the

Pope, cannot deliver you from the curse of dying in unrepented

sin."--"What sin, then, have I committed?"--"The greatest of all

possible sins; you refuse answering the questions put to you at the

tribunal of the most holy and merciful Inquisition;--you will not

tell us what you know concerning the death of Father Olavida."--"I

have told you that I believe he perished in consequence of his

ignorance and presumption." "What proof can you produce of that?"--

"He sought the knowledge of a secret withheld from man." "What

was that?"--"The secret of discovering the presence or agency of

the evil power." "Do you possess that secret?"--After much

agitation on the part of the prisoner, he said distinctly, but very

faintly, "My master forbids me to disclose it." "If your master

were Jesus Christ, he would not forbid you to obey the commands, or

answer the questions of the Inquisition."--"I am not sure of that."

There was a general outcry of horror at these words. The

examination then went on. "If you believed Olavida to be guilty of

any pursuits or studies condemned by our mother the church, why did

you not denounce him to the Inquisition?"--"Because I believed him

not likely to be injured by such pursuits; his mind was too weak,--

he died in the struggle," said the prisoner with great emphasis.

"You believe, then, it requires strength of mind to keep those

abominable secrets, when examined as to their nature and

tendency?"--"No, I rather imagine strength of body." "We shall try

that presently," said an Inquisitor, giving a signal for the


. . . . .

The prisoner underwent the first and second applications with

unshrinking courage, but on the infliction of the water-torture,

which is indeed insupportable to humanity, either to suffer or

relate, he exclaimed in the gasping interval, he would disclose

everything. He was released, refreshed, restored, and the

following day uttered the following remarkable confession. . . .

. . . . .

The old Spanish woman further confessed to Stanton, that. . . .

. . . . .

and that the Englishman certainly had been seen in the neighborhood

since;--seen, as she had heard, that very night. "Great G--d!"

exclaimed Stanton, as he recollected the stranger whose demoniac

laugh had so appalled him, while gazing on the lifeless bodies of

the lovers, whom the lightning had struck and blasted.

As the manuscript, after a few blotted and illegible pages, became

more distinct, Melmoth read on, perplexed and unsatisfied, not

knowing what connection this Spanish story could have with his

ancestor, whom, however, he recognized under the title of the

Englishman; and wondering how Stanton could have thought it worth

his while to follow him to Ireland, write a long manuscript about

an event that occurred in Spain, and leave it in the hands of his

family, to "verify untrue things," in the language of Dogberry,--

his wonder was diminished, though his curiosity was still more

inflamed, by the perusal of the next lines, which he made out with

some difficulty. It seems Stanton was now in England.

. . . . .

About the year 1677, Stanton was in London, his mind still full of

his mysterious countryman. This constant subject of his

contemplations had produced a visible change in his exterior,--his

walk was what Sallust tells us of Catiline's,--his were, too, the

"faedi oculi." He said to himself every moment, "If I could but

trace that being, I will not call him man,"--and the next moment he

said, "and what if I could?" In this state of mind, it is singular

enough that he mixed constantly in public amusements, but it is

true. When one fierce passion is devouring the soul, we feel more

than ever the necessity of external excitement; and our dependence

on the world for temporary relief increases in direct proportion to

our contempt of the world and all its works. He went frequently to

the theaters, THEN fashionable, when

"The fair sat panting at a courtier's play,

And not a mask went unimproved away."

. . . . .

It was that memorable night, when, according to the history of the

veteran Betterton,* Mrs. Barry, who personated Roxana, had a green-

room squabble with Mrs. Bowtell, the representative of Statira,

about a veil, which the partiality of the property man adjudged to

the latter. Roxana suppressed her rage till the fifth act, when,

stabbing Statira, she aimed the blow with such force as to pierce

through her stays, and inflict a severe though not dangerous wound.

Mrs. Bowtell fainted, the performance was suspended, and, in the

commotion which this incident caused in the house, many of the

audience rose, and Stanton among them. It was at this moment that,

in a seat opposite to him, he discovered the object of his search

for four years,--the Englishman whom he had met in the plains of

Valencia, and whom he believed the same with the subject of the

extraordinary narrative he had heard there.

* Vide Betterton's History of the Stage.

He was standing up. There was nothing particular or remarkable in

his appearance, but the expression of his eyes could never be

mistaken or forgotten. The heart of Stanton palpitated with

violence,--a mist overspread his eye,--a nameless and deadly

sickness, accompanied with a creeping sensation in every pore, from

which cold drops were gushing, announced the. . . .

. . . . .

Before he had well recovered, a strain of music, soft, solemn, and

delicious, breathed round him, audibly ascending from the ground,

and increasing in sweetness and power till it seemed to fill the

whole building. Under the sudden impulse of amazement and

pleasure, he inquired of some around him from whence those

exquisite sounds arose. But, by the manner in which he was

answered, it was plain that those he addressed considered him

insane; and, indeed, the remarkable change in his expression might

well justify the suspicion. He then remembered that night in

Spain, when the same sweet and mysterious sounds were heard only by

the young bridegroom and bride, of whom the latter perished on that

very night. "And am I then to be the next victim?" thought

Stanton; "and are those celestial sounds, that seem to prepare us

for heaven, only intended to announce the presence of an incarnate

fiend, who mocks the devoted with 'airs from heaven,' while he

prepares to surround them with 'blasts from hell'?" It is very

singular that at this moment, when his imagination had reached its

highest pitch of elevation,--when the object he had pursued so long

and fruitlessly, had in one moment become as it were tangible to

the grasp both of mind and body,--when this spirit, with whom he

had wrestled in darkness, was at last about to declare its name,

that Stanton began to feel a kind of disappointment at the futility

of his pursuits, like Bruce at discovering the source of the Nile,

or Gibbon on concluding his History. The feeling which he had

dwelt on so long, that he had actually converted it into a duty,

was after all mere curiosity; but what passion is more insatiable,

or more capable of giving a kind of romantic grandeur to all its

wanderings and eccentricities? Curiosity is in one respect like

love, it always compromises between the object and the feeling; and

provided the latter possesses sufficient energy, no matter how

contemptible the former may be. A child might have smiled at the

agitation of Stanton, caused as it was by the accidental appearance

of a stranger; but no man, in the full energy of his passions, was

there, but must have trembled at the horrible agony of emotion with

which he felt approaching, with sudden and irresistible velocity,

the crisis of his destiny.

When the play was over, he stood for some moments in the deserted

streets. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and he saw near him a

figure, whose shadow, projected half across the street (there were

no flagged ways then, chains and posts were the only defense of the

foot passenger), appeared to him of gigantic magnitude. He had

been so long accustomed to contend with these phantoms of the

imagination, that he took a kind of stubborn delight in subduing

them. He walked up to the object, and observing the shadow only

was magnified, and the figure was the ordinary height of man, he

approached it, and discovered the very object of his search,--the

man whom he had seen for a moment in Valencia, and, after a search

of four years, recognized at the theater.

. . . . .

"You were in quest of me?"--"I was." "Have you anything to inquire

of me?"--"Much." "Speak, then."--"This is no place." "No place!

poor wretch, I am independent of time and place. Speak, if you

have anything to ask or to learn."--"I have many things to ask, but

nothing to learn, I hope, from you." "You deceive yourself, but

you will be undeceived when next we meet."--"And when shall that

be?" said Stanton, grasping his arm; "name your hour and your

place." "The hour shall be midday," answered the stranger, with a

horrid and unintelligible smile; "and the place shall be the bare

walls of a madhouse, where you shall rise rattling in your chains,

and rustling from your straw, to greet me,--yet still you shall

have THE CURSE OF SANITY, and of memory. My voice shall ring in

your ears till then, and the glance of these eyes shall be

reflected from every object, animate or inanimate, till you behold

them again."--"Is it under circumstances so horrible we are to meet

again?" said Stanton, shrinking under the full-lighted blaze of

those demon eyes. "I never," said the stranger, in an emphatic

tone,--"I never desert my friends in misfortune. When they are

plunged in the lowest abyss of human calamity, they are sure to be

visited by me."

. . . . .

The narrative, when Melmoth was again able to trace its

continuation, described Stanton, some years after, plunged in a

state the most deplorable.

He had been always reckoned of a singular turn of mind, and the

belief of this, aggravated by his constant talk of Melmoth, his

wild pursuit of him, his strange behavior at the theater, and his

dwelling on the various particulars of their extraordinary

meetings, with all the intensity of the deepest conviction (while

he never could impress them on any one's conviction but his own),

suggested to some prudent people the idea that he was deranged.

Their malignity probably took part with their prudence. The

selfish Frenchman* says, we feel a pleasure even in the misfortunes

of our friends,--a plus forte in those of our enemies; and as

everyone is an enemy to a man of genius of course, the report of

Stanton's malady was propagated with infernal and successful

industry. Stanton's next relative, a needy unprincipled man,

watched the report in its circulation, and saw the snares closing

round his victim. He waited on him one morning, accompanied by a

person of a grave, though somewhat repulsive appearance. Stanton

was as usual abstracted and restless, and, after a few moments'

conversation, he proposed a drive a few miles out of London, which

he said would revive and refresh him. Stanton objected, on account

of the difficulty of getting a hackney coach (for it is singular

that at this period the number of private equipages, though

infinitely fewer than they are now, exceeded the number of hired

ones), and proposed going by water. This, however, did not suit

the kinsman's views; and, after pretending to send for a carriage

(which was in waiting at the end of the street), Stanton and his

companions entered it, and drove about two miles out of London.

* Rochefoucauld.

The carriage then stopped. Come, Cousin," said the younger

Stanton,--"come and view a purchase I have made." Stanton absently

alighted, and followed him across a small paved court; the other

person followed. "In troth, Cousin," said Stanton, "your choice

appears not to have been discreetly made; your house has somewhat

of a gloomy aspect."--"Hold you content, Cousin," replied the

other; "I shall take order that you like it better, when you have

been some time a dweller therein." Some attendants of a mean

appearance, and with most suspicious visages, awaited them on their

entrance, and they ascended a narrow staircase, which led to a room

meanly furnished. "Wait here," said the kinsman, to the man who

accompanied them, "till I go for company to divertise my cousin in

his loneliness." They were left alone. Stanton took no notice of

his companion, but as usual seized the first book near him, and

began to read. It was a volume in manuscript,--they were then much

more common than now.

The first lines struck him as indicating insanity in the writer.

It was a wild proposal (written apparently after the great fire of

London) to rebuild it with stone, and attempting to prove, on a

calculation wild, false, and yet sometimes plausible, that this

could be done out of the colossal fragments of Stonehenge, which

the writer proposed to remove for that purpose. Subjoined were

several grotesque drawings of engines designed to remove those

massive blocks, and in a corner of the page was a note,--"I would

have drawn these more accurately, but was not allowed a KNIFE to

mend my pen."

The next was entitled, "A modest proposal for the spreading of

Christianity in foreign parts, whereby it is hoped its

entertainment will become general all over the world."--This modest

proposal was, to convert the Turkish ambassadors (who had been in

London a few years before), by offering them their choice of being

strangled on the spot, or becoming Christians. Of course the

writer reckoned on their embracing the easier alternative, but even

this was to be clogged with a heavy condition,--namely, that they

must be bound before a magistrate to convert twenty Mussulmans a

day, on their return to Turkey. The rest of the pamphlet was

reasoned very much in the conclusive style of Captain Bobadil,--

these twenty will convert twenty more apiece, and these two hundred

converts, converting their due number in the same time, all Turkey

would be converted before the Grand Signior knew where he was.

Then comes the coup d'eclat,--one fine morning, every minaret in

Constantinople was to ring out with bells, instead of the cry of

the Muezzins; and the Imaum, coming out to see what was the matter,

was to be encountered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in

pontificalibus, performing Cathedral service in the church of St.

Sophia, which was to finish the business. Here an objection

appeared to arise, which the ingenuity of the writer had

anticipated.--"It may be redargued," saith he, "by those who have

more spleen than brain, that forasmuch as the Archbishop preacheth

in English, he will not thereby much edify the Turkish folk, who do

altogether hold in a vain gabble of their own." But this (to use

his own language) he "evites," by judiciously observing, that where

service was performed in an unknown tongue, the devotion of the

people was always observed to be much increased thereby; as, for

instance, in the church of Rome,--that St. Augustine, with his

monks, advanced to meet King Ethelbert singing litanies (in a

language his majesty could not possibly have understood), and

converted him and his whole court on the spot;--that the sybilline

books. . . .

. . . . .

Cum multis aliis.

Between the pages were cut most exquisitely in paper the likenesses

of some of these Turkish ambassadors; the hair of the beards, in

particular, was feathered with a delicacy of touch that seemed the

work of fairy fingers,--but the pages ended with a complaint of the

operator, that his scissors had been taken from him. However, he

consoled himself and the reader with the assurance, that he would

that night catch a moonbeam as it entered through the grating, and,

when he had whetted it on the iron knobs of his door, would do

wonders with it. In the next page was found a melancholy proof of

powerful but prostrated intellect. It contained some insane lines,

ascribed to Lee the dramatic poet, commencing,

"O that my lungs could bleat like buttered pease," &c.

There is no proof whatever that these miserable lines were really

written by Lee, except that the measure is the fashionable quatrain

of the period. It is singular that Stanton read on without

suspicion of his own danger, quite absorbed in the album of a

madhouse, without ever reflecting on the place where he was, and

which such compositions too manifestly designated.

It was after a long interval that he looked round, and perceived

that his companion was gone. Bells were unusual then. He

proceeded to the door,--it was fastened. He called aloud,--his

voice was echoed in a moment by many others, but in tones so wild

and discordant, that he desisted in involuntary terror. As the day

advanced, and no one approached, he tried the window, and then

perceived for the first time it was grated. It looked out on the

narrow flagged yard, in which no human being was; and if there had,

from such a being no human feeling could have been extracted.

Sickening with unspeakable horror, he sunk rather than sat down

beside the miserable window, and "wished for day."

. . . . .

At midnight he started from a doze, half a swoon, half a sleep,

which probably the hardness of his seat, and of the deal table on

which he leaned, had not contributed to prolong.

He was in complete darkness; the horror of his situation struck him

at once, and for a moment he was indeed almost qualified for an

inmate of that dreadful mansion. He felt his way to the door,

shook it with desperate strength, and uttered the most frightful

cries, mixed with expostulations and commands. His cries were in a

moment echoed by a hundred voices. In maniacs there is a peculiar

malignity, accompanied by an extraordinary acuteness of some of the

senses, particularly in distinguishing the voice of a stranger.

The cries that he heard on every side seemed like a wild and

infernal yell of joy, that their mansion of misery had obtained

another tenant.

He paused, exhausted,--a quick and thundering step was heard in the

passage. The door was opened, and a man of savage appearance stood

at the entrance,--two more were seen indistinctly in the passage.

"Release me, villain!"--"Stop, my fine fellow, what's all this

noise for?" "Where am I?" "Where you ought to be." "Will you

dare to detain me?"--"Yes, and a little more than that," answered

the ruffian, applying a loaded horsewhip to his back and shoulders,

till the patient soon fell to the ground convulsed with rage and

pain. "Now you see you are where you ought to be," repeated the

ruffian, brandishing the horsewhip over him, "and now take the

advice of a friend, and make no more noise. The lads are ready for

you with the darbies, and they'll clink them on in the crack of

this whip, unless you prefer another touch of it first." They then

were advancing into the room as he spoke, with fetters in their

hands (strait waistcoats being then little known or used), and

showed, by their frightful countenances and gestures, no

unwillingness to apply them. Their harsh rattle on the stone

pavement made Stanton's blood run cold; the effect, however, was

useful. He had the presence of mind to acknowledge his (supposed)

miserable condition, to supplicate the forbearance of the ruthless

keeper, and promise complete submission to his orders. This

pacified the ruffian, and he retired.

Stanton collected all his resolution to encounter the horrible

night; he saw all that was before him, and summoned himself to meet

it. After much agitated deliberation, he conceived it best to

continue the same appearance of submission and tranquillity, hoping

that thus he might in time either propitiate the wretches in whose

hands he was, or, by his apparent inoffensiveness, procure such

opportunities of indulgence, as might perhaps ultimately facilitate

his escape. He therefore determined to conduct himself with the

utmost tranquillity, and never to let his voice be heard in the

house; and he laid down several other resolutions with a degree of

prudence which he already shuddered to think might be the cunning

of incipient madness, or the beginning result of the horrid habits

of the place.

These resolutions were put to desperate trial that very night.

Just next to Stanton's apartment were lodged two most uncongenial

neighbors. One of them was a puritanical weaver, who had been

driven mad by a single sermon from the celebrated Hugh Peters, and

was sent to the madhouse as full of election and reprobation as he

could hold,--and fuller. He regularly repeated over the five

points while daylight lasted, and imagined himself preaching in a

conventicle with distinguished success; toward twilight his visions

were more gloomy, and at midnight his blasphemies became horrible.

In the opposite cell was lodged a loyalist tailor, who had been

ruined by giving credit to the cavaliers and their ladies,--(for at

this time, and much later, down to the reign of Anne, tailors were

employed by females even to make and fit on their stays),--who had

run mad with drink and loyalty on the burning of the Rump, and ever

since had made the cells of the madhouse echo with fragments of the

ill-fated Colonel Lovelace's song, scraps from Cowley's "Cutter of

Coleman street," and some curious specimens from Mrs. Aphra Behn's

plays, where the cavaliers are denominated the heroicks, and Lady

Lambert and Lady Desborough represented as going to meeting, their

large Bibles carried before them by their pages, and falling in

love with two banished cavaliers by the way. The voice in which he

shrieked out such words was powerfully horrible, but it was like

the moan of an infant compared to the voice which took up and

reechoed the cry, in a tone that made the building shake. It was

the voice of a maniac, who had lost her husband, children,

subsistence, and finally her reason, in the dreadful fire of

London. The cry of fire never failed to operate with terrible

punctuality on her associations. She had been in a disturbed

sleep, and now started from it as suddenly as on that dreadful

night. It was Saturday night too, and she was always observed to

be particularly violent on that night,--it was the terrible weekly

festival of insanity with her. She was awake, and busy in a moment

escaping from the flames; and she dramatized the whole scene with

such hideous fidelity, that Stanton's resolution was far more in

danger from her than from the battle between his neighbors

Testimony and Hothead. She began exclaiming she was suffocated by

the smoke; then she sprung from her bed, calling for a light, and

appeared to be struck by the sudden glare that burst through her

casement.--"The last day," she shrieked, "The last day! The very

heavens are on fire!"--"That will not come till the Man of Sin be

first destroyed," cried the weaver; "thou ravest of light and fire,

and yet thou art in utter darkness.--I pity thee, poor mad soul, I

pity thee!" The maniac never heeded him; she appeared to be

scrambling up a staircase to her children's room. She exclaimed

she was scorched, singed, suffocated; her courage appeared to fail,

and she retreated. "But my children are there!" she cried in a

voice of unspeakable agony, as she seemed to make another effort;

"here I am--here I am come to save you.--Oh God! They are all

blazing!--Take this arm--no, not that, it is scorched and disabled--

well, any arm--take hold of my clothes--no, they are blazing too!--

Well, take me all on fire as I am!--And their hair, how it

hisses!--Water, one drop of water for my youngest--he is but an

infant--for my youngest, and let me burn!" She paused in horrid

silence, to watch the fall of a blazing rafter that was about to

shatter the staircase on which she stood.--"The roof has fallen on

my head!" she exclaimed. "The earth is weak, and all the

inhabitants thereof," chanted the weaver; "I bear up the pillars of


The maniac marked the destruction of the spot where she thought she

stood by one desperate bound, accompanied by a wild shriek, and

then calmly gazed on her infants as they rolled over the scorching

fragments, and sunk into the abyss of fire below. "There they go,--

one--two--three--all!" and her voice sunk into low mutterings, and

her convulsions into faint, cold shudderings, like the sobbings of

a spent storm, as she imagined herself to "stand in safety and

despair," amid the thousand houseless wretches assembled in the

suburbs of London on the

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