Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

a moral tag, in which the Count advises André to love his son as he had loved him, but not to bring him up in the same way:

Such is the plot of this extraordinary play, which has aroused tremendous excitement. It is far from being original : indeed, a piece, founded on the same motive, was recently produced on the Parisian boards, but the merit lies in the manner in which Dumas fils has treated it. It is decidedly the most carefully written of all his comedies, and sparkles with wit, like a play of Douglas Jerrold. The interest is capitally sustained, and we can quite understand how the French have so eagerly received it, for it Aatters their false ideas of sentimentality. Still we think (and our readers will probably agree with us) that M. de Cassagnac was quite justified in exposing the exaggerations of which M. Dumas has been guilty, and we hope that his remarks will have a due effect. The exquisite passage we quoted, in which Hélène depicts the husband of her heart, shows that M. Dumas is capable of better things, and that he could easily emancipate himself from the trammels of a vicious style. Still the exposé of Albertine's character ought to do some good; it is drawn with a master hand, and the cupidity and uublushing arrogance of such creatures pitilessly laid bare. We have been compelled to omit many salient bits which would not read well in English, but, altogether, we prefer this play to the “Demi-monde.” One thing we hope --that its very broadness will keep our dramatists from attempting to paraphrase it for the English stage. Our play-going population are growing tired of this false virtue so fashionable across the Channel, and longing for some stronger food. At the Lyceum, a very tremendous drama of this hybrid class has been tried without success, and there is reason for believing that managers will have to fall back on native talent; and we care not how soon this takes place. Lamentation has been made about the dulness of our drama, but it has not been fairly treated. We have plenty of men who could write good plays were it made worth their while, but so long as the public go to see these wretched adaptations from the French,

there is no chance of the drama reviving. However, a reaction has already set in, which, we trust, will have beneficial results for all parties concerned. In fact, if French playwrights continue to write such pieces as “Un Père Prodigue,” there will be no possibility soon of stealing at all, for we hardly think that Paterfamilias would allow his children to witness such pieces, which are an insult to all the best feelings of humanity.

36

THE KING YEAR.

A MASQUE OF WINTER-TIME,

BY FREDERICK ENOCH.

Let us give our hands to the good New Year,

For the Old is almost dead and gone ; They bear him away on his royal bier,

All cold and grey, all stark and wan; And the harper-winds about him go,

Through the bleak hills sweeps the requiem lay, While the fierce storms all their tempests blow, And the flutes of the river reeds wail low, As the dark clouds bear the pall of snow,

And the torch of the North-fire lights the way; And the sharp white stars with silver light

Burn under the catafalque of sky,
Where the thin-faced vigil-moon all night

Watches the ritual mournfully.
Oh! memories sweet of the dying Year,

That throng the heart's gate to and fro,
Hand-touches, looks, and the voices dear,

Passing on to the “long ago,"
Bid him adieu ere the spectral streaks

Tremble far over the ghostly East,
When slowly the bald cold dawning breaks,

And the world wakes to a New Year's feast;
Then bid him adieu before he goes,

Wait not the cock-crow voice of the day,
For swiftly over the silent snows

Will midnight bear the Year away.
Oh! dawning of glad, fresh hope to rise,

When at length is passed the portal through,
And when receding over the skies

The cloud-rack folds to the tender blue, And welcomed by daylight's smile increased,

From his grave green blades and petals springHark! midnight chimes--the herald East Proclaims, ere the trembling bell has ceased,

“The King is dead—long live the King !" Let us give our hands to the new King Year,

For the old is dead, is dead and gone; They bear him away on his royal bier,

All cold and grey, all stark and wau; And the harper-winds about him go,

Through the bleak hills sweeps the requiem lay, While the fierce storms all their trumpets blow, And the flutes of the river reeds wail low, As the dark clouds bear the pall of snow,

And the torch of the North-fire lights the way, Let us hail him who on the threshold stands

Of the present-a child half hope and fear; Let us give him our hearts, let us give our hands,

Let us give our hands to the good New Year!

THE HAUNTED HOUSE NEAR HAMPSTEAD.

A STORY FOR THE NEW YEAR.

BY DUDLEY COSTELLO.

Demon, Ghost, or Ghoul-what is it ?

I. On the summit of one of those undulations which gently swell on every side from Hampstead-heath, there stands a large house, somewhat fantastically constructed.

Seen at a distance, this house forms a kind of landmark, its battlements and flying buttresses making it a conspicuous object in the view.

But it is only from a distance that the house can be well seen, for, on a nearer approach, the high road sinks beneath a bank bordered by dark fir-trees, which nearly surround the domain and give the place, on its only accessible side, a very gloomy appearance.

About twenty years ago this cheerless aspect was greatly increased by neglect. At the entrance was a lodge which had been half built and then abandoned; two tall pillars were there, with no gate between them, and a broad, open track, rather than a road, led up to the house itself, which was green with the damp that streaked its stuccoed walls.

These indications of a newly erected dwelling were confirmed by everything around. The grounds were all in disorder, the shrubberies thinly planted, the garden walks rough and ragged; near the portico lay fragments of a frieze that had never been put up; the skeleton of a gigantic conservatory displayed its huge, bare ribs; a large stone basin, intended for a fountain, remained waterless; nothing seemed finished ; and the general impression was that of a grand undertaking suddenly arrested midway.

The cause of this desolation was the bankruptcy of the person for whom the house was originally built. He was a City broker, named Ardmore, who, speculating wildly, had failed in a great commercial panic. Mr. Ardmore's principal creditor, who became the trade assignee, held a heavy mortgage on the Hampstead property, and when the bankrupt's affairs were wound up, Ardmore House, as the place was called, passed easily into his hands.

The new proprietor, also a broker, and commonly known amongst City men as old Dick Crowther, was enormously rich, and, if he had been 80 minded, might speedily have completed his predecessor's unfinished designs ; but either he had no taste for improving or did not like the expense of it, for although he immediately took up his abode at Ardmore House, he refused to lay out a single shilling on embellishments. The lodge entrance was stopped by an ordinary swing-gate which served for all purposes, the fences were repaired where broken, the land was converted into pasture, but the shrubberies were allowed to dwindle, the garden plots held no flowers, the sculptured frieze sank deeper in the ground, no glass covered in the conservatory, the fountain continued dry,

mildew still stained the walls, -and except that the grounds were shut in and partly turned to a useful end, the change in their appearance was not

very striking:

The interior of Ardmore House was rather more satisfactory than its outside promised. A good deal of money had been spent in making it habitable by the man who never had the fortune, good or bad, to live there. It is true he did not furnish it, but, as far as he had proceeded, it was fitted up very completely. Mr. Ardmore, like most people who make money with rapidity-keep it how they may—was fond of decoration, and the fashion of the day being in favour of Gothic art, the Gothic style prevailed : all the rooms down stairs were panelled with oak, light was filtered through narrow casements, the passages were long and dark, the staircases wide, and heavy with cumbrous and grotesque carving. What Mr. Ardmore might have done with the upper rooms could only be guessed at, for the ruin which overtook him had left them bare. . This mattered little, however, to old Dick Crowther, who found space enough below for his own occupation and that of his family.

That family consisted only of himself and five servants : an elderly housekeeper, two young women, who divided the household work between them, a gardener, and a groom, who, when not in his stable, was employed in all sorts of ways in-doors. A larger family than this might have tenanted Ardmore House, had its owner so willed it, for old Dick Crowther was neither childless nor without relations. But he lived apart from his own kindred, having quarrelled with and discarded his only son, a young man of seven or eight-and-twenty, who, in opposition to his commands, had married a beautiful but penniless girl; as for his relations, they were all in straitened circumstances—a reason quite sufficient with him not to notice them; and for acquaintance, he made none, receiving visits from nobody except the man of law in whom he put his trust.

Though not absolutely a miser, old Dick Crowther was what is called o close.”

He had realised by his own exertions every farthing of his large fortune, and occupied in making money all his life, felt no inclination to spend it. Neither was he fitted by temperament to dissipate any part of his means by seeing company or mixing with society. He was of a morose and malicious nature, had always a sour or spiteful word for everybody, and those who had business to transact with him were never so well pleased as when their business was over. But it was not necessary for him to speak to declare his character : the face of old Dick Crowther left none in doubt, if any faith were to be placed in physiognomy, what manner of man they had before them.

His figure was spare and under the middle height, and a habit of stooping made him look much shorter than he really was; his arms were so disproportionately long that his wiry fingers reached below his knees, while his lower limbs were bowed and short; yet with these apparent disadvantages he possessed great strength and activity, and even advancing years did not seem greatly to diminish these qualities. But you almost forgot his ungainly form when you looked upon his face--it was of such exceeding ugliness

. His small, gleaming eyes were deeply sunk in his head, and buried beneath a brow“ villanously low" that receded at a rapid angle; his nose was nearly flat, his upper lip very long, his

mouth wide but compressed, deep wrinkles furrowed his sallow cheeks, and his chin was lost in a fringe of white whisker which encircled his jaws from ear to ear: what had been the colour of his hair was a mystery of the past, for within the recollection of man he had always worn a short, stiff-set wig, which the many whom he had played false in the course of his dealings said—when he was out of hearing—was the only real thing about him.

For three years after taking possession of Ardmore House, old Dick Crowther kept the even tenor of his way, making life uncomfortable to his few dependents, who dreaded alike to see or hear him, yet who lingered on in his service, in the hope-common enough with the class—that he would leave them something when it should please the Lord,” as they said, to remove him from this world!

That event appeared, to them especially, a long while in coming; but the much-desired tokens came at last. At the end of the third year, when the word “unbearable," as applied to their master's conduct, was freely circulated through the house, and “warning" was on every servant's lip, old Dick Crowther was taken ill.

One cold December afternoon, just as it was getting dusk, the front door-bell of Ardmore House was rung several times in quick succession, and with unusual violence, and Thomas, the groom, hurrying up, found that his master's eagerness to get in was the cause of the hasty summons. There was just light enough for him to see that old Dick Crowther, generally so calm and collected, was in a state of extreme agitation, and looked, to use Thomas's phrase, “quite scared.” In answer to the question if anything was the matter, Mr. Crowther said he had been standing about too long in the grounds and thought he had caught a chill; he should be better, no doubt, after a glass of hot brandy-andwater, which he desired might be sent up to him at once. He delivered this order with so little of his customary harshness—it sounded even gently in Thomas's ears—that the groom was filled with surprise, and it became that evening the subject of much comment in the kitchen, Mrs. Jones, the housekeeper, expressing it as her opinion that she should not be astonished “ if something happened.”

She was a true prophet, for when she called Mr. Crowther next morning he told her he had had a very bad night, and thought, if he did not get better soon, he must have a doctor: he would wait a little, however; the uncomfortable sensations—he could not well describe them-might pass away if he stayed quietly in bed.

For old Dick Crowther to keep his bed was indeed a wonder, and would have made a jubilee in Ardmore House that day if something mysterious had not been attached to the circumstance. There was more talk in the kitchen, but it was in a lower tone than ordinary, as if a sense of dread pervaded the household ; and when one or other went up to listen at “master's door," the report brought back was invariably to the effect that he was talking to himself, which Thomas said was a sign be was “ going into Illyrium.”

A remoter country seemed, however, to be his more probable destination, for, as the day wore away, Mr. Crowther became evidently

“Such strange tremblings and startings all of a sudden,” said Mrs.

worse.

« AnteriorContinua »