Imatges de pÓgina
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lovely object ? See, he is quite capa- say; but certainly Septimius felt as if ble of knowledge and affection.” he were hostile to him, and had a mind

There seemed, in fact, to be some to sting him; and, in fact, Doctor mode of communication between the Portsoaken seemed of the same opindoctor and his spider, for on some sign ion. given by the former, imperceptible to “Aha, my friend,” said he, “ I would Septimius, the many-legged monster advise you not to come too near Oronlet himself down by a cord, which he tes! He is a lovely beast, it is true ; extemporized out of his own bowels, but in a certain recess of this splendid and came dangling his huge bulk down form of his he keeps a modest supply before his master's face, while the lat- of a certain potent and piercing poison, ter lavished many epithets of endear- which would produce a wonderful effect ment upon him, ludicrous and not on any flesh to which he chose to apply. without horror, as applied to such a it. A powerful fellow is Orontes; and hideous production of nature.

he has a great sense of his own digni“I assure you,” said Doctor Port- ty and importance, and will not allow soaken, “I run some risk from my inti- it to be imposed on.” macy with this lovely jewel, and if I Septimius moved from the vicinity behave not all the more prudently, of the spider, who, in fact, retreated, your countrymen will hang me for a by climbing up his cord, and ensconced wizard, and annihilate this precious himself in the middle of his web, where spider as my familiar. There would he remained waiting for his prey. Sepbe a loss to the world ; not small in timius wondered whether the doctor my own case, but enormous in the was symbolized by the spider, and was case of the spider. Look at him now, likewise waiting in the middle of his and see if the mere uninstructed obser- web for his prey. As he saw no way, vation does not discover a wonderful however, in which the doctor could value in him.”

make a profit out of himself, or how In truth, when looked at closely, the he could be victimized, the thought did spider really showed that a care and not much disturb his equanimity. He art had been bestowed upon his make, was about to take his leave, but the not merely as regards curiosity, but doctor, in a derisive kind of way, bade absolute beauty, that seemed to indi- him sit still, for he purposed keeping cate that he must be a rather distin- him as a guest, that night, at least. guished creature in the view of Provi

" I owe you a dinner,” said he," and dence; so variegated was be with a will pay it with a supper and knowlthousand minute spots, spots of color, edge ; and before we part I have cerglorious radiance, and such a brilliance tain inquiries to make, of which you was attained by many conglomerated may not at first see the object, but yet brilliances; and it was very strange are not quite purposeless. My familthat all this care was bestowed on a iar, up aloft there, has whispered me creature that, probably, had never been something about you, and I rely greatly carefully considered except by the two on his intimations." pair of eyes that were now upon it, Septimius, who was sufficiently comand that, in spite of its beauty and mon-sensible, and invulnerable to sumagnificence, could only be looked perstitious influences on every point at with an effort to overcome the mys- except that to which he had surrenterious repulsiveness of its presence; dered himseif, was easily prevailed for all the time that Septimius looked upon to stay; for he found the singuand admired, he still hated the thing, lar, charlatanic, mysterious lore of the and thought it wrong that it was ever man curious, and he had enough of born, and wished that it could be anni- real science to at least make him an hilated. Whether the spider was con- object of interest to one who knew scious of the wish, we are unable to nothing of the matter; and Septimius's

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acuteness, too, was piqued in trying to try; whether there were any tendrils make out what manner of man he stretching across the gulf of a hundred really was, and how much in him was and fifty years, by which the American genuine science and self-belief, and branch of the family was separated how much quackery and pretension and from the trunk of the family tree in conscious empiricism. So he stayed, England. The doctor partly explained and supped with the doctor at a table this. heaped more bountifully, and with “You must know,” said he, “that rarer dainties, than Septimius had ever the name you bear, Felton, is one forbefore conceived of; and in his sim- merly of much eminence and repute in pler cognizance, heretofore, of eating my part of England, and, indeed, very merely to live, he could not but won- recently possessed of wealth and stader to see a man of thought caring to tion. I should like to know if you are eat of more than one dish, so that of that race." most of the meal, on his part, was Septimius answered with such facts spent in seeing the doctor feed and and traditions as had come to his hearing him discourse upon his food. knowledge respecting his family his

“ If man lived only to eat," quoth the tory; a sort of history that is quite as doctor, “one life would not suffice, not liable to be mythical, in its early and merely to exhaust the pleasure of it, distant stages as that of Rome, and, but even to get the rudiments of it.” indeed, seldom goes three or four gen

When this important business was erations back without getting into a over, the doctor and his guest sat mist really impenetrable, though great, down again in his laboratory, where gloomy, and magnificent shapes of men the former took care to have his usual often seem to loom in it, who, if they companion, the black bottle, at his could be brought close to the naked elbow, and filled his pipe, and seemed eye, would turn out as commonplace as to feel a certain sullen, genial, fierce, the descendants who wonder at and brutal, kindly mood enough, and looked admire them. He remembered Aunt at Septimius with a sort of friendship, Keziah's legend, and said he had reaas if he had as lief shake hands with son to believe that his first ancestor him as knock him down.

came over at a somewhat earlier date “ Now for a talk about business,” than the first Puritan settlers, and said he.

dwelt among the Indians, where (and Septimius thought, however, that the here the young man cast down his doctor's talk began, at least, at a suffi- eyes, having the customary American cient remoteness from any practical abhorrence for any mixture of blood) business ; for he began to question he had intermarried with the daughter about his remote ancestry, what he of a sagamore, and succeeded to his knew, or what record had been pre- rule. This might have happened as served, of the first emigrant from Eng- early as the end of Elizabeth's reign, land; whence, from what shire or part perhaps later. It was impossible to of England, that ancestor had come ; decide dates on such a matter. There whether there were any memorial of had been a son of this connection, any kind remaining of him, any letters, perhaps more than one, but certainly or written documents, wills, deeds, or one son, who, on the arrival of the other legal papers ; in short, all about Puritans, was a youth, his father aphim.

pearing to have been slain in some outSeptimius could not satisfactorily break of the tribe, perhaps owing to see whether these inquiries were made the jealousy of prominent chiefs, at with any definite purpose, or from a seeing their natural authority abrogated mere general curiosity to discover how or absorbed by a man of different race. a family of early settlement in America He slightly alluded to the supernatumight still be linked with the old coun- ral attributes that gathered round this predecessor, but in a way to imply that and learned men, scholars of Old Camhe put no faith in them; for Septim- bridge, among his ancestry on one side, ius's natural keen sense and percep- while on the other it ran up to the early tion kept him from betraying his weak- emigrants, who seemed to have been nesses to the doctor, by the same in- remarkable men, and to that strange stinctive and subtle caution with which wild lineage of Indian chiefs, whose a madman can so well conceal his blood was like that of persons not quite infirmity.

human, intermixed with civilized blood. On the arrival of the Puritans, they “I wonder," said the doctor, mushad found among the Indians a youth ingly, “whether there are really no partly of their own blood, able, though documents to ascertain the epoch at imperfectly, to speak their language, - which that old first emigrant came over, having at least some early recollec- and whence he came, and precisely tions of it, - inheriting, also, a share of from what English family. Often the influence over the tribe on which his last heir of some respectable name dies father had grafted him. It was natural in England and we say that the family that they should pay especial attention is extinct; whereas, very possibly, it to this youth, consider it their duty to may be abundantly flourishing in the give him religious instruction in the New World, revived by the rich infaith of his fathers, and try to use him fusion of new blood in a new soil, as a means of influencing his tribe. instead of growing feebler, heavier, They did so, but did not succeed in stupider, each year by sticking to an swaying the tribe by his means, their old soil, intermarrying over and over success having been limited to winning again with the same respectable famithe half-Indian from the wild ways of lies, till it has made common stock of his mother's people, into a certain all their vices, weaknesses, madnesses. partial, but decent accommodation to Have you no documents, I say, no those of the English. A tendency to muniment deed ?". civilization was brought out in his “None,” said Septimius. character by their rigid training; at “No old furniture, desks, trunks, least, his savage wildness was broken. chests, cabinets ?” He built a house among them, with a “ You must remember,” said Septimgood deal of the wigwam, no doubt, in ius, “that my Indian ancestor was not its style of architecture, but still a per- very likely to have brought such things manent house, near which he estab- out of the forest with him. A wanderlished a cornfield, a pumpkin-garden, ing Indian does not carry a chest of a melon-patch, and became farmer papers with him. I do remember, in enough to be entitled to ask the hand my childhood, a little old iron-bound of a Puritan maiden. He spent his chest, or coffer, of which the key was life, with some few instances of tem- lost, and which my Aunt Keziah used porary relapse into savage wildness, to say came down from her great-greatwhen he fished in the river Musque grandfather. I don't know what has hannah, or in Walden, or strayed in become of it, and my poor old aunt the woods, when he should have been kept it among her own treasures.” planting or hoeing; but, on the whole, “Well, my friend, do you hunt up the race had been redeemed from bar- that old coffer, and, just as a matter of barism in his person, and in the suc- curiosity, let me see the contents.” ceeding generations had been tamed “I have other things to do,” said more and more. The second genera- Septimius. tion had been distinguished in the In- “Perhaps so," quoth the doctor, dian wars of the provinces, and then “but no other, as it may turn out, of intermarried with the stock of a dis- quite so much importance as this. I'll tinguished Puritan divine, by which tell you fairly; the heir of a great Engmeans Septimius could reckon great lish house is lately dead, and the estate

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lies open to any well-sustained, per- try that mode of life, as well as a hunhaps to any plausible claimant. If it dred others, but only for a time. It is should appear from the records of that of no permanent importance." family, as I have some reason to sup- “I'll tell you what it is, young man," pose, that a member of it, who would said the doctor, testily, "you have now represent the older branch, disap- something in your brain that makes peared mysteriously and unaccount you talk very foolishly; and I have ably, at a date corresponding with partly a suspicion what it is, -only I what might be ascertained as that of can't think that a fellow who is really your ancestor's first appearance in this gifted with respectable sense, in other country; if any reasonable proof can directions, should be such a confounded be brought forward, on the part of the idiot in this.” representatives of that white sagamore, Septimius blushed, but held his that wizard pow-wow, or however you peace, and the conversation languished call him, that he was the disappearing after this ; the doctor grimly smoking Englishman, why, a good case is made his pipe, and by no means increasing out. Do you feel no interest in such a the milkiness of his mood by frequent prospect?”

applications to the black bottle, until “Very little, I confess,” said Sep- Septimius intimated that he would like timius.

to go to bed. The old woman was “Very little !” said the grim doctor, summoned, and ushered him to his impatiently. “Do not you see that, if chamber. you make good your claim, you estab- At breakfast, the doctor partially relish for yourself a position among the newed the subject which he seemed to English aristocracy, and succeed to a consider most important in yesterday's noble English estate, an ancient hall, conversation. where

your forefathers have dwelt since · My young friend,” said he, “ I adthe Conqueror; splendid gardens, he- vise you to look in cellar and garret, or reditary woods and parks, to which wherever you consider the most likely anything America can show is despi- place, for that iron-bound coffer. There cable, — all thoroughly cultivated and may be nothing in it; it may be full of adorned, with the care and ingenuity musty love-letters, or old sermons, or of centuries; and an income, a month receipted bills of a hundred years ago ; of which would be greater wealth than but it may contain what will be worth any of your American ancestors, rak- to you an estate of five thousand pounds ing and scraping for his lifetime, has a year.

It is a pity the old woman ever got together, as the accumulated with the damnable decoction is gone result of the toil and penury by which off. Look it up, I say." he has sacrificed body and soul ?” “ Well, well,” said Septimius, ab

“That strain of Indian blood is in me stractedly, “ when I can find time.” yet,” said Septimius, “and it makes me So saying, he took his leave, and redespise, – no, not despise ; for I can traced his way back to his home. He see their desirableness for other people, had not seemed like himself during the - but it makes me reject for myself time that elapsed since he left it, and it what you think so valuable. I do not appeared an infinite space that he had care for these common aims. I have lived through and travelled over, and ambition, but it is for prizes such as he fancied it hardly possible that he other men cannot gain, and do not think could ever get back again. But now, of aspiring after. I could not live in the with every step that he took, he found habits of English life, as I conceive it himself getting miserably back into the to be, and would not for my part be bur- old enchanted land. The mist rose up thened with the great estate you speak about him, the pale mist-bow of ghostof. It might answer my purpose for a ly promise curved before him ; and he time. It would suit me well enough to trod back again, poor boy, out of the

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clime of real effort, into the land of his self the science through which he was dreams and shadowy enterprise. to work. He seemed to do everything

" How was it,” said he, “ that I can that was stated in the recipe, and yet have been so untrue to my convictions ? no results came from it; the liquid Whence came that dark and dull de- that he produced was nauseous to the spair that weighed upon me? Why smell, - to taste it he had a horrible did I let the mocking mood which I repugnance, turbid, nasty, remindwas conscious of in that brutal, brandy- ing him in most respects of poor Aunt burnt sceptic have such an influence Keziah's elixir ; and it was a body on me? Let him guzzle ! He shall without a soul, and that body dead. not tempt me from my pursuit, with his And so it went on; and the poor, halflure of an estate and name among those maddened Septimius began to think heavy English beef-eaters of whom he that his immortal life was preserved by is a brother. My destiny is one which the mere effort of seeking for it, but kings migh: envy, and strive in vain was to be spent in the quest, and was to buy with principalities and king. therefore to be made an eternity of doms."

abortive misery. He pored over the So he trod on air almost, in the lat- document that had so possessed him, ter parts of his journey, and, instead of turning its crabbed meanings every being wearied, grew more airy with the

way, trying to get out of it some new latter miles that brought him to his light, often tempted to fling it into the wayside home.

fire which he kept under his retort, and So now Septimius sat down, and let the whole thing go; but then again, began in earnest his endeavors and soon rising out of that black depth of experiments to prepare the medicine, despair, into a determination to do according to the mysterious terms of what he had so long striven for. With the recipe. It seemed not possible to such intense action of mind as he do it, so many rebuffs and disappoint brought to bear on this paper, it is ments did he meet with. No effort wonderful that it was not spiritually would produce a combination answer- distilled ; that its essence did not arise, ing to the description of the recipe, purified from all alloy of falsehood, which propounded a brilliant, gold- from all turbidness of obscurity and colored liquid, clear as the air itself, ambiguity, and from a pure essence of with a certain fragrance which was pe- truth and invigorating motive, if of any culiar to it, and also, what was the it were capable. In this interval, Sepmore individual test of the correctness timius is said by tradition to have of the mixture, a certain coldness of the found out many wonderful secrets that feeling, a chillness which was described were almost beyond the scope of as peculiarly refreshing and invigorat- science. It was said that old Aunt ing. With all his trials he produced Keziah used to come with a coal of nothing but turbid results, clouded fire from unknown furnaces, to light generally, or lacking something in col- his distilling apparatus ; it was said, or, and never that fragrance and never too, that the ghost of the old lord, that coldness which was to be the test whose ingenuity had propounded this of truth. He studied all the books of puzzle for his descendants, used to chemistry which at that period were at- come at midnight and strive to explain tainable, — a period when, in the world, to him this manuscript ; that the Black it was a science far unlike what it has Man, too, met him on the hill-top, and since become ; and when Septimius promised him an immediate release bad no instruction in this country, nor from his difficulties, provided he would could obtain any beyond the dark, kneel down and worship him, and sign mysterious, charlatanic communications his name in his book, an old, ironof Doctor Portsoaken. So that, in fact, clasped, much-worn volume, which he he seemed to be discovering for him- produced from his ample pockets, and

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