Imágenes de páginas

chafing dish, filled with burning embers; on this she fixed the caldron which she half filled with water. She then commanded me to take my station at the farther end of the circle, which I did accordingly. Bertha then opened the sack, and taking from it various ingredients, threw them into the charmed pot.' Amongst many other articles, I noticed a skeleton head, bones of different sizes, and the dried carcasses of some small animals. These she threw in, one by one, and while she was thus employed, continued muttering some words, in a language which was unknown to me: all I remember hearing was, the word konig. At length the caldron boiled, and the witch, presenting me with a glass, told me to look through it at the caldron. I did so, and observed a figure enveloped in the steam; at the first glance I knew not what to make of it, but I soon recognized the face of N-, a friend and intimate acquaintance; he was dressed in his usual mode, and seemed unwell and pale. I was astonished and trembled. The figure having disappeared, Bertha removed the caldron and extinguished the fire. She then approached me, and said, “Now, do you doubt my power; I have brought before you the form of

a person who resides some miles from this place; was there any deception in the appearance? I am no impostor, though you have hitherto regarded me as such. She ceased speaking, I hurried towards the door, and said, ! Good night ;' Stop,' said Bertha, • I have not yet done with you; I will shew you something more wonderful than the appearance of this evening : to-morrow, at midnight, go and stand upon A bridge, and look at the water on the left side of it; nothing will harm you, fear not.

“ And why should I go to A - bridge ? what end can be answered by it? the place is lonely, I dread to be there at such an hour, may I have a companion?'

"No!' exclaimed Bertha. . Why not?

Because the charm will be broken.' • What charm? . I cannot tell. You will not.'

• I will not give any farther information ; obey me, nothing shall harm you.'

. Well, Bertha,' I said, you shall be obeyed; I believe you would not do me an injury; I will repair to A bridge to-morrow at midnight; good night.

"I then left the cottage and returned home. When I retired to rest I could not sleep; slumber fled my pillow, and with restless eyes I lay ruminating on the strange occurrences at the cottage, and on what I was to behold at A-bridge. Morning dawned, I arose unrefreshed and fatigued ; during the day I was unable to attend to


business ; my coming adventure entirely engrossed my mind; night arrived, I repaired to A - bridge; never shall I forget the scene ! There are moments of our existence which something tends to imprint indelibly on our memory, and that was one. It was a lovely night, the full-orbed moon was sailing peacefully through a clear, blue, cloudless sky, and its beams, like streaks of silvery light, fell on the bosom of the crystal stream ; the moonlight falling on the hills formed them into a variety of fantastic shapes; here one might behold the semblance of a ruined abbey, with towers and spires, and Anglo-Saxon or Gothic arches ; at another place

might fancy a castle frowning in feudal grandeur, with its buttresses, battlements, and parapets. The stillness which reigned around, broke only by the murmuring of the stream; the white-washed cottages, scattered here and there along its banks, and the woods wearing an autumnal change, all united to compose a scene of calm and perfect beauty. I leaned against the left battlement of the bridge; I waited a quarter of an hour-half an hour--an hour-nothing appeared— listened, all was silent; I looked around, I saw nothing. Surely, I inwardly ejaculated, I have mistaken the hour; no, it must be midnight; Bertha has deceived me; fool that I am, why have I obeyed the beldam ?—Thus I seasoned. The clock of a neighbouring church chimed—I counted the strokes, it was twelve o'clock; I had mistaken the hour, and I resolved to stay a little longer on the bridge. I resumed my station which I had quitted, and gazed on the stream. The river in that part runs in a clear still channel, and all its music dies away. As I looked on the stream I heard a low moaning sound, and perceived the water violently troubled, without any apparent cause. This disturbance having continued a few minutes, ceased, and the river became calm, and again flowed along in peacefulness. What could this mean? why was the low moaning sound? what caused the disturbance of the river ? I asked myself these questions again and again, unable to give them any rational answer. With a slight, indescribable kind of fear, I bent my steps homewards. On turning a corner of the lane that led to my father's house, a huge black dog of the Newfoundland breed crossed my path, and looked wistfully on me. Poor fellow! I exclaimed, hast thou lost thy master? come home with me, and I will use thee well till we find him. The dog seemed to understand me, and followed me. When I arrived at my place of abode I looked for the dog, but I saw no traces of it, and I conjectured it had found its master.

“ On the following morning I again repaired to the cottage of the witch, and found her as on the former occasion, seated by the fire. I thus accosted her, Bertha, I have obeyed you, I was present at midnight 'on A-bridge.'

And of what sight were you a witness ?' she replied.
I saw nothing except a slight disturbance of the stream.'

I know,' she said, you saw a disturbance of the water, but did you behold nothing more?'

• Nothing.'
• Nothing! recollect yourself, your memory fails you.'

I forgot, Bertha, as I was proceeding homewards I met a Newfoundland dog, which I conjectured belonged to some traveller.'

• That dog,' answered Bertha, 'never belonged to mortal ; no human being is his master ; yes, think not I utter a falsehood; the dog you saw was Barjus ; you have perhaps before heard of him.'

• I have frequently heard tales of Barjus, but I never credited them; if the legends of my native hills are true, a death may be expected to follow his appearance.'

• You are right, and a death will follow his last night's appearance.' • Whose death?'. • I will mention nothing farther than this--it is not your's.'

"As Bertha refused to make any farther communications, I left her. In less than three hours after I had quitted her dwelling, I was informed

to bid you

that my friend N-, whose figure I had seen enveloped in the mist of the caldron, had committed suicide, by drowning himself at A bridge, in the very place where I beheld the disturbance of the water.

“N was interred at A church, on the Sunday following his death ; on the evening of the funeral, Bertha called at my father's, and requested to see me. She was admitted; I thought she looked more than usually dejected. • I have called, John,' she said, adieu ; I am going to leave you.' • Whither are you going ?' I asked. Her answer was, “Where I trust I shall never see you. These were her last words.

After she had spoken them she rose, shook me by the hand, and left the apartment. I called at her house on the following morning; all was desolate, no traces of Bertha were seen, every thing was in disorder, the caldron was lying on the floor, split in four pieces ; no person saw Bertha leave the cottage, and which way she went was .never known.

Such was the story of my companion; the tale amused me, but by no means increased my belief in witchcraft. I told the narrator so, and we again entered into a serious discussion of the subject.

This continued till the clock of our inn struck seven, when the stranger left me, saying that he could not stay any longer, as he had a distance of five miles to go that evening.



In the interminable wars between England and France, in the reign of Edward III. single acts of knights and soldiers occupy a prominent place in the chronicles of the age.

One of this kind is thus narrated by Froissart. The hero of the story, it would seem, had something of Bobadil or Parolles in his character. The English army was encamped near Paris. “ Now it happened,” says Froissart, “one Tuesday morning, when the English began to decamp, and had set fire to all the villages wherein they were lodged, so that the fires were distinctly seen from Paris, a knight of their army, who had made a vow the preceding day, that he would advance as far as the barriers, and strike them with his lance in his hand, his target on his neck, and completely armed except his helmet, and spurring his steed, was followed by his squire on another courser carrying the helmet. When he approached Paris, he put on the helmet, wbich his squire laced behind. He then galloped away, sticking spurs into his horse, and advanced prancing to strike the barriers. They were then open; and the lords and barons within, imagined he intended to enter the town, but he did not mean any such thing; for having struck the gates according to his vow, he checked his horse and turned about. The French knights who saw him thus retreat, cried out to him, “Get away! get away! thou hast well acquitted thyself.' As for the name of this knight, I am ignorant of it, nor do I know from what country he came; but he bore for his arms, Iules à deux fousses noir, with une bor dure noire non irdentée."

[ocr errors]

The Character of the RUSSIANS, and a detailed History of Moscow, by Robert Lyall, M.D. 4to. Cadell, 1823.

It is neither the prodigious extent of the Russian empire, nor the variety of nations of which its population is composed, nor the splendour of its court, nor the misery of the lower orders, which have caused a more than ordinary curiosity to know what is the internal state of the countries subject to the mighty Monarch of the North. All the above, and several other causes of interest, have long existed, but a succession of events, altogether unexpected, have successively arisen to make us more sensible of them, and of the influence which this gigantic power already exercises in the theatre of the world; an influence which probably has not yet reached the limits to which it is destined to extend. Hence we find a very ardent desire to know more fully the internal resources of this state, and to become better acquainted with the manners, laws, and institutions of a people, which having long lived in barbarism at our very doors, have at length become desirous of civilization; and whilst they are eagerly receiving it, are covertly exerting an authority over their more enlightened neighbours.

This desire, which has led to the production of much information, has heen rendered the more steadfast by the contradictory statements of several authors, each of whom might have been expected to be familiar with the subject of which he professed to treat, and superior to any interested or unworthy motive for misleading his readers. Our present author endeavours to explain and reconcile these discordant notices; and his long residence in Russia, where his practice, as a medical man, brought him in contact with many persons of all ranks, enables him to elucidate this subject with success.

The picture of the moral state of society is indeed a gloomy one, but yet there are traces of the dawn of a brighter day, when the present darkness shall be dispelled ; and institutions are already in operation, which, we trust, will gradually lead to the establishment of others yet more powerful, to convey liberty to the peasants, and honesty and integrity-precepts which never yet flourished in a state of slavery-to all ranks throughout the empire.

The character of the Russians, as set forth in the first division of this work, contains much important matter, from which we shall extract a few passages. The history of Moscow presents a mass of information, which has only been very superficially and partially exhibited by former authors. It does not admit of abridgment, nor can we so readily make extracts from it, as from the first part of the work.

“ A fête was to be given by Madame Poltoratsbia, the mother of the gentleman whom I accompanied, in the village of Gruzino, near Torjobi, on the Suoday subsequent to our arrival on that estate. Throughout Saturday, carriages, filled with nobles, continued to arrive from time to time, some of them with large bags filled with beds, and fixed behind them; others followed by selegos loaded with beds and pillows. Although the house of Madame Poltoratshia was of considerable size, it was matter of astonishment to me, where the whole of the party, amounting to nearly fifty individuals, were to find rooms for their accommodation in the night, though the beds were already provided. Conversation and cards were the evening amusements; and at eleven o'clock an elegant supper was served up; and at its conclusion, a scene of bustle and con

fusion followed, which riveted my attention. The dining room, the drawing room, the ball, the whole suite of apartments in which we had passed the evening, were converted into bed rooms. Dozens of small painted and unpainted bedsteads, each for a single person, and of the value, in Russia, of five rubles, were speedily transported into the chambers, and arranged along the sides of the rooms, which soon resembled a * barracks, or the wards of a hospital. Scores of servants, both of those belonging to Madame Poltoratshia and to the visitors, were now running backwards and forwards with beds and mattresses, pillows and bed-linen, shoobs and baggage. Many of the beds and mattressas had no inviting appearance. Some of the guests who had been less provident were accommodated with beds ; but as there was a scarcity, the beds of the servants were used by others. The number of bedsteads were also insufficient, but this was of little moment; a number of beds were immediately arranged on the floor, some upon chairs, and others upon the lejonhas (flat stoves or parts of stoves), besides all the sofas were at once converted into places of repose for the night.A

general who commanded a corps of artillery stationed at the Imperial head-quarters, had incurred, on some trifling occasion, the serious displeasure of the Emperor Alexander, and shortly before the battle of Leipsic, his Majesty, very unceremoniously, sent one of his aides-du-camp with an order that this officer should give up his command, repair within 24 hours to a village, at the distance of twenty or thirty miles, and take charge of a regiment stationed there. Surprise, indignation and fury were successively evinced by the General, but still he obeyed the mandate. He left the head-quarters without even a moment's loss of time, arrived at his new destination, examined it, reviewed the regiment, and immediately drove back to his former station. At a review of some troops on the following morning, the Emperor's eye soon perceived him at the head of bis corps. Astonishment and rage were depicted in the monarch's physiognomy; and he dispatched an aid-du-camp to inquire what the General was doing there, and why he had left his new station, and dared to disobey his sovereign's orders ? The General, who is a man of talents, of general information, and of an unconquerable, and somewhat ferocious spirit, with energy replied to the aid-du-camp, “Go back and tell his Imperial Majesty that the present time is highly important, and that I feel anxious for the fate of Russia. Tell bim that henceforth I serve not Alexander, but my country, and that I am here where I ought to be, at the head of my troops, ready to sacrifice my life in her cause.” Such an uncontemplated and heroic answer, instead of rousing the furious passions of the mind, as might have been expected, were despotism really absolute, bad a very opposite effect. The Emperor seemed surprised, replied not a word, and was glad to hush the affair to sleep, lest the General's example should be too generally known, and become a precedent, for the future, to the officers of the autocratic army. Before the battle of Montmartre, the General, who continued in his former command, had a station assigned him in the middle of danger, on purpose, as is supposed by some, that his head might be carried away by a cannon-ball, and thus rid the Emperor of a refractory and liberal-minded officer. This gentleman, who fears no danger, rejoiced at the occasion, fought bravely, and conquered. It redounds to the credit of Alexander, that he called for the General on the field of battle, and bestowed upon him the cordon of St. George. Since this period he has been employed on an important mission; and at this moment he holds one of the higbest and most responsible offices of the state.”

Several statements in this work will probably expose the author to much cavil and reproach; we think unjustly so; we have considered many passages, which will probably be severely oppugned, and compared them with information derived from private sources, on which we can place unlimited reliance, and we doubt not but the correctness of Dr. Li's relation will ultimately be admitted.

* Barracks, so spelled by our author throughout the work.-Q. Why?

« AnteriorContinuar »