Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the heart's peace of Ellen: happily for her, she knew not the cause. The infatuated votary of dissipation, for this phantom Henry had sacrificed every virtuous prin• ciple; at the gaming-table time, fame, fortune, all were squandered ; and finding his resources unequal to his wants, he had determined to forge a draft in his father's name, hoping to replace the money before the act was discovered. To imitate the signature with exactness, he had recourse to one of his father's letters; it was the first which Henry had received on his arrival in the capital, and contained all the admonitions to virtue, all the dissuasives from vice, which a parent's heart could dictate. Though buried in the silence of night, and in the solitude of his chamber, still the consciousness of his purpose paralysed his hand : he falteringly opened it, but started on discovering that it held his still-loved Ellen's tress of amber hair. The sight of it revived all the recollections of joy and innocence connected with her image : he paused even upon the threshold of crime; he perused the admonitions of his father, and virtue conquered. But too transient, alas ! was her empire : Henry, impelled by vanity, and lured by the fascinations of a beauty who, bound to no authority but that of passion, prepared to fly from a husband only too indulgent, from children whose only fault was, that their helplessness and innocence reproached their mother. The day previous to that had arrived on which Henry had resolved to separate from innocence for ever; the arrangements for his departure were comupleted, except packing the few valuables he possessed, which were contained in an antique cabinet; and he proceeded with hurried abstraction to remove them into a small casket. One ring only, and that the inost valuable, was missing; there still remained a small box unexamined : with a mind absorbed in the contemplation of one idea, he mechanically opened it; the ring was indeed there, but with it was the hair of that onceloved one, whose image had gradually faded from his soul, as the bright rainbow of heaven retires from the approach of the whirlwind and the storm. He remained

for a few minutes riveted to the spot; but in those minutes the electric spark had flown through memory, and the pictures of early happiness and love appeared glowing as the sea when it blushes a welcome to the morning: Distracted by remorse, he instantly resolved to abandon his present design, and wrote an eternal farewell to her whose loveliness had seduced him from the path of honour. He then remembered with agony the time which had elapsed since he had last written to Ellen; and resolving to tell his tale of penitence in person, be trusted the persuasions of love would obtain his pardon. On arriving at her cottage, he found the roses blooming as when he left it, and the brightness of a summer's day diffusing loveliness and animation over nature. With a heart vibrating between hope and fear he entered the cottage, and there found all that remained of Ellen. Exhausted by disease, she was reclining on a sofa, pale as the snow-drop, which, rearing its gentle head to meet the sunbeam which it loves, is withered by the winter's blast, then droops and dies. After recovering the shock which Henry's presence gave her, she calmly listened to the recital of his errors and his repentance; then fixing her mild eyes upon him, “ Henry,” she said, “I feel that my very hours are numbered. Believing that you had trampled on a heart which only beat for you, death has long appeared as the best gift of Heaven. How much, how dearly I have loved, my grave will tell you! May God bless you for soothing with your presence my dying moments! and oh! may he doubly bless you, for cheering me with the hope that we shall meet in a better world : that has extracted the last thorn from my death-pillow: that has"-she clasped her hands as if in prayer,--she looked up to heaven, and expired!

European Magazine.

POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS. The feathers of a dove are supposed to possess a very particular power of resisting death; a person laying his head upon a pillow stuffed with them cannot die, but continues struggling with the agonies of death till it is removed. On this account the pillows of dying persons are frequently taken away lest they should contain pigeon's feathers.

Fern-seed is imbued with very important magical properties, and the spirits are so very tenacious of it, that they will not suffer any person to gather it in quiet. A woman, who was sent to gather some, reported that the spirits whisked by her ears, and sometimes struck her hat, and different parts of her body; and when, at length, she had collected a considerable quantity, and, as she thought, secured it, the box proved to be empty.

Many people destroy the egg-shells after they have eaten the meat: this custom originated from a desire of preventing witches from using them as boats. . A Manuscript in the Cotton Library, marked Julius,

f. 6. has the following superstitions, practised in the Lordship of Gasborough, in Cleveland, Yorkshire,

Any one whistling after it is dark, or day-light is closed, must go thrice about the house by way of penance. How this whistling becomes criminal is not said.

« When any one dieth, certain women sing a song to the dead body, reciting the journey the deceased must go.

“ They esteem it necessary to give, once in their lives, a pair of new shoes to a poor person ; believing that, after their decease, they shall be obliged to pass barefoot over a great space of ground, or heath, overgrown' with thorns and furzes, unless, by such a gift, they have redeemed this obligation; in which case, when they come to the edge of this heath, an old man will meet them, with the self-same pair of shoes they had given, by the help of which they will pass over

unhurt; that is, provided the shoes have no holes in them; a circumstance the fabricator of the tale forgot to stipulate.

“Between the towns of Aten and Newton, near the foot of Rosberrye Toppinge, there is a well, dedicated to St. Oswald. The neighbours have an opinion that a shirt, or shift, taken off a sick person, and thrown into that well, will show whether the person will recover or die; for if it floated, it denoted the recovery of the party; if it sunk, there remained no hope of their life: and to reward the saint for his intelligence, they tear off a rag of the shirt, and leave it hanging on the briars thereabout.” These wells, called rag-wells, were formerly not uncommon. Something like them is mentioned by Mr. Hanway, in his Travels in Persia, vol. i. p. 177; where he says, “ After ten days' journey we arrived at a desolate caravansera, where we found nothing but water. I observed a tree covered with rags tied to the branches; these were so many charms, which passengers coming from Ghilan, a province remarkable for agues, had left there, in a fond expectation of leaving this disease also on the same spot."

A WITCH. A Witch is almost universally a poor, decrepit, superannuated, old woman; who being in great distress, is tempted by a man clothed in a black coat or gown; sometimes, as in Scotland, wearing also a bluish band and hand-cuffs, that is, a kind of turn-up linen sleeve. This man promises her, if she will sign a contract to become his, both soul and body, she shall want for nothing, and that he will revenge her upon all her enemies. The agreement being concluded, he gives her some trifling sum of money, from half-a-crown to fourpence, to bind the bargain; then cutting or pricking her finger, causes her to sign her naine, or make a cross as her mark, with her blood, on a piece of parchment: what is the form of these contracts is nowhere mentioned. In addition to this signature, in Scotland, the devil made the witches put one hand to the sole of their foot, and the other to the crown of their head, thereby signifying they were entirely his. In making these bargains there is sometimes a great deal of haggling, as is instanced in the account of the negotiation between Oliver Cromwell and the devil, before the battle of Worcester, published in Echard's History of England. Before the devil quits his new recruit, he delivers to her an imp or familiar, and sometimes two or three; they are of different shapes and forms, some resembling a cat or kitten, others a mole, a miller fly, or some other insect or animal ; these are to come at her call, to do such mischief as she shall direct them : at stated times of the day they suck her blood, through teats on different parts of her body: these on inspection appear red and raw. Feeding, suckling, or rewarding these imps, was by law declared felony.

There are, it is held, three sorts of witches. The first can hurt, not help ; these, from their diabolical qualities, are called Black Witches. The second sort can help, but not hurt; these are unhappy persons, who; for the power of curing diseases, finding stólen goods, and doing other acts of utility, for which they take money, become bond-slaves to the devil : they are at continual enmity with the Black Witches, insomuch that one or the other fall a sacrifice to their wicked arts; these are commonly styled White Witches. The third sort are those who can both help and hurt; and as they seem a sort of mixture between white and black, and wanting a name, may, without any great impropriety, be named Gray Witches.

But to return to the common witch, which seems of the black sort; we do not find, that, in consequence of her wicked compact, she enjoys much of the good things of this world, but still continues in abject penury. Sometimes, indeed, she, in company with others of her sisterhood, are carried through the air on brooms, spits, &c. to distant meetings, or sabbaths, of witches; but for this they must anoint themselves with a certain magical ointment, given them by the devil.

At these meetings they have feastings, music, and

« PreviousContinue »