Слике страница
PDF
ePub

The lightest flush of blood across her cheek would overcoine it
But she is so pale!".

He drew aside the window curtain and suffered the light of natural day to fall into the room and rest upon her cheek. At the same time he heard a gross, hoarse chuckle, which he had long known as his servant Aminadab's expression of delight.

“Ah, clod! ah, earthly mass !” cried Aylmer, laughing in a sort of frenzy, "you have served me well! Matter and spiritearth and heaven-have both done their part in this! Laugh, thing of the senses! You have earned the right to laugh.”

These exclamations broke Georgiana's sleep. She slowly unclosed her eyes and gazed into the mirror which her husband had arranged for that purpose. A faint smile flitted over her lips when she recognized how barely perceptible was now that crimson hand which had once blazed forth with such disastrous brilliancy as to scare away all their happiness. But then her eyes sought Aylmer's face with a trouble and anxiety that he could by no means account for.

My poor Aylmer!” murmured she. “Poor? Nay, richest, happiest, most favorc,l!” exclaimed he. “My peerless bride, it is successful! You are perfect!”

* My poor Aylmer,” she repeated, with a more than human tenderness, “you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not repent that, with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the earth could offer. Aylmer, dearest Aylmer, I am dying!”

Alas! it was too true! The fatal hand had grappled with the mystery of life, and was the bond by which an angelic spirit kept itself in union with a mortal frame. As the last crimson tint of the birthmark—that sole token of human imperfection-faded from her cheek, the parting breath of the now perfect woman passed into the atmosphere, and her soul, lingering a moment near her husband, took its heavenward flight.

66

[ocr errors]

66

In 1846, Hawthorne was appointed Surveyor in the Custom-House at Salem. This appointment lasted for three years, and furnished our author the theme and skeleton for his first popular work, The Scarlet Letter. Among a number nf musty and mouldy papers in the second story of the Cus

tom-House, Hawthorne finds the letter A made of scarlet cloth, together with “a small roll of dingy paper" containing a meagre history of it. Out of such scanty materials he fabricates one of the most interesting, weird, and tragical of romances. It is not possible to produce an extract that will serve as an exhibit of the many and strange humors and vicissitudes of this marvelous story. And we offer the following simply as one of its cheeriest pictures. The speakers are Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne, the hero and heroine of the story:

A FLOOD OF SUNSHINE.

“Do I feel joy again?” cried he, wondering at himself. Methought the germ of it was dead in me! O Hester, thou art my better angel! I seem to have flung myself—sick, sin-stained, and borrow-blackened-down upon these forest-leaves, and to have risen up all made anew, and with new powers to glorify Him that hath been merciful! This is already the better life! Why did we not find it sooner?

“Let us not look back," answered 1]..ster Prynne. “The past is gone! Wherefore should we linger upon it now? See! With this symbol, I undo it all, and make it as it had never been!”

So speaking, she undid the clasp that fastened the scarlet letter, and, taking it from her bosom, threw it to a distance among the withered leaves. The mystic token alighted on the hither verre of the stream. With a hand's breadth further flight it would have fallen into the water, and have given the little brook another woe to carry onward, besides the unintelligible tale which it still kept murmuring about. But there lay the embroidered letter, glittering like a lost jewel, which some ill-fated wanderer migat pick up, and thenceforth be haunted by strange phanbums of guilt, sinkings of the heart, and unaccountable misfortune.

The stigma gone, Hester heaved a long, deep sigh, in whii h the burden of shame and anguish departed from her spirit. O exquisite relief! She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom! By another impulse she took off the formal cap that confined her hair, and down it fell upon her shoulders, dark and rich, with at once a shadow and a light in its abundance, and imparting the charm of softness to her features. There played

around ner mouth and beamed out of her eyes a radiant and
tender smile, that seemed gushing from the very heart of
womanhood.

A crimson flush was glowing on her cheek, that had been long
30 pale. Her sex, her youth, and the whole richness of her beauty
came back from what men call the irrevocable past, and clustered
theniselves, with her maiden hope, and a happiness before un-
known, within the magic circle of this hour. And, as if the gloom
of the earth and sky had been but the effluence of these two
mortal hearts, it vanished with their sorrow.

All at once, as with a sudden smile of heaven, forth burst the sunshine, pouring a very flood into the obscure forest, gladdening each green leaf, transmuting the yellow fallen ones to gold, and gleaming adown the gray trunks of the solemn trees. The objects that had made a shadow hitherto, embodied the brightness now. The course of the little brook might be traced by its merry gleam afar into the wood's heart of mystery, which had becwme a mystery of joy.

Such was the sympathy of Nature—that wild, heathen Nature of the forest, never subjugated by human law, nor illumined by higher truth-with the bliss of these two spirits! Love, whether newly born, or aroused from a death-like slumber, must always create a sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world. Had the forest still kept its gloom, it would have been bright in Hester's eyes, and bright in Arthur Dimmesdale's !

Our author's next work was the House of the Seven Gables,
published in 1851. This is a story of wrong which, though
careering through several generations, is finally overtaken
by retribution. The old Seven-Gabled House is alike the
scene and symbol of the whole struggle. Under its founda-
tion timbers is bedded a curse, which, in time, worm-like,
bores through its every rafter, crazing and marring the x

hol goodly edifice. Ghosts, bats, vermin, melancholy
winds, and spectral gloom mostly haunt its deserted apart-
ments; but rays of light, too, occasionally stray across its
threshold, and cheery voices now and then animate its
deadness. One such ray and note the student will recog.

nize in the following extract. Hauthome Sorue at the review babe'at Salern fiore teen Ho Websterdam Heller that city, passengout

dierhonde Aamuly, Pither frisliliwerpeke vicerection in/66 la an

el now THE FIRST CUSTOMER. But, at this instant, the shop-bell, right over her head, tinkled as if it were bewitched. The old gentlewoman's heart seemed 10 he attached to the same steel spring, for it went through a series of sharp jerks, in unison with the sound. The door was thrust open, although no human form was perceptible on the other side of the half-window. Hepzibah, nevertheless, stood at a gaze, with her hands clasped, looking very much as if she had summoned up an evil spirit, and were afraid, yet resolved, to hazard the encounter.

"Heaven help me!" she groaned, mentally. “Now is my hour of need !"

The door, which moved with difficulty on its creaking and rusty hinges, being forced quite open, a square and sturdy little urchin became apparent, with cheeks as red as an apple. He was clad rather shabbily (but, as it seemed, more owing to his mother's carelessness than his father's poverty), in a blue apron, very wide and short trousers, shoes som. what out at the toes, and a chip-hat, with the frizzles of his curly hair sticking through its crevices.

A book and a small slate, under his arm, indicated that he was on his way to school. He stared at Hepzibah a moment, as an elder customer than himself would have been likely enough to do, not knowing what to make of the tragic attitude and queer scowl wherewith she regarded him.

“Well, child," said she, taking heart at sight of a personage su little formidable,—“well, my child, what did you wish for ?”

“That Jim Crow, there in the window,” answered the urchin, holding out a cent, and pointing to the gingerbread figure that had attracted his notice, as he loitered along to school; “the one that has not a broken foot.”

So Hepzibah put forth her lank arm, and taking the effigy from the shop-window, delivered it to her first customer.

No matter for the money,” said she, giving him a little pushi towards the door; for her old gentility was contumaciously squeamish at sight of the copper coin, and, besides, it seemed such pitiful meanness to take the child's pocket-money in exchange for a bit of stale gingerbread. “No matter for the cent. You are welcome to Jim Crow.”'

The child, staring, with round eyes, at this instance of liber: ality, wholly unprecedented in his large experience of cent.

[ocr errors]

shops, took the man of gingerbread, and quitted the premises No sooner had he reached the sidewalk (little cannibal that he was !) than Jim Crow's head was in his mouth. As he had not veen careful to shut the door, Hepzibah was at the pains of closing it after him, with a pettish ejaculation or two about the troublesomeness of young people, and particularly of small boys.

She had just placed another representative of the renowned Jim Crow at the window, when again the shop-bell tinkled clamorously, and again the door being thrust open, with its characteristic jerk and jar, disclosed the same sturdy little urchin who, precisely two minutes ago, had made his exit. The crumbs and discoloration of the cannibal feast, as yet hardly consummated, were exceedingly visible about his mouth.

“What is it now, child?” asked the maiden lady, rather impatiently; “did you come back to shut the door?

'No," answered the urchin, pointing to the figure that had just been put up; “I want that other Jirn Crow.”

Well, here it is for you,” said Hepzibah, reaching it down; but, recognizing that this pertinacious customer would not quit her on any other terms, so long as she had a gingerbread figure in her shop, she partly drew back her extended hand—“Where is the cent?

The little boy had the cent ready, but, like a true-born Yankee, would have preferred the better bargain to the worse. Looking somewhat chagrined, he put the coin into Hepzibah's hand and departed, sending the second Jim Crow in quest of the former one.

The new shop-keeper dropped the first solid result of her commercial enterprise into the till. It was done. The sordid stain of that copper coin could never be washed away from her palm. The little school-boy, aided by the impish figure of the negro dancer, had wrought an irreparable ruin. The structure of ancient aristocracy had been demolished by him, even as if his childish gripe had torn down the seven-gabled mansion !

Succeeding the above publication followed A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls, True Stories, The Snow Image, and other Troice-Told Tales, mostly juvenile stories. “These delicious stories, (the Wonrler Book.) founded on the mythology of Greece, were written for children, but they delight men and romen as well. Hawthorne never pleases grown people so

« ПретходнаНастави »