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a tale




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At length, he cries, behold the fated spring!
Yon rugged cliff conceals the fountain blest,
Dark rocks it's chrystal source o'ershadowing.


The tale now returns to Fanshawe, who, as will be
recollected, after being overtaken by Edward Walcott,
was left with little apparent prospect of aiding in the
deliverance of Ellen Langton.

It would be difficult to analyze the feelings with which
the student pursued the chase, or to decide whether he
was influenced and animated by the same hopes of successful
love, that cheered his rival. That he was conscious
of such hopes, there is little reason to suppose;
for the most powerful minds are not always the best
acquainted with their own feelings. Had Fanshawe,
moreover, acknowledged to himself the possibility of
gaining Ellen's affections, his generosity would have
induced him to refrain from her society, before it was
too late. He had read her character with accuracy,
and had seen how fit she was to love, and to be loved
by a man who could find his happiness in the common
occupation of the world; and Fanshawe never deceived
himself so far, as to suppose that this would be the case
with him. Indeed, he often wondered at the passion,


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with which Ellen's simple loveliness of mind and person
had inspired him, and which seemed to be founded on
the principle of contrariety, rather than of sympathy.
It was the yearning of a soul, formed by Nature in a
peculiar mould, for communion with those to whom it
bore a resemblance, yet of whom it was not. But there
was no reason to suppose that Ellen, who differed from
the multitude only as being purer and better, would cast
away her affections on the one, of all who surrounded her
least fitted to make her happy. Thus Fanshawe reasoned
with himself, and of this he believed that he was
convinced. Yet, ever and anon, he found himself
involved in a dream of bliss, of which Ellen was to be
the giver and the sharer. Then would he rouse himself,
and press upon his mind the chilling consciousness,
that it was, and could be, but a dream. There was
also another feeling, apparently discordant with those
which have been enumerated. It was a longing for
rest,—for his old retirement, that came at intervals so
powerfully upon him, as he rode on, that his heart
sickened of the active exertion on which fate had thrust

After being overtaken by Edward Walcott, Fanshawe
continued his journey with as much speed as was attainable
by his wearied horse, but at a pace infinitely too
slow for his earnest thoughts. These had carried him
far away, leaving him only such a consciousness of his
present situation as to make diligent use of the spur,
when a horse's tread, at no great distance, struck upon
his ear. He looked forward, and behind; but, though
a considerable extent of the narrow, rocky, and grass
grown road was visible, he was the only traveller there
Yet again he heard the sound, which, he now discovered,
proceeded from among the trees that lined the roadside.


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Alighting, he entered the forest, with the intention,
if the steed proved to be disengaged and superior to
his own, of appropriating him to his own use. He soon
gained a view of the object he sought; but the animal
rendered a closer acquaintance unattainable, by immediately
taking to his heels. Fanshawe had however made
a most interesting discovery; for the horse was accoutred
with a side-saddle; and who, but Ellen Langton,
could have been his rider? At this conclusion, though
his perplexity was thereby in no degree diminished, the
student immediately arrived. Returning to the road,
and perceiving on the summit of the hill a cottage, which
he recognized as the one he had entered with Ellen and
Edward Walcott, he determined there to make inquiry
respecting the objects of his pursuit.

On reaching the door of the poverty-stricken dwelling,
he saw that it was not now so desolate of inmates as on
his previous visit. In the single inhabitable apartment
were several elderly women, clad evidently in their
well-worn and well-saved Sunday clothes, and all wearing
a deep-grievous expression of countenance. Fanshawe
was not long in deciding, that death was within
the cottage, and that these aged females were of the
class who love the house of mourning, because to them
it is a house of feasting. It is a fact, disgusting and
lamentable, that the disposition which heaven for the
best of purposes has implanted in the female breast—to
watch by the sick and comfort the afflicted, frequently
becomes depraved into an odious love of scenes of pain,
and death and sorrow. Such women are like the Gouls
of the Arabian Tales, whose feasting was among tombstones,
and upon dead carcasses.

(It is sometimes, though less frequently, the case,
that this disposition to make a `joy of grief' extends to


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individuals of the other sex. But in us it is even less
excusable and more disgusting, because it is our nature
to shun the sick and afflicted; and, unless restrained by
principles other than we bring into the world with us,
men might follow the example of many animals in destroying
the infirm of their own species. Indeed, instances
of this nature might be adduced among savage
nations.) Sometimes, however, from an original lusus
or from the influence of circumstances, a man
becomes a haunter of death beds,—a tormentor of afflicted
hearts,—and a follower of funerals. Such an abomination
now appeared before Fanshawe, and beckoned him
into the cottage. He was considerably beyond the
middle age, rather corpulent, with a broad, fat, tallow
complexioned countenance. The student obeyed his
silent call, and entered the room, through the open door
of which he had been gazing.

He now beheld, stretched out upon the bed, where
she had so lately laid in life, though dying, the yet uncoffined
corpse of the aged woman, whose death has
been described. How frightful it seemed!—that fixed
countenance of ashy paleness, amid its decorations of
muslin and fine linen,—as if a bride were decked for the
marriage chamber,—as if death were a bridegroom, and
the coffin a bridal bed. Alas, that the vanity of dress
should extend even to the grave!

The female, who, as being the near and only relative
of the deceased, was supposed to stand in need of comfort,
was surrounded by five or six of her own sex.
These continually poured into her ear the stale, trite
maxims, which, where consolation is actually required, add
torture insupportable to the wounded heart. Their present
object, however, conducted herself with all due decorum,
holding her handkerchief to her tearless eyes,


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and answering with very grievous groans to the words
of her comforters. Who could have imagined that there
was joy in her heart, because, since her sister's death,
there was but one remaining obstacle between herself
and the sole property of that wretched cottage?

While Fanshawe stood silently observing this scene,
a low, monotonous voice was uttering some words in his
ear, of the meaning of which his mind did not immediately
take note. He turned, and saw that the speaker
was the person who had invited him to enter.

`What is your pleasure with me, Sir?' demanded the

`I made bold to ask,' replied the man, `whether you
would choose to partake of some creature comfort, before
joining in prayer with the family and friends of our
deceased sister?' As he spoke, he pointed to a table,
on which was a moderate sized stone jug, and two or
three broken glasses; for then, as now, there were few
occasions of joy or grief, on which ardent spirits were
not considered indispensable, to heighten the one, or to
alleviate the other.

`I stand in no need of refreshment,' answered Fanshawe;
`and it is not my intention to pray at present.'

`I pray your pardon, reverend sir,' rejoined the other;
`but your face is pale, and you look wearied. A drop
from yonder vessel is needful to recruit the outward
man. And for the prayer, the sisters will expect it, and
their souls are longing for the outpouring of the spirit.
I was intending to open my own mouth, with such
words as are given to my poor ignorance, but'—

Fanshawe was here about to interrupt this address,
which proceeded on the supposition, arising from his
black dress and thoughtful countenance, that he was a
clergyman. But one of the females now approached


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him, and intimated that the sister of the deceased was
desirous of the benefit of his conversation. He would
have returned a negative to this request, but, looking
towards the afflicted woman, he saw her withdraw her
handkerchief from her eyes, and cast a brief, but penetrating
and most intelligent, glance upon him. He
immediately expressed his readiness to offer such consolation
as might be in his power.

`And in the meantime,' observed the lay-preacher,
`I will give the sisters to expect a word of prayer and
exhortation, either from you or from myself.'

These words were lost upon the supposed clergyman,
who was already at the side of the mourner. The females
withdrew out of ear-shot, to give place to a more
legitimate comforter than themselves.

`What know you respecting my purpose?' inquired
Fanshawe, bending towards her.

The woman gave a groan—the usual result of all efforts
at consolation—for the edification of the company;
and then replied in a whisper, which reached only the
ear for which it was intended. `I know whom you come
to seek,—I can direct you to them. Speak low, for
God's sake,' she continued, observing that Fanshawe
was about to utter an exclamation. She then resumed
her groans, with greater zeal than before.

`Where—where are they?' asked the student, in a
whisper which all his efforts could scarcely keep below
his breath. `I adjure you to tell me.'

`And if I should, how am I like to be bettered by it?'
inquired the old woman, her speech still preceded and
followed by a groan.

`Oh God!—The `auri sacra fames!' thought Fanshawe
with a sickening heart, looking at the motionless
corpse upon the bed, and then at the wretched being,


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whom the course of nature, in comparatively a moment
of time, would reduce to the same condition.

He whispered again, however, putting his purse into
the hag's hand. `Take this. Make your own terms
when they are discovered. Only tell me where I must
seek them,—and speedily, or it may be too late.'

`I am a poor woman and am afflicted,' said she, taking
the purse, unseen by any who were in the room.
`It is little that worldly goods can do for me, and not
long can I enjoy them,' and here she was delivered of a
louder, and a more heartfelt groan, than ever. She
then continued, `Follow the path behind the cottage,
that leads to the river side. Walk along the foot of the
rock, and search for them near the water-spout; keep a
slow pace till you are out of sight,' she added, as the
student started to his feet.

The guests of the cottage did not attempt to oppose
Fanshawe's progress, when they saw him take the path
towards the forest, imagining, probably, that he was retiring
for the purpose of secret prayer. But the old
woman laughed behind the handkerchief with which
she veiled her face.

`Take heed to your steps, boy,' she muttered; `for
they are leading you whence you will not return. Death
too, for the slayer. Be it so.'

Fanshawe, in the meanwhile, continued to discover,
and, for awhile, to retain, the narrow and winding path
that led to the river side. But it was originally no more
than a track, by which the cattle belonging to the cottage
went down to their watering place; and by these
four-footed passengers it had long been deserted. The
fern bushes, therefore, had grown over it, and in several
places, trees of considerable size had shot up in the
midst. These difficulties could scarcely have been surmounted


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by the utmost caution; and as Fanshawe's
thoughts were too deeply fixed upon the end, to pay a
due regard to the means, he soon became desperately
bewildered, both as to the locality of the river, and of
the cottage. Had he known, however, in which direction
to seek the latter, he would not probably have turned
back; not that he was infected by any chivalrous desire
to finish the adventure alone; but because he would
expect little assistance from those he had left there.—
Yet he could not but wonder—though he had not in his
first eagerness taken notice of it—at the anxiety of the
old woman that he should proceed singly, and without
the knowledge of her guests, on the search. He nevertheless
continued to wander on,—pausing often to listen
for the rush of the river, and then starting forward, with
fresh rapidity, to rid himself of the sting of his own
thoughts, which became painfully intense, when undisturbed
by bodily motion. His way was now frequently
interrupted by rocks, that thrust their huge grey heads
from the ground, compelling him to turn aside, and thus
depriving him, fortunately perhaps, of all remaining
idea of the direction he had intended to pursue.

Thus he went on—his head turned back, and taking
little heed to his footsteps—when, perceiving that he
trod upon a smooth, level rock, he looked forward, and
found himself almost on the utmost verge of a precipice.

After the throbbing of the heart that followed this narrow
escape had subsided, he stood gazing down where
the sun-beams slept so pleasantly at the roots of the tall
old trees, with whose highest tops he was upon a level.
Suddenly he seemed to hear voices—one well remembered
voice—ascending from beneath; and approaching


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to the edge of the cliff, he saw at its base the two whom
he sought.

He saw and interpreted Ellen's look and attitude of
entreaty, though the words, with which she sought to
soften the ruthless heart of her guide, became inaudible,
ere they reached the height where Fanshawe stood. He
felt that Heaven had sent him thither, at the moment of
her utmost need, to be the preserver of all that was dear
to him, and he paused only to consider the mode in which
her deliverance was to be effected. Life he would have
laid down willingly—exultingly;—his only care was,
that the sacrifice should not be in vain.

At length, when Ellen fell upon her knees, he lifted a
small fragment of rock, and threw it down the cliff. It
struck so near the pair, that it immediately drew the attention
of both.

When the betrayer—at the instant in which he had almost
defied the power of the Omnipotent to bring help
to Ellen—became aware of Fanshawe's presence, his
hardihood failed him for a time, and his knees actually
tottered beneath him. There was something awful, to
his apprehension, in the slight form that stood so far
above him, like a being from another sphere, looking
down upon his wickedness. But his half superstitious
dread endured only a moment's space; and then, mustering
the courage that in a thousand dangers had not
deserted him, he prepared to revenge the intrusion by
which Fanshawe had a second time interrupted his de

`By heaven, I will cast him down at her feet!' he muttered
through his closed teeth. `There shall be no
form nor likeness of man left in him. Then let him rise
up, if he is able, and defend her.'


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Thus resolving, and overlooking all hazard, in his eager
hatred, and desire for vengeance, he began a desperate
attempt to ascend the cliff. The space, which only
had hitherto been deemed accessible, was quickly past,
and in a moment more he was half way up the precipice,
clinging to trees, shrubs, and projecting portions of the
rock, and escaping through hazards which seemed to
menace inevitable destruction.

Fanshawe, as he watched his upward progress, deemed
that every step would be his last; but when he perceived
that more than half, and, apparently, the most difficult
part of the ascent was surmounted, his opinion
changed. His courage, however, did not fail him, as the
moment of need drew nigh. His spirits rose buoyantly,
his limbs seemed to grow firm and strong, and he stood
on the edge of the precipice, prepared for the death-struggle
which would follow the success of his enemy's

But that attempt was not successful. When within a
few feet of the summit, the adventurer grasped at a twig,
too slenderly rooted to sustain his weight. It gave way
in his hand, and he fell backward down the precipice.
His head struck against the less perpendicular part of
the rock, whence the body rolled heavily down to
the detached fragment, of which mention has heretofore
been made. There was no life left in him. With all
the passions of hell alive in his heart, he had met the
fate that he intended for Fanshawe.

The student paused not, then, to shudder at the sudden
and awful overthrow of his enemy, for he saw that
Ellen lay motionless at the foot of the cliff. She had,
indeed, fainted, at the moment she became aware of her
deliverer's presence,—and no stronger proof could she
have given of her firm reliance upon his protection.


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Fanshawe was not deterred by the danger, of which
he had just received so fearful an evidence, from attempting
to descend to her assistance; and whether owing
to his advantage in lightness of frame, or to superior
caution, he arrived safely at the base of the precipice.

He lifted the motionless form of Ellen in his arms, and
resting her head against his shoulder, gazed on her
cheek of lily paleness, with a joy—a triumph—that rose
almost to madness. It contained no mixture of hope,
it had no reference to the future,—it was the perfect
bliss of a moment,—an insulated point of happiness.
He bent over her and pressed a kiss—the first, and he
knew it would be the last—on her pale lips; then bearing
her to the fountain, he sprinkled its waters profusely
over her face, neck, and bosom. She at length opened
her eyes, slowly and heavily; but her mind was
evidently wandering, till Fanshawe spoke.

`Fear not, Ellen; you are safe,' he said.

At the sound of his voice, her arm, which was thrown
over his shoulder, involuntarily tightened its embrace,
telling him, by that mute motion, with how firm a trust
she confided in him. But, as a fuller sense of her situation
returned, she raised herself to her feet, though
still retaining the support of his arm. It was singular,
that, although her insensibility had commenced before
the fall of her guide, she turned away her eyes, as if
instinctively, from the spot where the mangled body lay;
nor did she inquire of Fanshawe the manner of her

`Let us begone from this place,' she said, in faint, low
accents, and with an inward shudder.

They walked along the precipice, seeking some passage
by which they might gain its summit, and at length


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arrived at that by which Ellen and her guide had descended.
Chance,—for neither Ellen nor Fanshawe
could have discovered the path,—led them, after but
little wandering, to the cottage. A messenger was sent
forward to the town, to inform Doctor Melmoth of the
recovery of his ward; and the intelligence thus received
had interrupted Edward Walcott's conversation with the

It would have been impossible, in the mangled remains
of Ellen's guide, to discover the son of the widow
Butler, except from the evidence of her sister, who became
by his death the sole inheritrix of the cottage.
The history of this evil and unfortunate man must be
comprised within very narrow limits. A harsh father,
and his own untameable disposition, had driven him from
home in his boyhood, and chance had made him the
temporary companion of Hugh Crombie. After two
years of wandering, when in a foreign country and in
circumstances of utmost need, he attracted the notice
of Mr. Langton. The merchant took his young countryman
under his protection, afforded him advantages of
education, and, as his capacity was above mediocrity,
gradually trusted him in many affairs of importance.
During this period, there was no evidence of dishonesty
on his part. On the contrary, he manifested a zeal for
Mr. Langton's interest, and a respect for his person,
that proved his strong sense of the benefits he had received.
But he unfortunately fell into certain youthful
indiscretions, which, if not entirely pardonable, might
have been palliated by many considerations, that would
have occurred to a merciful man. Mr. Langton's
justice, however, was seldom tempered by mercy; and
on this occasion, he shut the door of repentance against
his erring protegéé, and left him in a situation not less


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desperate, than that from which he had relieved him.
The goodness and the nobleness, of which his heart was
not destitute, turned, from that time, wholly to evil, and
he became irrecoverably ruined and irreclaimably depraved.
His wandering life had led him, shortly before
the period of this tale, to his native country. Here the
erroneous intelligence of Mr. Langton's death had
reached him, and suggested the scheme, which circumstances
seemed to render practicable, but the fatal termination
of which has been related.

The body was buried where it had fallen, close by
the huge, gray, moss-grown fragment of rock,—a monument
on which centuries can work little change. The
eighty years that have elapsed since the death of the
widow's son, have, however, been sufficient to obliterate
an inscription, which some one was at the pains to
cut in the smooth surface of the stone. Traces of letters
are still discernible; but the writer's many efforts could
never discover a connected meaning. The grave, also,
is overgrown with fern bushes, and sunk to a level with
the surrounding soil. But the legend, though my version
of it may be forgotten, will long be traditionary in
that lonely spot, and give to the rock, and the precipice,
and the fountain, an interest thrilling to the bosom of the
romantic wanderer.