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only stay, from the crime of self-destruction, when he was “broken with the tempest.”
The course of this terrible tempest is described in the following pages, because its remembrance will please some old men now living, who have a lingering memory that their fathers once talked about it ;because it very distinctly illustrates the debased habits, and blind superstitions, which, to this very hour, distinguish the lives of the colliers; and, lastly, because it may shed a ray of hope and comfort into the dark bosoms of those who, in this world, are wrongfully punished, and shew them, that even here, though the wicked may for sometime “ flourish like a green bay tree,” yet a course of circumstances may arise, which will distribute moral justice and reward to all, according to their works.
This is the introduction—what follows is the story :-While Matthias was yet happy, and was feared, if not respected, by the turbulent community over which he ruled, a fellow whose name was Alan Tuitle, but who was generally called “ Old King Harry," was a sort of headsman over a gang of colliers. It is not exactly known how he obtained the
title of the King of the Reformation, but it is certain, that he exhibited, . in his person and conduct, many distant points of resemblance. His
figure was huge, and his strength immense. His face was broad, and full of flesh; and what with huge and pendent lips, and eyes which might be said to be immense, and to be ever rolling and gloating on some object or other, he presented a caricature of the “human face divine,” which the blush of shame never tinged. The wives of the workmen fled at his approach ; but battles with their husbands, his fellow-labourers, said to arise from their complaints of his conduct towards them, were of frequent occurrence, and generally, owing to his great power, terminated in his favour. Between this bad man and his master, the good Matthias, many differences arose. “ Old Harry" invented and taught the newest blasphemy,—trained the men to combine against the reasonable rules established for the government of the mines, and was, in fine, the “ doer of all evil,” which his demoniac mind suggested. Matthias had remonstrated with the man, had amerced him in fines, had discharged him from the works. But Alan could be silently sullen, or could, with open daring, threaten all who opposed him. “ I will not," said he, on one occasion, “ leave the Black Heading, until I hear my death knock. You, Master Matthias, dare not send me hence. I know every walk and fall-down in the pit. Drive me away :-at night-time, or happen in the day, for it's always night there, I will return, and bring the water-course upon you, or I will fire the fog, and blast you every one.
Mark me, Master Matthias, if I am driven hence, here you shall cease to abide.” Matthias knew the man's means of revenge, and privily he trembled at him. At the time referred to, there was no power in the police of the neighbouring town to seize one who threatened harm to life or limb, and bind him fast in prison until he found good surety for his peace ; and he feared to refuse him money for the weekly labour he insisted on performing. While the servant thus held in subjection the hand which paid and sustained him, a circumstance happened which changed his position.
Hester, the wife of Matthias, had a little garden and an apiary in one of the warm low vales that lie below the hills of Gleadless, which she was accustomed to visit at an early hour in the morning, before the snoring and still drunken colliers arose to pursue their black toil. It was on one of these occasions, during that quarter of the changing year,
in which the sun looks over the eastern hills, about five hours after midnight, that Hester set out, alone, but in conscious security, to visit her flowers and bees, leaving her husband at his accustomed devotions.
Some time had elapsed, and Matthias was about to leave his cottage, when his wife appeared at the threshold—rushed towards him with impetuosity, and threw herself, wounded, bleeding, and swooning, into his arms! The terrified husband called to his aid the women neighbours; and as they ministered to her, and sought to call her back to life and sensibility, he stood leaning over, bewildered in grief and pity. Happen this comes o' Alan—the villain llarry,” muttered the oldest of the assistants, as she attempted to re-adjust, in comely beauty, the torn and scattered ringlets which fell from Hester's pallid temples. At these words her face and bosom, which, but a minute before, were colourless as those of death, flushed with warm blood, and reddened with shame. “ It is—it is,” she murmured, “ Alan Tuitle-Alan Tuitle !” and the tint of life again fled, and she sunk pale and motionless on the bed, on which she had before reclined. The women shrieked aloud : many of them had reason to loathe and detest “ Old King Harry,” and not a few of them trembled at the name of a man who had contrived to bring them into a state of silent and mysterious subjection to him. Matthias, on the instant, seemed to put on a new nature. His benignant aspect passed away, and his hitherto gentle eyes flashed with indignation. * This—this is too much,” he exclaimed, and seizing an old military sword, which for years had hung undisturbed over the chimney, he drew it hastily from the scabbard, and rushed out of the house.
In a little while, Hester, finding herself alone with creatures of her own sex, began slowly to recover from the terror which assailed her, and was enabled to explain to those around, the nature and extent of the misfortunes which had befallen her. There was in her garden a little bower, covered so abundantly with creeping honeysuckles, and climbing peas, that it was almost impervious to light or rain. Into this bower had stepped the gentle Hester, and was about to repose herself within its partial gloom, when she was suddenly seized by the rude strong grasp of a man! She knew full well that Alan Tuitle had, long time before, not only looked upon her with unlawful passion, but had even assailed her ears with language which her pure heart shrunk from the kuowledge of; yet insomuch did she partake of the fear of that danger which would surround her husband if he were made acquainted with the injuries she had received, that she had not breathed a syllable to him, or to any one, touching his conduct. The sensual villain had profited by this apprehension of evil which Hester shared in common with the whole female community, and contemplated the commission of an enormity, which, like many of his past sins, would, as he believed, remain andivulged, and consequently unpunished. To this black end, he privily crept to the silent bower, and awaited the time when his victim would appear, to offer up her early and simple orisons. The wolf bad secreted himself, and the lamb had entered—but the good shepherd who watcheth over all, beheld them together. They fought—the fee. ble woman struggled with her brawny enemy. As her strength was fast sinking, and she had scarcely power, by the uncertain hold, which, with both hands, she had taken of his shaggy hair, to keep his loathsome face from her own, she heard the wretch suddenly give a loud howl of anguish, felt him relax luis grasp, and in a moment after saw him depart. The manner of her deliverance was accidental, and in this wise. As her agile and slender fingers were clasped amongst his hair, now unloosed, and now seeking to assail again, one of them accidently entered the orbit of Alan's left eye, and in the heat of the struggle, it was drawn back in such a manner, that the ball itself was thrown wounded and sightless on the bare cheek !
Matthias, bearing the naked sword before him, and uplifted waiting the moment of its mortal descent on the head of the guilty, found himself before the wretched hovel, in which Alan Tuitle, when he chose to sleep, sheltered himself like a savage and obscene beast alone in his lair. The door dropt in pieces on the first application of his foot, and one stride brought the enraged husband to the side of a foul black bed, upon which his ancient sabre fell with prodigious force. No sound, however, followed the blow, the edge of the weapon but divided the rags and patches of wool of which it was made up, and Matthias owned a shud. dering joy, which filled his heart as he became suddenly sensible that he had been arrested in his fixed purpose to take the life of the man who had injured him. He looked again round the hovel, and as he assured himself that Alan was not within it, again did his bosom swell with selfgratification, and he rejoiced that when the spirit of revenge was upon him, a fortunate train of circumstances had rendered him incapable of the performance of his own purposes. “ It is well,” said the now somewhat soberer Matthias, “ that I found him not, as I expected I should, else I had been his-his-executioner; yet,” he continued, leaning on his sword, which he now permitted to point to the ground, " yet he shall hence, and this good blade shall drive him; the measure of his of. fences is full, and his presence shall no longer pain me.” Thus deter. mined, Matthias bent his steps to the mouth of the Black Heading, and throwing himself into the machine which awaited his commands, rapidly descended seventy fathoms below the surface of the hill, and alighted amongst the sombre chambers, where he expected to find his daring and wicked injurer. He still held in his clenched hand the instrument of punishment or defence; and his manner bearing signs of strong emotion, which even the stultified colliers could destinguish, the whole body of miners quickly gathered round him, and with gaping surprise awaited to hear the cause of their master's sudden and unexpected visit. is Alan Tuitle whom I seek,” said Matthias sternly; “ hath he descended ?” Some of the men were silent, for many cared little tr speak of any thing they knew, or were ignorant of, which concerned the powerful and vindictive “Harry :” others said he had not set foot in the corve since the night before; but one of the colliers, called Jervase, declared he was certain he had seen him about an hour before come from a distant and abandoned part of the mine, which was scrupulously shunned by every one but himself
, and which was called “ The Spirits' Seat.” Matthias seized the lamp which burned the brightest, and, with determined resolution, pointing his sword towards the place described, quickly was lost to sight. The reasoning of the wondering colliers on what they had seen and heard was short and conclusive : Their master, Matthias, had, in the person of his wife, received an injury, which many also amongst themselves might complain of. He had drawn his sword to take Alan Tuitle's life; and would doubtless succeed in his purpose, if Alan Tuitle was really in the Spirits' Chamber, and the disturbed spirits themselves did not make forfeit the blood of one or both, for their most daring obtrusion on their dark and mysterious seat. Some
time passed away, and the colliers leaned upon their long picks, and placed their sooty cheeks close to the walls, straining earnestly, but silently, to catch the sound of footsteps or combat. Nothing was heard but the melancholy pattering of water as it fell in large drops from fissures in the roof; or, now and then, the more startling noise which was caused by the fall of heavy pieces of coal from the sides of the pit into deep shelvings, or almost interminable depths below. After the lapse of some time, however, Matthias was heard to strike against the sides of the way which he was traversing on his return, and in a moment afterwards he stood again in the midst of the workmen, pale, and seemingly exhausted. Some of them held up their flickering lamps, that they might better observe his face, and others passed them along the bright blade of his sword; but none of them ventured to ask what he had seen, and whereto he had penetrated. Matthias regained his confidence. “I have beheld strange things,” said he to his expecting hearers; “ whether they be spirits which inhabit the old mine, I know not; or whether he I seek keep them company, bodiless like themselves, I cannot tell ; but sure I am that these eyes of mine have beheld Alan Tuitle, and that this arm, when within its certain reach, struck at him.”
After a pause, which the gaping colliers seemed little inclined to shorten, Matthias continued: “ He vanished as doth the figure seen for a moment in a silver mirror ; and at the instant he was lost to sight, my ears were assailed with a loud laugh, which presently seemed as if it were echoed by a hundred men, placed at different and distant parts of the old mine, purposely to repeat its mocking!” Another pause ensued, which was at length, like the former, broken by Matthias. Stepping into the common machine, which would quickly raise him again to the surface of the earth, in a mild, but most firm tone, he commanded the men to give him the earliest notice of Alan Tuitle's appearance in the pit, as he was dedetermined,—this he said slowly and solemnly,-he should be no more seen amongst them. The colliers replied to him with a hoarse “hurrah!” and the revolving wheel presently brought him again within the region of the wholesome and illimited air,
Peace again blessed the hearth of Matthias. Hester became as tran. quil, and, in the eyes of her husband, looked as lovely as ever ; and he himself exchanged the burning thoughts of revenge and hatred, which he had once entertained, for the gentle and blessed emotion of pity, that a fellow man should so forget and abuse the divinity of his nature, as to imitate the rapacity, and confess the sensual appetites common only to unclean and perishing beasts ! But the days of peace which rise on this sad earth are short.
The prime of the year had some time passed, and the cold and early nights of winter had begun, when Matthias and his wife sat by their smiling hearths, and rejoiced in the riddance of their enemy. They had, however, some small troubles; not a night passed but a bird was missed from the roost; or provender of some sort, which was left in the air unhoused, was stolen, wasted, or destroyed. Before mid-winter, the whole people of Gleadless were, in their turn, subject to the invisible free. booter. Whatever might be the vices of the workers in the mines, they had hitherto lived amongst each other without any suspicion that “ Thou shalt not steal” was a necessary commandment. As is common to this day amongst the few, small, sequestered villages in England, which have a distant neighbourhood of the large towns, they had no idea of the usefulness or necessity of bars and lockers. Every hind slept with his door only on the latch; and his small live stock, his working implements, nay, even his clothes, lay within or without the house, on the garden hedge, or in the furrowed field, as chance or carelessness might have or. dered. But now terror and suspicion filled every mind; each morning made known some new depredation ; the women would not venture out, even while it was grey evening ; and at night time the men placed heavy bars of wood against the doors of their dwellings, and set up massy clubs, or other formidable weapons, within a convenient distance of the pallets on which they reposed.
The storms of the year came, and the nights howled through their dreary length. The men of Gleadless became sullen as the season-mysterious lights gleamed in the northern skies—when a man met his fel. low, or the whole of a frighted family pressed together to join in the chat of night, tales of the Spirits' seat, in the Black Heading mine were ex. changed; and a terrible belief of the presence and agency of disembodied souls pervaded every mind, save those of the educated Matthias aud his gentle wife.
But what to him were the opinions of the people round about? One brought him word that the blue spirits' light had been seen for many an hour, flickering over the mouths of the pits; another, that he had heard the death knock, and counted it, until he fell down in a swoon; and a third, that he had seen, with his own eyes, a ghost, as it stood in his way, and, with a motion, which was certain to be understood and obeyed, warned him to take another path. Yet what was this to the pious Matthias ? He could but share in the lamentations of the good and wise, that evil and folly were punished to the sons of men; and he knew not that any portion of the actions and thoughts of the superstitious people he employed had a peculiar reference to himself.
But something did happen, which quickened his pulse and shortened his rest. Hester, albeit he knew, and she asserted, that the miners' belief in apparitions and supernatural warnings, was by her utterly rejected, became weak and timid as the meanest of her sex. One night she returned home in a state of perturbation, and would not yield its cause to the dearest wooings of her husband. From this moment she abandoned all morning and evening walks; and even in mid-day, she li. mited the course of her exercise to a few fields from which her habitation could be seen. Her bees perished for lack of care; and her flowers, and the bloom which had heretofore brightened in her countenance, withered and passed away. The strength of Matthias was also shaken, yet he knew not why. He observed that his people, as he sometimes called the colliers, did not offer him, on meeting and parting, their awkward but customary greetings; and he was vexed. Every day some fellow came to him, and sullenly demanded his discharge from the Black Ileading, where he said he could not work; and Matthias thereat was much anger. ed. The tenor of his ways was obstructed, broken, and the economy of the works destroyed. When harassed at the inexplicable behaviour of all around him, he returned home, and sought shelter and peace on the bosom of Hester, he found there a heaving heart, which forbade his rest. They talked of the gross superstitions of the miners, and Hester smiled, but trembled as she did so; and when he proposed to secrete himself in such a place, and at such a time, as, according to the popular belief, might enable him to see a ghost, and expose its fallacy to the people, she grasped his arm with a man's strength, and, pressing her wet cheek to his, implored him to abandon his dangerous purpose. Matthias