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“Yes, truly, in everything but the name, dear Catherine; and when he dies, I swear you shall be Countess of Galgenstein."
“Will you swear?” she cried eagerly.
“By everything that is most sacred : 'were you free now, I would” (and here he swore a terrific oath) “at once make
We have seen before that it cost Monsieur de Galgenstein nothing to make these vows. Hayes was likely, too, to live as long as Catherine as long, at least, as the Count's connection with her; but he was caught in his own snare.
She took his hand and kissed it repeatedly, and bathed it in her tears, and pressed it to her bosom. Max,” she said, "I am free! Be mine, and I will love you as I have done for years and years."
Max started back. "What, is he dead ? ”, he said.
He let go her hand, and, interrupting her, said sharply, " Indeed, madam, if this carpenter never was your husband, I see no cause why I should be. If a lady, who hath been for twenty years the mistress of a miserable country boor, cannot find it in her heart to put up with the protection of a nobleman--a sovereign's representative--she may seek 'a husband elsewhere ! ”
“I was no man's mistress except yours," sobbed Catherine, wringing her hands and sobbing wildly; "but, heaven! I deserved this. Because I was a child, and you saw; and ruined, and left me because, in my sorrow and repentance, I wished to repair my crime, and was touched by that man's love, and married him-because he too deceives and leaves me because, after loving you--madly loving you for twenty years. I will not now forfeit your respect, and degrade myself by yielding to your will, you too must scorn me!
It is too much too much-O heaven!” And the wretched woman fell back almost fainting.
Max was almost frightened by this burst of sorrow on her part, and was coming forward to support her ; but she motioned him away, and, taking from her bosom a letter, said, “If it were light, you could see, Max, how cruelly I have been betrayed by that man who called himself my
husband. Long before he married me, he was married to another. This woman is still living, he says; and he says he leaves me for ever.".
At this moment the moon, which had been hidden behind Westminster Abbey, rose above the vast black mass of that edifice, and poured a flood of silver light upon the little church of St. Margaret's, and the spot where the lovers stood. Max was at a little distance from Catherine, pacing gloomily up and down the flags." She remained at her old position at the tombstone under the tree, or pillar, as it seemed to be, as the moon got up. She was leaning against the pillar, and holding out to Max, with an arm beautifully white and rounded, the letter she had received from her husband : “Read it, Max,” she said: "I asked for light, and here is heaven's own, by which you may read."
But Max did not come forward to receive it. On a sudden his face assumed a look of the most dreadful surprise and agony.
He stood still, and stared with wild eyes starting from their sockets; he stared upwards, at a point seemingly above. Catherine's head. At last. he raised up his finger slowly, and said, “Look, Cat--the head--the head!" Then uttering a horrible laugh, he fell down grovelling among the stones, gibbering and writhing in a fit of
epilepsy. Catherine started forward and looked up. She had been standing against a post, not a tree—the moon was shining full on it now; and on the summit, strangely distinct, and smiling ghastly, was a livid human head.
The wretched woman fted-she dared look no more. And some hours afterwards, when, alarmed by the Count's continued absence, his confidential servant came back to seek for him in the churchyard, he was found sitting on the flags, staring full at the head, and laughing, and talking to it wildly, and nodding at it. He was taken up'a hopeless idiot, and so lived for years and years ; clanking the chain, and moaning under the lash, and howling through long nights when the moon peered through the bars of his solitary cell, and he buried his face in the straw.'
There—the murder is out! And having indulged himself in a chapter of the very finest writing, the author begs the attention of the British public towards it; humbly conceiving
that it possesses some of those peculiar merits which have rendered the fine writing in other chapters of the works of other authors so famous.
Without bragging at all, let us just point out the chief claims of the above pleasing piece of composition. In the first place, it is perfectly stilted and unnatural; the dialogue and the sentiments being artfully arranged, so as to be as strong and majestic as possible. Our dear Cat is but a poor, illiterate country wench, who has come from cutting her husband's throat'; and yet, see! she talks and looks like a tragedy princess, who is suffering in the most virtuous blank verse. This is the proper end of fiction, and one of the greatest triumphs that a novelist can achieve : for 'to make people sympathize with virtue is a vulgar trick that any common fellow can do; but it is not everybody who can take a' scoundrel, and cause us to weep and whimper over him as though he were a very saint. Give a young lady of five years old a skein of silk and a brace of netting-needles, and she will in a short time turn you out a decent silk purse -anybody can; but try her with a sow's ear, and see whether she can make a silk purse out of that, That is the work for your real great artist; and pleasant it is to see how many have succeeded in these latter days.
The subject is strictly historical, as any one may see by referring to the Daily Post of March 3, 1726, which contains the following paragraph :
“Yesterday morning, early, a man's head, that by the freshness of it seemed to have been newly cut off from the body, having its own hair on, was found by the river's side, near Millbank, Westminster, and was afterwards exposed to public view in St. Margaret's churchyard, where thousands of people have seen it; but none could tell who the unhappy person was, much less who committed such a horrid and bárbarous action. There are various conjectures relating to the deceased; but there being nothing certain, we omit them. The head was much hacked and mangled in the cutting off.”
The head which caused such an impression upon Monsieur de Galgenstein was, indeed, once on the shoulders of Mr. John Hayes, who lost it under the following circumstances.
We have seen how Mr. Hayes was induced to drink. Mr. Hayes having been encouraged in drinking the wine, and growing very merry therewith, he sang and danced about the room ; but his wife fearing the quantity he had drunk would not have the wished-for effect on him, she sent away for another bottle, of which he drank also. This effectually answered their expectations; and Mr. Hayes became thereby intoxicated, and deprived of his understanding,
He, however, made shift to get into the other room, throwing himself upon the bed, fell asleep; upon which Mrs. Hayes reminded them of the affair in hand, and told them that was the most proper juncture to finish the business.*
Ring, ding, ding ! the gloomy green curtain drops, the dramatis persona are duly disposed of, the nimble candlesnuffers put out the lights, and the audience goeth pondering home. If the critic' take the pains to ask why the author, who hath been so diffuse in describing the early and fabulous acts of Mrs. Catherine's existence, should so hurry off the catastrophe, where a deal of the very finest writing might have been employed, Solomons replies that the “ordinary” narrative is far more emphatic than any composition of his own could be, with all the rhetorical graces which he might employ. Mr. 'Aram's trial, as taken by the penny-a-liners of those days, hath always interested him more than the lengthened and poetical report which an eminent novelist has given of the same. Mr. Turpin's adventures 'are more instructive and agreeable to him in the account of the Newgate Plutarch, than in the learned Ainsworth's Biographical Dictionary. And as he believes that the professional gentlemen who are employed to invest such heroes with the rewards that their great actions merit, will go through the ceremony of the grand cordon with much more accuracy and despatch than can be shown by the most distinguished amateur ; in like manner he thinks that the history of such investitures should be written by people directly concerned, and not by admiring persons without, who must be ignorant of many of the secrets of Ketchcraft. We very much doubt if Milton himself could make a description of an execution half so horrible as the simple lines in the Daily Post of a hundred and ten years since, that now lies before us “herrlich wie am ersten Tag," -as bright and clean as on the day of publication. Think of it! it has been read by Belinda at her toilet, scanned at “Button's” and “Will's," sneered at by wits, talked of in palaces and cottages, by a busy race in wigs, red heels, hoops, patches, and rags of all variety-a busy race that hath long since plunged and vanished in the unfathomable gulf towards which we march so briskly.
* The description of the murder and the execution of the culprits, which here follows in the original, was taken from the newspapers of the day. Coming from such a source they have, as may be imagined, no literary merit whatever. The details of the crime are simply horrible, without one touch of even that sort of romance which sometimes gives a little dignity to murder. As such they precisely suited Mr. Thackeray's purpose at the time-which was to show the real manners and customs of the Sheppards and Turpins, who were then the popular heroes of fiction. But now-a-days there is no such purpose to serve, and therefore these too literal
details are omitted.
Where are they? :" Afflavit Deus"--and they are gone! Hark! is not the same wind roaring still that shall sweep us down ? and yonder stands the compositor at his types who shall put up a pretty paragraph some day to say how, “ Yesterday, at his house in Grosvenor Square,!' or “ At Botany Bay, universally regretted," died So-and-So. Into what profound moralities is the paragraph concerning Mrs. Catherine's burning leading us !
Ay, truly, and to that very point have we wished to come; for, having finished our delectable meal, it behoves us to say a word or two by way of grace at its conclusion, and be heartily thankful that it is over. It has been the writer's object carefully to exclude from his drama (except in two very insignificant instances--mere walking-gentlemen parts), any characters but those of scoundrels of the very highest degree. That he has not altogether failed in the object he had in view, is evident from some newspaper critiques which he has had the good fortune to see; and which abuse the tale of “ Catherine as one of the dullest, most vulgar, and immoral works extant. It is highly gratifying to the author to find that such opinions are abroad, as they convince him that the taste for Newgate literature is on the wane, and that when the public critic has right-down undisguised immorality set before him, the honest creature is shocked at it, as he should be, and can declare his indignation in good round