Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership




Title: The Anaconda
Author: Matthew Gregory Lewis
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605981.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html


To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au


The Anaconda
Matthew Gregory Lewis



'The Lord in heaven forbid!' exclaimed the old man, while every limb
was convulsed with horror, the blood forsook his cheeks, and he
clasped his hands in agony; 'but the thing is impossible!' he resumed,
after a few moments passed in reflection, 'absolutely impossible!
What! Everard? a boy, whose childhood was passed under my own roof,
under my very eye? whose manners are so mild, who was ever so gentle,
so grateful, so kind; whose heart I know as well as I do my own. Bless
my soul, sister Milman, what a fright you have given me! But it's no
great matter now, for, when I reflect upon this history of yours, I
see clearly that the thing is quite impossible, and so there's an end
of it.'

'Now was there ever anything so provoking! Brother, brother, let me
tell you, that at your time of life it is quite a shame to suffer
yourself to be so blinded by prejudice. His childhood was passed under
your roof, forsooth! but where did he pass his youth, I should be glad
to know? why, among tigers and alligators that swallow up poor dear
little children at a mouthful, and great ugly black-a-moor monsters,
who eat nothing but human flesh, heaven bless us! and where's the
great wonder, that living in such graceless company Everard should
have picked up some of their bloody tricks? Nay, brother, to tell you
a bit of my mind, for my own part I always suspected, that there was
something awkward in the manner by which he came y such a sight of
money; though, to be sure, I never imagined that the business was half
so bad as it proves to be.'

'Proves to be, sister! proves to be, indeed! Let me remind you that
you have proved nothing, though God knows you have asserted enough to
make every hair on my head stand on end: and as to his fortune, I make
no doubt that Everard can give as satisfactory an account of his
making it, as the honestest man within the bills of mortality.'

'I should be glad to know then, why he so obstinately refuses to give
any account at all? It's above a year since he returned from the East
Indies, and yet there isn't a human being a bit better informed on the
subject than we were on the first day of his landing; though I'm sure
it's not for want of asking, for many and many a good hour have I
passed in pumping, and pumping, and yet here do I sit at this moment
no whit the wiser! He always puts on such a solemn look, and takes the
first opportunity of turning the conversation to something else: nay,
the other day, when I wouldn't be fobbed off with a cock-and-a-bull
story about heaven knows what, and put the question home to him in so
many words,--"By what means did you, Everard Brooke, get so much
money?" He turned his back plump upon me, and stalked out of the room;
which was no great proof of his good-breeding, you'll say; but mercy
upon us! good-breeding isn't what the gentleman values himself upon,
for it was but last Friday that he bounced out of the room to call
Towser off, who was barking at a little dirty beggarboy, though he saw
that I had dropped my teaspoon, and was obliged to stoop for it
myself! a great bear! but indeed I expected nothing better from a man
who has lived so long among Hottentots.

'Well, sister! I dare say that he ought to have stopped to pick up
your teaspoon; though to be sure I can't find in my heart to blame him
very much for having gone first to rescue the beggar--boy, being
afraid that I should have committed exactly the same fault myself. But
you know I never pretended to good-breeding, and in all matters of
politeness, sister Milman, I must give way to your better judgement
and experience. However, I cannot be equally submissive respecting the
material point; and in spite of all that you have advanced I must
still maintain my opinion, that Everard came by his money honestly,
whatever you may have heard to the contrary.'

'Then why won't he let a body know how he came by it? Let me tell you,
brother, that when a man has anything good to tell of himself he isn't
so fond of holding his tongue; nay, for that matter, to hold one's
tongue at all isn't natural and I warrant you, whoever does so has
some good reason at bottom for submitting to such a disagreeable
restraint, if one could but get him to own it: and so think the
Williamsons, and the Joneses, and my cousin Dickins, and all the
family of the Burnabys: for I am not of so uncommunicative a temper as
your darling Everard, Heaven be praised for it! No; if I get a bit of
information, I am too generous to keep it to myself, and have no
peace, till all my neighbours are as well informed as I am. So this
morning, I no sooner got possession of this bloody story, than I
ordered my chariot, and drove round the village to communicate it to
all our friends and relations. To be sure, they were mightily shocked
at the account, as who wouldn't be? But they confessed, that they
always expected to find something wrong at the bottom of this mystery,
and they think it a mercy that I should have discovered the truth,
before things were gone too far between Everard and your daughter
Jessy.'

'And so you have been carrying this fine story all round the village?
I protest now, sister Jane, it seems to me, that you have been giving
yourself a great deal of very unnecessary trouble; and if, after all,
your assertions should prove to be unfounded, I know not what
recompence you can make poor Everard for this attempt to blast his
character. The most innocent circumstances may be so construed as to
wear an awkward appearance: there are always enough ill-natured people
in the world ready to spread about scandalous reports, and Everard has
too much merit not to have excited plenty of enemies; and here you
have just now picked up a strange, unaccountable, rigmarole tale from
one of these; and---'

'From one of his enemies,' exclaimed Mrs Milman, fanning herself
violently; 'very fine truly! when I heard the whole story with these
ears of mine from the mouth of his own little coffee--coloured
barbarian! Yes, to be sure! Mirza is a violent enemy of Mr Everard's,
that cannot be denied!'

The old merchant's face underwent a considerable change at hearing
these last sentences; he looked distressed, and rubbed his forehead
for some moments in evident anxiety.

'Mirza!' he repeated after a pause; 'sister Jane, recollect yourself;
this is no trifling matter! are you quite sure that Mirza asserts the
truth of the story which I have just heard you relate?'

'I tell you, brother, for the second time, that I heard him tell it
with my own ears! not indeed all at once, for the wicked little
heathen knew too well how little it was to his master's credit that
the fact should get abroad. Ah! he is a cunning hand, I promise you!
But I went round about, and round about, and wormed and wormed, and
kept beating the bush, till I got it all out of him. I confess I was
obliged to promise faithfully that his master should never know a
syllable about it, for he said that it would give him pain to hear it
mentioned, as to be sure well it may; but, when I found what a
horrible secret it was, I had a great deal too much conscience to keep
my promise, and lost no time in making the monster's guilt known to
the whole neighbourhood.'

'Well, well sister! I won't pretend to say that you did wrong, and I
doubt not you acted from the best motives; but yet I can't help
wishing that you had acted otherwise! This Everard--poor, dear, wicked
fellow--he was once so good, so affectionate; I would have betted all
I have in the world, that it wasn't in his nature to kill so much as a
fly; and to murder a woman--a woman too that he had promised to
marry!'

'Aye! and to murder her in such a shocking manner too! First to shoot
at her from behind a hedge, and when he found the poor creature was
only wounded, to have the heart to run up to her, and actually beat
her brains out with a club! why, Mirza said, that he verily believed
that she was above half an hour dying.'

'I never heard of anything so horrible.'

'But what is worst, he wasn't contented with destroying the poor
girl's body; he had previously ruined her precious soul! It seems that
her name was Nancy O'Connor; an Irish family, I suppose. I once knew
an Irish officer of that name myself. I was but a girl then, and
danced with him at the Hackney Assembly, and a mighty genteel comely-
looking man he was, though he had but one eye; but that's neither here
nor there. Well, as I was telling you, this Nancy was either the
daughter or the wife of a rich planter, with whom Everard lived as
clerk, or factor, or something of that kind. Well! and so this poor
girl fell in love with Everard, and he on his side was wonderfully
attentive to Nancy; for Mirza says, that he passed whole days and
nights in watching her, and ogling her, so that she actually could
hardly stir without his knowing it; till at last he worked himself so
totally into her good graces, and got such an influence over her mind,
that (knowing his patron to have made a will entirely in Nancy's
favour) he persuaded her to poison poor Mr O'Connor, in order that she
might share his wealth with her abominable lover.'

'Poison her father! monstrous!'

'Her father, or her husband, for (as I said before) I am not certain
which; but I should rather suppose it was her father, for it seems the
poor deceived old man made it his dying request to her, that she
should make Everard her husband as soon as ever the funeral was over:
so you may judge how artfully the hypocrite must have played his
cards! Well! now it was supposed that Everard would immediately have
made Nancy Mrs Brooke: the settlements were all drawn up; the clothes
were bought; the wedding day was fixed: when, lo and behold, what do
you think the ungrateful monster did? He persuaded the poor young
creature to dispose of all her property; and when it was converted
into money, and jewels, and such like, he enticed her into a wood,
where he robbed and murdered her in the manner which you have just
heard; and then, getting on board a vessel with his plunder in all
haste, he managed to escape from Ceylon, before the officers of
justice had time to discover what was become of him! The only thing
which surprises me is, that he should have brought away Mirza with
him; but as the young heathen was then quite a child, I suppose his
master thought it probable that he knew nothing of this bloody
business, or would certainly forget it during the voyage. And now,
brother, what have you to say in behalf of your fine Mr Everard? Ah!
how often have I told you, over and over again, I was certain that
something bad would come out against him all in good time! But you
were obstinate; you still let him come dangling about your house, and
keep hankering and hankering after your daughter Jessy; and now you
may think yourself well off if the girl's heart isn't fixed upon
having the vagabond, and getting her brains knocked out in her turn,
like poor Miss Nancy O'Connor.'

Partial as the old man was to Everard, he could not but feel his faith
in him a good deal shaken by this long string of horrible
circumstances, and by the positive manner in which they were advanced,
And now flocked in one after another the Joneses, and the Williamsons,
and all the family of the Burnabys, with their wondering, and their
blessing themselves, and their exclamations, and their pity for poor
Miss O'Connor, and their having long suspected nothing better. The
good old man listened in silence, and sighed, while they assailed him
thus on all sides but though he could not venture to contradict them
he could not find it in his heart to join in their censures of the man
whom he had so long esteemed and whom he still loved so tenderly But
when at length cousin Dickins made his appearance, (a man of great
importance in this family for he was rich a bachelor, advanced in
years and Jessy's godfather) and announced his thorough belief in Mrs
Milman's story, it was no longer in old Elmwood's power to remain
neutral in the business He declared his submission to cousin Dickins'
better judgement, and his intention of declining any further
communication with Mr Brooke, for he no longer dared to call him by
the familiar and affectionate appellation of Everard.

This declaration was received with great satisfaction by all present,
and the resolution was pronounced nem. con. to be extremely judicious:
the delinquent was at this time in London, whither he had repaired (as
it was suspected) for the purpose of ascertaining the exact state of
his property, in order that on his return he might lay it before
Elmwood, accompanied by a formal demand of his daughter's hand, This
absence was thought very fortunate by the company, as it afforded the
best opportunity for putting Jessy upon her guard; and it was
determined to summon her without loss of time, make known to her the
true character of the man with whom she had so imprudently been
suffered to associate, and insist upon her a solemn promise in full
convocation, that she would from that moment give up all communication
with him.

Jessy made her appearance. Alas! the fate of heart had been long
decided. As she listened to the strange tale, she sometimes coloured
with indignation against the accusers, and then again her cheeks grew
pale through fear lest the accusation should prove well founded. The
charge was concluded; the promise was demanded; yet still Jessy spoke
not, but sat absorbed in terror and grief. In vain was her love's
guilt repeated; in vain was she called upon to declare her abhorrence
at him; still Jessy only answered with her tears. Her friendly
relations turned up the white of their eyes at her blindness and
delusion; Mrs Milman was loud in exclaiming against the obstinacy and
wrong-headedness of young people, who would fancy themselves wiser
than their parents; and the formidable cousin Dickins, assuming one of
his most severe and dignified looks, insisted upon her giving an
immediate answer.

Terrified almost out of her senses at this formal address, the
trembling Jessy now contrived to sob out a hope that her aunt had been
mistaken, that Everard would still be able to prove his innocence.--
'Innocence!' so impossible a supposition was of itself sufficient to
set the whole assembly in an uproar: the Williamsons, the Joneses,
Cousin Dickins, and all the family of the Burnabys, gave tongue at
once; and above a dozen voices were still busy in affixing the least
flattering epithets possible to the name of Everard, when the door
opened, and Everard himself stood before them. He was just returned
from London, and had hastened to assure himself of Jessy's welfare. In
the next moment you might have heard a pin drop. The debate had been
carried on in too loud a tone to permit his being ignorant of the
nature of their disclosure; but, at all events, the evident and
universal embarrassment which his presence created, left him no doubt
that himself had been brought upon the carpet, and that in a manner by
no means to his credit. His sunburnt cheek glowed with indignation, as
he gazed round the circle, and requested to know the meaning of those
appellations by which, while ascending the stairs, be had heard
himself described.

The question being general, no person thought it necessary to take it
to himself. Each looked towards his neighbour, as if he expected the
answer to come from thence, and consequently all continued silent.
Everard now found it needful to particularize and turning to Cousin
Dickins (whose voice had been super--eminently loud) he demanded of
him the desired explanation.

'Why, really, Sir,' stammered out Cousin Dickins, adjusting his
neckcloth, in order to conceal his embarrassment; 'really, Mr
Everard--as to what was said--I can only say--that I said nothing--
that is to say, not that I quite said nothing--though, to say truth,
it was almost as good as nothing--for it was nothing from my own
knowledge--I only repeated--I only observed--that, if what Mrs Milman
said was true---'

'Mrs Milman?' interrupted Everard, 'that's enough; now then we get a
step nearer to the source of the business. Will you then, madam have
the goodness to explain your reason for applying such opprobrious
epithets to the name of Everard Brooke--a name which I am bold to say
deserves them as little as that of any person in this society I wait
for your reply, madam.'

'Well, sir, and by my faith you shall have it; answered Mrs Milman,
who by this time had recovered her mind, and was now resolved to carry
the business through with flying colours, by assuming a double
quantity of assurance. 'You shall have it, never fear! And if it turns
out that your name is really as good as any one's in the company, and
that you really did not poison the old gentleman, and beat Miss
Nancy's brains out, why then so much the better for you, that's all,
and there's no harm done.'

'Poison the old gentleman? Beat out Miss Nancy's brains? What Miss
Nancy? What old gentleman? Why, in the name of Heaven, Mrs Milman,
where did you pick up this farrago of nonsense?'

'I pick up, indeed! Let me tell you, sir, that I never picked up
anything, or anybody in my life; and that if you talk of picking up,
you are the much more likely person to pick up of the two. And now I'm
about it, I'll let you into another piece of my mind. It's extremely
rude in you to call my conversation a farrago of nonsense; but truly
it's no wonder, for I'm not the first lady that you have treated with
rudeness, Heaven knows! and more's the pity---Miss Nancy for that!'

'Miss Nancy again!' exclaimed Everard, 'and who the devil then is Miss
Nancy?'

'What then you don't know Miss Nancy? No; never heard of Miss Nancy
O'Connor, I warrant?'

'No, madam; I never did.'

'Well, come, now, that is a good one! To beat a lady's brain out, and
then to cut her acquaintance, and pretend you know nothing about her,
is the finest piece of modern good breeding that I ever heard of! Nay,
indeed, I never expected much good breeding from you, sir, ever since
that affair of the teaspoon, but one thing I can tell you; your little
copper-coloured Hottentot, Mirza, sings a very different song from you
on this occasion; for I had the whole story from his own lips.'

'From Mirza's? impossible!'

'It's not mighty polite in you to contradict one so plump, sir, but no
matter for that, I repeat it; Mirza told me himself that you had
poisoned a gentleman, and beat his daughter's brains out; and now so
much for that, and butter to fish. Nay, if you don't choose to believe
me, call the boy hither, and ask him; I desire no better, and I see
him playing in the garden at this moment.'

'And it shall be done instantly!' cried Everard, at the same time
throwing up the window--'Mirza! Mirza!'

Mirza was soon in the room.

'Pray, Mirza, what is the meaning---' began Everard, but Mrs Milman
immediately interrupted him.

'Silence, if you please, sir; I'll examine the boy myself. Come here,
Mirza; well, and how d'ye do, my dear? Pray, Mirza, what was that
pretty story you told me this morning about poisoning somebody, and
killing somebody with a club, and---'

'Oh! Missy! Missy!' cried Mirza, 'you no say dat! Massa tell me no
talk--Massa grieve--Massa angry.'

'No, no, child; he'll not he angry. He wants to hear how prettily you
tell the story, and so you must tell it all; mustn't he, Mr Brooke?'
Everard gave a sign of assent. 'You know, Mirza; it was all about how
your master made his fortune; well, and so, Mirza, (upon my word,
you're a very nice lad, and there's six-pence for you), well, and so
you say, Mirza, and so you say, my dear, that your master killed her
in a wood! what? did he kill her quite?'

'Iss, quite! She quite dead! Massa beat brains out wid great club!'

'I, Mirza? exclaimed Everard; 'did I?'

'Iss, Dad you did, Massa! and God him bless you for it!'

'Bless him for it!' whispered Mrs Milman to Cousin Dickins, 'there's
fine morality! the wicked little heathen! but you'll hear more
presently!' then turning again to the boy; 'well but, Mirza, you told
me something too about poisoning--what, I suppose, before your master
killed Miss Anne O'Connor.'

'Conda! Conda!' interrupted the boy.

'Condor, was it?' repeated Mrs Milman: 'well, well; Connor or Condor
the name makes no great difference. Well Mirza, and so you say that
this Anne O'Condor, instigated by your master, I suppose.'

'Oh! my massa! my massa!' shrieked Mirra in a tone of agony at the
same time pointing to Everard who pale as death, and with a
countenance expressing the most painful agitation, rushed to a table
on which stood a decanter of water, of which he hastily swallowed a
draught; though so violently did his hands shake that the goblet was
carried to his lips with difficulty.

'Forgive my leaving you so abruptly,' said he, in a faltering voice;
'I will return in a few minutes;' and he hastily quitted the
apartment, followed by Mirza.

Now then his guilt a pat doubting! Mrs Milman spread out her
petticoats, fanned herself with an air of triumph, and began a sermon
upon the wonderful effects of conscience Surprise had checked the
course of Jessy's tears, the blood had deserted her lips and cheeks,
and she sat motionless looking like a marble statue The good old
Elmwood felt in his wound which his darling's heart had just received,
but he had nothing to offer for her relief, except a fond pressure of
her hand, and a sigh of compassion. The rest of the company shrugged
up their shoulders at the depravity of human nature, and nodded their
heads significantly at one another, as if they had been so many
Chinese josses. Suddenly the door opened; and Mrs Milman was still in
the full flow of her eloquence when Everard re-entered the room, to
all appearances perfectly recovered from his late disorder.

'Mrs Milman,' said he, 'I am now master of the whole of this business.
Your ignorance of circumstances peculiar to the East, the singularity
of my adventures, and the broken English in which you heard them
related, have led you to a most extraordinary mistake. I cannot clear
it up, without subjecting myself to the most agonising recollections,
and rending open afresh those wounds, which, it's true, are scarred
over, but which are too deep and too deadly to be ever thoroughly
healed. If, therefore, the opinion of the world were alone concerned,
that opinion which is so little necessary to my own happiness, I
should leave you in your error, rather than subject myself to the pain
of an explanation. But I see in this circle two persons, one of whom
possesses too dear an interest in my affections to permit my leaving a
single thorn in her gentle bosom which I have it in my power to
remove; while the paternal kindness which the other showed to me while
I was still a boy, demands that I should convince him that it was not
shown to one unworthy. To calm their feelings, I will sacrifice my
own; and, much as I shall suffer while making the recital, the recital
of my adventures shall, still be made. Be attentive then, and
everything shall be explained.

Curiosity now became the predominant expression--Elmwood breathed
freer, held up his head higher than before, and shook his daughter's
hand affectionately; a roseate blush, stole over the lovely fair face
of Jessy, while a look of silent gratitude thanked her father; the
rest of the company drew their chairs closer together, and prepared to
listen with all their ears.

Everard seated himself, and thus began.

You are already aware that my fortune was made in the island of
Ceylon. It was there that I was so lucky as to find employment in the
house of a man whose virtues rendered him as much the object of
universal esteem, as the favours which he conferred upon me entitled
him to my peculiar gratitude. I was engaged by him as his secretary,
but all other names were soon forgotten by us both in that of friends.
He was an Englishman as well as myself, and perhaps this had no slight
influence in producing so strict an intimacy between us. A variety of
untoward circumstances had compelled him to abandon his native land,
and sail in pursuit of fortune to the East. His toil had not been
vain: the capricious goddess, who fled from him with such disdain in
Europe, now showered her favours upon his head with the most unwearied
profusion. He had consumed but a few years in Ceylon, and was already
rich and possessed of a distinguished situation It seemed as if
fortune was at length resolved to convince the world, that she was not
always blind; for had she searched the whole island through, she would
have found it difficult to bestow wealth and honour upon a wiser or a
better man But of all his treasures, that which he counted most
precious, that for which he thanked Heaven's bounty at every moment of
his existence, and with every pulsation of his heart, was a wife, who
united all the beauty and graces of her sex with all the firmness and
judgement of ours. One only blessing was denied them: Louisa was not a
mother.

My friend and patron (his name was Seafield) possessed a villa at a
small distance from Columbo. The place, it's true, was of no great
extent, but it united, in their fullest perfection, all those charms
which render Nature in that climate so irresistible an enchantress.
This was, Seafield's most beloved residence, and hither he hastened
whenever the duties of his station permitted his absenting himself for
a few days from Colombo: in particular, there was a small circular
pavilion designed by his own hand, and raised under his own inspection
to which he was particularly partial and in which he was accustomed to
pass the greatest portion of his time It stood some few hundred yards
from the dwelling house, and was situated on a small eminence, whence
the prospect over land and sea was of a description rich, varied and
extensive Around it towered a thick circle of palm trees, resembling a
colonnade: their leafy fans formed a second cupola above the roof and
while they prevented a single sun-beam from piercing through the
coolness of their embowering shades, their tall and slender stems
permitted not the eye to lose one of the innumerable charms afforded
by the surrounding landscape.

This delightful spot happened to be the residence of Seafield's whole
family, when accidental business of importance required Louisa's
presence at Columbo. Conscious that her husband considered everyday as
lost which he was compelled to pass at a distance from his beloved
retreat, she positively refused his attendance, but accepting me as
her escort she departed for the city. Diligence and impatience to
return home enabled her to dispatch her affairs in less time than she
had expected them to occupy; and in the very first moment that she
found herself once more at liberty, she ordered the palanquins to be
prepared, and her slaves to hold themselves in readiness for
departing. Our journey was performed by night, for the double purpose
of reaching home the sooner, and of escaping the ardour of the noonday
sun. We arrived an hour after daybreak, yet Seafield was already
abroad.

'As usual, he ascended the hill to enjoy the beauty of the rising-
sun.' Thus said Zadi, Seafield's old and attached domestic; in whose
favour his master made an exception to his general opinion, that, in
all their transactions with Europeans, the natives of this island were
totally devoid of gratitude, honesty, and good faith.

'We shall find him in the pavilion, then?'

'Not an hour ago I left him writing,' was the answer.

'We will go thither and surprise him,' she said, addressing herself to
me. 'Wait here while I change my dress; a few moments will suffice for
my toilet, and I shall expect to find you here when I return.'

In the meantime, I remained leaning against one of the columns which
supported the small portico by which the door was sheltered. From
hence I enjoyed an uninterrupted view of the hill and its pavilion,
which, surrounded by its light and beautiful garland of palm trees,
attracted the sight irresistibly. While my eye dwelt with satisfaction
on their broad sheltering heads, I fancied that I could discover a
large excrescence upon the stem of one of them, extremely unusual in
those trees, which in general rear themselves perpendicularly towards
the sky, regular and straight as the pillars of a colonnade. It
resembled a large branch, extending from one stem to its neighbour;
and what puzzled me more in this appearance, was, that it seemed
occasionally to be waved backwards and forwards, though the breathing
of the sea-gale was so gentle that it scarcely moved the leaves on the
neighbouring branches. I made a variety of guesses to account or this
phenomenon, but every thing which my memory or my imagination could.
suggest, seemed inadequate to solve this difficulty entirely to my
satisfaction.

I was still puzzling myself with conjectures, when Zadi drew near me
with some slight refreshments. I pointed to the branch, whose apparent
motion had excited so much of my attention, and inquired, whether he
could at all account for the strong effect produced upon it by the
sea-breeze, while the lighter boughs were so gently agitated. He
immediately turned himself towards the palm trees; but no sooner did
his eye rest upon the spot in question, than the silver basket with
its contents dropped from his hands, the paleness of death spread
itself over his swarthy countenance; he caught at one of the columns,
to save himself from falling on the ground and, while his eyes
expressed the deepest horror and consternation, he pronounced with
difficulty--'The Anaconda! That is the Anaconda! We are undone!'

What could have produced an effect so sudden and so violent upon a man
whom I well knew to inherit from nature the most determined courage
and most remarkable self-possession, was to me absolutely
incomprehensible. But though I was ignorant of its cause, the sight of
his extreme alarm was almost sufficient to shake my own presence of
mind. I saw that he was on the point of sinking on the earth,
overpowered by his emotions. I sprang towards him, and caught him in
my arms.

'For the love of heaven,' I exclaimed, compose yourself, old man! Tell
me what terrifies you thus. What mean you by the anaconda? What can
occasion these complaints, and this alarm?'

He endeavoured to recover himself; he strove to speak, but in vain;
and, before I could understand the accents of his stammering tongue,
Louisa joined us, and without observing the slave's agitation put her
arm within mine, and advanced towards the pavilion. This action seemed
to restore to Zadi the lost powers of his body and mind. With a loud
cry he threw himself on his knees before us, and in words interrupted
by sobs, and accompanied by tears, he forbade our crossing the
threshold.

'Your first step without these walls,' he exclaimed, 'leads to
inevitable destruction. Every door must be bolted; every window must
be barred. This mansion must resemble a sepulchre, where nothing
living is to be found.' And, while he spoke, he hastily closed and
locked the folding doors, through which we had a prospect of the
pavilion. Louisa observed his singular behaviour, and the agitation of
his countenance, with looks which expressed the most lively
astonishment.

'Are you distracted, Zadi?' she asked, after a few moments; 'what mean
these tears, and these expressions so alarming? And why do you forbid
our going to your master?'

'---You're going to---? Almighty God! My master! He is yonder! Oh! he
is lost! he lost beyond the power of saving!'

'He is lost, say you? Answer me, old man! What mean you? what fear
you? Oh!--how my heart beats with terror!'

Her frame trembled with anxiety, while she gazed with wide-stretched
eyes upon the messenger of evil tidings, and pressed my hand with a
convulsive grasp.

'Recollect yourself, my good Zadi!' said I; 'what is this anaconda,
which you speak of with such terror? I have seen nothing except the
branch of a palm tree, which the wind moved backwards and forward,
singularly enough, it's true, but still nothing in it alarming.'

'Not alarming?' repeated the Indian, wringing his hands; 'not
alarming? The Lord have mercy on me, miserable old man! Ah! Mr
Everard, that branch of the palm tree! Alas! alas! It is no branch! It
is a snake! a terrible snake! We call it an anaconda and its kind is
in size the most enormous, in nature the most fierce, and in appetite
the most ravenous, of any to be found through all Ceylon! See! see!'
he continued, approaching one of the windows, 'see how the monster
plays among the branches! It always twines and twists itself into
those folds, and knots, and circles, when it prepares to dart itself
upon the ground, like lightning, to seize its prey! Oh! my master! my
poor dear master! He never can escape! Nothing can save him!'

Half of this alarming explanation was more than enough to throw the
wretched Louisa into a state of distraction. Her features were so
distorted by terror, that she was scarcely to be known for the same
woman, her eyes stretched almost to breaking, and her hands folded
together with as strong a grasp as if she meant them never to be again
separated, she exclaimed, in a voice so hollow and so expressive of
suffocation that it pierced her hearers to the very heart. 'My
husband!--my beloved! Oh! help me to save him, good, good men! Forsake
him not! Oh! forsake him not!'

But at this moment the wife required assistance not less than the
husband. Overpowered by her sensations, she fainted in my arms; Zadi
flew to summon her female attendants; and I bore the pale insensible
Louisa back to her own apartment, though Zadi's dreadful narrative had
almost deprived me of animation myself.

Our endeavours to re-kindle the extinguished flame of life were at
length successful Her eyes opened she cast around her a look of
apprehension.

'Oh! why are you still here?' said she to me in a feeble voice 'Is his
life then of so little consequence? Fly to his succour! Rescue him, or
let me die! In preserving him, you will preserve me; if he perishes, I
am lost.'

'He lives! he lives! heaven be thanked!' thus shouted the faithful
Zadi, as he rushed into Louisa's apartment. His anxious vigilance had
induced him to examine every part of the mansion, and ascertain with
his own eyes that it was perfectly secure against danger. He now
returned out of breath from the balcony, whence he had discovered to
his great satisfaction, that his view was unimpeded over the whole
pavilion. He remarked, that the door and all the windows (as far as
the power of vision extended) were closely fastened; and hence he very
reasonably concluded, that his master had been aware of the enemy's
approach in full time to take every precaution for his safety.

'Hear you that, my dear lady?' I exclaimed, while I took Louisa's
hand; 'surely, this intelligence is a one sufficient to restore your
strength and tranquility. We had nothing apprehend for Seafield,
except his being surprised by the monster while unprepared. But you
see that he has had time to shut out the danger: he has now nothing to
do but to remain quietly within his retreat, and the snake will either
not discover his being so near, or at any rate will be able to break
through the bulwarks which separate them. The whole business therefore
is a disagreeable blockade for an hour, or perhaps less; at the end of
which the anaconda will grow weary of waiting for its prey, and be
retiring to seek it in some other quarter, will release our friend,
and then we shall be quit for the fright.'

The satisfaction with which I thus endeavoured to reassure the
agonized heart of Louisa, was thoroughly established in my own. But
Zadi, whose own feelings were too much agitated by his master's
situation to permit his attending to those of others, hastened with
too little consideration to destroy the hope, which I so fondly
indulged, and with which I strove to soothe the afflicted wife. 'Oh!
no, no, no!' he exclaimed; 'we must not reckon upon the snake leaving
us so soon! When the anaconda has once chosen a group of trees for her
abode, and is seen to sport among their branches in the manner in
which we saw her amusing herself, she will remain there for whole days
and weeks watching patiently for her prey, till every chance of
success fails her, and absolute famine compels her to emigrate; but
her capacity of existing without food is almost inconceivable, and
till she removes of her own free will, no human power is able to drive
her from her retreat.'

'Almighty Powers!' stammered out the trembling Louisa, 'then he is
lost indeed! Even should those slight barriers be sufficient to
protect him from the monster's fury, he must still at last fall a prey
to the assaults of hunger!'

My frowning looks easily made the old man aware of the imprudence
which he had just committed; but the mischief was irreparable. Every
thing, which his imagination could suggest to soften the effect
produced by his ill-judged confession, was unable to blunt the arrow,
which had carried with it into the heart of his mistress the poison of
despair.

'But after all; said I, 'why are we to take it for granted that our
friend is actually exposed to this urgent danger? By your own account,
Zadi, above an hour had elapsed between your leaving your master in
the pavilion, and your discovery of the Anaconda; and what then can be
more likely than the day being so delightful, he should have gone out
to walk, and have quitted the pavilion before the snake's approach?'

'Angel of comfort!' exclaimed Louisa, while she seized my hand, and
pressed it to her lips; 'blessed, ever blessed be you for that
suggestion! Why should it not be, as you suppose? Why should not his
absence have rescued him?'

'Ah! dear heaven!' sighed the old man, and shook his head, 'the doors
closed, the windows all fastened---'

'Prove nothing,' I interrupted him; 'when did Seafield ever leave his
favourite retreat without taking those precautions? Perhaps; at this
very moment that we are trembling for his safety, he is at the
distance of miles from the place of danger! Perhaps, nothing more is
requisite for his full security than that we should take the
precaution of warning him in time, lest he should return to the
dangerous pavilion instead of coming straight to the house. Come,
come, Zadi; let us hasten to find him! Summon together all the male
domestics, as well as our palanquin-bearers; let us divide them into
small parties and send them into every path, by which it is possible
for Seafield to regain the hill.'

'Yes, hasten! hasten! cried Louisa; 'the thought that you may come too
late, pierces me to the very soul; yet on his having already quitted
the pavilion hangs my whole, my only hope! Hasten, friends! oh! hasten
to find him!'

Her eagerness would not suffer us to remain a moment. We consigned her
to the care of her female attendants. We then collected the male
inhabitants of the house together with all speed, and having armed
them in the best manner that time would permit, we approached in
different quarters as near the fatal hill, as the protecting shelter
of the trees and branches would allow us, without running the risk of
being discovered by the anaconda. Zadi remained with me.

On our way, I endeavoured to compose my thoughts, and to make myself
master of every particular respecting the danger, to which the friend
of my heart was exposed. My own alarm, and Louisa's presence, had
hitherto prevented my obtaining a thorough knowledge of the nature of
Seafield's situation, and what he had to apprehend: but, now that I
was alone with him, I lost no time before I questioned Zadi.

'You see, old man,' said I, 'how your fatal outcry, "an anaconda," has
palsied every soul through excess of terror. Now your imprudence will
have been most unpardonable, should it turn out that you spoke without
being quite certain of the fact, or if you should be found through
your own natural timidity to have exaggerated the danger. Recollect
yourself, therefore, and then answer me calmly and frankly.. Are you
positive, that what you saw was really an anaconda; and in the
dreadful account which you have just given of her, have you not in
some degree overstepped the limits of, truth?'

'Sir,' answered the good old man, 'though it were the last word which
I have to utter in this world, I should still repeat my former
assertions. Why, the very name of this creature is enough to make
every native of this island feel the blood freeze in his veins! and
that I have not deceived myself, is, alas! but too certain. I have
already seen the anaconda twice at no greater distance than now;
though never one of such a monstrous length and thickness as that
which is at present before us. This country would speedily become a
wilderness, if fortunately these reptiles were not very rarely met
with; for in general they remain concealed within the recesses of the
deepest woods; there clinging round the branches of some gigantic
tree, they remain waiting with inexhaustible patience for an
opportunity of darting down upon their prey, the first man or animal
who is unlucky enough to pass beneath them. How it happens, that this
snake should have advanced so far into the open country, is what I can
least comprehend: but as the rainy season is but just over, it is most
probable, that she has been swept away by the irresistible violence of
some of the mountain-torrents.'

During this conversation we had continued to advance under favour of
the thick-woven underwood, till we were scarcely more than a hundred
paces distant from the monster. We could now examine it with the most
perfect distinctness, and the eye was able to take in at once the
whole extent of its gigantic structure. It was a sight calculated to
excite in equal degrees our horror and our admiration: it united the
most singular and brilliant beauty with everything that could impress
the beholder with apprehension; and, though while gazing upon it I
felt that every limb shuddered involuntarily, I was still compelled to
own, that never had I witnessed an exhibition more fascinating or more
gratifying to the eye.

The anaconda was still employed in twisting itself in a thousand coils
among the palm-branches with such restless activity, with rapidity so
inconceivable, that it was frequently impossible for the sight to
follow her movements. At one moment, she fastened herself by the end
of her tail to the very summit of the loftiest tree, and, stretched
out at her whole length, swung back-wards and forwards like the
pendulum of a clock, so' that her head almost seemed to graze the
earth beneath her; then in another, before the eye was aware of her
intention, she totally disappeared among the leafy canopies. Now she
slid down the stem, winding herself round and round it; and now again
only the extremity of her tail remained twisted round the root, while
she stretched out her body upon the grass, and with elevated head and
high-reaching neck described a large or a small circle, as her
capricious pleasure prompted.

These latter movements gave us an opportunity to discriminate with
more exactness (during a few seconds at a time) the singular richness
and beauty of her tints. The long slender body was covered with a
network of glittering scales, girdling it round with rings above
rings, and effectually securing it against every attack. The head was
of a yellowish green, and marked in the middle of the skull with a
large dark spot, from whence small stripes of pale yellow were drawn
down to the jaws. A broad circle of the same colour went round the
throat like a necklace, on either side of which were two olive-
coloured patches, in shape resembling shields. Along the back ran a
chain of black waves with sharp-pointed edges, from whence on both
sides narrow flesh-coloured rings and broad bands of the brightest
yellow (alternately and in the most regular order) descended in zigzag
fashion towards the silver-white stomach, where they lost themselves
imperceptibly: but what served more than all to dazzle the eye with
the brilliance of variegated colouring, were innumerable spots of a
rich and vivid reddish-purple, sprinkled without order over the whole
surface of the upper skin; for with the animal's slightest movement
all these points, and spots, and contrasts of variegated hues, melted
together in the sunbeams, and formed one universal blaze composed of
all the colours of the rainbow. Much as I admired the splendour of its
garment, not less did I wonder at the enormous thickness of this
terrific creature, which did not yield in bulk to that of a man of
moderate size. Yet by comparing its thickness with its length, Zadi
was decidedly of opinion, that the anaconda must have been greatly
reduced by a fast of unusually long duration. But the tranquillity of
our observations was suddenly disturbed by perceiving, that she
desisted abruptly from her airy gambols, and remained motionless at
the foot of the palm-tree with her head elevated and turned towards
the pavilion, as if in the act of listening!

At that moment, oh! God! with what violence did my heart beat against
my bosom! If (as from every circumstance appeared but too probable) my
friend was really shut up within the pavilion, it was beyond a doubt,
that the monster had discovered his being so near her, and was now on
the point of making a serious attack! We could see distinctly the
shape of her hideous head and the flames of her great piercing
eyeballs, reflected from the glass windows, whose shutters had been
closed from within. But the sight of her own terrors seemed to scare
even the snake herself, for she instantly recoiled; and then laying
herself down close to the threshold of the circular pavilion, she
encompassed it entirely, as if she was determined to secure her
destined victim irrevocably, by enclosing him within the impassable
limits of her magic ring. Deeply penetrated with the sense of that
danger by which my friend was menaced I forgot my own and seizing my
gun placed it to my shoulder the ball whistled through the air. I was
an excellent marksman and was certain that I had pointed my piece
exactly at the monster's head and yet, whether too great anxiety made
my hand shake or that the animal at that very moment made some slight
change in her attitude, I know not, but it is at least certain, that
not the slightest shrinking gave me reason to believe, that she felt
herself at all injured. In themeanwhile, Zadi had seized my arm, and
drawn me forcibly deeper part of the thicket.

'Ah! Mr Everard!' sighed he; 'I was well aware, that the anaconda can
set all our firearms at defiance. Her scaly hide renders her
invulnerable, except when one is quite dose to her, and all that you
have done is to put your own safety in danger, without advancing a
single step nearer to my master's relief.'

However it did not appear that our enemy had paid much attention to my
assault upon her. On the contrary, she only busied herself in renewing
her attempts to gain an entrance through the pavilion's windows: till
at length, seemingly wearied with her unavailing efforts, she retired
slowly, and concealed herself under the verdant umbrella of the palm
trees. We also had discovered her former lurking place; though we were
now more irresolute than ever, as to the means most proper to be
adopted towards the rescue of my friend.

While we stood thus with our eyes fixed immovably upon the pavilion we
observed the door to be slightly agitated. After a minute, the lock
was gently drawn back slowly and with the utmost caution did the door
expand about the breadth of half a foot, and out sprang the little
Psyche, a beautiful Italian greyhound, Seafield's favourite play
fellow and inseparable companion. As if conscious of her danger she
rushed down the hill with her utmost swiftness; but with still greater
swiftness did the anaconda in one monstrous spring dart rattling down
from its airy covert. The poor little animal was seized: we could just
hear a short half-suppressed cry, which marked its dying agony; for
the dreadful jawbone moved but twice, or thrice, and lo! the dog's
chine was broken, and every bone in its body splintered. The snake
then dragged her prey to the foot of the palm-tree, (for in order to
produce the proper exertion of strength, it seemed necessary for her
to have the stem or strong branch of some tree to cling to), where she
stretched herself out upon the grass at her ease, and began with her
black tongue to separate the flesh from the bones of the crushed
little animal.

The distress, occasioned in my mind by this sight, in itself so
painful and disgusting, was converted into agony by the reflections to
which it gave birth, after the first moments of horror and surprise
were passed! That fact was now confirmed, which till this moment (in
order to preserve at least a gleam of comfort however faint) I had
obstinately refused to believe. Seafield then was actually in the
pavilion The discharge of my musket had in all probability made him
aware, that his friends were at no great distance. No one but he could
have unclosed the door so cautiously, in order to leave his little
favourite at liberty to quit their common shelter; and Zadi was
positive, that he had observed a riband fastened round the neck of the
animal, to which something white appeared to be attached, in form
resembling a letter. It was then a message to US! a cry for
assistance! a sacred injunction, that we should not abandon him in
this season of his utmost need! What agony of soul must he have
endured. What agony of soul must he even at that moment be enduring!
To what a pitch of desperation must his mind have been worked up,
before his trembling hand could have resolved to draw back the bolt,
which was the only barrier between himself and annihilation! How
bitter a pang must it have given his tender benevolent heart, when he
drove out his fond and faithful companion, and exposed her to such
danger! and then flattering himself (as no doubt he did) that the
little animal's speed would surely enable her to escape. Oh! what a
cruel wound must Psyche's expiring half-heard cry have given to his.
feelings! These reflections, or at least others nearly similar to
them, almost deprived poor Zadi of his senses altogether.

'Oh! powers of mercy!' he exclaimed repeatedly; 'what did his letter
mean to tell us? That at this moment he is struggling with despair?
Alas! alas! we know it, we feel it! and yet here we stand inactive,
without counsel, without resolution, without hope!'

'Patience! patience!' said I, interrupting him: 'it is evident, that
our waiting here is of no advantage. Let us return home, and endeavour
to find means of giving some more effectual assistance than our
tears.'

We found the domestics returned from their unavailing expedition, and
the greatest part of them assembled in the courtyard, whose lofty
walls afforded them a secure refuge: being all natives of Ceylon, they
were well acquainted with the nature and pursuits of the anaconda,
either from their own experience, or from hearsay: but, almost
deprived of the power of thought by their terrors, no one was able to
point out any means for attacking her with success. I immediately
despatched two of them to Columbo, to explain our situation, and
demand assistance. I also desired, that medical aid might be sent to
Louisa, and that if they could possibly find one, they should bring
back with them a speaking trumpet. I then repaired to poor Louisa, and
endeavoured to comfort her heart with a faint gleam of hope, which my
own was incapable of admitting. I failed in the attempt; she was a
prey to the most abject despair: nor was I more successful in my
endeavours to persuade her to withdraw from this scene of horror, and
accompany my messengers to Columbo; a measure which was advisable both
on account of her own security, and because her absence would leave us
at liberty to bestow our undivided attention upon her husband. But
finding her resolved not to remove from the scene of Seafield's
danger, I returned to the courtyard, where the dejected domestics were
still lamenting over the situation of their master, and expatiating on
the dreadful properties of the anaconda.

'Friends!' I exclaimed, 'there is not one among us all to whom the
master of this house has not been a benefactor! Now that he is
threatened with destruction, now is the time for us to show our
gratitude for his kindness! Come then; let every one follow me, who
loves his lord, and who bears an honest heart in his bosom. Let us
despise the danger of the attack and set forward in a full body to
deliver him by force! We are armed; in numbers, in reflection, in
skill, the advantage is on our side. The bolder that we rush upon our
enemy, the less dreadful will she appear to us. My life for it, she
will be alarmed at the attack, will fly before us, and thus we shall
enjoy the inestimable pleasure of rescuing our friend from death. Now
then! let all who are of my opinion show themselves to be men, and
range themselves on this side of the court.'

Alas! Zadi was the only one who obeyed this invitation: the rest, poor
timid wretches (in number between twenty and thirty), stood there
trembling, gazing upon each other with doubtful looks, and whispering
together, as if desirous of discovering an excuse for the cowardice of
each in the ignominy of his neighbour. After a few minutes, one of
them, whom the rest had appointed to be spokesman, advanced towards
me, and stammered out their general assurance: that to attack the
famished snake with force would be nothing better than absolute
madness.

This hope disappointed, I next resolved to try, what effect of terror
might be produced upon the monster by the united shouts and outcries
of so considerable a body, assisted by the general and repeated
discharge of our fire-arms. Our preparations were soon made; Louisa
was apprised of the clamour which was going to be made: and, in truth,
we raised an uproar so loud and so well sustained, that it seemed
almost capable of waking the sleepers in the grave. Prom all the
casements we discharged at the same moment our muskets provided with a
double charge, and a hail of bullets rattled about the head of the
gigantic snake, who afforded us a fair aim. Yet still she continued to
play her gambols quietly among the trees; nay, she did not give any
sign by which we could judge, that she was sensible of our attack.
After a few moments spent in this manner with no better effect, we
found that our provision of ammunition was exhausted: besides, we were
ourselves too much fatigued to continue any longer an attempt, which
afforded us so little prospect of producing any advantage.

By this time the day was drawing rapidly to its close. By dint of
turning the painful subject frequently in my mind, and making every
possible conjecture, one means of scaring the anaconda had suggested
itself, which appeared to me well worthy of attention; but in order to
put it in execution the darkness of the night was necessary. I had
often read in books of travels, what powerful aid had been derived
from fire against the attacks of wild beasts, and how lions and tigers
had often forgotten their thirst of blood, and betaken themselves to
flight, like the most timid animals, when scared by a fire-brand
whirled round, or the blaze of a flaming heap of straw. Armed with
such weapons, I was determined, as soon as night should be set in, to
approach the anaconda, and put her courage to the proof, even though
the faithful Zadi should be the only one of sufficient courage to
assist me in my venturous design.

The night arrived: an awful stillness reigned all around us; our
enemy, however, still was watchful; for from time to time we could
hear her rustling among the branches. I passed the twilight in
endeavouring to comfort Louisa with the prospect of a serious attack
to be made upon the snake the next day, from which (as I assured her)
much better success might be expected; but I judged it prudent to
conceal from her our nightly enterprise, the effect of which appeared
even to myself too uncertain to make me venture to ground upon it any
promise of advantage. Besides, her exhausted strength made it
absolutely necessary, that she should pass some moments in
tranquillity; a state, which seemed to me absolutely incompatible with
the tumults of expectation, which the knowledge of our proposed
adventure would naturally excite in her bosom.

At length a sign given by Zadi made me aware, that all our
preparations were completed. Louisa was reclining on a couch with her
eyes closed, and seemed to have fallen into a kind of lethargy. I
stole softly from the apartment, and was on the point of quitting the
house, when a means suggested itself to me of communicating my design
to my friend, even before the arrival of the speaking trumpet, which I
expected the next day from Columbo. I recollected, that I had lately
taught Seafield a common European trick of combination, by which two
persons, separated from each other (having first agreed upon their
measures) could convey their sentiments without the help of words: a
certain number of blows, corresponding with the number of the place
which each letter of the four and twenty holds in the alphabet,
enabled the striker to form words and sentences, by which the hearer
without other communication was made aware of the steps, which without
his knowledge it had been settled for him to take. This trifle had but
lately served us to puzzle Louisa, and pass away an idle evening hour;
and I flattered myself with the possibility, that it might still exist
in Seafield's remembrance. At any rate, I resolved to make the trial
without loss of time, and the stillness of the night seemed to afford
me the most favourable opportunity for executing my plan with success.

A thin smooth board, well calculated for reverberating sounds, and a
strong hammer were easily procured. With these I hastened to the
balcony, and began by striking as many blows as the alphabet required,
(that is, one to A, two to B, twenty-four to Z, &c.) till I had gone
through it regularly. I trusted that this orderly manner of proceeding
would awaken his attention; and having completed the alphabet, I told
him (in the same manner) if he comprehended my meaning, to strike
three blows within the pavilion, as loud as he possibly could. Oh!
heavenly powers! I had not long to wait! it was not long before three
faint sounds informed me, that I was understood, and never did music
seem so sweet to my ear! I hurried to tell Louisa, that I had found a
means of communicating with her husband, and that I was going to
command him to be of good cheer in her name and for her sake. A silent
melancholy smile, a convulsive pressure of my hand, were my reward;
and I now hastened again to the balcony to assure the poor prisoner,
that I was labouring for his relief; that Louisa was well, and begged
him to be patient and composed; and that I requested him to keep up
his spirits, and resist the attacks of despair, since he might depend
upon it, that I would rescue him, or perish in the attempt. I
concluded by desiring him to assure me, that he would confide in the
activity of my friendship, by repeating his former signal: I now
suffered my hammer to rest--I listened--again, more audibly than
before, did I hear the three wished-for blows given from within the
pavilion, and I now hastened to prosecute my nightly plan with fresh
spirits and renovated ardour.

Excited by Zadi's remonstrances, about a dozen of the bravest among
the domestics and palanquin-bearers were assembled with torches in
their hands in the courtyard. My design was, to steal as near the hill
as the underwood would permit, under favour of the darkness, and only
guided by a single dark lanthorn. When we could approach no further
without hazard, we were to light our torches as fast as possible, and
whirling them round and round, to rush towards the pavilion with loud
shouts, in order that our attack might be accompanied by all the
terrors and advantage of surprise.

Zadi, to whose care the guiding lanthorn was confided, went foremost;
I followed close upon his footsteps, and thus with extreme caution and
in profound silence did we press through bushes and brambles, till we
arrived above half as near again to the pavilion, as the position
which we had occupied during the day. The anaconda now lay right
before us, quiet and unsuspecting; nor could we have wished for a
better opportunity for executing our plan with every probability of
success. We now turned to our companions.--But, just Heaven! who can
express our astonishment and vexation, and how did our heart sicken at
perceiving, that the faithless cowards had shrunk from the danger now
that it was so near at hand, and had profited by the darkness to steal
away one by one! I was alone with Zadi: we concluded with justice,
that for only two persons to make the attempt must be unavailing, and
the old man flattered himself, that he should be able to shame his
comrades into a resumption of their more manly resolutions. I had but
little hopes of his success; yet no choice was left me but to follow
him and endeavour to give double strength to his persuasions and
reproaches.

Both were employed in vain: their terrors had subdued all sense of
shame completely. They called us madmen for wishing to expose
ourselves to the fury of the famished anaconda; and, instead of
promising any future assistance, they declared, that they would only
wait for daybreak to secure themselves by flight from a danger so
imminent. In the meanwhile Zadi was busy in fastening several torches
together in pairs.

'Come, sir!' he cried to me: 'let us lose no more precious time in
endeavouring to inspire these heartless knaves with courage! Let us
leave the cowards, and try whether perhaps the glare of these torches,
doubled as you see them, may not of themselves be sufficient to dazzle
and scare away the monster. At the worst we can but perish with our
dear master, and it is better to die than not perform our duty!'

I obeyed him: we hastened back to the pavilion. Already were we on the
point of ascending the hill, when I felt my arm seized by someone with
a convulsive grasp. I turned hastily round: a thin figure, breathless
through speed and anxiety, and whose white garments fluttered in the
breeze of night, stood beside me. It was Louisa! Our dispute with the
slaves had not passed so quietly, but that our voices had reached the
ear of Seafield's sorrowing wife, whose sore anguish of heart
permitted not slumber to approach. She questioned her attendants; by
artful interrogatories she contrived to draw from them the peculiar
nature of the enterprise on which we were engaged. She feigned to
sleep: and, as soon as her women were thrown off their guard, she
stole from her apartment, seized a torch, and followed us, determined
to share with us the danger and its reward.

My whole resolution failed me, when I recognized the new-comer, and
when she made known in a few short expressive words her desperate
resolution. In a low voice I conjured her to return to the mansion-
house; I protested, that her presence robbed our arms of strength and
our hearts of courage; and I asked her, whether it was not enough
agony for us to tremble for an existence so dear as Seafield's,
without being obliged to risk the loss of another life equally
precious?

'My life for his!' was the only reply which she gave to my
remonstrances; 'my life for his!--What shall I rest my hands idly
before me, while strangers are active in his defence? Shall I have to
blame myself during the remnant of my existence for having done
nothing for him in the time of his extreme need--Nothing? Shall my
husband actually be rescued by his friends, while his careless wife
has not even attempted to preserve him?--No, Everard, no! my life for
his! my life for his!'

I listened with admiration to the overflowings of this noble heart!
How to resist her vehemence I knew not! I was compelled to give way to
her, and yet was conscious that her presence must entirely destroy
every chance of our success. It would have been madness to venture in
her company to that extreme point of danger, to which Zadi and myself
had before not scrupled to advance. The anaconda too appeared at this
moment to be more restless than formerly: doubtless the sound of our
footsteps, and our whispering dispute, must already have betrayed our
being in the neighbourhood. Nevertheless, we hastily kindled our fire-
brands, one of which we held in each hand, and as we whirled them
rapidly backwards and forwards we went forth shouts and shrieks with
all our strength; the dead stillness of all around us rendered our
outcries doubly dreadful.

A rushing sound among the tops of the palm-trees, as if branch by
branch they were forcibly snapped asunder, was the answer given to our
challenge. It was the anaconda (whether excited by fear or by anger, I
will not pretend to decide) who darted herself from tree to tree with
tremendous leaps, while the slender stems were bent and shaken by her
burthen. At the same time we were alarmed by a loud hissing, so
piercingly sharp, that it seemed close at our ears, and her eyes,
blazing with their own vindictive fires, shot lightnings through the
gloom of night.

In truth, this appearance was in every respect so dreadful, that it
required no ordinary courage to witness it without agitation. I cannot
deny, that while gazing on it I felt my hair stand on end and my blood
run cold; and I observed that Zadi strove to keep his teeth closed
together, in order to prevent me from hearing them chatter. I turned
with apprehension to Louisa. Alas! there lay the wretched wife on the
earth deprived of consciousness. This sight was sufficient to banish
every other consideration. I threw away my torches hastily, clasped
the unfortunate in my arms and with Zadi's help bore her with all
speed back to the mansion-house; prosperous in this alone, we then
retired unpursued by the anaconda. Here, after a long interval of
insensibility, we at length succeeded in recalling Louisa's flying
spirits. She revived; but it was only to dwell upon the midnight
scene, from which we were just returned, and which her inflamed
imagination painted in colours, if possible, still more dreadful that
the reality. She called without ceasing upon her husband and upon me:
and since it was out of my power to give more active assistance
elsewhere, it would have been barbarous in me to leave her, without
endeavouring by soothing and persuasion to dissipate the gloomy ideas
by which her heated brain was distracted.

Thus passed away the remainder of the night, which left us even with
less hope and resolution than we possessed when it arrived. The
melancholy morning at length dawned; but the sun was scarcely risen
when Zadi rushed into the apartment. His eyes sparkled, and the
beating of his heart almost choked his words before he was able to
give them utterance.

'Oh! Mr Everard!' he exclaimed, 'my master--my dear master! He has
still hope! He has still courage! He endeavours to communicate with
us! We shall soon know how matters go with him--. what he wishes to be
done--what he expects us to do. Yes! yes! we will soon know it!'

It was some time before he was sufficiently calm to explain to me the
cause of this emotion. At length I learned, that in examining the
pavilion he had just discovered a sheet of paper thrust through the
crevice of the door, and which, apparently detained by one of its
corners, fluttered loosely in the air, unable to effect its escape.
Doubtless it was a letter, which Seafield hoped some favourable gust
of wind would carry within our reach, but which he had not
sufficiently disengaged from its narrow passage. As to reading the
contents, even if the distance had permitted it, Zadi was not
possessed of the knowledge requisite. He therefore had hastened in all
diligence to communicate to me this discovery, from which I also
derived some hope, though fainter than that which filled the bosom of
the faithful Zadi.

We hurried to the hill, approached still nearer than we had ventured
to do hitherto, and, with the assistance of an excellent telescope, I
endeavoured to decipher the characters traced upon the important
paper. Alas! that there actually were characters traced on it, was all
that I could distinguish; for the light paper fluttered continually in
the wind, and was never suffered to rest for two seconds together. My
inexhaustible patience, my unwearied exertions, long struggled against
the evident impossibility of success: I gained nothing by them except
the conviction, that to prosecute the attempt further would only be to
throw away a greater portion of my time. Zadi, in breathless silence,
and his eyes fixed on my face unalterably, watched my every movement.

'Then you give up the point?' said he at length, while a livid
paleness overspread his dark countenance, and such a trembling seized
him, that I could see his every limb shaking; 'well, then, there is no
more to be said! Let us return to the house, and take courage: I will
fetch you the paper.'

'Old man!' I exclaimed, startling at this unexpected assurance, 'What
say you? Your good intention is worthy of your good heart; but you
would make an unavailing sacrifice to your fidelity; you may bring
destruction on yourself, but you never will bring the paper from
thence. To do that is out of any mortal power!'

'May be so! may be so!' repeated the Indian; 'but at least the trial
shall be made. It seems, as if my master's voice cried to me, that,
his safety depended on that paper; and should I be worthy to belong to
him, if I were deaf to my master's cry? By the God of my fathers, I
will either come back to you with that paper, or never will come back
again.'

And with every word that he spoke, his tone became stronger, his step
firmer, and the fire of resolution illuminated his large dark eyes.

During this contention we reached the courtyard; in silence, and
absorbed in himself, did this unequalled servant make the necessary
preparations for his undertaking. His plan was to conceal his whole
person, from head to foot, under a covering of boughs and cocoa-
leaves, resembling as much as possible the broken branches with which
the snake's gambols or indignation had strewn the hill all around her.
Under this verdant shield, he flattered himself that he should be able
to creep gradually to the pavilion door, unperceived by the anaconda.

'I have been accustomed,' said he, 'to this kind of work from my
earliest infancy. In my time I was reckoned an expert elephant-hunter,
and by means of this artifice have frequently made those enormous
animals my prize.'

But a few minutes were past, and already was Zadi accoutred in this
singular disguise. He provided himself with no weapons except his
dagger. He obstinately refused to suffer me to accompany him, assuring
me that I should only put my own life in danger, without being able to
afford him the least assistance. He was so positive, that I was
obliged to give up the point: but I was at least determined to
accompany the noble-minded fellow with my eyes, as well as with my
fervent prayers and wishes. From the balcony of the mansion-house I
had an extensive and unimpeded view over the surrounding objects; and
from hence I saw Zadi set forward on his perilous adventure, taking
through precaution a wide circuit, in order to reach the hill itself.

With equal prudence he made his approach on that side, where the
pavilion would screen him from the enemy's observation. From time to
time I lost sight of him among the underwood; even when he was before
my eyes I occasionally doubted whether it was he indeed, so cautiously
and so artfully did he make his approach, creeping on his hands and
knees, sometimes remaining without stirring, sometimes stealing
forwards with a movement so imperceptible, that it almost eluded the
keenness of sight. He was a living example to me of the discretion,
assiduity, and skill, which the savage employs in laying his
ambuscades, and stealing upon his unsuspecting enemy.

And now favoured by the long grass and fragments of boughs, with which
the ground was covered, had Zadi by a thousand serpentine movements
reached the wall of the pavilion. My heart beat violently, as I saw on
one side the anaconda, as yet, it is true, suspecting nothing, but
still dreadful from her appearance, and exhibiting every moment awful
proofs of her strength, by the powerful leaps with which she darted
herself from bough to bough; and, on the other hand, separated from
her by the distance of ten yards at most, I beheld a poor, infirm, and
aged man, whose force consisted only in his courage and his
discretion.

Zadi in the mean while remained so tranquil and so motionless in his
present position near the pavilion-door, that the monster could not
fail of being deceived by so unsuspicious an appearance. The Indian's
eye was fixed immovably upon the snake, and followed all her twistings
and windings with incessant application, while she swung herself with
unwearied activity backwards and forwards, now here, now there, now
above, now below; till, at the very moment when she shot herself over
him in a bound of prodigious extent, I suddenly saw the invaluable
paper disappear from its place, without being able to perceive the
means by which it was brought into the power of the successful lurker.

I clasped my hands in ecstasy, and poured out my thanks to God from
the very bottom of my heart. But all was not yet done. It required no
less caution and dexterity to retire than to proach; and never did I
offer up more fervent vows than at the moment when the animated
thicket began to set itself in motion. Slower than the hour-hand of a
dial, now moving forwards, now backwards, now right, now left, it
stole itself down the hill. Still it went on, and on, and lower, and
lower, till, with inexpressible delight, I saw it almost at the very
foot of the hill; and now at length I began to draw my breath without
pain. 'The noble fellow is safe,' said I to myself. At that moment,
whether joy at the successful issue of his attempt had deprived him of
part of his former caution, or whether some accidental derangement of
the sheltering branches discovered enough to excite the reptile's
suspicion, at that moment I saw the anaconda dart from above, and in
the quickness of thought she reached the bottom of the hill, and
enveloped the unfortunate in her folds! A piercing shriek of horror
burst from me! I felt all my blood conceal itself within my veins!

Yet even in this dreadful situation wonderful was the presence of mind
which Zadi still preserved; wonderful was the courage, the activity,
and the skill, with which he defended himself against the monster.
Grasping his dagger with firm and steady hand, he struck it with
repeated blows between the impenetrable scales of his enemy, sought
out with inconceivable address the most tender parts to strike, and at
length succeeded in giving her so deep and so well-placed a wound,
that it must needs have worked her up to the most extreme pitch of
pain and fury; for suddenly I beheld him only girdled by a single fold
of the anaconda's tail, with which (in the same manner that one who
has unexpectedly grasped a nettle, throws it away) she hurled the poor
wretch into the air far away, till I lost him among the surrounding
bushes. As for the snake, she hastily regained her former hiding-
place, where she lay quiet and concealed for some time before she
resumed her usual sports; though when she did resume them, it was
evidently with less sprightliness than before.

My agony is not to be described! Nothing was to be seen of the
unfortunate Indian. What was become of him? Had he been killed by the
violence of the fall? Or was he at that moment struggling in the pangs
of death? His preservation I considered as beyond the limits of
possibility; and yet it seemed to me inhuman and ungrateful quite to
abandon him to his fate, without having first exhausted every possible
means of assisting him. Irresistibly carried away by these sentiments,
I rushed from the balcony, and hastened towards the hill by the same
course which he had pursued himself, and which I could easily track by
the depression of the dewy grass. Towards that side, also, had he been
thrown by the anaconda, and it was probable that the thicket might
shelter me, till I could reach the spot where he lay dying. In the
eagerness of this hope, I totally overlooked the extreme risk of an
undertaking, the very idea of which but four-and-twenty hours sooner
would have made me shudder through every limb. So true is it, that
violent emotions communicate a force to the mind, which enables it to
rise above itself, and gives it courage to encounter danger and even
death without the shrinking of a single nerve.

Suddenly my attention was arrested by a faint murmur! It came from a
thicket at no great distance: I listened again! Oh heavens! it was the
voice of Zadi. I lost not a moment in hastening to the place; he heard
me; he opened his eyelids, which seemed already closed in eternal
sleep, recognized me as I raised him in my arms, and a faint smile
stole over his countenance, as he stretched out his hand to me with
difficulty.

'Take it,' he said; 'God be thanked, that I am able to reward your
kindness so well;--even in the monster's grasp, I still kept fast hold
of it: Oh, take it, take it!'

It was the paper which he had purchased so dearly, and which the
faithful creature extended towards me.

'Read it!' he continued; 'lose no time! before I am deprived of my
senses again--and for ever--at least let me have the satisfaction to
know--what my master wished me to do! alas! alas! now you will be left
alone to assist him!'

'And assist him I will, doubt it not, thou noble heart,' I replied,
while I strove to raise him from the ground; 'but my first assistance
must be given to yourself.'

It was in vain that he conjured me to leave him to his fate, and only
think of effecting his master's rescue. Without heeding him I managed
to lift him upon my shoulders, and tottering beneath his weight I
endeavoured to effect our escape from the dangerous vicinity of the
pavilion. With difficulty I succeeded in regaining the open ground.
Fortunately some of the other domestics saw us from the house, and
hastened to relieve me from my wretched burthen. Assisted by them, I
at length saw Zadi safely deposited on a sofa in the mansion-house; he
was again on the point of losing all sensibility; but, a cordial of
powerful virtue being administered without delay, his strength was
restored sufficiently to preserve him from a relapse.

It's true, none of his limbs were fractured, but he was dreadfully
bruised by his fall; his breast and ribs had been almost crushed
together by the close-drawn folds of the serpent; he was totally
unable to move so much as a finger, and his condition was such as
would have excited pity even in the most insensible nature. As for me,
I almost sunk beneath this addition to that general calamity, which
seemed to increase with every succeeding moment. I was now a single
man, to whose hand Providence had committed the lives of three
afflicted creatures! Never did mortal pray to heaven with more fervour
or more un-affected zeal, that I did while imploring the Divine grace
to assist me in fulfilling a mission so sacred and so difficult.

But as for Zadi, he seemed to have already forgotten himself, his past
dangers, and present pains. He implored me to waste no more time in
striving to mitigate his sufferings, and assured me, that the letter
of his dear afflicted master would be the best balsam for all his
wounds. In compliance with his earnest entreaties, I prepared to
peruse the paper: but the tears gushed into my eyes on recognizing the
well-known handwriting, and it was with difficulty that I deciphered
the following words:

'Oh! I understand you well, my friends, my beloved-ones! your voices,
still more your unremitting and desperate exertions to relieve me--all
convince me, that you are near me; that you feel for me; that you
spare no labour to effect my rescue! Alas! you will labour in vain!
Death has already enveloped me in his dark circle; there is no escape;
I have already bidden farewell to life; I cannot long survive in this
atmosphere, corrupted as it is by the pestilential vapours, constantly
exhaling from the monster's jaws. I die resigned; but do not embitter
this last and heavy hour by the apprehension, lest your exertions in
my behalf should be the means of involving you in my danger. By all
that is sacred and dear, I conjure you, abandon me to my unhappy fate;
fly! oh! fly far from hence: it is my last, my only, my most earnest
request!

'Everard! Oh! Everard, my poor wife! Do not abandon my Louisa!'

A cold shuddering ran through my bones: the poisonous air robbed us
even of our last wretched hope, that the anaconda might at length
retire wearied out with her vain expectations, and leave my friend at
liberty to quit his retreat. But now it was evident from his letter
that, long ere this could happen, Seafield would be no more! immediate
help must save him, or none! Zadi sobbed aloud: it was an addition to
my own grief to think, that I had been obliged to give a fresh pang to
his faithful bosom, and it wrung me to the very soul, when I saw him
give way openly to this burst of sorrow. Suddenly he uttered a
shriek--so loud, that it startled all who heard him.

'No! no!' he exclaimed in the most violent agitation--'No! no he shall
not bid farewell to life for ever! there are still means. Oh! wretch
that I am! curses, eternal curses on my old head, that I did not think
of it till now, and now it comes too late! I might have saved him! I
might have saved him! Had I hut thought of it sooner my master would
have been safe at this moment! now it is too late! he must die, and
'tis my heedlessness which kills him!'

'For mercy sake,' I cried, 'explain yourself, old man! You see that
our messengers are not returned from Columbo--every moment that we
lose is inestimable! If you really do know any means of rescue, tell
it, discover it! Delay not an instant! Speak! To what means do you
allude?'

'It is too late! it is too late;' he repeated; 'no one but myself
could have carried it through; and here I lie, without the power to
move a limb, and no one else will undertake a task so desperate!' 'The
means! the means!' I exclaimed again, almost frantic with agitation.

'Well, then!' he resumed, his words frequently interrupted with
groans; 'the anaconda is, as I told you formerly, the most voracious
animal in nature. She is invincible while stimulated its hunger, but
she can be overcome by a very child as soon as she has satiated
herself with food; then she loses the flexibility of her joints, and
instead of her restless activity she seems plunged Iii a benumbing
torpor, and remains unable to move, overpowered by the burthen of her
immoderate meal.'

'Excellent dear old man!' said I, in rapture at the ray of hope with
which his words inspired me; 'is what you say certain? Could we but
satiate this anaconda---'

'My master were rescued!' he replied: 'but to effect this requires the
risk of a life; and who will venture that? Oh! were but these old
limbs as they were two hours ago. Could I but remove the mountain load
which weighs upon my chest, and prevents my breathing.'

'Oh! if I am but right in my guess!' I interrupted the old man; 'you
would have driven her prey to the anaconda?'

'The whole herd! the whole herd!' shouted Zadi; and he sank back
exhausted by the violence of his emotions. 'This thought,' he
continued in a low voice after the pause of a moment, 'this thought
suggested itself to my recollection long ago; but, wretch that I was,
I believed its execution to be impracticable--the plague, which lately
prevailed here among the cattle, has occasioned them to be removed
from this part of the country, and they are gone too far to be
recalled in time to afford the required assistance. In despair,
therefore, I banished this scheme from my thoughts; but now that I am
rendered unable to put it in execution, I remember.'

'What? what?' I inquired, almost breathless with anxiety.

'You know well Van Derkel, the rich Hollander, whose estate joins
this? He is the most positive man breathing, and having once declared
our fears of the plague to be groundless, he refused out of pure
obstinacy to suffer his cattle to accompany those of his neighbours;
they remain on his estate at this moment; an herd might easily be
procured, and then--but it is too late, now it is too late! none but
his faithful servant would dare---'

'What?' said I, interrupting him; 'will not his faithful friend?'

Zadi's looks met mine; they burned with new fire, while he confessed
that on me alone now rested his only hope. The flames in his eyes
seemed to have communicated themselves to my heart; and the blessings
with which he loaded me, and the effusions of gratitude to Heaven and
to me which he poured forth, confirmed the resolution which I had
already adopted.

'Be of good comfort, friend!' said I, as I turned to leave him; 'the
man whom you sought is found! I will tread that path which no other
will tread, and I now leave you for the purpose of seeking it.'

Zadi's eyes were now filled with tears of joy.

'May the God of my fathers bless you!' he said, raising his eye to
heaven; 'now then I can die contented; now then the hour of my
master's deliverance will strike at last.'

I lost no time in hastening to Van Derkel's. I offered his herdsman
the whole sum in my possession, if he would assist me in driving the
beasts under the palm-trees: but he shuddered at the proposal, and
rejected my proffered gold. I was not yet discouraged. By his master's
authority I promised him freedom, provided he would but venture so far
as to advance with the herd to the extremity of the little grove,
which on the north side separated the hill from the open country. He
hesitated; again I pressed him; and at length he stammered out his
consent, but in a voice so faint, and with a look of such
irresolution, as convinced me, that I could place little dependence
upon his promised help.

However, I at least neglected none of the means, which might
contribute to our mutual safety: I caused the slaves to prepare with
all diligence a couple of machines similar to those under which Zadi
had performed his hazardous undertaking. Covered with these, we began
to drive the cattle slowly before us; and as the general agitation had
caused them to be totally neglected by their keepers, during their
confinement in a place which afforded no herbage for their
nourishment, hunger made them more obedient than we should probably
have otherwise found them; and thus did we advance towards the hill,
though the little resolution of my companion evidently grew still less
with every step which we took forwards. To encourage him, I bade him
observe the tranquillity of the anaconda, who had gradually withdrawn
herself into her green shelter, so that we might almost have doubted
her being really there.

'That is the very thing which alarms me!' answered the trembling
slave; 'I am sure that she has already discovered, and now lurks
concealed among the leaves, in order that she may make her prey more
secure. Now then, not one step further will I advance; what I have
already ventured is enough to merit liberty; but at all events I had
rather pass the rest of my days in fetters, than purchase my freedom
by advancing a single foot beyond this spot!'

And with these words he hurried away. However, I was the less
disturbed at his forsaking me, when I perceived, that without him I
could manage to drive the cattle forwards, and that no natural
instinct made them aware of the neighbourhood of their enemy. It was
not long before we arrived at the hill-foot. I was now obliged to
leave the animals to their own guidance, feeling themselves no longer
annoyed by my goad they gave way to the impulse of hunger, and
dispersing themselves carelessly began to feed upon the welcome
herbage; but how great was my joy at perceiving the bull separate
himself from the rest of the herd and begin to ascend the hill. We
arrived near the group of palm-trees; everything was hushed and
tranquil; not a sound was to be heard except the noise of the
scattered branches, as the bull trampled them beneath his feet: the
anaconda seemed to have disappeared altogether.

But on a sudden a loud and rattling rush was heard among the palms,
and with a single spring the snake darted down like a thunder-lap and
twisted herself with her whole body round her devoted victim. Before
the animal was yet aware of his danger, he already felt his dewlap
enclosed between the wide-expanded jaws of the monster, and her teeth
struck into it deeply. Roaring aloud he endeavoured to fly, and
succeeded in dragging his tormentor a few yards away with him; but
instantly she coiled herself round him in three or four wide folds,
and drew these knots so close together, that the entangled beast was
incapable of moving, and remained as if rooted to the place, already
struggling with the terrors and pangs of death. The first noise of
this extraordinary contest had been sufficient to put the remaining
cattle to flight.

Unequal as was the strife, still it was not over instantly. The noble
beast wanted not spirit to defend himself, nor was his strength easily
exhausted. Now he rolled himself on the ground, and endeavoured to
crush the enemy with his weight; now he swelled every nerve and
exerted the power of every muscle, to burst the fetters in which his
limbs were enveloped; he shook himself violently; he stamped, he bit,
he roared, he pawed up the earth, he foamed at the mouth, and then
dashed himself on the ground again with convulsive struggles. But with
every moment the anaconda's teeth imprinted on his flesh new wounds;
with every moment she drew her folds tighter and tighter; till, after
struggling for a full quarter of an hour, I at length saw the poor
animal stretched out at full length and breathless, totally deprived
of motion and of life.

Now then I expected to see the anaconda gratify the hunger by which
she had so long been tormented: but I was ignorant, that it is not the
custom of this animal to divide its prey, but to swallow it at one
enormous morsel. The size of the murdered bull made this impossible
without much preparation; and I now learned, from the snake's
proceedings, the necessity which there was for her always remaining in
the neighbourhood of some large tree.

She again seized the bull with her teeth, and dragged it to the top of
the stoutest palm. Here she endeavoured to place it upright, leaning
against the trunk. Having effected this, she enveloped the tree and
the carcase together in one great fold, and continued to draw this
closer, till she had broken every individual bone in her victim's body
into a thousand pieces, and had virtually reduced it into a shapeless
mass of flesh. She was still occupied in this manner, when I hastened
back to the mansion-house to rejoice Louisa and Zadi with the
assurance of my success.

The roaring of the bull had already prepared the latter for my
tidings. He limped to meet me at the door in spite of his bodily
agonies, and overpowered me with thanks and benedictions. He also
informed me, that the expected succours from Columbo were at length
arrived, and that a physician had accompanied them. I immediately
requested to see the latter, and commissioned him to impart the good
news of Seafield's approaching deliverance to Louisa, with such
precautions as might prevent her enfeebled constitution from suffering
through excess of joy. I also recommended Zadi to his care, and then
hastened back to complete my work; Zadi having assured me, that it was
absolutely necessary to watch for the moment, when the anaconda should
have swallowed her prey, and be enervated and overcome by the torpor
of indigestion.

'You will be in no want of assistants,' he added; 'my fellow-servants
are all ready to accompany you, not only because I have succeeded in
convincing them that all danger is now at an end, but because among
the natives of Ceylon the flesh of the anaconda is looked upon as most
delicious food.'

In fact, on entering the courtyard I found the whole body of
domestics, women and children as well as men, prepared for the attack
with clubs, hatchets, and every sort of weapon, which had offered
itself to their hands. The party from Columbo were well provided with
ammunition; and we now all set joyfully forwards for the hill, though,
on approaching it, we judged it as well still to use some little
precaution.

I advanced beyond the rest. The anaconda had by this time entirely
covered the carcase with her slime, and was in the very act of gorging
this monstrous morsel. This task was not accomplished without violent
efforts: a full hour elapsed before she had quite finished her
dreadful meal; at length the carcase was entirely swallowed, and she
stretched herself out at full length in the grass, with her stomach
distended to the most astonishing dimensions. Every trace of her
former liveliness and activity had disappeared! Her immoderate
appetite had now yielded her up, impotent and defenceless, a prey even
to the least formidable foe.

I hasten to conclude this long and painful tragedy. I discharged my
musket at the monster at a moderate distance. This time the ball
struck her close by her eye. She felt herself wounded: her body
swelled with spite and venom, and every stripe of her variegated skin
shone with more brilliant and vivid colours. But as to revenging
herself upon her assailant, of that she was now totally incapable. She
made one vain attempt to regain her old retreat among the boughs of
the palm-trees, but sank down again upon the grass motionless and
helpless. The report of my musket was the signal agreed upon to give
notice to the expectant crowd, that they might approach without
danger. Everyone now rushed towards the snake with loud shouting and
clamours of joy. We all at once attacked her, and she soon expired
under a thousand blows; but I did not wait to witness this
catastrophe. A dearer interest occupied my mind: I hastened with all
speed to the pavilion, and knocked loudly at the door, which was
fastened within.

'Seafield! my friend!' I exclaimed; "tis I! 'tis Everard! Open! open!
I bring you life and liberty.'

A minute passed--another--and still I listened in vain for an answer.
Had fatigue overpowered him? Was he asleep, that he answered not? I
knocked again; I spoke a second time, and louder; I listened so
attentively that I could have distinguished the humming of a gnat
within the pavilion. Heaven and earth! was it possible that after all
I had come too late? The thought was distraction! I snatched an axe
from one of the slaves, and after a few blows the pavilion door flew
open.

I rushed into the room, and looked eagerly round for my friend. I
found him! Oh! Heaven his eyes were closed his cheeks pale, every
feature in his noble countenance so changed that he was scarcely to be
recognized. He lay extended in his armchair, and the noise of our
entrance seemed to rouse him from a long stupor He saw me, a faint
smile played round his wan lips, while he attempted to stretch out his
hand to me but it sank down again from weakness: I threw my arms round
him and pressed him to my heart in an agony of joy.

'You are safe!' I endeavoured to say; but the attempt to repress my
gushing tears choked my voice, and the sounds were unintelligible.

'Yes!' said he with difficulty, 'this is being a friend indeed! But
tell me! Louisa--?'

'She lives, and expects you,' I replied; 'come, come! my friend; rouse
yourself! Make an effort, and shake off this lethargy! Look upon your
danger as no more than a frightful dream, and awake to the real
happiness which awaits you!'

'It waits not for me!' he answered faintly: 'I have received my death-
warrant in this chamber. My minutes are counted! Louisa--Oh! bear me
to Louisa!'

The chamber was hot and close even to suffocation. We removed him with
all speed into the open air, four of the slaves bearing him as he sat
in his armchair; but as we conveyed him down the hill we took care to
turn his face away from the spot where lay the breathless but still
horrible anaconda. The purer atmosphere seemed immediately to produce
a beneficial effect upon the sufferer; and his strength was still
further recruited by a few drops of a cordial, with which I had taken
care to provide myself, and which I administered with the utmost
caution.

On our arrival at the mansion-house, we found that Zadi's attention
had already provided everything which his master could possibly need.
His bed was prepared; every kind of refreshment was in readiness, and
the physician was waiting to afford his much-required assistance. But
we soon found that the most effectual medicine for Seafield would be
the sight of Louisa; and as the physician was of opinion, that the
lady was more likely to suffer from anxiety to see her husband, than
from the agitation of the interview, my friend was indulged in his
wish, and we supported him to the chamber, where his wife so anxiously
was expecting his approach.

I will not attempt to describe this interview, nor that which
afterwards took place between Seafield and the faithful Zadi; the
feeling heart of itself will fill up this chasm; yet I cannot omit
mentioning, that it was not till I had explained to my friend the
whole extent of his obligations to that faithful Indian, and till the
repeated orders of his master compelled him to appear before him, that
Zadi indulged his ardent wish to throw himself at the feet of his
beloved lord. And why then did he deprive himself so long of a
pleasure which he desired so earnestly? The noble fellow was unwilling
to assist his master by showing him how much and how severely he had
suffered for his sake! I cannot tell you how much both the re-united
couple and myself were affected by this uncommon mark of delicacy and
consideration.

Oh! how happily and how swiftly fled away the first days which
succeeded the deliverance of my friend: alas! those first days were
the only ones destined to pass happily. It was soon but too evident,
that Seafield's sufferings in that fatal pavilion had injured his
constitution irreparably. With every succeeding day his strength
visibly decreased, and the blighted flower bowed itself still nearer
to the ground. His malady defied the power of medicine; he seemed to
perish away before our eyes; and the physician was at length compelled
to acknowledge that all the powers of art were insufficient to sustain
any longer Seafield's exhausted frame. Not the unsatisfied demands of
nature; not the hunger which gnawed his entrails, nor the burning
thirst which dried up his palate; not the agonies of his mind, and his
painful wrestling against despair: none of these had affected him so
fatally.--No; it was the pestiferous breath exhaling from the jaws of
the anaconda, which had penetrated into Seafield's close and sultry
prison; and whose force, concentrated and increased by confinement,
had fallen upon his constitution like a baleful mildew, and planted
the seeds of dissolution in the very marrow of his life.

What Louisa and myself endured, while watching his slow but constantly
progressive journey to the tomb, no words can utter. He gave Zadi and
his three sons their freedom, and made over to him a small estate near
Columbo, fully sufficient to secure the comfort of the good old man
for the remainder of his existence. During the last days of his
illness he frequently reminded me of the letter which he had written
in the pavilion, and of which Zadi had obtained possession at such
extreme risk; this paper he frequently charged me to consider as his
dying testament; he as frequently repeated the same thing to his wife,
while she wept by his bedside. His last words were like his letter,
'Forsake not my poor Louisa!' His last action was to place her hand in
mine--he sank back a corpse on his pillow, and Louisa fell lifeless at
my feet.

Yet she saw him once more; she insisted on pressing her lips once
again to his. I trembled for the convulsive agonies which her delicate
frame would undergo during this last and most painful scene: yet was I
still more alarmed, when I witnessed the composure of her affliction.
She held his hand in hers; she spoke not one word; she heaved not one
sigh; not a single tear escaped from her burning eyes. She stood long
motionless by his bedside; she bent down, and pressed her colourless
lips upon his closed lids; and then slowly and silently she withdrew
to her widowed chamber.

I chose for Seafield's sepulchre the place which he had always loved
best, and where he had suffered the most; his tomb was raised in the
fatal pavilion. Zadi and myself laid our friend in the earth; we
should have thought his coffin profaned, had we suffered any other
hands to touch it. Seafield and his sufferings slept in the grave: his
less fortunate friends still lived to lament him.

My benefactor had left his property jointly to Louisa and myself; and
his wishes respecting us had been expressed too clearly to be
misunderstood. Louisa was among the loveliest of her sex; but I should
have counted it profanation, had my heart suffered itself to harbour
one thought of her less pure than is offered at the shrine of some
enfranchised saint. I loved not Louisa; no, I adored her. Alas! it was
not long before she became a saint indeed.

She complained not, but she sorrowed; she suffered, but it was in
silence. In vain did she forbid her lips to confess the progress which
grief made in her constitution: her emaciated form sufficiently
betrayed it. A few melancholy weeks had elapsed since the death of my
friend, when one morning her terrified women informed me, that she was
not in her apartment, nor apparently had been in bed all night. My
heart instructed me well where to seek the unfortunate. I flew to the
pavilion; she was stretched on the marble stone, which covered her
husband. In the agony of grief she had burst a blood vessel, and her
limbs were already cold; her countenance was calm, and a faint smile
seemed to play round her lips: it was the only smile which I had seen
there since Seafield's death. She was deposited in the same grave with
her husband; for myself, I was unable to sustain the weight of grief
imposed upon me by this second calamity, and a long and dangerous
illness was the consequence of my mental sufferings.

The skill of my physician saved my life; and no sooner was I able to
quit the house, than I resolved to withdraw from a land rendered
hateful to me by such bitter recollections. In consequence of Louisa's
decease, the whole of Seafield's property by his will devolved to me--
I endeavoured to prevail on Zadi to accept some part of it, but he
declared that his master's liberality had gone beyond his utmost
wishes.

'Yet one request,' said he, 'I will venture to make. My two eldest
sons are grown up and able to take care of themselves; but the third
is young, and I feel that my death can be at no great distance. His
brothers may treat him ill, or at least may neglect him; but
condescend to take him into your care, let him be your servant, and I
shall not have a wish in this world left unaccomplished. Under the
protection of an honest man, my boy cannot fail to become an honest
man himself.'

Mirza (for that was the lad's name, the same who is now with me) was
in the room, and joined his entreaties to his father's with such
earnestness, that I could not refuse their request. I soon after left
Ceylon, followed by Zadi's blessings; the good old man is still alive,
and by a third hand I hear from him frequently; but the letters which
he dictates embrace but two topics, anxiety for the welfare of his
son, and regret for the loss of his beloved master.

'You are now informed,' continued Everard after a moment's pause,
addressing himself to the whole society, 'you are now informed by what
means I acquired my fortune. It was the gift of gratitude: but never
can I recollect the dreadful service which I rendered Seafield (and,
alas! which I rendered, him in vain!) without feeling my frame
convulsed with horror, and my mind tortured by the most painful
recollections. It is this which has ever made me unwilling to
discourse on the means by which I became possessed of my wealth. Yet I
cannot but think it somewhat hard, that mere silence should be
construed into positive guilt; and that I should be treated as if
convicted of the most atrocious crimes, because I have not thought it
necessary to make public my private life, and to rend open anew the
wounds of my heart for the gratification of idle and impertinent
curiosity.'

Everard was silent; so were all around him. Confusion blushed on every
cheek, except on Jessy's, whose tender heart had been deeply affected
by the mournful story, and whose mild blue eyes still floated in
tears, though every now and then a smile beamed through them in
approbation of her lover's conduct. Her father at length mustered up
his courage, and broke through this embarrassing silence.

'My dear good Everard,' said he, 'I know not how to excuse my friends
for telling me so many slanders of you, nor myself for having been
credulous enough to believe them. In truth, there is but one person in
the room, whose lips are worthy to convey to you our apology; there
then, let them make it,'--and with these words he placed the blushing
Jessy in Everard's arms.

And Jessy's lips wisely expressed the apology in a kiss; and Everard
acknowledged, while he pressed her to his bosom as his bride, that the
apology was not only sufficient, but a reward in full for the
sufferings which he had experienced through the vicissitudes of his
whole past life!



THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia