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Bennett, Emerson, 1822-1905 [1851], The league of the Miami. (Lorenzo Stratton, Cincinnati) [word count] [eaf470T].
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Whoever has attempted to trace through
its various windings, or plunge into and
divine the mysteries of that mysterious,
inexplicable thing, the human heart, has
ever found himself perplexed—lost in a
mazy bewilderment. Well sung one of
England's greatest poets,

“The proper study of mankind is man,”

for man is a strange, strange being; his
life is a medley of inconsistencies—his
heart a labyrinth of good and evil. There
is in our nature a propensity, a desire for
concealment, which may be termed somewhat
hypocritical, and which gives the
outward, and the inward man, two strong
contrasting aspects. Were it not for this,
we should not see the gentle smile upon
the surface, while the death-worm was
gnawing at the core. We should not be
daily told that such an one is happy, such
an one enjoys all the beauties of life,
while he, or she, is looking forward to
the cold and silent tomb to end the misery
of a life of woe. Why is this? Why
do we seek to seem other than we feel—
than we are? Ah, there is the mystery.
That it is so, none will deny. Were it
not for this—were our features the index
of our thoughts—where would be the
sacredness of grief? or the holy charm
of love? And is not one sacred to us?
Does not the other seem holy in our eyes?
Do we not hoard them in our heart of
hearts, as the miser hoards his treasures
from the gaze of the world? And do
we not, like him, feel a secret pleasure in
brooding over them in silence, alone?
Could we not do this—did the world
know us as we know ourselves—not all
the terrors of death, not all the terrors of
a great hereafter, would be sufficient to
hinder thousands from rashly plunging
into the mystic, UNKNOWN BEYOND! In
this do we not behold an All-wise

This may, in part, account why hundreds
do and say what we consider the
very antipodes of our nature. This may,
perchance, be developed in the course of
our tale. Be this as it may, reader, we
do not set up for an essayest—we did
not intend an essay—and deeming this
apology sufficient for what we have said,
we shall, without further preliminary,
enter at once upon our story.

It was a winter's evening in the year
of our Lord 1798, and in a private apartment
of a building then standing on Front

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street, in the village of Cincinnati, were
two individuals, who, destined to figure
largely in our narrative, must be brought
into notice.

The room, of moderate size, was well
furnished. The floor was covered with a
carpet, on which stood, in one corner, a
high-post bedstead, the bed of which was
screened from view by calico curtains
falling around its front and end. At the
foot of this was a trundle-bed, on which
lay a sweet little girl, some ten years of
age, apparently asleep. There was something
beautifully serene in her open,
guileless countenance, as she lay there,
heedless of the dark world before her—
heedless of the unknown future that was
destined to try her soul. There she lay,
a gentle being, expressive of hopeful,
thoughtless innocence. By a table, near
a fire that was blazing in the chimney,
sat a man, over whom some thirty years
had not passed without leaving the marks
of conflicting passions. He was sitting
with his hand clasped on his forehead,
his elbow resting on the table, in an attitude
of deep study. His face was partly
turned toward a lamp standing on the table
a little distance from him, which served
to throw his figure into bold relief, and
light the apartment. Between him and
the light was a roll of papers, carelessly
tumbled over, which he had, evidently,
been examining. Raising his head at
length, be fixed his eyes upon the light with
that vacant stare which told his mind still
seriously occupied. His features were not
handsome, strictly speaking, neither were
they ugly. His face was rather oval, stamped
more with the marks of thought and
care, than years. In the whole expression
of his countenance, there was nothing decidedly
sinister, and yet there was something
dark—something mysterious. His
forehead was high, pale, and full of
thought, from which his dark, or rather
black, hair fell off either way in striking
contrast. His eyes were black and piercing,
very fiery, and almost incapable of
a soft, or languid expression. His cheek-bones
were high and rather prominent,
and the cheeks themselves a little concave.
His nose might be classed between the
Roman and aquiline, bordering, as it
did, slightly on both. His mouth was
medium in size, with thin lips, close drawn
over a full set of teeth. His chin rose
prominently from a curve below the
mouth, was round, full, and, combined
with the rest of his features, gave him a
character of decision and firmness. If
we take the whole expression into consideration,
we find a singular mixture of good
and evil struggling for the predominance.
A mind peculiarly sensitive on some points,
on others as peculiarly hardened. It was
this, undoubtedly—this struggling of his
soul between good and evil—this inward
war of two mighty, opposing passions—
that, as before said, had stamped his face
with the look of thought and care—had
given to his skin a pale, cadaverous cast.

For a few minutes he sat in the position
last described, while something within
seemed agitating his soul, which exhibited
itself in certain quivers of his features,
as the bottom of a well, when disturbed
displays itself in gentle wavelets directly
upon the surface.

“I see no other way,” said he, at length,
in a deep, heavy voice. “I see no other
way. Yes, yes, it must be so,” continued
he, after a pause, during which a
more settled look came over his countenance,
and his lips closed tightly over his
teeth, with a firm, determined expression.
“Could it be otherwise—but no! no!
it cannot be—there is a fate, a destiny
that wills it. Some contend that every
man can be honest; I admit under certain
certain circumstances it may be true;
but can man shape the circumstances

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which govern him? If so, why is one
wallowing in filth and wretchedness, starving
for bread — bread the staff of life —
bread the support of famishing nature —
while another, born like him of woman,
is rolling in all the pomp, the aristocracy
of wealth? Why is one a slave, another
a lord? Is it not the combined force of
circumstances? Is it not destiny? and
can man alter his destiny? Oh! that I
could look into the future and read my
final end! and yet, and yet, methinks I
should fear to do it. And wherefore fear?
what must be, can I alter? End, end,”
continued he, solemnly, “the end is death!
Ah! that is a fearful thing to contemplate—
death — and — a hereafter! Is
there a hereafter? — fearful thought! —
I pause. But no! no! I'll think no more,
lest I waver — lest I shrink with the
thought. Born perchance to evil, I must
in evil follow out my destiny. Alas!
alas! what will become of Cicely, poor
Cicely — sweet girl, I tremble for, I pity
her. The oath! the horrid oath! thank
God, I did not keep that oath; for she,
sweet angel, shall in the balance weigh
against my sins. And is it not for her I
now plunge on to other deeds? She —
she must live — must live in innocence.
Money is wanting — my stock is exhausted—
I go but to gain money — and for
her — for her. Will such an act be written
down against me? Will God — why
do I pause? there is a God! — will he
not pardon me the deed in the intent?
A thought strikes me — yes, I will, this
night. Ha! those papers — but I must
make her swear to keep them close.”

As he spoke, he wrapped the papers,
before mentioned as lying on the table
before him, closely together, and placed
them inside his vest; then rising from his
seat, he commenced pacing the floor.
His form was tall, commanding, and in proportions,
beautiful. There was strength,
grace, and elasticity combined. He was
dressed in black, which became his figure
well. There was nothing decidedly mean,
nor sordid, in his appearance.

For some minutes he paced the room
with a quick, elastic step; sometimes running
his fingers through his hair, sometimes
striking his hand against his breast
with an uneasy, nervous motion, that told
all was not right within; while his brow
contracted, and a dark shade rested on
his features. At length he paused near
the gentle sleeper, and gazed tenderly upon
her: then his brow relaxed, and a smile,
for the moment, chased away the shade,
and his features settled to a quiet calm.

“How innocent she sleeps,” sighed he,
in an altered voice. “Did I ever sleep
thus innocent? The gentle, the lovely
Cicely! How I love that child; and who
doth not that ever saw her? — she is a
being to be loved. Alas! I fear she is
a flower too beautiful to last. And she
calls me father — I taught her that. O
how sweetly it rings out in her silvery
voice. And we must part; ah! that,
that wrings my soul! I go to — to — I
will not name it — I will not mar more
sacred thoughts by the contaminating
sound; I go, because it is my destiny.
Some day she will know what now she
little dreams. And will she despise me
then? No! no! I could not bear that;
she will pity, she will pity me. Her
pure, gentle spirit will not despise — that
would be contrary to the law of angels —
and she is one. Ah! she smiles — she
is dreaming — sweet, sweet Cicely!” and
bending gently over, be pressed his lips
upon her clear, white, ivory forehead.
“If I am ever saved, it will be by thee,
sweet one. But I must think no more of
thee, or I shall be a child, and weep;”
and he drew his fingers quickly across his

At this moment Cicely awoke, and,

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fastening her soft, deep blue eyes mournfully
upon the other, she, in a sweet, sad,
heart-touching voice, inquired:

“What is the matter, dear father?”
The other started, for he supposed her

“Nothing, my child,” said he, hastily,

“Nothing,” repeated Cicely; “you
always answer so when you are sad, as
if I couldn't understand. Nothing—I
know that isn't it, dear father.”

“I was merely thinking of something
long ago, my child. Do not let it trouble
you, Cicely. I have forgotten it already;
see! I smile again.”

“Ah! that smile is to please me,”
sighed she.

“Well, well, be a good girl, and go to
sleep again; I must be gone now—a few
minutes' business calls me away.”

“But you will return soon, father?”

“Soon? Ay, ay, I will return soon.
There, good-bye.” As he spoke, he
pressed a kiss upon her rosy lips, and,
turning, left the room. Cicely composed
herself, and was soon asleep; for sleep
comes quickly to the young and innocent.

Meanwhile the other passed into the
street, descended a steep hill to the river,
unfastened a skiff which was there, entered
it, and shot directly across the Ohio.
The object, and adventure, will be shown
in the following chapter.

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Bennett, Emerson, 1822-1905 [1851], The league of the Miami. (Lorenzo Stratton, Cincinnati) [word count] [eaf470T].
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