« AnteriorContinuar »
merry little faces keeping holiday, but with prayer and supplication (the only medicine poured for him), keeping watch beside a long-outwearied spirit, whose sole physician was a friend. For there, upon that bed under which already the grave was yawning, lay stretched (much needing rest) the tired frame of Edmond Count R
AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR.
AFTER leaving Paris I temporarily established myself in Berlin, a place of residence which I selected for the ready access it afforded me to those great reservoirs of physical suffering called hospitals, as well as for the intellectual atmosphere for which the Prussian capital is renowned. Not long, however, after I had pitched my tent amid the Brandenburg sands, I received and accepted an invitation from Breslau to take the chair of the medical professorship at that University. Here I was fortunate enough to succeed in soon securing a connection which assured to me an easy, if not a brilliant future.
Among the writings by which, immediately after my return from Paris, I had sought to introduce myself to the literary world in Germany was a small pamphlet entitled
PHENOMENOLOGY OF THE BRAIN.
It fell still-born, however, and nearly ruined my publishers, who were not men of capital.* Those of the rì véov; class, who sought to stimulate a jaded imagination by new incredibilities, found the book flat and insipid; those, on the other hand, who were the constituted guardians of a languid experience, denounced it as flighty and fantastic. Thus the work failed to conciliate any portion of the public; and I myself, amid the occupations of a daily-increasing practice, had almost entirely forgotten this early failure of my literary efforts, when it was suddenly recalled to my recollection by the event which I am about to relate.
One night, I had returned home later than usual from the house of a patient, and was still engaged in my study, when my servant announced that there was a strange gentleman in the hall who was anxious to speak with me.
It was long past midnight; but a physician is bound to receive all visitors at all hours, and I bade the servant tell the stranger I would see him at once.
It was an old man of lofty stature but drooping carriage. The dim, uncertain light from under the shade of my lamp did not enable me to distinguish his features immediately, but he had scarcely uttered a word before I recognized Count R————.
I recognized him by his voice. In that shadowy light I should have hardly recognized him by any
* I hope, both for my own sake and that of the highly-respected firm who have undertaken the protection of it, that the doctor's present invasion of the literary world may be less ill fated.-EDITOR.
other indication. It was many years since we had last met, and he was grievously altered. There are some men who preserve the aspect of youth to the extreme limit of middle age; then they seem to grow old in a year, and, as if Old Age, having finally overcome his victim, was exasperated into taking vengeance upon those features which had so long resisted his attack, these men collapse into a decrepitude which is quite disproportioned to the number of their years. The aspect of Count Edmond R was like that of a broken statue. It was the painful union of beauty and ravage. His hair was still luxuriant, but snowwhite. His face was plowed with deep furrows. There was a hopeless droop about the lines of the mouth. His gait and manner still preserved much of their old stateliness, but it was the stateliness of resignation— the dignity of a defeated man. His whole face and figure had but one expression-intense fatigue.
"If," said the count, after we had exchanged a few commonplace salutations rendered painful by our mutual embarrassment, "if to-night I seek you once more, it is not to slip out of your hands as formerly. Shall I own to you that when we first casually encountered each other on the deck of that steam-boat years (how many years?) ago, I was vexed and displeased by the pertinacious scrutiny of your regard? Accustomed, however, to let pass all such impressions without allowing them to disturb my habitual equanimity, I was surprised that I could not, in this instance, entirely rid my mind of the recollection of that passing encounter, nor shake off the peculiar, but indefinite sensation which I first experienced on per
ceiving that your attention was fixed on me.
"This last attempt, therefore, I have put off as long as it was in my power to do so. That it is no longer in my power to refrain from it is proved by my presence in your house to-night."
I can not attempt to describe to you the sort of shudder with which I listened to these words. They were uttered quite simply, and without any symptom