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friend, who had for years been brought up in the capital, whom I had seen for an instant when a child, and whom, under that appellation, my friend had locked so tenderly in his parting embrace. She told me that the sudden illness of her father had shocked and agitated her extremely; that her brother had written to her that he was still in life, but that there were no hopes of his recovery; and finding an unexpected opportunity by means of the vehicle which was returning to her native place, she had felt unable to withstand the temptation, or rather the irresistible longing which impelled her, without her brother's knowledge, and contrary, as she feared, to her relations' wishes, to see her be loved father before he died.
"I told her my name, which she recognised at once as that of a friend whom her brother had often mentioned to her, and thus a confidential footing was established between us, which I took care not to impair by impertinent enquiries. I could not even, while she was under my protection, obtain a single glance of her face. Calmer consideration probably suggested to her, how easily our travelling together might afford room for scandal; so when we crossed the ferry towards the little island, she did not leave the carriage; and when we reached the town at a pretty late hour, she laid hold of my hand, as I was directing the postilion to go on, and said hastily, 'Let me alight here. This street, near the bridge, leads across the churchyard to our house. I fear to see or to speak to any
"I will accompany you,' said I. I will surprise my friend.' I made the postilion stop, directed him to the inn, and we alighted. The maiden leant upon my arm; I felt that she trembled violently, and had need of support.
"We walked across the churchyard towards the parsonage. Through the darkness of the blustering and rainy autumnal night, several windows, dimly lighted, and shaded by curtains, were visible. The gate, leading to the other side of the house, was merely laid to. The court was empty; every one seemed busy with
in. The windows on this side were
all dark. I saw by the inequality of
my companion's step how much her anxiety was increasing.
"We hurried across the court, and entered the little narrow passage of the house, which was also unlighted. We stood for a moment drawing our breath, and listening. From the farthest chamber on the left we heard a rustling noise, and the sound of whispering voices. A broad streak of light, which streamed from the half-opened door into the passage, was darkened occasionally by the shadows of persons moving within. 'It is my sister's room,' whispered my conductress, and darted towards it. I followed her hastily. But what a sight awaited us!
"The corpse of a young maiden had just been lifted out of bed, and placed on a bier adjoining. A white covering concealed the body even to the chin. Several elderly females were employed in tying up the long dark tresses of the deceased; while others were standing by inactive, or occupied in removing the phials and medicines from the table.
My companion had thrown back her veil at entering, and stood as if rooted to the spot. Even the unexpected shock she had encountered, could not banish from her cheek the glow with which anxiety and exercise had tinged it; nay, the fire of her eye seemed to have acquired a deeper and more piercing lustre. So stood she, the blooming representative of the very fulness of life, beside the pallid victim of inexorable Death. The startling contrast agitated me the more, that in those wellknown features I traced, in renovated beauty, those of the enchanting portrait; scarcely master of my senses, I almost believed that I saw again the same maiden who, two hours before, had fascinated me in the Frederick's Hospital, when, all at once, half turning to me, she exclaimed, O, my poor sister Lucia !'
"Lucia!'-the name fell upon me like a stroke of lightning. So, then, she whom I had last seen in the glow of life and beauty, lay before me cold in death! What assurance could I have, that the fair vision which still flitted before me, blooming with health, and life, and grace, was not the mere mask under which some spectre had shrouded itself, or round which the King of Terrors had al
ready wound his invisible but unrelaxing arm! The figures in the Dance of Death involuntarily flashed upon my mind. My very exit
house of death; although-I hopeDeath has now knocked at our door for the last time for a long period to That God should visit the sins of the come. Go and compose yourself. fathers on the children, seems o a harsh, a Jewish sentence ;-that nature transmits to posterity the consequences of the weaknesses or guilt of the parent, sounds milder, and looks more true :-but, alas! the consequences are the same. No more of this.'
ence seemed to dissolve shudder. I saw, scarcely conscious of what was going on, and as if in a dream, the living beauty draw near to the corpse; momentarily I expected to see the dead maiden throw her arms around her, and to see her fade away into a spectre in that ghastly embrace, when my friend, who had apparently been summoned by the "I drank but a single glass of wine, women, pale, and almost distracted, which, in truth, I needed, and berushed in, and tore her from the took myself to my inn. I took the corpse, exclaiming, Hence, thought- picture, which I still wore, from my less creature! Wilt thou murder us neck, but I did not open it. I was both? Away from this pestiferous over wearied, and, in spite of the neighbourhood! If you will look up-over excitement of my mind, I soon
on the dead, come to the couch of our honoured father, whose gentle features seem to invoke a blessing upon us, even in death.'
"The smiling beams of the morning sun, as I awoke, poured new life and composure into my soul." I "She followed him unresistingly, thought of our confidential converweeping in silence. An old ser- sation in the carriage, in which, unvant led the way, a light in her known to herself, my fair companion hand; another, in whom I thought had displayed the beauty of her mind, I recognised the features of our old and I could not forbear smiling at attendant, beckoned me, with tears the feelings of terror and distrust in her eyes, into the well-remember- which my heated fancy had infused ed parlour, where every thing re-" into my mind in regard to her and mained unaltered, with the excep- to the picture. It lay before me on tion of the little work-tables, all of the table, innocent as herself, with which had been removed but one. its bright loving eyes turned upon She placed before me some co cold me, and seemed to whisper, I am meat and wine, begged I would ex- neither Jacoba nor Lucia. I took cuse them if things were not in or·- ̈'''out my friend's letter, which conder, and left the room, my veyed the same assurance; calm unfriend at the same n moment entered." derstanding seemed to resume its "He embraced me with an agita- -“ascendency in my heart; and yet, at tion, a melting tenderness, he had times, the impression of the preceseldom before manifested. Youding evening recurred for a moment come,' said he, unexpected, but not to my mind. unwelcome. I have been thinking of you for some days past, and was wishing for your presence even while you were on your way.'
"Then,' said I, still with a feeling of disorder in my mind, the right time is come? Speak on, then; tell me all!'
"The time,' replied he, 'is come,' but scarcely yet the moment. I see by your paleness, your shuddering, that the dark fate which sits upon our house has agitated you too deeply at present to admit of a calm and unprejudiced consideration of the subject. Summon your mind, eat, drink, return to your inn. I will not ask you to tarry longer in the
I hurried, not without painful impatience, as soon as I was dressed, towards the desolate mansion of my friend. He had been waiting me for some time, advanced to meet me with a cheerful look, when I found his sister composed, but in deep mourning, and with an expression of profound grief, seated at the breakfast-table.
She extended her hand to me with a melancholy, but kindly smile; and yet I drew back with an oppressive sensation at my heart, for the picture stood before me more perfect in resemblance than it had appeared to my excited fancy the evening before; but here there was
more than the picture. I saw, too, at the first glance, a nobler bearing, a higher expression, than in the features of her sisters, In looking at them, I was reminded of the picture; in gazing on her, I forgot its existence. Our confidential and touching conversation, which still involuntarily reverted to the deceased, sank deep into my heart. Gradually every uneasy feeling faded from my mind; and when she left us at last at her brother's request, to some of her young acquaintances whom she had not seen for a long time before, I gazed after her with a look, the expression of which was no secret to her brother go to bud
he had delivered. In other matters, he was a person of a lively and cheerful turn of mind. By his first marriage he had no children. He contracted a second with my mother, a stranger, who had only shortly before come i into the country very pretty, very poor-and whose gay, but innocent manner, had been my father's s chief attraction. She was passionately fond of dancing, an amusement for which the annual birdshooting, the vintage feasts, and the balls given by the surrounding nobi lity on their estates in the neighbourhood, afforded frequent opportunities, and in which she participated rather more frequently than was altogether agreeable to her husband, though he only ventured to rest his objections on his apprehension for her health. Some vague reports spoke of her having, early in life, encountered some deep grief, the impression of which she thus endeavoured, by gaiety and company, to dissipate.
she burst at once into tears. My father even pressed her to mingle in the circle; she continued to refuse; at last she was overheard to sayWell, if you insist upon it on my account, be it so."
"Never before had she danced with such spirit; from that moment she was never off the floor. She returned home exhausted and unwell, and out of humour. She was now in the fifth month of her pregnancy, and it seemed as if she regretted the apparent levity which her conduct had betrayed.
"Her husband kindly enquired what was the cause of her singular behaviour. "You would not listen to me," she replied, " and now you will laugh at my anxiety; nay, perhaps you will tell me that people ought never to mention before women any thing out of the ordinary course, because they never hear more than half, and always give it a wrong meaning. The truth then is, your conversation some evenings ago made a deep impression on me. The peculiar state of my health had probably increased the anxiety with which for some time past I have been accustomed to think of the future. I fell asleep with the wish that something of my own future fate might be unfolded to me in my dreams. The past, with all the memorable events of my life, nay, even our late dispute as to dancing, were all confusedly mingled in my brain; and, after many vague and unintelligible visions, which I have now forgotten, they gradually arranged themselves into the following
"I thought I was standing in a dancing-room, and was accosted by a young man of prepossessing appearance, who asked me to dance. Methinks, although probably the idea only struck me afterwards, that he resembled the Count, the son of our late host. I accepted his invitation; but having once begun to dance, he would on no account be prevailed on to cease. At last I grew uneasy. I fixed my eyes upon him with anxiety; it seemed to me as if his eyes grew dimmer and dimmer, his cheeks paler and more wasted, his lips shrivelled and skinny, his teeth grinned out, white and ghastly, and at last he stared upon me with bony and eyeless sockets. His
white and festal garments had fallen away. I felt as if encircled by a chain of iron. A skeleton clasped me in its fleshless arms. Round and round he whirled me, though all the other guests had long before disappeared. I implored him to let me go; for I felt I could not extricate myself from his embrace. The figure answered with a hollow tone, Give me first thy flowers.' Involuntarily my glance rested on my bosom, in which I had placed a newly-blown rose with several buds, how many I know not. I made a movement to grasp it, but a strange irresistible feeling seemed to flash through my heart, and to draw back my hand. My life seemed at stake; and yet I could not part with the lovely blooming flower, that seemed as it were a portion of my own heart. One by one, though with a feeling of the deepest anguish, I plucked off the buds, and gave them to him with an imploring look, but in vain. He shook his bony head; he would have them all. One little bud only, and the rose itself, remained behind; I was about to give him this last bud, but it clung firmly to the stalk of the rose, and I pulled them both together from my bosom. I shuddered; I could not part with them; he grasped at the flowers, when suddenly I either threw them forcibly behind me, or an invisible hand wrenched them out of mine, I know not which; I sank into his skeleton arms, and awoke at the same instant to the consciousness of life."
"So saying, she burst into tears. My father, though affected by the recital, laboured vainly to allay her anxiety. From that moment, and especially after my birth, her health declined; occasionally only, during her subsequent pregnancies, her strength would partially revive, though her dry cough never entirely left her. After giving birth to six daughters, she died in bringing the seventh into the world. I was then about twelve years old. To her last hour she was a lovely woman, with a brilliant complexion, and sparkling eyes. Shortly afterwards I was sent to school, only visiting my father's house and my sisters during the holydays. All of them, as they grew up, more or less resembled their mother; till they attained their thirteenth or fourteenth year they were
pale, thin, and more than usually tall; from that moment they seemed suddenly to expand into loveliness; though scarcely had they attained their sixteenth year, when the unnatural brilliancy of their cheeks, and the almost supernatural lustre of their eyes, began to betray the internal hectic fire which was secretly wasting the strength of youth.
"Seldom at home, I had little idea of the evil which hung over our home. I had seen my eldest sister in her beauty, and her wane; and then I heard of her death. I was at the university when the second died. Shortly afterwards I visited my home. I found my third sister in the full bloom of youthful loveliness. I had been dabbling a little in painting, and felt anxious to attempt her portrait, but I had made no great progress when the time for my departure arrived. I was long absent; when I next returned, it was on the occasion of her death. I was now no longer a heedless boy. I saw the melancholy of my father, and ascribed it to the shock of so many successive deaths. He was silent; he left me in my happy ignorance, though even then the death stillness and loneliness of the house weighed with an undefinable oppression on my heart. My sister Regina seemed to grow up even more lovely than her deceased sisters. I now found the sketch which I had begun so like her, that I resolved to make her sit to me in secret, that I might finish the picture, and surprise my father with it before my departure. It was but half finished, however, when the period of my return to the capital arrived. I thought I would endeavour to finish it from memory, but, strangely enough, I always confused myself with the recollection of my dead sisters, whose features seemed to float before my eyes. In spite of all my efforts, the portrait would not become that of Regina. I recollected having heard my father say, that she of all the rest bore the greatest resemblance to her mother; so I took out a little picture of her, which she bad left to me, and endeavoured with this assistance, and what my fancy could supply, to finish the picture. At last it was finished, and appeared to possess a strange resemblance to all my sisters, without being an exact portrait of any.
"As I had intended it, however, for the portrait of Regina in particular, I determined to take it with me on my next visit, and endeavour to correct its defects by a comparison with the original. I came, but the summer of her beauty was already past. When I drew out the picture to compare it with her features, I was shocked at the change which had taken place in her, though it had not yet manifested itself in symptoms of disease. As I was packing up my drawing materials again, under some pretext or other my father unexpectedly entered. He gave a glance at the picture, seemed deeply agitated, and then exclaimed-" Let it alone."
That evening, however, as, according to our old custom, we were sitting together in his study, after my sisters had gone to rest, our hearts reciprocally opened to each other.
"I now for the first time obtained a glimpse into my father's wounded heart. He related to me that dream as you have now heard it; and his firm conviction that almost all his children, one by one, would be taken from him; a conviction against which he had struggled, till fatal experience had begun too clearly to realize it. I now learned that he had brought up his daughters in this strict and almost monastic seclusion, that no taste for the world or its pleasures might be awakened in the minds of those who were doomed to quit it so soon. They mingled in no gay assemblies, scarcely in a social party; and even I, my friend, have since that time never thought of dancing without a shudder. Conceive what an impression this conversation, and that fearful prophetic dream, made upon my mind! That I and my youngest sister seemed excepted from the doom of the rest, I could not pay much attention to; for was not my mother, at my birth, suffering under that disease which she had bequeathed to her children; and how, then, was it likely that I should be an excep tion? My imagination was active enough to extend the sentence of death to us all. The interpretation which my father attempted to give to the dream, so as to preserve us to himself, might be but a delusive suggestion of paternal affection; perhaps, self-deluded, he had forgotten, or given another turn to the conclusion of the dream, A deep and wild