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Nothing whatever is known of them by my sister," replied the matron. “ Letters come occasionally, and always bearing the London post-mark. A handsome crest is on the seal, and below it are the initials A. S. My sister, who is rather curious in the matter, can make nothing further out. I recollect the evening on which they came; I chanced to be at Mrs. Logie's. A loud ring announced the visitors ; a hackney-coach was at the door, out of which two ladies and a gentleman descended; the latter had taken the apartments on the morning of that day, so all was in readiness for their arrival. The gentleman was of tall and commanding figure; wore a blue military cloak lined with scarlet shalloon; as he passed along the lobby I thought him a very handsome man, and, from the glance which I had, supposed him to be from eight-and-twenty to thirty years of age. Coffee was ordered, and the gentleman did not go till twelve o'clock, after which he returned to the Waterloo Hotel, where for some days they had been staying. On the following morning he came about ten o'clock, remained an hour, and from that time he has not visited the lodgers. Mrs. Logie stated, that on his leaving that morning she heard a loud sobbing in the parlour, and that for some days after Mrs. Allen's eyes looked as if she had been constantly weeping. She ate little, and passed most of the following week in bed. Mrs. Parkins said she was ill, and supplied many excuses for the deep melancholy in which the poor lady had been cast. Mrs. Parkins was exceedingly careful in all she said, and my sister still continued wondering and doubtful as before. I should have told you, that on the morning of the tall gentleman's departure, at the moment he was bidding the ladies good-by, with one hand on the door the other on his heart, he in a trembling but subdued tone of voice exclaimed, “Remember, Emily, it is my sacred promise! What that promise was my sister could not conjecture. As he passed along the passage he looked pale and agitated, but with an assumed tone of cheerfulness expressed his approbation of the clean and comfortable apartments, begged Mrs. Logie to take all care of the ladies, and, at the same time, as he hurried past, placed in my sister's hand a gold coin. Without turning to acknowledge her thanks, he descended the steps, and from that moment, as I have said, she has not seen him.”
“Your relation of these particulars has quite confirmed the opinions I had formed—that these are mysterious people. It seems odd for a husband to leave so young and beautiful a wife, and more especially under the present circumstances. It is possible that concerns of deep moment have demanded his presence elsewhere; that his absence for a time is unavoidable; and it would be uncharitable to put a severe construction on these strange circumstances. Perhaps the marriage has been a clandestine one, and a reconciliation may, ere long, be effected. But the different initials on the seals of the letters and the handkerchief add to one's doubts and surmises."
“ Time-time, sir, will most likely tell the truth,” said Mrs. M‘Andrews.
At this moment Davie arrived with the coffee, and thus terminated the conversation relative to a subject on which I could not avoid musing.
At three o'clock on the following morning I was hastily summoned to Sailsbury-street. I hurried off without loss of time. In a few minutes I was at the place of
destination. Long before the grey light of the morning had begun to shed its dim visibleness, the agony of her travail had passed away, and she had given birth to a son, who lived but a few
brief minutes. The loving mother, in the anguish of her heart, expressed her sorrow that the babe was dead. But,” said she, “ as God willeth
-not as I will!" I promised to call early on the morrow, and then departed.
Davie, doubtless with all good wishes for my welfare and quiet sleep, had concluded that as I had been up most of the night he would allow me to doze on. He did so until the Tron* had, as he was wont to express himself, “chappit twarl o' the clock.” He then deemed it time for me to shake off my slumbers, and, after knocking to no answer, opened the door, protruded his Highland visage, and then, in tone and attitude as if invoking the shades of Ossian, exclaimed,
Maister Kennyon, Maister Kennyon, be ye goin' to get up the day? It's gane
twarl o' the time !" “Hallo! who's there ?" shouted I, half awake and half asleep.
“It's jist me, sir ; jist happas to be mysel, ye. ken. I thocht I'd ca' ye, as it has gane twarl.”
“Gone what ?-past what?" ejaculated I, in amazement. “ Past twarl o' the clock, Maister Kennyon.” “What an egregious old fool you must be! Confound your old Highland pate not to call me before,” said I, peevishly, jumping out of bed and seizing my watch, which was most provokingly ticking away at twenty minutes past twelve. The mid-day sun was in streaming rays struggling through the crevices of the ponderous shutters, which supplied the place of curtains, and it might be said of iron stanchions. I atrabiliously drew on my trousers
, and grumbled furiously at the stupidity of my Highland valet. “ They'll think I am never going to-day. If it had been some patients I should have cared less—been less concerned.”
On the first ebullition of my wrath, Davie stole down stairs muttering, and doubtless throwing out his vengeful expletives as he proceeded.
On reaching the snuggery, coffee, kippered salmon, and the et cæteras, were in readiness on the little square table, which I recollect so well; and it is but justice to say, that although I had vented my rage on the functionary of Park-place, he had lost no time in the preparation of breakfast. When he came into the room I began to calmly remonstrate with him for not calling me before. He replied, he had done so in perfect unconsciousness of any supposition that I wished to be
before-declared it had been done in kindest consideration to me—thought it too bad to be scolded for his good intentions. His arguments were decidedly the best. I felt annoyed at having lost my temper, as I knew the old man would have perilled his existence for me; I, therefore, placed in his bony hand a half-crown piece, which, in Davie's mind, fully atoned for all I had said.
On arriving at my patient's I found Mrs. Allen composed and tranquil, but a quiet melancholy was settled on that beautiful Saxon face, which daylight showed still more fascinating. She cordially grasped my hand, and then reiterated her thanks for my attentions. “Mrs. Parkins," said Mrs. Allen, “ take the keys and open my desk; the purse is in the left corner-give it me.” Mrs. Parkins did so; the sick lady took from her purse a couple of guineas, then placed them in my hand, at the same time making many
apologies for so small a fee. vi One of these days,"
* Tron Church, Edinburgh.
said she, “I shall be better enabled to give you a more substantial acknowledgment of my obligations for your very kind attentions.” I was not a little perplexed how to act. The lady had thrown out a delicate hint that her circumstances were limited. The odious coins I wanted not; and if I had, it would have been impossible to desire them under such circumstances; again, if I refused them, it would be like supposing my patient's poverty-it would be laying her under an obligation, and sứch might give pain to a sensitive mind. I put the money in my pocket, but never did the receiving a fee give me such real discomfort.
I called in the evening, and was cordially welcomed by my new friends. Mrs. Allen expressed a wish that I should see the infant corpse. 66 Take the candle, Mrs. Parkins," said the invalid, “and do show Dr. Kennyon the departed babe. Oh, my God, were I but with it !" continued she, whilst those dark-blue eyes were filled to overflowing. In the utterance of the bitter words she seemed disquieted, and it was easy to perceive the troubled feelings of her soul.
To one whose daily lot it had long been to gaze on the perishing remains of mortality, the sight of a dead child was in itself of little interest. Death's spoils had too long been familiar to my eye to give any concern or afford novelty. Let not the reader, however, suppose that those whose office it is to become familiarised with such sights lose their sensibility -become callous to suffering—or that their hearts acquire a stoniness and want of feeling. Far from it; but duty requires they should divest themselves of morbid emotions, and have no maudlin sympathies, where action and collectedness of mind are so often indispensable for the welfare of those under their care. As a member of that profession I would not here by any means in a tone of vain and inflated boasting trumpet forth the virtues of ourselves, yet, as an impartial judge and an unbiassed speaker, I might aver that the practitioners of the healing art are in reality the practical Christians. The pulpit orator, in his oratorical display, may there inculcate the actions of virtue ; depict graphically imaginary scenes of poverty and affliction ; eloquently portray sights most appalling of wretchedness and sorrow; talk in affecting language of halls of pestilence and haunts of death; harrow the mind by the destitution of uncared-for vice and friendless virtue; he may paint such scenes in studied phrase and finely perorated diction, without any nearer approach to the reality than the velvet cushion over which he leans. Professing philanthropists may expatiate on their familiarity with man's worst condition, and tell of dens of infamy and disease, but it is the parish doctor and the good physician who are brought in daily and intimate relation with those gloomy and darkened pictures of humanity. They are ever ready to encounter, dangers more dread and fatal than the deadliest battle-field ; often they are rewarded with no return but the honest applause of their own hearts, and, it may be, doomed to die the uncanonised martyrs of applied science!
Go,” says an eloquent divine—“go into the abodes of the sick, and the poor, and deserted; wherever there is disease or distress there will you find some medical practitioner exercising his glorious art-patiently, freely, and fearlessly, for those whose poverty or vice, or the breath of pestilence, has deprived of every other friend. Or again, follow him amongst the higher classes of his patients, and you will find him then the friend and honest adviser of those who can seldom hear truth from any other lips—ministering hope and comfort to the sick, reviving ex
piring life, or soothing the bed of death for the drooping spirit, by counteracting the depressing influence of those maladies that might otherwise rob the philosopher of his fortitude and the Christian of his consolation.”
To return. I followed Mrs. Parkins more through considerations of politeness than from any real satisfaction. The little sitting-room was calm, and dull, and deathly! The curtains were drawn, and an air of sombre gloom bespoke the spoiler had visited. Over the side-table was thrown an ample white cloth, which evidently had an object beneath. It did! On removing the snowy coverlit a beautifully made little coffin was presented; its handsome covering of light blue, the glittering rows of shining nails, the silvery tire, and the small breastplate, rendered it fantastically pretty, if such an epithet might be applied to any receptacle for the remains of mortality. Mrs. Parkins gently raised the lid, took off the fretted shroud, and revealed the tranquil features of the sleeping innocent. Around its head was tastefully arrayed a wreath of winter flowers, as if emblematic of the fate of that being of whom all that remained was as perishable as they like them, to return to the dust that gave! Sad reflection, methought, to think the slimy reptile must ere long revel on thy dear remains, the loathsome worm banquet on thy flesh, and that form soon turn to the insensate clod!
In no great length of time Mrs. Allen was convalescent; yet although she did not positively need professional attention, there was a languor remained which, in my own mind, I deemed more a mental than a bodily malady. My visits, however, were not infrequent, and there sprang up something of kindliness and intimacy between the ladies and myself. They were utter strangers in Scotland, and thus my calls, perhaps, broke the monotony of their quiet retirement. Mrs. Parkins repeatedly expressed a wish that I would pay them a visit whenever my leisure permitted. The more our acquaintance increased, the more I saw of them, the more I became convinced of their superiority. Little incidents confirmed this opinion, and from time to time a word in conversation escaped that created my internal curiosity still more. Mrs. Allen was exceedingly accomplished, and on every subject she conversed with fluency and ability. Without any parade of literary attainments, it was evident she possessed a full and well-stored mind; and the language in which she expressed her sentiments was of that high order for which in these days the better classes of her sex are distinguished. She was one of those prodigalities of nature, so rarely seen, where Providence has united mental superiority with personal beauty.
Some few months subsequent to Mrs. Allen's accouchement, I was . hastily summoned to her lodgings, and found the poor lady in a fit. Mrs. Parkins was in a state of intense alarm; and, in justice to the landlady, she was also extremely anxious. Seeing at a glance that her paroxysm was not likely to be of serious import, I first endeavoured to tranquillise those who hung over her in such trepidation, as Mrs. Parkins's terror and excitement precluded the possibility of the requisite means for restoration being applied. The patient was laid on the sofa ; her golden ringlets had escaped their graceful fastenings, and fell in negligent confusion around her face--that face so bloodless, deathlike now, and that seemed to say every drop of the crimson current had “returned to its last citadel, the heart." Ever and anon she heaved a deep sigh, then subsided into a still, motionless quietude, like unto that sleep that knows no waking. Mrs. Parkins hung over her in very distraction ; she clasped her bands, then placed Mrs. Allen's between hers, kissed the pale brow, burst into tears, and exclaimed, “My child, my dearest child, speak—speak, if you love me, that I may know you live. Speak-speak but one word, Miss Emily, but one word !”
Restoratives being applied, more consciousness was apparent. Ere long, in a dreamy and confused stare, she opened her wandering eyes, and for a moment looked wildly around, closed them again, and, in halfreproving, half-tender accents, said, “ Alfred, oh, Alfred, you have killed me!" In a few minutes she sank as before into statuary repose. Mrs. Parkins became calmer, the landlady more collected. I requested the patient might have an uninterrupted slumber. After a time she awoke, and was once more aware of what was passing around her, yet still her senses seemed somewhat benumbed, and her soul drooped under her malady. The lightning shock was over; the storm had expended its fury, but the wreck remained; and long, long the tempest left a torpid calm—that after-silencer of the heart !
In the requisite attendance that followed, it became indisputable that there had been some mental suffering : the haggard look, the nightly watching, and corporeal decline, told there was a rooted sorrow in the brain.
Week after week with noiseless pinion sped away, yet without bringing any change for the better. I tried such remedial measures as the case required, yet without benefit; the constant wasting went on, the features became more and more sunken and altered, and it was too manifest that gloomy apprehensions might with good grounds be formed. I suggested that another opinion should be given. Mrs. Allen received this proposition with heedless indifference, and, indeed, expressed a wish that no one else should see her. Mrs. Parkins prevailed on her to consent, and I then desired a physician of eminence to meet me. The consultation was held, the prescription agreed to, the medicine long continued; but, alas ! without amendment: it was too obvious that in this instance human aid would prove of little avail.
Without troubling the reader with a prolix detail of particulars, I will not protract the sequel. Like a lovely and blighted flower, she faded beneath the lightning-stroke of despair-she died ! On that bed, on which but a few fleeting weeks before she had given birth to her departed infant, now lay the quiet corpse of its once beautiful mother! Disease and death had verily worked their ravages on her once fair face ; the roseate hues had fled, the hollow cheek and sunken eye were there the ghastly traces of the spoiler's hand !
In the course of a few days the funeral took place. On my arrival at the house, two or three respectable neighbours, who had kindly come to pay their respects to the memory of the stranger lady, were seated in the little sitting-room I knew so well. The hearse and a mourningcoach were at the door. All that remained of Mrs. Allen left the house of the living for the home of the dead. The plain oaken coffin, bearing the initials of the deceased's name and the date of her death, was put into the vehicle, and the simple cortège gently moved off to the pretty little village of Colinton. In the secluded churchyard of that retired hamlet the perishing form of the mother was lowered, to mingle with the dust of the infant, so that “in their deaths they were not divided.”