페이지 이미지

sisted in drawing the clothes over her. I followed, and begged her to be calm. Her pulse fluttered fast under my finger.

the gloom within. The country all around was wrapped in a dreary winding-sheet of snow; the sleet came down without ceasing; and the wind moaned as it were a dirge for the dead. Alas for the dead! Alas for the early dead! The untimely "dead!"

Alas, alas, for the living!

"I should not have hastened so much,” said she, feebly, "but he is beckoning to me!" At this moment her sisters entered the room. “The lights are going out, and yet I see him!" she whispered, almost inarticulately. "Julia-Sarah-Elizabeth Tuesday, Nov. 8th.-" On Sunday, -Elizabeth-Eliza-El"- she murmured; her cold hand suddenly closed upon my fingers, and I saw that the brief struggle was over!

Her poor sisters, thus in one day doubly bereaved, were heart-broken. What a house of mourning was Hall! I felt that my presence was oppressive. What could I do to alleviate grief so profound-to stanch wounds so recent! I therefore took my leave shortly after the decease of Lady Anne. As I was walking down the grand staircase, I was overtaken by the nursery-maid, carrying down the little orphan son of her ladyship.

"Well, my poor little boy," said I, stopping her, and patting the child on the cheek, "what brings you about so late as this ?" (199

"Deed, sir," replied the girl, sobbing, "I don't know what has come to Master Harry to-night! He was well enough all day; but ever since seven o'clock, he's been so restless, that we didn't know what to do with him. He's now dozing, and then waking; and his little moans are very sad to hear. Hadn't he better have some quieting physic, sir ?"

The child looked, indeed, all she said. He turned from the light, and his little face was flushed and feverish.

"Has he asked after his mamma ?"

"Yes, sir, often, poor dear thing! He wants to go to her; he says he will sleep with her to-night, or he won't go to bed at all," said the girl, sobbing; "and we daren't tell him that-that-he's no mamma to go to any more!"

the 6th November, at - Hall, of rapid decline, Lady Anne, wife of Sir Henry Harleigh, Bart., and third daughter of the late Right Hon. the Earl of whom she survived

I thought of the FATHER-then of the son-then of the precious link between them that lay severed and broken in the chamber above; and with moist eyes and a quivering lip, kissed the child and left the Hall. It was a wretched November night. The scene without harmonized with

only one day."

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

the winner, an
and great


[ocr errors]

1 for a

PI play you hundred pounds, Doctor!" said Sir Henry; and give you a a dozen!"

"Have you nothing to say to your friend, Dr ?" replied Dr Y who knew that I had called for the purpose of attempting to make Sir Henry sensible of the death of Lady Anne.

"Oh, yes; I'll play with him; but before I lay odds, we must try our skill against one another. Come, Doctor," extending the cue; “you shall begin!"

Of course I excused myself, and succeeded in enticing him to his own apartment, by mentioning his tale of the Pedigree."

[ocr errors]

Ah, true," said he, briskly; "I'm glad you've thought of it! I wish to talk a little to you on the subject."

We were soon seated together before the fire, he with the manuscripts lying on his knee.

"And what have you done with the wife?" said I, pointedly.

"Oh, Lady Mary? Why-let me see. By the way-in your version of my story, the other day-how did you dispose of her ?" he enquired curiously.

I heaved a deep sigh. "God Almighty has disposed of her since then," said I, looking him full in the face. "He has taken her gentle spirit to himself; she has left a dreary world, Sir Henry!" He looked at me with a puzzled air.

"I can't for the life of me make you out, Doctor! What do you mean? What are you talking of? Whom are you confounding with my heroine? Some patient you have just left? Your wits are wool-gathering!"

"To be serious, Sir Henry," said I, putting my handkerchief to my eyes, "I am thinking of one who has but within this day or two ceased to be my patient! Believe me-believe me, my dear Sir Henry, her case-very-closely-resembled the one you describe in your story! Oh, how sweet-how beautiful-how resigned!"

He made no reply, but seemed considering my words-as if with a reference to his own fiction.

"I can tell you, I think, something that will affect you, Sir Henry!" I continued.

Aye! What is that? What is

that p

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][ocr errors]

the boy!" said he, uttering, or rather gasping a violent imprecation, continuing, in a swelling voice," You were talking about my wife !"

"For Heaven's sake, be calm-be calm-be calm," said I, rising.

"MY WIFE!" he continued exclaiming, not in the way of an enquiry, but simply shouting the words,


while his face became transformed almost beyond recognition. I shall, however, spare the reader the scene which followed. He got calm and pacified by the time I took my leave, for I had pledged myself to come and play a game at billiards with him on the morrow. On quitting the chamber, I entered the private room of Dr Y--; and while he was putting some questions to me about Sir Henry, he suddenly became inaudible-invisible, for I was fainting with excitement and agitation, occasioned by the scene I have alluded to.

"Depend upon it, my dear Doctor, you are mistaken," said Dr Y— pursuing the conversation, shortly after I had recovered, "Sir Henry's case is by no means hopeless-by no means!"

"I would I could think so! If his madness has stood two such tremendous assaults with impunity, rely upon it it is impregnable. It will not be accessible by any inferiornay, by any other means whatever."

"Ah, quite otherwise-experto crede!" replied the quiet Doctor, helping himself to a glass of wine; "the shocks you have alluded to have really, though invisibly, shaken the fortress; and now we will try what sapping-undermining-will do -well followed out in figure, by the way, is it not? But I'll tell you a remarkable case of a former patient of mine, which is quite in point."

[ocr errors]

Pray, forgive me, my dear Doctor, pray excuse me at present. I really have no heart to listen to it; I am, besides, all in arrear with my day's work, for which I am quite

unfit, and will call again in a day or two."

"N'importe-Be it so-'twill not lose by the keeping," replied the Doctor, good-humouredly; and shaking him by the hand, I hurried to my chariot, and drove off. Experience had certainly not sharpened the sensibilities of Dr Y--!

[Bear with me, kind reader! Suffer me to lay before you yet one or two brief concluding extracts from this mournful portion of my Diary. If your tears flow, if your feelings are touched, believe me, 'tis not with romance-it is with the sorrows of actual life. "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men-and the living will lay it to his heart."]

several decanters, complaining all the while of their being allowed nothing but sherry! I need hardly add, that they had, in a manner, talked, and laughed, and sung themselves tipsy! Sir Henry, with a hiccup-whether real or affected I know not-insisted on my joining them, and told his majesty of the hoax I had lately been playing upon him, by "getting up" his own "tale," and mystifying him with telling it of another. His majesty shouted with laughter.

Wednesday, Nov. 16.-This was the day appointed for the funeral of Lady Anne, which I was invited to attend. I set apart, therefore, a day for that melancholy, that sacred purpose. I was satisfied that no heavier heart could follow her to the grave than mine.

It was a fine frosty day. The sky was brightly, deeply blue, and the glorious sun was there, dazzling, but apparently not warming, the chilly earth.

Nov. 9th to 14th inclusive.-Between these periods I called several times at Somerfield House, but saw little alteration in Sir Henry's deportment or pursuits, except that he As I drove slowly down to was at times, I heard, very thought- the Hall, about noon, with what ful, and had entirely laid aside his aching eyes did I see here a scarlet tale,-taking, in its place, to chess. jacketed-huntsman, there a farmer He grew very intimate with the at his work whistling; while the crazy gentleman before mentioned, cheery sparrows, fluttering about who was imagined, both by himself the bare twigs, and chirruping and Sir Henry, to be the king. More loudly, jarred upon my excited feelthan once, the keeper warned Drings, and brought tears into my eyes, Y to interfere for the purpose as I recollected the words of the of separating them, for he feared Scotch song, lest they should be secretly concerting some dangerous scheme or other. Dr Y watched them closely, but did not consider it necessary to interrupt their intercourse. I found Sir Henry, one evening, sitting with his friend the king, and their two keepers, very boisterous over their wine. Sir Henry staggered towards me, on my entry, singing snatches of a drinking-song, which were attempted to be echoed by his majesty, plainly far gone. I remonstrated with the keepers, full of indignation and alarm at their allowing two madmen the use of wine.

"Lord, Doctor," said one of them, smiling, taking a decanter, and pouring out a glass of its contents, "taste it, and see how much it would take to intoxicate a man."

I did it was toast and water, of which the two lunatics had drunk

"Ye'll break my heart, ye merry birds!" In vain I strove to banish the hideous image of Sir Henry from my recollection - he seemed to stand gibbering over the corpse of his lady!

Hall was a spacious building, and a blank desolate structure it looked from amidst the leafless trees-all its windows closed-nothing stirring about it but the black hearse, mourning-coaches and carriages, with coachmen and servants in sable silk hat-bands. On descending, and entering the Hall, I hastened out of the gloomy bustle of the undertaker's arrangements below, to the darkened drawingroom, which was filled with the distinguished relatives and friends of the deceased -a silent, mournful throng! Well, it was not long before her remains, together with those of her father, the Earl of were deposited

in the vault which held many members of their ancient family. I was not the only one whose feelings overpowered him during the ceremony, and unfitted me, in some measure, for the duty which awaited me on my return, of ministering professionally to the heart broken sisters. Swoons, hysterics, sobs, and sighs, did I move amongst during the remainder of the day! Nearly all the attendants of the funeral left the Hall soon afterwards to the undisturbed dominion of solitude and sorrow: but I was prevailed upon by Lord, their brother, to continue all night, as Lady Julia's continued agitation threatened serious consequences.

It was at a late hour that we separated for our respective chambers. That allotted to me had been the one formerly occupied by Sir Henry and his lady, and was a noble, but, to me, gloomy room. Though past one o'clock, I did not think of getting into bed, but trimmed my lamp, drew a chair to the table beside the fire, and having brought with me pen, ink, and paper, began writing, amongst other things, some of these memoranda, which are incorporated into this narrative, for I felt too excited to think of sleep. Thus had I been engaged for some twenty minutes or half an hour, when I laid down my pen to listen-for, unless my ears had deceived me, I heard the sound of soft music at a little distance. How solemn was the silence at that "witching hour!" Through the crimson curtains of the window, which I had partially drawn aside, was seen the moon, casting her lovely smiles upon the sleeping earth, all quiet as in her immediate presence. How tranquil was all before me, how mournful all with in! The very room in which I was standing had been occupied, in happier times, by her whose remains had that day been deposited in their last cold resting-place! At length more dreary thoughts-of Somerfield -of its wretched insensate tenant, flitted across my mind. I drew back again the curtain, and, returning to the chair I had quitted, resumed my pen. Again, however, I heard the sound of music; I listened, and distinguished the tones of a voice, accompanied by a guitar, singing the

melancholy air," Charlie is my darling," with exquisite simplicity and pathos. I stepped again to the window, for the singer was evidently standing close before it. I gently drew aside a little of the curtain, and saw two figures, one at a little distance, the other very near the window. The latter was the minstrel, who stood exactly as a Spaniard is represented in such circumstances —a short cloak over his shoulders; and the colour fled from my cheeks, my eyes were almost blinded, for I perceived it was-Sir Henry, accompanied by the wretch whom he treated as "the king!" I stood staring at him unseen, as if transfixed, till he completed his song, He paused. "They all sleep sound," he exclaimed with a sigh, looking up with a melancholy air at the windows"Wake, lady-love, wake!" He began again to strike the strings of his guitar, and was commencing a merry air, when a window was opened overhead. He looked up suddenlya faint shriek was heard from above

Sir Henry flung away his guitar, and, followed by his companion, sprung out of sight in a moment! Everyone in the house was instantly roused. The shriek I had heard was that of Lady Elizabeth— the youngest sister of Lady Annewho had recognised Sir Henry; and it was providential that I happened to be on the spot. Oh, what a dreadful scene ensued! Servants were sent out, as soon as they could be dressed, in all directions, in pursuit of the fugitives, who were not, however, discovered till daybreak. Sir Henry's companion was then found, lurking under one of the arches of a neighbouring bridge, half dead with cold; but he either could not, or would not, give any information respecting the Baronet. Two keepers arrived post at the Hall by seven o'clock, in search of the fugitives.

It was inconceivable how the madmen could have escaped. They had been very busy the preceding day whispering together in the garden, but had art enough to disarm any suspicion that circumstance might excite, by a seeming quarrel. Each retired in apparent anger to his apartment; and when the keepers came to summon them to supper, both had disappeared. It was sup

posed that they had mounted some of the very many coaches that traversed the road adjoining, and their destination, therefore, baffled conjecture.

Advertisements were issued in all directions, offering a large reward for his capture-but with no success. No tidings were received of him for upwards of a week; when he one day suddenly made his appearance at the Hall, towards dusk, very pale and haggard his dress in a wretched state-and demanded admission of a new porter, as the owner of the house. Enquiry was soon made, and he was recognised with a shriek by some of the female domestics. He was, really, no longer a lunatic though he was believed such for several days. He gave, however, unequivocal evidence of his restoration to reason-but the grief and agony occasioned by discovering the death of his lady, threw him into a nervous fever, which left him, at the end of five months, "more dead than alive." Had I not attended him throughout, I declare I could not have recognised Sir Henry Harleigh in the haggard, emaciated figure, closely muffled up from head to foot, and carried into an ample travelling chariot and-four, which was to convey him

towards the Continent. He never returned to England: but I often heard from him, and had the satisfaction of knowing that for several years he enjoyed tolerable health, though the prey of unceasing melancholy. The death of his son, however, which happened eight years after the period when the events above related occurred, was a voice from the grave, which he listened to with resignation. He died, and was buried in Italy, shortly after the publication of the first of these papers. I shall never forget that truly amiable, though unfortunate individual, whose extraordinary sufferings are here related under a disguise absolutely impenetrable to more than one or two living individuals. They will suffer the public to gather, undisturbed, the solemn instruction which I humbly hope and believe this narrative is calculated to afford, as a vivid and memorable illustration of that passage from Scripture already quoted, and with which, nevertheless, I conclude this melancholy history "And in my prosperity, Insaid, I shall never be moved.Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled !?? ili otar

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »