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shilling into my hand, saying, "You look very weary, my poor man; pray get something to drink with that." A more lovely countenance (if by lovely be meant that which engages love) was never moulded by nature; the sweetness and compassion of her pale face and soft innocent eyes; the kindness of her gentle voice, made an impression on my memory too strong to be effaced. I saw her once again! I reached the merchant's lodgings, and my knock was answered as on the former occasion, by the widow herself. She sighed heavily as she saw me, and after one or two attempts to speak, informed me that her son was awake, but that it was impossible for her to administer the opiate, as he refused to let the smallest nourishment pass his lips; but that he was quite quiet, indeed had never spoken since he woke, except to ask her how she felt; and she thought I might proceed without fear of his interruption. I entered accordingly, followed by a lad, son to the landlady who kept the lodgings, and with his assistance I proceeded to lift the corpse, and lay it in the coffin. The widow's son remained motionless, and, as it were, stupified, during this operation: but the moment he saw me prepare the lid of the coffin so as to be screwed down, he started up with the energy and gestures of a madman. His glazed eyes seemed bursting from their sockets, and his upper lip, leaving his teeth bare, gave his mouth the appearance of a horrible and convulsive smile. He seized my arm with his whole strength; and, as I felt his grasp, and saw him struggling for words, I expected to hear curses and execrations, or the wild howl of an infuriated madman. I was mistaken. The wail of a sickly child, who dreads its mother's departure, was the only sound to which I could compare that wretched man's voice. He held me with a force almost supernatural; but his tongue uttered supplications in a feeble monotonous tone, and with the most humble and beseeching manner. "Leave him," exclaimed he, "leave him a little while longer. He will forgive me; I know he will. He spoke that horrible word to rouse my conscience. But I heard him and came back to him. I would have toiled and bled for him; he knows that well. Hush! hush! I cannot hear his voice for my mother's sobs; but I know he will forgive me. Oh! father, do not refuse! I am humble-I am penitent. Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee-father, I have sinned! Oh! mother, he is cursing me again. He is lifting his hand to curse me-his right hand. Look, mother, look! Save me, O God! my father curses me on his dying bed! Save me, oh!” The unfinished word resolved itself into a low hollow groan, and he fell back insensible. I would have assisted him, but his mother waved me back. "Better so, bet
ter so," she repeated hurriedly; "it is the mercy of God which has caused this do you do your duty, and I will do mine," and she continued to kneel and support the head of her son, while we fastened and secured down the coffin. At length all was finished, and then and not till then we carried the wretched youth from the chamber of death, to one as dark, as gloomy, and as scantily furnished, but having a wood fire burning in the grate, and a bed with ragged curtains at one end of it. And here, in comparative comfort, the landlady allowed him to be placed, even though she saw little chance of her lodgers being able to pay for the change. Into the glass of water
held to his parched lips, as he recovered his senses, I poured a sufficient quantity of the opiate to produce slumber, and had the satisfaction of hearing his mother fervently thank God, as still half unconscious, he swallowed the draught. I thought he would not have survived the shock he had received; but I was mistaken. The merchant was buried and forgotten; the son lived, and we met again in a far, far different scene.
It was early in the summer of the ensuing year that my heart was gladdened by the intelligence of my sister Sarah's approaching marriage. Henry Richards himself was the bearer of this welcome news. An uncle of his, who had been a master builder and stonemason, had, in dying, bequeathed to him nearly all the little property he had realised; and this, with his own exertions, Richards assured me would support Sally in comfort. "No more drudgery, no more service for her now," said he, a flush of joy rising on his fine countenance; "she is to leave her place on Monday week, and the Sunday following we are to be married. It shall not be my fault, Collins," continued he, grasping my hand, "if she is not happy." That evening was spent in the company of my sister and her lover, and never were plans for the future laid with so eager an anticipation of complete happiness as those discussed by the young couple. Monday came, and with it came Sally, blushing and smiling, to ask if I would walk with her to the house of Henry's father, where she was to remain till the wedding. The old man greeted her with pride and fondness, and my steps homeward were lighter and quicker than for many months past. Days rolled on; there remained now but one to pass before they should be united for ever. I was working with cheerfulness and alacrity on the morning of that day, when a labouring man pushed open the shop door, and calling me by my name, said, "You're wanted up at Mr. Richards, sir." "Very well," said I carelessly, resuming my occupation. "Beg pardon, sir," added the man, you'll be wanted, too, in the way of business." I caught the expression of his eye as he turned and left the threshold, and felt an unaccountable chill at my heart. "The old man is dead!" thought I, and the hammer falling from my hand on the lid of the coffin, sent a hollow sound to my ear, like a dying groan. I reached the house inquired for my sister-she was shopping with a female friend-I asked for Henry Richards; they flung open the door of the little parlour where we had all spent that evening together. On a shutter, disfigured, bleeding, lifeless, lay the gay-hearted, high-spirited young man, whom another sunrise was to have made my brother! My head swam-I staggered, and fell back senseless. To my inquiries, when I recovered consciousness, they gave short and bitter answers. had been inspecting an unfinished house, and had fallen from the scaffolding on a heap of bricks and rubbish. No sound escaped his lips; no movement was perceptible when the workmen reached the body, except that a convulsive thrill agitated the limbs. As he fell, so he remained, till they lifted him and carried him to his father. When I was admitted to the old man, his calmness and resignation appeared wonderful: to my broken ejaculation of sympathy he replied, "God's will be done! he was the last of five; the Lord pity the girl who loved him!"
As he spoke the words he wrung me by the hand, and I left him. "God pity her, indeed!" I repeated unconsciously, as I descended the stairs. Before I could leave the house I met her, and as she stood in the narrow doorway, she bent forward, as if to kiss me; smiles played on her lips; love lighted her eyes. I rushed past her into the street; I felt that I could not bear to tell her what she must bear to hear. My master's wife kindly volunteered to go to her, and bring her away, if possible. My master himself was ill in bed; I had, therefore, to prepare, with my own hands, the bier of my ill-fated faiend. Oh! that dreadful night! How like a dream, and yet how fearfully distinct are its terrors, even to this day! I had made some progress in my labours, when, overcome with weariness, I fell asleep. I was awakened by a cold pressure on my hand, and I heard the words repeated, "It shall not be my fault if she is not happy." In an instant I started up, and beheld seated opposite to me-Henry Richards! He was frightfully pale, and the unwashed wound on his crushed temple seemed still to bleed. He smiled at me, and pointing to the unfinished coffin said:- I shall be glad to rest there; see how my wrist is shattered!" I looked, and, sickening at the sight, I rose with the intention of rushing from the room. The figure rose too, as if to prevent my departure, and, in a mournful voice, exclaimed;"Am I already so loathsome to you?" As it spoke, it pressed onwards, and onwards, till it touched me; it sank into a seat by my side, and when I recovered consciousness, the rich light of a summer's morning beamed on the empty place it had occupied. The wealth of worlds would not have bribed me to touch that coffin again; it was in vain I repeated to myself the common arguments against nocturnal terrors; in vain I condemned my own feelings as the result of an excited fancy; I felt that he had been there, and a feverish desire possessed me to see the corpse, and convince myself of the truth of the vision by the circumstance of his arm being broken or otherwise. The body had been washed and laid out since my visit on the previous day, and the countenance seemed less disfigured. I gazed on it with silent agony for a few minutes, and then slowly, and with shuddering dread, I lifted his arm; it was swollen and discoloured, and the hand hung nervelessly from it. The vision was true!
I was interrupted in some incoherent exclamation by a wild shriek, and, with convulsive sobs, my sister Sarah flung herself on my bosom. That evening, as we sat together, she pressed me for an explanation of the words I had spoken over the body of Henry Richards. I know not how it was, and I have always attributed it to some strange infatuation, but as the horrors of the night returned to my mind, I forgot all besides, and I described my vision to the shuddering girl, ending with these words;-"Yes, I beheld him as in life, and he pointed to the coffin I was working at-the coffin in which he was to lie." Never shall I forget the expression of my sister Sally's face when I had concluded. She parted her dark hair with a bewildered look, as if she doubted having heard me aright, while, with her other hand she grasped my arm. His coffin-his!" gasped she, "Oh! Tom, had you the heart to work at that?" Slowly she relaxed her hold, and remained with her eyes riveted on my hand. I spoke to her, but she did not answer; I addressed her in the endearing terms familiar
to her ear in childhood, but it produced no impression. At length her eyelids slightly quivered; her strained eyes grew dim, and she sank in a swoon at my feet.
From that hour, even to her-my sister-the pride of my heartmy consolation in the city of strangers-whose laugh had cheered me in the gloomiest hour, the touch of whose lips on my haggard forehead had soothed me into loving life, when all was dark round meeven to her my presence became fearful. Strange as it may appear, the manner and suddenness of her lover's death, the fact of its having taken place so soon before the ceremony which was to make them one -all this was nothing in comparison of the horror she felt that my hand should have prepared his coffin. She shrank from my touch; she averted her eyes from my gaze; she shivered and wept when I spoke to her. I ceased to leave my master's house, except when forced by my calling, and as I mechanically pursued my toil, I felthow gladly I could die! That master-line of the master-poet, which expresses far, far more of the weariness of misery than pages of lamenting, rose to my lips :
"Oh! for a good sound sleep, and so-forget it."
It was in the midst of reflections such as these, that one bright thought flashed on my brain, and startled me with a vision of happiness. Violet my Violet! I had not forgotten her; I had treasured her letters next my heart, and her image had gladdened my dreams; but that image was ever in the distance; her presence was a blessing which belonged to the future only. But now, in the extremity of my loneliness, I fancied her by my side; and, after a week of feverish longing to behold again my native village, and her innocent countenance, I asked and obtained from my master a term of holiday. I returned; I was again with the friends of my youth; I was again greeted with eager joy; laughing eyes were lifted to mine; my hand lingered in the hearty pressure of those which had given a farewell grasp at my departure; and the companions of my boyhood gathered round me, and disputed the pleasure of conversing with me. I went through the village, and found all as I left it, peaceful, simple, and quiet. Few were the changes which had taken place; the paralytic woman in the house next our own was dead; another rosy child or two played round the open doors of the cottages; a few more graves were scattered in the little churchyard. I paused at the wicket-gate which opened into the nursery-garden belonging to Violet's father; I lifted the latch, and the familiar sound made my heart beat rapidly; I leaned against the wicket, and gazed round me. The sun was sleeping on the gay autumnal flowers, which seemed to wear the faces of old friends; Violet's image, from infancy to girlhood, rose before me; I lifted my eyes to the quiet sky, and wept. A timid, stealing hand took mine, and the lips which, for an instant, lightly pressed it, quivered as they pronounced my name "Tom! dear Tom!" That evening saw her pledged to become my wife.
Intoxicated with present happiness, I asked myself a thousand times why I had ever suffered my spirits and health to be destroyed by imaginary evils, for such they appeared, now that I had ceased to suffer. Then, as the death of poor Richards, and the subsequent con
duct of my sister Sally smote on my heart, I thought of forsaking the trade necessity had compelled me to follow, and a vague dread of inflicting the gloom and misery it had entailed upon me, on the heart of my young wife, confirmed me in my resolution. I wrote to my master, informing him of my intentions, and considered the matter at an end. But what was his reply? He wrote, slightly yet kindly, reproaching me with having led him to believe that he had secured in me a permanent assistant, and yet leaving him as soon as I was master of my trade. He touched on the probability of my finding some difficulty in supporting a wife and family as a journeyman, even in a flourishing business; and concluded by offering to take me into partnership with himself. He was old, he said, and had neither chick nor child to provide for; he had begun to love me as a son, and if I consented to this arrangement, his house should be a home for Violet and myself, and at the death of himself and his wife we should inherit all he had saved, and the good-will of the business. The perusal of this letter, which I received in the presence of my poor mother, of Violet, and of her father, caused a change in my plans, sudden and unexpected. The pride and satisfaction of my aged parent, the joy of Violet, the hearty approbation of my future father-in-law, the happy consciousness of being able to place her I loved beyond the possible reach of want-could I forego all these? And yet my hand trembled as I signed my name to the acceptance of his offer, and I half regretted that I had never explained my feelings on the subject to those connected with me.
Our wedding-day rose bright and unclouded; and the little party who attended agreed to spend the afternoon at some tea-gardens which had been established in the immediate vicinity of the bowlinggreen in the village. Thither we accordingly proceeded in all the buoyant spirits youth, love, and hope could furnish.
Amongst the many little tables laid out for the accommodation of the different guests, there was one which attracted the attention of most of the visitors whom idleness or curiosity had brought to the gardens. It was occupied by three young men, strangers in the village, one of whom was said, by the landlady, to be an artist of great talent. They appeared above the middle rank of life, and indulged in the most riotous merriment; drinking, laughing, jesting loudly, and singing glees; apparently forgetful of the presence of any beside themselves. Violet, with the utmost simplicity, begged me to walk near them, that she might hear the singing, which was different from any thing she had been accustomed to. Unwilling to refuse her, I took two or three turns within a short distance of the strangers' table. As we passed I was struck with the features of a young man who had just risen from his seat to commence one of the popular ballads of the day. It appeared to me that I had known him previously, but where or when I could not recollect. As we repassed, the song being just concluded, he addressed himself to Violet in a manner which made her shrink back upon my arm, and I turned fiercely to resent the insult. His eye caught mine, and he became, as it were, paralysed; the glow forsook his cheek; the glass fell shattered from his hand, and a convulsive trembling agitated his limbs. A wondering and simultaneous pause took place among the spectators and his com