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panions. With a ghastly smile he pointed to me, and laughing wildly, exclaimed;" He is here again-to remind me that my dead father cursed me!-cursed me for days and nights spent like this; and the curse of hell is clinging to me! Take care of him; he will bring death among you-death and horrible dreams; and when you would kneel for pardon to those you have offended, he will drag them from your sight, and nail them down for ever, to be food for the creeping worm. Look!" shouted he, while the big drops stood on his forehead; "look! my father is standing behind him, dressed in his shroud-the dead amongst the living!" He sank back as he spoke, and the confusion became general. Women screamed and fainted; children caught the infection of terror; some of the guests hurried from the garden; others crowded round the fainting man; all drew back from me with common dread; a stare of loathing curiosity was hastily cast on me, and they passed, till I remained alone with Violet, bewildered, pale as death, and hanging on my arm.
I was forced in self-defence to make some explanation of this strange scene to my own family; in so doing I was involuntarily led into bitter and melancholy expressions, and these had their effect upon Violet, who, with a heavy sigh, regretted the necessity I was under of following such a trade.
Sarah returned to live with my mother for awhile; and I resumed my old occupation, made lighter, it is true, by the hire of two journeymen, but still sufficiently dreary. A thousand melancholy stories were told to Violet by the neighbours, the effect of which I in vain endeavoured to counteract. A thousand times I was forced to struggle for an appearance of cheerfulness, after a day of heavy trial, because I dared not be sad in her presence. It was a relief to me when the intelligence that my poor mother had been seized with a paralytic stroke, allowed me to indulge in the gloominess which overpowered me, and which gradually communicated itself to my young wife. Poor Violet! sorrow stole over her brow like shadows on a sunny spot, and the dimple in her laughing cheek contradicted the seriousness of those sweet fond eyes: yet she was sad, and I felt it, and never more deeply than when she sought with stealing caresses, or the snatch of a favourite song, to win me to the mirth of my younger days. Months rolled on, and the prospects of becoming a father had given a new interest to my existence, and created a fresh cause for anxious tenderness and caution towards the partner of my lot; when my heart was again sickened by one of those strange events which seemed inseparable from my calling.
A damp and unhealthy autumn had carried off a great number of our townspeople, and we worked night and day to complete the orders we received. I accompanied one of the journeymen to Mead-park, a place in the vicinity of the town, belonging to a gentleman of property and weight in the county. The man informed me that the coffin was for a very young lady, and that she appeared to have died of a "wasting disease," for she was a mere skeleton, and for all he had seen, was little missed by the family. We entered the house by a back door, and as we passed the entrance of the servants' hall, the loud merriment which issued from it, and glimpses of gay-coloured liveries, seemed little consonant with a scene of mourning. As we proceeded, more refined, but equally decisive symptoms of careless
and heartless gaiety, smote my ear-several different tones in earnest and laughing conversation were audible; and the sound of a clear light voice, with a harp accompaniment, floated and swelled along the vaulted corridor through which we passed. We were ushered to the chamber of death by a young girl on whose feeling countenance was depicted that she, at least, remembered the departed. We knocked, but a hollow silence told that no one watched the forsaken corpse. The girl then tried the door, and finding it fast, called to a fellow servant, who replied that the housekeeper had the key in her pocket, and was showing the grounds to a party of friends, but was expected in every minute; and the men might wait. We waited accordingly: no one spoke, and the faint echo of the harp from below-the confused sounds of doors opening and closing, of voices, and all the murmur of life which resounded through the habitation, seemed to mock our stillness. At length the girl, wiping away the tears which had gathered in her eyes, said as if half to herself" And she has played on that very harp many's the time; and sung to it too, as sweetly as any of them. Ah! what would Mr. Henry say if he knew it."-"Who was she?" asked I." No one knows, Sir," replied the girl. Some say she was the Colonel's daughter, and some say his niece; but she was here as a teacher to the youngest of the ladies. She told me herself she was an orphan-I am an orphan too," and the girl again wept.-" And Mr. Henry ?"—" He's the Colonel's son, and they sent him away because-"
The arrival of the housekeeper, flushed with haste and curaçoa, and jingling a huge bunch of keys, interrupted her communication: the door was opened, and we proceeded to lift the corpse. It was the desire of the family that the funeral should take place as speedily as possible; this was but the third day after death, and the morrow was appointed for interment. I paused to take one look at the fair neglected thing, whose young life had been of so little value in the eyes of those around her. A sudden gush of blood from my heart to my temple veins-a cold and horrid shivering, succeeded the gaze. I had seen her but once--and what was she to me, or I to her?nothing!-but it was the suddenness of the forced remembrance which smote me. I recognised her in that single glance, as though years of acquaintance had made her features familiar to me, and my heart was wrung as I gazed. Again I beheld her passing me, as, worn out alike in mind and body, I leaned against the wall of that narrow street; again the hesitating pause-the timid kindness of her manner-returned with the melancholy distinctness of a dream from which we have but just awakened. Could she indeed be dead? Her pale, calm face had suffered no perceptible change her lips were slightly parted, and I almost listened for the gentle tones which had uttered the words, "You look weary!" the day I had watched Richards and my sister in their walk. Alas! where was the echo that could bring me the sound of her voice? She was gone "where the weary are at rest!"
As we left the room a chaise drove furiously up to the house-a young man leaped from it, and I heard the girl who had before spoken of him, exclaim in a tone of agony, "Oh! God! it is Mr. Henry!"
That evening, as I was sitting with my beloved Violet, who full of
the anticipations of maternal joys, talked gaily and incessantly to cheer me after the day's toil, I heard a confused noise of hurried steps and loud and alarmed voices-the door was flung open-the journeyman and his companion-two of the servants I had seen in the morning at Mead-park-and several other persons, crowded in. All spoke at once, and none were intelligible. At length I collected that the being on whom the world was supposed to have closed for ever, had been heard to move, to moan in her coffin, and I was required to be on the spot, in the shortest possible space of time, with the requisite tools for breaking open her narrow dwelling-house. Struck with intense horror, I rushed from the house, seizing the implements of my trade which lay nearest my hand.
Passing groups of terrified domestics, I made my way into the room where the corpse lay. The young man I had seen arrive in the morning stood by the coffin, and turning from his mother, who was condemning the whole scene as the effect of heated fancy, he said to me, in a smothered voice, “Quickly, quickly! but don't hurt herdon't harm her-I will make you rich!-IUnable to say more, he remained heavily panting, till as the coffin lid rose a little he rushed forward, and with hands nerved by love's deep agony burst it open. She lay partly turned round, and a nail, which had caught in the shroud, and removed it partially from her throat and shoulder, had also inflicted a wound, from which the blood still oozed. All shrank back but him: he raised her in his arms-he kissed her lips, her cheek, her forehead-he staunched the blood on her fair attenuated shoulder with his handkerchief-he watched-yet why should he watch? he felt what we all saw-that she had lived! Slowly he laid her down, and suffered his arms to fall listlessly by his side, while he gazed from one awe-stricken countenance to another. No one moved no one but he, dared even to breathe audibly. Suddenly his wandering eyes fixed on mine, with a glaring expression of horror and hatred. I shrank instinctively from the meditated violence which that look conveyed, and the action seemed to recall him to himself. He laid one hand on the edge of the coffin, and lifting the other solemnly, said in a hollow voice :-" Not I-though I forsook her in the long trial of a breaking heart-not I, have done this; nor you, cold, cruel mother, whose pride denied me an obscure happiness; but you-you, whose coarse hand shrouded her from Heaven's air, while she yet breathed-it is on you, that the blood of the innocent lies for ever!"
Was there aught left on earth to endure that could be bitter after this? A feeling, which might have shaped itself into such a question, had I been capable of a connected idea, rose in my mind as I reached my home; but my cup was not yet full. Overcome with the horrors detailed to her, with every exaggeration which vulgar terror and superstition could add, Violet had, after my departure, fallen into an hysterical fit, which was followed by convulsions-and the hour which made her prematurely a mother, robbed me at once of wife and child.
What was death, or the pomp of death, to me afterwards? My mother, my poor helpless mother, still lives-and I am still a coffinmaker! C. E. N.
WHAT WILL OUR SPINSTERS DO? OR, WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH OUR SPINSTERS?
THE question which was so pithily and pointedly addressed to the Lords, becomes of much more momentous import when applied to the ladies, at least, to the unmarried ones, vulgarly yclept Spinsters. Paltry in number, not very formidable in influence and intellect, and receiving only rare and trifling additions to their order, the Peers were scarcely worth the inquiry either way; but when the interrogatory (oh the happy polygamist!) embraces all the fair sex of the middling and upper classes, it behoves every member of society to weigh deeply and maturely what answer shall be given to it. Why do the political economists waste their precious time upon rent, tithes, and corn-laws, discussions in which so few comparatively are interested, when there is a grievous defect in our social institutions that may be termed a Catholic, or universal evil, since it tends to reconvert the larger portion of our genteel population into monks and nuns, so far, at least, as compulsory celibacy can effect that object? Why do these economists instruct Ministers how to husband the national resources, when they should be rather showing our distressed damsels how to put the Church ministers in requisition, and to husband themselves? Here, in the very heart of polite life, there is an oversupply, an absolute glut of female youth, beauty, and accomplishments, with little or no demand for those once desiderated articles. Our brightest belles set no church bells pealing; drives round the park-ring end not, as of yore, in affixing a gold ring round the finger; white favours are out of favour; nuptial bans are under ban and interdict; wedding-cake is not cut, because weddings are; no matches are made but those of wood and brimstone; and our clergymen, who used to know the marriage ceremony by heart, are now obliged to turn to the fresh and unthumbed leaf in their Prayer Books, whenever they are called upon to join man and wife together. The age of matrimony, like that of chivalry, is gone, and the clerks who lived upon the fees for issuing general and special licences, have been so long out of work, that they may, probably, be heard of at the workhouse.
Is there any exaggeration in these melancholy averments? I appeal to every reader who moves in genteel society. Does he not, in each successive season, see hundreds of rose-buds unfolding their charms, who are destined, as inexorable time revolves, to be metamorphosed into wall-flowers, and finally to constitute a portion of the human tapestry with which our ball-rooms are decorated, or, at least, lined. Our girls keep getting in, just when they ought to be getting off: they put forth all their attractions-they work hard to become wives, but, alas! they are only serving a long, irksome, and heartwithering apprenticeship to spinsterism! For waltzes, quadrilles, mazurkas, and galopades, partners may be found easily enough; but where are they to find the partner for life? He is either undiscoverable, like the unicorn and the phoenix, or only to be seen once in a hundred years, like the flower of the aloe. Strange, that amid the myriad unmeaning inquiries with which our dancing beaux pester their partners, they should never once delight them by popping the ques
March.-VOL. XXXIV. NO. CXXXV.
tion! From any part of speech that might bear a construction of this nature, they refrain with a cautious and most unrelenting precision. Well may they be termed shrewd, though fantastical grammarians, for they had rather decline than conjugate. Neither dress, address, nor undress will win them. Gowns, transparent as tinder, catch no sparks, and raise no flame; the fashionable nude only diminishes her own chance of ever becoming a femme couverte; and the best and most becomingly attired beauty may find a hundred candidates eager to lead her out to dance, but not one who will lead her up to the altar. In the good old times, a handsome, clever girl seldom failed to flirt herself into favour, to act the coquette with good success, to ogle till she was eyed with tenderness, to court till she was courted, and ultimately to bridle herself into a bridal. But such triumphs are not to be achieved in these anti-nuptial days. Impenetrable as the nether millstone is the heart of a modern bachelor: you might as well pelt a rhinoceros with a pea-shooter. Neither change of scene, nor the most tempting opportunities can throw him off his guard. Bath, Brighton, Cheltenham, pic-nics, sailing parties, rides, drives, shooting visits to the park-enclosed mansion; and Christmas festivities, united by the kiss-sanctioning misletoe, used, in the days of our fathers, to be provocatives to matrimony that few could resist. But these talismans have lost their charm. In vain do our belles redouble their attentions; the beaux still remain single; celibacy is the order of the day; we have no husband-men, but those who hold the plough; no yoke-fellows but the collar-makers ;-the honeymoon is in eclipse; Cupid may turn his bow into a fiddle-stick, and play a solo, (though we have beaux enough who are mere sticks, without any such metamorphosis); and Hymen, with his extinguished torch, may fly to that heaven where they marry not, neither are they given in marriage.
The fact is, Mr. Editor, that the present generation, both male and female, is in a false position. We, that is to say, the younger and marriageable portion of the community, are the results of twenty years' fictitious prosperity, commercial monopoly, boundless profusion, artificial excitement, and almost universal corruption. Every body flourished, from the writing-master to the budget-announcing Prime Minister. By means of an artificial currency, Pactolian streams were made to inundate the land-an Eldorado sprang up in every province, and matter-of-fact plodders out-dreamed the reveries of Alnaschar. Rents, tithes, prices, every thing rose. Posts, places, and pensions were showered on all sides; "it rained eringoes and kissing-comfits." What wonder, therefore, that every fortunate youth married and had a family, or that a habit of luxury and expense was introduced into every household establishment, and became an indispensable criterion of genteel life? Well, the goose has been cut up, and no more golden eggs can be laid; the bubble has burst; the day of reckoning has arrived; Reform and its sure concomitants, economy and retrenchment, are about to lop off the last remaining snug berths and sinecures; and here we are the present generation of youngsters-performing penance for the mistakes of our spendthrift parents, brought up to do nothing, accustomed to all sorts of expensive indulgences, and unable to afford a single luxury, except that of living single. A trim reckoning, but, unfortunately, a true one! To per