I was startled by the approach of a heavy footstep. Trembling, I whispered to Miss Arnold an earnest entreaty that she would command herself, and not invite curiosity, perhaps insult, to our last retreat. But I asked an impossibility; poor Juliet could not restrain her sobbing. The step continued to ascend the stair. Though now hopeless of concealment, I instinctively shrunk aside. But I breathed more freely, when I perceived through the dusk that the cause of my alarm was a woman.
Crossing the landing, she knocked at the door adjacent to that which had been closed against us; then approaching my companion, she inquired into the cause of her distress. "She is a stranger, sick, and unfortunate," said I, now coming forward. "The only place where she could this night find shelter is so distant, than she is quite unable to reach it."
A youthful voice now calling from within was answered by the woman; and presently the door was opened by a girl carrying a lamp. Several joyous faces crowded to welcome a mother's return; and beyond, the light of a cheerful fire danced on the roof of a clean though humble dwelling. I turned an eye almost of envy towards the woman. The lamp threw a strong gleam upon her features; they were familiar to my recollection. She was the widow of the poor gardener who died in my presence at Greenwich.
She had turned to address some words of compassion to Miss Arnold; when the little girl pulled her by the apron, and, casting a sidelong look at me, said in a half-whisper, "Mother, she is like the good English lady." The widow turned towards me, and uttered an exclamation of surprise; then doubting the evidence of her senses, "No," said she, "it is not possible."
"It is but too possible, Mrs. Campbell," said I; "the changes of this restless world have made me the stranger now."
"And it's yoursel', miss!" exclaimed the widow, looking at me with a glad smile. "God bless you! ye shall never be strange to me. Please just to come in, and rest you a little." Then recollecting Juliet, she added, "If ye be concerned for this poor body, just bid her come in too."
The wanderer, who, benighted in the enemy's land, has been welcomed to the abode of charity and peace, will imagine the gladness with which I accepted this invitation. I raised my dejected companion from the ground, led her to her new asylum, and fervently thanked Heaven for the joyful sense of her safety and my own.
We presently found ourselves in an apartment which served in the double capacity of kitchen and parlour; and our hostess, placing a large stuffed elbow-chair close to the fire, cordially invited me to sit. She looked back towards my companion, as if doubtful whether she were entitled to similar courtesy. "Lady Glendower," said I, offering to her the place of honour. It was the first time I had called Juliet by her new name. After all my impressive lessons of humility, I fear I was not entirely disinterested in asserting the disparity between the rank of my companion and her appearance; but I fancied for the moment, that I was merely claiming respect and compassion for the unfortunate. I had, however, some difficulty in conveying the desired impression of my friend's dignity; and it was not until I had succeeded, that I inquired whether Mrs. Campbell could give her the accommodation which she so much needed. The good woman seemed delighted to have an opportunity of serving me; and her little girl who, with the awkward bashfulness common to the children of her country, had resisted all the advances of her old acquaintance, now whispered to her mother an offer to resign her bed to the stranger. This was, however, unnecessary. Mrs. Campbell informed me, that since I had enabled her to return to her own connexions, she had never known want, having obtained constant employment as a laundress; that her brother, a thriving tradesman, having lately become a widower, had invited her to superintend his family; and his business having for the present carried him from home, she offered Juliet the use of his apartment.
My companion thus provided with a decent shelter, I began to indulge some anxiety on my own account. It was near midnight; and I was almost a mile from home, if I could indeed be said to have a home. I had never traversed a city by night without all the protections of equipage and retinue. Now, without defence from outrage, except in the neglect of the passers-by, I was to steal timidly to a threshold where my admission was at best doubtful. The only alternative was to request that the widow would extend to me the kindness which she had just shown to my friend; and this request required an effort which I found almost impracticable.
I hesitated in my choice of evils till the hour almost decided the question; then, half resolved to utter my proposal, I began to speak; but the favour which I had petitioned for another, I found it impossible to ask for myself; and I was obliged to conclude my hesitating preface by a request, that Mrs. Campbell would accompany me home.
Juliet no sooner saw me about to depart, than she was seized with the idea that I was going to forsake her for ever; and reduced by illness and fatigue to the weakness of infancy, she again began to weep. In vain did I promise to return in the morning. "Oh no," said she, "I cannot expect it. I cannot expect you to visit me--me, forlorn and wretched."
"These very circumstances, Juliet," said I, "would of themselves ensure my return. But if you will not rely on my friendship, at least trust my word. That you have never had reason to doubt."
Miss Arnold did not venture to offend me by expressing her suspicions of a promise so formally given; but when I offered to go, she clung to me, entreating with an earnestness which betrayed her fears, that I would not leave her to want and desolation.
Overcome by her tears, or glad perhaps of a pretext for yielding decently, I now offered to remain with her, and proposed to share her apartment. Our grateful hostess willingly consented to this arrangement; and, with a hundred apologies for the poorness of my accommodations, conducted us to our chamber. She little guessed how sumptuous it was, compared with others which I had occupied! It was to be sure of no modern date; it shook at every step; and the dark lining of wainscot gave it a gloomy appearance; but its size and furniture were handsome, compared with what I had been accustomed to find in the dwellings of labour. An excellent bed was rendered luxurious by linens which, in purity and texture, might have suited a palace; and here I had soon the satisfaction of seeing my exhausted companion and her infant sink into profound repose.
For my part, I felt no inclination to sleep. My mind was occupied in considering the difficulties of my situation. While I had scarcely any apparent provision for my real wants, I was in a manner called to supply those of another; for Juliet was even more destitute than myself. Health, spirits, and activity still remained to me; blessings compared with which all that I had lost were as nothing: while the disease which was dragging her to the grave had already left her neither power to struggle, nor courage to endure. To desert her was an obduracy of selfishness which never entered my contemplation. But it remained for me to consider whether I should first provide for my own indispensable wants, and bestow upon her all else that constant diligence could supply; or whether we should share in common our scanty support, and when it failed, endure together.
"Were I to supply her occasionally," thought I, "every trifling gift would be dearly paid by the recollection that she forsook me in my extremity. If we live together, nothing will remind her that she owes anything to me, and in time she may forget it. And shall not I indeed be the debtor? What shall I not owe her for the occasion to testify my sense of the great, the overwhelming forgiveness which has been heaped upon me? O Author of peace and pardon! enable me joyfully to toil, and to suffer for her, that I may at last trace, in this dark soul, a dawning of thine own brightness!"
My resolution was taken, and I lost no time in carrying it into effect. Understanding that our present apartment was to be unoccupied for some weeks, I hired it upon terms almost suitable to the state of my finances. I explained to Juliet my situation and my intentions; telling her gaily, that I appointed her my taskmistress, and expected she would look well to her duty. I next proposed to go and settle the demands of my former landlady, and to remove my small possessions to my new abode. Juliet made no resistance to this proposal; though I could read suspicion in the eye which scrutinized my face as I spoke. When I was ready to depart, she suddenly requested me to carry her little boy with me, under pretence that she herself was unable to give him exercise. I was instantly sensible of this palpable contrivance to secure my return. To feel myself suspected of treachery at the very moment when I was impatient to make every sacrifice, assailed my temper, where, alas! it has ever been most assailable. "What right have you to insult me?"--I indignantly began; but when my eye rested on the faded countenance, the neglected form, the spiritless air of my once playful companion, my anger vanished. "Oh, Juliet!" said I, "do not add to all your other distresses the pain of suspecting your friend. Thoughtless, selfish, you may have found me; but why should you think me treacherous?" Miss Arnold protested immutable confidence, and unbounded gratitude; but I was no longer the credulous child of self-conceit and prosperity; and pained and disgusted, I turned away. Common discretion, however, required that I should not, by dwelling upon her unworthiness, render the task of befriending her more burdensome. I had indeed neither time nor spirits to spare for any disagreeable subject of contemplation.
After settling my accounts with Mrs. Milne, I expended the miserable remainder of my money, partly on indispensable supply for the wants of that day,--partly on materials for the work by which I hoped to earn subsistence for the morrow. Of these I was obliged to be content with a very humble assortment. I remembered that, in our better days, Juliet, as well as myself, had shown inexhaustible ingenuity in the creation of toys; and I fancied that we might again, with pleasure, share these light labours together. But no one who has not made the experiment can imagine how deadly compulsion is to pleasure;--how wearisome the very sport becomes which must of necessity be continued the livelong day;--how inviting is every gleam of sunshine, every glimpse of the open face of Heaven, to one who dares not spare a moment to enjoy them! Oppressed by the listlessness of disease, Juliet could scarcely make this experiment; or rather perhaps her early habits could not give way to a sense of duty, or even of necessity. Her work was taken up and relinquished a hundred times a day. The trifle which was begun one hour, was the next deserted for another, to be in its turn forsaken. But what was worse, a series of efforts defeated,--the sense of a fault which she had not courage to amend, had an unfortunate effect upon her temper; and the once playful and caressing Juliet became discontented and peevish.
These humours indeed she seldom directly vented upon me; but her ill health, her misfortunes, her privations, the treachery of her husband, the cruelty of her brother, and the ill qualities of mankind in general, furnished her with sufficient subjects of impatience. Once, indeed, for a moment, her self-command forsook her so far that she turned her displeasure on a trifling occasion against me. I kept my temper, however, and she instantly recovered hers. But the cowardly fear of alienating me, the most provoking of all her weaknesses, prompted her soon after to overwhelm me with promises which were to be performed when she should be restored to her rights and dignities. I had resolved never to wound her by one severe expression, and even now I kept my purpose, though I wept with indignation.
But in spite of my forbearance, and Juliet's caution, I was often sensible that I had involuntarily given her pain. I could see that she often mistook the most casual expressions for subtle reproach, or insinuated threat. Though I forgave, I found it impossible to convince her of my forgiveness. However suppressed, the latent impression of her mind certainly was, that I must, in some sort, avenge myself for her former desertion; nor could she always conceal the mingled sentiment of fear and anger which this impression inspired.
But no expression of impatience, nor even of suspicion, was so tormenting to me as the abject entreaties for forgiveness, which were reiterated after the most solemn assurances that they were needless. "For Heaven's sake, Juliet," I would say to her, "let this subject be dropped for ever! I beseech you to let me forget that I have anything to forgive you. If ever you see me fail in kindness, if ever I seem to prefer my own comfort or advantage to yours, then remind me that you once did me wrong, that you may rouse me by the strongest of motives to love and benefit you." But all I could say, did only, at best, impress her with momentary conviction. More frequently her efforts failed to conceal from me that she thought me more capable of inventing Christian sentiments than of feeling them.
In the mean time her feeble frame declined from day to day; yet, while she was thus a prey to groundless apprehensions, the melancholy security, which is so frequent a symptom of her disease, blinded her to the approach of inevitable fate. It was heartbreaking to see her spending her last breath in devising schemes of vanity or revenge; fixing, with suspicious dread, her dying eye upon a fellow-worm, regardless of all that the Creator could threaten or bestow. Often did I resolve to awaken her to her danger; but so profound seemed her security, that my courage was unequal to the task. I did not indeed deceive her with the language of hope, but I forbore, explicitly, to express my fears; and with this concealment, so cowardly, so unfriendly, so cruel, I shall never cease to reproach myself.
It was, perhaps, for want of this very act of resolution, that I found it impossible to rouse her to any serious examination of her own mind, any alarming impressions of her condition as an accountable creature. Having once settled it that I had been converted to methodism by Miss Mortimer, she was as impenetrable to all that I could urge, as if the name she gave to the speaker could have affected the nature and importance of the truth spoken.
My desertion was the sole object of her serious fears; her hopes all centred in her little boy, or rather in the honours which she expected him to attain. She was constantly urging me to find out some lawyer, whom the love of justice, or the hope of future recompence might induce to undertake her cause. The ruin which her success was to bring upon one whom I had once regarded as an enemy made me unwilling to take any part in Miss Arnold's scheme; and my extreme dislike to asking favours rendered me particularly averse to make the application she desired. At last, weary of my delays, she herself undertook the business.
As she was no longer able to walk abroad, the earnings of two entire days were spent in conveying her to and from the chambers of an eminent lawyer; but we forgot our wants and our toils together, when she received a written opinion, that her claims were at least tenable.
The exertion she had made was death to the unfortunate Juliet. Her cough and fever increased to an alarming degree. Her sickly appetite revolted from our homely meals; and everything which I had the means to procure was in turn rejected with loathing. That which at times she fancied might be less distasteful was no sooner procured, sometimes with difficulty enough, than it became offensive. The most unremitting diligence, the most rigid self-denial, could not provide for the caprices of the distempered palate; while the habits of indulgence, uniting with the feebleness of disease, rendered even the trivial disappointments of appetite important to poor Juliet. She would fret like an infant over the want of that which I had not to give; and would repeat again and again the wish which she knew could not be gratified. I cannot boast that my temper was always proof against this chiding. Sometimes I found safety in flight,--sometimes in the remembrance of Miss Mortimer's patient suffering,--and in a heartfelt prayer, that my life and my death might want every other comfort, rather than those which had to the last supported the spirit of my friend.
To all our other difficulties, a new cause of perplexity was suddenly added. The toyman who purchased my work one evening informed me, that he had an overstock of my baubles; and that unless I would greatly lower their price, he could for the present employ me no more. I was thunderstruck at this disaster. My earnings were already barely adequate to our wants, therefore, to reduce my wretched gains, was to incur at once all the real miseries of poverty. After my former experience in the difficulty of procuring employment, the loss of my present one seemed the sentence of ruin; and I, who should once have felt intolerable hardship in one day of labour, could now foresee no greater misfortune than idleness.
I wandered home irresolute and disconsolate. I seemed burdened beyond my strength, and felt the listless patience which succeeds a last vain struggle. I entered my home with the heavy careless step of one who has lost hope. My companion had sunk into a slumber; and as I watched her peaceful insensibility, I almost wished that she might awaken no more.
In such dark hours our departed sins ever return to haunt us. I remembered the thoughtless profusion with which I had wasted the gifts of fortune. I remembered that, with respect to every valuable purpose, they had been bestowed upon me in vain. It was strictly just, that the trust so abused should be entirely withdrawn; and, forgetful of all my better prospects, I sank into the despondence of one who feels the grasp of inflexible, merciless justice. "I will struggle with my fate no more," said I. "I have deserved and will endure it patiently." Patiently! did I call it? Were my feelings those of one invited in a course of steady endeavours to hope for a blessing, but forewarned that this blessing might not wear the form of success? Did they not rather resemble the sullen resignation of him who is thwarted by a resistless adversary?
A sentiment like this could not harbour long in a mind accustomed to dwell upon the proofs of goodness unspeakable,--accustomed to commit its cares to a Father's wisdom, to expect all its joys from a Father's love. The hour came, the solemn hour, appointed perhaps to teach us at once our dependence and our security, when, by the very constitution of our frame, all mortal being resigns itself into the hands of the Guardian who slumbereth not;--when all mortal being is forced to commit its possessions, its powers, to His care, in order to receive them renovated from His bounty again. I know not how it is with others, but I cannot help considering the helplessness of sleep, as an invitation to cast myself implicitly upon His protection; nor can I feel the healthful vivacity of the waking hour, without receiving in it a pledge of His patience and His love. The morning found me in peace and in hope, although I was as little as ever able to devise the means of my escape from penury.
One scheme at last occurred to me, which nothing but dire necessity could have suggested; and which, in spite of the bitter medicine I had received, still gave me pain enough to indicate the original disease of my mind. This scheme was, to request that our landlady would endeavour to dispose of my work among the families by whom she was employed. Though she must have guessed at my situation, it could only be partially known to her; for I had always taken care to discharge her claims with scrupulous punctuality; submitting to many a privation, rather than fail to lay aside daily the pittance necessary to answer her weekly demand. To tell her of my wants,--to commit the story of them to her discretion,--to claim her aid in a traffic which I myself had been accustomed to consider as only a more modest kind of begging,--was so revolting to my feelings, that, had my own wants alone been in question, the effort would never have been made, while they were anything less than intolerable. But I did not dare to resist the wants of Juliet, for Juliet had wronged me. I could not resist them; for a series of kindnesses, begun in a sense of duty, had awakened in my heart something of its early affection towards her; and her melancholy decay of body and of mind touched all that was compassionate in my nature.
Yet I gladly recollected, that Mrs. Campbell's absence would afford me some hours of reprieve; and in the evening, the sound of her return made my breath come short. Coldly and concisely I made my request, striving the while for a look of unconcern. The request was cordially granted; and the good woman proceeded to ask a hundred questions and instructions: for she had none of that quick observation and instinctive politeness which would have made my Highland friend instantly perceive and avoid a painful subject. The only directions, however, which I was inclined to give her, were to spare my name, and to use no solicitation. Having prepared some toys, of which the workmanship constituted almost the sole value, I committed them to her charge.
The first day, she brought back my poor merchandise undiminished; and, in consequence, I was obliged to let the toyman take it at little more than the price of the materials. The second, however, she was more fortunate. She sold a little painted basket for more than the sum I had expected it to bring; and conveyed to me, besides, a message from the purchaser, desiring that I would undertake to paint a set of ornaments for a chimney-piece. My satisfaction was somewhat damped by the lady's making it a condition of her employing me, that I should receive her directions in person. There was no room for hesitation, however, and I was obliged to consent.
Poor Juliet was childishly delighted with our good fortune. "Now," cried she, "I may have the glass of Burgundy and water that you have been refusing me these two days." For two days she had almost entirely rejected the simple fare which I could offer, though day and night she ceased not to complain that she was pining for the support which her languid frame required; and this same glass of Burgundy and water was constantly declared to be the only endurable form of sustenance, the panacea which was instantly to cure all her ailments.
"Indeed, Juliet," said I, "we must endeavour to think of something else that you can take. All the money we have, excepting what must be paid Mrs. Campbell to-morrow, would not buy the smallest quantity of Burgundy that is sold."
"I am sure Mrs. Campbell would wait," returned Juliet; "she does not want the money."
"But we have no right to make her wait, Juliet. The money is not ours, but hers. Besides, you know, we find it difficult to meet even our regular expense, so that to recover from debt, would, I am sure, be impossible."
"Oh, from such a small debt as that,--but I cannot expect that you should inconvenience yourself for me. I have not deserved it from you. I have no right to hope that you should care for my wants or my sufferings,--only from pity to the poor infant at my breast."
Juliet shed tears, and continued to weep and to complain, till, unable to resist, yet determined not to make a concession which I knew by experience would be as useless as ruinous, I started up and quitted her without reply. I left her for some time alone, in hopes that she would recollect the folly of her perseverance, or that her inclination might wander to something more attainable. But when I again opened the door, her hand was upon the lock, "Oh!" cried she, "I thought you would never come! Where is it?"
"Dear Juliet," said I, sickened with her obstinacy, "you know you ask impossibilities."
She had persuaded herself that she had prevailed; and the disappointment, however trivial, was more than she could bear. She burst into violent sobs, which by degrees increased into a sort of asthmatic fit, seeming to threaten immediate dissolution. Fortunately the family were not yet in bed; and medical assistance, though of the humblest kind, was almost immediately procured. As soon as the fit was removed, the apothecary's apprentice, or as Mrs. Campbell called him, "the doctor," administered to his patient an opiate, which was so effectual, that she was still in a quiet sleep when the hour came for visiting my new employer.
My reluctance to this visit was almost forgotten in the anxiety occasioned by the situation of poor Juliet. All night as I watched by her bed-side, I had half doubted the virtue of my resistance to her wishes, and thought I would sacrifice anything rather than again exercise such hazardous fortitude. My blood ran cold at the thought that I had nearly been in some sort the means of hurrying her to her great account; an account for which she seemed, alas! so miserably unprepared. The danger she had just escaped increased the anxiety which I had long felt to obtain medical advice for her; and seemed to make it a moral duty that I should no longer trust to my own unskilful management, that which was so unspeakably important, and so lamentably frail. But the means of purchasing advice were beyond my reach; and the thought of procuring it in a manner more suitable to my condition had been often dismissed as too humbling to bear consideration.
My new employment now offered hopes of obtaining the assistance so much desired. But the accomplishment of these hopes must of necessity be distant, while Juliet's situation was no longer such as to admit of delay. The only way of escaping from this perplexity was one to which I felt extreme repugnance. This was, to request that the lady for whom I was to paint the ornaments would advance part of the price of my work.
I know not why I was so averse to make this request. Surely I was not so silly as to be ashamed of poverty, nor weak enough to feel my self-estimation lessened by the absence of that which could never be considered as part of myself, but only of my outward situation! Besides, whatever disgrace might rest upon a petition for charity, no shame could reasonably attach to a fair demand upon the price voluntarily offered for my labour. Though in spite of these, and many other reasonable considerations, my averseness to this request remained in full force, I never exactly discovered the grounds of it; because experience had taught me, that when duty is ascertained to lie on one side, it is better to omit all consideration of what might be said on the other. Now, as it was certainly my duty, however painful, to procure assistance for poor Juliet, it would have been imprudent to pry into the reasons which might disincline me to the task.
All this with a hundred anticipations of success and of disappointment, passed through my mind as I proceeded towards the place of my destination. I was shown into the presence of an elderly lady of very prepossessing appearance. The consistent, unaffected gravity of her dress, air, and demeanour, claimed the respect due to her age, while her benevolent countenance and gracious manner seemed to offer the indulgence which youth requires. She received me with more than courtesy; and entered into conversation with an ease which quickly made me forget what was embarrassing in my visit. I soon perceived that our favourable impressions were mutual; and was at no loss to account for this good fortune on my part, when the lady hinted that she had borrowed her sentiments from the grateful Mrs. Campbell.
It was not until near the close of a long interview that she contrived, with a delicacy which spared the jealous sensibility of independence, to give directions for the work which she expected me to do; and to make me understand that she would willingly proportion the recompence to the labour bestowed. But the more her politeness invited me to respect myself, the more painful became the thought of sinking at once from an equal to a suppliant; and as the moment approached when the effort must be made, my spirits forsook me. I became absent and embarrassed. I hesitated; and half persuaded myself, that I had no right to tax the kindness of a stranger. Then I remembered Juliet's extreme danger, the scene which was still before my eyes, her frightful struggles for breath, the deadly exhaustion which followed; and it seemed as if my humiliation would scarcely cost me an effort. "There is a favour,"--I began; but when I met with the inquiring eye, I hastily withdrew mine; the scorching blood rushed to my checks; and I stood abashed and silent.
"You were going to say something," said the lady. I stammered I know not what. She took my hand with the kind familiarity of a friend. "I wish," said she, in a voice of gentle solicitude, "that I could make you forget the shortness of our acquaintance. It is hard that you should think of me as a stranger, while I feel as if I had known you from your cradle."
The voice of kindness has ever found instant access to my heart; yet it was not gratitude alone which filled my eyes with tears as I uttered my confused reply. "Oh, you are good--I see that you are good," said I; "and I know I ought not to feel--I ought not to give way to--but not even extreme necessity could have--"
I stopped; but the lady's purse was already in her hand. "If I dared," said she, "I could chide you well; for I fear you are one of those who will scarcely accept the bounty of Providence if He administer it by any hand but his own. Try to receive this trifle as if it came directly from Himself."
I now quickly recovered my powers of speech, while I assured the lady that she had mistaken my meaning, and explained to her the favour which I had really intended to ask. Then, recollecting the justice of her reproof, "Yes, chide me as you will," said I; "I have not deserved so gentle a monitor. I deserve to be severely reminded of the humility with which every gift of Heaven ought to be received by one who has so often forfeited them all."
The lady, who seemed perfectly to understand the character with which she had to do, now frankly bestowed the assistance asked, and delicately offered no more. As I was taking my leave she inquired my address, adding, that she believed Mrs. Campbell had neglected to mention my name. Again I felt my face glow; but I had seen my error, and would not persist in it. "No, madam," said I, "a blamable weakness made me desirous to conceal my name; but you are not one of those who will think the worse of Ellen Percy because she contributes to her own support."
"Percy!" repeated the lady, as if struck with some sudden recollection, "But I think Mrs. Campbell mentioned that you had no connexions in Scotland."
"None, madam; scarcely even an acquaintance."
"Then," said the lady, "it must be another person for whom my friend is inquiring so assiduously."
I would fain have asked who this friend was; but the lady did not explain herself, and I was obliged to depart without gratifying my curiosity. That curiosity, however, presently gave way to stronger interests. It was now in my power to obtain a real benefit for poor Juliet. As for the morbid inclination which had cost her so dear, I found it fixed upon a new trifle, which was soon procured, and as soon rejected. But I could now obtain medical advice for her, and I did not delay to use the advantage; though she was herself so insensible to her danger that she was with difficulty brought to consent that a physician should be called. Recollecting the person to whom I owed my escape from the most horrible of confinements, and naturally preferring his attendance to that of a stranger, I sent to request his presence; and he immediately obeyed the summons.
I watched his countenance and manner as he interrogated his poor patient, and could easily perceive that he judged the case hopeless; while she evidently tried to mislead him, as she had deceived herself, retracting or qualifying the statement of every symptom which he appeared to think unfavourable. At the close of his visit I quitted the room with him. He had written no prescription, and I inquired whether he had no directions to give. "None," said he, hastening to be gone, "except to let her do as she pleases." I offered him the customary fee. "No, no, child," said he; "it is needless to throw away both my time and your money; either of them is enough to lose."
Strong as had been my conviction of the danger, I was shocked at this unequivocal opinion. "Oh, sir!" cried I, "can nothing be done?"
"Nothing in the world, my dear," said he, carelessly: "all the physicians in Europe could not keep her alive a week."
Our melancholy dialogue was interrupted by a noise as of somebody falling to the ground. I sprang back into the passage, and found Juliet lying senseless on the floor. Some apprehension excited by Dr. ----'s manner had induced her to steal from her apartment, and listen to our conversation. The intelligence thus obtained she had not fortitude to bear. She recovered from her insensibility, only to give way to the most pitiable anguish. She wept aloud, and wrung her wasted hands in agony. "Oh, I shall die! I shall die!" she cried; and she continued to repeat this mournful cry, as if all the energies of her mind could furnish only one frightful thought. In vain did I attempt to console her; in vain endeavour to lead towards a better world the hope which was driven from its rest below. To all sights and sounds she was already dead. At last exhausted nature could struggle with its burden no more; and the cries of despair, and the sobs of weakness, sank by degrees into the moanings of an unquiet slumber.
This presentation of Discipline: A Novel, by Mary Brunton is Copyright 2003 by P.J. LaBrocca. It may not be copied, duplicated, stored or transmitted in any form without written permission. The text is in the public domain.