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Chapter 12

As I was perpetually haunted by these ideas, you may imagine that the
influence of Woodville's words was very temporary; and that although I
did not again accuse him of unkindness, yet I soon became as unhappy
as before. Soon after this incident we parted. He heard that his
mother was ill, and he hastened to her. He came to take leave of me,
and we walked together on the heath for the last time. He promised
that he would come and see me again; and bade me take cheer, and to
encourage what happy thoughts I could, untill time and fortitude
should overcome my misery, and I could again mingle in society.

"Above all other admonition on my part," he said, "cherish and follow
this one: do not despair. That is the most dangerous gulph on which
you perpetually totter; but you must reassure your steps, and take
hope to guide you.[74] Hope, and your wounds will be already half
healed: but if you obstinately despair, there never more will be
comfort for you. Believe me, my dearest friend, that there is a joy
that the sun and earth and all its beauties can bestow that you will
one day feel. The refreshing bliss of Love will again visit your
heart, and undo the spell that binds you to woe, untill you wonder how
your eyes could be closed in the long night that burthens you. I dare
not hope that I have inspired you with sufficient interest that the
thought of me, and the affection that I shall ever bear you, will
soften your melancholy and decrease the bitterness of your tears. But
if my friendship can make you look on life with less disgust, beware
how you injure it with suspicion. Love is a delicate sprite[75] and
easily hurt by rough jealousy. Guard, I entreat you, a firm persuasion
of my sincerity in the inmost recesses of your heart out of the reach
of the casual winds that may disturb its surface. Your temper is made
unequal by suffering, and the tenor of your mind is, I fear, sometimes
shaken by unworthy causes; but let your confidence in my sympathy and
love be deeper far, and incapable of being reached by these agitations
that come and go, and if they touch not your affections leave you
uninjured."

These were some of Woodville's last lessons. I wept as I listened to
him; and after we had taken an affectionate farewell, I followed him
far with my eyes until they saw the last of my earthly comforter. I
had insisted on accompanying him across the heath towards the town
where he dwelt: the sun was yet high when he left me, and I turned my
steps towards my cottage. It was at the latter end of the month of
September when the nights have become chill. But the weather was
serene, and as I walked on I fell into no unpleasing reveries. I
thought of Woodville with gratitude and kindness and did not, I know
not why, regret his departure with any bitterness. It seemed that
after one great shock all other change was trivial to me; and I walked
on wondering when the time would come when we should all four, my
dearest father restored to me, meet in some sweet Paradise[.] I
pictured to myself a lovely river such as that on whose banks Dante
describes Mathilda gathering flowers, which ever flows

---- bruna, bruna,
Sotto l'ombra perpetua, che mai
Raggiar non lascia sole ivi, n� Luna.[76]

And then I repeated to myself all that lovely passage that relates the
entrance of Dante into the terrestrial Paradise; and thought it would
be sweet when I wandered on those lovely banks to see the car of light
descend with my long lost parent to be restored to me. As I waited
there in expectation of that moment, I thought how, of the lovely
flowers that grew there, I would wind myself a chaplet and crown
myself for joy: I would sing _sul margine d'un rio_,[77] my father's
favourite song, and that my voice gliding through the windless air
would announce to him in whatever bower he sat expecting the moment of
our union, that his daughter was come. Then the mark of misery would
have faded from my brow, and I should raise my eyes fearlessly to meet
his, which ever beamed with the soft lustre of innocent love. When I
reflected on the magic look of those deep eyes I wept, but gently,
lest my sobs should disturb the fairy scene.

I was so entirely wrapt in this reverie that I wandered on, taking no
heed of my steps until I actually stooped down to gather a flower for
my wreath on that bleak plain where no flower grew, when I awoke from
my day dream and found myself I knew not where.

The sun had set and the roseate hue which the clouds had caught from
him in his descent had nearly died away. A wind swept across the
plain, I looked around me and saw no object that told me where I was;
I had lost myself, and in vain attempted to find my path. I wandered
on, and the coming darkness made every trace indistinct by which I
might be guided. At length all was veiled in the deep obscurity of
blackest night; I became weary and knowing that my servant was to
sleep that night at the neighbouring village, so that my absence would
alarm no one; and that I was safe in this wild spot from every
intruder, I resolved to spend the night where I was. Indeed I was too
weary to walk further: the air was chill but I was careless of bodily
inconvenience, and I thought that I was well inured to the weather
during my two years of solitude, when no change of seasons prevented
my perpetual wanderings.

I lay upon the grass surrounded by a darkness which not the slightest
beam of light penetrated--There was no sound for the deep night had
laid to sleep the insects, the only creatures that lived on the lone
spot where no tree or shrub could afford shelter to aught else--There
was a wondrous silence in the air that calmed my senses yet which
enlivened my soul, my mind hurried from image to image and seemed to
grasp an eternity. All in my heart was shadowy yet calm, untill my
ideas became confused and at length died away in sleep.[78]

When I awoke it rained:[79] I was already quite wet, and my limbs were
stiff and my head giddy with the chill of night. It was a drizzling,
penetrating shower; as my dank hair clung to my neck and partly
covered my face, I had hardly strength to part with my fingers, the
long strait locks that fell before my eyes. The darkness was much
dissipated and in the east where the clouds were least dense the moon
was visible behind the thin grey cloud--

The moon is behind, and at the full
And yet she looks both small and dull.[80]

Its presence gave me a hope that by its means I might find my home.
But I was languid and many hours passed before I could reach the
cottage, dragging as I did my slow steps, and often resting on the wet
earth unable to proceed.

I particularly mark this night, for it was that which has hurried on
the last scene of my tragedy, which else might have dwindled on
through long years of listless sorrow. I was very ill when I arrived
and quite incapable of taking off my wet clothes that clung about me.
In the morning, on her return, my servant found me almost lifeless,
while possessed by a high fever I was lying on the floor of my room.

I was very ill for a long time, and when I recovered from the
immediate danger of fever, every symptom of a rapid consumption
declared itself. I was for some time ignorant of this and thought that
my excessive weakness was the consequence of the fever; [_sic_] But my
strength became less and less; as winter came on I had a cough; and my
sunken cheek, before pale, burned with a hectic fever. One by one
these symptoms struck me; & I became convinced that the moment I had
so much desired was about to arrive and that I was dying. I was
sitting by my fire, the physician who had attended me ever since my
fever had just left me, and I looked over his prescription in which
digitalis was the prominent medecine. "Yes," I said, "I see how this
is, and it is strange that I should have deceived myself so long; I am
about to die an innocent death, and it will be sweeter even than that
which the opium promised."

I rose and walked slowly to the window; the wide heath was covered by
snow which sparkled under the beams of the sun that shone brightly
thro' the pure, frosty air: a few birds were pecking some crumbs under
my window.[81] I smiled with quiet joy; and in my thoughts, which
through long habit would for ever connect themselves into one train,
as if I shaped them into words, I thus addressed the scene before me:

"I salute thee, beautiful Sun, and thou, white Earth, fair and cold!
Perhaps I shall never see thee again covered with green, and the sweet
flowers of the coming spring will blossom on my grave. I am about to
leave thee; soon this living spirit which is ever busy among strange
shapes and ideas, which belong not to thee, soon it will have flown to
other regions and this emaciated body will rest insensate on thy bosom

"Rolled round in earth's diurnal course
With rocks, and stones, and trees.

"For it will be the same with thee, who art called our Universal
Mother,[82] when I am gone. I have loved thee; and in my days both of
happiness and sorrow I have peopled your solitudes with wild fancies
of my own creation. The woods, and lakes, and mountains which I have
loved, have for me a thousand associations; and thou, oh, Sun! hast
smiled upon, and borne your part in many imaginations that sprung to
life in my soul alone, and which will die with me. Your solitudes,
sweet land, your trees and waters will still exist, moved by your
winds, or still beneath the eye of noon, though[83] [w]hat I have felt
about ye, and all my dreams which have often strangely deformed thee,
will die with me. You will exist to reflect other images in other
minds, and ever will remain the same, although your reflected
semblance vary in a thousand ways, changeable as the hearts of those
who view thee. One of these fragile mirrors, that ever doted on thine
image, is about to be broken, crumbled to dust. But everteeming Nature
will create another and another, and thou wilt loose nought by my
destruction.[84]

"Thou wilt ever be the same. Recieve then the grateful farewell of a
fleeting shadow who is about to disappear, who joyfully leaves thee,
yet with a last look of affectionate thankfulness. Farewell! Sky, and
fields and woods; the lovely flowers that grow on thee; thy mountains
& thy rivers; to the balmy air and the strong wind of the north, to
all, a last farewell. I shall shed no more tears for my task is almost
fulfilled, and I am about to be rewarded for long and most burthensome
suffering. Bless thy child even even [_sic_] in death, as I bless
thee; and let me sleep at peace in my quiet grave."

I feel death to be near at hand and I am calm. I no longer despair,
but look on all around me with placid affection. I find it sweet to
watch the progressive decay of my strength, and to repeat to myself,
another day and yet another, but again I shall not see the red leaves
of autumn; before that time I shall be with my father. I am glad
Woodville is not with me for perhaps he would grieve, and I desire to
see smiles alone during the last scene of my life; when I last wrote
to him I told him of my ill health but not of its mortal tendency,
lest he should conceive it to be his duty to come to me for I fear
lest the tears of friendship should destroy the blessed calm of my
mind. I take pleasure in arranging all the little details which will
occur when I shall no longer be. In truth I am in love with death; no
maiden ever took more pleasure in the contemplation of her bridal
attire than I in fancying my limbs already enwrapt in their shroud:
is it not my marriage dress? Alone it will unite me to my father when
in an eternal mental union we shall never part.

I will not dwell on the last changes that I feel in the final decay of
nature. It is rapid but without pain: I feel a strange pleasure in it.
For long years these are the first days of peace that have visited me.
I no longer exhaust my miserable heart by bitter tears and frantic
complaints; I no longer the [_sic_] reproach the sun, the earth, the
air, for pain and wretchedness. I wait in quiet expectation for the
closing hours of a life which has been to me most sweet & bitter. I do
not die not having enjoyed life; for sixteen years I was happy: during
the first months of my father's return I had enjoyed ages of pleasure:
now indeed I am grown old in grief; my steps are feeble like those of
age; I have become peevish and unfit for life; so having passed little
more than twenty years upon the earth I am more fit for my narrow
grave than many are when they reach the natural term of their lives.

Again and again I have passed over in my remembrance the different
scenes of my short life: if the world is a stage and I merely an actor
on it my part has been strange, and, alas! tragical. Almost from
infancy I was deprived of all the testimonies of affection which
children generally receive; I was thrown entirely upon my own
resources, and I enjoyed what I may almost call unnatural pleasures,
for they were dreams and not realities. The earth was to me a magic
lantern and I [a] gazer, and a listener but no actor; but then came
the transporting and soul-reviving era of my existence: my father
returned and I could pour my warm affections on a human heart; there
was a new sun and a new earth created to me; the waters of existence
sparkled: joy! joy! but, alas! what grief! My bliss was more rapid
than the progress of a sunbeam on a mountain, which discloses its
glades & woods, and then leaves it dark & blank; to my happiness
followed madness and agony, closed by despair.

This was the drama of my life which I have now depicted upon paper.
During three months I have been employed in this task. The memory of
sorrow has brought tears; the memory of happiness a warm glow the
lively shadow of that joy. Now my tears are dried; the glow has faded
from my cheeks, and with a few words of farewell to you, Woodville, I
close my work: the last that I shall perform.

Farewell, my only living friend; you are the sole tie that binds me to
existence, and now I break it[.] It gives me no pain to leave you; nor
can our seperation give you much. You never regarded me as one of this
world, but rather as a being, who for some penance was sent from the
Kingdom of Shadows; and she passed a few days weeping on the earth and
longing to return to her native soil. You will weep but they will be
tears of gentleness. I would, if I thought that it would lessen your
regret, tell you to smile and congratulate me on my departure from the
misery you beheld me endure. I would say; Woodville, rejoice with your
friend, I triumph now and am most happy. But I check these
expressions; these may not be the consolations of the living; they
weep for their own misery, and not for that of the being they have
lost. No; shed a few natural tears due to my memory: and if you ever
visit my grave, pluck from thence a flower, and lay it to your heart;
for your heart is the only tomb in which my memory will be enterred.

My death is rapidly approaching and you are not near to watch the
flitting and vanishing of my spirit. Do no[t] regret this; for death
is a too terrible an [_sic_] object for the living. It is one of those
adversities which hurt instead of purifying the heart; for it is so
intense a misery that it hardens & dulls the feelings. Dreadful as the
time was when I pursued my father towards the ocean, & found their
[_sic_] only his lifeless corpse; yet for my own sake I should prefer
that to the watching one by one his senses fade; his pulse weaken--and
sleeplessly as it were devour his life in gazing. To see life in his
limbs & to know that soon life would no longer be there; to see the
warm breath issue from his lips and to know they would soon be
chill--I will not continue to trace this frightful picture; you
suffered this torture once; I never did.[85] And the remembrance fills
your heart sometimes with bitter despair when otherwise your feelings
would have melted into soft sorrow.

So day by day I become weaker, and life flickers in my wasting form,
as a lamp about to loose it vivifying oil. I now behold the glad sun
of May. It was May, four years ago, that I first saw my beloved
father; it was in May, three years ago that my folly destroyed the
only being I was doomed to love. May is returned, and I die. Three
days ago, the anniversary of our meeting; and, alas! of our eternal
seperation, after a day of killing emotion, I caused myself to be led
once more to behold the face of nature. I caused myself to be carried
to some meadows some miles distant from my cottage; the grass was
being mowed, and there was the scent of hay in the fields; all the
earth look[ed] fresh and its inhabitants happy. Evening approached and
I beheld the sun set. Three years ago and on that day and hour it
shone through the branches and leaves of the beech wood and its beams
flickered upon the countenance of him whom I then beheld for the last
time.[86] I now saw that divine orb, gilding all the clouds with
unwonted splendour, sink behind the horizon; it disappeared from a
world where he whom I would seek exists not; it approached a world
where he exists not[.] Why do I weep so bitterly? Why my [_sic_] does
my heart heave with vain endeavour to cast aside the bitter anguish
that covers it "as the waters cover the sea." I go from this world
where he is no longer and soon I shall meet him in another.

Farewell, Woodville, the turf will soon be green on my grave; and the
violets will bloom on it. _There_ is my hope and my expectation;
your's are in this world; may they be fulfilled.[87]

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