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Chapter 2

IN the autumn of this year 2096, the spirit of emigration crept in among
the few survivors, who, congregating from various parts of England, met in
London. This spirit existed as a breath, a wish, a far off thought, until
communicated to Adrian, who imbibed it with ardour, and instantly engaged
himself in plans for its execution. The fear of immediate death vanished
with the heats of September. Another winter was before us, and we might
elect our mode of passing it to the best advantage. Perhaps in rational
philosophy none could be better chosen than this scheme of migration, which
would draw us from the immediate scene of our woe, and, leading us through
pleasant and picturesque countries, amuse for a time our despair. The idea
once broached, all were impatient to put it in execution.

We were still at Windsor; our renewed hopes medicined the anguish we had
suffered from the late tragedies. The death of many of our inmates had
weaned us from the fond idea, that Windsor Castle was a spot sacred from
the plague; but our lease of life was renewed for some months, and even
Idris lifted her head, as a lily after a storm, when a last sunbeam tinges
its silver cup. Just at this time Adrian came down to us; his eager looks
shewed us that he was full of some scheme. He hastened to take me aside,
and disclosed to me with rapidity his plan of emigration from England.

To leave England for ever! to turn from its polluted fields and groves,
and, placing the sea between us, to quit it, as a sailor quits the rock on
which he has been wrecked, when the saving ship rides by. Such was his
plan.

To leave the country of our fathers, made holy by their graves!--We could
not feel even as a voluntary exile of old, who might for pleasure or
convenience forsake his native soil; though thousands of miles might divide
him, England was still a part of him, as he of her. He heard of the passing
events of the day; he knew that, if he returned, and resumed his place in
society, the entrance was still open, and it required but the will, to
surround himself at once with the associations and habits of boyhood. Not
so with us, the remnant. We left none to represent us, none to repeople the
desart land, and the name of England died, when we left her,

In vagabond pursuit of dreadful safety.

Yet let us go! England is in her shroud,--we may not enchain ourselves to
a corpse. Let us go--the world is our country now, and we will choose for
our residence its most fertile spot. Shall we, in these desart halls, under
this wintry sky, sit with closed eyes and folded hands, expecting death?
Let us rather go out to meet it gallantly: or perhaps--for all this
pendulous orb, this fair gem in the sky's diadem, is not surely
plague-striken--perhaps, in some secluded nook, amidst eternal spring,
and waving trees, and purling streams, we may find Life. The world is vast,
and England, though her many fields and wide spread woods seem
interminable, is but a small part of her. At the close of a day's march
over high mountains and through snowy vallies, we may come upon health, and
committing our loved ones to its charge, replant the uprooted tree of
humanity, and send to late posterity the tale of the ante-pestilential
race, the heroes and sages of the lost state of things.

Hope beckons and sorrow urges us, the heart beats high with expectation,
and this eager desire of change must be an omen of success. O come!
Farewell to the dead! farewell to the tombs of those we loved!--farewell
to giant London and the placid Thames, to river and mountain or fair
district, birth-place of the wise and good, to Windsor Forest and its
antique castle, farewell! themes for story alone are they,--we must live
elsewhere.

Such were in part the arguments of Adrian, uttered with enthusiasm and
unanswerable rapidity. Something more was in his heart, to which he dared
not give words. He felt that the end of time was come; he knew that one by
one we should dwindle into nothingness. It was not adviseable to wait this
sad consummation in our native country; but travelling would give us our
object for each day, that would distract our thoughts from the
swift-approaching end of things. If we went to Italy, to sacred and eternal
Rome, we might with greater patience submit to the decree, which had laid
her mighty towers low. We might lose our selfish grief in the sublime
aspect of its desolation. All this was in the mind of Adrian; but he
thought of my children, and, instead of communicating to me these resources
of despair, he called up the image of health and life to be found, where we
knew not--when we knew not; but if never to be found, for ever and for
ever to be sought. He won me over to his party, heart and soul.

It devolved on me to disclose our plan to Idris. The images of health and
hope which I presented to her, made her with a smile consent. With a smile
she agreed to leave her country, from which she had never before been
absent, and the spot she had inhabited from infancy; the forest and its
mighty trees, the woodland paths and green recesses, where she had played
in childhood, and had lived so happily through youth; she would leave them
without regret, for she hoped to purchase thus the lives of her children.
They were her life; dearer than a spot consecrated to love, dearer than all
else the earth contained. The boys heard with childish glee of our removal:
Clara asked if we were to go to Athens. "It is possible," I replied; and
her countenance became radiant with pleasure. There she would behold the
tomb of her parents, and the territory filled with recollections of her
father's glory. In silence, but without respite, she had brooded over these
scenes. It was the recollection of them that had turned her infant gaiety
to seriousness, and had impressed her with high and restless thoughts.

There were many dear friends whom we must not leave behind, humble though
they were. There was the spirited and obedient steed which Lord Raymond had
given his daughter; there was Alfred's dog and a pet eagle, whose sight was
dimmed through age. But this catalogue of favourites to be taken with us,
could not be made without grief to think of our heavy losses, and a deep
sigh for the many things we must leave behind. The tears rushed into the
eyes of Idris, while Alfred and Evelyn brought now a favourite rose tree,
now a marble vase beautifully carved, insisting that these must go, and
exclaiming on the pity that we could not take the castle and the forest,
the deer and the birds, and all accustomed and cherished objects along with
us. "Fond and foolish ones," I said, "we have lost for ever treasures far
more precious than these; and we desert them, to preserve treasures to
which in comparison they are nothing. Let us not for a moment forget our
object and our hope; and they will form a resistless mound to stop the
overflowing of our regret for trifles."

The children were easily distracted, and again returned to their prospect
of future amusement. Idris had disappeared. She had gone to hide her
weakness; escaping from the castle, she had descended to the little park,
and sought solitude, that she might there indulge her tears; I found her
clinging round an old oak, pressing its rough trunk with her roseate lips,
as her tears fell plenteously, and her sobs and broken exclamations could
not be suppressed; with surpassing grief I beheld this loved one of my
heart thus lost in sorrow! I drew her towards me; and, as she felt my
kisses on her eyelids, as she felt my arms press her, she revived to the
knowledge of what remained to her. "You are very kind not to reproach me,"
she said: "I weep, and a bitter pang of intolerable sorrow tears my heart.
And yet I am happy; mothers lament their children, wives lose their
husbands, while you and my children are left to me. Yes, I am happy, most
happy, that I can weep thus for imaginary sorrows, and that the slight loss
of my adored country is not dwindled and annihilated in mightier misery.
Take me where you will; where you and my children are, there shall be
Windsor, and every country will be England to me. Let these tears flow not
for myself, happy and ungrateful as I am, but for the dead world--for our
lost country--for all of love, and life, and joy, now choked in the dusty
chambers of death."

She spoke quickly, as if to convince herself; she turned her eyes from the
trees and forest-paths she loved; she hid her face in my bosom, and we--
yes, my masculine firmness dissolved--we wept together consolatory tears,
and then calm--nay, almost cheerful, we returned to the castle.

The first cold weather of an English October, made us hasten our
preparations. I persuaded Idris to go up to London, where she might better
attend to necessary arrangements. I did not tell her, that to spare her the
pang of parting from inanimate objects, now the only things left, I had
resolved that we should none of us return to Windsor. For the last time we
looked on the wide extent of country visible from the terrace, and saw the
last rays of the sun tinge the dark masses of wood variegated by autumnal
tints; the uncultivated fields and smokeless cottages lay in shadow below;
the Thames wound through the wide plain, and the venerable pile of Eton
college, stood in dark relief, a prominent object; the cawing of the myriad
rooks which inhabited the trees of the little park, as in column or thick
wedge they speeded to their nests, disturbed the silence of evening. Nature
was the same, as when she was the kind mother of the human race; now,
childless and forlorn, her fertility was a mockery; her loveliness a mask
for deformity. Why should the breeze gently stir the trees, man felt not
its refreshment? Why did dark night adorn herself with stars--man saw
them not? Why are there fruits, or flowers, or streams, man is not here to
enjoy them?

Idris stood beside me, her dear hand locked in mine. Her face was radiant
with a smile.--"The sun is alone," she said, "but we are not. A strange
star, my Lionel, ruled our birth; sadly and with dismay we may look upon
the annihilation of man; but we remain for each other. Did I ever in the
wide world seek other than thee? And since in the wide world thou
remainest, why should I complain? Thou and nature are still true to me.
Beneath the shades of night, and through the day, whose garish light
displays our solitude, thou wilt still be at my side, and even Windsor will
not be regretted."

I had chosen night time for our journey to London, that the change and
desolation of the country might be the less observable. Our only surviving
servant drove us. We past down the steep hill, and entered the dusky avenue
of the Long Walk. At times like these, minute circumstances assume giant
and majestic proportions; the very swinging open of the white gate that
admitted us into the forest, arrested my thoughts as matter of interest; it
was an every day act, never to occur again! The setting crescent of the
moon glittered through the massy trees to our right, and when we entered
the park, we scared a troop of deer, that fled bounding away in the forest
shades. Our two boys quietly slept; once, before our road turned from the
view, I looked back on the castle. Its windows glistened in the moonshine,
and its heavy outline lay in a dark mass against the sky--the trees near
us waved a solemn dirge to the midnight breeze. Idris leaned back in the
carriage; her two hands pressed mine, her countenance was placid, she
seemed to lose the sense of what she now left, in the memory of what she
still possessed.

My thoughts were sad and solemn, yet not of unmingled pain. The very excess
of our misery carried a relief with it, giving sublimity and elevation to
sorrow. I felt that I carried with me those I best loved; I was pleased,
after a long separation to rejoin Adrian; never again to part. I felt that
I quitted what I loved, not what loved me. The castle walls, and long
familiar trees, did not hear the parting sound of our carriage-wheels with
regret. And, while I felt Idris to be near, and heard the regular breathing
of my children, I could not be unhappy. Clara was greatly moved; with
streaming eyes, suppressing her sobs, she leaned from the window, watching
the last glimpse of her native Windsor.

Adrian welcomed us on our arrival. He was all animation; you could no
longer trace in his look of health, the suffering valetudinarian; from his
smile and sprightly tones you could not guess that he was about to lead
forth from their native country, the numbered remnant of the English
nation, into the tenantless realms of the south, there to die, one by one,
till the LAST MAN should remain in a voiceless, empty world.

Adrian was impatient for our departure, and had advanced far in his
preparations. His wisdom guided all. His care was the soul, to move the
luckless crowd, who relied wholly on him. It was useless to provide many
things, for we should find abundant provision in every town. It was
Adrian's wish to prevent all labour; to bestow a festive appearance on this
funeral train. Our numbers amounted to not quite two thousand persons.
These were not all assembled in London, but each day witnessed the arrival
of fresh numbers, and those who resided in the neighbouring towns, had
received orders to assemble at one place, on the twentieth of November.
Carriages and horses were provided for all; captains and under officers
chosen, and the whole assemblage wisely organized. All obeyed the Lord
Protector of dying England; all looked up to him. His council was chosen,
it consisted of about fifty persons. Distinction and station were not the
qualifications of their election. We had no station among us, but that
which benevolence and prudence gave; no distinction save between the living
and the dead. Although we were anxious to leave England before the depth of
winter, yet we were detained. Small parties had been dispatched to various
parts of England, in search of stragglers; we would not go, until we had
assured ourselves that in all human probability we did not leave behind a
single human being.

On our arrival in London, we found that the aged Countess of Windsor was
residing with her son in the palace of the Protectorate; we repaired to our
accustomed abode near Hyde Park. Idris now for the first time for many
years saw her mother, anxious to assure herself that the childishness of
old age did not mingle with unforgotten pride, to make this high-born dame
still so inveterate against me. Age and care had furrowed her cheeks, and
bent her form; but her eye was still bright, her manners authoritative and
unchanged; she received her daughter coldly, but displayed more feeling as
she folded her grand-children in her arms. It is our nature to wish to
continue our systems and thoughts to posterity through our own offspring.
The Countess had failed in this design with regard to her children; perhaps
she hoped to find the next remove in birth more tractable. Once Idris named
me casually--a frown, a convulsive gesture of anger, shook her mother,
and, with voice trembling with hate, she said--"I am of little worth in
this world; the young are impatient to push the old off the scene; but,
Idris, if you do not wish to see your mother expire at your feet, never
again name that person to me; all else I can bear; and now I am resigned to
the destruction of my cherished hopes: but it is too much to require that I
should love the instrument that providence gifted with murderous properties
for my destruction."

This was a strange speech, now that, on the empty stage, each might play
his part without impediment from the other. But the haughty Ex-Queen
thought as Octavius Caesar and Mark Antony,

We could not stall together
In the whole world.

The period of our departure was fixed for the twenty-fifth of November. The
weather was temperate; soft rains fell at night, and by day the wintry sun
shone out. Our numbers were to move forward in separate parties, and to go
by different routes, all to unite at last at Paris. Adrian and his
division, consisting in all of five hundred persons, were to take the
direction of Dover and Calais. On the twentieth of November, Adrian and I
rode for the last time through the streets of London. They were grass-grown
and desert. The open doors of the empty mansions creaked upon their hinges;
rank herbage, and deforming dirt, had swiftly accumulated on the steps of
the houses; the voiceless steeples of the churches pierced the smokeless
air; the churches were open, but no prayer was offered at the altars;
mildew and damp had already defaced their ornaments; birds, and tame
animals, now homeless, had built nests, and made their lairs in consecrated
spots. We passed St. Paul's. London, which had extended so far in suburbs
in all direction, had been somewhat deserted in the midst, and much of what
had in former days obscured this vast building was removed. Its ponderous
mass, blackened stone, and high dome, made it look, not like a temple, but
a tomb. Methought above the portico was engraved the Hic jacet of England.
We passed on eastwards, engaged in such solemn talk as the times inspired.
No human step was heard, nor human form discerned. Troops of dogs, deserted
of their masters, passed us; and now and then a horse, unbridled and
unsaddled, trotted towards us, and tried to attract the attention of those
which we rode, as if to allure them to seek like liberty. An unwieldy ox,
who had fed in an abandoned granary, suddenly lowed, and shewed his
shapeless form in a narrow door-way; every thing was desert; but nothing
was in ruin. And this medley of undamaged buildings, and luxurious
accommodation, in trim and fresh youth, was contrasted with the lonely
silence of the unpeopled streets.

Night closed in, and it began to rain. We were about to return homewards,
when a voice, a human voice, strange now to hear, attracted our attention.
It was a child singing a merry, lightsome air; there was no other sound. We
had traversed London from Hyde Park even to where we now were in the
Minories, and had met no person, heard no voice nor footstep. The singing
was interrupted by laughing and talking; never was merry ditty so sadly
timed, never laughter more akin to tears. The door of the house from which
these sounds proceeded was open, the upper rooms were illuminated as for a
feast. It was a large magnificent house, in which doubtless some rich
merchant had lived. The singing again commenced, and rang through the
high-roofed rooms, while we silently ascended the stair-case. Lights now
appeared to guide us; and a long suite of splendid rooms illuminated, made
us still more wonder. Their only inhabitant, a little girl, was dancing,
waltzing, and singing about them, followed by a large Newfoundland dog, who
boisterously jumping on her, and interrupting her, made her now scold, now
laugh, now throw herself on the carpet to play with him. She was dressed
grotesquely, in glittering robes and shawls fit for a woman; she appeared
about ten years of age. We stood at the door looking on this strange scene,
till the dog perceiving us barked loudly; the child turned and saw us: her
face, losing its gaiety, assumed a sullen expression: she slunk back,
apparently meditating an escape. I came up to her, and held her hand; she
did not resist, but with a stern brow, so strange in childhood, so
different from her former hilarity, she stood still, her eyes fixed on the
ground. "What do you do here?" I said gently; "Who are you?"--she was
silent, but trembled violently.--"My poor child," asked Adrian, "are you
alone?" There was a winning softness in his voice, that went to the heart
of the little girl; she looked at him, then snatching her hand from me,
threw herself into his arms, clinging round his neck, ejaculating--"Save
me! save me!" while her unnatural sullenness dissolved in tears.

"I will save you," he replied, "of what are you afraid? you need not fear
my friend, he will do you no harm. Are you alone?"

"No, Lion is with me."

"And your father and mother?--"

"I never had any; I am a charity girl. Every body is gone, gone for a
great, great many days; but if they come back and find me out, they will
beat me so!"

Her unhappy story was told in these few words: an orphan, taken on
pretended charity, ill-treated and reviled, her oppressors had died:
unknowing of what had passed around her, she found herself alone; she had
not dared venture out, but by the continuance of her solitude her courage
revived, her childish vivacity caused her to play a thousand freaks, and
with her brute companion she passed a long holiday, fearing nothing but the
return of the harsh voices and cruel usage of her protectors. She readily
consented to go with Adrian.

In the mean time, while we descanted on alien sorrows, and on a solitude
which struck our eyes and not our hearts, while we imagined all of change
and suffering that had intervened in these once thronged streets, before,
tenantless and abandoned, they became mere kennels for dogs, and stables
for cattle:--while we read the death of the world upon the dark fane, and
hugged ourselves in the remembrance that we possessed that which was all
the world to us--in the meanwhile---

We had arrived from Windsor early in October, and had now been in London
about six weeks. Day by day, during that time, the health of my Idris
declined: her heart was broken; neither sleep nor appetite, the chosen
servants of health, waited on her wasted form. To watch her children hour
by hour, to sit by me, drinking deep the dear persuasion that I remained to
her, was all her pastime. Her vivacity, so long assumed, her affectionate
display of cheerfulness, her light-hearted tone and springy gait were gone.
I could not disguise to myself, nor could she conceal, her life-consuming
sorrow. Still change of scene, and reviving hopes might restore her; I
feared the plague only, and she was untouched by that.

I had left her this evening, reposing after the fatigues of her
preparations. Clara sat beside her, relating a story to the two boys. The
eyes of Idris were closed: but Clara perceived a sudden change in the
appearance of our eldest darling; his heavy lids veiled his eyes, an
unnatural colour burnt in his cheeks, his breath became short. Clara looked
at the mother; she slept, yet started at the pause the narrator made--
Fear of awakening and alarming her, caused Clara to go on at the eager call
of Evelyn, who was unaware of what was passing. Her eyes turned alternately
from Alfred to Idris; with trembling accents she continued her tale, till
she saw the child about to fall: starting forward she caught him, and her
cry roused Idris. She looked on her son. She saw death stealing across his
features; she laid him on a bed, she held drink to his parched lips.

Yet he might be saved. If I were there, he might be saved; perhaps it was
not the plague. Without a counsellor, what could she do? stay and behold
him die! Why at that moment was I away? "Look to him, Clara," she
exclaimed, "I will return immediately."

She inquired among those who, selected as the companions of our journey,
had taken up their residence in our house; she heard from them merely that
I had gone out with Adrian. She entreated them to seek me: she returned to
her child, he was plunged in a frightful state of torpor; again she rushed
down stairs; all was dark, desert, and silent; she lost all
self-possession; she ran into the street; she called on my name. The
pattering rain and howling wind alone replied to her. Wild fear gave wings
to her feet; she darted forward to seek me, she knew not where; but,
putting all her thoughts, all her energy, all her being in speed only, most
misdirected speed, she neither felt, nor feared, nor paused, but ran right
on, till her strength suddenly deserted her so suddenly, that she had not
thought to save herself. Her knees failed her, and she fell heavily on the
pavement. She was stunned for a time; but at length rose, and though sorely
hurt, still walked on, shedding a fountain of tears, stumbling at times,
going she knew not whither, only now and then with feeble voice she called
my name, adding with heart-piercing exclamations, that I was cruel and
unkind. Human being there was none to reply; and the inclemency of the
night had driven the wandering animals to the habitations they had usurped.
Her thin dress was drenched with rain; her wet hair clung round her neck;
she tottered through the dark streets; till, striking her foot against an
unseen impediment, she again fell; she could not rise; she hardly strove;
but, gathering up her limbs, she resigned herself to the fury of the
elements, and the bitter grief of her own heart. She breathed an earnest
prayer to die speedily, for there was no relief but death. While hopeless
of safety for herself, she ceased to lament for her dying child, but shed
kindly, bitter tears for the grief I should experience in losing her. While
she lay, life almost suspended, she felt a warm, soft hand on her brow, and
a gentle female voice asked her, with expressions of tender compassion, if
she could not rise? That another human being, sympathetic and kind, should
exist near, roused her; half rising, with clasped hands, and fresh
springing tears, she entreated her companion to seek for me, to bid me
hasten to my dying child, to save him, for the love of heaven, to save
him!

The woman raised her; she led her under shelter, she entreated her to
return to her home, whither perhaps I had already returned. Idris easily
yielded to her persuasions, she leaned on the arm of her friend, she
endeavoured to walk on, but irresistible faintness made her pause again and
again.

Quickened by the encreasing storm, we had hastened our return, our little
charge was placed before Adrian on his horse. There was an assemblage of
persons under the portico of our house, in whose gestures I instinctively
read some heavy change, some new misfortune. With swift alarm, afraid to
ask a single question, I leapt from my horse; the spectators saw me, knew
me, and in awful silence divided to make way for me. I snatched a light,
and rushing up stairs, and hearing a groan, without reflection I threw open
the door of the first room that presented itself. It was quite dark; but,
as I stept within, a pernicious scent assailed my senses, producing
sickening qualms, which made their way to my very heart, while I felt my
leg clasped, and a groan repeated by the person that held me. I lowered my
lamp, and saw a negro half clad, writhing under the agony of disease, while
he held me with a convulsive grasp. With mixed horror and impatience I
strove to disengage myself, and fell on the sufferer; he wound his naked
festering arms round me, his face was close to mine, and his breath,
death-laden, entered my vitals. For a moment I was overcome, my head was
bowed by aching nausea; till, reflection returning, I sprung up, threw the
wretch from me, and darting up the staircase, entered the chamber usually
inhabited by my family. A dim light shewed me Alfred on a couch; Clara
trembling, and paler than whitest snow, had raised him on her arm, holding
a cup of water to his lips. I saw full well that no spark of life existed
in that ruined form, his features were rigid, his eyes glazed, his head had
fallen back. I took him from her, I laid him softly down, kissed his cold
little mouth, and turned to speak in a vain whisper, when loudest sound of
thunderlike cannon could not have reached him in his immaterial abode.

And where was Idris? That she had gone out to seek me, and had not
returned, were fearful tidings, while the rain and driving wind clattered
against the window, and roared round the house. Added to this, the
sickening sensation of disease gained upon me; no time was to be lost, if
ever I would see her again. I mounted my horse and rode out to seek her,
fancying that I heard her voice in every gust, oppressed by fever and
aching pain.

I rode in the dark and rain through the labyrinthine streets of unpeopled
London. My child lay dead at home; the seeds of mortal disease had taken
root in my bosom; I went to seek Idris, my adored, now wandering alone,
while the waters were rushing from heaven like a cataract to bathe her dear
head in chill damp, her fair limbs in numbing cold. A female stood on the
step of a door, and called to me as I gallopped past. It was not Idris; so
I rode swiftly on, until a kind of second sight, a reflection back again on
my senses of what I had seen but not marked, made me feel sure that another
figure, thin, graceful and tall, stood clinging to the foremost person who
supported her. In a minute I was beside the suppliant, in a minute I
received the sinking Idris in my arms. Lifting her up, I placed her on the
horse; she had not strength to support herself; so I mounted
behind her, and held her close to my bosom, wrapping my riding-cloak round
her, while her companion, whose well known, but changed countenance, (it
was Juliet, daughter of the Duke of L---) could at this moment of horror
obtain from me no more than a passing glance of compassion. She took the
abandoned rein, and conducted our obedient steed homewards. Dare I avouch
it? That was the last moment of my happiness; but I was happy. Idris must
die, for her heart was broken: I must die, for I had caught the plague;
earth was a scene of desolation; hope was madness; life had married death;
they were one; but, thus supporting my fainting love, thus feeling that I
must soon die, I revelled in the delight of possessing her once more; again
and again I kissed her, and pressed her to my heart.

We arrived at our home. I assisted her to dismount, I carried her up
stairs, and gave her into Clara's care, that her wet garments might be
changed. Briefly I assured Adrian of her safety, and requested that we
might be left to repose. As the miser, who with trembling caution visits
his treasure to count it again and again, so I numbered each moment, and
grudged every one that was not spent with Idris. I returned swiftly to the
chamber where the life of my life reposed; before I entered the room I
paused for a few seconds; for a few seconds I tried to examine my state;
sickness and shuddering ever and anon came over me; my head was heavy, my
chest oppressed, my legs bent under me; but I threw off resolutely the
swift growing symptoms of my disorder, and met Idris with placid and even
joyous looks. She was lying on a couch; carefully fastening the door to
prevent all intrusion; I sat by her, we embraced, and our lips met in a
kiss long drawn and breathless--would that moment had been my last!

Maternal feeling now awoke in my poor girl's bosom, and she asked: "And
Alfred?"

"Idris," I replied, "we are spared to each other, we are together;
do not let any other idea intrude. I am happy; even on this fatal night, I
declare myself happy, beyond all name, all thought--what would you more,
sweet one?"

Idris understood me: she bowed her head on my shoulder and wept. "Why," she
again asked, "do you tremble, Lionel, what shakes you thus?"

"Well may I be shaken," I replied, "happy as I am. Our child is dead, and
the present hour is dark and ominous. Well may I tremble! but, I am happy,
mine own Idris, most happy."

"I understand thee, my kind love," said Idris, "thus--pale as thou art
with sorrow at our loss; trembling and aghast, though wouldest assuage my
grief by thy dear assurances. I am not happy," (and the tears flashed and
fell from under her down-cast lids), "for we are inmates of a miserable
prison, and there is no joy for us; but the true love I bear you will
render this and every other loss endurable."

"We have been happy together, at least," I said; "no future misery can
deprive us of the past. We have been true to each other for years, ever
since my sweet princess-love came through the snow to the lowly cottage
of the poverty-striken heir of the ruined Verney. Even now, that eternity
is before us, we take hope only from the presence of each other. Idris,
do you think, that when we die, we shall be divided?"

"Die! when we die! what mean you? What secret lies hid from me in those
dreadful words?"

"Must we not all die, dearest?" I asked with a sad smile.

"Gracious God! are you ill, Lionel, that you speak of death? My only
friend, heart of my heart, speak!"

"I do not think," replied I, "that we have any of us long to live; and when
the curtain drops on this mortal scene, where, think you, we shall find
ourselves?" Idris was calmed by my unembarrassed tone and look; she
answered:--"You may easily believe that during this long progress of the
plague, I have thought much on death, and asked myself, now that all
mankind is dead to this life, to what other life they may have been borne.
Hour after hour, I have dwelt on these thoughts, and strove to form a
rational conclusion concerning the mystery of a future state. What a
scare-crow, indeed, would death be, if we were merely to cast aside the
shadow in which we now walk, and, stepping forth into the unclouded
sunshine of knowledge and love, revived with the same companions, the same
affections, and reached the fulfilment of our hopes, leaving our fears with
our earthly vesture in the grave. Alas! the same strong feeling which makes
me sure that I shall not wholly die, makes me refuse to believe that I
shall live wholly as I do now. Yet, Lionel, never, never, can I love any
but you; through eternity I must desire your society; and, as I am innocent
of harm to others, and as relying and confident as my mortal nature
permits, I trust that the Ruler of the world will never tear us asunder."

"Your remarks are like yourself, dear love," replied I, "gentle and good;
let us cherish such a belief, and dismiss anxiety from our minds. But,
sweet, we are so formed, (and there is no sin, if God made our nature, to
yield to what he ordains), we are so formed, that we must love life, and
cling to it; we must love the living smile, the sympathetic touch, and
thrilling voice, peculiar to our mortal mechanism. Let us not, through
security in hereafter, neglect the present. This present moment, short as
it is, is a part of eternity, and the dearest part, since it is our own
unalienably. Thou, the hope of my futurity, art my present joy. Let me then
look on thy dear eyes, and, reading love in them, drink intoxicating
pleasure."

Timidly, for my vehemence somewhat terrified her, Idris looked on me. My
eyes were bloodshot, starting from my head; every artery beat, methought,
audibly, every muscle throbbed, each single nerve felt. Her look of wild
affright told me, that I could no longer keep my secret:--"So it is, mine
own beloved," I said, "the last hour of many happy ones is arrived, nor can
we shun any longer the inevitable destiny. I cannot live long--but, again
and again, I say, this moment is ours!"

Paler than marble, with white lips and convulsed features, Idris became
aware of my situation. My arm, as I sat, encircled her waist. She felt the
palm burn with fever, even on the heart it pressed:--"One moment," she
murmured, scarce audibly, "only one moment."--

She kneeled, and hiding her face in her hands, uttered a brief, but earnest
prayer, that she might fulfil her duty, and watch over me to the last.
While there was hope, the agony had been unendurable;--all was now
concluded; her feelings became solemn and calm. Even as Epicharis,
unperturbed and firm, submitted to the instruments of torture, did Idris,
suppressing every sigh and sign of grief, enter upon the endurance of
torments, of which the rack and the wheel are but faint and metaphysical
symbols.

I was changed; the tight-drawn cord that sounded so harshly was loosened,
the moment that Idris participated in my knowledge of our real situation.
The perturbed and passion-tossed waves of thought subsided, leaving only
the heavy swell that kept right on without any outward manifestation of its
disturbance, till it should break on the remote shore towards which I
rapidly advanced:--"It is true that I am sick," I said, "and your
society, my Idris is my only medicine; come, and sit beside me."

She made me lie down on the couch, and, drawing a low ottoman near, sat
close to my pillow, pressing my burning hands in her cold palms. She
yielded to my feverish restlessness, and let me talk, and talked to me, on
subjects strange indeed to beings, who thus looked the last, and heard the
last, of what they loved alone in the world. We talked of times gone by; of
the happy period of our early love; of Raymond, Perdita, and Evadne. We
talked of what might arise on this desert earth, if, two or three being
saved, it were slowly re-peopled.--We talked of what was beyond the tomb;
and, man in his human shape being nearly extinct, we felt with certainty of
faith, that other spirits, other minds, other perceptive beings, sightless
to us, must people with thought and love this beauteous and imperishable
universe.

We talked--I know not how long--but, in the morning I awoke from a
painful heavy slumber; the pale cheek of Idris rested on my pillow; the
large orbs of her eyes half raised the lids, and shewed the deep blue
lights beneath; her lips were unclosed, and the slight murmurs they formed
told that, even while asleep, she suffered. "If she were dead," I thought,
"what difference? now that form is the temple of a residing deity; those
eyes are the windows of her soul; all grace, love, and intelligence are
throned on that lovely bosom--were she dead, where would this mind, the
dearer half of mine, be? For quickly the fair proportion of this edifice
would be more defaced, than are the sand-choked ruins of the desert temples
of Palmyra."


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