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Chapter 3

IDRIS stirred and awoke; alas! she awoke to misery. She saw the signs of
disease on my countenance, and wondered how she could permit the long night
to pass without her having sought, not cure, that was impossible, but
alleviation to my sufferings. She called Adrian; my couch was quickly
surrounded by friends and assistants, and such medicines as were judged
fitting were administered. It was the peculiar and dreadful distinction of
our visitation, that none who had been attacked by the pestilence had
recovered. The first symptom of the disease was the death-warrant, which in
no single instance had been followed by pardon or reprieve. No gleam of
hope therefore cheered my friends.

While fever producing torpor, heavy pains, sitting like lead on my limbs,
and making my breast heave, were upon me; I continued insensible to every
thing but pain, and at last even to that. I awoke on the fourth morning as
from a dreamless sleep. An irritating sense of thirst, and, when I strove
to speak or move, an entire dereliction of power, was all I felt.

For three days and nights Idris had not moved from my side. She
administered to all my wants, and never slept nor rested. She did not hope;
and therefore she neither endeavoured to read the physician's countenance,
nor to watch for symptoms of recovery. All her thought was to attend on me
to the last, and then to lie down and die beside me. On the third night
animation was suspended; to the eye and touch of all I was dead. With
earnest prayer, almost with force, Adrian tried to draw Idris from me. He
exhausted every adjuration, her child's welfare and his own. She shook her
head, and wiped a stealing tear from her sunk cheek, but would not yield;
she entreated to be allowed to watch me that one night only, with such
affliction and meek earnestness, that she gained her point, and sat silent
and motionless, except when, stung by intolerable remembrance, she kissed
my closed eyes and pallid lips, and pressed my stiffening hands to her
beating heart.

At dead of night, when, though it was mid winter, the cock crowed at three
o'clock, as herald of the morning change, while hanging over me, and
mourning in silent, bitter thought for the loss of all of love towards her
that had been enshrined in my heart; her dishevelled hair hung over her
face, and the long tresses fell on the bed; she saw one ringlet in motion,
and the scattered hair slightly stirred, as by a breath. It is not so, she
thought, for he will never breathe more. Several times the same thing
occurred, and she only marked it by the same reflection; till the whole
ringlet waved back, and she thought she saw my breast heave. Her first
emotion was deadly fear, cold dew stood on her brow; my eyes half opened;
and, re-assured, she would have exclaimed, "He lives!" but the words were
choked by a spasm, and she fell with a groan on the floor.

Adrian was in the chamber. After long watching, he had unwillingly fallen
into a sleep. He started up, and beheld his sister senseless on the earth,
weltering in a stream of blood that gushed from her mouth. Encreasing signs
of life in me in some degree explained her state; the surprise, the burst
of joy, the revulsion of every sentiment, had been too much for her frame,
worn by long months of care, late shattered by every species of woe and
toil. She was now in far greater danger than I, the wheels and springs of
my life, once again set in motion, acquired elasticity from their short
suspension. For a long time, no one believed that I should indeed continue
to live; during the reign of the plague upon earth, not one person,
attacked by the grim disease, had recovered. My restoration was looked on
as a deception; every moment it was expected that the evil symptoms would
recur with redoubled violence, until confirmed convalescence, absence of
all fever or pain, and encreasing strength, brought slow conviction that I
had recovered from the plague.

The restoration of Idris was more problematical. When I had been attacked
by illness, her cheeks were sunk, her form emaciated; but now, the vessel,
which had broken from the effects of extreme agitation, did not entirely
heal, but was as a channel that drop by drop drew from her the ruddy stream
that vivified her heart. Her hollow eyes and worn countenance had a ghastly
appearance; her cheek-bones, her open fair brow, the projection of the
mouth, stood fearfully prominent; you might tell each bone in the thin
anatomy of her frame. Her hand hung powerless; each joint lay bare, so that
the light penetrated through and through. It was strange that life could
exist in what was wasted and worn into a very type of death.

To take her from these heart-breaking scenes, to lead her to forget the
world's desolation in the variety of objects presented by travelling, and
to nurse her failing strength in the mild climate towards which we had
resolved to journey, was my last hope for her preservation. The
preparations for our departure, which had been suspended during my illness,
were renewed. I did not revive to doubtful convalescence; health spent her
treasures upon me; as the tree in spring may feel from its wrinkled limbs
the fresh green break forth, and the living sap rise and circulate, so did
the renewed vigour of my frame, the cheerful current of my blood, the
new-born elasticity of my limbs, influence my mind to cheerful endurance
and pleasurable thoughts. My body, late the heavy weight that bound me to
the tomb, was exuberant with health; mere common exercises were
insufficient for my reviving strength; methought I could emulate the speed
of the race-horse, discern through the air objects at a blinding distance,
hear the operations of nature in her mute abodes; my senses had become so
refined and susceptible after my recovery from mortal disease.

Hope, among my other blessings, was not denied to me; and I did fondly
trust that my unwearied attentions would restore my adored girl. I was
therefore eager to forward our preparations. According to the plan first
laid down, we were to have quitted London on the twenty-fifth of November;
and, in pursuance of this scheme, two-thirds of our people--thepeople--
all that remained of England, had gone forward, and had already been some
weeks in Paris. First my illness, and subsequently that of Idris, had
detained Adrian with his division, which consisted of three hundred
persons, so that we now departed on the first of January, 2098. It was my
wish to keep Idris as distant as possible from the hurry and clamour of the
crowd, and to hide from her those appearances that would remind her most
forcibly of our real situation. We separated ourselves to a great degree
from Adrian, who was obliged to give his whole time to public business. The
Countess of Windsor travelled with her son. Clara, Evelyn, and a female who
acted as our attendant, were the only persons with whom we had contact. We
occupied a commodious carriage, our servant officiated as coachman. A party
of about twenty persons preceded us at a small distance. They had it in
charge to prepare our halting places and our nightly abode. They had been
selected for this service out of a great number that offered, on account of
the superior sagacity of the man who had been appointed their leader.

Immediately on our departure, I was delighted to find a change in Idris,
which I fondly hoped prognosticated the happiest results. All the
cheerfulness and gentle gaiety natural to her revived. She was weak, and
this alteration was rather displayed in looks and voice than in acts; but
it was permanent and real. My recovery from the plague and confirmed health
instilled into her a firm belief that I was now secure from this dread
enemy. She told me that she was sure she should recover. That she had a
presentiment, that the tide of calamity which deluged our unhappy race had
now turned. That the remnant would be preserved, and among them the dear
objects of her tender affection; and that in some selected spot we should
wear out our lives together in pleasant society. "Do not let my state of
feebleness deceive you," she said; "I feel that I am better; there is a
quick life within me, and a spirit of anticipation that assures me, that I
shall continue long to make a part of this world. I shall throw off this
degrading weakness of body, which infects even my mind with debility, and I
shall enter again on the performance of my duties. I was sorry to leave
Windsor: but now I am weaned from this local attachment; I am content to
remove to a mild climate, which will complete my recovery. Trust me,
dearest, I shall neither leave you, nor my brother, nor these dear
children; my firm determination to remain with you to the last, and to
continue to contribute to your happiness and welfare, would keep me alive,
even if grim death were nearer at hand than he really is."

I was only half re-assured by these expressions; I could not believe that
the over-quick flow of her blood was a sign of health, or that her burning
cheeks denoted convalescence. But I had no fears of an immediate
catastrophe; nay, I persuaded myself that she would ultimately recover. And
thus cheerfulness reigned in our little society. Idris conversed with
animation on a thousand topics. Her chief desire was to lead our thoughts
from melancholy reflections; so she drew charming pictures of a tranquil
solitude, of a beauteous retreat, of the simple manners of our little
tribe, and of the patriarchal brotherhood of love, which would survive the
ruins of the populous nations which had lately existed. We shut out from
our thoughts the present, and withdrew our eyes from the dreary landscape
we traversed. Winter reigned in all its gloom. The leafless trees lay
without motion against the dun sky; the forms of frost, mimicking the
foliage of summer, strewed the ground; the paths were overgrown; the
unploughed cornfields were patched with grass and weeds; the sheep
congregated at the threshold of the cottage, the horned ox thrust his head
from the window. The wind was bleak, and frequent sleet or snow-storms,
added to the melancholy appearance wintry nature assumed.

We arrived at Rochester, and an accident caused us to be detained there a
day. During that time, a circumstance occurred that changed our plans, and
which, alas! in its result changed the eternal course of events, turning me
from the pleasant new sprung hope I enjoyed, to an obscure and gloomy
desert. But I must give some little explanation before I proceed with the
final cause of our temporary alteration of plan, and refer again to those
times when man walked the earth fearless, before Plague had become Queen of
the World.

There resided a family in the neighbourhood of Windsor, of very humble
pretensions, but which had been an object of interest to us on account of
one of the persons of whom it was composed. The family of the Claytons had
known better days; but, after a series of reverses, the father died a
bankrupt, and the mother heartbroken, and a confirmed invalid, retired with
her five children to a little cottage between Eton and Salt Hill. The
eldest of these children, who was thirteen years old, seemed at once from
the influence of adversity, to acquire the sagacity and principle belonging
to a more mature age. Her mother grew worse and worse in health, but Lucy
attended on her, and was as a tender parent to her younger brothers and
sisters, and in the meantime shewed herself so good-humoured, social, and
benevolent, that she was beloved as well as honoured, in her little
neighbourhood.

Lucy was besides extremely pretty; so when she grew to be sixteen, it was
to be supposed, notwithstanding her poverty, that she should have admirers.
One of these was the son of a country-curate; he was a generous,
frank-hearted youth, with an ardent love of knowledge, and no mean
acquirements. Though Lucy was untaught, her mother's conversation and
manners gave her a taste for refinements superior to her present situation.
She loved the youth even without knowing it, except that in any difficulty
she naturally turned to him for aid, and awoke with a lighter heart every
Sunday, because she knew that she would be met and accompanied by him in
her evening walk with her sisters. She had another admirer, one of the
head-waiters at the inn at Salt Hill. He also was not without pretensions
to urbane superiority, such as he learnt from gentlemen's servants and
waiting-maids, who initiating him in all the slang of high life below
stairs, rendered his arrogant temper ten times more intrusive. Lucy did not
disclaim him--she was incapable of that feeling; but she was sorry when
she saw him approach, and quietly resisted all his endeavours to establish
an intimacy. The fellow soon discovered that his rival was preferred to
him; and this changed what was at first a chance admiration into a passion,
whose main springs were envy, and a base desire to deprive his competitor
of the advantage he enjoyed over himself.

Poor Lucy's sad story was but a common one. Her lover's father died; and he
was left destitute. He accepted the offer of a gentleman to go to India
with him, feeling secure that he should soon acquire an independence, and
return to claim the hand of his beloved. He became involved in the war
carried on there, was taken prisoner, and years elapsed before tidings of
his existence were received in his native land. In the meantime disastrous
poverty came on Lucy. Her little cottage, which stood looking from its
trellice, covered with woodbine and jessamine, was burnt down; and the
whole of their little property was included in the destruction. Whither
betake them? By what exertion of industry could Lucy procure them another
abode? Her mother nearly bed-rid, could not survive any extreme of
famine-struck poverty. At this time her other admirer stept forward, and
renewed his offer of marriage. He had saved money, and was going to set up
a little inn at Datchet. There was nothing alluring to Lucy in this offer,
except the home it secured to her mother; and she felt more sure of this,
since she was struck by the apparent generosity which occasioned the
present offer. She accepted it; thus sacrificing herself for the comfort
and welfare of her parent.

It was some years after her marriage that we became acquainted with her.
The accident of a storm caused us to take refuge in the inn, where we
witnessed the brutal and quarrelsome behaviour of her husband, and her
patient endurance. Her lot was not a fortunate one. Her first lover had
returned with the hope of making her his own, and met her by accident, for
the first time, as the mistress of his country inn, and the wife of
another. He withdrew despairingly to foreign parts; nothing went well with
him; at last he enlisted, and came back again wounded and sick, and yet
Lucy was debarred from nursing him. Her husband's brutal disposition was
aggravated by his yielding to the many temptations held out by his
situation, and the consequent disarrangement of his affairs. Fortunately
she had no children; but her heart was bound up in her brothers and
sisters, and these his avarice and ill temper soon drove from the house;
they were dispersed about the country, earning their livelihood with toil
and care. He even shewed an inclination to get rid of her mother--but
Lucy was firm here--she had sacrificed herself for her; she lived for her
--she would not part with her--if the mother went, she would also go beg
bread for her, die with her, but never desert her. The presence of Lucy was
too necessary in keeping up the order of the house, and in preventing the
whole establishment from going to wreck, for him to permit her to leave
him. He yielded the point; but in all accesses of anger, or in his drunken
fits, he recurred to the old topic, and stung poor Lucy's heart by
opprobrious epithets bestowed on her parent.

A passion however, if it be wholly pure, entire, and reciprocal, brings
with it its own solace. Lucy was truly, and from the depth of heart,
devoted to her mother; the sole end she proposed to herself in life, was
the comfort and preservation of this parent. Though she grieved for the
result, yet she did not repent of her marriage, even when her lover
returned to bestow competence on her. Three years had intervened, and how,
in their pennyless state, could her mother have existed during this time?
This excellent woman was worthy of her child's devotion. A perfect
confidence and friendship existed between them; besides, she was by no
means illiterate; and Lucy, whose mind had been in some degree cultivated
by her former lover, now found in her the only person who could understand
and appreciate her. Thus, though suffering, she was by no means desolate,
and when, during fine summer days, she led her mother into the flowery and
shady lanes near their abode, a gleam of unmixed joy enlightened her
countenance; she saw that her parent was happy, and she knew that this
happiness was of her sole creating.

Meanwhile her husband's affairs grew more and more involved; ruin was near
at hand, and she was about to lose the fruit of all her labours, when
pestilence came to change the aspect of the world. Her husband reaped
benefit from the universal misery; but, as the disaster encreased, the
spirit of lawlessness seized him; he deserted his home to revel in the
luxuries promised him in London, and found there a grave. Her former lover
had been one of the first victims of the disease. But Lucy continued to
live for and in her mother. Her courage only failed when she dreaded peril
for her parent, or feared that death might prevent her from performing
those duties to which she was unalterably devoted.

When we had quitted Windsor for London, as the previous step to our final
emigration, we visited Lucy, and arranged with her the plan of her own and
her mother's removal. Lucy was sorry at the necessity which forced her to
quit her native lanes and village, and to drag an infirm parent from her
comforts at home, to the homeless waste of depopulate earth; but she was
too well disciplined by adversity, and of too sweet a temper, to indulge in
repinings at what was inevitable.

Subsequent circumstances, my illness and that of Idris, drove her from our
remembrance; and we called her to mind at last, only to conclude that she
made one of the few who came from Windsor to join the emigrants, and that
she was already in Paris. When we arrived at Rochester therefore, we were
surprised to receive, by a man just come from Slough, a letter from this
exemplary sufferer. His account was, that, journeying from his home, and
passing through Datchet, he was surprised to see smoke issue from the
chimney of the inn, and supposing that he should find comrades for his
journey assembled there, he knocked and was admitted. There was no one in
the house but Lucy, and her mother; the latter had been deprived of the use
of her limbs by an attack of rheumatism, and so, one by one, all the
remaining inhabitants of the country set forward, leaving them alone. Lucy
intreated the man to stay with her; in a week or two her mother would be
better, and they would then set out; but they must perish, if they were
left thus helpless and forlorn. The man said, that his wife and children
were already among the emigrants, and it was therefore, according to his
notion, impossible for him to remain. Lucy, as a last resource, gave him a
letter for Idris, to be delivered to her wherever he should meet us. This
commission at least he fulfilled, and Idris received with emotion the
following letter:--

"HONOURED LADY,

"I am sure that you will remember and pity me, and I dare hope that you
will assist me; what other hope have I? Pardon my manner of writing, I am
so bewildered. A month ago my dear mother was deprived of the use of her
limbs. She is already better, and in another month would I am sure be able
to travel, in the way you were so kind as to say you would arrange for us.
But now everybody is gone--everybody--as they went away, each said,
that perhaps my mother would be better, before we were quite deserted. But
three days ago I went to Samuel Woods, who, on account of his new-born
child, remained to the last; and there being a large family of them, I
thought I could persuade them to wait a little longer for us; but I found
the house deserted. I have not seen a soul since, till this good man came.
--What will become of us? My mother does not know our state; she is so
ill, that I have hidden it from her.

"Will you not send some one to us? I am sure we must perish miserably as we
are. If I were to try to move my mother now, she would die on the road; and
if, when she gets better, I were able, I cannot guess how, to find out the
roads, and get on so many many miles to the sea, you would all be in
France, and the great ocean would be between us, which is so terrible even
to sailors. What would it be to me, a woman, who never saw it? We should be
imprisoned by it in this country, all, all alone, with no help; better die
where we are. I can hardly write--I cannot stop my tears--it is not for
myself; I could put my trust in God; and let the worst come, I think I
could bear it, if I were alone. But my mother, my sick, my dear, dear
mother, who never, since I was born, spoke a harsh word to me,
who has been patient in many sufferings; pity her, dear Lady,
she must die a miserable death if you do not pity her. People speak
carelessly of her, because she is old and infirm, as if we must not all, if
we are spared, become so; and then, when the young are old themselves, they
will think that they ought to be taken care of. It is very silly of me to
write in this way to you; but, when I hear her trying not to groan, and see
her look smiling on me to comfort me, when I know she is in pain; and when
I think that she does not know the worst, but she soon must; and then she
will not complain; but I shall sit guessing at all that she is dwelling
upon, of famine and misery--I feel as if my heart must break, and I do
not know what I say or do; my mother--mother for whom I have borne much,
God preserve you from this fate! Preserve her, Lady, and He will bless you;
and I, poor miserable creature as I am, will thank you and pray for you
while I live.

"Your unhappy and dutiful servant,

"Dec. 30th, 2097. LUCY MARTIN."

This letter deeply affected Idris, and she instantly proposed, that we
should return to Datchet, to assist Lucy and her mother. I said that I
would without delay set out for that place, but entreated her to join her
brother, and there await my return with the children. But Idris was in high
spirits, and full of hope. She declared that she could not consent even to
a temporary separation from me, but that there was no need of this, the
motion of the carriage did her good, and the distance was too trifling to
be considered. We could dispatch messengers to Adrian, to inform him of our
deviation from the original plan. She spoke with vivacity, and drew a
picture after her own dear heart, of the pleasure we should bestow upon
Lucy, and declared, if I went, she must accompany me, and that she should
very much dislike to entrust the charge of rescuing them to others, who
might fulfil it with coldness or inhumanity. Lucy's life had been one act
of devotion and virtue; let her now reap the small reward of finding her
excellence appreciated, and her necessity assisted, by those whom she
respected and honoured.

These, and many other arguments, were urged with gentle pertinacity, and
the ardour of a wish to do all the good in her power, by her whose simple
expression of a desire and slightest request had ever been a law with me.
I, of course, consented, the moment that I saw that she had set her heart
upon this step. We sent half our attendant troop on to Adrian; and with the
other half our carriage took a retrograde course back to Windsor.

I wonder now how I could be so blind and senseless, as thus to risk the
safety of Idris; for, if I had eyes, surely I could see the sure, though
deceitful, advance of death in her burning cheek and encreasing weakness.
But she said she was better; and I believed her. Extinction could not be
near a being, whose vivacity and intelligence hourly encreased, and whose
frame was endowed with an intense, and I fondly thought, a strong and
permanent spirit of life. Who, after a great disaster, has not looked back
with wonder at his inconceivable obtuseness of understanding, that could
not perceive the many minute threads with which fate weaves the
inextricable net of our destinies, until he is inmeshed completely in it?

The cross roads which we now entered upon, were even in a worse state than
the long neglected high-ways; and the inconvenience seemed to menace the
perishing frame of Idris with destruction. Passing through Dartford, we
arrived at Hampton on the second day. Even in this short interval my
beloved companion grew sensibly worse in health, though her spirits were
still light, and she cheered my growing anxiety with gay sallies; sometimes
the thought pierced my brain--Is she dying?--as I saw her fair
fleshless hand rest on mine, or observed the feebleness with which she
performed the accustomed acts of life. I drove away the idea, as if it had
been suggested by insanity; but it occurred again and again, only to be
dispelled by the continued liveliness of her manner.

About mid-day, after quitting Hampton, our carriage broke down: the shock
caused Idris to faint, but on her reviving no other ill consequence ensued;
our party of attendants had as usual gone on before us, and our coachman
went in search of another vehicle, our former one being rendered by this
accident unfit for service. The only place near us was a poor village, in
which he found a kind of caravan, able to hold four people, but it was
clumsy and ill hung; besides this he found a very excellent cabriolet: our
plan was soon arranged; I would drive Idris in the latter; while the
children were conveyed by the servant in the former. But these arrangements
cost time; we had agreed to proceed that night to Windsor, and thither our
purveyors had gone: we should find considerable difficulty in getting
accommodation, before we reached this place; after all, the distance was
only ten miles; my horse was a good one; I would go forward at a good pace
with Idris, leaving the children to follow at a rate more consonant to the
uses of their cumberous machine.

Evening closed in quickly, far more quickly than I was prepared to expect.
At the going down of the sun it began to snow heavily. I attempted in vain
to defend my beloved companion from the storm; the wind drove the snow in
our faces; and it lay so high on the ground, that we made but small way;
while the night was so dark, that but for the white covering on the ground
we should not have been able to see a yard before us. We had left our
accompanying caravan far behind us; and now I perceived that the storm had
made me unconsciously deviate from my intended route. I had gone some miles
out of my way. My knowledge of the country enabled me to regain the right
road; but, instead of going, as at first agreed upon, by a cross road
through Stanwell to Datchet, I was obliged to take the way of Egham and
Bishopgate. It was certain therefore that I should not be rejoined by the
other vehicle, that I should not meet a single fellow-creature till we
arrived at Windsor.

The back of our carriage was drawn up, and I hung a pelisse before it, thus
to curtain the beloved sufferer from the pelting sleet. She leaned on my
shoulder, growing every moment more languid and feeble; at first she
replied to my words of cheer with affectionate thanks; but by degrees she
sunk into silence; her head lay heavily upon me; I only knew that she lived
by her irregular breathing and frequent sighs. For a moment I resolved to
stop, and, opposing the back of the cabriolet to the force of the tempest,
to expect morning as well as I might. But the wind was bleak and piercing,
while the occasional shudderings of my poor Idris, and the intense cold I
felt myself, demonstrated that this would be a dangerous experiment. At
length methought she slept--fatal sleep, induced by frost: at this moment
I saw the heavy outline of a cottage traced on the dark horizon close to
us: "Dearest love," I said, "support yourself but one moment, and we shall
have shelter; let us stop here, that I may open the door of this blessed
dwelling."

As I spoke, my heart was transported, and my senses swam with excessive
delight and thankfulness; I placed the head of Idris against the carriage,
and, leaping out, scrambled through the snow to the cottage, whose door was
open. I had apparatus about me for procuring light, and that shewed me a
comfortable room, with a pile of wood in one corner, and no appearance of
disorder, except that, the door having been left partly open, the snow,
drifting in, had blocked up the threshold. I returned to the carriage, and
the sudden change from light to darkness at first blinded me. When I
recovered my sight--eternal God of this lawless world! O supreme Death! I
will not disturb thy silent reign, or mar my tale with fruitless
exclamations of horror--I saw Idris, who had fallen from the seat to the
bottom of the carriage; her head, its long hair pendent, with one arm, hung
over the side.--Struck by a spasm of horror, I lifted her up; her heart
was pulseless, her faded lips unfanned by the slightest breath.

I carried her into the cottage; I placed her on the bed. Lighting a fire, I
chafed her stiffening limbs; for two long hours I sought to restore
departed life; and, when hope was as dead as my beloved, I closed with
trembling hands her glazed eyes. I did not doubt what I should now do. In
the confusion attendant on my illness, the task of interring our darling
Alfred had devolved on his grandmother, the Ex-Queen, and she, true to her
ruling passion, had caused him to be carried to Windsor, and buried in the
family vault, in St. George's Chapel. I must proceed to Windsor, to calm
the anxiety of Clara, who would wait anxiously for us--yet I would fain
spare her the heart-breaking spectacle of Idris, brought in by me lifeless
from the journey. So first I would place my beloved beside her child in the
vault, and then seek the poor children who would be expecting me.

I lighted the lamps of my carriage; I wrapt her in furs, and placed her
along the seat; then taking the reins, made the horses go forward. We
proceeded through the snow, which lay in masses impeding the way, while the
descending flakes, driving against me with redoubled fury, blinded me. The
pain occasioned by the angry elements, and the cold iron of the shafts of
frost which buffetted me, and entered my aching flesh, were a relief to me;
blunting my mental suffering. The horses staggered on, and the reins hung
loosely in my hands. I often thought I would lay my head close to the
sweet, cold face of my lost angel, and thus resign myself to conquering
torpor. Yet I must not leave her a prey to the fowls of the air; but, in
pursuance of my determination place her in the tomb of her forefathers,
where a merciful God might permit me to rest also.

The road we passed through Egham was familiar to me; but the wind and snow
caused the horses to drag their load slowly and heavily. Suddenly the wind
veered from south-west to west, and then again to north-west. As Sampson
with tug and strain stirred from their bases the columns that supported the
Philistine temple, so did the gale shake the dense vapours propped on the
horizon, while the massy dome of clouds fell to the south, disclosing
through the scattered web the clear empyrean, and the little stars, which
were set at an immeasurable distance in the crystalline fields, showered
their small rays on the glittering snow. Even the horses were cheered, and
moved on with renovated strength. We entered the forest at Bishopgate, and
at the end of the Long Walk I saw the Castle, "the proud Keep of Windsor,
rising in the majesty of proportion, girt with the double belt of its
kindred and coeval towers." I looked with reverence on a structure, ancient
almost as the rock on which it stood, abode of kings, theme of admiration
for the wise. With greater reverence and, tearful affection I beheld it as
the asylum of the long lease of love I had enjoyed there with the
perishable, unmatchable treasure of dust, which now lay cold beside me. Now
indeed, I could have yielded to all the softness of my nature, and wept;
and, womanlike, have uttered bitter plaints; while the familiar trees, the
herds of living deer, the sward oft prest by her fairy-feet, one by one
with sad association presented themselves. The white gate at the end of the
Long Walk was wide open, and I rode up the empty town through the first
gate of the feudal tower; and now St. George's Chapel, with its blackened
fretted sides, was right before me. I halted at its door, which was open; I
entered, and placed my lighted lamp on the altar; then I returned, and with
tender caution I bore Idris up the aisle into the chancel, and laid her
softly down on the carpet which covered the step leading to the communion
table. The banners of the knights of the garter, and their half drawn
swords, were hung in vain emblazonry above the stalls. The banner of her
family hung there, still surmounted by its regal crown. Farewell to the
glory and heraldry of England!--I turned from such vanity with a slight
feeling of wonder, at how mankind could have ever been interested in such
things. I bent over the lifeless corpse of my beloved; and, while looking
on her uncovered face, the features already contracted by the rigidity of
death, I felt as if all the visible universe had grown as soulless, inane,
and comfortless as the clay-cold image beneath me. I felt for a moment the
intolerable sense of struggle with, and detestation for, the laws which
govern the world; till the calm still visible on the face of my dead love
recalled me to a more soothing tone of mind, and I proceeded to fulfil the
last office that could now be paid her. For her I could not lament, so much
I envied her enjoyment of "the sad immunities of the grave."

The vault had been lately opened to place our Alfred therein. The ceremony
customary in these latter days had been cursorily performed, and the
pavement of the chapel, which was its entrance, having been removed, had
not been replaced. I descended the steps, and walked through the long
passage to the large vault which contained the kindred dust of my Idris. I
distinguished the small coffin of my babe. With hasty, trembling hands I
constructed a bier beside it, spreading it with the furs and Indian shawls,
which had wrapt Idris in her journey thither. I lighted the glimmering
lamp, which flickered in this damp abode of the dead; then I bore my lost
one to her last bed, decently composing her limbs, and covering them with a
mantle, veiling all except her face, which remained lovely and placid. She
appeared to rest like one over-wearied, her beauteous eyes steeped in sweet
slumber. Yet, so it was not--she was dead! How intensely I then longed to
lie down beside her, to gaze till death should gather me to the same
repose.

But death does not come at the bidding of the miserable. I had lately
recovered from mortal illness, and my blood had never flowed with such an
even current, nor had my limbs ever been so instinct with quick life, as
now. I felt that my death must be voluntary. Yet what more natural than
famine, as I watched in this chamber of mortality, placed in a world of the
dead, beside the lost hope of my life? Meanwhile as I looked on her, the
features, which bore a sisterly resemblance to Adrian, brought my thoughts
back again to the living, to this dear friend, to Clara, and to Evelyn, who
were probably now in Windsor, waiting anxiously for our arrival.

Methought I heard a noise, a step in the far chapel, which was re-echoed by
its vaulted roof, and borne to me through the hollow passages. Had Clara
seen my carriage pass up the town, and did she seek me here? I must save
her at least from the horrible scene the vault presented. I sprung up the
steps, and then saw a female figure, bent with age, and clad in long
mourning robes, advance through the dusky chapel, supported by a slender
cane, yet tottering even with this support. She heard me, and looked up;
the lamp I held illuminated my figure, and the moon-beams, struggling
through the painted glass, fell upon her face, wrinkled and gaunt, yet with
a piercing eye and commanding brow--I recognized the Countess of Windsor.
With a hollow voice she asked, "Where is the princess?"

I pointed to the torn up pavement: she walked to the spot, and looked down
into the palpable darkness; for the vault was too distant for the rays of
the small lamp I had left there to be discernible.

"Your light," she said. I gave it her; and she regarded the now visible,
but precipitous steps, as if calculating her capacity to descend.
Instinctively I made a silent offer of my assistance. She motioned me away
with a look of scorn, saying in an harsh voice, as she pointed downwards,
"There at least I may have her undisturbed."

She walked deliberately down, while I, overcome, miserable beyond words, or
tears, or groans, threw myself on the pavement near--the stiffening form
of Idris was before me, the death-struck countenance hushed in eternal
repose beneath. That was to me the end of all! The day before, I had
figured to my self various adventures, and communion with my friends in
after time--now I had leapt the interval, and reached the utmost edge and
bourne of life. Thus wrapt in gloom, enclosed, walled up, vaulted over by
the omnipotent present, I was startled by the sound of feet on the steps of
the tomb, and I remembered her whom I had utterly forgotten, my angry
visitant; her tall form slowly rose upwards from the vault, a living
statue, instinct with hate, and human, passionate strife: she seemed to me
as having reached the pavement of the aisle; she stood motionless, seeking
with her eyes alone, some desired object--till, perceiving me close to
her, she placed her wrinkled hand on my arm, exclaiming with tremulous
accents, "Lionel Verney, my son!" This name, applied at such a moment by my
angel's mother, instilled into me more respect than I had ever before felt
for this disdainful lady. I bowed my head, and kissed her shrivelled hand,
and, remarking that she trembled violently, supported her to the end of the
chancel, where she sat on the steps that led to the regal stall. She
suffered herself to be led, and still holding my hand, she leaned her head
back against the stall, while the moon beams, tinged with various colours
by the painted glass, fell on her glistening eyes; aware of her weakness,
again calling to mind her long cherished dignity, she dashed the tears
away; yet they fell fast, as she said, for excuse, "She is so beautiful and
placid, even in death. No harsh feeling ever clouded her serene brow; how
did I treat her? wounding her gentle heart with savage coldness; I had no
compassion on her in past years, does she forgive me now? Little, little
does it boot to talk of repentance and forgiveness to the dead, had I
during her life once consulted her gentle wishes, and curbed my rugged
nature to do her pleasure, I should not feel thus."

Idris and her mother were unlike in person. The dark hair, deep-set black
eyes, and prominent features of the Ex-Queen were in entire contrast to the
golden tresses, the full blue orbs, and the soft lines and contour of her
daughter's countenance. Yet, in latter days, illness had taken from my poor
girl the full outline of her face, and reduced it to the inflexible shape
of the bone beneath. In the form of her brow, in her oval chin, there was
to be found a resemblance to her mother; nay in some moods, their gestures
were not unlike; nor, having lived so long together, was this wonderful.

There is a magic power in resemblance. When one we love dies, we hope to
see them in another state, and half expect that the agency of mind will
inform its new garb in imitation of its decayed earthly vesture. But these
are ideas of the mind only. We know that the instrument is shivered, the
sensible image lies in miserable fragments, dissolved to dusty nothingness;
a look, a gesture, or a fashioning of the limbs similar to the dead in a
living person, touches a thrilling chord, whose sacred harmony is felt in
the heart's dearest recess. Strangely moved, prostrate before this spectral
image, and enslaved by the force of blood manifested in likeness of look
and movement, I remained trembling in the presence of the harsh, proud, and
till now unloved mother of Idris.

Poor, mistaken woman! in her tenderest mood before, she had cherished the
idea, that a word, a look of reconciliation from her, would be received
with joy, and repay long years of severity. Now that the time was gone for
the exercise of such power, she fell at once upon the thorny truth of
things, and felt that neither smile nor caress could penetrate to the
unconscious state, or influence the happiness of her who lay in the vault
beneath. This conviction, together with the remembrance of soft replies to
bitter speeches, of gentle looks repaying angry glances; the perception of
the falsehood, paltryness and futility of her cherished dreams of birth and
power; the overpowering knowledge, that love and life were the true
emperors of our mortal state; all, as a tide, rose, and filled her soul
with stormy and bewildering confusion. It fell to my lot, to come as the
influential power, to allay the fierce tossing of these tumultuous waves. I
spoke to her; I led her to reflect how happy Idris had really been, and how
her virtues and numerous excellencies had found scope and estimation in her
past career. I praised her, the idol of my heart's dear worship, the
admired type of feminine perfection. With ardent and overflowing eloquence,
I relieved my heart from its burthen, and awoke to the sense of a new
pleasure in life, as I poured forth the funeral eulogy. Then I referred to
Adrian, her loved brother, and to her surviving child. I declared, which I
had before almost forgotten, what my duties were with regard to these
valued portions of herself, and bade the melancholy repentant mother
reflect, how she could best expiate unkindness towards the dead, by
redoubled love of the survivors. Consoling her, my own sorrows were
assuaged; my sincerity won her entire conviction.

She turned to me. The hard, inflexible, persecuting woman, turned with a
mild expression of face, and said, "If our beloved angel sees us now, it
will delight her to find that I do you even tardy justice. You were worthy
of her; and from my heart I am glad that you won her away from me. Pardon,
my son, the many wrongs I have done you; forget my bitter words and unkind
treatment--take me, and govern me as you will."

I seized this docile moment to propose our departure from the church.
"First," she said, "let us replace the pavement above the vault."

We drew near to it; "Shall we look on her again?" I asked.

"I cannot," she replied, "and, I pray you, neither do you. We need not
torture ourselves by gazing on the soulless body, while her living spirit
is buried quick in our hearts, and her surpassing loveliness is so deeply
carved there, that sleeping or waking she must ever be present to us."

For a few moments, we bent in solemn silence over the open vault. I
consecrated my future life, to the embalming of her dear memory; I vowed to
serve her brother and her child till death. The convulsive sob of my
companion made me break off my internal orisons. I next dragged the stones
over the entrance of the tomb, and closed the gulph that contained the life
of my life. Then, supporting my decrepid fellow-mourner, we slowly left the
chapel. I felt, as I stepped into the open air, as if I had quitted an
happy nest of repose, for a dreary wilderness, a tortuous path, a bitter,
joyless, hopeless pilgrimage.

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