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Narrative And Miscellaneous Papers, Vol. I. by Thomas De Quincey

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'To be weak,' we need not the great archangel's voice to tell us,
'_is to be miserable_.' All weakness is suffering and humiliation,
no matter for its mode or its subject. Beyond all other weakness,
therefore, and by a sad prerogative, as more miserable than what is
most miserable in all, that capital weakness of man which regards the
_tenure_ of his enjoyments and his power to protect, even for a
moment, the crown of flowers--flowers, at the best, how frail and few!
--which sometimes settles upon his haughty brow. There is no end, there
never will be an end, of the lamentations which ascend from earth and
the rebellious heart of her children, upon this huge opprobrium of
human pride--the everlasting mutabilities of all which man can grasp by
his power or by his aspirations, the fragility of all which he
inherits, and the hollowness visible amid the very raptures of
enjoyment to every eye which looks for a moment underneath the
draperies of the shadowy _present_, the hollowness, the blank
treachery of hollowness, upon which all the pomps and vanities of life
ultimately repose. This trite but unwearying theme, this impassioned
common-place of humanity, is the subject in every age of variation
without end, from the poet, the rhetorician, the fabulist, the
moralist, the divine, and the philosopher. All, amidst the sad vanity
of their sighs and groans, labor to put on record and to establish this
monotonous complaint, which needs not other record or evidence than
those very sighs and groans. What is life? Darkness and formless
vacancy for a beginning, or something beyond all beginning--then next a
dim lotos of human consciousness, finding itself afloat upon the bosom
of waters without a shore--then a few sunny smiles and many tears--a
little love and infinite strife--whisperings from paradise and fierce
mockeries from the anarchy of chaos--dust and ashes--and once more
darkness circling round, as if from the beginning, and in this way
rounding or making an island of our fantastic existence,--_that_
is human life; _that_ the inevitable amount of man's laughter and
his tears--of what he suffers and he does--of his motions this way and
that way--to the right or to the left--backwards or forwards--of all
his seeming realities and all his absolute negations--his shadowy
pomps and his pompous shadows--of whatsoever he thinks, finds, makes
or mars, creates or animates, loves, hates, or in dread hope
anticipates;--so it is, so it has been, so it will be, for ever and

Yet in the lowest deep there still yawns a lower deep; and in the vast
halls of man's frailty, there are separate and more gloomy chambers of
a frailty more exquisite and consummate. We account it frailty that
threescore years and ten make the upshot of man's pleasurable
existence, and that, far before that time is reached, his beauty and
his power have fallen among weeds and forgetfulness. But there is a
frailty, by comparison with which this ordinary flux of the human race
seems to have a vast duration. Cases there are, and those not rare, in
which a single week, a day, an hour sweeps away all vestiges and
landmarks of a memorable felicity; in which the ruin travels faster
than the flying showers upon the mountain-side, faster 'than a musician
scatters sounds;' in which 'it was' and 'it is not' are words of the
self-same tongue, in the self-same minute; in which the sun that at
noon beheld all sound and prosperous, long before its setting hour
looks out upon a total wreck, and sometimes upon the total abolition of
any fugitive memorial that there ever had been a vessel to be wrecked,
or a wreck to be obliterated.

These cases, though here spoken of rhetorically, are of daily
occurrence; and, though they may seem few by comparison with the
infinite millions of the species, they are many indeed, if they be
reckoned absolutely for themselves; and throughout the limits of a
whole nation, not a day passes over us but many families are robbed of
their heads, or even swallowed up in ruin themselves, or their course
turned out of the sunny beams into a dark wilderness. Shipwrecks and
nightly conflagrations are sometimes, and especially among some
nations, wholesale calamities; battles yet more so; earthquakes, the
famine, the pestilence, though rarer, are visitations yet wider in
their desolation. Sickness and commercial ill-luck, if narrower, are
more frequent scourges. And most of all, or with most darkness in its
train, comes the sickness of the brain--lunacy--which, visiting nearly
one thousand in every million, must, in every populous nation, make
many ruins in each particular day. 'Babylon in ruins,' says a great
author, 'is not so sad a sight as a human soul overthrown by lunacy.'
But there is a sadder even than _that_,--the sight of a family-ruin
wrought by crime is even more appalling. Forgery, breaches of trust,
embezzlement, of private or public funds--(a crime sadly on the
increase since the example of Fauntleroy, and the suggestion of its
great feasibility first made by him)--these enormities, followed too
often, and countersigned for their final result to the future happiness
of families, by the appalling catastrophe of suicide, must naturally,
in every wealthy nation, or wherever property and the modes of property
are much developed, constitute the vast majority of all that come under
the review of public justice. Any of these is sufficient to make
shipwreck of all peace and comfort for a family; and often, indeed, it
happens that the desolation is accomplished within the course of one
revolving sun; often the whole dire catastrophe, together with its
total consequences, is both accomplished and made known to those whom
it chiefly concerns within one and the same hour. The mighty Juggernaut
of social life, moving onwards with its everlasting thunders, pauses
not for a moment to spare--to pity--to look aside, but rushes forward
for ever, impassive as the marble in the quarry--caring not for whom it
destroys, for the how many, or for the results, direct and indirect,
whether many or few. The increasing grandeur and magnitude of the
social system, the more it multiplies and extends its victims, the more
it conceals them; and for the very same reason: just as in the Roman
amphitheatres, when they grew to the magnitude of mighty cities, (in
some instances accommodating four hundred thousand spectators, in many
a fifth part of that amount,) births and deaths became ordinary events,
which, in a small modern theatre, are rare and memorable; and exactly
as these prodigious accidents multiplied, _pari passu_, they were
disregarded and easily concealed: for curiosity was no longer excited;
the sensation attached to them was little or none.

From these terrific tragedies, which, like monsoons or tornadoes,
accomplish the work of years in an hour, not merely an impressive
lesson is derived, sometimes, perhaps, a warning, but also (and this is
of universal application) some consolation. Whatever may have been the
misfortunes or the sorrows of a man's life, he is still privileged to
regard himself and his friends as amongst the fortunate by comparison,
in so far as he has escaped these wholesale storms, either as an actor
in producing them, or a contributor to their violence--or even more
innocently, (though oftentimes not less miserably)--as a participator
in the instant ruin, or in the long arrears of suffering which they

The following story falls within the class of hasty tragedies, and
sudden desolations here described. The reader is assured that every
incident is strictly true: nothing, in that respect, has been altered;
nor, indeed, anywhere except in the conversations, of which, though the
results and general outline are known, the separate details have
necessarily been lost under the agitating circumstances which produced
them. It has been judged right and delicate to conceal the name of the
great city, and therefore of the nation in which these events occurred,
chiefly out of consideration for the descendants of one person
concerned in the narrative: otherwise, it might not have been
requisite: for it is proper to mention, that every person directly a
party to the case has been long laid in the grave: all of them, with
one solitary exception, upwards of fifty years.

* * * * *

It was early spring in the year 17--; the day was the 6th of April; and
the weather, which had been of a wintry fierceness for the preceding
six or seven weeks--cold indeed beyond anything known for many years,
gloomy for ever, and broken by continual storms--was now by a Swedish
transformation all at once bright, genial, heavenly. So sudden and so
early a prelusion of summer, it was generally feared, could not last.
But that only made every body the more eager to lose no hour of an
enjoyment that might prove so fleeting. It seemed as if the whole
population of the place, a population among the most numerous in
Christendom, had been composed of hybernating animals suddenly awakened
by the balmy sunshine from their long winter's torpor. Through every
hour of the golden morning the streets were resonant with female
parties of young and old, the timid and the bold, nay, even of the most
delicate valetudinarians, now first tempted to lay aside their wintry
clothing together with their fireside habits, whilst the whole rural
environs of our vast city, the woodlands, and the interminable meadows
began daily to re-echo the glad voices of the young and jovial awaking
once again, like the birds and the flowers, and universal nature, to
the luxurious happiness of this most delightful season.

Happiness do I say? Yes, happiness; happiness to me above all others.
For I also in those days was among the young and the gay; I was
healthy; I was strong; I was prosperous in a worldly sense! I owed no
man a shilling; feared no man's face; shunned no man's presence. I held
a respectable station in society; I was myself, let me venture to say
it, respected generally for my personal qualities, apart from any
advantages I might draw from fortune or inheritance; I had reason to
think myself popular amongst the very slender circle of my
acquaintance; and finally, which perhaps was the crowning grace to all
these elements of happiness, I suffered not from the presence of
_ennui_, nor ever feared to suffer: for my temperament was
constitutionally ardent; I had a powerful animal sensibility; and I
knew the one great secret for maintaining its equipoise, viz., by
powerful daily exercise; and thus I lived in the light and presence,
or, (if I should not be suspected of seeking rhetorical expressions, I
would say,) in one eternal solstice of unclouded hope.

These, you will say, were blessings; these were golden elements of
felicity. They were so; and yet, with the single exception of my
healthy frame and firm animal organization, I feel that I have
mentioned hitherto nothing but what by comparison might be thought of a
vulgar quality. All the other advantages that I have enumerated, had
they been yet wanting, might have been acquired; had they been
forfeited, might have been reconquered; had they been even
irretrievably lost, might, by a philosophic effort, have been dispensed
with; compensations might have been found for any of them, many
equivalents, or if not, consolations at least, for their absence. But
now it remains to speak of other blessings too mighty to be valued, not
merely as transcending in rank and dignity all other constituents of
happiness, but for a reason far sadder than that--because, once lost,
they were incapable of restoration, and because not to be dispensed
with; blessings in which 'either we must live or have no life:' lights
to the darkness of our paths and to the infirmity of our steps--which,
once extinguished, never more on this side the gates of Paradise can
any man hope to see re-illumined for himself. Amongst these I may
mention an intellect, whether powerful or not in itself, at any rate
most elaborately cultivated; and, to say the truth, I had little other
business before me in this life than to pursue this lofty and
delightful task. I may add, as a blessing, not in the same
_positive_ sense as that which I have just mentioned, because not
of a nature to contribute so hourly to the employment of the thoughts,
but yet in this sense equal, that the absence of either would have been
an equal affliction,--namely, a conscience void of all offence. It was
little indeed that I, drawn by no necessities of situation into
temptations of that nature, had done no injury to any man. That was
fortunate; but I could not much value myself upon what was so much an
accident of my situation. Something, however, I might pretend to beyond
this _negative_ merit; for I had originally a benign nature; and,
as I advanced in years and thoughtfulness, the gratitude which
possessed me for my own exceeding happiness led me to do that by
principle and system which I had already done upon blind impulse; and
thus upon a double argument I was incapable of turning away from the
prayer of the afflicted, whatever had been the sacrifice to myself.
Hardly, perhaps, could it have been said in a sufficient sense at that
time that I was a religious man: yet, undoubtedly, I had all the
foundations within me upon which religion might hereafter have grown.
My heart overflowed with thankfulness to Providence: I had a natural
tone of unaffected piety; and thus far, at least, I might have been
called a religious man, that in the simplicity of truth I could have

'O, Abner, I fear God, and I fear none beside.'

But wherefore seek to delay ascending by a natural climax to that final
consummation and perfect crown of my felicity--that almighty blessing
which ratified their value to all the rest? Wherefore, oh! wherefore do
I shrink in miserable weakness from--what? Is it from reviving, from
calling up again into fierce and insufferable light the images and
features of a long-buried happiness? That would be a natural shrinking
and a reasonable weakness. But how escape from reviving, whether I give
it utterance or not, that which is for ever vividly before me? What
need to call into artificial light that which, whether sleeping or
waking, by night or by day, for eight-and-thirty years has seemed by
its miserable splendor to scorch my brain? Wherefore shrink from giving
language, simple vocal utterance, to that burden of anguish which by so
long an endurance has lost no atom of its weight, nor can gain any most
surely by the loudest publication? Need there can be none, after this,
to say that the priceless blessing, which I have left to the final
place in this ascending review, was the companion of my life--my
darling and youthful wife. Oh! dovelike woman! fated in an hour the
most defenceless to meet with the ravening vulture,--lamb fallen
amongst wolves,--trembling--fluttering fawn, whose path was inevitably
to be crossed by the bloody tiger;--angel, whose most innocent heart
fitted thee for too early a flight from this impure planet; if indeed
it were a necessity that thou shouldst find no rest for thy footing
except amidst thy native heavens, if indeed to leave what was not
worthy of thee were a destiny not to be evaded--a summons not to be put
by,--yet why, why, again and again I demand--why was it also necessary
that this, thy departure, so full of wo to me, should also to thyself
be heralded by the pangs of martyrdom? Sainted love, if, like the
ancient children of the Hebrews, like Meshech and Abednego, thou wert
called by divine command, whilst yet almost a child, to walk, and to
walk alone, through the fiery furnace,--wherefore then couldst not
thou, like that Meshech and that Abednego, walk unsinged by the
dreadful torment, and come forth unharmed? Why, if the sacrifice were
to be total, was it necessary to reach it by so dire a struggle? and if
the cup, the bitter cup, of final separation from those that were the
light of thy eyes and the pulse of thy heart might not be put aside,--
yet wherefore was it that thou mightest not drink it up in the natural
peace which belongs to a sinless heart?

But these are murmurings, you will say, rebellious murmurings against
the proclamations of God. Not so: I have long since submitted myself,
resigned myself, nay, even reconciled myself, perhaps, to the great
wreck of my life, in so far as it was the will of God, and according to
the weakness of my imperfect nature. But my wrath still rises, like a
towering flame, against all the earthly instruments of this ruin; I am
still at times as unresigned as ever to this tragedy, in so far as it
was the work of human malice. Vengeance, as a mission for _me_, as
a task for _my_ hands in particular, is no longer possible; the
thunderbolts of retribution have been long since launched by other
hands; and yet still it happens that at times I do--I must--I shall
perhaps to the hour of death, rise in maniac fury, and seek, in the
very impotence of vindictive madness, groping as it were in blindness
of heart, for that tiger from hell-gates that tore away my darling from
my heart. Let me pause, and interrupt this painful strain, to say a
word or two upon what she was--and how far worthy of a love more
honorable to her (that was possible) and deeper (but that was not
possible) than mine. When first I saw her, she--my Agnes--was merely a
child, not much (if anything) above sixteen. But, as in perfect
womanhood she retained a most childlike expression of countenance, so
even then in absolute childhood she put forward the blossoms and the
dignity of a woman. Never yet did my eye light upon creature that was
born of woman, nor could it enter my heart to conceive one, possessing
a figure more matchless in its proportions, more statuesque, and more
deliberately and advisedly to be characterized by no adequate word but
the word _magnificent_, (a word too often and lightly abused.) In
reality, speaking of women, I have seen many beautiful figures, but
hardly one except Agnes that could, without hyperbole, be styled truly
and memorably magnificent. Though in the first order of tall women,
yet, being full in person, and with a symmetry that was absolutely
faultless, she seemed to the random sight as little above the ordinary
height. Possibly from the dignity of her person, assisted by the
dignity of her movements, a stranger would have been disposed to call
her at a distance a woman of _commanding_ presence; but never,
after he had approached near enough to behold her face. Every thought
of artifice, of practised effect, or of haughty pretension, fled before
the childlike innocence, the sweet feminine timidity, and the more than
cherub loveliness of that countenance, which yet in its lineaments was
noble, whilst its expression was purely gentle and confiding. A shade
of pensiveness there was about her; but _that_ was in her manners,
scarcely ever in her features; and the exquisite fairness of her
complexion, enriched by the very sweetest and most delicate bloom that
ever I have beheld, should rather have allied it to a tone of
cheerfulness. Looking at this noble creature, as I first looked at her,
when yet upon the early threshold of womanhood

'With household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty'

you might have supposed her some Hebe or young Aurora of the dawn. When
you saw only her superb figure, and its promise of womanly development,
with the measured dignity of her step, you might for a moment have
fancied her some imperial Medea of the Athenian stage--some Volumnia
from Rome,

'Or ruling bandit's wife amidst the Grecian isles.'

But catch one glance from her angelic countenance--and then combining
the face and the person, you would have dismissed all such fancies, and
have pronounced her a Pandora or an Eve, expressly accomplished and
held forth by nature as an exemplary model or ideal pattern for the
future female sex:--

'A perfect woman, nobly plann'd,
To warm, to comfort, to command:
And yet a spirit too, and bright
With something of an angel light.'

To this superb young woman, such as I have here sketched her, I
surrendered my heart for ever, almost from my first opportunity of
seeing her: for so natural and without disguise was her character, and
so winning the simplicity of her manners, due in part to her own native
dignity of mind, and in part to the deep solitude in which she had been
reared, that little penetration was required to put me in possession of
all her thoughts; and to win her love, not very much more than to let
her see, as see she could not avoid, in connection with that chivalrous
homage which at any rate was due to her sex and her sexual perfections,
a love for herself on my part, which was in its nature as exalted a
passion and as profoundly rooted as any merely human affection can ever
yet have been.

On the seventeenth birthday of Agnes we were married. Oh! calendar of
everlasting months--months that, like the mighty rivers, shall flow on
for ever, immortal as thou, Nile, or Danube, Euphrates, or St.
Lawrence! and ye, summer and winter, day and night, wherefore do you
bring round continually your signs, and seasons, and revolving hours,
that still point and barb the anguish of local recollections, telling
me of this and that celestial morning that never shall return, and of
too blessed expectations, travelling like yourselves through a heavenly
zodiac of changes, till at once and for ever they sank into the grave!
Often do I think of seeking for some quiet cell either in the Tropics
or in Arctic latitudes, where the changes of the year, and the external
signs corresponding to them, express themselves by no features like
those in which the same seasons are invested under our temperate
climes: so that, if knowing, we cannot at least feel the identity of
their revolutions. We were married, I have said, on the birthday--the
seventeenth birthday--of Agnes; and pretty nearly on her eighteenth it
was that she placed me at the summit of my happiness, whilst for
herself she thus completed the circle of her relations to this life's
duties, by presenting me with a son. Of this child, knowing how
wearisome to strangers is the fond exultation of parents, I shall
simply say, that he inherited his mother's beauty; the same touching
loveliness and innocence of expression, the same chiselled nose, mouth,
and chin, the same exquisite auburn hair. In many other features, not
of person merely, but also of mind and manners, as they gradually began
to open before me, this child deepened my love to him by recalling the
image of his mother; and what other image was there that I so much
wished to keep before me, whether waking or asleep? At the time to
which I am now coming but too rapidly, this child, still our only one,
and unusually premature, was within four months of completing his third
year; consequently Agnes was at that time in her twenty-first year; and
I may here add, with respect to myself, that I was in my twenty-sixth.

But, before I come to that period of wo, let me say one word on the
temper of mind which so fluent and serene a current of prosperity may
be thought to have generated. Too common a course I know it is, when
the stream of life flows with absolute tranquillity, and ruffled by no
menace of a breeze--the azure overhead never dimmed by a passing cloud,
that in such circumstances the blood stagnates: life, from excess and
plethora of sweets, becomes insipid: the spirit of action droops: and
it is oftentimes found at such seasons that slight annoyances and
molestations, or even misfortunes in a lower key, are not wholly
undesirable, as means of stimulating the lazy energies, and disturbing
a slumber which is, or soon will be, morbid in its character. I have
known myself cases not a few, where, by the very nicest gradations, and
by steps too silent and insensible for daily notice, the utmost harmony
and reciprocal love had shaded down into fretfulness and petulance,
purely from too easy a life, and because all nobler agitations that
might have ruffled the sensations occasionally, and all distresses even
on the narrowest scale that might have re-awakened the solicitudes of
love, by opening necessities for sympathy, for counsel, or for mutual
aid, had been shut out by foresight too elaborate, or by prosperity too
cloying. But all this, had it otherwise been possible with my
particular mind, and at my early age, was utterly precluded by one
remarkable peculiarity in my temper. Whether it were that I derived
from nature some jealousy and suspicion of all happiness which seems
too perfect and unalloyed--[a spirit of restless distrust, which in
ancient times often led men to throw valuable gems into the sea, in the
hope of thus propitiating the dire deity of misfortune, by voluntarily
breaking the fearful chain of prosperity, and led some of them to weep
and groan when the gems thus sacrificed were afterwards brought back to
their hand by simple fishermen, who had recovered them in the
intestines of fishes--a portentous omen, which was interpreted into a
sorrowful indication that the deity thus answered the propitiatory
appeal, and made solemn proclamation that he had rejected it]--
whether, I say, it were this spirit of jealousy awaked in me by too
steady and too profound a felicity--or whether it were that great
overthrows and calamities have some mysterious power to send forward a
dim misgiving of their advancing footsteps, and really and indeed,

'That in to-day already walks to-morrow;'

or whether it were partly, as I have already put the case in my first
supposition, a natural instinct of distrust, but irritated and
enlivened by a particular shock of superstitious alarm; which, or
whether any of these causes it were that kept me apprehensive, and on
the watch for disastrous change, I will not here undertake to
determine. Too certain it is that I was so. I never ridded myself of an
over-mastering and brooding sense, shadowy and vague, a dim abiding
feeling (that sometimes was and sometimes was not exalted into a
conscious presentiment) of some great calamity travelling towards me;
not perhaps immediately impending--perhaps even at a great distance;
but already--dating from some secret hour--already in motion upon some
remote line of approach. This feeling I could not assuage by sharing it
with Agnes. No motive could be strong enough for persuading me to
communicate so gloomy a thought with one who, considering her extreme
healthiness, was but too remarkably prone to pensive, if not to
sorrowful, contemplations. And thus the obligation which I felt to
silence and reserve, strengthened the morbid impression I had received;
whilst the remarkable incident I have adverted to served powerfully to
rivet the superstitious chain which was continually gathering round me.
The incident was this--and before I repeat it, let me pledge my word of
honor, that I report to you the bare facts of the case, without
exaggeration, and in the simplicity of truth:--There was at that time
resident in the great city, which is the scene of my narrative, a
woman, from some part of Hungary, who pretended to the gift of looking
into futurity. She had made herself known advantageously in several of
the greatest cities of Europe, under the designation of the Hungarian
Prophetess; and very extraordinary instances were cited amongst the
highest circles of her success in the art which she professed. So ample
were the pecuniary tributes which she levied upon the hopes and the
fears, or the simple curiosity of the aristocracy, that she was thus
able to display not unfrequently a disinterestedness and a generosity,
which seemed native to her disposition, amongst the humbler classes of
her applicants; for she rejected no addresses that were made to her,
provided only they were not expressed in levity or scorn, but with
sincerity, and in a spirit of confiding respect. It happened, on one
occasion, when a nursery-servant of ours was waiting in her anteroom
for the purpose of taking her turn in consulting the prophetess
professionally, that she had witnessed a scene of consternation and
unaffected maternal grief in this Hungarian lady upon the sudden
seizure of her son, a child of four or five years old, by a spasmodic
inflammation of the throat (since called croup) peculiar to children,
and in those days not very well understood by medical men. The poor
Hungarian, who had lived chiefly in warm, or at least not damp,
climates, and had never so much as heard of this complaint, was almost
wild with alarm at the rapid increase of the symptoms which attend the
paroxysms, and especially of that loud and distressing sound which
marks the impeded respiration. Great, therefore, was her joy and
gratitude on finding from our servant that she had herself been in
attendance more than once upon cases of the same nature, but very much
more violent,--and that, consequently, she was well qualified to
suggest and to superintend all the measures of instant necessity, such
as the hot-bath, the peculiar medicines, &c., which are almost sure of
success when applied in an early stage. Staying to give her assistance
until a considerable improvement had taken place in the child, our
servant then hurried home to her mistress. Agnes, it may be imagined,
dispatched her back with such further and more precise directions as in
a very short time availed to re-establish the child in convalescence.
These practical services, and the messages of maternal sympathy
repeatedly conveyed from Agnes, had completely won the heart of the
grateful Hungarian, and she announced her intention of calling with her
little boy, to make her personal acknowledgments for the kindness which
had been shown to her. She did so, and we were as much impressed by the
sultana-like style of her Oriental beauty, as she, on her part, was
touched and captivated by the youthful loveliness of my angelic wife.
After sitting for above an hour, during which time she talked with a
simplicity and good feeling that struck us as remarkable in a person
professing an art usually connected with so much of conscious fraud,
she rose to take her leave. I must mention that she had previously had
our little boy sitting on her knee, and had at intervals thrown a hasty
glance upon the palms of his hands. On parting, Agnes, with her usual
frankness, held out her hand. The Hungarian took it with an air of sad
solemnity, pressed it fervently, and said:--'Lady, it is my part in
this life to look behind the curtain of fate; and oftentimes I see such
sights in futurity--some near, some far off--as willingly I would
_not_ see. For you, young and charming lady, looking like that
angel which you are, no destiny can be equal to your deserts. Yet
sometimes, true it is, God sees not as man sees; and he ordains, after
his unfathomable counsels, to the heavenly-minded a portion in heaven,
and to the children whom he loves a rest and a haven not built with
hands. Something that I have seen dimly warns me to look no farther.
Yet, if you desire it, I will do my office, and I will read for you
with truth the lines of fate as they are written upon your hands.'
Agnes was a little startled, or even shocked, by this solemn address;
but, in a minute or so, a mixed feeling--one half of which was
curiosity, and the other half a light-hearted mockery of her own
mysterious awe in the presence of what she had been taught to view as
either fraud or insanity--prompted her playfully to insist upon the
fullest application of the Hungarian's art to her own case; nay, she
would have the hands of our little Francis read and interpreted as well
as her own, and she desired to hear the full professional judgment
delivered without suppression or softening of its harshest awards. She
laughed whilst she said all this; but she also trembled a little. The
Hungarian first took the hand of our young child, and perused it with a
long and steady scrutiny. She said nothing, but sighed heavily as she
resigned it. She then took the hand of Agnes--looked bewildered and
aghast--then gazed piteously from Agnes to her child--and at last,
bursting into tears, began to move steadily out of the room. I followed
her hastily, and remonstrated upon this conduct, by pointing her
attention to the obvious truth--that these mysterious suppressions and
insinuations, which left all shadowy and indistinct, were far more
alarming than the most definite denunciations. Her answer yet rings in
my ear:--'Why should I make myself odious to you and to your innocent
wife? Messenger of evil I am, and have been to many; but evil I will
not prophecy to her. Watch and pray! Much may be done by effectual
prayer. Human means, fleshly arms, are vain. There is an enemy in the
house of life,' [here she quitted her palmistry for the language of
astrology;] 'there is a frightful danger at hand, both for your wife
and your child. Already on that dark ocean, over which we are all
sailing, I can see dimly the point at which the enemy's course shall
cross your wife's. There is but little interval remaining--not many
hours. All is finished; all is accomplished; and already he is almost
up with the darlings of your heart. Be vigilant, be vigilant, and yet
look not to yourself, but to Heaven, for deliverance.'

This woman was not an impostor: she spoke and uttered her oracles under
a wild sense of possession by some superior being, and of mystic
compulsion to say what she would have willingly left unsaid; and never
yet, before or since, have I seen the light of sadness settle with so
solemn an expression into human eyes as when she dropped my wife's
hand, and refused to deliver that burden of prophetic wo with which she
believed herself to be inspired.

The prophetess departed; and what mood of mind did she leave behind her
in Agnes and myself? Naturally there was a little drooping of spirits
at first; the solemnity and the heart-felt sincerity of fear and grief
which marked her demeanor, made it impossible, at the moment when we
were just fresh from their natural influences, that we should recoil
into our ordinary spirits. But with the inevitable elasticity of youth
and youthful gaiety we soon did so; we could not attempt to persuade
ourselves that there had been any conscious fraud or any attempt at
scenical effect in the Hungarian's conduct. She had no motive for
deceiving us; she had refused all offerings of money, and her whole
visit had evidently been made under an overflow of the most grateful
feelings for the attentions shown to her child. We acquitted her,
therefore, of sinister intentions; and with our feelings of jealousy,
feelings in which we had been educated, towards everything that tended
to superstition, we soon agreed to think her some gentle maniac or sad
enthusiast, suffering under some form of morbid melancholy. Forty-eight
hours, with two nights' sleep, sufficed to restore the wonted
equilibrium of our spirits; and that interval brought us onwards to the
6th of April--the day on which, as I have already said, my story
properly commences.

On that day, on that lovely 6th of April, such as I have described it,
that 6th of April, about nine o'clock in the morning, we were seated at
breakfast near the open window--we, that is, Agnes, myself, and little
Francis; the freshness of morning spirits rested upon us; the golden
light of the morning sun illuminated the room; incense was floating
through the air from the gorgeous flowers within and without the house;
there in youthful happiness we sat gathered together, a family of love,
and there we never sat again. Never again were we three gathered
together, nor ever shall be, so long as the sun and its golden light--
the morning and the evening--the earth and its flowers endure.

Often have I occupied myself in recalling every circumstance the most
trivial of this the final morning of what merits to be called my life.
Eleven o'clock, I remember, was striking when Agnes came into my study,
and said that she would go into the city, (for we lived in a quite
rural suburb,) that she would execute some trifling commissions which
she had received from a friend in the country, and would be at home
again between one and two for a stroll which we had agreed to take in
the neighboring meadows. About twenty minutes after this she again came
into my study dressed for going abroad; for such was my admiration of
her, that I had a fancy--fancy it must have been, and yet still I felt
it to be real--that under every change she looked best; if she put on a
shawl, then a shawl became the most feminine of ornaments; if she laid
aside her shawl and her bonnet, then how nymph-like she seemed in her
undisguised and unadorned beauty! Full-dress seemed for the time to be
best, as bringing forward into relief the splendor of her person, and
allowing the exposure of her arms; a simple morning-dress, again,
seemed better still, as fitted to call out the childlike innocence of
her face, by confining the attention to that. But all these are
feelings of fond and blind affection, hanging with rapture over the
object of something too like idolatry. God knows, if that be a sin, I
was but too profound a sinner; yet sin it never was, sin it could not
be, to adore a beauty such as thine, my Agnes. Neither was it her
beauty by itself, and that only, which I sought at such times to
admire; there was a peculiar sort of double relation in which she stood
at moments of pleasurable expectation and excitement, since our little
Francis had become of an age to join our party, which made some aspects
of her character trebly interesting. She was a wife--and wife to one
whom she looked up to as her superior in understanding and in knowledge
of the world, whom, therefore, she leaned to for protection. On the
other hand, she was also a mother. Whilst, therefore, to her child she
supported the matronly part of guide, and the air of an experienced
person; to me she wore, ingenuously and without disguise, the part of a
child herself, with all the giddy hopes and unchastised imaginings of
that buoyant age. This double character, one aspect of which looks
towards her husband and one to her children, sits most gracefully upon
many a young wife whose heart is pure and innocent; and the collision
between the two separate parts imposed by duty on the one hand, by
extreme youth on the other, the one telling her that she is a
responsible head of a family and the depository of her husband's honor
in its tenderest and most vital interests, the other telling her,
through the liveliest language of animal sensibility, and through the
very pulses of her blood, that she is herself a child; this collision
gives an inexpressible charm to the whole demeanor of many a young
married woman, making her other fascinations more touching to her
husband, and deepening the admiration she excites; and the more so, as
it is a collision which cannot exist except among the very innocent.
Years, at any rate, will irresistibly remove this peculiar charm, and
gradually replace it by the graces of the matronly character. But in
Agnes this change had not yet been effected, partly from nature, and
partly from the extreme seclusion of her life. Hitherto she still
retained the unaffected expression of her childlike nature; and so
lovely in my eyes was this perfect exhibition of natural feminine
character, that she rarely or never went out alone upon any little
errand to town which might require her to rely upon her own good sense
and courage, that she did not previously come to exhibit herself before
me. Partly this was desired by me in that lover-like feeling of
admiration already explained, which leads one to court the sight of a
beloved object under every change of dress, and under all effects of
novelty. Partly it was the interest I took in that exhibition of sweet
timidity, and almost childish apprehensiveness, half disguised or
imperfectly acknowledged by herself, which (in the way I have just
explained) so touchingly contrasted with (and for that very reason so
touchingly drew forth) her matronly character. But I hear some objector
say at this point, ought not this very timidity, founded (as in part at
least it was) upon inexperience and conscious inability to face the
dangers of the world, to have suggested reasons for not leaving her to
her own protection? And does it not argue, on my part, an arrogant or
too blind a confidence in the durability of my happiness, as though
charmed against assaults, and liable to no shocks of sudden revolution?
I reply that, from the very constitution of society, and the tone of
manners in the city which we inhabited, there seemed to be a moral
impossibility that any dangers of consequence should meet her in the
course of those brief absences from my protection, which only were
possible; that even to herself any dangers, of a nature to be
anticipated under the known circumstances of the case, seemed almost
imaginary; that even _she_ acknowledged a propriety in being
trained, by slight and brief separations from my guardianship, to face
more boldly those cases of longer separation and of more absolute
consignment to her own resources which circumstances might arise to
create necessarily, and perhaps abruptly. And it is evident that, had
she been the wife of any man engaged in the duties of a profession, she
might have been summoned from the very first, and without the
possibility of any such gradual training, to the necessity of relying
almost singly upon her own courage and discretion. For the other
question, whether I did not depend too blindly and presumptuously upon
my good luck in not at least affording her my protection so long as
nothing occurred to make it impossible? I may reply, most truly, that
all my feelings ran naturally in the very opposite channel. So far from
confiding too much in my luck, in the present instance I was engaged in
a task of writing upon some points of business which could not admit of
further delay; but now, and at all times, I had a secret aversion to
seeing so gentle a creature thrown even for an hour upon her own
resources, though in situations which scarcely seemed to admit of any
occasion for taxing those resources; and often I have felt anger
towards myself for what appeared to be an irrational or effeminate
timidity, and have struggled with my own mind upon occasions like the
present, when I knew that I could not have acknowledged my tremors to a
friend without something like shame, and a fear to excite his ridicule.
No; if in anything I ran into excess, it was in this very point of
anxiety as to all that regarded my wife's security. Her good sense, her
prudence, her courage, (for courage she had in the midst of her
timidity,) her dignity of manner, the more impressive from the
childlike character of her countenance, all should have combined to
reassure me, and yet they did not. I was still anxious for her safety
to an irrational extent; and to sum up the whole in a most weighty line
of Shakspeare, I lived under the constant presence of a feeling which
only that great observer of human nature (so far as I am aware) has
ever noticed, viz., that merely the excess of my happiness made me
jealous of its ability to last, and in that extent less capable of
enjoying it; that in fact the prelibation of my tears, as a homage to
its fragility, was drawn forth by my very sense that my felicity was
too exquisite; or, in the words of the great master

'I wept to have' [absolutely, by anticipation, shed tears in
possessing] 'what I so feared to lose.'

Thus end my explanations, and I now pursue my narrative: Agnes, as I
have said, came into my room again before leaving the house--we
conversed for five minutes--we parted--she went out--her last words
being that she would return at half-past one o'clock; and not long
after that time, if ever mimic bells--bells of rejoicing, or bells of
mourning, are heard in desert spaces of the air, and (as some have
said) in unreal worlds, that mock our own, and repeat, for ridicule,
the vain and unprofitable motions of man, then too surely, about this
hour, began to toll the funeral knell of my earthly happiness--its
final hour had sounded.

* * * * *

One o'clock had arrived; fifteen minutes after, I strolled into the
garden, and began to look over the little garden-gate in expectation of
every moment descrying Agnes in the distance. Half an hour passed, and
for ten minutes more I was tolerably quiet. From this time till half-
past two I became constantly more agitated--_agitated,_ perhaps,
is too strong a word--but I was restless and anxious beyond what I
should have chosen to acknowledge. Still I kept arguing, What is half
an hour? what is an hour? A thousand things might have occurred to
cause that delay, without needing to suppose any accident; or, if an
accident, why not a very trifling one? She may have slightly hurt her
foot--she may have slightly sprained her ankle. 'Oh, doubtless,' I
exclaimed to myself, 'it will be a mere trifle, or perhaps nothing at
all.' But I remember that, even whilst I was saying this, I took my hat
and walked with nervous haste into the little quiet lane upon which our
garden-gate opened. The lane led by a few turnings, and after a course
of about five hundred yards, into a broad high-road, which even at that
day had begun to assume the character of a street, and allowed an
unobstructed range of view in the direction of the city for at least a
mile. Here I stationed myself, for the air was so clear that I could
distinguish dress and figure to a much greater distance than usual.
Even on such a day, however, the remote distance was hazy and
indistinct, and at any other season I should have been diverted with
the various mistakes I made. From occasional combinations of color,
modified by light and shade, and of course powerfully assisted by the
creative state of the eye under this nervous apprehensiveness, I
continued to shape into images of Agnes forms without end, that upon
nearer approach presented the most grotesque contrasts to her
impressive appearance. But I had ceased even to comprehend the
ludicrous; my agitation was now so overruling and engrossing that I
lost even my intellectual sense of it; and now first I understood
practically and feelingly the anguish of hope alternating with
disappointment, as it may be supposed to act upon the poor shipwrecked
seaman, alone and upon a desolate coast, straining his sight for ever
to the fickle element which has betrayed him, but which only can
deliver him, and with his eyes still tracing in the far distance,

'Ships, dim-discover'd, dropping from the clouds,'--

which a brief interval of suspense still for ever disperses into hollow
pageants of air or vapor. One deception melted away only to be
succeeded by another; still I fancied that at last to a certainty I
could descry the tall figure of Agnes, her gipsy hat, and even the
peculiar elegance of her walk. Often I went so far as to laugh at
myself, and even to tax my recent fears with unmanliness and
effeminacy, on recollecting the audible throbbings of my heart, and the
nervous palpitations which had besieged me; but these symptoms, whether
effeminate or not, began to come back tumultuously under the gloomy
doubts that succeeded almost before I had uttered this self-reproach.
Still I found myself mocked and deluded with false hopes; yet still I
renewed my quick walk, and the intensity of my watch for that radiant
form that was fated never more to be seen returning from the cruel

It was nearly half-past three, and therefore close upon two hours
beyond the time fixed by Agnes for her return, when I became absolutely
incapable of supporting the further torture of suspense, and I suddenly
took the resolution of returning home and concerting with my female
servants some energetic measures, though _what_ I could hardly say,
on behalf of their mistress. On entering the garden-gate I met our
little child Francis, who unconsciously inflicted a pang upon me which
he neither could have meditated nor have understood. I passed him at
his play, perhaps even unaware of his presence, but he recalled me to
that perception by crying aloud that he had just seen his mamma.

'When--where?' I asked convulsively.

'Up stairs in her bedroom,' was his instantaneous answer.

His manner was such as forbade me to suppose that he could be joking;
and, as it was barely possible (though, for reasons well known to me,
in the highest degree improbable) that Agnes might have returned by a
by-path, which, leading through a dangerous and disreputable suburb,
would not have coincided at any one point with the public road where I
had been keeping my station. I sprang forward into the house, up
stairs, and in rapid succession into every room where it was likely
that she might be found; but everywhere there was a dead silence,
disturbed only by myself, for, in my growing confusion of thought, I
believe that I rang the bell violently in every room I entered. No such
summons, however, was needed, for the servants, two of whom at the
least were most faithful creatures, and devotedly attached to their
young mistress, stood ready of themselves to come and make inquiries of
me as soon as they became aware of the alarming fact, that I had
returned without her.

Until this moment, though having some private reasons for surprise that
she should have failed to come into the house for a minute or two at
the hour prefixed, in order to make some promised domestic arrangements
for the day, they had taken it for granted that she must have met with
me at some distance from home--and that either the extreme beauty of
the day had beguiled her of all petty household recollections, or (as a
conjecture more in harmony with past experiences) that my impatience
and solicitations had persuaded her to lay aside her own plans for the
moment at the risk of some little domestic inconvenience. Now, however,
in a single instant vanished _every_ mode of accounting for their
mistress's absence; and the consternation of our looks communicated
contagiously, by the most unerring of all languages, from each to the
other what thoughts were uppermost in our panic-stricken hearts. If to
any person it should seem that our alarm was disproportioned to the
occasion, and not justified at least by anything as yet made known to
us, let that person consider the weight due to the two following facts:
First, that from the recency of our settlement in this neighborhood,
and from the extreme seclusion of my wife's previous life at a vast
distance from the metropolis, she had positively no friends on her list
of visitors who resided in this great capital; secondly, and far above
all beside, let him remember the awful denunciations, so unexpectedly
tallying with this alarming and mysterious absence, of the Hungarian
prophetess; these had been slighted--almost dismissed from our
thoughts; but now in sudden reaction they came back upon us with a
frightful power to lacerate and to sting--the shadowy outline of a
spiritual agency, such as that which could at all predict the events,
combining in one mysterious effect, with the shadowy outline of those
very predictions. The power, that could have predicted, was as dim and
as hard to grasp as was the precise nature of the evil that had been

An icy terror froze my blood at this moment when I looked at the
significant glances, too easily understood by me, that were exchanged
between the servants. My mouth had been for the last two hours growing
more and more parched, so that at present, from mere want of moisture,
I could not separate my lips to speak. One of the women saw the vain
efforts I was making, and hastily brought me a glass of water. With the
first recovery of speech, I asked them what little Francis had meant by
saying that he had seen his mother in her bedroom. Their reply was,
that they were as much at a loss to discover his meaning as I was; that
he had made the same assertion to them, and with so much earnestness,
that they had, all in succession, gone up stairs to look for her, and
with the fullest expectation of finding her. This was a mystery which
remained such to the very last; there was no doubt whatsoever that the
child believed himself to have seen his mother; that he could not have
seen her in her human bodily presence, there is as little doubt as
there is, alas! that in this world he never _did_ see her again.
The poor child constantly adhered to his story, and with a
circumstantiality far beyond all power of invention that could be
presumed in an artless infant. Every attempt at puzzling him or
entangling him in contradictions by means of cross-examination was but
labor thrown away; though indeed, it is true enough that for those
attempts, as will soon be seen, there was but a brief interval allowed.

Not dwelling upon this subject at present, I turned to Hannah--a woman
who held the nominal office of cook in our little establishment, but
whose real duties had been much more about her mistress's person--and
with a searching look of appeal I asked her whether, in this moment of
trial, when (as she might see) I was not so perfectly master of myself
as perhaps always to depend upon seeing what was best to be done, she
would consent to accompany me into the city, and take upon herself
those obvious considerations of policy or prudence which might but too
easily escape my mind, darkened, and likely to be darkened, as to its
power of discernment by the hurricane of affliction now too probably at
hand. She answered my appeal with the fervor I expected from what I had
already known of her character. She was a woman of a strong, fiery,
perhaps I might say of heroic mind, supported by a courage that was
absolutely indomitable, and by a strength of bodily frame very unusual
in a woman, and beyond the promise even of her person. She had suffered
as deep a wrench in her own affections as a human being can suffer; she
had lost her one sole child, a fair-haired boy of most striking beauty
and interesting disposition, at the age of seventeen, and by the worst
of all possible fates; he lived (as we did at that time) in a large
commercial city overflowing with profligacy, and with temptations of
every order; he had been led astray; culpable he had been, but by very
much the least culpable of the set into which accident had thrown him,
as regarded acts and probable intentions; and as regarded palliations
from childish years, from total inexperience, or any other alleviating
circumstances that could be urged, having everything to plead--and of
all his accomplices the only one who had anything to plead. Interest,
however, he had little or none; and whilst some hoary villains of the
party, who happened to be more powerfully befriended, were finally
allowed to escape with a punishment little more than nominal, he and
two others were selected as sacrifices to the offended laws. They
suffered capitally. All three behaved well; but the poor boy in
particular, with a courage, a resignation, and a meekness, so
distinguished and beyond his years as to attract the admiration and the
liveliest sympathy of the public universally. If strangers could feel
in that way, if the mere hardened executioner could be melted at the
final scene,--it may be judged to what a fierce and terrific height
would ascend the affliction of a doating mother, constitutionally too
fervid in her affections. I have heard an official person declare, that
the spectacle of her desolation and frantic anguish was the most
frightful thing he had ever witnessed, and so harrowing to the
feelings, that all who could by their rank venture upon such an
irregularity, absented themselves during the critical period from the
office which corresponded with the government; for, as I have said, the
affair took place in a large provincial city, at a great distance from
the capital. All who knew this woman, or who were witnesses to the
alteration which one fortnight had wrought in her person as well as her
demeanor, fancied it impossible that she could continue to live; or
that, if she did, it must be through the giving way of her reason. They
proved, however, to be mistaken; or, at least, if (as some thought) her
reason did suffer in some degree, this result showed itself in the
inequality of her temper, in moody fits of abstraction, and the morbid
energy of her manner at times under the absence of all adequate
external excitement, rather than in any positive and apparent
hallucinations of thought. The charm which had mainly carried off the
instant danger to her faculties, was doubtless the intense sympathy
which she met with. And in these offices of consolation my wife stood
foremost. For, and that was fortunate, she had found herself able,
without violence to her own sincerest opinions in the case, to offer
precisely that form of sympathy which was most soothing to the angry
irritation of the poor mother; not only had she shown a _direct_
interest in the boy, and not a mere interest of _reflection_ from
that which she took in the mother, and had expressed it by visits to
his dungeon, and by every sort of attention to his comforts which his
case called for, or the prison regulations allowed; not only had she
wept with the distracted woman as if for a brother of her own; but,
which went farther than all the rest in softening the mother's heart,
she had loudly and indignantly proclaimed her belief in the boy's
innocence, and in the same tone her sense of the crying injustice
committed as to the selection of the victims, and the proportion of the
punishment awarded. Others, in the language of a great poet,

'Had pitied _her,_ and not her grief;'

they had either not been able to see, or, from carelessness, had
neglected to see, any peculiar wrong done to her in the matter which
occasioned her grief,--but had simply felt compassion for her as for
one summoned, in a regular course of providential and human
dispensation, to face an affliction, heavy in itself, but not heavy
from any special defect of equity. Consequently their very sympathy,
being so much built upon the assumption that an only child had offended
to the extent implied in his sentence, oftentimes clothed itself in
expressions which she felt to be not consolations but insults, and, in
fact, so many justifications of those whom it relieved her overcharged
heart to regard as the very worst of enemies. Agnes, on the other hand,
took the very same view of the case as herself; and, though otherwise
the gentlest of all gentle creatures, yet here, from the generous
fervor of her reverence for justice, and her abhorrence of oppression,
she gave herself no trouble to moderate the energy of her language: nor
did I, on my part, feeling that substantially she was in the right,
think it of importance to dispute about the exact degrees of the wrong
done or the indignation due to it. In this way it happened naturally
enough that at one and the same time, though little contemplating
either of these results, Agnes had done a prodigious service to the
poor desolate mother by breaking the force of her misery, as well as by
arming the active agencies of indignation against the depressing ones
of solitary grief, and for herself had won a most grateful and devoted
friend, who would have gone through fire and water to serve her, and
was thenceforwards most anxious for some opportunity to testify how
deep had been her sense of the goodness shown to her by her benign
young mistress, and how incapable of suffering abatement by time. It
remains to add, which I have slightly noticed before, that this woman
was of unusual personal strength: her bodily frame matched with her
intellectual: and I notice this _now_ with the more emphasis,
because I am coming rapidly upon ground where it will be seen that this
one qualification was of more summary importance to us--did us more
'yeoman's service' at a crisis the most awful--than other qualities of
greater name and pretension. _Hannah_ was this woman's Christian
name; and her name and her memory are to me amongst the most hallowed
of my earthly recollections.

One of her two fellow-servants, known technically amongst us as the
'parlor maid,' was also, but not equally, attached to her mistress; and
merely because her nature, less powerfully formed and endowed, did not
allow her to entertain or to comprehend any service equally fervid of
passion or of impassioned action. She, however, was good, affectionate,
and worthy to be trusted. But a third there was, a nursery maid, and
therefore more naturally and more immediately standing within the
confidence of her mistress--her I could not trust: her I suspected. But
of that hereafter. Meantime, Hannah, she upon whom I leaned as upon a
staff in all which respected her mistress, ran up stairs, after I had
spoken and received her answer, in order hastily to dress and prepare
herself for going out along with me to the city. I did not ask her to
be quick in her movements: I knew there was no need: and, whilst she
was absent, I took up, in one of my fretful movements of nervousness, a
book which was lying upon a side-table: the book fell open of itself at
a particular page; and in that, perhaps, there was nothing
extraordinary, for it was a little portable edition of _Paradise
Lost_; and the page was one which I must naturally have turned to
many a time: for to Agnes I had read all the great masters of
literature, especially those of modern times; so that few people knew
the high classics more familiarly: and as to the passage in question,
from its divine beauty I had read it aloud to her, perhaps, on fifty
separate occasions. All this I mention to take away any appearance of a
vulgar attempt to create omens; but still, in the very act of
confessing the simple truth, and thus weakening the marvellous
character of the anecdote, I must notice it as a strange instance of
the '_Sortes Miltonian_,'--that precisely at such a moment as
this I should find thrown in my way, should feel tempted to take up,
and should open, a volume containing such a passage as the following:
and observe, moreover, that although the volume, _once being taken
up_, would naturally open where it had been most frequently read,
there were, however, many passages which had been read _as_
frequently--or more so. The particular passage upon which I opened at
this moment was that most beautiful one in which the fatal morning
separation is described between Adam and his bride--that separation so
pregnant with wo, which eventually proved the occasion of the mortal
transgression--the last scene between our first parents at which both
were innocent and both were happy--although the superior intellect
already felt, and, in the slight altercation preceding this separation,
had already expressed a dim misgiving of some coming change: these are
the words, and in depth of pathos they have rarely been approached:--

'Oft he to her his charge of quick return
Repeated; she to him as oft engag'd
To be returned by noon amid the bow'r,
And all things in best order to invite
Noon-tide repast, or afternoon's repose.
Oh much deceived, much failing, hapless Eve!
Of thy presumed return, event perverse!
Thou never from that hour in Paradise
Found'st either sweet repast, or sound repose.'

'_My_ Eve!' I exclaimed, 'partner in _my_ paradise, where art thou?
_Much failing_ thou wilt not be found, nor _much deceived_; innocent in
any case thou art; but, alas! too surely by this time _hapless_, and
the victim of some diabolic wickedness.' Thus I murmured to myself;
thus I ejaculated; thus I apostrophized my Agnes; then again came a
stormier mood. I could not sit still; I could not stand in quiet; I
threw the book from me with violence against the wall; I began to hurry
backwards and forwards in a short uneasy walk, when suddenly a sound, a
step; it was the sound of the garden-gate opening, followed by a hasty
tread. Whose tread? Not for a moment could it be fancied the oread step
which belonged to that daughter of the hills--my wife, my Agnes; no, it
was the dull massy tread of a man: and immediately there came a loud
blow upon the door, and in the next moment, the bell having been found,
a furious peal of ringing. Oh coward heart! not for a lease of
immortality could I have gone forwards myself. My breath failed me; an
interval came in which respiration seemed to be stifled--the blood to
halt in its current; and then and there I recognised in myself the
force and living truth of that Scriptural description of a heart
consciously beset by evil without escape: 'Susannah _sighed_.' Yes, a
long, long sigh--a deep, deep sigh--that is, the natural language by
which the over-charged heart utters forth the wo that else would break
it. I sighed--oh how profoundly! But that did not give me power to
move. Who will go to the door? I whispered audibly. Who is at the door?
was the inaudible whisper of my heart. Then might be seen the
characteristic differences of the three women. That one, whom I
suspected, I heard raising an upper window to look out and reconnoitre.
The affectionate Rachael, on the other hand, ran eagerly down stairs;
but Hannah, half dressed, even her bosom exposed, passed her like a
storm; and before I heard any sound of opening a door, I saw from the
spot where I stood the door already wide open, and a man in the costume
of a policeman. All that he said I could not hear; but this I heard--
that I was wanted at the police office, and had better come off without
delay. He seemed then to get a glimpse of me, and to make an effort
towards coming nearer; but I slunk away, and left to Hannah the task of
drawing from him any circumstances which he might know. But apparently
there was not much to tell, or rather, said I, there is too much, the
_much_ absorbs the _many_; some one mighty evil transcends and quells
all particulars. At length the door was closed, and the man was gone.
Hannah crept slowly along the passage, and looked in hesitatingly. Her
very movements and stealthy pace testified that she had heard nothing
which, even by comparison, she could think good news. 'Tell me not now,
Hannah,' I said; 'wait till we are in the open air.' She went up stairs
again. How short seemed the time till she descended! how I longed for
further respite! 'Hannah!' I said at length when we were fairly moving
upon the road, 'Hannah! I am too sure you have nothing good to tell.
But now tell me the worst, and let that be in the fewest words

'Sir,' she said, 'we had better wait until we reach the office; for
really I could not understand the man. He says that my mistress is
detained upon some charge; but _what_, I could not at all make
out. He was a man that knew something of you, Sir, I believe, and he
wished to be civil, and kept saying, "Oh! I dare say it will turn out
nothing at all, many such charges are made idly and carelessly, and
some maliciously." "But what charges?" I cried, and then he wanted to
speak privately to you. But I told him that of all persons he must not
speak to you, if he had anything painful to tell; for that you were too
much disturbed already, and had been for some hours, out of anxiety and
terror about my mistress, to bear much more. So, when he heard that, he
was less willing to speak freely than before. He might prove wrong, he
said; he might give offence; things might turn out far otherwise than
according to first appearances; for his part, he could not believe
anything amiss of so sweet a lady. And after all, it would be better to
wait till we reached the office.'

Thus much then was clear--Agnes was under some accusation. This was
already worse than the worst I had anticipated. 'And then,' said I,
thinking aloud to Hannah, 'one of two things is apparent to me; either
the accusation is one of pure hellish malice, without a color of
probability or the shadow of a foundation, and that way, alas! I am
driven in my fears by that Hungarian woman's prophecy; or, which but
for my desponding heart I should be more inclined to think, the charge
has grown out of my poor wife's rustic ignorance as to the usages then
recently established by law with regard to the kind of money that could
be legally tendered. This, however, was a suggestion that did not tend
to alleviate my anxiety; and my nervousness had mounted to a painful,
almost to a disabling degree, by the time we reached the office.
Already on our road thither some parties had passed us who were
conversing with eagerness upon the case: so much we collected from the
many and ardent expressions about 'the lady's beauty,' though the rest
of such words as we could catch were ill calculated to relieve my
suspense. This, then, at least, was certain--that my poor timid Agnes
had already been exhibited before a tumultuous crowd; that her name and
reputation had gone forth as a subject of discussion for the public;
and that the domestic seclusion and privacy within which it was her
matronly privilege to move had already undergone a rude violation.

The office, and all the purlieus of the office, were occupied by a
dense crowd. That, perhaps, was always the case, more or less, at this
time of day; but at present the crowd was manifestly possessed by a
more than ordinary interest; and there was a unity in this possessing
interest; all were talking on the same subject, the case in which Agnes
had so recently appeared in some character or other; and by this time
it became but too certain in the character of an accused person. Pity
was the prevailing sentiment amongst the mob; but the opinions varied
much as to the probable criminality of the prisoner. I made my way into
the office. The presiding magistrates had all retired for the
afternoon, and would not reassemble until eight o'clock in the evening.
Some clerks only or officers of the court remained, who were too much
harassed by applications for various forms and papers connected with
the routine of public business, and by other official duties which
required signatures or attestations, to find much leisure for answering
individual questions. Some, however, listened with a marked air of
attention to my earnest request for the circumstantial details of the
case, but finally referred me to a vast folio volume, in which were
entered all the charges, of whatever nature, involving any serious
tendency--in fact, all that exceeded a misdemeanor--in the regular
chronological succession according to which they came before the
magistrate. Here, in this vast calendar of guilt and misery, amidst the
_aliases_ or cant designations of ruffians, prostitutes, felons,
stood the description, at full length, Christian and surnames all
properly registered, of my Agnes--of her whose very name had always
sounded to my ears like the very echo of mountain innocence, purity,
and pastoral simplicity. Here in another column stood the name and
residence of her accuser. I shall call him _Barratt_, for that was
amongst his names, and a name by which he had at one period of his
infamous life been known to the public, though not his principal name,
or the one which he had thought fit to assume at this era. James
Barratt, then, as I shall here call him, was a haberdasher--keeping a
large and conspicuous shop in a very crowded and what was then
considered a fashionable part of the city. The charge was plain and
short. Did I live to read it? It accused Agnes M---- of having on that
morning secreted in her muff, and feloniously carried away, a valuable
piece of Mechlin lace, the property of James Barratt. And the result of
the first examination was thus communicated in a separate column,
written in red ink--'Remanded to the second day after to-morrow for
final examination.' Everything in this sin-polluted register was in
manuscript; but at night the records of each day were regularly
transferred to a printed journal, enlarged by comments and explanatory
descriptions from some one of the clerks, whose province it was to
furnish this intelligence to the public journals. On that same night,
therefore, would go forth to the world such an account of the case, and
such a description of my wife's person, as would inevitably summon to
the next exhibition of her misery, as by special invitation and
advertisement, the whole world of this vast metropolis--the idle, the
curious, the brutal, the hardened amateur in spectacles of wo, and the
benign philanthropist who frequents such scenes with the purpose of
carrying alleviation to their afflictions. All alike, whatever might be
their motives or the spirit of their actions, would rush (as to some
grand festival of curiosity and sentimental luxury) to this public
martyrdom of my innocent wife.

Meantime, what was the first thing to be done? Manifestly, to see
Agnes: her account of the affair might suggest the steps to be taken.
Prudence, therefore, at any rate, prescribed this course; and my heart
would not have tolerated any other. I applied, therefore, at once, for
information as to the proper mode of effecting this purpose without
delay. What was my horror at learning that, by a recent regulation of
all the police-offices, under the direction of the public minister who
presided over that department of the national administration, no person
could be admitted to an interview with any accused party during the
progress of the official examinations; or, in fact, until the final
committal of the prisoner for trial. This rule was supposed to be
attended by great public advantages, and had rarely been relaxed--
never, indeed, without a special interposition of the police minister
authorizing its suspension. But was the exclusion absolute and
universal? Might not, at least, a female servant, simply as the bearer
of such articles as were indispensable to female delicacy and comfort,
have access to her mistress? No; the exclusion was total and
unconditional. To argue the point was manifestly idle; the subordinate
officers had no discretion in the matter; nor, in fact, had any other
official person, whatever were his rank, except the supreme one; and to
him I neither had any obvious means of introduction, nor (in case of
obtaining such an introduction) any chance of success; for the spirit
of the rule, I foresaw it would be answered, applied with especial
force to cases like the present.

Mere human feelings of pity, sympathy with my too visible agitation,
superadded to something of perhaps reverence for the blighting misery
that was now opening its artillery upon me--for misery has a privilege,
and everywhere is felt to be a holy thing--had combined to procure for
me some attention and some indulgence hitherto. Answers had been given
with precision, explanations made at length, and anxiety shown to
satisfy my inquiries. But this could not last; the inexorable
necessities of public business coming back in a torrent upon the
official people after this momentary interruption, forbade them to
indulge any further consideration for an individual case, and I saw
that I must not stay any longer. I was rapidly coming to be regarded as
a hinderance to the movement of public affairs; and the recollection
that I might again have occasion for some appeal to these men in their
official characters, admonished me not to abuse my privilege of the
moment. After returning thanks, therefore, for the disposition shown to
oblige me, I retired.

Slowly did I and Hannah retrace our steps. Hannah sustained, in the
tone of her spirits, by the extremity of her anger, a mood of feeling
which I did not share. Indignation was to her in the stead of
consolation and hope. I, for my part, could not seek even a momentary
shelter from my tempestuous affliction in that temper of mind. The man
who could accuse my Agnes, and accuse her of such a crime, I felt to be
a monster; and in my thoughts he was already doomed to a bloody
atonement (atonement! alas! what atonement!) whenever the time arrived
that _her_ cause would not be prejudiced, or the current of public
feeling made to turn in his favor by investing him with the semblance
of an injured or suffering person. So much was settled in my thoughts
with the stern serenity of a decree issuing from a judgment-seat. But
that gave no relief, no shadow of relief, to the misery which was now
consuming me. Here was an end, in one hour, to the happiness of a life.
In one hour it had given way, root and branch--had melted like so much
frost-work, or a pageant of vapory exhalations. In a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, and yet for ever and ever, I comprehended the
total ruin of my situation. The case, as others might think, was yet in
suspense; and there was room enough for very rational hopes, especially
where there was an absolute certainty of innocence. Total freedom from
all doubt on that point seemed to justify almost more than hopes. This
might be said, and most people would have been more or less consoled by
it. I was not. I felt as certain, as irredeemably, as hopelessly
certain of the final results as though I had seen the record in the
books of Heaven. 'Hope nothing,' I said to myself; 'think not of hope
in this world, but think only how best to walk steadily, and not to
reel like a creature wanting discourse of reason, or incapable of
religious hopes under the burden which it has pleased God to impose,
and which in this life cannot be shaken off. The countenance of man is
made to look upward and to the skies. Thither also point henceforwards
your heart and your thoughts. Never again let your thoughts travel
earthwards. Settle them on the heavens, to which your Agnes is already
summoned. The call is clear, and not to be mistaken. Little in
_her_ fate now depends upon you, or upon anything that man can do.
Look, therefore, to yourself; see that you make not shipwreck of your
heavenly freight because your earthly freight is lost; and miss not, by
any acts of wild and presumptuous despair, that final reunion with your
Agnes, which can only be descried through vistas that open through the

Such were the thoughts, thoughts often made audible, which came
spontaneously like oracles from afar, as I strode homewards with Hannah
by my side. Her, meantime, I seemed to hear; for at times I seemed and
I intended to answer her. But answer her I did not; for not ten words
of all that she said did I really and consciously hear. How I went
through that night is more entirely a blank in my memory, more entirely
a chapter of chaos and the confusion of chaos, than any other passage
the most impressive in my life. If I even slumbered for a moment, as at
intervals I did sometimes, though never sitting down, but standing or
pacing about throughout the night, and if in this way I attained a
momentary respite from self-consciousness, no sooner had I reached this
enviable state of oblivion, than some internal sting of irritation
_as_ rapidly dispersed the whole fickle fabric of sleep; and as if
the momentary trance--this fugitive beguilement of my wo--had been
conceded by a demon's subtle malice only with the purpose of barbing
the pang, by thus forcing it into a stronger relief through the
insidious peace preceding it. It is a well known and most familiar
experience to all the sons and daughters of affliction, that under no
circumstances is the piercing, lancinating torment of a recent calamity
felt so keenly as in the first moments of awaking in the morning from
the night's slumbers. Just at the very instant when the clouds of
sleep, and the whole fantastic illusions of dreaminess are dispersing,
just as the realities of life are re-assuming their steadfast forms--
re-shaping themselves--and settling anew into those fixed relations
which they are to preserve throughout the waking hours; in that
particular crisis of transition from the unreal to the real, the wo
which besieges the brain and the life-springs at the heart rushes in
afresh amongst the other crowd of realities, and has at the moment of
restoration literally the force and liveliness of a new birth--the very
same pang, and no whit feebler, as that which belonged to it when it
was first made known. From the total hush of oblivion which had buried
it and sealed it up, as it were, during the sleeping hours, it starts
into sudden life on our first awaking, and is to all intents and
purposes a new and not an old affliction--one which brings with it the
old original shock which attended its first annunciation.

That night--that first night of separation from my wife--_how_ it
passed, I know not; I know only _that_ it passed, I being in our
common bed-chamber, that holiest of all temples that are consecrated to
human attachments, whenever the heart is pure of man and woman, and the
love is strong--I being in that bedchamber, once the temple now the
sepulchre of our happiness,--I there, and my wife--my innocent wife--in
a dungeon. As the morning light began to break, somebody knocked at the
door; it was Hannah: she took my hand--misery levels all feeble
distinctions of station, sex, age--she noticed my excessive
feverishness, and gravely remonstrated with me upon the necessity there
was that I should maintain as much health as possible for the sake of
'others,' if not for myself. She then brought me some tea, which
refreshed me greatly; for I had tasted nothing at all beyond a little
water since the preceding morning's breakfast. This refreshment seemed
to relax and thaw the stiff frozen state of cheerless, rayless despair
in which I had passed the night; I became susceptible of consolation--
that consolation which lies involved in kindness and gentleness of
manner--if not susceptible more than before of any positive hope. I sat
down; and, having no witnesses to my weakness but this kind and
faithful woman, I wept, and I found a relief in tears; and she, with
the ready sympathy of woman, wept along with me. All at once she
ventured upon the circumstances (so far as she had been able to collect
them from the reports of those who had been present at the examination)
of our calamity. There was little indeed either to excite or to gratify
any interest or curiosity separate from the _personal_ interest
inevitably connected with a case to which there were two such parties
as a brutal, sensual, degraded ruffian, on one side in character of
accuser, and on the other as defendant, a meek angel of a woman, timid
and fainting from the horrors of her situation, and under the
licentious gaze of the crowd--yet, at the same time, bold in conscious
innocence, and in the very teeth of the suspicions which beset her,
winning the good opinion, as well as the good wishes of all who saw
her. There had been at this first examination little for her to say
beyond the assigning her name, age, and place of abode; and here it was
fortunate that her own excellent good sense concurred with her perfect
integrity and intuitive hatred of all indirect or crooked courses in
prompting her to an undisguised statement of the simple truth, without
a momentary hesitation or attempt either at evasion or suppression.
With equally good intentions in similar situations many a woman has
seriously injured her cause by slight evasions of the entire truth,
where nevertheless her only purpose has been the natural and ingenuous
one of seeking to save the reputation untainted of a name which she
felt to have been confided to her keeping. The purpose was an honorable
one, but erroneously pursued. Agnes fell into no such error. She
answered calmly, simply, and truly, to every question put by the
magistrates; and beyond _that_ there was little opportunity for
her to speak; the whole business of this preliminary examination being
confined to the deposition of the accuser as to the circumstances under
which he alleged the act of felonious appropriation to have taken
place. These circumstances were perfectly uninteresting, considered in
themselves; but amongst them was one which to us had the most shocking
interest, from the absolute proof thus furnished of a deep-laid plot
against Agnes. But for this one circumstance there would have been a
possibility that the whole had originated in error--error growing out
of and acting upon a nature originally suspicious, and confirmed
perhaps by an unfortunate experience. And in proportion as that was
possible, the chances increased that the accuser might, as the
examinations advanced, and the winning character of the accused party
began to develop itself, begin to see his error, and to retract his own
over-hasty suspicions. But now we saw at a glance that for this hope
there was no countenance whatever, since one solitary circumstance
sufficed to establish a conspiracy. The deposition bore--that the lace
had been secreted and afterwards detected in a muff; now it was a fact
as well known to both of us as the fact of Agnes having gone out at
all--that she had laid aside her winter's dress for the first time on
this genial sunny day. Muff she had not at the time, nor could have had
appropriately from the style of her costume in other respects. What was
the effect upon us of this remarkable discovery! Of course there died
at once the hope of any abandonment by the prosecutor of his purpose;
because here was proof of a predetermined plot. This hope died at once;
but then, as it was one which never had presented itself to my mind, I
lost nothing by which I had ever been solaced. On the other hand, it
will be obvious that a new hope at the same time arose to take its
place, viz., the reasonable one that by this single detection, if once
established, we might raise a strong presumption of conspiracy, and
moreover that, as a leading fact or clue, it might serve to guide us in
detecting others. Hannah was sanguine in this expectation; and for a
moment her hopes were contagiously exciting to mine. But the hideous
despondency which in my mind had settled upon the whole affair from the
very first, the superstitious presentiment I had of a total blight
brooding over the entire harvest of my life and its promises, (tracing
itself originally, I am almost ashamed to own, up to that prediction of
the Hungarian woman)--denied me steady light, anything--all in short
but a wandering ray of hope. It was right, of course, nay,
indispensable, that the circumstance of the muff should be strongly
insisted upon at the next examination, pressed against the prosecutor,
and sifted to the uttermost. An able lawyer would turn this to a
triumphant account; and it would be admirable as a means of pre-
engaging the good opinion as well as the sympathies of the public in
behalf of the prisoner. But, for its final effect--my conviction
remained, not to be shaken, that all would be useless; that our doom
had gone forth, and was irrevocable.

Let me not linger too much over those sad times. Morning came on as
usual; for it is strange, but true, that to the very wretched it seems
wonderful that times and seasons should keep their appointed courses in
the midst of such mighty overthrows, and such interruption to the
courses of their own wonted happiness and their habitual expectations.
Why should morning and night, why should all movements in the natural
world be so regular, whilst in the moral world all is so irregular and
anomalous? Yet the sun and the moon rise and set as usual upon the
mightiest revolutions of empire and of worldly fortune that this planet
ever beholds; and it is sometimes even a comfort to know that this will
be the case. A great criminal, sentenced to an agonizing punishment,
has derived a fortitude and a consolation from recollecting that the
day would run its inevitable course--that a day after all was
_but_ a day--that the mighty wheel of alternate light and darkness
must and would revolve--and that the evening star would rise as usual,
and shine with its untroubled lustre upon the dust and ashes of what
_had_ indeed suffered, and so recently, the most bitter pangs, but
would then have ceased to suffer. 'La Journe,' said Damien,

'La journe sera dure, mais elle se passera.'

'----_Se passera_:' yes, that is true, I whispered to myself; my
day also, my season of trial will be hard to bear; but that also will
have an end; that also '_se passera_.' Thus I talked or thought so
long as I thought at all; for the hour was now rapidly approaching,
when thinking in any shape would for some time be at an end for me.

That day, as the morning advanced, I went again, accompanied by Hannah,
to the police court and to the prison--a vast, ancient, in parts
ruinous, and most gloomy pile of building. In those days the
administration of justice was, if not more corrupt, certainly in its
inferior departments by far more careless than it is at present, and
liable to thousands of interruptions and mal-practices, supporting
themselves upon old traditionary usages which required at least half a
century, and the shattering everywhere given to old systems by the
French Revolution, together with the universal energy of mind applied
to those subjects over the whole length and breadth of Christendom, to
approach with any effectual reforms. Knowing this, and having myself
had direct personal cognisance of various cases in which bribery had
been applied with success, I was not without considerable hope that
perhaps Hannah and myself might avail ourselves of this irregular
passport through the gates of the prison. And, had the new regulation
been of somewhat longer standing, there is little doubt that I should
have been found right; unfortunately, as yet it had all the freshness
of newborn vigor, and kept itself in remembrance by the singular
irritation it excited. Besides this, it was a pet novelty of one
particular minister, new to the possession of power, anxious to
distinguish himself, proud of his creative functions within the range
of his office, and very sensitively jealous on the point of opposition
to his mandates. Vain, therefore, on this day were all my efforts to
corrupt the jailers; and, in fact, anticipating a time when I might
have occasion to corrupt some of them for a more important purpose and
on a larger scale, I did not think it prudent to proclaim my character
beforehand as one who tampered with such means, and thus to arm against
myself those jealousies in official people, which it was so peculiarly
important that I should keep asleep.

All that day, however, I lingered about the avenues and vast courts in
the precincts of the prison, and near one particular wing of the
building, which had been pointed out to me by a jailer as the section
allotted to those who were in the situation of Agnes; that is, waiting
their final commitment for trial. The building generally he could
indicate with certainty, but he professed himself unable to indicate
the particular part of it which 'the young woman brought in on the day
previous' would be likely to occupy; consequently he could not point
out the window from which her cell (her '_cell_!' what a word!)
would be lighted. 'But, master,' he went on to say, 'I would advise
nobody to try that game.' He looked with an air so significant, and at
the same time used a gesture so indicative of private understanding,
that I at once apprehended his meaning, and assured him that he had
altogether misconstrued my drift; that, as to attempts at escape, or at
any mode of communicating with the prisoner from the outside, I trusted
all _that_ was perfectly needless; and that at any rate in my eyes
it was perfectly hopeless. 'Well, master,' he replied, 'that's neither
here nor there. You've come down handsomely, that I _will_ say;
and where a gentleman acts like a gentleman, and behaves himself as
such, I'm not the man to go and split upon him for a word. To be sure
it's quite nat'ral that a gentleman--put case that a young woman is his
fancy woman--it's nothing but nat'ral that he should want to get her
out of such an old rat-hole as this, where many's the fine-timbered
creature, both he and she, that has lain to rot, and has never got out
of the old trap at all, first or last'----'How so?' I interrupted him;
'surely they don't detain the corpses of prisoners?' 'Ay, but mind you
--put case that he or that she should die in this rat-trap before
sentence is past, why then the prison counts them as its own children,
and buries them in its own chapel--that old stack of pigeon-holes that
you see up yonder to the right hand.' So then, after all, thought I, if
my poor Agnes should, in her desolation and solitary confinement to
these wretched walls, find her frail strength give way--should the
moral horrors of her situation work their natural effect upon her
health, and she should chance to die within this dungeon, here within
this same dungeon will she lie to the resurrection, and in that case
her prison-doors have already closed upon her for ever. The man, who
perhaps had some rough kindness in his nature, though tainted by the
mercenary feelings too inevitably belonging to his situation, seemed to
guess at the character of my ruminations by the change of my
countenance, for he expressed some pity for my being 'in so much
trouble;' and it seemed to increase his respect for me that this
trouble should be directed to the case of a woman, for he appeared to
have a manly sense of the peculiar appeal made to the honor and
gallantry of man, by the mere general fact of the feebleness and the
dependence of woman. I looked at him more attentively in consequence of
the feeling tone in which he now spoke, and was surprised that I had
not more particularly noticed him before; he was a fine looking,
youngish man, with a bold Robin-hood style of figure and appearance;
and, morally speaking, he was absolutely transfigured to my eyes by the
effect worked upon him for the moment, through the simple calling up of
his better nature. However, he recurred to his cautions about the peril
in a legal sense of tampering with the windows, bolts, and bars of the
old decaying prison; which, in fact, precisely according to the degree
in which its absolute power over its prisoners was annually growing
less and less, grew more and more jealous of its own reputation, and
punished the attempts to break loose with the more severity, in exact
proportion as they were the more tempting by the chances of success. I
persisted in disowning any schemes of the sort, and especially upon the
ground of their hopelessness. But this, on the other hand, was a ground
that in his inner thoughts he treated with scorn; and I could easily
see that, with a little skilful management of opportunity, I might,
upon occasion, draw from him all the secrets he knew as to the special
points of infirmity in this old ruinous building. For the present, and
until it should certainly appear that there was some use to be derived
from this species of knowledge, I forbore to raise superfluous
suspicions by availing myself further of his communicative disposition.
Taking, however, the precaution of securing his name, together with his
particular office and designation in the prison, I parted from him as
if to go home, but in fact to resume my sad roamings up and down the
precincts of the jail.

What made these precincts much larger than otherwise they would have
been, was the circumstance that, by a usage derived from older days,
both criminal prisoners and those who were prisoners for debt, equally
fell under the custody of this huge caravanserai for the indifferent
reception of crime, of misdemeanor, and of misfortune. And those who
came under the two first titles, were lodged here through all stages of
their connection with public justice; alike when mere objects of vague
suspicion to the police, when under examination upon a specific charge,
when fully committed for trial, when convicted and under sentence,
awaiting the execution of that sentence, and, in a large proportion of
cases, even through their final stage of punishment, when it happened
to be of any nature compatible with in-door confinement. Hence it arose
that the number of those who haunted the prison gates, with or without
a title to admission, was enormous; all the relatives, or more properly
the acquaintances and connections of the criminal population within the
prison, being swelled by all the families of needy debtors who came
daily, either to offer the consolation of their society, or to diminish
their common expenditure by uniting their slender establishments. One
of the rules applied to the management of this vast multitude that were
every day candidates for admission was, that to save the endless
trouble as well as risk, perhaps, of opening and shutting the main
gates to every successive arrival, periodic intervals were fixed for
the admission by wholesale; and as these periods came round every two
hours, it would happen at many parts of the day that vast crowds
accumulated waiting for the next opening of the gate. These crowds were
assembled in two or three large outer courts, in which also were many
stalls and booths, kept there upon some local privilege of ancient
inheritance, or upon some other plea made good by gifts or bribes--some
by Jews and others by Christians, perhaps equally Jewish. Superadded to
these stationary elements of this miscellaneous population, were others
drawn thither by pure motives of curiosity, so that altogether an
almost permanent mob was gathered together in these courts; and amid
this mob it was,--from I know not what definite motive, partly because
I thought it probable that amongst these people I should hear the cause
of Agnes peculiarly the subject of conversation; and so, in fact, it
did really happen,--but partly, and even more, I believe, because I now
awfully began to shrink from solitude. Tumult I must have, and
distraction of thought. Amid this mob, I say, it was that I passed two
days. Feverish I had been from the first--and from bad to worse, in
such a case, was, at any rate, a natural progress; but, perhaps, also
amongst this crowd of the poor, the abjectly wretched, the ill-fed, the
desponding, and the dissolute, there might be very naturally a larger
body of contagion lurking than according to their mere numerical
expectations. There was at that season a very extensive depopulation
going on in some quarters of this great metropolis, and in other cities
of the same empire, by means of a very malignant typhus. This fever is
supposed to be the peculiar product of jails; and though it had not as
yet been felt as a scourge and devastator of this particular jail, or
at least the consequent mortality had been hitherto kept down to a
moderate amount, yet it was highly probable that a certain quantity of
contagion, much beyond the proportion of other popular assemblages less
uniformly wretched in their composition, was here to be found all day
long; and doubtless my excited state, and irritable habit of body, had
offered a peculiar predisposition that favored the rapid development of
this contagion. However this might be, the result was, that on the
evening of the second day which I spent in haunting the purlieus of the
prison, (consequently the night preceding the second public examination
of Agnes,) I was attacked by ardent fever in such unmitigated fury,
that before morning I had lost all command of my intellectual
faculties. For some weeks I became a pitiable maniac, and in every
sense the wreck of my former self; and seven entire weeks, together
with the better half of an eighth week, had passed over my head whilst
I lay unconscious of time and its dreadful freight of events, excepting
in so far as my disordered brain, by its fantastic coinages, created
endless mimicries and mockeries of these events--less substantial, but
oftentimes less afflicting, or less agitating. It would have been well
for me had my destiny decided that I was not to be recalled to this
world of wo. But I had no such happiness in store. I recovered, and
through twenty and eight years my groans have recorded the sorrow I
feel that I did.

* * * * *

I shall not rehearse circumstantially, and point by point, the sad
unfolding, as it proceeded through successive revelations to me, of all
which had happened during my state of physical incapacity. When I first
became aware that my wandering senses had returned to me, and knew, by
the cessation of all throbbings, and the unutterable pains that had so
long possessed my brain, that I was now returning from the gates of
death, a sad confusion assailed me as to some indefinite cloud of evil
that had been hovering over me at the time when I first fell into a
state of insensibility. For a time I struggled vainly to recover the
lost connection of my thoughts, and I endeavored ineffectually to
address myself to sleep. I opened my eyes, but found the glare of light
painful beyond measure. Strength, however, it seemed to me that I had,
and more than enough, to raise myself out of bed. I made the attempt,
but fell back, almost giddy with the effort. At the sound of the
disturbance which I had thus made, a woman whom I did not know came
from behind a curtain, and spoke to me. Shrinking from any
communication with a stranger, especially one whose discretion I could
not estimate in making discoveries to me with the requisite caution, I
asked her simply what o'clock it was.

'Eleven in the forenoon,' she replied.

'And what day of the month?'

'The second,' was her brief answer.

I felt almost a sense of shame in adding--; 'The second! but of what

'Of June,' was the startling rejoinder.

On the 8th of April I had fallen ill, and it was now actually the 2d of
June. Oh! sickening calculation! revolting register of hours! for in
that same moment which brought back this one recollection, perhaps by
steadying my brain, rushed back in a torrent all the other dreadful
remembrances of the period, and now the more so, because, though the
event was still uncertain as regarded my knowledge, it must have become
dreadfully certain as regarded the facts of the case, and the happiness
of all who were concerned. Alas! one little circumstance too painfully
assured me that this event had not been a happy one. Had Agnes been
restored to her liberty and her home, where would she have been found
but watching at my bed-side? That too certainly I knew, and the
inference was too bitter to support.

On this same day, some hours afterwards, upon Hannah's return from the
city, I received from her, and heard with perfect calmness, the whole
sum of evil which awaited me. Little Francis--she took up her tale at
that point--'was with God:' so she expressed herself. He had died of
the same fever which had attacked me--had died and been buried nearly
five weeks before. Too probably he had caught the infection from me.
Almost--such are the caprices of human feeling--almost I could have
rejoiced that this young memorial of my vanished happiness had vanished
also. It gave me a pang, nevertheless, that the grave should thus have
closed upon him before I had seen his fair little face again. But I
steeled my heart to hear worse things than this. Next she went on to
inform me that already, on the first or second day of our calamity, she
had taken upon herself, without waiting for authority, on observing the
rapid approaches of illness in me, and arguing the state of
helplessness which would follow, to write off at once a summons in the
most urgent terms to the brother of my wife. This gentleman, whom I
shall call Pierpoint, was a high-spirited, generous young man as I have
ever known. When I say that he was a sportsman, that at one season of
the year he did little else than pursue his darling amusement of fox-
hunting, for which indeed he had almost a maniacal passion--saying
this, I shall already have prejudged him in the opinions of many, who
fancy all such persons the slaves of corporeal enjoyments. But, with
submission, the truth lies the other way. According to my experience,
people of these habits have their bodies more than usually under their
command, as being subdued by severe exercise; and their minds, neither
better nor worse on an average than those of their neighbors, are more
available from being so much more rarely clogged by morbid habits in
that uneasy yoke-fellow of the intellectual part--the body. He at all
events was a man to justify in his own person this way of thinking; for
he was a man not only of sound, but even of bold and energetic
intellect, and in all moral respects one whom any man might feel proud
to call his friend. This young man, Pierpoint, without delay obeyed the
summons; and on being made acquainted with what had already passed, the
first step he took was to call upon Barratt, and without further
question than what might ascertain his identity, he proceeded to
inflict upon him a severe horsewhipping. A worse step on his sister's
account he could not have taken. Previously to this the popular feeling
had run strongly against Barratt, but now its unity was broken. A new
element was introduced into the question: Democratic feelings were
armed against this outrage; gentlemen and nobles, it was said, thought
themselves not amenable to justice; and again, the majesty of the law
was offended at this intrusion upon an affair already under solemn
course of adjudication. Everything, however, passes away under the
healing hand of time, and this also faded from the public mind. People
remembered also that he was a brother, and in that character, at any
rate, had a right to some allowances for his intemperance; and what
quickened the oblivion of the affair was, which in itself was
sufficiently strange, that Barratt did not revive the case in the
public mind by seeking legal reparation for his injuries. It was,
however, still matter of regret that Pierpoint should have indulged
himself in this movement of passion, since undoubtedly it broke and
disturbed the else uniform stream of public indignation, by investing
the original aggressor with something like the character of an injured
person; and therefore with some set-off to plead against his own
wantonness of malice;--his malice might now assume the nobler aspect of

Thus far, in reporting the circumstances, Hannah had dallied--thus far
I had rejoiced that she dallied, with the main burden of the wo; but
now there remained nothing to dally with any longer--and she rushed
along in her narrative, hurrying to tell--I hurrying to hear. A second,
a third examination had ensued, then a final committal--all this within
a week. By that time all the world was agitated with the case;
literally not the city only, vast as that city was, but the nation was
convulsed and divided into parties upon the question, Whether the
prosecution were one of mere malice or not? The very government of the
land was reported to be equally interested, and almost equally divided
in opinion. In this state of public feeling came the trial. Image to
yourself, oh reader, whosoever you are, the intensity of the excitement
which by that time had arisen in all people to be spectators of the
scene--then image to yourself the effect of all this, a perfect
consciousness that in herself as a centre was settled the whole mighty
interest of the exhibition--that interest again of so dubious and mixed
a character--sympathy in some with mere misfortune--sympathy in others
with female frailty and guilt, not perhaps founded upon an absolute
unwavering belief in her innocence, even amongst those who were most
loud and positive as partisans in affirming it,--and then remember that
all this hideous scenical display and notoriety settled upon one whose
very nature, constitutionally timid, recoiled with the triple agony of
womanly shame--of matronly dignity--of insulted innocence, from every
mode and shape of public display. Combine all these circumstances and
elements of the case, and you may faintly enter into the situation of
my poor Agnes. Perhaps the best way to express it at once is by
recurring to the case of a young female Christian martyr, in the early
ages of Christianity, exposed in the bloody amphitheatre of Rome or
Verona, to 'fight with wild beasts,' as it was expressed in mockery--
she to fight the lamb to fight with lions! But in reality the young
martyr _had_ a fight to maintain, and a fight (in contempt of that
cruel mockery) fiercer than the fiercest of her persecutors could have
faced perhaps--the combat with the instincts of her own shrinking,
trembling, fainting nature. Such a fight had my Agnes to maintain; and
at that time there was a large party of gentlemen in whom the
gentlemanly instinct was predominant, and who felt so powerfully the
cruel indignities of her situation, that they made a public appeal in
her behalf. One thing, and a strong one, which they said, was this:--
'We all talk and move in this case as if, because the question appears
doubtful to some people, and the accused party to some people wears a
doubtful character, it would follow that she therefore had in reality a
mixed character composed in joint proportions of the best and the worst
that is imputed to her. But let us not forget that this mixed character
belongs not to her, but to the infirmity of our human judgments--
_they_ are mixed--_they_ are dubious--but she is not--she is,
or she is not, guilty--there is no middle case--and let us consider for
a single moment, that if this young lady (as many among us heartily
believe) _is_ innocent, then and upon that supposition let us
consider how cruel we should all think the public exposure which
aggravates the other injuries (as in that case they must be thought) to
which her situation exposes her.' They went on to make some suggestions
for the officers of the court in preparing the arrangements for the
trial, and some also for the guidance of the audience, which showed the
same generous anxiety for sparing the feelings of the prisoner. If
these did not wholly succeed in repressing the open avowal of coarse
and brutal curiosity amongst the intensely vulgar, at least they
availed to diffuse amongst the neutral and indifferent part of the
public a sentiment of respect and forbearance which, emanating from
high quarters, had a very extensive influence upon most of what met the
eye or the ear of my poor wife. She, on the day of trial, was supported
by her brother; and by that time she needed support indeed. I was
reported to be dying; her little son was dead; neither had she been
allowed to see him. Perhaps these things, by weaning her from all
further care about life, might have found their natural effect in
making her indifferent to the course of the trial, or even to its
issue. And so, perhaps, in the main, they did. But at times some
lingering sense of outraged dignity, some fitful gleams of old
sympathies, 'the hectic of a moment,' came back upon her, and prevailed
over the deadening stupor of her grief. Then she shone for a moment
into a starry light--sweet and woful to remember. Then----but why
linger? I hurry to the close: she was pronounced guilty; whether by a
jury or a bench of judges, I do not say--having determined, from the
beginning, to give no hint of the land in which all these events
happened; neither is that of the slightest consequence. Guilty she was
pronounced: but sentence at that time was deferred. Ask me not, I
beseech you, about the muff or other circumstances inconsistent with
the hostile evidence. These circumstances had the testimony, you will
observe, of my own servants only; nay, as it turned out, of one servant
exclusively: _that_ naturally diminished their value. And, on the
other side, evidence was arrayed, perjury was suborned, that would have
wrecked a wilderness of simple truth trusting to its own unaided
forces. What followed? Did this judgment of the court settle the
opinion of the public? Opinion of the public! Did it settle the winds?
Did it settle the motion of the Atlantic? Wilder, fiercer, and louder
grew the cry against the wretched accuser: mighty had been the power
over the vast audience of the dignity, the affliction, the perfect
simplicity, and the Madonna beauty of the prisoner. That beauty so
childlike, and at the same time so saintly, made, besides, so touching
in its pathos by means of the abandonment--the careless abandonment and
the infinite desolation of her air and manner--would of itself, and
without further aid, have made many converts. Much more was done by the
simplicity of her statements, and the indifference with which she
neglected to improve any strong points in her own favor--the
indifference, as every heart perceived, of despairing grief. Then came
the manners on the hostile side--the haggard consciousness of guilt,
the drooping tone, the bravado and fierce strut which sought to
dissemble all this. Not one amongst all the witnesses, assembled on
that side, had (by all agreement) the bold natural tone of conscious
uprightness. Hence it could not be surprising that the storm of popular
opinion made itself heard with a louder and a louder sound. The
government itself began to be disturbed; the ministers of the sovereign
were agitated; and, had no menaces been thrown out, it was generally
understood that they would have given way to the popular voice, now
continually more distinct and clamorous. In the midst of all this
tumult, obscure murmurs began to arise that Barratt had practised the
same or similar villanies in former instances. One case in particular
was beginning to be whispered about, which at once threw a light upon
the whole affair: it was the case of a young and very beautiful married
woman, who had been on the very brink of a catastrophe such as had
befallen my own wife, when some seasonable interference, of what nature
was not known, had critically delivered her. This case arose 'like a
little cloud no bigger than a man's hand,' then spread and threatened
to burst in tempest upon the public mind, when all at once, more
suddenly even than it had arisen, it was hushed up, or in some way
disappeared. But a trifling circumstance made it possible to trace this
case:--in after times, when means offered, but unfortunately no
particular purpose of good, nor any purpose, in fact, beyond that of
curiosity, it _was_ traced; and enough was soon ascertained to
have blown to fragments any possible conspiracy emanating from this
Barratt, had that been of any further importance. However, in spite of
all that money or art could effect, a sullen growl continued to be
heard amongst the populace of villanies many and profound that had been
effected or attempted by this Barratt; and accordingly, much in the
same way as was many years afterwards practised in London, when a
hosier had caused several young people to be prosecuted to death for
passing forged bank-notes, the wrath of the people showed itself in
marking the shop for vengeance upon any favorable occasion offering
through fire or riots, and in the mean time in deserting it. These
things had been going on for some time when I awoke from my long
delirium; but the effect they had produced upon a weak and obstinate
and haughty government, or at least upon the weak and obstinate and
haughty member of the government who presided in the police
administration, was, to confirm and rivet the line of conduct which had
been made the object of popular denunciation. More energetically, more
scornfully, to express that determination of flying in the face of
public opinion and censure, four days before my awakening, Agnes had
been brought up to receive her sentence. On that same day (nay, it was
said in that same hour,) petitions, very numerously signed, and various
petitions from different ranks, different ages, different sexes, were
carried up to the throne, praying, upon manifold grounds, but all
noticing the extreme doubtfulness of the case, for an unconditional
pardon. By whose advice or influence, it was guessed easily, though
never exactly ascertained, these petitions were unanimously, almost
contemptuously rejected. And to express the contempt of public opinion
as powerfully as possible, Agnes was sentenced by the court,
reassembled in full pomp, order, and ceremonial costume, to a
punishment the severest that the laws allowed--viz. hard labor for ten
years. The people raged more than ever; threats public and private were
conveyed to the ears of the minister chiefly concerned in the
responsibility, and who had indeed, by empty and ostentatious talking,
assumed that responsibility to himself in a way that was perfectly

Thus stood matters when I awoke to consciousness: and this was the
fatal journal of the interval--interval so long as measured by my
fierce calendar of delirium--so brief measured by the huge circuit of
events which it embraced, and their mightiness for evil. Wrath, wrath
immeasurable, unimaginable, unmitigable, burned at my heart like a
cancer. The worst had come. And the thing which kills a man for action
--the living in two climates at once--a torrid and a frigid zone--of
hope and fear--that was past. Weak--suppose I were for the moment: I
felt that a day or two might bring back my strength. No miserable
tremors of hope _now_ shook my nerves: if they shook from that
inevitable rocking of the waters that follows a storm, so much might be
pardoned to the infirmity of a nature that could not lay aside its
fleshly necessities, nor altogether forego its homage to 'these frail
elements,' but which by inspiration already lived within a region where
no voices were heard but the spiritual voices of transcendent passions

'Wrongs unrevenged, and insults unredress'd.'

Six days from that time I was well--well and strong. I rose from bed; I
bathed; I dressed; dressed as if I were a bridegroom. And that
_was_ in fact a great day in my life. I was to see Agnes. Oh! yes:
permission had been obtained from the lordly minister that I should see
my wife. Is it possible? Can such condescensions exist? Yes:
solicitations from ladies, eloquent notes wet with ducal tears, these
had won from the thrice-radiant secretary, redolent of roseate attar, a
countersign to some order or other, by which I--yes I--under license of
a fop, and supervision of a jailer--was to see and for a time to
converse with my own wife.

The hour appointed for the first day's interview was eight o'clock in
the evening. On the outside of the jail all was summer light and
animation. The sports of children in the streets of mighty cities are
but sad, and too painfully recall the circumstances of freedom and
breezy nature that are not there. But still the pomp of glorious
summer, and the presence, 'not to be put by,' of the everlasting light,
that is either always present, or always dawning--these potent elements
impregnate the very city life, and the dim reflex of nature which is
found at the bottom of well-like streets, with more solemn powers to
move and to soothe in summer. I struck upon the prison gates, the first
among multitudes waiting to strike. Not because we struck, but because
the hour had sounded, suddenly the gate opened; and in we streamed. I,
as a visitor for the first time, was immediately distinguished by the
jailers, whose glance of the eye is fatally unerring. 'Who was it that
I wanted?' At the name a stir of emotion was manifest, even there: the
dry bones stirred and moved: the passions outside had long ago passed
to the interior of this gloomy prison: and not a man but had his
hypothesis on the case; not a man but had almost fought with some
comrade (many had literally fought) about the merits of their several

If any man had expected a scene at this reunion, he would have been
disappointed. Exhaustion, and the ravages of sorrow, had left to dear
Agnes so little power of animation or of action, that her emotions were
rather to be guessed at, both for kind and for degree, than directly to
have been perceived. She was in fact a sick patient, far gone in an
illness that should properly have confined her to bed; and was as much
past the power of replying to my frenzied exclamations, as a dying
victim of fever of entering upon a strife of argument. In bed, however,
she was not. When the door opened she was discovered sitting at a table
placed against the opposite wall, her head pillowed upon her arms, and
these resting upon the table. Her beautiful long auburn hair had
escaped from its confinement, and was floating over the table and her
own person. She took no notice of the disturbance made by our entrance,
did not turn, did not raise her head, nor make an effort to do so, nor
by any sign whatever intimate that she was conscious of our presence,
until the turnkey in a respectful tone announced me. Upon that a low
groan, or rather a feeble moan, showed that she had become aware of my
presence, and relieved me from all apprehension of causing too sudden a
shock by taking her in my arms. The turnkey had now retired; we were
alone. I knelt by her side, threw my arms about her, and pressed her to
my heart. She drooped her head upon my shoulder, and lay for some time
like one who slumbered; but, alas! not as she had used to slumber. Her
breathing, which had been like that of sinless infancy, was now
frightfully short and quick; she seemed not properly to breathe, but to
gasp. This, thought I, may be sudden agitation, and in that case she
will gradually recover; half an hour will restore her. Wo is me! she
did _not_ recover; and internally I said--she never _will_
recover. The arrows have gone too deep for a frame so exquisite in its
sensibility, and already her hours are numbered.

At this first visit I said nothing to her about the past; _that_,
and the whole extent to which our communications should go, I left
rather to her own choice. At the second visit, however, upon some word
or other arising which furnished an occasion for touching on this
hateful topic, I pressed her, contrary to my own previous intention,
for as full an account of the fatal event as she could without a
distressing effort communicate. To my surprise she was silent--
gloomily--almost it might have seemed obstinately silent. A horrid
thought came into my mind; could it, might it have been possible that
my noble-minded wife, such she had ever seemed to me, was open to
temptations of this nature? Could it have been that in some moment of
infirmity, when her better angel was away from her side, she had
yielded to a sudden impulse of frailty, such as a second moment for
consideration would have resisted, but which unhappily had been
followed by no such opportunity of retrieval? I had heard of such
things. Cases there were in our own times (and not confined to one
nation), when irregular impulses of this sort were known to have
haunted and besieged natures not otherwise ignoble and base. I ran over
some of the names amongst those which were taxed with this propensity.
More than one were the names of people in a technical sense held noble.
That, nor any other consideration abated my horror. Better, I said,
better, (because more compatible with elevation of mind,) better to
have committed some bloody act--some murderous act. Dreadful was the
panic I underwent. God pardon the wrong I did; and even now I pray to
him--as though the past thing were a future thing and capable of
change--that he would forbid her for ever to know what was the
derogatory thought I had admitted. I sometimes think, by recollecting a
momentary blush that suffused her marble countenance,--I think--I fear
that she might have read what was fighting in my mind. Yet that would
admit of another explanation. If she did read the very worst, meek
saint! she suffered no complaint or sense of that injury to escape her.
It might, however, be that perception, or it might be that fear which
roused her to an effort that otherwise had seemed too revolting to
undertake. She now rehearsed the whole steps of the affair from first
to last; but the only material addition, which her narrative made to
that which the trial itself had involved, was the following:--On two
separate occasions previous to the last and fatal one, when she had
happened to walk unaccompanied by me in the city, the monster Barratt
had met her in the street. He had probably--and this was, indeed,
subsequently ascertained--at first, and for some time afterwards,
mistaken her rank, and had addressed some proposals to her, which, from
the suppressed tone of his speaking, or from her own terror and
surprise, she had not clearly understood; but enough had reached her
alarmed ear to satisfy her that they were of a nature in the last
degree licentious and insulting. Terrified and shocked rather than
indignant, for she too easily presumed the man to be a maniac, she
hurried homewards; and was rejoiced, on first venturing to look round
when close to her own gate, to perceive that the man was not following.
There, however, she was mistaken; for either on this occasion, or on
some other, he had traced her homewards. The last of these rencontres
had occurred just three months before the fatal 6th of April; and if,
in any one instance, Agnes had departed from the strict line of her
duty as a wife, or had shown a defect of judgment, it was at this
point--in not having frankly and fully reported the circumstances to
me. On the last of these occasions I had met her at the garden-gate,
and had particularly remarked that she seemed agitated; and now, at
recalling these incidents, Agnes reminded me that I had noticed that
circumstance to herself, and that she had answered me faithfully as to
the main fact. It was true she had done so; for she had said that she
had just met a lunatic who had alarmed her by fixing his attention upon
herself, and speaking to her in a ruffian manner; and it was also true
that she did sincerely regard him in that light. This led me at the
time to construe the whole affair into a casual collision with some
poor maniac escaping from his keepers, and of no future moment, having
passed by without present consequences. But had she, instead of thus
reporting her own erroneous impression, reported the entire
circumstances of the case, I should have given them a very different
interpretation. Affection for me, and fear to throw me needlessly into
a quarrel with a man of apparently brutal and violent nature--these
considerations, as too often they do with the most upright wives, had
operated to check Agnes in the perfect sincerity of her communications.
She had told nothing _but_ the truth--only, and fatally it turned
out for us both, she had not told the _whole_ truth. The very
suppression, to which she had reconciled herself, under the belief that
thus she was providing for my safety and her own consequent happiness,
had been the indirect occasion of ruin to both. It was impossible to
show displeasure under such circumstances, or under any circumstances,
to one whose self-reproaches were at any rate too bitter; but
certainly, as a general rule, every conscientious woman should resolve
to consider her husband's honor in the first case, and far before all
other regards whatsoever; to make this the first, the second, the third
law of her conduct, and his personal safety but the fourth or fifth.
Yet women, and especially when the interests of children are at stake
upon their husbands' safety, rarely indeed are able to take this Roman
view of their duties.

To return to the narrative. Agnes had not, nor could have, the most
remote suspicion of this Barratt's connection with the shop which he
had not accidentally entered; and the sudden appearance of this wretch
it was, at the very moment of finding herself charged with so vile and
degrading an offence, that contributed most of all to rob her of her

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