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one, for soft carpets cover the floor, and costly furniture is spread about ; the bed is draperied with purple, and on it a rich man is dying between sheets of finest linen. He has not lain there long, for but yesterday he was hale and strong, and death seemed as far from him as from the many friends by whom he had been greeted in his morning walk. He knows he is to die; not at some indefinite period, but on that day, and on the bed on which he lies, to be removed no more till hireling hands shall place him in the narrow house and dark,' a mass of senseless clay: yes ! he has been told that his very hours are numbered, and, knowing this, he looks into his heart, striving to familiarize himself with the fact, and realize the conviction.
He is in the full possession of his faculties, and his memory is unimpaired, yet his mind refuses to dwell upon the certainty that his soul is about to be required of him, and that, on the morrow, he will be that dread thing which men call a corpse.
Yesterday--and how long it seemed! he had left his house on a mission of pleasure, as a rich man should; his horse (it was the one he prized the most) was led to his door at the appointed moment, and he had mounted the animal with a light heart, and with no presentiment of coming evil. The scene rises vividly before him now; he sees the hot sun's rays gleaming fiercely on the broad white pavement, and glancing on the glossy coat of his favourite mare; and his own sensations as he sprang into the saddle are lived over again with the distinctness of reality.
And now he is riding rapidly on towards a western suburb, and is approaching a house wherein abides a woman who is watching for his coming. She has been his friend for years, and yet his thoughts are full of her, and of the day's happiness he has planned for her. He pictures the bright glow of pleasure that will spread over her fair face, as he describes the long hours they are to pass together under spreading trees, and on the velvet turf of royal pleasure grounds; and, last delight of all, the floating homewards on the moonlit river, with the countless stars above them, and no sound more harsh than the ripple of the waters, and whispered words softly spoken from her heart to his.
In strange contrast with those glowing memories is the gloom that surrounds him now. He is stretched upon his bed, powerless and inert, for he retains no sensation in his lower limbs; whilst his hands, and even the muscles of his neck, can with difficulty perform their wonted functions. A great grief has seized him, but it is a grief in which there is as yet no mixture either of horror or of fear, for a species of bewilderment clouds his reasoning faculties.
What,' he mentally asks, 'is Death?' He feels no pain ; a fall from his horse has injured the spine: of that he is fully cognizant; and also that paralysis is creeping slowly and surely up towards the Citadel of Life: but the change from the full vigour of manhood has been so rapid, and his hold on existence is still so strong, that the known world seems even yet to be his, while the very belief in a future and a different state of being eludes his mental grasp. He hears a murmur of the living world outside, as it rises from the thronged and busy streets, and is aware (silent and unnoticing as he lies there) that he is not alone. No; while life lasts there will be one faithful friend, who will not leave him to wrestle single-handed with the dread images which are beginning to surround his deathbed, and that mingle so curiously with the wretched trifles that belong to mortals : for those trifles are harassing his parting hours grievously, hanging upon his solemn thoughts like cobwebs on a grand and awful picture, defacing and obscuring it.
All things that were wont to occupy the leisure moments of his prosperous and somewhat aimless existence come crowding upon him now, and working dire confusion in his
brain. What to him will be the morrow? He will be in another world then, or haply sleeping the sleep that knows no waking; and yet he is still, though by no wish or will of his, busying himself concerning the trivial interests with which he has no more to do than the man who had died and been buried a century ago. It was passing strange; but he detected himself at one moment in the very act of considering how he could best dispose of the animal whose scurvy trick had brought him to this disagreeable pass. And then there flashed across him a sense of his own neglect, in forgetting to inquire whether “Miranda' (and never had the mare's name seemed more familiar to him) had received any injury in the fall that had so disgraced her: as to her ultimate destination he found some difficulty in making up his mind; doubting whether at Tattersall's she would fetch' more than. ...
Ah; poor fool! poor mortal! No more will Sunday shine a betting day to you;'