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To the Readers of this, not wholly imaginary, but somewhat hastily-written Tale, these pages are dedicated; and if, during their perusal, it should occur to some, that zeal in a good cause may have outrun discretion, the Author can only hope that a thousand faults
may be forgiven, in the name of the one virtue
to which he has dared to link them.
March 8th, 1862.
“RECOMMENDED TO MERCY.”
“In life's last scene what prodigies surprise;
It is a
The sun shone from a cloudless summer sky on a darkened window of the "Great City." It was midday, and the hum of men was busy in the vast human hive: out on the wing were the toilers for the golden harvest: fluttering abroad were the sippers of summer sweets: but within that darkened chamber lay one whose work of life was nearly finished, and the last sands in whose glass were reduced to a few swiftly dropping grains. Let us look into the room. sumptuous 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; pot 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. Recommendel 10 Mercy. I.
Yes! he has been told that his very hours are numbered, and, knowing this, he looks into his heart, striving to familiarise himself with the fact, and realise 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 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 death-bed, 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