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THE FIRST DREAM OF LIFE.
When Annie left Blakesley, the evening of their last interview, she had strength to reach her own room. A heavy fall drew her family to her. She had fainted, but the shock had roused her; but, either from the concussion or violent emotion, she was raising blood. After the first attack had passed, her physicians held out the hope of continued years, though not of long life, but they prononnced a warmer climate necessary for that winter, and, in the charge of kind friends, Annie was sent to sunnier skics. There, at a distance from her home, and among comparative strangers, did she pass the last months of her short life. Always retiring and unobtrusive, Annie sought and made no confidants, and they knew little of her inner life. But they noted and remembered what they could for her parents. They said she never expressed a desire to live, and when some one in the last stage of her disease thought it a duty to ask if she was willing to die, she replied, while her lips quivered, “ Except for my parents--their age will be so lonely.” They said she was kind, and gentle, and uncomplaining, though somewhat sad, passing much of her time alone, they thought in devotion, for her Bible was always near her, and the nurse who attended her in her last days had once or twice surprised her weeping bitterly. Doubtless the thought of her home lay heavily on her heart, though anxious were all around her to contribute to the comfort of one so lovely, so sweet, so young, dying far from friends and native land. She had written to her parents as long as her strength permitted, and begged them to forgive all the pain which the frowardness and disobedience of childhood had brought
and here her paper was evidently blotted by thick tears, and here Gideon Clarke had groaned and sobbed, and exclaimed, “ Never had parents a more dutiful child—and oh, my daughter! that thou mightest be spared to return to us, that by our love and tenderness to thee we might prove our gratitude for the rich blessing which we received in thee!” In the last letter Annie wrote home, she told her father she hoped to see his face again, but is she never met father or mother again they must not mourn for her. She could not tell him how short life, and even time, seemed to her ; how soon it seemed they should all meet, and then she said what a sweet hope she had that all her sins were forgiven, and that she felt that whether she lived or died all would be well;
and again she blessed and thanked them for all their love and kindness. She had a stormy passage back, and died in New York the night after she landed. Her mind wandered a little, but she prayed for him. “ Bless him-save him”—of course, the nurse said, her father.
Once they thought her gone, when a sweet smile passed over her face; she opened her eyes and a joy seemed to illumine her features, and then she closed them-and was dead.
And this was all they could tell-all they knew. She had passed like a frosted flowera breath of fragrance, a dream of beanty, was all that remained.
One indeed there was who could have thrown more light upon the mystery of that brief life, the struggles that young heart, but the name of Annie Clarke was never heard to pass his lips.
The sods on her grave were fresh, and the funeral bell had scarce done tolling; when his marriage festival was celebrated ; and a few of Annie's age, who had suspected that at one period he had regarded her with tender interest, wondered that he could so soon forget her. Others, who knew that he had been much at Gideon Clarke's, in his frequent visits to New Haven, blamed him that he did not call in this afðictive season and show sympathy and kindness to the bereaved parents.
Future years often brought him to Annie's native place, and always before he left, in solitary hours, alone, as one desiring to pass unnoticed, would his feet turn to the house where she had dwelt, but which he never again entered. The flowers Annie had planted were choked and uprooted by grass and weeds. The rusty hinges of the front gate were seldom turned, and the paved walks were overgrown. The same lilacs, the syringas, the snow-balls, the acacias, the roses still budded and blossomed, but their fragrance was wasted on that closed door and those blinded windows, and their blossoms fell on the long untrodden grass. During the summer, and in the autumn and winter, the wind sighing through their leaves, and their long branches creaking against the old house, seemed to breathe a requiem for the young girl whose form had long mingled with its native dust. The loneliness without spoke of the desolation within-of rooms still kept as Annie had left, but seldom entered—of the piano whose chords were never struck, of books unopened, and pictures covered in their frames.
Ernst WILLKOMM gives a glowing description of a visit to the convent of St. Onofrio, into which the unfortunate Tasso had fled after seven years' imprisonment, to live there the last days of his life.
We followed (he says) the narrow paths of a much neglected garden, the beds of which produced the broccoli and the artichoke in luxuriant abundance, until we found ourselves on the little height where stood Tasso's oak, once so celebrated. It grew there until it was destroyed by lightning. The view from this spot is even more beautiful than that from the cloister-yard. The panorama opens itself to the eye, in the Norih, with surprising majesty. It is the only point from which St. Peter's church appears in its full grandeur and magnificence-the adjacent Monte Maria, and the distant Soracte, constituting a picturesque background for the view. It is said that the invalid poet used to sit here daily, lost in dreams and reflections. Ile perhaps forgot the great Omnipresence, engaged only in his morbid and bewildered phantasy, with thoughts on the past. In cruel self-torture he crushed, perhaps, his softened soul, leading her back on the wings of longing desire to the the Duke's palace at Este, chasing her like a
wandering spirit through the marble halls which once listened to the triumphant praise of his successful love. The genial, strong-minded poet of the “Liberated Jerusalem,” forgetting the sufferings of the past, would have here been restored to health and humor, inspired to new productions of his creating genius ; but broken within, and despairing of his own strength, it was the fate of the poet to succumb, in hatred with mankind and the world, to a slow disease and death.
If the mask which is here preserved be a true picture of the poet, poor Tasso cannot have mingled his last breath with the gentle whispers of a vernal breeze. It appeared to me a picture of the parting scene of a man who has struggled with all stages of the most terrible spiritual sufferings. Agony, fear, mistrust, despair, anguish, and buried hatred, are petrified in these features. Even the mild angel of death could not chase the gloomy, earthly expression from them. The departed took with him the marks of his sufferings to eternity, to stand there as evidence against his inexorable, heartless tormentors. Tasso is buried near the principal entrance to the church, a plain inscription pointing out the memorable spot.
In seeking for poverty and wretchedness, we naturally expect to find it in its most severe forms among broken-down and decayed houses, in courts and alleys, and in those parts of the city unfrequented by the wealthy and the proud. We do not expect to find hunger and want in respectable streets, or in comfortable and well-furnished houses. It is doubtless true, however, that poverty as deep, and wretchedness as agonizing, exist in some of our better class of houses, and in thrifty-looking streets, as can be found in the darkest, deepest dens with which our city abounds.
Ilowever startling this position, a little reflection will suggest many proofs of the fact. The poor, as found in our courts and lanes, and wretched tenements, are usually those who have never seen better days; who have been accustomed to poverty from the cradle, and who know little of any other position in life. These persons have their pleasures and enjoyments as well as any other class of society, and
not usually harassed with any great amount of cares and anxieties for the future. Another class are those who have reduced themselves by their vicious and intemperate habits, and whose finer feelings are consequently blunted and hardened, so as to remove the keenness of the pangs of wretchedness.
Another class are the professional beggars, many of whom, on the whole, lead a merry life, and are not half as miserable as some from whom they solicit and receive assistance. But there is a class of persons who live in comparatively good houses, who dress comparatively well, who move in good society when they move in any–who are intelligent, perhaps well educated, whose friends and relations are of good standing, and some of them even wealthy, and yet who live in greater poverty, and suffer keener wretchedness than any class in society. They are not of any particular calling or profession, but are found to some extent among all. They are those whose business, or interests, or standing, render a respectable outside appearance necessary.
The professional man must appear respectable to obtain respectable business. No one would employ a lawyer or a physician who was ragged. Such a person could obtain no business in any mercantile, or in fact any respectable employment. A ragged coat is as perfect a bar to success as the fact of a residence in the state-prison. However poor a professional man may be, he must manage to hide the fact from the public eye, or there is no hope for him. It is this necessity that adds a thousand fold to the misery of this class— the absolute necessity of “ keeping up appearances.”
Some years since, when, on an errand of mercy in tract visitation, I knocked at the door of a genteel looking house in M— street, it was opened by a female about thirty, whose woebegone countenance instantly arrested my attention. The lineaments of her face bore evidence of youthful beauty, on which the lines of care and premature age were drawn with fearful distinctness.
I presented her a tract, which was received with a smile so full of sadness as almost to bring tears to my eyes. I sought in the gentlest manner to draw from her the cause of her apparent distress, that I might, if possible, administer consolation. But the fountains of her grief were too sacred to be profaned by the gaze of strangers. Whatever her griefs might be, I was reluctantly compelled to depart, without having my curiosity at all gratified. I called again and again, in my monthly visitations, but with no better success, my interest in her increasing at every visit. As she was evidently the wife of the physician whose name in modest letters was upon the door, I inquired about his business. She said he was out a good deal, but she believed practiced mostly among the poor, and did not seem inclined to speak farther upon the subject.
Determined to learn something of the history of this lady and her family, for I had observed two or three pretty, delicate children occasionally around her, I sent one day for this lady's husband, Mr. S., to make my family a profes
sional visit. Dr. S. Boon made his appearance. He was very slender and delicate; his countenance bore the impress of care and trouble of no ordinary kind, which was evidently preying not only upon his mind but his health, and he was plainly destined for an early grave. I sought cautiously to draw from him the cause of his trouble, but he was even more sensitive than his wife. He shrunk from any explanation, as the most delicate flower from the touch. He was somewhat embarrassed—was excessively modest and unassuming, and evidently poorly calculated to push his way in this driving and unfeeling world. Suspecting that poverty was the worm that was gnawing at his vitals, I paid him a liberal fee, which his modesty would hardly perm t him to receive, but when received, I could see the tear of gratitude in his eye, and a smile upon his face, that seemed quite unusual there. When I called again after an interval of some nonths, I found Dr. S. upon a sick bed, and evidently in a rapid decline. There was, if possible, more of sadness in that family than I had before seen. On inquiry I found he was not supplied with those things that were necessary for his comfort and health. Suspecting the reason, I told them plainly my suspicions, and entreated them to repose confidence in me, and I would do what I could to assist them. Overcome at last by my offers of assistance, and their desperate and urgent present wants, they consented to confide to me their present situation and past history. Dr. S. said he was an only child ; that his parents resided in Philadelphia in comfortable circumstances; that he was tenderly reared and well educated. As it was not supposed necessary that he should make much effort to earn his living, he was not taught the responsibilities of life, and being of a studious and retiring disposition, he shunned contact with the world, and knew little of its wickedness and its vice. He studied a profession simply because he loved the study.
Not far from his father dwelt the parents of lis Ellen. They were thrown into each other's s ciety frequently during their youth, and, as a natural consequence, became deeply and ardently attached. The father of Ellen, though far more wealthy, did not oppose the growth of that affection which he could not but see increasing. Though very proud and ambitious, and naturally desirous that his daughter
should ally herself to an equal in point of wealth, he nevertheless suffered us to act as we chose, as my father was then reputed wealthy and of good standing among men. Those were happy, joyous days; alas, too happy to last! The present was bright and gladsome, and the future was clad in robes of ever-increasing beauty and delight. Not a cloud obscured the bright vista before us. In each other's society the hours sped rapidly away, without a care or a thought of the future. Little did we dream of the fate that awaited
My mother sickened and died. Here commenced the misery of my life.
My father soon after was laid upon his dying bed. Calling me to his bedside, he informed me that his reputed property would not suffice to pay his debts, and that I would soon be an orphan. This announcement came like a thunder-clap to me. Alas! how poorly had I been trained to meet the stern realities of life! I did not utterly despair, assured still of the undying love of my Ellen. My father soon died, and my last relative on earth was laid in his grave. It
worse than he expected. His property was insufficient to pay his debts ; leaving a large balance unpaid. What rendered this particularly mortifying, was the fact that Ellen's father was one of the largest creditors, and consequently of the sufferers. When this announcement was made known to him, his wrath knew no bounds. His former friendship was forgotten, and its place supplied by bitter, unrelenting hatred. I was coolly forbid ever again to enter his house, and Ellen was told to forget the beggar, and never to hold communication with him again on pain of his displeasure and a forfeiture of any part of his property. I saw Ellen, however, and offered to unbind those vows which had doubtless been registered in heaven, though it would be like riving my heart-strings. She nobly refused, and chose poverty and misery with me to all the joys that wealth could give. She left her father's house without his consent, and we were married, and soon after left for this city. We have not seen her father from that day to the present, nor had a line from bim, although we have written again and again, deprecating his anger and imploring his forgiveness. On arriving in the city, we had not a single acquaintance or friend. Our lot was indeed a dark one. We took cheap lodgings, and strove