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A TALE FOR TWILIGHT.
it! She was almost double, and could not walk without support ; her flesh and cheeks were all shrunk
away, and her dim lustreless eyes almost lost in their As far as I am myself concerned with the following | sockets. We were all startled at seeing her ; it seemed facts, I am fully prepared to youch for their authen that those six weeks had produced greater changes in ticity; but the reliance to be placed on the other parts her than years of disease in others : but our surprise of the recital must be at the option of the reader, or at the effect was nothing, when compared to that which his conviction of their apparent truth. It is now her recital of the cause excited, when she informed us nearly thirty years since I was a partial witness to the of it ; and as we had never known her to tell a false circumstance, at my father's house in Edinburgh; and hood, we could not avoid placing implicit confidence in though, during that period, time and foreign climates her words. may have thinned my locks and furrowed my brow a She told us that in the evening, according to aplittle, they have neither effaced one item of its details pointment, the physician had conducted her to the resi: from my memoyy, nor warped the vivid impression dence of her charge, in one of the narrow streets near which it left upon my recollection. It was in the wins the abbey. It was one of those extensive old houses, ter of 1798 the occurrence took place. There was an which seein built for eternity rather than time, and in old retainer of our house, who used at that time to be the constructing of which the founder had consulted very frequently about us; she had pursed my younger convenience and comfort more than show or situation. brother and myself, and the family felt for ber all the A flight of high stone steps brought them to the door; attachment due to an old and faithful inmate. I re- and a dark staircase of immense width, fenced with member her appearance distinctly; her neatly plaited balusters a foot broad, and supported by railing of cap and scarlet ribband, her white fringed apron and massy dimensions, led to the chamber of the patient. purple quilted petticoat, are all as fresh in my memory This was a lofty wainscoted room, with a window sunk as yesterday; and though nearly sixty, she retained all a yard deep in the wall, and looking out upon what the activity and good humour of sixteen. Her strength was once à garden at the rear, but now grown so wild was but little impaired; and as she was but slightly that the weeds and rank grass almost reached the level affected by fatigue or watching, she was in the habit of of the wall which inclosed it. At one end stood an engaging herself as a nurse-tender in numerous re old-fashioned square bed, where the young gentleman spectable families.
lay. It was hung with faded Venetian tapestry, and The winter was drawing near a close, when, one seemed itself as large as a moderate-sized room. At erening, old Nurse came to tell us of an engagement the other end, and opposite to the foot of the bed, was she had got to attend a young gentleman, who was a fire-place, supported by ponderous stone buttresses, lying dangerously ill in one of the streets of the Old but with no grate, and a few smouldering turf ashes Town. She mentioned that a physician, who had were merely piled on the spacious hearth. There was always been very kind to her, had recommended her to no ddor, except that by which she had entered, and no this duty; but, as the patient was in a most critical other furniture than a few low chairs, and a table state, the manner of her attendance was to be very par covered with medicines and draughts beside the winticular, she was to go every evening at eight o'clock, dow. The oak which covered the walls and formed the to relieve another who remained during the day; and pannels of the ceiling, was as black as time could make to be extremely cautious not to speak to the young it, and the whole apartment, which was kept dark at man, unless it was urgently necessary, nor make any the suggestion of the physician, was so gloomy, that motion which might in the slightest degree disturb the the glimmering of the single candle in the shade of few intervals of rest which he was enabled to enjoy ; the fire-place could not penetrate it, and cast a faint but she knew neither the name nor residence of the gleam around, not sad, but absolutely sickening. person she was to wait on. There seemed to be some Whilst the doctor was speaking in a low tone to the thing past the common in all this, and my mother de invalid, Nurse tried to find out some further particulars sired her to call soon and let her know how she was from the other attendant, who was tying on her bonnet, coming on; but nearly six weeks had elapsed, and we and preparing to mufle herself in her plaid before had never once seen or heard of her, when my mother going away ; for, as I said before, it was winter and sent to say she was longing to see her again. The ser bitterly cold. She could gain no information from her, yant, on his return, informed us that poor Nurse had however, although she had been in the situation for a been dangerously ill, and confined to her bed almost considerable time. She could not tell the name of the erer since she had been with us ; but she was now gentleman ; she only knew that he was an Oxford stu. some little better, and had purposed coming to see usdent; but no one, save herself and the Doctor, had the following day. She came accordingly; but oh, so ever crossed the threshold to inquire after him, nor had altered in so short a time, no one would have believed she ever seen any one in the rest of the house, which
NO, XLVI, POL, IV,
she believed to be uninhabited. The Doctor and she | veloped in a green silk gown, and the fashion at that soon went away, after leaving a few unimportant direc period was not so favourable to a display of figure as tions : Nurse closed the door behind them, and shiver- now. It occurred to her that it must be some intimate ing with the cold frosty gust of air from the spacious female friend who had called in; but then the woman lobby, hastened to her duty, wrapped her cloak about
ned to her duty. wrapped her cloak about I had told her that no visitors had ever come before : her, drew her seat close to the hearth, replenished the altogether, she could not well understand the matter, fire, and commenced reading a volume of Mr. Alex but she thought she would observe whether she went ander Peden's Prophecies, which she had brought in off as gently as she had entered ; and for that purpose her pocket. There was no sound to disturb her, ex she altered the position of her chair so as to command cept now and then a blast of wind which shook the a view of the door, and fixed herself with her book withering trees in the garden below, or the “ death on her knees; but her eye intently set upon the lady watch, " which ticked incessantly in the wainscot of in the green gown. In this position she remained for the room. In this manner an hour or two elapsed ; a considerable time, but no alteration took place in the when concluding, from the motionless posture of the room ; the stranger sat evidently gazing on the face of patient, that he must be asleep, she rose, and taking the sick gentleman, whilst he heaved and sighed and the light in her hand, moved on tiptoe across the breathed in agony as if a night mare were on him. polished oaken floor, to take a survey of his features Nurse a second time moved towards him, in order to and appearance. She gently opened the curtains, and, hold him up in the bed, or give him some temporary bringing the light to bear upon him, started to find relief; and a second time the mysterious visitant that he was still awake: she attempted to apologise motioned her to remain quiet ; and unwillingly, but by for her curiosity by an awkward tender of her services, a kind of fascination, she complied, and again com. but apology and offer were equally useless; he moved menced her watch. But her position was a painful neither limb nor muscle ; he made not the faintest one, and she sat so long and so quietly that at last her reply ; he lay motionless on his back, his bright blue eyes closed for a moment, and when she opened them eyes glaring fixedly upon her, his under-lip fallen, and the lady was gone; the young man was once more his mouth apart, his cheek a perfect hollow, and his composed, and, after taking something to relieve bis long white teeth projecting fearfully from his shrunken breathing, he fell into a gentle sleep, from which he lips, whilst his bony hand, covered with wiry sinews, | had not awakened when her colleague arrived in the was stretched upon the bedclothes, and looked more morning to take her place; and Nurse returned to her like the claw of a bird than the fingers of a human own house about daybreak. being. She felt rather uneasy whilst looking at him ; The following night she was again at her duty; she but when a slight motion of the eye-lids, which the came rather beyond her time, and found her companion light was too strong for, assured her he was still | already muffled and waiting impatiently to set out. She living, which she was half inclined to doubt, she re lighted her to the stairs, and heard her close the hall. turned to her seat and her book by the fire. As she door behind her; when, on returning to the room, the was directed not to disturb him, and as his medicine wind, as she shut the door, blew out her candle. She was only to be administered in the morning, she had relighted it, however, from the dying embers, roused but little to do, and the succeeding two hours passed up the fire, and resumed, as before, her seat and her heavily away; she continued, however, to lighten them volume of Prophecies. The night was stormy, the dry by the assistance of Mr. Peden, and by now and then crisp sleet hissed on the window, and the wind sighed crooning and gazing over the silent flickering progress in heavy gusts down the spacious chimney; whilst the of her turf fire, till, about midnight, as near as she rattling of the shutters, and the occasional clash of a could guess, the gentleman began to breathe heavily, door in some distant part of the house, came with a and appeared very uneasy; as, however, he spoke dim and hollow echo along the dreary silent passages.
c. she thought he was perhaps asleep, and was | She did not feel so comfortable as the night before : rising to go towards him, when she was surprised to see the whistling of the wind through the trees made her a lady seated on a chair near the head of the bed be fesh creep involuntarily; and sometimes the thundering side him. Though something startled at this, she was clap of a distant door made her start and drop her by no means alarmed, and, making a curtsey, was book, with a sudden prayer for the protection of Heaven. moving on as she had inteuded, when the lady raised She was thinking within herself of giving up the her arm, and turning the palm of her hand, which | engagement, and was half resolved to do so on the mor. was covered with a white glove, towards her, motioned row; when all at once her ear was struck with the her silently to keep her seat. She accordingly sat heavy throes and agonized breathing of her charge, down as before, but she now began to wonder within and, on raising her head, she saw the same lady in the herself how and when this lady came in: it was true | green gown seated in the same position as the night she had not been looking towards the door, and it before. Well, thought she, this is unusually strange ; might have been opened without her perceiving it; but but it immediately struck her that it must be some then it was so cold a night, and so late an hour-it inmate of the house, for what human being could venwas this which made it so remarkable. She turned ture out in such a dreary night, and at such an hour?quietly round, and took a second view of her visitor, But then her dress : it was neither such as one could She wore a black veil over her bonnet, and, as her face wear in the streets on a wintry night, nor yet such as was turned towards the bed of the invalid, she could they would be likely to have on in the house at that pot in that gloomy chamber perceive her features, but hour; it was, in fact, the fashionable summer costume she saw that the shape and turn of her head and neck of the time. She rose and made her a curtsey, and were graceful and elegant in the extreme; the rest of spoke to her politely, but got no reply save the her person she could not so well discern, as it was en- waying of her hand, by which she had been silenced
before. At length the agitation of the invalid was so ceiling, and start at every triling sound, which was increased, that she could not reconcile it to her duty | now doubly audible, as all without was hushed by the to sit still whilst a stranger was attending him. She noiseless snow in which the streets were imbedded. accordingly drew nearer to the bed, in spite of the Again, however, her vigilance was eluded, and repeated beckonings of the lady, who, as she advanced, as wearied with thought, she raised her head drew her veil closer across her face, and retired to the with a long drawn sigh and a yawn of fatigue, she table at the wiudow Nurse approached the bed, but encountered the green garments of her unsolicited was terrified on beholding the countenance of the pa companion. Angry with herself, and at the same time tient: the big drops of cold sweat were rolling down unwilling to accuse herself of remissness, she deterhis pale brow; his livid lips were quivering with agony ; mined once again that she should not escape unnoa and, as he motioned her aside, his glaring eyes followed ticed. There hung a feeling of awe around her whenthe retreating figure in the green gown. She soon saw ever she approached this singular being, and when, as that it was in vain to attempt assisting him; he impa before, the lady retired to another quarter of the room tiently repulsed every proffer of attention, and she | as she approached the bed, she had not courage to folagain resumed her seat, while the silent visitor returned low her. Again the same distressing scene of suffering to her place by his bed-side. Rather piqued at being in her unfortunate charge ensued; he gasped and thus baffled in her intentions of kindness, but still put- heaved till the noise of his agony made her heart sicken ting from her the idea of a supernatural being, the old within her; when she drew near his bed, his corpse. woman again determined to watch with attention the like features were convulsed with a feeling which retreat of the lady, and observe whether she resided in seemed to twist their relaxed nerves into the most fearthe house, or took her departure by the main door. She ful expression, while his ghastly eyes were straining almost refrained from winking, in order to secure a from their sunken sockets. She spoke, but he answered serutiny of her motions--but it was all in vain; she not; she touched him, but he was cold with terror, and could not remember to have taken off her glance for a unconscious of any object' save the one mysterious moment, but still the visitant was gone. It seemed as being whom his glance followed with steady, fixed if she had only changed her thoughts for an instant, intensity. Nurse was naturally a woman of very and not her eyes, but that change was enough ; when | strong feelings, but here she was totally beside hershe again reverted to the object of her anxiety, the self with anxiety. She thought that the young mysterious lady had departed. As on the foregoing gentleman was just expiring, and was preparing to night, her patient now became composed, and enjoyed leave the room, in search of farther assistance, when an uninterrupted slumber till the light of morning, she saw the lady move towards the bed of the dying now reflected from heaps of dazzling snow, brought man ; she bent above him for a moment, whilst his with it the female who was to relieve guard at the bed writhings were indescribable; she then moved stately of misery.
towards the door. Now was the moment! Nurse The following morning Nurse went to the house of advanced at the same time, laid her one hand on the the physician who had engaged her, with the determi latch, whilst with the other she attempted to raise the nation of giving up the task in which she was employ veil of the stranger, and in the next instant fell lifeless ed. She felt uneasy at the thoughts of retaining it, on the floor. As she glanced on the face of the lady, as she had never been similarly situated before ; she she saw that a lifeless head filled the bonnet; its vaalways had some companion to speak to, or was at cant sockets and ghastly teeth were all that could be least employed in an inhabited house; but besides, she seen beneath the folds of the veil. Daylight was was not by any means comfortable in the visits of the breaking the following morning, when the other attendnightly stranger. She was disappointed, however, by ant arrived, and found the poor old woman cold and not finding him at home, and was directed to return at benumbed, stretched upon the floor beside the passage ; & certain hour ; but as she lay down to rest in the mean, and when she looked upon the bed of the invalid, he time, she did not wake till that hour was long past. lay stiffened and lifeless, as if many hours had elapsed Nothing then remained but to return for another night, since his spirit had shaken off its mortal coil. One and give warning of her intention on the morrow; and hand was thrown across his eyes, as if to shade them with a heavy discontented heart, she repaired to the from some object on which he feared to look; and the gloomy apartment. The Physician was already there other grasped the coverlit with convulsive firmness. when she arrived, and received her notice with regret; The remains of the mysterious student were interred but was rather surprised when she informed him of the in the old Carlton burying ground, and I remember, attentions of the strange lady, and the manner in which before the new road was made through it, to have often she had been prevented from performing her duty; he, seen his grave; but I never could learn his name, however, treated it as a common-place occurrence, and what connexion the spirit had with his story, or how he suggested that it was some affectionate relative or friend came to be in that melancholy deserted situation in of the patient, of whose connexions he knew nothing. Edinburgh. I have mentioned, at the commencement At last he took his leave, and Nurse arranged her of this narration, that I will vouch for its truth as far chair and seated herself to watch, not merely the de as regards myself, and that is, merely, as I heard the parture but the arrival of her fair friend. As she had
poor old woman herself tell all the extraordinary cirnot, however, appeared on the former accasions till the cumstances as I have recited them, a very few weeks night was far advanced, she did not expect her sooner, before her death, with a fearful accuracy. Be it as it and endeavoured to occupy her attention till that time may, they cost her her life ; as she never recovered by some other means. But it was all in vain; she from the effects of the terror, and pined and wasted could only think of the one mysterious circumstance, away to the hour of her death, which followed in about fx her dim gaze on the blackened trellis-work of the two months after the fearful occurrence. For my part,