« PoprzedniaDalej »
anguish reminded me, seeing the postillion who, a few weeks before, had driven my wife and me to Leipsic.
I remained for two hours without the gate, accompanied only by my own anguish and distraction. The weather was cold, rainy, and stormy, but I was insensible to it. I walked up and down by the side of a ditch endeavouring to collect my scattered senses, and to reflect calmly upon my situation, but it was impossible. Once or twice a few tears came to my relief, but they were few. Heaven was sparing of this lenient balm.
After awhile, an old man in a soldier's uniform, probably a pensioner of the neighbouring hospital, whose attention I suppose had been excited by the wildness of my appearance, came up to me, and asked if I was ill. I answered, Yes, and passed on. that's plainly enough to be seen!” I could hear him say in a compassionate tone, as I continued walking forwards. I know not whether it was this appear. ance of participation in my sorrow that gave a new turn to my feelings, but I burst into tears, and wept violently for some minutes; yet this was soon past, and I relapsed into my former state of gloomy stupefaction.
At length, towards evening, I saw my own travelling carriage approach, the same carriage into which I had so often handed my Frederica ; in which I had enjoyed so many happy hours by her side. I got hastily into it, the little dog which had been my wife's favourite was there, and jumped upon me, wagging his tail. Oh God! what painful recollections did it call into my mind. Every thing in the carriage bore some reference to my Frederica. In one pocket was a stain, made by a bottle of medicine which she had once broke. Here was a needle with which she had been at work; there, the mark of powder from her hair: and yet what was absent, reminded me of ber far more painfully than what was present. At our
departure from Reval, I had a couple of small pillows made, covered with leather, to rest our heads against on the journey. On these my wife had lain during her illness, as she found the pillows belonging to the bed too warm-on these she died !
We proceeded onwards; the clouds began to disperse, and the moon appeared. Not a word was spoken. My friend felt sensibly that, at present, any attempts to console me were vain ; he was silent therefore, and in my heart I acknowledged this as an obligation. I fixed my eyes steadily upon the clouds, which the wind blew into a thousand varied forms, at first only with a vacant stare, but after awhile they caught my attention, and my fancy found a melancholy gratification in likening them to such images as were most accordant with the situation of my soul. In one, I saw a coffin ; in another, a funeral procession; in another, a hat with a long crape hatband. I found in the heavens whatever I sought: never was my imagination so fertile in forming resemblances. At length, about eight o'clock, we arrived at Erfurth.
Soon after I had left my house Dr Starke arrived, and opened a vein in my poor Frederica's arm, but in vain. Nothing could snatch from the grasp of death the sweetest, gentlest victim he ever seized. For the first time since our union did she give me an uneasy sensation she died !
I was afterwards informed by letter, that the fever occasioned by the milk had fallen upon her lungs, and was the origin of her disorder. A thousand tormeriting reflections upon this subject oppress my heart. It is true, I do not doubt that my
Frederica now bears testimony to our great Judge, that I did everything the tenderest love could suggest to save her; yet I cannot shake off the idea, that if this or that thing had been done or omitted, she might yet have been alive ; so often does the rescue or destruction of a man hang upon a single thread-upon some accident, apparently of the most trifling or insigni. ficant nature.
I am eternally haunted by the recollection that, in the last days of her illness, my beloved wife called very often, it is true only amid the wanderings of delirium, for the Russian medicine. She frequently endeavoured to explain herself more fully, and used every possible effort to make me understand what she meant, yet never could think of the right name: she could only say the “Russian medicine.”. I perplexed myself in vain at the time to conceive what it was on which her distempered fancy dwelt, but it has since occurred to me, that she doubtless referred to a powder in very common use in our country, which, though the physicians may declaim against it, and consider it as quackery, has most certainly often achieved wonders. And since I believe we owe the life of a son, given over by the physicians, to this powder, it is very probable that his poor mother might feel confidence in its power to restore her also. Oh heaven! who knows what might have been the effect of this powder's being administered on that last fatal day, during the short interval when her breath was easy, and her cough quiet ! But how should I have assumed courage to recommend it ! since, if she had then died, I had considered myself as her murderer, and been even more wretched than at present.
Alas! it was determined by a higher than mortal power, that thus it should be, and no otherwise. The great wheel that guides our destinies is not to be stopped by a blade of stubble. She is dead! and all my hopes and joys died with her !—I look for no more happiness on this side the grave! I may yet perhaps sometimes laugh, but my heart will never more be really cheerful! Many years may yet pass ere I shall be re-united to the only treasure of my soul-I may drag on a procrastinated existence, but never can í really live, since I am deprived of the better part of
my life's support! What remains of me will only hope, will only sigh for the time of its re-union, to this perished half, and the sole consolation my sorrows can ever know, will be in constantly looking forward to that blessed period.
“ Thou pious soul, belov'd, ador'd,
Oh draw me in love's bands tow'rd thee!
That I an angel too may be !"
BEFORE I proceed farther, I must beg a few minutes' indulgence of my readers, while I enter on some defence of my behaviour upon this fatal occasion. My friends have tormented me incessantly with reproaches for so hastily quitting my home, my family, my connections. I should have remained at Weimar they say. But why? This is a question they cannot answer. Letter after letter followed me on my flight--they were still in the same story. One said, “ We all hope, that when your sorrow is abated by time, you will think more reasonably upon the subject, and return amongst us.” “ You owe it to your own character speedily to return, else it will be believed that you only fled to banish every melancholy object, every unpleasant recollection from within the circle of your own observation.'
From my soul I detest such scannings of the conduct of others! such “They say!” and “They believe!” nor shall I concern myself about them as long as my conscience does not unite her voice with that of the public. But never was my astonishment greater than at hearing of these censures, for never was anything more unexpected.
And what should I do at Weimar? Who will answer me this question? Who, under like circumstances, would not have acted as I did ? Who would not have fled the place that had proved the grave of all his peace and happiness, when bound by no particular connection or obligation to remain in it? Oh, how I pity the wretched mortal who perhaps is constrained by some office, or still worse by his poverty, to remain on the spot of earth that entombs the object of his fondest love! I pity him, and return thanks to heaven that, severe as is my lot, I am not doomed to such aggravated distress.
I have long enjoyed an office under the empress of Russia. This magnanimous woman, even in the midst of her battles and victories, could condescend to pay attention to an unfortunate servant, whose health had long been materially injured by the cold and damp climate upon the shores of the Baltic sea. She allowed me a year's absence for my recovery. I spent the summer at the baths, and in the autumn returned of my own free choice to Weimar, in the hope of spending a happy winter with my Frederica, in the bosom of my family. Happy this winter cannot now be, and of all places Weimar is the last in which I can hope for the restoration of my lost health.
Once more, then, why should I return thither? What should I do there?-Oh, I know but too well how my time would be passed! The church-yard would be my daily resort, my principal abode. There, in a vault, lie the remains of my father, whom indeed I never knew, since I was but just born when he died; but whose memory, from the character I have uniformly heard of him, I tenderly love and respect. There, by the side of that wall, slumbers the corpse of the worthy Musæus. Oh, my good, my beloved friend, hadst thou been living, thou hadst not judged thy pupil so severely!—And last of all! oh most fatal of all !—there is now the grave of my only treasure, of the best, the most amiable, the most affectionate of wives. There rest the happiness of my mortal, the hope of my immortal existence! My father, my tutor, my wife, all, all are enshrined