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(Continued from page 488.) In the morning. I awoke in a high fever, owing to the immersion in the river and the subsequent excitement and fatigue. For five days, as I afterwards learned, I was delirious. On the sixth I recognised Leader standing by my bed-side. The first coherent words I spoke were, “Has Jackson been here?" Leader, thinking naturally enough that I still raved, answered me, as if humouring a headstrong child; but I speedily convinced him of my rationality, and he left the room for the purpose of despatching a servant for the object of my inquiry. The man soon arrived and expressed a decided opinion that the hound was going mad, though symptoms of confirmed rabies had not yet appeared. Cautioning him to keep the subject of our conference secret, and to acquaint me next day with farther particulars, I dismissed him, as my friend returned. I could see at a glance, that he wanted to question me about my visitor and to speak of his own accident; but I avoided all his allusions to the matter, as if I did not hear or comprehend them. I never once inquired for Lucy, but talked on about school days, old acquaintances, politics, classics, theatricals, and every thing I could possibly make a remark on or that I fancied would elicit a remark from him. I was beginning to congratulate myself upon my adroitness in foiling his attempts to render the conversation of immediate personal interest, when he approached me closely, and, looking me steadfastly in the face, said in a hard dry tone, “Ned, it won't do; I will know what brought Jackson here.” “ Capital oranges these,” said I, with a desperate attempt at indifference, “ hand me one like a dear fellow.” “ Yes,” replied he, putting the first into my hand,“ they may be capital oranges for all I know, but Jackson is not an orange.”
What was I to do? Further affectation on my part was out of the question, and to answer him I dared not. A silence of some three minutes ensued. His gaze grew more intense-it became painful beyond endurance, and starting up in bed I exclaimed, " Leader, for God's sake leave me.” He obeyed without a word.
Jackson came, as I directed. The hound would not eat. My strength again declined, and I was fearful of a relapse; but at night Jackson came again with intelligence, that the animal was better and took its food as usual. He thought if it were really labouring under the usual canine madness that it would not do so. This information so far calmed my apprehensions, that I slept soundly throughout the night and in the morning felt so invigorated that I had myself conveyed down stairs and laid on a couch that I might have an interview with Lucy. When the poor girl saw me she burst into tears, exclaiming, “Oh, can you restore Herman to himself ?" While telling me of his gloominess and moody eccentricity during my illness he entered. It was now two days since I saw him, and he would have retreated when he found I was in the room, had not Lucy ran to him and led him to where I lay. He did not put forth his hand, nor did I. Lucy looked at us alternately with dumb amazement. He looked
dreadfully pulled down, but withal evidently unfavourably impressed towards me since the occurrence in the bed-room. “ Leader," said 1, at length breaking silence, “ how are you?"
* Ned,” replied he with sharpness, “ how is Jackson ?”
“A person named Jackson wishes to see Mr. -," said the housemaid at the instant coming into the room.
“Let him wait,” said I.
When the man entered he was abashed at sight of Leader. None of us spoke. Lucy, supposing that her presence was a restraint, retired. I was but little relieved at her absence, while Jackson kept twisting his hat about with the uneasiness of a inan who wished himself any
where but where he was then. At last I said to Jackson, “ How is it?” “How is what ?" shouted Leader. “Much better and quite lively, Sir," said Jackson, appearing not to have heard the latter interrogatory, “indeed, Sir, I think I was at first completely mistaken." "That will do, Jackson," said I, "you need not come again until I shall have called upon you, unless —no matter," and I motioned him out. He left. My friend was about to address me, but I anticipated him by saying, “Now, Leader, what a fool you are! If it could possibly benefit you to know-" “Ah, ha! but I do know, Mrs. Austin told me,” cried he exultingly. Well then," I proceeded, “in that case your conduct has been doubly absurd. If my experiment had turned out differently, your knowledge of its failure miglit probably liave been any thing but advantageous to you; but as things are as they are, you ought to be ashamed of your silliness. . Have you not taken every possible precaution to counteract the evil you dread? and yet, like an ass as you are, you persist in breaking the heart of the fond fool, who is infatuated enough to care about you.' This burst, which I gave with all the dignity and earnestness I could assume, told well. Its logic was not altogether apparent to myself ; but he appeared to think it unanswerable.
He quitted the apartment, and in about an hour returned with Lucy, the looks of both plainly indicating that a favourable change had occurred. Her joy was too exuberant to be passive, and she continued to reiterate how happy the marked improvement in his spirits within so brief a period had made her. The effort on his part to be cheerful was violent, and in the end became hopeless. As a man struggles with overpowering sleep, conscious the while that his insidious antagonist must prevail, so Leader bore up against the inroads of despondency, until the conflict became so painfully obvious to Lucy and myself
, that a general silence ensued as if by mutual arrangement. After a pause of about quarter of an hour's duration he took Lucy by the hand, and leading her close to my couch, told me that their marriage had long been fixed for the following Thursday (this was on Monday), but that in consequence of any unforeseen illness he had thought it better to delay the ceremony until I should be able to fulfil my allotted part. This I opposed in toto, though Lucy lent her aid to overcome my objections ; but I contrived to satisfy them by expressing my belief that another day's quiet would remove all impediments as far as I was concerned.
Next day I was walking about the house, and on the following was strong enough to go into the open air. My friend gave me his arm, and proposed taking me to see a small summer-house or bermitage he had recently erected. As we proceeded along, I set about reasoning him out of his melancholy, and the earnestness of my exhortation rendered me insensible of the distance we had walked, until I found myself entering a kind of court-yard surrounded by low-sized buildings, and which somehow or other I thought I had seen before. I was about to say so, when the barkings, howlings, and cries in all tones and cadences of a legion of dogs, speedily assured me that we were within the precincts of a very extensive kennel. Leader shook violently. I looked at him reproachfully and was for leading him back again; but he disengaged his arm from mine, and walking towards a man whom the noise of the dogs had brought out, enquired for Jackson, and being informed that that person was in the house he entered. I was spell-bound, and remained fixed to the spot. In a few minutes he returned, his countenance hideously livid, his eyes protruding shockingly from their sockets, and his forehead the colour of ashes. He walked straight towards me, but passed on, as if I were invisible.
“ Leader!" cried I, when he had got half-a-dozen yards beyond me.
He turned, pointed to the doorway out of which he had just come, and proceeded slowly in the direction of home. I went in and found Jackson seated on the ground beside a large cage, and watching the little bound now in rabid convulsions, foaming at the inouth and uttering the most piteous moans. Jackson had never known a similar case. The dog had been lively the preceding day, and though il partook of no food, it drank water and manifested no symptoms of the horrid disease until about six hours previous to our ill-omened visit. The poor creature died before I left.
When I reached the house I found Lucy in tears seated beside Leader, who would not utter a word in reply to all her entreaties, to tell her what was the matter with him. As soon as he recognised me, he motioned her to leave us. When we were alone, he desired me to be seated, and drawing a chair close to mine observed with all possible coolness, “Now, Ned, you see how it is. Am I a fool now? Didn't uncle Fred die of it, and must I still shut my eyes to my unavoidable doom?"
The sight at Jackson's, together with Leader's woe-begone appearance and my own physical weakness, in addition to the everpresent and immovable belief which haunted me that I should see him die the death he dreaded, well-nigh incapacitated me from giving any reply to his laconic interrogatories; and some time elapsed before I was able to answer mildly but firmly, “ Leader, many days have elapsed since you were bitten by a dog, which I don't want to contend was not mad. What worse are you? The wound of itself has never caused you a moment's pain worth speaking of, and so far from your bodily health being impaired it is ten years, since I saw you looking so well. [He looked more like a spectre than himself a week before.] Do
you feel a single sensation that can warrant you in
entertaining your fears? Miss Austin's hound, it is true, has died from Whip’s bite. But what of that? and above all things what has your uncle Fred's case to do with yours? He adopted no precautions, you had recourse to all practical remedies instantaneously, and for one reason you have to be apprehensive you have fifty not to
While I spoke he kept listlessly turning over the leaves of a book which Lucy had left behind her. When I had finished, he looked at me for a moment, and then in a calm, deliberate tone, not altogether unflavoured with a spice of acerbity, said, “You have probably heard in your time, Ned, of a person named Shakspeare; most people I believe are agreed that he was not quite a donkey in his estimate of humanity. Now here are a few words of his which convey my answer to what you have said, and also to what you may say about this unfortunate business,” and he read that splendid passage on patience spoken by Leonato in “Much Ado about Nothing.” I subjoin it for the sake of its universal applicability :
I will be flesh and blood;
And made a pish at chance and sufferance.”
“Herman, love," asked the gentle creature, taking his hand and looking meekly and timidly into his face, “are you mad ?"
“Mad!” cried he savagely, “aye, I am mad. Are you blind, that you can't see I am-mad!--mad heavens!” and his voice sunk to a whisper.
“Oh!" said Lucy, as the tears gushed in torrents from her eyes and fell upon his neck, as he reclined upon the table to conceal his emotion, what a prelude to our wedding-day!”
Wedding-day," repeated he bitterly, “death's-day, burial-day, doom's-day!”
Lucy's colour fled, and she was upon the point of fainting, when
he started up, and, snatching her frantically to his bosom, covered her with kisses. As she lay tranquilly and unconscious in his embrace, his breast heaved with agitation, which momentarily increased as he continued to “ drink her sighs,” gazing intensely into her hushed and beauteous features. From the working of his countenance I feared an epileptic or other equally dangerous attack, and rushing to him received his lovely burden in my arms.
“ Her breath* is a hell-blast,” shouted he at the top of his voice, flinging out of the room and slamming the door with startling force. Fortunately she heard him not. Her
questions, when she recovered, were painfully searching, and my answers only added to her perplexity. I then believed that it was only excitement that caused him to speak and act as he had just done, and hoped as the time wore on that he would become more moderate. Yet was I apprehensive, that his next ebullition of nervousness would be attended by a full disclosure of the fearful particulars. Several times I was about to dispel her even then happy ignorance, but a vague notion that things might still improve withheld me.
As may be supposed, we passed a miserable night. I proceeded betimes in the morning to Leader's bed-room. He was up, and dressed tolerably gay for a bridegroom, but looked rather, as if he were going to join a death-dance than a wedding. When we descended to the parlour, we found Mrs. Austin and
Lucy seated at the breakfast-table, as he insisted that the ceremony should not take place before mid-day. Lucy rose and advanced towards him, but he extended his arm so obviously for the purpose of keeping her at a distance, that we all turned our eyes full upon him. He appeared to be aware of the apparently unaccountable strangeness of his conduct, and confusedly disengaging his hand from hers dropped into a chair. I stood up to whisper a word or two of encouragement in his ear; but he was suddenly seized with spasmodic retching, and as he suspired deeply after each depletion of a viscid fluid, I thought-oh God, I was certain, too certain—that the sounds resembled the partially suppressed howlings of a dog! An idea struck me, that he had anticipated his fate by poison. I rushed back to his room and ransacked it on every side, but found nothing to confirm my suspicions. Again I came to him; the retching had ceased. A deadly paleness overspread his fine countenance, while Lucy looked on almost beside herself with surprise and terror. His repulse, when she first entered the room, rendered her fearful of again approaching him; but when exhaustion had prostrated his faculties she drew near, and taking his
Some of my readers may perhaps be acquainted with instances in cases of hydrophobia of the patient being dreadfully affected by the slightest current of air. At the Charing-Cross Hospital, some twelve months ago, a man who became mad from the bite of a rabid cat was so sensitive in this respect, that the rustling of his bed-curtains occasioned paroxysms; but that was subsequent to the disease having assumed a form that left no doubt of some potent virus having been imbibed into the system, whereas in the case I have narrated my friend had no previous intimation of the approach of the malady, not even a pain in the region of the wound, nor any repugnance to fluids. It was long after his death that I guessed at the meaning of the above exclamation, and consequently was not a little puzzled at the time to account for it.