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they clasped their first-born in their arms, the name which rose from heart to lip, and which they bestowed upon him, was in itself a cry of anguish and despair.
"The husband soon died. Man breaks, woman bends, beneath the crushing weight of such a life. My mother lived, a dark and silent woman, till five years ago. Then she died, too, and I inherited my ancestor's portrait and the curse of the Withringtons.
"I tried to work, to earn my bread, as men all about me were doing. But no, -the fate was upon me, the curse pursued me. Everything failed which I attempted. I sunk lower and lower, until the name and the picture, which had been my pride, became a shame and a reproach to me. I abandoned the one and concealed the other, resolved to reveal neither until the moment arrived when death should wipe out the squalor of life, conquer fate, and expiate the curse.
"Quick, Faith, quick! The hour has come. Take the knife you just held,cut the canvas from its frame,-cut it in fragments, lay it on the blazing fire. We will perish together, the First and -the Last."
Nay, Ichabod, give it to me," said Faith, shrinking from the proposed holocaust. "I will always keep it, and value it."
"Would you see me fall dead at your feet, while attempting to do for myself what you refuse to do for me?" asked the dying man, with feverish ardor, and half rising, as if to leave his bed.
“No, no, I will do it, since it must be so," exclaimed Faith, eagerly. "Lie down again and watch me.”
Ichabod sunk back upon his pillows, and gazed with eyes of fitful light upon the girl, while she, opening the keen knife, cut slowly and laboriously round the margin of the stout canvas, which shrieked beneath the blade, as if the spirit of the effigy which it bore were resisting the fearful doom which threatened it.
At last the canvas was entirely released, and Faith silently held it up before the eyes of the dying man, upon whose face had come a dull, leader blankness, and whose eyes were painful to watch as they struggled to pierce the film which was gathering over them.
"Burn," he hoarsely murmured.
With a sigh, Faith cut the picture into strips, and laid them gently, reverently, upon the coals heaped in the large fireplace.
The greedy flames leaped up to grasp their prey, and Faith turned sick and faint as she watched them fasten upon that noble face, which seemed to contract and shrivel in its anguish as they seized upon it.
She gazed a moment, painfully fascinated, then turned toward the bed,- but as her eyes fell upon Ichabod's face, she started back, and, rousing the old woman from her slumber, sent to summon her mother.
Mrs. Coffin came immediately,- but when she entered the little chamber, the last fragment of the canvas was shrivelling in the flames, the last sigh of the dying man was parting from his white lips.
They had perished together, the First -and the Last.
THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.
WHAT HE SAID, WHAT HE HEARD, AND WHAT HE SAW.
You will know, perhaps, in the course of half an hour's reading, what has been haunting my hours of sleep and waking for months. I cannot tell, of course, whether you are a nervous person or not. If, however, you are such a person,— if it is late at night,— if all the rest of the household have gone off to bed,if the wind is shaking your windows as if a human hand were rattling the sashes, if your candle or lamp is low and will soon burn out,—let me advise you to read the "Critical Notices" or some other paper contained in this number, if you have not already devoured them all, and leave this to be read by daylight, with cheerful voices round, and people near by who would hear you, if you slid from your chair and came down in a lump on the floor.
I do not say that your heart will beat as mine did, I am willing to confess, when I entered the dim chamber. Did I not tell you that I was sensitive and imaginative, and that I had lain awake with thinking what were the strange movements and sounds which I heard late at night in my little neighbor's apartment? It had come to that pass that I was truly unable to separate what I had really heard from what I had dreamed in these nightmares to which I have been subject, as before mentioned. So, when I walked into the room, and Bridget, turning back, closed the door and left me alone with its tenant, I do believe you could have grated a nutmeg on my skin, such a "goose-flesh" shiver ran over it. It was not fear, but what I call nervousness,— unreasoning, but irresistible; as when, for instance, one looking at the sun going down says, "I will count fifty before it disappears"; and as he goes on and it becomes doubtful whether he will reach the number, he gets strangely flurried, and his imagina
tion pictures life and death and heaven and hell as the issues depending on the completion or non-completion of the fifty he is counting. Extreme curiosity will excite some people as much as fear, or what resembles fear, acts on some other less impressible natures.
I may find myself in the midst of strange facts in this little conjurer's room. Or, again, there may be nothing in this poor invalid's chamber but some old furniture, such as they say came over in the Mayflower. All this is just what I mean to find out while I am looking at the Little Gentleman, who has suddenly become my patient. The simplest things turn out to be unfathomable mysteries; the most mysterious appearances prove to be the most commonplace objects in disguise.
I wonder whether the boys that live in Roxbury and Dorchester are ever moved to tears or filled with silent awe as they look upon the rocks and fragments of "puddingstone" abounding in those localities. I have my suspicions that those boys "heave a stone" or "fire a brickbat," composed of the conglomerate just mentioned, without any more tearful or philosophical contemplations than boys of less favored regions expend on the same performance. Yet a lump of puddingstone is a thing to look at, to think about, to study over, to dream upon, to go crazy with, to beat one's brains out against. Look at that pebble in it. From what cliff was it broken? On what beach rolled by the waves of what ocean? How and when imbedded in soft ooze, which itself became stone, and by-and-by was lifted into bald summits and steep cliffs, such as you may see on MeetinghouseHill any day,-yes, and mark the scratches on their faces left when the bouldercarrying glaciers planed the surface of the continent with such rough tools that the storms have not worn the marks out of it
with all the polishing of ever so many thousand years?
Or as you pass a roadside ditch or pool in spring-time, take from it any bit of stick or straw which has lain undisturbed for a time. Some little wormshaped masses of clear jelly containing specks are fastened to the stick: eggs of a small snail-like shell-fish. One of these specks magnified proves to be a crystalline sphere with an opaque mass in its centre. And while you are looking, the opaque mass begins to stir, and by-and-by slowly to turn upon its axis like a forming planet,-life beginning in the microcosm, as in the great worlds of the firmament, with the revolution that turns the surface in ceaseless round to the source of life and light.
A pebble and the spawn of a mollusk! Before you have solved their mysteries, this earth where you first saw them may be a vitrified slag, or a vapor diffused through the planetary spaces. Mysteries are common enough, at any rate, whatever the boys in Roxbury and Dorchester think of "brickbats" and the spawn of creatures that live in roadside puddles.
But then a great many seeming mysteries are relatively perfectly plain, when we can get at them so as to turn them over. How many ghosts that "thick men's blood with cold" prove to be shirts hung out to dry! How many mermaids have been made out of seals! How many times have horse-mackerels been taken for the sea-serpent!
- Let me take the whole matter coolly, while I see what is the matter with the patient. That is what I say to myself, as I draw a chair to the bedside.The bed is an old-fashioned, dark mahogany four-poster. It was never that which made the noise of something moving. It is too heavy to be pushed about the room. -The Little Gentleman was sitting, bolstered up by pillows, with his hands clasped and their united palms resting on the back of the head,—one of the three or four positions specially affected by persons whose breathing is difficult from disease of the heart or other causes.
Sit down, Sir,-he said,- sit down! I have come to the hill Difficulty, Sir, and am fighting my way up.-His speech was laborious and interrupted.
Don't talk,-I said, -except to answer my questions. And I proceeded to "prospect" for the marks of some local mischief, which you know is at the bottom of all these attacks, though we do not always find it. I suppose I go to work pretty much like other professional folks of my temperament. Thus :
Wrist, if you please. I was on his right side, but he presented his left wrist, crossing it over the other.-I begin to count, holding watch in left hand. One, two, three, four,- -What a handsome hand!-wonder if that splendid stone is a carbuncle. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, - Can't see much, it is so dark, except one white object. — One, two, three, four,- Hang it eighty or hinety in the minute, I guess. - Tongue, if you please.- Tongue is put out. Forget to look at it, or, rather, to take any particular notice of it;—but what is that white object, with the long arm stretching up as if pointing to the sky, just as Vesalius and Spigelius and those old fellows used to put their skeletons? I don't think anything of such objects, you know; but what should he have it in his chamber for? As I had found his pulse irregular and intermittent, I took out a stethoscope, which is a pocket-spyglass for looking into men's chests with your ears, and laid it over the place where the heart beats. I missed the usual beat of the organ. How is this?—I said,-where is your heart gone to?- He took the stethoscope and shifted it across to the right side; there was a displacement of the organ. I am ill-packed,- he said;- there was no room for my heart in its place as it is with other men. God help him!
It is hard to draw the line between scientific curiosity and the desire for the patient's sake to learn all the details of his condition. I must look at this patient's chest, and thump it and listen to it. For this is a case of ectopia cordis, my boy,-displacement of the heart; and
it isn't every day you get a chance to overhaul such an interesting malformation. And so I managed to do my duty and satisfy my curiosity at the same time. The torso was slight and deformed; the right arm attenuated, the left full, round, and of perfect symmetry. It had run away with the life of the other limbs, —a common trick enough of Nature's, as I told you before. If you see a man with legs withered from childhood, keep out of the way of his arms, if you have a quarrel with him. He has the strength of four limbs in two; and if he strikes you, it is an arm-blow plus a kick administered from the shoulder instead of the haunch, where it should have started from.
Still examining him as a patient, I kept my eyes about me to search all parts of the chamber, and went on with the double process, as before. - Heart hits as hard as a fist,-bellows-sound over mitral valves (professional terms you need not attend to).-What the deuse is that long case for? Got his witch grandmother mummied in it? And three big mahogany presses,- hey?- A diabolical suspicion came over me which I had had once before, that he might be one of our modern alchemists,—you understand,
make gold, you know, or what looks like it, sometimes with the head of a king or queen or of Liberty to embellish one side of the piece. - Don't I remember hearing him shut a door and lock it once? What do you think was kept under that lock?
Let's have another look at his hand, to see if there are any calluses. One can tell a man's business, if it is a handicraft, very often by just taking a look at his open hand.-Ah! Four calluses at the end of the fingers of the right hand. None on those of the left. Ah, ha!
What do those mean?
All this seems longer in the telling, of course, than it was in fact. While I was making these observations of the objects around me, I was also forming my opinion as to the kind of case with which I had to deal.
There are three wicks, you know, to the lamp of a man's life: brain, blood,
and breath. Press the brain a little, its light goes out, followed by both the others. Stop the heart a minute, and out go all three of the wicks. Choke the air out of the lungs, and presently the fluid ceases to supply the other centres of flame, and all is soon stagnation, cold, and darkness. The "tripod of life" a French physiologist called these three organs. It is all clear enough which leg of the tripod is going to break down here. I could tell you exactly what the difficulty is;-which would be as intelligible and amusing as a watchmaker's description of a diseased timekeeper to a ploughman. It is enough to say, that I found just what I expected to, and that I think this attack is only the prelude of more serious consequences,-which expression means you very well know what.
And now the secrets of this life hanging on a thread must surely come out. If I have made a mystery where there was none, my suspicions will be shamed, as they have often been before. If there is anything strange, my visits will clear it up.
I sat an hour or two by the side of the Little Gentleman's bed, after giving him some henbane to quiet his brain, and some foxglove, which an imaginative French professor has called the "Opium of the Heart." Under their influence he gradually fell into an uneasy, half-waking slumber, the body fighting hard for every breath, and the mind wandering off in strange fancies and old recollections, which escaped from his lips in broken sentences.
The last of 'em,-he said,-the last of 'em all,-thank God! And the grave he lies in will look just as well as if he had been straight. Dig it deep, old Martin, dig it deep,- and let it be as long as other folks' graves. And mind you get the sods flat, old man,-flat as ever a straight-backed young fellow was laid under. And then, with a good tall slab at the head, and a footstone six foot away from it, it'll look just as if there was a man underneath.
A man! Who said he was a man? No more men of that pattern to bear his
name! Used to be a good-looking set enough. Where's all the manhood and womanhood gone to since his great-grandfather was the strongest man that sailed out of the town of Boston, and poor Leah there the handsomest woman in Essex, if she was a witch?
Give me some light,— he said,— more light. I want to see the picture. He had started either from a dream or a wandering reverie. I was not unwilling to have more light in the apartment, and presently had lighted an astral lamp that stood on a table.-He pointed to a portrait hanging against the wall.— Look at her, he said, look at her! Wasn't that a pretty neck to slip a hangman's noose over?
The portrait was of a young woman, something more than twenty years old, perhaps. There were few pictures of any merit painted in New England before the time of Smibert, and I am at a loss to know what artist could have taken this half-length, which was evidently from life. It was somewhat stiff and flat, but the grace of the figure and the sweetness of the expression reminded me of the angels of the early Florentine painters. She must have been of some consideration, for she was dressed in paduasoy and lace with hanging sleeves, and the old carved frame showed how the picture had been prized by its former owners. A proud eye she had, with all her sweetness.— I think it was that which hanged her, as his strong arm hanged Minister George Burroughs; but it may have been a little mole on one cheek, which the artist had just hinted as a beauty rather than a deformity. You know, I suppose, that nursling imps addict themselves, after the fashion of young opossums, to these little excrescences. "Witch-marks" were good evidence that a young woman was one of the Devil's wet-nurses;-I should like to have seen you make fun of them in those days! Then she had a brooch in her bodice, that might have been taken for some devilish amulet or other; and she wore a ring upon one of her fingers, with a red stone in it, that flamed as if the
painter had dipped his pencil in fire ;who knows but that it was given her by a midnight suitor fresh from that fierce element, and licensed for a season to leave his couch of flame to tempt the unsanctified hearts of earthly maidens and brand their cheeks with the print of his scorching kisses?
She and I,-he said, as he looked steadfastly at the canvas,-she and I are the last of 'em.-She will stay, and I shall go. They never painted me,-—except when the boys used to make pictures of me with chalk on the board-fences. They said the doctors would want my skeleton when I was dead. You are my friend, if you are a doctor,-a'n't you?
I just gave him my hand. I had not the heart to speak.
I want to lie still, -he said, - after I am put to bed upon the hill yonder. Can't you have a great stone laid over me, as they did over the first settlers in the old burying-ground at Dorchester, so as to keep the wolves from digging them up? I never slept easy over the sod;-I should like to lie quiet under it. And besides, he said, in a kind of scared whisper, I don't want to have my bones stared at, as my body has been. I don't doubt I was a remarkable case; but, for God's sake, oh, for God's sake, don't let 'em make a show of the cage I have been shut up in and looked through the bars of for so many years!
I have heard it said that the art of healing makes men hardhearted and indifferent to human suffering. I am willing to own that there is often a professional hardness in surgeons, just as there is in theologians,-only much less in degree than in these last. It does not commonly improve the sympathies of a man to be in the habit of thrusting knives into his fellow-creatures and burning them with red-hot irons, any more than it improves them to hold the blinding-white cautery of Gehenna by its cool handle and score and crisp young souls with it until they are scorched into the belief of -Transubstantiation or the Immaculate Conception. And, to say the plain truth,