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that seldom obliterates every trace, is prematurely and radically ruined by the unsparing influence if sordid passions and corroding anxieties. The heroine of this short tale is at this moment well known in what are called the gay circles of life, though the portrait I have drawn will be recognized only by a few; by those, alas! who have gazed, as I have gazed, on the gilded morning of her life, and have seen, as I have seen, that morning shrouded in a sudden gloom, pregnant with blight and with mildew.
My correspondent has forwarded this letter to me, which he received a few days ago from a contemplative friend, who desired that it might be communicated to the old gentleman employed in schooling the town, under the title of the LOOKER-on.
MY DEAR SIR,
“ The other day I paid a visit to a medical person who lives at a short distance from town, and who has under his care a small number of lunatic patients. As I am curious to see my species under every variety of aspect, I readily accepted the offer he made me, of introducing me to some of his unhappy lodgers. He accordingly carried me into all their apartments, and surprised me with such sights of human woe, as sunk all the pride of my nature, and humbled the man within me. I shall dwell only on one spectacle, which interested me and afflicted me above the rest, and forced me upon reflecting how much we are the creatures of habit, and how soon, by a degenerate course of action, we may depart from ourselves, and entomb every trace and vestige of original worth.
“ In a little room, at the top of the house, on the foot of a mattress, sat a woman whose age seemed to be about forty : she had a long night-gown that
was tied about her neck, and reached to her feet; and her hair, which was mostly gray, was combed back into a sort of cap, or caul, which served to keep it together. Her eyes were deep sunk in their sockets, and her cheeks were miserably fallen in. Her neck was bent forwards, and bowed with wretchedness; and her looks expressed that frantic gloom, that keen sort of melancholy, and that eating care, which consume with perpetual anguish, and allow no comforting thought, not even in the prospect of death.
“ As we entered the room, we awakened not the smallest curiosity in her mind. Her chin fell on the palm of her hand, while her elbow rested on her knee ; and, pointing to a spot in the floor, she drew forth a sigh so hollow, and so sad, that my whole frame underwent an agitation almost too much to support. In a moment she sprang violently from her bed, and, rushing to the spot at which she had pointed with her finger, fell prone with her face upon it, crying, “ Ah! my little, little babes, will you knit for ever those innocent brows on your poor wicked mother?” Then looking at us with a countenance full of the most intense feelings, she cried, “Hush, hush, I conjure you ! My little ones, my murdered little ones, will speak to me, if you will but keep silence!” She continued after this prostrate on the floor, and talking indistinctly. In this situation we left her.
“ I could not rest till the keeper consented to give me, in a few words, the history of this afflicted person, which he did to this effect :- This poor wornan,' said he, was once the ornament of her family, and the delight of all who knew her. I remember her, about twenty years ago, with a little cherub-like face, sparkling with pleasure and with
innocence. She married the youngest son of a Baronet, who had taken orders, and held a living in the neighbourhood of her father's residence. He was a youth of rare talents and exemplary worth ; and they lived together in domestic happiness, and unassuming plenty, a few short years, till ill health, and a fair opportunity, induced the husband to try the benefit of sea air, in a voyage to the Mediterranean, when she was persuaded to accept an invitation to spend the winter in town, at the house of a female relation. This lady had neither honour nor conscience remaining, and had long, unknown to her country connections, kept a kind of decoy in — square, where, under the notion of routs, the young and the simple were allured, to the ruin of their fortunes and their principles.
"In this vortex of villainy, where vice appeared to her in a kind of masquerade, and tempted her with the show of elegance, and the authority of fashion, was this poor creature abused, seduced, and vitiated. After an absence of three quarters of a year, her husband returned, and fled to her with that ardour and anxiety with which a husband approaches a wife whom he tenderly loves, and who, for reasons unknown, has ceased to correspond with him for many months. He fled to her, to chide her for her neglect, and to seal their reconciliation with kisses so long untasted, -when, instead of that elegant, affectionate, and artless character, which had drawn from him so many tears at parting, he found her transformed into the cold and fantastic creature of fashion, and stripped of all the virtues and the graces that belonged to her native simplicity.
“ • Being unacquainted, however, with the whole
of her unworthiness, and the full extent of her
proAigacy, he lived with her for two years, on an income much abridged by her losses at play, and a mind penetrated with sorrow and despondency at the hourly proofs of her degeneracy. His spirits were so affected, and his fortune so sunk, that both his health and pocket united to persuade him to accept the place of chaplain to a man-of-war, which was just on the point of sailing to convoy a fleet of merchantmen. Here his tender constitution and his aching heart so ill agreed with the rough situation to which he had consigned himself, that he fell into a lingering illness, and returned in a few months, to die of what is usually called a broken heart. His wife, who had long ago
laid down all the noble feelings of nature at the gaming-table, and had to reckon her virtue and her faith among the losses she had there incurred, beheld without remorse his pining condition, and saw his head bent down upon his bosom with little self-accusation or sorrow.
“One night a sudden indisposition brought her home, earlier than usual, from the lady's house where her ruin had begun. She came, as if led by the hand of Providence, to receive her husband's last sigh, and to behold the completion of her work. It seemed as if her spirits had been borne up till this moment, only to experience a more sudden fall, and to feel the piercing remorse that followed with greater bitterness and anguish. A sudden recollection seized her, attended with such horror and such agony of grief, that her faculties were overborne, and her reason, her health, and her beauty, were the sudden forfeits of her crimes. It was not long before she gave the severest proof of
her insanity which it was in her power to afford, by mixing up deliberately a quantity of poison, of which she took a part herself, and found means to administer the rest to her two little children and her maid-servant: the mixture, however, was so inefficacious, that it produced only a temporary illness in those on whom it was tried.
«« It was immediately judged necessary to put her under strict confinement, and she has now been five years a lodger in my house. She will wear no dress but the one she has now on, and chooses that little remote chamber in preference to any other. But the circumstance most to be admired is, that nothing can persuade her that her children are alive; she persists in declaring, that their spirits are constantly in the room, and continues to converse with them the whole day, as if they were actually present. If, at those moments when she seems to be a little more composed, we venture to place her children before her, she immediately falls into a fit of raving, and cries out that they are multiplied into four, and are come with scorpions to torment her.' “ Here my
friend finished his sad account, and I took my leave, impressed with more horror than any spectacle has ever yet created in my mind. If Mr. Simon Olive-Branch can make any use of this story, which I send in this naked and simple form, he is at liberty to employ it, as he has done others, in the cause of virtue and humanity.
“ Yours, &c."