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THE SECRET WITNESS..
FROM THE DANISH OF B. S. INGEMANN.
In the year 1816 there lived in Copenhagen an elderly lady, Proken
of whom it was known that she sometimes involuntarily saw what was not visible to any one else. She was a tall, thin, grave-looking person, with large features and an expressive countenance. Her dark, deep-set eyes had a strange glance, and she saw much better than most people in the twilight; but she was so deaf that people had to speak very loudly to her before she could catch their words, and when a number of persons were speaking at the same time in a room, she could hear nothing but an unintelligible murmur. A sort of magnetic clairvoyance had, doubtless, in the somewhat isolated condition in which she was placed, been awakened in her mind, without, however, her being thrown into any peculiar state. She only seemed, at times, to be labouring under absence of mind, or to have fallen into deep thought, and then she was observed to fix her eyes upon some object invisible to all others. What she saw at those moments were most frequently the similitude of some absent person, or images of the future, which were always after. wards realised. Thus she had often foreseen unexpected deaths, and other fatal accidents. As she seldom beheld in her visions anything pleasing; she was regarded by many as a bird of ill omen, and she therefore did not visit a number of families. Those, however, who knew her intimately, both respected and loved her. She was quiet and unpretending, and it was but rarely that she said anything, unsolicited, of the results of her wonderful faculty.
She was a frequent guest in a family with whom she was a great favourite. The master of the house was an historical painter, and his wife was an excellent musician. The deaf old lady was a good judge of paintings, and extremely fond of them; also, hard of hearing as she was, music had always a great effect upon her; she would add in fancy what she did not hear to what she did hear. She had been
musical herself in her youthful days, and when she saw fingers flying over the pianoforte, she imagined she heard the music, even when any one, to dupe her, moved their fingers baek and forwards over the instrument, but without playing on it.
One day she was sitting on a sofa in the drawing-room at the house of the above-mentioned family, engaged in some handiwork. The artist had a visitor, who was a very lively, witty, satirical person, and they were standing together near a window, discoursing merrily. They often laughed during their conversation, and the tone of their voices seemed to change occasionally, as if they were imitating some one, whereupon their hilarity increased, which, however, was far from being as harmless and good-natured as mirth and gaiety generally were in that house,
When the visit was over, and the artist had accompanied his friend
to the door and returned to the drawing-room, the old lady asked him who had been with him.
He mentioned the name of his lively friend, whom, he said, he thought she knew very well.
“Oh yes, I know him well enough," she replied. “But the other?" “ What other ?" asked the painter, starting.
“Why, the tall man with the long thin face, who stood yonder ; he with the dark, rough, uncombed-looking hair, and the bushy eyebrows; he who so often laid his hand upon his breast, and pointed upwards, especially when you and your merry friend laughed heartily."
“ Did you ever see him before ?" inquired the artist, turning pale. “ Did you observe how he was dressed, and if he had any peculiar habit?"
“I do not remember of having ever seen him before. As to his dress, it was very singular : much like that of an old-fashioned country schoolmaster." And she described minutely his long frock-coat, with its large buttons and side-pockets, and his antiquated boots, that did not appear to have been brushed for a very long time. “ The peculiar habit you speak of,” she added, “ was probably the manner in which he slowly shook his head when he seemed to differ in opinion from you and your other guest. In my eyes there was something noble and striking in this movement. There was an expression of pain or sadness in his countenance which interested me; it was particularly observable when he laid his right hand on his breast, and raised his left hand upwards, as if he were solemnly affirming something, or calling God to witness to the truth of what he said. Nevertheless, I remarked with surprise that I scarcely saw him open his lips. It was of course impossible for me to hear what you were all talking about.”
The terrified artist became still paler ; he tottered for a moment, and was obliged to lean on the back of a chair for support. Shortly after, he seized his hat and hurried out of the house. The individual whom the old lady had so graphically described had been a friend of his in youth, but with whom he had been on bad terms for the last two years, and whom he had not seen lately. The whole conversation with his amusing visitor had been about this very man. They had been engaged in a laughable, and at the same time merciless, criticism of his character and appearance, and had been turning into ridicule every little peculiarity he had; his very voice they had mimicked, and, in their facetious exaggeration, had not only made a laughing-stock of his person and manners—which
were, indeed, odd—but had attributed to him want of heart and want of judge ment, which latter sentence they based upon his somewhat peculiar taste, and a kind of dry, pedantic, schoolmaster tone in conversation, from which he was not free.
" That old maid is mad, and she has made me mad too,” mumbled the artist, pausing a moment when he had gained the street. " He certainly was not there, we do not meet any longer-she never saw him before. There is something strangely mysterious in the matter ; perhaps it bodes some calamity. But, whether she is deranged, or I, or both of us, I have wronged him-shamefully wronged him—and I must see him and tell him all.”
He stepped into a bookseller's shop, and asked to look at a Directory.
After about half an hour's walk he entered a house in a small back street, and ascending to the third story, he rang at a door. A girl opened it, and in answer to his inquiries told him that the person he asked for was ill, and could not see any one.
“But I must see him—I must speak to him,” cried the painter, almost forcing himself in. He was then ushered into a darkened sickroom, where he found his poor friend of bygone days looking pale and emaciated, lying perfectly still upon a sofa, in his old grey frockcoat and soiled 'boots. The kind anxiety with which the unexpected visitor asked about his health seemed equally to surprise and please the invalid. “ You !” he exclaimed. " You here ! Do
interest in me? Have you any regard left for me? I did
you shameful injustice two years ago, when I saw your great masterpiece, and had not an enthusiastic word for what I often thought of since with the greatest admiration. Nay, within this very last hour I have wronged you, though in quite a different manner. I was dreaming of you, and I fancied you were speaking of me with scorn and derision, pulling me to pieces in a jesting conversation with a very satirical person, who vied with you in ridiculing me, and in mimicking all my oddities."
“Forgive me, oh, forgive me !--you dreamed the truth," cried the painter, in great agitation, while he threw himself down by the sick man's couch and embraced his knees. An explanation ensued between the two friends who had so long been estranged from each other ; mutual confessions were made, old feelings were revived in the hearts of both, and an entire reconciliation immediately took place. The unusual emotion, and the surprise at the event related to him, did not, as might have been expected, increase the illness of the nervous and debilitated invalid ; on the contrary, the meeting with his former friend appeared to have had a good effect on his health, for in the course of a few weeks he had quite recovered.
The old lady's qualifications as a seer, or rather her strange faculty of beholding, to others, invisible apparitions, had been productive of good; but it was such an extraordinary revelation, agreeing so entirely with what both the reconciled friends knew to be the truth, that they could only look upon it as a proof of the reality of what was then beginning to be so much talked of - Magnetic clairvoyance.
They continued unalterable friends from that time. From that time, also, the artist felt an involuntary horror at ridiculing the absent, or making or listening to any censorious remarks upon them. He always fancied that the injured party might be standing as a secret witness by his side, with one hand on his breast, and the other raised in an appeal to that great Judge who alone can know what is passing in every heart and every soul.
A DAY WITH THE BROOKSIDE HARRIERS AT
Behind she hears the hunters' cries,
A YARMOUTH bloater, well soaked, an indifferent cup of tea (Brighton water is not famous for tea-making), very fresh prawns, and a fair share of marmalade having been discussed with a sea-side appetite, I mounted my horse (Dyacolon), one very foggy morning in the last week in November, to take a ride and lionise Brighton.
The beauty of Brighton, says one of its habitués and admirers, is, that we are clear of fogs when the London world is enveloped in a peasoup raddle sort of medium, and, to do Brighton justice, it certainly gets off easier in this respect than most places I know; but this was not the case on the morning in question. "Where shall I go?" said I to myself, half soliloquising aloud. I remember to have heard that Jack Musters (the first of sportsmen) had said that when Leicestershire failed, he would go to Brighton and' hunt there with the harriers, because hares run straight upon those downs, and like foxes.
“Sir," said Mr. Walton's foreman of the stables, where Dyacolon lodged, « the Brookside' are at Telscombe Tye to-day. Do go and have a look at them; it's only a matter of five miles or so-it is better than riding along our muddy streets this foggy morning."
But here again, to say a good word for old Brighton, in no town I know of do the trottoirs dry up so soon, being generally made of brick, and kept scrupulously clean; and if the great luminary will but smile upon them, the most delicate of ladies, in the very thinnest possible chaussures, and in the most splendid of dresses, may walk along the Brighton trottoirs without the chance of either being abimé-d.
“But where is Telscombe Tye ?”
“Go right along the cliff, sir, past Kemp Town, and keep straight on; you will soon find that you are not alone. Cannot mistake the way, sir. They meet at eleven o'clock. If you are late you will easily find them: get on the top of a hill
, and you will be sure to see them.” “But what about the fog ?”
“Oh, I think that will clear off. But you will have to mind them downs, for it's very easy to get lost on 'em; it's a werry wild place, is them downs. I've heard tell of gentlemen as has not know'd the way back, and been a roaming about all night, and never see'd a soul to show them the
way; and I have heard tell that the whole pack once ran clean
every one, huntsmen and all, and never were heard of until next week."
“ Well, I will go at any rate, fog or no fog, and take my chance."
On turning out of one of those feeders that debouch at right angles upon the Esplanade, and down which the wind as well as Ays can descend
at a marvellous pace, I came upon a crowd craning over a chasm where some twenty or five-and-twenty feet of iron-railing should have stood, but which had been carried away the night before. The smartest carriage in Brighton (save one), high-stepping, dapple-grey horses, London coachman, powdered footman, bearskin hammercloth, gilt paws and all, had been precipitated into Lady —'s garden—an enclosed place some six or eight feet below the level of the roadway.
“How did it happen ?” said I to a coachmanlike-looking fellow (“ a horsey-looking gent," as Punch would designate him) in a fustian undress, with a short pipe in his mouth.
“Why, you see, sir, they was a driving quietly home-quite quietly like, after putting the missus down for dinner-and never seed that they had come to the end of Brunswick-terrace. The pole first caught the top cross-bar of the railings, when down they went ; the horses, they followed, came on their knees, and dragged the carriage after them; the coachman was shot right over their 'eads, and the footman he was chucked clean over them all."
“Were any of them hurt? Was the coachman screwed ?"
“ Screwed, sir! lor' bless yer! no, sir-sober as I am, sir-saw it all happen myself; nothing was the worse of it: they got the carriage up again on planks—no one was hurt.”
However, happen as it might, it was an extraordinary escape, and I left that crowd looking over the débris of iron railings, smashed chrysanthemums and mangled turf, to be followed by others, day and night, until all Brighton had stared at the place where a carriage and pair in spite of the iron notice, “No Thoroughfare") had made a short cut from Hove into Brighton!
Leaving the mangled remains of the garden, I followed the Esplanade. The morning was frightfully cold, and the air being colder than the water, made the briny element smoke again, and a thick mist, independent of the fog, was drifted seaward by the north-east wind. I had never witnessed this phenomenon before in England, but on the coasts of North America frequently, where it is called by the “ blue noses” of New Brunswick “ The Barber."
All the army of bathing-machines were hauled up high and dry, as the sailors say, on the beach (bathing supposed to be over on the 1st of November), but one-one of Mary Hugget's, No. 112 (I like to be particular about figures). It was launched, and from it, at the extremity of a long rope, was a female form.
The luxurious Bedford (prince of hotels); a string of flys, donkeys, and chairs; then the Flagstaff, its six guns and its warlike accompani. ments : but they are to come away, and the Esplanade is to be carried straight on—a great improvement, by the way, and the sooner it is accomplished the better then Mutton's, with its huge bowl, in which stewed pears swim surrounded by little notices—"Made Dishes,” “Soups ready," • Dinners dressed,” “ Suppers supplied ;" in the next window, Erin Go Bragu surmounting a harp; underneath, Choice POTEEN FROM THE EMERALD ISLE, all on an elaborate ground of shamrocks.
Booty's circular window and circulating library to boot, bonnet shops, pebbles and jet, Childe's toyshop, gay chessmen, backgammon-boards, and such loves of baskets ! Flys, chairs, donkey-carts, and a man with