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THE MERCHANT'S CLERK.
Yet once more, oh ye laurels, and once more,
Look, reader, once more with the eye and heart of sympathy, at a melancholy page in the book of human life-a sad one indeed, and almost the last that will be opened by one who has already laid several before you, and is about to take his departure.
It was pouring with rain one Wednesday, in the month of March 18—, about twelve o'clock, and had been raining violently the whole morning. Only one patient had called upon me up to the hour just mentioned, for how could invalids-stir out in such weather? The wind was cold and bitter—the aspect of things without, in short, most melancholy and cheerless. “ There are one or two poor souls,” thought I, with a sigh, as I stepped from the desk at which I had been occupied in writing for more than an hour, and stood looking over the blinds into the deserted and almost deluged street-" there are one or two poor souls that would certainly have been here this morning, according to appointment, but for this unfriendly weather. Their cases are somewhat critical-one of them es
pecially and yet they are not such as to warrant my
“It is still raining hard, I perceive," said I; "did you come on foot ? Bless me, madam, why you seem wet through! Pray come nearer the fire ;" (stirring it up into a cheerful blaze ;) “ shall I offer you a glass of wine, or wine and water? You look very chilly."
“ No, thank you, sir; I am rather wet certainly, but
I am accustomed to rain ; I will, however, sit closer to the fire, if you please, and tell you in a few words
I shall not detain you long, sir," she continued, in a tone considerably more assured. “The fact is, I have received a letter this morning from a friend of mine in the country, a young lady who is an invalid, and has written to request I would call immediately upon some experienced physician, and obtain, as far as can be, his real opinion upon her case, for she fancies, poor girl! that they are concealing what is really the matter with her!”
“ Well! she must have stated her case remarkably well, ma'am,” said I, with a smile, “ to enable me to give anything like a reasonable guess at her state without seeing her!"
“Oh, but I may be able to answer many of your questions, sir; for I am very well acquainted with her situation, and was a good deal with her, not long ago."
** Ah, that's well. Then will you be so kind,” give ing a monitory glance at my watch, "as to say what you know of her case ? The fact is, I've ordered the carriage to be here in about a quarter of an hour's time, and I have a long day's work before me !"
“ She is—let me see, sir-I should say about six years older than myself ; that is, she is near thirty, or thereabouts. I should not think she was ever particularly strong. She's seen, poor thing, a good deal of trouble lately.” She sighed.
“Oh, I see, I understand! A little disappointmentthere's the seat of the mischief, I suppose ?" I interrupted, smiling, and placing my hand over my heart. “ Isn't this really, now, the whole secret ?"
“Why—the fact is—certainly, I believe-yes, I may say that love has had a good deal to do with her present illness, for it is really illness ! She has been—"she paused, hesitated, and, as I fancied, coloured slightly—“ crossed in love-yes! She was to have been-i mean—that is, she ought to have been married last autumn, but for this sad affair." I bowed,
looking again at my watch, and she went on more quickly to describe her friend as being naturally rather delicate-that this “disappointment” had occasioned her a great deal of annoyance and agitation—that it had leit her now in a very low nervous way, and, in short, her friend suspected herself to be falling into a decline. That about two months ago she had had the the misfortune to be run over by a chaise, the pole of which struck her on ihe right chest, and the horses' hoofs also trampled upon her, but no ribs were broken.'
“Ah, this is the most serious part of the story, ma'am—this looks like real illness! Pray, proceed, ma'am. I suppose your friend after this complained of much pain about the chest ; is it so? Was there any spitting of blood ?”
Yes, a little-no-I mean, let me see.” Here she took out of her pocket a letter, and unfolding it, cast her eyes over it for a moment or two, as if to refresh her memory by looking at her friend's statement.
May I be allowed, ma'am, to look at the letter in which your friend describes her case?" I inquired, holding out my hand.
“ There are some private matters contained in it, sir,” she replied quickly ; "the fact is, there was some blood-spitting at the time, which I believe has not yet quite ceased."
“And does she complain of pain in the chest ?" “Yes—particularly in the right side." “ Is she often feverish at night and in the morning ?".
“Yes-very-that is, her hands feel very hot, and she is restless and irritable.”
“ Is there any perspiration ?".
“Pray, how long has she had it? I mean, had she it before the accident you spoke of ?”
“I first noticed it-let me see--ah, about a year after she was married.”
* After she was married !" I echoed, darting a keen glance at her. She coloured violently, and stammered confusedly,
No, no, sir; I mean about a year after the time when she expected to be married.”
'There was something not a little curious and puzzling in all this. “Can you tell me, ma'am, what sort of a cough it is !" I inquired, shifting my chair, so that I might obtain a more distinct view of her features. She perceived what I was about, I think ; for she seemed to change colour a little, and to be on the verge of shedding tears. I repeated my question. She said that the cough was at first very slight; so slight that her friend had thought nothing of it, but at length it became a dry and painful one. She began to turn very pale. A suspicion of the real state of the case flashed across my mind.
“Now, tell me, ma'am, candidly-confess! Are not you speaking of yourself? You really look ill !"
She trembled, but assured me emphatically that I was mistaken. She appeared about to put some question to me, when her voice failed her, and. her eyes, wandering to the window, filled with tears. “Forgive me, sir!
80 anxious about my friend,” she sobbed “she is a dear, kind, good – Her agitation increased.
“Calm, pray calm yourself, ma'am; do not distress yourself unnecessarily! You must not let your friendly sympathies overcome you in this way, or you will be unable to serve your friend as you wish-as she has desired!"
I handed to her a bottle of smelling salts, and after pausing for a few moments, her agitation subsided.
“Well,” she began again, tremulously, “what do you think of her case, sir? You may tell me candidly, sir,”—she was evidently making violent struggles to conceal her emotions- --- for I assure you I will never make an improper use of what you may say-indeed I will not ! What do you really think of her case ?”