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acquire an honourable competence, and marry the girl who stands next your heart, and be thankful. Doom, indeed! Now listen to me, and then talk of dooms. You know, I believe, that I am the son of a late medical man of eminence, who gave me what is called, by a most lamentable perversion of terms, a good education.”
“ I don't talk nonsense to you, and therefore you'll believe me when I tell you that I've seen no reason in your case to dispute the wisdom of your father's measures."
“ Well, I'll tell you. I went to a small select school at eight years old, and remained there till fifteen. I learned a great deal of Greek and Latin, for both of which I am very grateful. I also learned to write, and to speak a little villanous French, both of which acquisitions have also been useful to me. For the rest, a smattering of arithmetic, aud a very partial acquaintance with Euclid, completed my education. I went out into the world as ignorant of it, of myself, and of general principles, as it was well possible for me to be."
• You don't intend to reflect upon what you did learn ?"
“ Far from it; I would not have missed it for worlds ; I speak of what I did not learn. But I grow prosy. Here's to the church.”
“ Que voulez-vous dire ?"
“ What I say, no matter why, I'll drink that toast while there's life in my veins—I have good cause. When I left school my father wished me to join him in his profession. I consented, caring little what I took up, and only stipulating that I should be allowed some hours in the week for my drawing, a study which had all my life been my principal amusement, though I had never been regularly taught it. He consented, but he had better not have done so, for with a greatly increased allowance of money, I contrived to procure instruction in my favourite pursuit, attended lectures on drawing and landscapes, instead of those on exenterating mankind, very much neglected the scalpel for the pencil, and preferred the anatomical models at Somerset House to the real dead subjects at Surgeons' Hall.”
“ I should have thought the line of study you pursued, might have improved you, even for your own profession.'
“ Much as you would be advanced in drawing a marriage settlement by hearing a sermon on conjugal duties. But to proceed. My father took an opportunity of inquiring into my studies, and found them not so satisfactory as he could have wished. I sulked, and he scolded and threatened, until I seized a moment for telling him that I had rather paint a good historical picture, than be the most powerful ally to the undertaker that ever existed. The worthy man was rather astonished, but ultimately consented to my modest request, that he would allow me to prosecute my drawing researches in lieu of any other pursuit, with the advantage of the entrée of all the galleries in London, and an Italian tour in prospective, as soon as it would be of utility.”
“Certainly you were very backward in calculating on his liberality.”
“ Was I not? I reaped the fruits of my confidence for some time, paid close attention to my pallet, and was considered one of the most tasteful of the academy pupils. I now gave up all idea of a profession, and resolved to win my way through life as Angelo and Raphael had done before me. About this time I was introduced by my father to the family of Sir Thomas V- This gentleman had served in the army, and had retired upon a wound and pension to enjoy the ot. cum dig. in one of the fashionable streets at the other end of the town. He aspired to the character of a man of taste, and was pleased to express considerable approbation of a landscape 1 had painted for my father, but which, upon such flattering encouragement, I resolved to present to the knight. He was so good as to accept it."
“ Particularly obliging."
“ I thought so. But I should have spoken of his daughter, before I mentioned him. You know one is never to be trusted in portray. ing the idol of one's soul, and would perhaps laugh at an attempt to describe Laura V-- I might tell you as a painter, that her figure and face were of the finest Grecian mould, that her beautiful tresses and radiant complexion rivalled the deepest jet, the purest alabaster, that her dark eyes shone through and through you, and—but where is the shoulder-knotted fashionable novelist who cannot say as much for his countesses and chambermaids? You will understand me best when I tell you that I lost heart and soul, and every other transferrable portion of my composition to Laura V— within three days of our acquaintance.
“ And she returned your attachment.”
“ Not exactly. But she did not reject me, she smiled at my flatteries, flattered my pictures, and I gave up painting and all besides to be near and worship her.”
“ Her father?"
“ Mine was the most important actor in my day-dream, for within a month of my introduction to the V-s, he suddenly died, leaving me a bare subsistence, amounting to scarcely one-third of the liberal allowance I had previously enjoyed."
“ Was this intentional ?"
“ I have reason to believe that he lived almost up to his income, which being merely the profits of his profession, of course, ceased at his death. The circumstance did not alter my love for Laura ; I visited her as early as decency would permit, and, in the openness of my heart, explained my circumstances, and made a proffer of marriage. She referred me to papa, taking the precaution of repeating to him the whole of my disclosures."
“ And you spoke to him on the subject ?"
“I began to do so, and demanded the only daughter of a high-born, wealthy, haughty soldier, in marriage with a humble painter, possessed of a studio full of artistical paraphernalia, and two hundred and fifty pounds a-year."
“I hope he did not kick you down stairs." “What ideas you must have of the polite world ! No, Tom, Sir Thomas was a man of good breeding, he simply declined my offer, stating that particular circumstances deprived him of the honour of accepting it, and rang the bell. I saw him take up a newspaper before my back was well turned.”
“ And you left the house, and never saw Miss Laura again ?"
“Would I never had,” said A-, dashing his foot against my fender with such force, that I involuntarily looked to my file of bills. “ But I did. The family left for Paris the same week, and I followed them there, and it was not till I found myself in a fourth-rate hotel one dismal evening, watching the cold rain-drops as they pattered upon the window, rendering the ever-cheerless French bed-room yet more wretched, that I remembered I had acted madly. Why should I have followed them? How could I hope for an interview with Laura after what had passed ? And, above all, I had not even used sufficient common sense to inquire their direction; so there was G-A-, artist, wandering about Paris, seeking to discover the residence of a newly-arrived English gentleman, who would exclude him his house if they met. I have paced up and down, evening after evening, before the lighted saloon of some distinguished member of the ton, in the faint hope that among the departing guests I might discover her who had drawn me there, and when all had left, and darkness was established in the windows, I have returned to my chilly bed, and wept, ay, wept, with a dismemberment of mind I could not comprehend."
“ Take another glass of wine." “A month or more passed, and I was as far from my wishes as
A new project entered my head. I resolved to paint from memory my last interview with Laura, and to procure the exhibition of the picture in some place of resort, in the vague idea that it might catch her eye, and produce an inquiry as to the painter. When I determined on a course, I seldom lost time in following it out, and accordingly commenced a painting which cost me days and nights of incessant toil. Excited by the subject, I succeeded in it even to my own satisfaction; the picture was completed, and exposed to view in a gallery much frequented by the English residents in Paris. I constantly attended the room, and after many days of terrible anxiety, I saw Laura enter it, leaning on the arm of the celebrated Baron D- There was no mistaking her look of sunshine, and as her head was turned towards me, she smiled, in answer, I suppose, to some remark of her companion. I madly thought that smile was for me, and advanced to seize her hand, but was met by a cold surprised stare, as she passed on. I know not what followed, but found myself in the custody of two gend'armes, with the tattered fragments of my picture in my hand. I was released, partly, I believe, for that I was considered insane. I rushed home, and, discharging my account, left Paris the same day.”
“On your return to England ?"
“No! I could neither bear to revisit the spot where my happiness had bloomed, nor to remain on that where it had been blasted. I started for Venice, I hardly knew why, but I reached that city ; travellers call it lovely, I recollect it only as a hell. I now come to that part of my tale which were better left untold, unless you are well assured of your fortitude to hear what"
“Stay, A You have told me enough to account for your melancholy and illness; and if there be crime, or what another's ear should not hear, reflect before you tell it.”
“ I have nothing to fear or to hide now; my remark was applied to yourself. Can you bear to listen to a terrible story ?”
“ Try me.”
“ Did you ever hear that there is at Venice a picture to which a most fearful tale is attached.”
“ Has the painting a name? I think I have a remembrance of such a story.”
“ The painter never saw the whole of his portrait, for such it is, till he had completed it, and as he removed the last covering, and looked face to face upon the “ Bride of Satan,” his reason left him, and he destroyed himself.”
“I have heard or read the story, but my memory does not tell me where. Did not the church seize the picture, and secure it in a dark vault, so that human eye might never again behold it?"
“ Such was the fact. Two hundred years have passed since the event took place, and it was spoken of rather as a traditionary fable than as a fact, yet the vault was mentioned where the unhallowed composition was kept."
“I have now a more distinct remembrance of the tale."
“Some strange vagary crossed my brain regarding this portrait. I cannot describe it, but its result was my determination to see the picture. My whole ardour was now excited to accomplish this end, and the first step was to discover the vault. This I did. Its entrance was in a half-ruined church, by day, the resort of beggars and vagrants, by night, silent as the tombs below it, having obtained the reputation of being haunted. In a dress borrowed from one of these fellows, I mingled in the lawless crowd, and by dint of ostensibly careless inquiry had the spot supposed to be above that vault pointed out to me. The same night, when I was certain that I should be uninterrupted, I proceeded to the ruins of the church of St. Giorgio, with a crow-bar, lantern, and spade. I had little difficulty in finding a trapdoor some few inches beneath the surface, which I raised, but no steps or ladder invited my descent: all was dark. I lowered the lantern by a rope however, and soon found ground. Below me appeared to be a vault, about six or seven feet in height, and, in a few moments, I had descended into it. I retained the crow-bar, and proceeded a few yards, but saw no end to the cell, as far as my lantern could throw its rays."
“ I wonder the mephitic air did not compel you to retreat, or, indeed, how it permitted you to go down.”
This remark appeared to strike A- who remained thoughtful for a moment, but soon continued
“ It did not much inconvenience me, although an unpleasant heat was certainly to be felt. I advanced a little farther, and saw a black or, at least, dark curtain hanging against a wall. My heart beat high, for I felt I had attained my purpose.
I rushed towards it, seized it, it gave way in my hand, and the Bride of the Evil One glared upon me-but-but-that face it was-it was
“What?" said I, powerfully excited.
“ By Heaven, it was the face of Laura !” “ And you—"
“ I know not how long I gazed : there it was, fresh as if just from the easel, and the face—it was beautiful—hell was there, if ever seen by mortal. At length the spell was broken, day had begun to dawn, I rushed to the trap-door, and at one desperate bound, gained the soil above and fled. But that face has ever since haunted me-it mingles with my dreams-it is before me waking-and-and-(and his voice grew louder and shriller, till almost amounting to a scream) -it is there! there!”
I followed the direction of his finger, and certainly saw nothing but an old bust of Sir Matthew Hale, my magnus Apollo, which had stood in my room for months. But A would not look again, he snatched his hat, and bidding me a hurried good night, rushed from the apartment with averted eyes. I met him some time afterwards, when he informed me that from the night he had told me the story he had had no respite from the appearance of the spectre portrait; that previously to that evening he had occasionally lost sight of it, but expected never to be at peace again on this side the grave. I sent a physician to visit him, whom he refused to see, and I called several times myself with no better success. On repeating my visit for the last time, I found the door of his outer room unfastened; I took a friend's liberty to enter, and found the unfortunate artist resting his head upon the table, apparently unconscious of my approach. I waited some time in expectation of his moving, but at length becoming half alarmed, I called him by his name more than once, and received no reply. I raised him in my arms, a small bottle rolled from under him, labelled “ laudanum." He was dead.
I made some inquiries shortly afterwards, and to my great surprise found that the story told me by the unfortunate painter must have been totally the formation of his own overheated brain ; that he had actually never left England, and I was unable to discover any family of the name mentioned by him. I have, therefore, simply detailed the facts without comment. Of this alone I am certain, that a little tablet in St. Martin's church bears the name and the date of the death of the unhappy G
-, my client the artist.