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the day in which he lived, should feel some terror, some dread, awful apprehension of what this noise might portend ?
He continued listening in a breathless agitation, which became less endurable at each succeeding stroke the insect made. “Heavenly Mother !-Holy Virgin!” said he at length, starting up, “What meaneth that? whence cometh it? Is it the Death-watch-that baleful insect, which croaketh his harsh grating notes upon the ear of man, when Death is scything down some object of his love !Oh, Jeanne!-- Hark! -- again - Oh! my child ! Have I come hither then, thus far, for your loved sakes, that I might clothe you in the dignity which is your due; and shall I, at the very moment that I think myself about to clutch the prize, behold you snatched from me, and the enjoyment of it? Again!-Oh!— Peace, cursed reptile-Peace, be still—be still, or my poor heart will break. Another !-Oh, hateful, horrible! Yet-No, no-It cannot be. Never hath the great and good Creator of our immortal spirits given it to the wit of such a poor perishable thing as that which now so frighteth me, to toll the knell of our departure from a world where he hath placed us. What idle fantasy it was !-So! I'll look up again-It cannot be !"
Yet still the cricket continued tapping on the wood, or using that particular note which resembles it; and notwithstanding all the reason which he called to his aid, and which convinced his mind,-his heart remained unsatisfied, and misgave him.-What poor, weak, wavering, wretched things we are ! — when even at the very moment in which we feel most strong in reason, and have brought ourselves to mock ourselves for our apprehensions, thinking us victors--we are vanquished !
Robert again sunk upon the pillow, endeavouring by argument to convince himself that the fears, the indescribable apprehensions which haunted him, were idle. It would not do. Still the insect continued its fearful annunciation. He arose with the design of finding the creature and putting it out of the way,
just as if by that act he could also have annulled the evil which it boded !
He searched for it in that part of the room from which the sound seemed to proceed : it was in vain. It appeared to shun him. If he looked for it in one spot, he heard it creaking in another. Did he follow it there?—the insect had already moved off, and was pouring forth its dismal notes in some distant corner, and defied him.
After a long and fruitless search he was obliged to return to bed, where, from fatigue both of mind and body, he at last composed himself to sleep; but that sleep was not rest. Dreams haunted him throughout the night. The Death-watch had skaken his nerves, and aroused feelings which would not be allayed. He fancied be beheld his eldest son, now about ten years of age, lying upon a couch, pale, speechless, and inanimate : his mother, whose cheeks, blanched with watching as her child's were by sickness, was standing by his side wringing her hands in an agony of grief, the more appalling as it was mute.
At the foot of the couch appeared another figure,—it was that of a female, clothed in the weeds of mourning; her years were those of childhood, but the calm dignity of her countenance bespoke an intellect beyond her age, and Robert had no difficulty in recognising, by her dark blue eyes and by the near resemblance she bore to the Countess, the daughter he had lost some few years ago.
He would have rushed towards the group, but that his feet were rivetted to the spot whereon he stood. He would have given utterance to grief in words, but his tongue refused its duty; and he remained, in mute trembling expectation of the sequel.
The female — whose joyously placid mien assured the absence of all gross earthly passions ; whose air, gait and minutest gesture breathed forth, if so it may be said, benevolence and love, and told of Heaven and immortality, — looked mildly round, upon her mother first, as though she would have said, “ farewell!” then glanced at her father the same soft pitying look; and lastly, turning
her eyes upon her brother, she fixed them on his countenance, whilst raising up her hand she beckoned him.
“Haste, brother-come with me--the sun breaks on us !”
With that D'Artois thought he could perceive the spirit of his son spring gladly forth to leave its mortal coil, and cling in holy fellowship around his sister, who, leaping lightly from the earth, arose with him, and cleft a passage through the chamber's ancient roof, which, closing on their egress, clipped them from their parents' view.
On the instant-through the deep gloom which had succeeded to an unusual brightness -D'Artois perceived a human form glide swiftly through the chamber to the doorway, when the massive gate itself, swung back upon its noiseless hinges, clapped to again with a loud fearful crash, which shook the building to its base. “But hark !” A screech of wild derisive laughter follows, and its loud fearful peals ring mockingly throughout the chambers of the vaulted palace.—“What Demon uttered