Auld Lang Syne

Where my soul went during that swoon I cannot tell. Whatever she saw, or wherever she travelled in her trance on that strange night, she kept her own secret, never whispering a word to Memory, and baffling imagination by an indissoluble silence. She may have gone upward, and come in sight of her eternal home, hoping for leave to rest now, and deeming that her painful union with matter was at last dissolved. While she so deemed, an angel may have warned her away from heaven’s threshold, and, guiding her weeping down, have bound her, once more, all shuddering and unwilling, to that poor frame, cold and wasted, of whose companionship she was grown more than weary.

I know she re-entered her prison with pain, with reluctance, with a moan and a long shiver. The divorced mates, Spirit and Substance, were hard to reunite. They greeted each other, not in an embrace, but a racking sort of struggle. The returning sense of sight came upon me, red, as if it swam in blood; suspended hearing rushed back loud, like thunder; consciousness revived in fear. I sat up appalled, wondering into what region, amongst what strange beings I was waking. At first I knew nothing I looked on. A wall was not a wall, a lamp not a lamp. I should have understood what we call a ghost as well as I did the commonest object, which is another way of intimating that all my eye rested on struck it as spectral. But the faculties soon settled each in his place; the life-machine presently resumed its wonted and regular working.

Still, I knew not where I was; only in time I saw I had been removed from the spot where I fell. I lay on no portico-step; night and tempest were excluded by walls, windows, and ceiling. Into some house I had been carried; but what house?

I could only think of the pensionnat in the Rue Fossette. Still half dreaming, I tried hard to discover in what room they had put me—whether the great dormitory or one of the little dormitories. I was puzzled, because I could not make the glimpses of furniture I saw accord with my knowledge of any of these apartments. The empty white beds were wanting, and the long line of large windows. “Surely,” thought I, “it is not to Madame Beck’s own chamber they have carried me!” And here my eye fell on an easy- chair covered with blue damask. Other seats, cushioned to match, dawned on me by degrees; and at last I took in the complete fact of a pleasant parlour, with a wood fire on a clear-shining hearth, a carpet where arabesques of bright blue relieved a ground of shaded fawn, pale walls over which a slight but endless garland of azure forget-me-nots ran mazed and bewildered amongst myriad gold leaves and tendrils. A gilded mirror filled up the space between two windows, curtained amply with blue damask. In this mirror I saw myself laid, not in bed, but on a sofa. I looked spectral—my eyes larger and more hollow, my hair darker than was natural, by contrast with my thin and ashen face. It was obvious, not only from the furniture, but from the position of windows, doors, and fireplace, that this was an unknown room in an unknown house.

Hardly less plain was it that my brain was not yet settled, for as I gazed at the blue arm-chair it appeared to grow familiar; so did a certain scroll-couch, and not less so the round centre-table, with a blue covering, bordered with autumn-tinted foliage; and, above all, two little footstools with worked covers, and a small ebony-framed chair, of which the seat and back were also worked with groups of brilliant flowers on a dark ground.

Struck with these things, I explored further. Strange to say, old acquaintance were all about me, and “auld lang syne” smiled out of every nook. There were two oval miniatures over the mantelpiece, of which I knew by heart the pearls about the high and powdered “heads,” the velvets circling the white throats, the swell of the full muslin kerchiefs, the pattern of the lace sleeve-ruffles. Upon the mantelshelf there were two china vases, some relics of a diminutive tea service, as smooth as enamel and as thin as egg-shell, and a white centre ornament, a classic group in alabaster, preserved under glass. Of all these things I could have told the peculiarities, numbered the flaws or cracks, like any clairvoyant. Above all, there was a pair of hand-screens, with elaborate pencil drawings finished like line engravings; these, my very eyes ached at beholding again, recalling hours when they had followed, stroke by stroke, and touch by touch, a tedious, feeble, finical, school-girl pencil held in these fingers, now so skeleton-like.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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