Page images
PDF
EPUB

and waking, which a Transcendental Spirit would not willingly dissolve. Be that as it might, the deceased Frankforters all lay in their turns in the Corpse-Chamber, as passive as statues in marble. Not a limb stirred — not a muscle twitched —not a finger contracted, and consequently not a note sounded to startle the ear or try the nerves of Peter Klopp. In fine, he became a confirmed sceptic as to such resuscitations. The bell had never rung, and he felt certain that it never would ring — unless from the vibrations of an earthquake. No, no — Death and the Doctors did their work too surely for their patients to relapse into life in any such manner. And truly, it is curious to observe that in proportion to the multiplication of Physicians, and the progress of Medical science, the number of Revivals has decreased. The Examimate no longer rally as they used to do some centuries since — when Aloys Schneider was restored by the jolting of his own coffin, and Margaret Schöning, leaving her death-bed, walked down to supper in her last linen. So reasoned Peter Klopp, who, long past the first tremors and fancies of his novitiate, had come, by dint of custom, to look at the bodies in his care but as so many logs or bales of goods committed to the temporary custody of a Plutonian warehouseman, or Lethean wharfinger. But he was doomed to be signally undeceived. In the month of September, just after the autumnal Frankfort Fair, Martin Grab, a middle-aged man, of plethoric habit, after dining heartily on soup, sour-krout, veal-cutlets with bullace sauce, carp in wine-jelly, blood sausage, wild boar brawn, herring salad, sweet pudding, Leipsic larks, sour cream with cinnamon, and a bowlful of plums, by way of dessert—suddenly dropped down insensible. As he was pronounced to be dead by the Doctor, the body was conveyed, as usual, within twelve hours, to the public cemetery, where being deposited in the Corpse-Chamber, the rest was left to the care and vigilance of the Death-Watch, Peter Klopp. Accordingly, having taken a last look at his old acquaintance, he carefully twisted the rope of the Life-Bell round the dead man's fingers, and then retiring into his own sanctorum, lighted his pipe, and was soon in that foggy Paradise, which a true German would not exchange for all the odor of Araby the Blessed, and the society of the Houris. 18 # A A

“And did the fat man come to life again P” Patience, my dear madam, patience, and you shall hear. It was past midnight, and in the Corpse-Chamber, hung with dismal black, the lifeless body of Martin Grab was lying in its shroud as still as a marble statue. At his head, the solitary funeral lamp burned without a flicker — there was no breath of air to disturb the flame, or to curve the long spider-lines that hung perpendicularly from the ceiling. The silence was intense. You might have heard the ghost of a whisper or the whisper of a ghost, if there had been one present to utter it—but the very air seemed dead and stagnant—not elastic enough for a sigh even from a spirit. In the adjoining room reposed the Death-Watch, Peter Klopp. He had thrown himself, in his clothes, on his little bed, with his pipe still between his lips. Here, too, all was silent and still. Not a cricket chirped — nor a mouse stirred — nor a draught of air. The light smoke of the pipe mounted directly upward, and mingled with its cloud-like shadows on the ceiling. The eye would have detected the flitting of a mote, the ear would have caught the rustling of a straw, but all was quiet as the grave, still as its steadfast tombs — when suddenly the shrill hurried peal of the alarm-bell — the very same sound which for fifteen long years he had nightly listened for —the very same sound that for as many long years he had utterly ceased to expect— abruptly startled the slumbering senses of Peter Klopp ! In an instant he was out of bed and on his feet, but without the power of further progress. His terror was extreme. To be waked suddenly in a fright is sufficiently dreadful; but to be roused in the dead of the night by so awful a summons — by a call, as it were, from beyond the grave, to help the invisible spirit—perhaps a Demon's — to reanimate a cold, clammy Corpse, – what wonder that the poor wretch stood shuddering, choking, gasping for breath, with his hair standing upright on his head, his eyes starting out of their orbits, his teeth chattering, his hands clutched, his limbs paralyzed, and a cold sweat oozing out from every pore of his body In the first spasm of horror his jaws had collapsed with such force, that he had bitten through the stem of his pipe, the bowl and stalk falling to the floor, whilst the mouth-piece passed into his throat, and agitated him with new convulsions. In the very crisis of this struggle, a loud crash resounded from the Corpse-Chamber—then came a rattling noise, as of loose boards, followed by a stifled cry — then a strange, unearthly shout, which the Death-Watch answered with as unnatural a shriek, and instantly fell headlong, on his face, to the stone-floor

“Poor fellow ! Why, it was enough to kill him 1"

It did, madam. The noise alarmed the resident doctor and the military patrole, who rushed into the building, and lo! a strange and horrid sight! There lay on the ground the unfortunate Death-Watch, stiff and insensible; whilst the late Corpse, in its grave-clothes, bent over him, eagerly administering the stimulants, and applying the restoratives that had been prepared against its own revival. But all human help was in vain. Peter Klopp was no more — whereas Martin Grab was alive, and actually stepping into the dead man's shoes, became, and is at this day, the official Death-Watch at Frankfort-on-the-Maine.

[ocr errors]

“AND do you really mean to say, sir,” exclaims a vulgarlooking personage, in a black rusty suit, with black-silk gloves, black-cotton stockings, and a hat of two colors, black and sleek at bottom, and brown and shabby at top; a figure, a good deal like a decayed apothecary of the old school, - “do you really mean to say, sir, that you hactually obiited and resurgam’d like the apoplectic German gemman as ate such a wery hearty last meal?”

Well, and what then P

“Why, then, sir, it’s the beer, that’s all.”

The bier 2

“Yes, the double X. You see, sir, the truth is, I’ve laid myself three quarterns of rum to a pot of ale, as how it was not a regular requiescat, not a boney fide Celo quies, but only a weekly dispatch.” s

A Weekly Dispatch 3

“Yes, or a Morning Post Mortum. Not a natural hexit, you know. Not a true Bill of Mortality, — but that you was only killed by the perodical press, like Lord Brougham I"

Humph! That such a rusty raven should pluck out the heart of my mystery ! That such a walking shadow should throw a light on my enigma' But the fellow's guess is correct. I died only in print. The great Composer had no hand in it: my everlasting rest was set up by a compositor of the Morning Herald!

“On the 3d instant, suddenly, Peregrine Phoenix, Esq., of Clapham Rise.”

[ocr errors]

WHAT a strange sensation it caused, the reading of that mortal paragraph 1 A feeling only to be understood by those who have been put out of the world by the Globe, had their days ended by the Sun, been posted to eternity by the Post, or sent on their last journey by the Evening Maill The newspaper that morning came late; and when the fatal sentence met my glance, I was, like Hamlet's father, “full of bread.” I had already finished my morning's repast, but by an instinctive impulse, I took another egg, and began breakfasting over again. A sort of practical assertion of the animal functions — and I never enjoyed a meal so much in my life. What a zest it had Each separate morsel by its peculiar substance, flavor, or aroma, giving the lie, backed by the three senses of Touch, Taste, and Smell, to that abominable announcement | The noble Athelstane, when he escaped in his grave-clothes from the funeral-vault of St. Edmond's Abbey, did not attack the venison-pasty and the wine-bottle with more relish There was a certain pleasure even in a crumb's going the wrong way! “What!” exclaims Civic Apoplexy, his face as crimson as the wattles of an enraged turkey-cock, his tongue struggling for utterance, and his eyes protruding, like pupils about to be expelled by the head-master, “a comfort in choking !” Yes, my dear Alderman, as an evidence of active existence. Unlike the race-horse, every cough is in your favor. For my own part, O how vividly I delighted in the grating in the throat, the soreness of the lungs, the watering of the eyes, which told, how instead of being dead, I had merely lost my breath ! How deliciously I enjoyed every symptom, otherwise disagreeable, of vitality | The imputed absence of my life made me intensely sensible of its presence. I felt, methought, the warm blood coursing through my veins and arteries, and tingling in the very nails of my fingers and toes. Every movement of the machine, beforetime withdrawn from notice, had become decidedly perceptible. I had a distinct notion of the peristaltic motion, and seemed absolutely conscious of the growth of my hair!

“What, without Macassar! Impossible !”

Perhaps so, Mr. Rowland, but it seemed probable. And then how delightedly I strutted about, and boxed with Nobody, and fenced with my own shadow, and spouted like a 'Bartlemy Tragedian. No, no – I was not dead. A gentleman who eats two breakfasts

“And lightly draws his breath,
And feels his life in every limb,
What should he know of Death?’”

My next act was to ring for my servant, who entered, and found me grimacing before the looking-glass — dead men don't make faces. “John, where was I, and what did I do on Friday last, the 3d instant P” “Let me see—you rowed on the river, sir, in the wherry.” “What, with Charon P’’ “No, sir, with Mr. Emery.” “Very good, that will do, John.” And joyous as a blackbird in Spring, I began to whistle Dibdin's air of “Jack's Alive.” By an association of ideas, Dibdin's verses put me in mind of Sterne, and darting off at a tangent to my library I pulled down the first volume of Tristram Shandy, and began to read aloud the extempore lecture of Corporal Trim on the text of “Are we not here now, and are we not gone in a moment P” with his cocked hat illustration of sudden death. “But I am alive,” said the foolish, fat scullion. O, how I admired that fat scullion I could have hugged her in spite of her grease — our feelings, our sympathies were in such perfect unison 1 Trim’s Funeral Sermon had been to her the same in effect as my obituary paragraph in the Herald. In the mean time, the ten o'clock Clapham omnibus called

« PreviousContinue »