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spotless daughter became the victim to brutal violence, which weeping and watching and cold and hunger had rendered her utterly unable to resist. The monster left her in a trance of stupefaction, and into her right hand, which she had clenched convulsively, he had forced a half-dollar.
It was one of the darkest nights of autumn : in the deep and dead silence the only sounds audible were the slow blunt ticking of the church clock, and now and then the sinking down of bones in the nigh charnel house. Maria, when she had in some degree recovered her senses, sate upon the grave near which—not her innocence had been sacrificed, but—that which, from the frequent admonitions and almost the dying words of her father, she had been accustomed to consider as such. Guiltless, she felt the pangs of guilt, and still continued to grasp the coin which the monster had left in her hand, with an anguish as sore as if it had been indeed the
of voluntary prostitution. Giddy and faint from want of food, her brain becoming feverish from sleeplessness, and this unexampled concurrence of calamities, this complication and entanglement of misery in misery, she imagined that she heard her father's voice bidding her leave his sight. His last blessings had been conditional, for in his last hours he had told her, that the loss of her innocence would not let him rest quiet in his grave. His last blessings now sounded in her ears like curses, and she fled from the church-yard as if a demon had been chasing her ; and hurrying along the streets, through which it is probable her accursed violator had walked with quiet and orderly step* to his place of rest and security, she was seized by the watchmen of the night—a welcome prey, as they receive in Nüremberg a reward from the police chest, for every woman they find in the streets after ten o'clock at night. It was midnight, and she was taken to the next watchhouse.
* It must surely have been after hearing of or witnessing some similar event or scene of wretchedness, that the most eloquent of our writers (I had almost said of our poets,) Jeremy Taylor, wrote the following paragraph, which at least in Longinus's sense of the word, we may place among the most sublime passages in English literature. “He that is no fool, but can consider wisely, if he be in love with this world, we need not despair but that a witty man might reconcile him with tortures, and make him think charitably of the rack, and be brought to admire the harmony that is made by a herd of evening wolves when they miss their draught of blood in their midnight revels. The groans of a man in a fit of the stone are worse than all these ; and the distractions of a troubled conscience are worse than those groans : and yet a careless merry sinner is worse than all that.
The sitting magistrate, before whom she was carried the next morning, prefaced his first question with the most opprobrious title that ever belonged to the most hardened street-walkers, and which man born of woman should not address even to these, were it but for his own sake. The frightful name awakened the poor orphan from her dream of guilt, it brought back the consciousness of her innocence, but with it the sense likewise of her wrongs and of her helplessness. The cold hand of death seemed to grasp her, she fainted dead away at his feet, and was not without difficulty recovered. The magistrate was so far softened, and only so far, as to dismiss her for the present; but with a menace of sending her to the House of Correction if she were brought before him a second time. The idea of her own innocence now became uppermost in her mind; but mingling with the thought
But if we could from one of the battlements of heaven espy, how many men and women at this time lie fainting and dying for want of bread, how many young men are hewn down by the sword of war ; how many poor orphans are now weeping over the graves of their father, by whose life they were enabled to eat ; if we could but bear how many mariners and passengers are at this present in a storm, and shriek out because their keel dashes against a rock, or bulges under them ; how many people there are that weep with want, and are mad with oppression, or are desperate by a too quick sense of a constant infelicity; in all reason we should be glad to be out of the noise and participation of so many evils. This is a place of sorrows and tears, of great evils and constant calamities : let us remove hence, at in ion and preparations of mind.”
Holy Dying, ch. i. s. 5, with omissions. -Ed.
her utter forlornness, and the image of her angry father, and doubtless still in a state of bewilderment, she formed the resolution of drowning herself in the river Pegnitz-in order (for this was the shape which her fancy had taken) to throw herself at her father's feet, and to justify her innocence to him in the world of spirits. She hoped, that her father would speak for her to the Saviour, and that she should be forgiven. But as she was passing through the suburb, she was met by a soldier's wife, who during the life-time of her father had been occasionally employed in the house as a chare-woman. This poor woman was startled at the disordered apparel, and more disordered looks of her young mistress, and questioned her with such an anxious and heart-felt tenderness, as at once brought back the poor orphan to her natural feelings and the obligations of religion. As a frightened child throws itself into the arms of its mother, and hiding its head on her breast, half tells amid sobs what has happened to it, so did she throw herself on the neck of the woman who had uttered the first words of kindness to her since her father's death, and with loud weeping she related what she had endured and what she was about to have done, told her all her affliction and her misery, the wormwood and the gall. Her kind-hearted friend mingled tears with tears, pressed the poor forsaken one to her heart; comforted her with sentences out of the hymn-book; and with the most affectionate entreaties conjured her to give up her horrid purpose, for that life was short, and heaven was for ever.
Maria had been bred up in the fear of God : she now trembled at the thought of her former purpose, and followed her friend Harlin, for that was the name of her guardian angel, to her home hard by. The moment she entered the door, she sank down and lay at her full length, as if only to be motionless in a place of shelter had been the fulness of delight. As when a withered leaf, that has been long whirled about by the gusts of autumn, is blown into a cave or hollow tree, it stops suddenly, and all at once looks the very image of quiet such might this poor orphan appear to the eye of a meditative imagination.
A place of shelter she had attained, and a friend willing to comfort her in all that she could : but the noblehearted Harlin was herself a daughter of calamity, one who from year to year must lie down in weariness and rise up to labour; for whom this world provides no other comfort but the sleep which enables them to forget it; no other physician but death, which takes them out of it. She was married to one of the city guards, who, like Maria's father, had been long sick and bed-ridden. Him, herself, and two little children, she had to maintain by washing and charing;* and sometime after Maria had been domesticated with them, Harlin told her that she herself had been once driven to a desperate thought by the cry of her hungry children, during a want of employment, and that she had been on the point of killing one of the little ones, and of then surrendering herself into the hands of justice. In this manner, she had conceived, all would be well provided for ; the surviving child would be admitted, as a matter of course, into the
* I am ignorant, whether there be any classical authority for this word ; but I know no other word that expresses occasional day-labour in the houses of others.
Orphan House, and her husband into the Hospital, while she herself would have atoned for her act by a public execution, and together with the child that she had destroyed, would have passed into a state of bliss. All this she related to Maria, and those tragic thoughts left but too deep and lasting impression on her mind. Weeks after, she herself renewed the conversation, by expressing to her benefactress her inability to conceive how it was possible for one human being to take away the life of another, especially that of an innocent little child. “ For that reason,” replied Harlin, “ because it was so innocent and so good, I wished to put it out of this wicked world. Thinkest thou then, that I would have my head cut off for the sake of a wicked child ? Therefore it was little Nan, that I meant to have taken with me, who, as you see, is always so sweet and patient; little Frank has already his humours and naughty tricks, and suits better for this world.” This was the answer. Maria brooded awhile over it in silence, then passionately snatched the children up in her arms, as if she would protect them against their own mother.
For one whole year the orphan lived with the soldier's wife, and by their joint labours barely kept off absolute want. As a little boy (almost a child in size, though in his thirteenth year) once told me of himself, as he was guiding me up the Brocken, in the Hartz Forest, they had but “ little of that, of which a great deal tells but for little.” But now came the second winter, and with it came bad times, a season of trouble for this
and meritorious household. The wife now fell sick: too constant and too hard labour, too scanty and too innutritious food, had gradually wasted away her strength. Maria redoubled her efforts in order to provide bread and fuel for their washing which they took in; but the task was