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above her powers. Besides, she was so timid and so agitated at the sight of strangers, that sometimes, with the best good-will, she was left without employment. One by one, every article of the least value which they possessed was sold off, except the bed on which the husband lay. He died just before the approach of spring; but about the same time the wife gave signs of convales
The physician, though almost as poor as his patients, had been kind to them : silver and gold had he none, but he occasionally brought a little wine, and often assured them that nothing was wanting to her perfect recovery, but better nourishment and a little wine every day. This, however, could not be regularly procured, and Harlin's spirits sank, and as her bodily pain left her she became more melancholy, silent, and self-involved. And now it was that Maria's mind was incessantly racked by the frightful apprehension, that her friend might be again meditating the accomplishment of her former purpose. She had grown as passionately fond of the two children as if she had borne them under her own heart; but the jeopardy in which she conceived her friend's salvation to stand-this was her predominant thought. For all the hopes and fears, which under a happier lot would have been associated with the objects of the senses, were transferred, by Maria, to her notions and images of a future state.
In the beginning of March, one bitter cold evening, Maria started up and suddenly left the house. The last morsel of food had been divided betwixt the two children for their breakfast: and for the last hour or more the little boy had been crying for hunger, while his gentler sister had been hiding her face in Maria's lap, and pressing her little body against her knees, in order by that mechanic pressure to dull the aching from emptiness. The tender-hearted and visionary maiden had watched the mother's eye, and had interpreted several of her sad and steady looks according to her preconceived apprehensions. She had conceived all at once the strange and enthusiastic thought, that she would in some way or other offer her own soul for the salvation of the soul of her friend. The money, which had been left in her hand, flashed upon the eye of her mind, as a single unconnected image: and faint with hunger and shivering with cold, she sallied forth-in search of guilt! Awful are the dispensations of the Supreme, and in his severest judgments the hand of mercy is visible. It was a night so wild with wind and rain, or rather rain and snow mixed together, that a famished wolf would have staid in his cave, and listened to a howl more fearful than his own. Forlorn Maria! thou wast kneeling in pious simplicity at the grave of thy father, and thou becamest the prey of a monster. Innocent thou wast and without guilt didst thou remain. Now thou goest forth of thy own accord ; -but God will have pity on thee. Poor bewildered innocent! In thy spotless imagination dwelt no distinct conception of the evil which thou wentest forth to brave. To save the soul of thy friend was the dream of thy feverish brain, and thou wast again apprehended as an outcast of shameless sensuality, at the moment when thy too spiritualized fancy was busied with the glorified forms of thy friend and her little ones interceding for thee at the throne of the Reedemer!
At this moment her perturbed fancy suddenly suggested to her a new mean for the accomplishment of her purpose ; and she replied to the night-watch, who with a brutal laugh bade her expect on the morrow the unmanly punishment, which to the disgrace of human nature the laws of some Protestant states inflict on female vagrants,
that she came to deliver herself up as an infanticide. She was instantly taken before the magistrate through as wild and pitiless a storm as ever pelted on a houseless head,—through as black and tyrannous a night as ever aided the workings of a heated brain. Here she confessed that she had been delivered of an infant by the soldier's wife, Harlin, that she deprived it of life in the presence of Harlin, and according to a plan preconcerted with her, and that Harlin had buried it somewhere in the wood, but where she knew not. During this strange tale she appeared to listen with a mixture of fear and satisfaction to the howling of the wind, and never sure could a confession of real guilt have been accompanied by a more dreadfully appropriate music. At the moment of her apprehension she had formed the scheme of helping her friend out of the world in a state of innocence. When the soldier's widow was confronted with the orphan, and the latter had repeated her confession to her face, Harlin answered in these words, “ For God's sake, Maria ! how have I deserved this of thee ?” Then turning to the magistrate said, “I know nothing of this." This was the sole answer which she gave, and not another word could they extort from her. The instruments of torture were brought, and Harlin was warned, that if she did not confess of her own accord, the truth would be immediately forced from her. This menace convulsed Maria Schöning with affright; her intention had been to emancipate herself and her friend from a life of unmixed suffering, without the crime of suicide in either, and with no guilt at all on the part of her friend. The thought of her friend's being put to the torture had not occurred to her. Wildly and eagerly she pressed her friend's hands, already bound in preparation for the torture ;-she pressed them in agony between her own, and said to her, “Anna! confess it! Anna, dear Anna! it will then be well with all of us ! all, all of us! and Frank and little Nan will be put into the Orphan House !” Maria's scheme now passed, like a flash of lightning, through the widow's mind; she acceded to it at once, kissed Maria repeatedly, and then serenely turning her face to the judge, acknowledged that she had added to the guilt by so obstinate a denial, that all her friend had said was true, save only that she had thrown the dead infant into the river, and not buried it in the wood.
They were both committed to prison, and as they both persevered in their common confession, the process was soon made out and the condemnation followed the trial : and the sentence, by which they were both to be beheaded with the sword, was ordered to be put in force on the next day but one. On the morning of the execution, the delinquents were brought together, in order that they might be reconciled with each other, and join in common prayer for forgiveness of their common guilt.
But now Maria's thoughts took another turn. The idea that her benefactress, that so very good a woman, should be violently put out of life, and this with an infamy on her name which would cling for ever to the little orphans, .overpowered her. Her own excessive desire to die scarcely prevented her from discovering the whole plan ; and when Harlin was left alone with her, and she saw her friend's calm and affectionate look, her fortitude was dissolved: she burst into loud and passionate weeping, and throwing herself into her friend's arms, with convulsive sobs she entreated her forgiveness. Harlin pressed the poor agonized girl to her arms; like a tender mother, she kissed and fondled her wet cheeks, and in the most solemn and emphatic tones assured her that there was nothing to forgive. On the contrary, she
was her greatest benefactress and the instrument of God's goodness to remove her at once from a miserable world and from the temptation of committing a heavy crime. In vain. Her repeated promises, that she would answer before God for them both, could not pacify the tortured conscience of Maria, till at length the presence of the clergyman and the preparations for receiving the sacrament occasioning the widow to address her thus—“See, Maria! this is the body and blood of Christ, which takes away all sin ! Let us partake together of this holy repast with full trust in God and joyful hope of our approaching happiness.” These words of comfort, uttered with cheering tones, and accompanied with a look of inexpressible tenderness and serenity, brought back peace for a while to her troubled spirit. They communicated together, and on parting, the magnanimous woman once more embraced her young friend : then stretching her hand toward heaven, said, “Be tranquil, Maria! by to-morrow morning we are there, and all our sorrows stay here behind us.”
I hasten to the scene of the execution : for I anticipate my reader's feelings in the exhaustion of my own heart. Serene and with unaltered countenance the lofty-minded Harlin heard the strokes of the death-bell, stood before the scaffold while the staff was broken over her, and at length ascended the steps, all with a steadiness and tranquillity of manner which was not more distant from fear than from defiance and bravado. Altogether different was the state of poor Maria : with shattered nerves and an agonizing conscience that incessantly accused her as the murderess of her friend, she did not walk but staggered towards the scaffold and stumbled up the steps. While Harlin, who went first, at every step turned her head round and still whispered to her, raising her eyes