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by [?]


The form of the body is more
essential to him than its substance. LA PHYSIOLOGIE MODERNE.

Love, said Solomon, is stronger than Death. And truly, its mysterious power knows no bounds.

Not many years since, an autumn evening was falling over Paris. Towards the gloomy Faubourg Saint-Germain carriages were driving, with lamps already lit, returning belatedly from the afternoon drive in the Bois. Before the gateway of a vast seigniorial mansion, set about with immemorial gardens, one of them drew up. The arch was surmounted by a stone escutcheon with the arms of the ancient family of the Counts d’Athol, to wit: on a field azure, a mullet argent, with the motto Pallida Victrix under the coronet with its upturned ermine of the princely cap. The heavy folding doors swung apart, and there descended a man between thirty and thirty-five, in mourning clothes, his face of deathly pallor. On the steps silent attendants raised aloft their torches, but with no eye for them he mounted the flight and went within. It was the Count d’Athol.

With unsteady tread he ascended the white staircases leading to the room where, that very morning, he had laid within a coffin, velvet-lined and covered with violets, amid billowing cambric, the lady of his delight, his bride of the gathering paleness, Vera, his despair.

At the top the quiet door swung across the carpet. He lifted the hangings.

All the objects in the room were just where the Countess had left them the evening before. Death, in his suddenness, had hurled the bolt. Last night his loved one had swooned in such penetrating joys, had surrendered in embraces so perfect, that her heart, weary with ecstasy, had given way. Suddenly her lips had been covered with a flood of mortal scarlet, and she had barely had time to give her husband one kiss of farewell, smiling, with not one word; and then her long lashes, like veils of mourning, had fallen over the lovely light of her eyes.

This day without a name had passed.

Towards noon the Count d’Athol, after the dread ceremonies of the family vault, had dismissed the bleak escort at the cemetery. Shutting himself up within the four marble walls, alone with her whom he had buried, he had closed behind him the iron door of the mausoleum. Incense was burning on a tripod before the coffin, bestarred by a shining crown of lamps over the pillow of this young woman, who was now no more.

Standing there lost in his thoughts, with his only sentiment a hopeless longing, he had stayed all day long in the tomb. At six o’clock, when dusk fell, he had come out from the sacred enclosure. Closing the sepulchre, he had torn the silver key from the lock, and, stretching up on the topmost step of the threshold, he had cast it softly into the interior of the tomb. Through the trefoil over the doorway, he thrust it on to the pavement inside. —Why had he done this?Doubtless from some mysterious resolve to return no more.

And now he was viewing again the widowed chamber.

The window, under the great drapings of mauve cashmere with their broideries of gold, stood open; one last ray of evening lit up the great portrait of the departed one in its frame of old wood. Looking around him, the Count saw the robe lying where, the evening before, it had been flung upon the chair; on the mantel lay the jewels, the necklace of pearls, the half-closed fan, the heavy flasks of perfume which She no longer inhaled. On the ebony bed with its twisted pillars, still unmade, beside the pillow where the mask of the divine, the adored head, was still visible amidst the lace, his eye fell on the handkerchief stained with drops of blood, whereon for an instant the wings of her youthful spirit had quivered; on the open piano, upholding a melody forever unfinished; on the Indian flowers which she had gathered with her own hands in the conservatory, and which now were dying in vases of old Saxony ware; and there at the foot of the bed, on the tiny slippers of oriental velvet, on which glittered a laughing device of her name, stitched with pearls: Qui verra Ve’ra l’ai- mera. And only yesterday morning the bare feet of the loved one were still playing there, kissed at every step by the swan’s-down!—And there, there in the shadow, was the clock whose spring he had snapped, so that never again should it tell other hours.