Charles James Lever.

The adventures of Arthur O'Leary online

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be a " but," — but he is only a sorry pilot who -would con-
tent himself with describing the scenery of the coast, and
expatiating on the beauty of the valleys and the boldness
of the headlands, while he let the vessel take her course
among reefs and rocks, and risk a shipwreck, while he
amused the passengers. Adieu, then, to Spas and their
visitors ; the sick are seldom the pleasantest company ;
the healthy at such places are rarely the safest.

"You are going, Mr. O'Leary?" said a voice from a
window opposite the Hotel, as my luggage was lifted into
a fiacre. I looked up. It was the youth, who had lost so
deeply at the Cursaal.

" Only to Coblentz, for a few days," said I ; " I am weary
of gaiety and fine people. I wish for quiet just now."

" I would that I had gone some weeks ago," exclaimed
he, Avith a sigh. " May I walk with you as far as the
river ? "

I assented with pleasure, and in a moment after he was
by my side.

" 1 trust," said I, when we had walked together some
time, " I trust you have not been to the Cursaal again ? "

" Never since I met you ; that night was the last I ever
passed there!" He paused for some minutes, and then
added, " You were not acquainted with either of the gen-
tlemen in whose company we supped ; I think you told me
so on the way home ? "

" No, they were both strangers to me ; it was a chance
rencontre, and in the few weeks I passed at Wiesbaden, I
learned enough not to pursue the acquaintance farther.
Indeed, to do them justice, they seemed as well disposed


as myself to drop the intimacy ; I seldom play, never among


" Ah ! " said he, in an accent of some bitterness, " that
resolve would avail you little with them; tJiey can win
without playing for it."

" How so ; what do you mean ? "

" Have you a mind for a short story ? it is my own adven-
ture, and 1 can vouch for the truth," I assented, and he
went on. " About a week ago, Mr. Crotty, with two others,
one of whom was called Captain Jacob, came to invite me'
to a little excursion to Kreutznach. They were to go oiie
day and return the following one. Sir Harry was to join
the party also, and they spoke of Lord Edderdale and
some others. But Wycherley only came down to the
steamboat, when a messenger arrived with a pressing-
letter, recalling him to Wiesbaden, and the rest never
appeared. Away we went, however, in good spirits ; the
day was fine, and the sail down the Rhine, as you know,
delightful. We arrived at Kreutznach to dinner— spenti
the evening in wandering about the pretty scenery, and
came back by moonlight to a late supper. As usual with
them, cards were produced after supper, but I had never
touched a card, nor made a bet, since my unlucky night
at the Cursaal ; so I merely sat by the table and looked on
at the game ; of course taking that interest in it a man
fond of play cannot divest himself of — but neither coun-
eelling any party, nor offering a bet to either side. The
game gradually became interesting, deeply so, as well from
the skill of the players, as the high stakes they played for.
Large sums of money changed owners, and heavy scores
were betted besides. Meanwhile, champagne was called
for, and, as the night wore on, a bowl of smoking bishop,
spiced and seasoned to perfection. My ofhce was to fill
the glasses of the party, and drink toasts with each of them
in succession, as luck inclined to this side or that.

" The excitement of play needs not wine to make it near
to madness ; but with it no mania is more complete.
Although but a looker-on, my attention was bent on the
game, and what with the odorous bowl of bishop, and the
long-sustained interest, the fatigue of a day more than
usually laborious, and a constitution never strong, I became


BO heavy that I threw myself upon a sofa, and fell faat

" How I reached my bed, and became undressed, I
never knew since ; bat by noon the next day I was
awakened from a deep slumber, and saw Jacob beside me.

" ' Well, old fellow, you take it coolly,' said he, laugh-
ing ; * you don't know it's past twelve o'clock.'

" ' Indeed ! ' said I, starting up, and scarce remembering
where I was. ' The fact is, my wits are none of the
clearest this morning — that bowl of bishop finished

" ' Did it, by Jove ? ' I'eplied he, with a half saucy laugh ;

* I'll wager a pony, notwithstanding, you never played
better in your life.'

" ' Played ? why I never touched a card,' said I, in
horror and amazement.

" ' I wish you hadn't, that's all,' said he, while he took
a pocket-book from his pocket, and proceeded to open it
on the bed. ' If you hadn't, I should have been somewhat
of a richer man this morning.'

" ' I can only tell you,' said I, as I rubbed my eyes, and
endeavoured to waken up more completely, ' I can only
tell you that I don't remember anything of what you
allude to, nor can I believe that I would have broken a
firm resolve I made against play '

" ' Gently, sir, gently,' said he, in a low, smooth voice ;

* be a little careful I beseech you — what you have just said
amounts to something very like a direct contradiction of
my wordi\- Please to remember, sir, that we were strangers
to each other yesterday morning. But to be brief — was
your last bet a double or quit, or only a ten-pound note ?
for on that depends whether I owe you two hundred and
f ixty, or two hundred and seventy pounds. Can you set
me right on that point — they made such a noise at the
time, I can't be clear about it.'

" ' I protest, sir,' said I, once more, ' this is all a dream
to me ; as I have told you already, I never played '

" ' You never played, sir ? '

" ' I mean, I never knew I played, or I have no remem-
brance of it now '

"'Well, young gentleman, fortune treats you better



when asleep than she does me -with my eyes open, and as
I have no time to lose, for I leave for Bingen in half an
hour, I have only to say, here is your money. You may
forget what you have won ; I have also an obligation, but
a stronger one, to remember what I have lost ; and as for
the ten pounds, shall we say head or tail for it, as we
neither of us are quite clear about it ? '

•' ' Say anything you like, for I firmly believe one or
other of us must be out of our reason.'

" ' What do you say, sir, — head or tail ? '

" ' Head ! ' cried I, in a frenzy, ' there ought to be one
in the party.'

" ' Won again, by Jove ! ' said he, opening his hand ;
' I think you'll find that rouleau correct, and now, sir, aic
o'evoir, I sliall have my revenge one of these days.' He
shook my hand and went out, leaving me sitting up in
the bed, trying to remember some one circumstance of the
previous night, by which I could recall my joining the
play-table. But nothing of the kind ; a thick haze was
over everything, through which I could merely recollect
the spicy bishop, and my continued efforts to keep their
glasses filled. There I sat, puzzled and confused, the bed
covered with bank-notes, which, after all, have some con-
founded magic in their faces, that makes our acceptance of
them a matter of far less repugnance than it ought. While
I counted over my gains, stooping every instant to think
on the strange caprices of fortune, that wouldn't afford me
the gambler's pleasure of winning, while enriching me
with gain, the door opened, and in came Crotty.

" ' Not up yet ! why we start in ten minutes ; didn't the
waiter call you ? '

" ' No. I am in a state of bewilderment this whole
morning '

" ' Well, well, get clear of it for a few seconds, I advise
you, and let us settle scores '

" ' What ! ' cried I, laughing, ' have I won from you
also ? ' .

" ' No, by Jove, it's the other way : you pushed me rather
sharply though, and if I took all j-our bets I should have
made a good thing of it. As it is,' — here he opened a
memorandum book and read out — ' As it is, I have only


won seven hundred and twenty, and two hundred and
fifty-eight, — nine hundred and seventy-eight, I believe ;
does not that make it ? '

" I shivered like one in the ague, and couldn't speak a

" ' Has Jacob booked up ? ' asked Crotty.

" 'Yes,' said I, pointing to the notes on the bed, that
now looked like a brood of rattlesnakes to my eyes.

" ' All right,' continued he, 'Jacob is a most punctilious
fellow; foolishly so, indeed, among friends — well, what
are we to say about this ? are you strong in cash just
now ? '

" ' No,' stammered I, with a sigh.

" ' "Well, never mind — a short bill for the balance — I'll
take what's here in part payment, and don't let the thing
give you any inconvenience.'

" This was done in a good olF-hand way. I signed the
bill which he drew up in due form. He had a dozen
stamps ready in his pocket-book. He rolled up the bank-
notes carelessly, stuffed them into his coat-pocket, and
with a most affectionate hope of seeing me next day at
Wiesbaden, left the room.

"The bill is paid — I released it in less than a week-
My trip to Kreutznach just cost me seven hundred
pounds, and I may be pardoned if I never like ' bishop '
for the rest of my life after."

"I should not wonder if you became a Presbyterian
to-morrow," said I, endeavouring to encourage his own
effort at good humour ; " but here we are at the Rhine.
Good-bye, I needn't warn you about "

"Not a word, I beseech you; I'll never close my eyes
as long as I live without a double lock on the door of my

A A 2




Frankfort is a Gei'man Liveri:)ool, minus the shipping,
and consequently has few attractions for the mere tra-
veller. The statue of Ariadne, by the Danish sculptor
Danneker, is almost its only great work of art. There
are some, not first-rate, pictures in the Gallery and the
Hotel de Yille, and the Town Library possesses a few
Protestant relics — among others, a pair of Luther's

There is, however, little to delay a wanderer within the
walls of the " Frey Stadt," if he have no peculiar sym-
])atliy with the Jews and money-changers. The whole
place smacks of trade and traders, and seems far prouder
of being the native city of Rothschild than the birth-
place of Goethe.

The happy indolence of a foreign city, the easy enjoy-
ment of life so conspicuous in most continental towns,
exists not here. All is activity, haste, and bustle. The
fables (Vhulc are crowded to excess by eager individuals,
eating away against time, and anxious to get back once
more to the Exchange, or the counting-house. There is
a Yankee abruptness in the manners of the men, who
reply to you as though information were a thing not to
be had for nothing ; and as for the women, like the
wives and daughters of all commercial communities, they
are showy dressers and poor conversers ; wear the finest
clothes, and inhabit the most magnificent houses, but
scarcely become the one, and don't know how to live in
the other,

I certainly should not like to pitch my tent in Fi'ank-
fort, even as successor to the great Munch Eellinghausen
himself — Heaven grant I mfiy have given him all his con-
sonants! — the President of the Diet. And yet, to the
people themselves, few places take such rooted hold on
the feelings of the iuhabitants as trading cities. Talk of


the attacliment of a Swiss or a Tyrolcse to his native
mountains — the dweller in Fleet Street, or the Hoch
Gasse, will beat him hollow. The daily occupations of
City life, filling up every nook and crevice of the human
mind, leave no room for any thought or wish beyond
them. Hence arises that insufferable air of self-satisfac-
tion, that contented self-sufficiency, so observable in your
genuine cockney. Leadenhall Street is, to his notion, the
touchstone of mankind, and a character on "'Change"
the greatest test of moral worth. Hamburg or Frank-
fort, Glasgow or Manchester, New York or Bristol,
it is all the same ; your men of sugar and sassafras, of
hides, tallow, and train-oil, are a class, in which nation-
ality makes little change. No men enjoy life more — few
fear death as much — this is truly strange ! Any ordinary-
mind would suppose that the common period of human
life, spent in such occupations as Frankfort, for instance,
affords, would have little desire for longevity — that, in
short, a man, let him be ever sueh a glutton of " Cocker,"
vs'oiald have had enough of decimal fractions and com-
pound interest after fifty years ; and that he could lay
down the pen without a sigh, and even, for the sake of
a little relaxation, be glad to go into the next world.
Nothing of the kind: your " Frankforter " hates dying
above all things. The hardy peasant who sees the sun
rise from his native mountains, and beholds him setting
over a glorious landscape of wood and glen, of field and
valley, can leave the bright world with fewer regrets than
your denizen of some dark alley or some smoke-dried
street in a great metropolis. The love of life — it may be
axiomized — is in the direct ratio of its artificiality. The
more men shut out nature from their hearts and homes,
and surround themselves with the hundred little ap-
pliances of a factitious existence, the more do they become
attached to the world.

The veiy changes of flood and field suggest the thought
of a hereafter to him who dwells among them ; the falling
leaf, the withered branch, the mouldering decay of vege-
tation, bear lessons there is no mistaking ; and the mind,
thus familiarized, learns to look forward to the great event
as the inevitable course of that law by which he lives and


breathes. While to others, again, the speculations which
grow out of the contemplation of Nature's great works,
invariably are blended with this thought. Not so your
man of cities, who inhabits some brick-surrounded king-
dom, where the incessant din of active life as effectually
i excludes deep reflection as does the smoky atmosphere
' the brififht skv above it.

Immersed in woi'ldly cares, interested, heart and soul,
in the pursuit of wealth, the solemn idea of death is not
broken to his mind by any analogy whatever. It is the
pomp of the funeral that realizes the idea to him ; it is
as a thing uf undertakers and mourning-coaches, of mutes
and palls, scarfs, sextons and grave-diggers, that he knows
it ; the horrid image of human woe and human mockery,
of grief walking in carnival ! No wonder if it impress
him with a greater dread !

" What has all this sad digression to say to Frankfort,
Mr. O'Leary ?" quoth some very impatient reader, who
alsvays will pull me short up, when I'm in for a " four-
mile-heat " of moralizing. Come, then, I'll tell you. The
train of thought was suggested to me as I strolled along
the Boulevard to my hotel, meditating on one of the very
strangest institutions it had ever been my lot to visit in
any country ; and which, stranger still, so far as I know,
guide-book people have not mentioned in any way.

In a cemetery of Frankfort — a very tasteful imitation
of " Pere la Chaise " — there stands a large building, hand-
somely built, and in very cor-rect Roman architecture,
Avhich is called the " Recovery House," being neither
more nor less than an institution devoted to the dead, for
the purpose of giving them every favourable opportunity
of returning to life again, should they feel so disposed.
The apartments are furnished with all the luxurious ele-
gance of the best houses ; the beds are decorated with
carving and inlaying, the carpets are soft and noiseless to
I the tread ; and, in fact, few of those who live and breathe
' are surrounded by such appliances of enjoyment. Beside
i each bed there stands a small table, in which certain ivory
) keys are fixed, exactly resembling those of a pianoforte.
On these is the hand of the dead man laid as he lies in
the bed ; for, instead of being buried, he is conveyed here


after his supposed death, and wrapped tip in warm
blankets ; while the temperature of the room itself is
i-egulatcd by the season of the year. Tlie slijj^htcst movc-
raent of vitality in his fingers would press down one of
the keys which communicate with a bell at the top of the
building, where resides a doctor, or rather two doctors,
who take it watch and watch about, ready at the summons
to afl'ord all the succour of their art. Restoratives of
every kind abound — all that human ingenuity can devise
— in the way of cordials and stimulants, as well as a large
find admirably-equipped staff of servants and nurses,
Avhose cheerful aspect seems especially intended to re-
assure the patient, should he open his eyes once more
to life.

The institution is a most costly one. The physicians,
selected from among the highest practitioners of Frank-
fort, are most liberally remunerated, and the whole retinue
of the establishment maintained on a footing of even
extravagant expenditure. Of course, I need scarcely say,
its benetits, if such they be, are reserved for the wealthy
only. Indeed, I have been told the cost of " this lying in
state " exceeds that of the most expensive funeral four-
fold. Sometimes tliere is great difficulty in obtaining a
vacant bed. Periods of epidemic disease crowd the insti-
tution to such a degree, that the greatest influence ia
exerted for a place. Now, one naturally asks, what success
has this system met with to wai'rant this expenditure, and
continue to enjoy public confidence ? None whatever. In
seventeen years which one of the resident doctors passed
there, not one case occurred of restored animation ; nor
was there ever reason to believe that in any instance the
slightest signs of vitality ever returned. The phj'sicians
themselves make little scruple at avowing the incredulity
concerning its necessity, and surprised me by the freedom
with which they canvassed the excellent, but mistaken,
notions of its founders.

To what, then, must we look for the reason of maintain-
ing so strange an institution ? Simply to that love of life
so remarkably conspicuous in the people of Fraukibrt.
The failure in a hundred instances is no argument to any
tnan who thinks his own case may present the exception.


It matters little to him that his neighbour was past re-
vival when he arrived there ; the question is, what is his
own chance? Besides that, the fear of being buried ali've
— a dread, only chiraei'ical in other countries — must often
present itself here, when an institution is maintained to
prevent the casualty. In fact, there looks a something oi
scant courtesy in consigning a man to the tomb at once,
in a land where a kind of purgatorial sojourn is provided
for hira. But stranger than all is the secret hope this
system nourishes in the sick man's heart, that however
friends may despond, and doctors pronounce, he has a
chance still — there is a period allowed him of appealing-
against the deci'ee of death — enough if he but lift a finger
against it. What a singular feature does the whole system
expose, and how fond of the world must they be who
practise it ? Who can tell whether this " House of
Recovery " does not creep in among the fading hopes of
the death-bed, and if, among the last farewells of parting"
life, some thoughts of that last chance are not present to
the sick man's mind ? As I walked through its silent
chambers, where the pale print of death was marked in
every face that lay there, I shuddered to think how the-
rich man's gold will lead him to struggle against the wiU-
of liis Creator. La Morgue, in all its fearful reality, came
up before me, and the cold moist flags 07i which were
stretclied the unknown corpses of the poor, seemed far lesa
horrible than this gorgeous palace of the wealthy dead.

Unquestionably, cases of recovery from trance occur in
every land, and the feelings of returning animation, I
have often been told, are those of most intense suffering —
the inch to inch combat with death is a fearful ngony ; yet
what is it to the horrible sensations of sermitir/ death, in
which the consciousness survives all power of exertion,
and the mind burns bright within while the body is about
to be given to the earth. Can there be such a state as-
ihis ? Some one will say, " Is such a condition possible ? "
I believe it firmly. Many years ago a physician of some
eminence gave me an account of a fearful circumstancer
in his own life, which not only bears upon the point in.
question, but illustrates in a remarkable degree the power-
ful agency of volition as a pjinciple of vitality. I shali


give the detail in his own words, without a syllable of
comment, save that I can speak, from my knowledge of
the narrator, to the truth of his narrative.


THE "dream of death."

" It was already near four o'clock ere 1 bethought me of
making any preparation for my lecture. The day had
been, throughout, one of those heavy and sultry ones
autumn so often brings in our climate, and I felt from
this cause much oppressed and disinclined to exertion ;
independently of the fact that I had been greatly over-
fatigued during the preceding week — some cases of a most
trying and arduous nature having fallen to my lot, one of
which, from the importance of the life to a young and
dependent family, had engrossed much of my attention,
and aroused in me the warmest anxiety for success. In
this frame of mind I was entering my carriage to pro-
ceed to the lecture-room, when an unsealed note was put
into my hands : I opened it hastily, and read that poor

H , for whom I was so deeply interested, had just

expired. I was greatly shocked. It was scarcely an hour
since I had seen him, and from the apparent improve-
ment since my former visit, had ventured to speak most
encouragingly; and had even made some jesling allusions
to the speedy prospect of his once more resuming his
place at 'hearth and board.' Alas! how shortlived were
my hopes destined to be ! how awfully was my prophecy
to be contradicted.

" No one but he who has himself experienced it, knows
anything of the deep and heartfelt interest a medical man
takes in many of the cases which professionally come
before him ; I speak here of an interest perfectly apart
from all personal regard for the patient, or his frienda.


Indeed, the feeling I allude to has nothing in common
with this, and will often be experienced as thoroughly
for a perfect stranger as for one known and respected
for 3'eai's.

" To the extreme of this feeling 1 was ever a victim.
The heavy responsibility, often suddenly and unexpectedly
imposed ; the struggle for success, when success was all
but hopeless ; the intense anxiety for the arrival of those
critical periods which change the character of a malady,
and divest it of some of its dangers, or invest it with new
ones ; the despondence when that period has come only to
confirm all the worst symptoms, and shut out every pro-
spect of recovery; and, last of all, that most trying of all
the trying duties of my profession, the breaking to the
perhaps unconscious relatives that my art has failed, my
resources were exhausted, in a word, that there was no
longer a hope.

" These things have preyed on me for weeks, for months
long, and many an effort have I made in secret to combat
this feeling, but without the least success, till, at last, I
absolutely di'caded the very thoughts of being sent for to
a dangerous and critical illness. It may then be believed
how very heavily the news I had just received came upon
me ; the blow, too, was not even lessened by the poor
consolation of my having anticipated the result, and
broken the shock to the family.

" I was still standing with the half-opened note in my
hands, when I Avas aroused by the coachman asking, I
believe for the third time, whither should he drive ? I
bethought me for an instant, and said, ' To the lecture-

" When in health, lecturing had ever been to me more
of an amusement tlian a labour; and often, in the busy
hours of professional visiting, have I longed for the time
when I should come before my class, and divesting my
mind of all individual details, launch forth into the more
abstract and speculative doctrines of my art. It so
chanced, too, that the late hour at which I lectured, as
well as the subjects I adopted, usually drew to my class

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 32 of 40)