Marietta, or the Two Students/Chapter 11
Chapter XI: Retribution
’Twas a glorious night, and a most living beauty was shining upon the earth, which smiling back its thanks, languidly resigned itself to rest. The world and all that the inquisitive eye could gaze upon was beautiful, and bathed in a flood of moonlight, still retained something of its primal brightness.
But breathless as we grow when feeling most,And silent as we stand in thought too deep.”
It was ten o’clock, and Marietta and Ada are seated by a window, as we have seen them once before. They are drinking in the mild loveliness of the evening, and its tranquilizing stillness stirs up a delicious rapture in their hearts.
“Ada,” said the former, “let us walk abroad and enjoy the beauty of the night. I am now quite well, and can incur no risk by the proceeding. It will do me good.”
“With pleasure, Marietta. I was about to make the same proposal ; for who can be so stupid as to sleep on such a night.”
They were soon ready, and arm in arm sallied forth, taking their way instinctively towards the cemetery. Marietta was silent and thoughtful, and her companion observed that she frequently turned her eyes gratefully to heaven, and that her lips moved as if in prayer.
Stopping frequently to admire the star-gemmed canopy over their heads, considerable time elapsed before they reached the church-yard. Marietta could not repress an involuntary shudder when her eye fell upon the numerous marble slabs and mounds which marked the last resting place of a human being.
And the sight revived most vividly the late dark passage in her life—her burial and strange resurrection. The gate was open and they entered. Reading the inscriptions as they passed onward, they reached the middle of the yard.
“What sound is that?” said Marietta, in a suppressed and slightly tremulous voice, bending forward in the attitude of listening.
“I heard nothing, let us listen.”
“Do you not now, Ada?” continued Marietta in a whisper.
“Yes, I think I can,” replied her companion turning pale.
“Now I hear it distinctly,” and again she listened.
“What can it be?”
“It resembles the sound produced by throwing up the earth with a spade ; and hark ! “ Marietta added, Ada nervously clinging close to her friend, “I think it must be the body snatchers. They are opening a grave not far from us.”
“What shall we do, give the alarm?”
“No, we are not certain that the supposition is correct. Let us make certain of it first. We will proceed softly in the direction from whence the sounds proceed.”
“Would it be prudent, Ada?” said Marietta, looking enquiringly at the young girl by her side, whose alarm had entirely subsided, and whose boldness seemed to increase momentarily.
“Certainly ! No one will harm us. If they should discover our approach, they would be more frightened than we should be.”
With cautious tread the young ladies advanced in the direction of the sounds, they every moment growing more distinct, and by their peculiarity proving that they were right in their conjectures. Suddenly they ceased, and they paused in the hope of hearing them renewed, but in vain.
“Let us move a little this way,” said Ada, leading her friend with a gentle force in the direction pointed out.—“They cannot be far from here, and we shall be likely to see before coming too suddenly upon them.”
Again they advanced until Marietta declared in a whisper that she would go no farther.
“Let us reach that large grave-stone, just before us, and wait until we hear them recommence operations.” They had now arrived at the place designated by Ada and were leaning against the sculptured slab to rest. They had occupied this position but a few moments when the sounds were renewed, and so very near them that they trembled at their own temerity. “Let us fly,” said Marietta, in a voice rendered almost inaudible by fear. “Look here, Marietta, by this stone, and tell me what you observe,” said her more courageous companion.
Emerging from behind the stone, Marietta mechanically followed the directions of Ada. Trembling with terror, they beheld a man at work in a grave, throwing out the earth. The spectacle was so unexpected, and recalled so forcibly her recent exhumation, that she could not repress a scream. The body-snatcher alarmed at the sound, dropped his spade, and with fear pictured in his countenance, looked wildly about to discover the source from whence it proceeded.
His eye fell upon Marietta—a deathly paleness overspread his skeleton features, his grey eyes started in their sockets, making his ghostly visage still more hideous—his strength forsook his emaciated limbs, and with a shriek of mortal fear he fell forward into the grave—a corpse !
He had recognized Marietta as “the fair subject,” and believed that he was beholding the dead. Overcome with extreme terror, and horrified beyond description, with as little life in his body as the earth he had been throwing up, he sank into the grave he had dug with his own hands.
We will now return to the “granite front.” A few days preceding these events, the virago, with a strong cord in her hand—with rage and disappointment depicted upon every feature of her grim visage, ascended to the second story of the tenement adjacent to that which she had formerly occupied.—Tying the rope about her neck, and then making it fast to the window-sill, with a wild cry she leaped out. For a few minutes the limbs quivered, and the face was convulsed with pain, after that there was nothing but death written upon those features and represented by that body.
We now follow the fortunes of our other characters. Eugene married Cecil, thus proving that what had recently passed had not been without a redeeming influence, and making her an “honest woman.” He never had cause to regret that he did so. She is now a virtuous and happy wife, which fact we think is not without a moral, viz., that it is never too late to reform, and that very few are so hardened in sin that they will not.
The good humored Dr. Frene, is now in the practice of medicine, in one of the more eastern towns in Maine. He has not yet forgotten the adventure in the dissecting room—the fall down stairs, &c., as well as the resuscitation of the young female, nor the constable, whom he so unceremoniously ejected, “while in the discharge of his duty as a magistrate.” There are many amusing things which we might say of him, had we room, but at some future time, we may give an extended history of what he said, and what he did.
As for Levator, he finished his studies, and graduated at Harvard College. Did our limits permit, we would tell you how, he became acquainted with Marietta—and his amazement on first beholding her among the living. Also, how he loved her, and she returned that love, with all a woman’s devotedness. Another scene, and we close.
Marietta and Levator are in that little room, where we first saw the former.
“Will you wed me Marietta?” said Levator in a deep musical tone, gazing anxiously into the beautiful face of the woman he adored.
“On one condition,” was the half playful, half serious reply.
“Name it,” cried Levator eagerly, “and if it is not harder than woman ever imposed upon mortal man, I swear to comply.”
“Recover my lost ring, and find the owner of this—” drawing one from her finger, “—and I am yours.”
With a smile of superlative happiness upon his thoughtful face, the pale handsome student, knelt at the feet of his beautiful mistress, and drawing the ring from his finger, he had taken from the cold hand of the “fair subject,” held it up saying,
“The condition is already fulfilled.”