Presentiments are strange things! and so are sympathies; and so are signs; and
the three combined make one mystery to which humanity has not yet found the
key. I never laughed at presentiments in my life, because I have had strange
ones of my own. Sympathies, I believe, exist (for instance, between far-distant,
long-absent, wholly estranged relatives asserting, notwithstanding their
alienation, the unity of the source to which each traces his origin) whose
workings baffle mortal comprehension. And signs, for aught we know, may be but
the sympathies of Nature with man.
When I was a little girl, only six years old, I one night heard Bessie Leaven say to
Martha Abbot that she had been dreaming about a little child; and that to dream
of children was a sure sign of trouble, either to one's self or one's kin. The saying
might have worn out of my memory, had not a circumstance immediately
followed which served indelibly to fix it there. The next day Bessie was sent for
home to the deathbed of her little sister.
Of late I had often recalled this saying and this incident; for during the past week
scarcely a night had gone over my couch that had not brought with it a dream of
an infant, which I sometimes hushed in my arms, sometimes dandled on my
knee, sometimes watched playing with daisies on a lawn, or again, dabbling its
hands in running water. It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing one the
next: now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from me; but whatever mood the
apparition evinced, whatever aspect it wore, it failed not for seven successive
nights to meet me the moment I entered the land of slumber.
I did not like this iteration of one idea--this strange recurrence of one image, and I
grew nervous as bedtime approached and the hour of the vision drew near. It
was from companionship with this baby- phantom I had been roused on that
moonlight night when I heard the cry; and it was on the afternoon of the day
following I was summoned downstairs by a message that some one wanted me
in Mrs. Fairfax's room. On repairing thither, I found a man waiting for me, having
the appearance of a gentleman's servant: he was dressed in deep mourning, and
the hat he held in his hand was surrounded with a crape band.
"I daresay you hardly remember me, Miss," he said, rising as I entered; "but my
name is Leaven: I lived coachman with Mrs. Reed when you were at Gateshead,
eight or nine years since, and I live there still."
"Oh, Robert! how do you do? I remember you very well: you used to give me a
ride sometimes on Miss Georgiana's bay pony. And how is Bessie? You are
married to Bessie?"
"Yes, Miss: my wife is very hearty, thank you; she brought me another little one
about two months since--we have three now--and both mother and child are
"And are the family well at the house, Robert?"
"I am sorry I can't give you better news of them, Miss: they are very badly at
present--in great trouble."