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Chapter 3
When I had attained the age of seventeen my parents resolved that I should become a
student at the university of Ingolstadt. I had hitherto attended the schools of Geneva, but
my father thought it necessary for the completion of my education that I should be made
acquainted with other customs than those of my native country. My departure was
therefore fixed at an early date, but before the day resolved upon could arrive, the first
misfortune of my life occurred--an omen, as it were, of my future misery. Elizabeth had
caught the scarlet fever; her illness was severe, and she was in the greatest danger.
During her illness many arguments had been urged to persuade my mother to refrain from
attending upon her. She had at first yielded to our entreaties, but when she heard that the
life of her favourite was menaced, she could no longer control her anxiety. She attended
her sickbed; her watchful attentions triumphed over the malignity of the distemper--
Elizabeth was saved, but the consequences of this imprudence were fatal to her preserver.
On the third day my mother sickened; her fever was accompanied by the most alarming
symptoms, and the looks of her medical attendants prognosticated the worst event. On
her deathbed the fortitude and benignity of this best of women did not desert her. She
joined the hands of Elizabeth and myself. "My children," she said, "my firmest hopes of
future happiness were placed on the prospect of your union. This expectation will now be
the consolation of your father. Elizabeth, my love, you must supply my place to my
younger children. Alas! I regret that I am taken from you; and, happy and beloved as I
have been, is it not hard to quit you all? But these are not thoughts befitting me; I will
endeavour to resign myself cheerfully to death and will indulge a hope of meeting you in
another world."
She died calmly, and her countenance expressed affection even in death. I need not
describe the feelings of those whose dearest ties are rent by that most irreparable evil, the
void that presents itself to the soul, and the despair that is exhibited on the countenance. It
is so long before the mind can persuade itself that she whom we saw every day and
whose very existence appeared a part of our own can have departed forever--that the
brightness of a beloved eye can have been extinguished and the sound of a voice so
familiar and dear to the ear can be hushed, never more to be heard. These are the
reflections of the first days; but when the lapse of time proves the reality of the evil, then
the actual bitterness of grief commences. Yet from whom has not that rude hand rent
away some dear connection? And why should I describe a sorrow which all have felt, and
must feel? The time at length arrives when grief is rather an indulgence than a necessity;
and the smile that plays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a sacrilege, is not
banished. My mother was dead, but we had still duties which we ought to perform; we
must continue our course with the rest and learn to think ourselves fortunate whilst one
remains whom the spoiler has not seized.
My departure for Ingolstadt, which had been deferred by these events, was now again
determined upon. I obtained from my father a respite of some weeks. It appeared to me
sacrilege so soon to leave the repose, akin to death, of the house of mourning and to rush