The Last Man eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 520 pages of information about The Last Man.

She slept; and quiet prevailed in the Castle, whose inhabitants were hushed to repose.  I was awake, and during the long hours of dead night, my busy thoughts worked in my brain, like ten thousand mill-wheels, rapid, acute, untameable.  All slept—­all England slept; and from my window, commanding a wide prospect of the star-illumined country, I saw the land stretched out in placid rest.  I was awake, alive, while the brother of death possessed my race.  What, if the more potent of these fraternal deities should obtain dominion over it?  The silence of midnight, to speak truly, though apparently a paradox, rung in my ears.  The solitude became intolerable—­I placed my hand on the beating heart of Idris, I bent my head to catch the sound of her breath, to assure myself that she still existed—­for a moment I doubted whether I should not awake her; so effeminate an horror ran through my frame.—­Great God! would it one day be thus?  One day all extinct, save myself, should I walk the earth alone?  Were these warning voices, whose inarticulate and oracular sense forced belief upon me?

  Yet I would not call them
  Voices of warning, that announce to us
  Only the inevitable.  As the sun,
  Ere it is risen, sometimes paints its image
  In the atmosphere—­so often do the spirits
  Of great events stride on before the events,
  And in to-day already walks to-morrow.[2]

[1] Calderon de la Barca. [2] Coleridge’s Translation of Schiller’s Wallenstein.

CHAPTER VIII.

After a long interval, I am again impelled by the restless spirit within me to continue my narration; but I must alter the mode which I have hitherto adopted.  The details contained in the foregoing pages, apparently trivial, yet each slightest one weighing like lead in the depressed scale of human afflictions; this tedious dwelling on the sorrows of others, while my own were only in apprehension; this slowly laying bare of my soul’s wounds:  this journal of death; this long drawn and tortuous path, leading to the ocean of countless tears, awakens me again to keen grief.  I had used this history as an opiate; while it described my beloved friends, fresh with life and glowing with hope, active assistants on the scene, I was soothed; there will be a more melancholy pleasure in painting the end of all.  But the intermediate steps, the climbing the wall, raised up between what was and is, while I still looked back nor saw the concealed desert beyond, is a labour past my strength.  Time and experience have placed me on an height from which I can comprehend the past as a whole; and in this way I must describe it, bringing forward the leading incidents, and disposing light and shade so as to form a picture in whose very darkness there will be harmony.

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The Last Man from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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