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A Wedding Gift

By H. Rider Haggard

FOOTPRINTS—footprints—the footprints of one dead. How ghastly they look as they fall before me! Up and down the long hall they go, and I follow them. Pit, pat they fall, those unearthly steps, and beneath them starts up that awful impress. I can see it grow upon the marble, a damp and dreadful thing.

Tread them down; tread them out; follow after them with muddy shoes, and cover them up. In vain. See how they rise through the mire! Who can tread out the footprints of the dead?

And so on, up and down the dim vista of the past, following the sound of the dead feet that wander so restlessly, stamping upon the impress that will not be stamped out. Rave on, wild wind, eternal voice of human misery; fall, dead footsteps, eternal echo of human memory; stamp, miry feet; stamp into forgetfulness that which will not be forgotten.

And so on, on to the end.

* * * *

Pretty ideas these for a man about to be married, especially when they float into one's brain at night like ominous clouds into a summer sky, and one is going to be married to-morrow. There is no mistake about it—the wedding I mean. To be plain and matter-of-fact, why there are the presents, or some of them, and very handsome presents they are, ranged in solemn rows upon the long table. It is a remarkable thing to observe when one is going to make a really satisfactory marriage, how hundreds of unsuspected friends crop up around one and send little tokens of their esteem. It was very different when I married my first wife, I remember, but then that marriage was not satisfactory. There they stand in solemn rows, as I have said, and inspire me with beautiful thoughts about the native kindness of human nature, especially the human nature of one's distant cousins. It is possible to grow very poetical over a silver teapot when one is going to be married to-morrow. On how many future mornings shall I be confronted with that teapot? Probably for all my life; and on the othe...

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