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far into the church, but stopped against the
first column he met; for the cracking of the
waills, as the gusts of the tempest drove
against them, added to the uneasiness that
was beginning to creep over him, and caused
him to doubt the prudence of the shelter he
had sought. He began to retrace his steps,
as well as the darkness would permit, when,
loud amidst the howlings of the wind, and
clatter of the fierce rain, the old bell of the
church sounded. Léon involuntarily stopped
to count the strokes, and he numbered twelve.

As the last stroke resounded, a dim light
pervaded the church, and the creaking of the
hinges of a door slowly opening made Léon
turn in the direction of the sound. The door
of the sacristy was opening, and a dark figure
was seen emerging from it. Léon fixed a
steady gaze upon it, and saw, as it approached,
that it was a priest, dressed in a black
chasuble with a white cross embroidered on
the breast. In his hands he bore the sacramental
cup and consecrated host. With very
slow and solemn motion, he advanced in the
direction of the altar. His tread was so light,
that he passed across the pavement, and up
the stone steps, without awakening any echo
in the sonorous ruin. With solemn dignity
he placed on the altar the holy cup, and
turned his pale, emaciated face towards Léon
fixed a steady gaze upon him, and raising his
finger, beckoned to him to approach.

Instinctively, the young soldier obeyed; he
had not power to resist. The little reverence
he had had for church performances when he
quitted college for the army, had been quite
obliterated by the painful scenes of the
campaign in which he had been actively engaged.
The mysterious influence, therefore, that
drew him passively obedient to the steps of
the altar confounded him. The nearer he
approached the figure standing at the altar,
the more solemn and shadowy it appeared.
At a given sign Léon knelt, and covered his
eyes with his hand. A deep sepulchral voice,
in slow and measured accents, recited the
Service for the Dead. The recollections of
childhood vividly arose, and, as the service
proceeded, the young officer found himself
giving the responses almost as accurately as
the deacons and sub-deacons are wont to do.
The sound of his own voice, filling up the
intervals of the awful looking priest's, formed
such a strange contrast, as to make Leon's
blood curdle. What was he doing? Whose
funeral rites was he thus celebrating? All
power of volition seemed annihilated, and, as
the ceremony proceeded, the young man
became in such a state of mental agony as to
be a passive instrument in the hands of the
mysterious influence which was commanding
him. He almost doubted if he were alive.

When the ceremony was ended, the priest
pronounced the farewell benediction, as if a
numerous congregation filled the church; and
then, for the first time, addressing Léon, he
said to him, "Young stranger, the pious
service you have just rendered has helped to
redeem my soul from purgatory. For centuries,
by this nocturnal penitence, have I
been expiating a sin committed against the
severe laws of our monastery. For centuries
have I waited for the assistance of a living
being to aid me in the holy sacrifice. For
centuries the hour of midnight mass has
tolled every night, but no human being has
appeared. You alone have come to kneel
before the altar of God, and have released me
from some of the bonds which chained my
soul in purgatory, and deterred its entering
into the heavenly abode. Your piety shall
have its reward. Ask any one question before
I go, and I will answer you."

The unearthly tones of the speaker penetrated
and roused the half paralysed Léon.
Shuddering, and shrinking from the gaze of
the lustreless eye that was fixed upon him,
the young man involuntarily asked—" Whose
funeral service is this? "—" Alas! my son,"
returned the mysterious priest in a sad and
subdued voice, "three years hence, at the
same hour, and the same day, your departing
spirit will restore your body to the dust. Be
ready at the hour. The funeral service is

As he uttered these words, the old man
disappeared without any noise, without leaving
any trace of his presence, or indication whether
he had returned to the tomb, or mounted to
heaven!—and the church was again in total

Oppressed by amazement and awe, Léon
remained at the altar. The words of the old
priest were indelibly impressed on his memory.
The sensation that overwhelmed him was not
fear of death. Over and over again, he had
confronted the possibility of that catastrophe
on the field of battle. The gallant deeds that
had won his promotion, had not been
performed without great personal risk of life.
Yet alone in this old gloomy church, the
doom he had heard pronounced, had chilled
him to the heart. He could not contemplate
the annihilation of all the golden promises and
hopes of his youth with resignation.

By degrees the horror subsided into melancholy,
and a furious blast of wind slamming
the church-door, with violence, aroused him.
He arose from his kneeling position, and
fancying he might be under a delusion,
stamped with his iron-heeled boot on the
pavement, to convince himself he was awake.

The darkness was becoming less intense; a
faint, almost imperceptible, grey light began
to steal gradually through the building. The
dawn was breaking through the clouds of
night, the storm without was evidently less
violent. Léon strode down the aisle with
nervous haste. Alas! he could no longer
doubt his presence in the church. He had
then received a real warning!

With some difficulty he pulled open the
church door, which the wind had violently
closed, and inhaled the fresh breeze with