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Mademoiselle von Raasloff's mother.

One evening at the Palazzo Odescalchi, when everybody had been telling stories, and nothing very interesting, Mademoiselle von Raasloff suddenly astonished us by saying, 'Now I will tell you something.' Then she said -

'There was a young lady in Denmark, whose family, from circumstances, had lived very much before the Danish world, and with whom, in so small a society as that of Copenhagen, almost everyone was acquainted. Consequently it is a subject of interest, almost of universal interest, at Copenhagen, when it became known that this young lady, with the full approval of her parents and joyful consent of everyone concerned, had become engaged to a young Danish officer of good family and position.

'Now in Danish society a betrothal is considered to be almost the same thing as a marriage: new relationships date from that time, and if either the affianced bride or bridegroom die, the family of the other side mourn as for a son or brother, as if the marriage had actually taken place.

'While this young lady of whom I've spoken was only engaged, her betrothed husband was summoned to join his regiment in a war which was going on; and very soon to the house of his betrothed came the terrible news that he was dead, that he was killed in battle. And the way in which the news came was this. A soldier of his regiment was wounded and was taken prisoner; and as he was lying in his cot in the hospital, he said to his companion who was in the next bed, "I saw the young Colonel - I saw the young Colonel on his white horse, and he rode into the ranks of the enemy and he never came back again." And the man who said that died, but the man to whom he said it recovered, and, in process of time, he was ransomed, and came back to Copenhagen and told his story with additions. "My comrade, who is dead, said that he saw the young Colonel on his white horse, and that he saw him ride into the ranks of the enemy and the soldiers of the enemy dragged him from his horse and killed him, so that he never came back again." This is the form in which the story reached the family of the affianced wife of the young Colonel, and they mourned him most truly; for they loved him much, and they put on all the outward signs of deepest grief. There was only one person who would not put on the outward sign of mourning, and that was his affianced bride herself. She said, and persisted in saying, that she could not believe that, with two persons having been as entirely united as she and her betrothed had been, one could pass entirely out of life without the other knowing it. That her lover was sick, in prison, in trouble, she could believe, but that he was dead - never, without her having an inner conviction of it; and she would not put on the outward signs of mourning, which to her sense implied an impression of ill omen. Her parents are urged her greatly, not only because their own reality of grief was very great, but because, according to the feeling of things in Copenhagen, it cast a very great slur upon their daughter that she should appear without the usual signs of grief. They urged her ceaselessly, and the tension of mind in which she lived, and the perpetual struggle with her own family, added to her own deep grief, had a very serious effect upon her.

'It was while things were in this state that one day she dreamt - she dreamt that she received a letter from her betrothed, and in her dream she felt that it was of the most vital importance that she should see the date of that letter; and she struggled and laboured to see it, and she laboured on with the utmost intensity of effort, but she could not decipher it; and it seemed to her the most wearisome night she had ever spent, so incessant was her effort, but she could not read it: still she would not give it up, and at last, just as the dawn was breaking, she saw the date of the letter, and it was May 10th. The effort was so great that she woke; but the date remained with her still - it was May 10th.

'Now she knew that if such a letter had been really written on the 10th of May, by the 1st of June she must receive that letter.

'The next morning, when her father came into see her before she was up, as he had always done since their great sorrow, he was surprised to find her not only calm and serene, but almost radiant. She said, "You have often blamed me for not wearing the outward signs of mourning for my betrothed: grant me now only till the 1st of June, and then, if I receive no letter from him, I will promise to resign myself to believe the worst, and I will do as you desire." Three weeks of terrible tension ensued, and the 1st of June arrived. She said then that she felt as if her whole future life hung upon the postman's knock. It came - and there was the letter! Her lover had been taken prisoner, communication with him had been cut off - in fact, till then it was impossible she should hear. Soon afterwards he was exchanged, came home, and they were married.

'Now,' said Mademoiselle von Raasloff, as she finished her narrative, 'that is no story which I have heard. The young lady was my dear mother; she is here to testify to it: the young officer was my dear father, General von Raasloff he is here to confirm it.' And they were both present.