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wild brain which it was producing on that of the little victim. He shrieked on occasion of his first irrational words. Little Peter fancied he was on the hill-top, among the sheep, with his father: and the affrighted father tried to argue him into reason and memory, almost angrily showing him that what he plucked and felt was not his pet-lamb's fleece, but the wool of the bed-clothes, as if he would hold back, by force, that wandering, departing mind—that mind of premature growth—so sensible, so man-like, what he had been so proud to cherish; now reeling and lost in the shadows of a night too likely to prove eternal. It was mournful to see the child's vacant smile that answered to the agonised, eager words of his father thus striving to recall his senses,-his hollow horror of voice and accent-his wildness of distress. “You are not on the hill now! you are in your little bed, your own bed—don't you know you are? Sweet boy, don't frighten father-do not, my darling boy! Look! feel! 'tis not your house-lamb you are holding" The little fellow seemed roused to attention by his father's tears, lifted his small hand, from the quilt, towards his father's eyes, as in the act to wipe them, but his unsteady arm trembled and missed its object; it dropped supine on the bed again, and a fresh flood of tears followed the now utterly unmanned father's sight of the pretty action.
With difficulty I prevailed on him to come out, to feel the reviving, tranquillising air and sun. “I must get back, sir: I must get back to him, you know; the time may be short; to-morrow! I may even look back to, to-day, miserable to-day! I have him alive yet to return to,-God only knows how long I may have him.”
have him.” Afraid to flatter him with hope, I talked something commonplace, of his having known he was mortal. “No, by my soul, I did not! I was mad, I believe; I never bore to think I could lose him-no-no more than if he had been one of God's cherubs sent down to smile round my path, as he looked like one! Mortal ? well, so am I too, thank God.” A dark wild expression of pleasure flew across his face, as he muttered the last words. “A pretty boy! a good little boy! a sweet, a patient, beautiful boy; and as fond of me, a rough man, (though I say it,) as if I'd been his own soft mother? What good, now? Now I wish to God he had not been so good, so patient, so fond; I wish he had cared not for me—that he had been ugly, or cross, or foolish: I wish he had had one fault I could remember! Almost I do---yet I could not bear that,
neither; yet I could better bear anything than the thought of all his pretty ways, his sensible talks, his lookings up in my face, with his hand in mine, prattling all the way up the mountain by my side,-every one does now come back, like a knife at my heart, pleasant as they were! Oh, Doctor, bear with me! I am a lone man: and there's nobody in my house that's a father! and it is not my doating folly: oh, you
should have seen him before his poor head was moythering; * how patient he was! how he would pretend to smile at any plaything I gave him, only to please me, when I know he couldn't enjoy 'em !-how thankful he would look when I settled his pillow! Then, to sit and think of that pillowthat horrible last, which is to receive my own boy's head for ever, with all its pretty curls,—the little coffin,—the stiff hand,-sir, it's unbearable, unbearable! Heaven supports other hearts, I suppose, but mine it lets drop--drop: it's like a stone in my bosom this moment, and sometimes it's ready to burst. - Does he breathe? Is he gone? I seem to hear them asking in the dead night, as if it was come to that, indeed,-and-No! he's gone! I could fancy some melancholy devil keeps answering within my brain, to drive me mad-mad-mad !” As if he had really caught the sound on the air, or perhaps to satisfy the terrible doubt even that short absence, with such half-maniacal thoughts, inspired, David flew back into the house.
He returned with a cheerful look. “He's asleep,” said he; “sound sleep; his poor half-shut eyes turned to the chair 1 sat in, for me, the last thing before he slept, as always. To say the truth, before I did leave him the first time, I fancied his little palm cooler, his breath not so short, or else I could not have borne such talk as I have had with you. When I think him worse I can't speak a word; no, not think about death even, indeed."
He who has no child will be disgusted, perhaps amused, by those wild words of an unworldly father, (in the bustle of the worldly-minded man's life, probably parental grief rarely runs so high ;) but they who have lost, or feared to lose, a dear child, may possibly recognise in them a faint echo of a voice within, heard in that dreadful night of their hearts and souls, the period of its utmost danger, that agony of suspense-the crisis.
Absence from home prevented my watching the further
* Roaming, talking deliriously.
progress of the child's disorder, but as my way homeward lay along the hill-top above, I descended. to learn the issue. In a sunny dingle, at the foot of the mountain, on the turf bank of the little brook, sat the father and child : the latter pale, but placid, and around him all the toys and presents he had received during his illness, now first valued. Great as was the delight he derived from them, his father probably received a tenfold degree from watching that restored faculty of enjoyment in his beloved boy. His expression of a father's feelings on such an occasion (his eyes swimming with tears of pleasure, as he looked on him, playing, and spoke of his recent state,) were lively and affecting.
But whoshall foretell what new characters will be written? what strange catastrophes recorded in the yet unfilled volume of the heart of man, while yet one page remains blank? Certainly not man; possibly not the angels, till the ghastly finis of the skull and the cross-bones, and death's own black seal and motto, “hic jacet," announce that “all is finished.” Then, and not till then, can it be said, “this was a good man,” or “this was a fond father.”
Again, after a very short interval, I passed that valley and that spot. I saw David walking alone, with folded arms, while my little friend ran after him, not yet restored to his full strength, crying, in vain, “Stop for me, stop for me!" The father stopped at last, induced, as I thought, by catching a sight of me; and never shall I forget the inexplicable change and fall of that man's countenance, as his eyes met mine, and he stood perplexed between reluctance to take up his little boy, who stood with uplifted arms for his usual "jump," and some shame, under my observation of his altered manner towards him. And there was the shooting of some horrid pain of heart or mind, at the very sight of me, as if I awakened memories of the past, that were at once sweet and mournful, strongly painted on his dark countenance, the features of which seemed actually to writhe with the secret workings of a mind wounded to death, or at least enduring its agony. There was a native amiability and gentleness, the fruits of a superior cast of mind, perhaps, in my little patient, which made him meet unkindness: not with the froward impatience of a child, but the tender quiet reproach of eye and manner, which it might elicit from a sensible mild-natured adult. He wiped one eye with his pinafore, looked inquiringly up in his father's face, mournfully and abashed in mine, and walked aside; his
only manifestation of temper being the throwing away a pretty brook-pebble he had brought to show his parent.
“What has my poor little friend here done, David ?” I inquired: “come, come, you must forgive him; no great matter, I am sure.” “Done?” he exclaimed, and seemed to start with a sense of his own injustice; “done? nothing on earth: nothing, upon my life! I am a wretched man, sir, a miserable man, that's all. Come then, Peter.” The child, delighted, mounted a little bank, to be thence received into his arms, now half-extended for him. "What have I done, naughty daddy, that you don't like to ride me on your back, nor take me with you, and look so like a strange man at me? See! I can't reach
stand far off.” “God bless thee, boy, nothing; oh, nothing:” his father answered, in an almost distracted tone, and stepped eagerly nearer, for his child to throw himself on his neck. “Done ? nothing, poor little soul.” Then, reiterating, “poor little creature !” each time with a less tender tone methought, “poor little wretch !" was the last epithet; his arms dropped by his side, he stood in act to clasp, and did not clasp, cheating the child of his expected embrace: then, coldly helping him down from the bank, he seated himself suddenly on the ground, in strange absence of mind, and sat a minute with his hands clasped and extended in his lap, and chin resting on his breast, as if buried in thought. “Bless me, I ask your pardon, Doctor!” he said, jumping up; "I had, somehow, forgot you was there: I am not well, I believe;" and he relapsed, though upright by self-constraint, into the same disconsolate reverie, his child continually coming round to watch his face, and he as constantly turning a little from him, to avoid his pretty, earnest gaze. A tear stood at last in the poor boy's eyes, at this seeming displeasure of his father. “How can you bear to draw tears from those eyes?" I said; “I should have believed your heart would bleed to pain the little innocent for a moment.” The father clenched his hands, ground his teeth, his eyes rolled, and I began to fancy that excessive anxiety for his child's life had shaken his reason. At last he broke forth in a hollow voice of frightful energy: “Pain, sir! tears, sir! does my heart not bleed, then ? Can you look in here?' and he struck his broad inanly chest with a force that, to one less absorbed, would have been a painful blow. “Sir, for every tear which my morose misery draws from that boy's eyes, mine weep a hundred; for every little pain I
cause in his innocent heart, my own takes vengeance by a
time had been come then: died in my blessed ignorance; sucked death from thy poor blackened lips, and laid me down by thy side,--then, then, while I could have said 'farewell, my boy!' But now; oh, now—." He broke off, and hid his face in his hands.
Let me supply to the reader that explanation of this sudden change, which was withheld from myself during some time. This romantically fond father had been assured (and he fatally believed the assurance) that he was not a father : that the object he almost alone lived for, his pride and darling, was in truth his shame, and ought to be his hate. Mrs. Beynon, the parted mother, requested an interview with David, on the child's recovery: a sort of reconciliation,
-a complaint of his detention of the child, a consequent furious quarrel, fomented by her brother, followed. The latter, a brutal sort of monied man, a grazier and drover, bade him remember, that his sister was courted by a fair young man almost up to the time of David's sudden acquaintance and speedy stolen marriage with her. He sneered at his credulity: for the child was a seven-month's birth, and yet wanted the usual marks of such prematurity. Fury made him careless of his sister's feelings, and fury made her equally callous to woman's shame. In the eagerness to inflict a wound on her husband's heart, who had indeed vitally wounded hers, by refusing to her the society of the child, she stooped to the charge of infamy, and confessed to the brother's imputation. To prove to the selfish father,