« PreviousContinue »
Time is usually so sly and silent in his operations, that he works great changes within us, and on all around us, without making us aware of his mysterious agency, or the resistless force with which he drags us along with him, on his ceaseless course. It is fortunate, that some seasons occur, at which he takes upon himself to proclaim his importance, and remind us of his rapid flight. The commencement of each new year forms such an occasion; and Time takes advantage of it, to stalk abroad openly, and, with his usual inconsiderate haste, wishes every body a happy new year;' without pausing to reflect, how poor their chance of happiness may be, or the woful plight to which Time himself may have reduced them.
He was passing, one new year's eve, through a country town, where the inhabitants had fallen into the custom of making merry with the new year, at the expense of the old one; and Time thought there could be no harm in indulging his curiosity for once, by stepping into some of the dwellings, to take a glance at their proceedings, and mark the strange fatuity of the sons and daughters of humanity, who can thus hail with rejoicings the new year, which has nothing for them but uncertainty in its unexplored regions of the future; and take leave, with such unbecoming levity, of the old year, as it slides away into the fields of memory, blending with the past, never to be recalled!
* All this is nothing to me,' thought Time. “Why should I look grave about it? They can neither hinder me, nor speed me on my journey. On, on I go; occasionally breaking the monotony of my course, by swiftly and silently flying from those who court my stay during their hours of enjoyment, and loitering by the wayside with the weary and disconsolate, who, instead of thanking me for my attentions, would willingly hasten my departure. And some God help them! — talk of killing me!-me, the invincible, before whom the mightiest on earth must bow at last; after having used me, and misused me, and courted me, and driven me from them, by turns.'
As these ideas were passing through the capricious brain of old father Time, he entered a room, in the centre of which stood a wellspread board; and around it was gathered a set of merry-hearted
blades, who seemed bent on drinking the old year out, and the new year in.' 'Insensates !' thought Time, as he gave a hasty glance round the circle ; and he soon felt he was out of place; but the glass was circling freely, and Time snuffed the air, as the scent of generous wine reached his nostrils; and then a loud drinking-song smote his ear, and Time heard his own name pronounced in the sounding chorus :
'In rosy wine we'll dip his wings,
And seize him as he flies!'
shouted the bacchanalians; whereupon Time spread his moistened wings, and sped away.
He then knocked at the door of an aged man, and without waiting for an answer, glided in, and wished him a happy new year; but the old gentleman was buried in his bed clothes, above which his nose only appeared; and that was breathing such a sonorous ditty, that Time could not make himself heard; so he turned on his heel, and hastened down stairs again.
As he passed through the hall, he could not forbear loitering at an open door, to listen to the merry congratulations of some young people, who had been sitting up to see the old year out; and were now wishing each other a happy new year, at the top of their voices. A hasty summons called to order. “Bill, you noisy rogue ! you ’ll awaken grandpapa.” “No danger,' thought I'ime; his own nasal lullaby is the safeguard of his slumbers ;' but no such reflection occurred to the kind soul who gave the caution. It came from. Aunt Mary,' a lady with whom Time was well acquainted, and on whom he had laid his hard hand lightly : for though old Time makes sad work with delicate complexions, and those insipid charms which have little but their youth to recommend them, he respects the smiles of good humor, and leaves long unharmed the beautiful expression of kind and intelligent eyes.
Aunt Mary was one of the happy sisterhood of contented and useful old maids, who, although denied by her single state the blessings of offspring, the joys of a mother, forgot the privation, in her affectionate interest for her sister's family; and in the exercise of every Christian virtue, made the most of her single blessedness.'
After she had hushed off to rest the noisy spirits under her charge; stepped into the nursery to kiss the baby, and wish her sister a happy new year; opened the door of grandpapa's room very softly, and peeped at his nose, as Time had done before her; she retired to her own apartment, and as she proceeded to disrobe herself, fell into a soliloquy Another year, another year! How time flies! It seems but
yesterday, that I was as young and as gay as these happy children; yet here I am, positively growing old. How time flies!'
• It would be no easy matter for me to stand still, that's certain,' said Time, who had been listening ; but you cannot say I have used
Look in the glass, dear aunt Mary; not a gray hair to complain of; not a wrinkle on that placid brow; not a shade across that clear blue eye.'
• My teeth, my teeth! old Time.' • The sweet-meats you are so fond of making, and those pickles
burning with red pepper - ask them for your teeth, aunt Mary, and thank me for having preserved your shape so well, and for having left untouched the pleasant smiles which adorn your countenance.'
* Pooh, pooh!' murmured the good lady, 'say no more about my person. I never prided myself on my good looks; and as for all thou hast robbed me of, thou cunning thief! I heartily forgive thee, in consideration of the lessons thou hast taught me ; strength to withstand, wisdom to endure, misfortune; patience — resignation; these were thy gifts, after sorrow had laid me low; and thou hast taught me, moreover, the folly of repining; the beauty and the virtue of cheerfulness. I would not stay thy wings, O Time! Move on, and lead me to everlasting peace !!
Leaving this lady to her peaceful slumbers, he prepared to enter a ball-room, which was lighted, decorated, and crowded with youth and beauty, in celebration of the entrance of the new year. Time strutted in, with an air of importance, expecting to excite general attention, and to receive the thanks of the company for his annual present; but to his surprise and mortification, no one took the least notice of him, though he brought the new year in his hand, and was indeed the author of all these festivities. Half a hundred young couples were footing it lightly to the music; and if Time himself had told them it was past twelve o'clock, they would hardly have believed him. It would have been equally difficult to convince them that the night was cold; for they had danced themselves into the agreeable condition described by one of the town ladies in the Vicar of Wakefield; and some of the flushed and over-heated youths had slyly let down a sash here and there, to the free admission of currents of frosty air. A bevy of shivering mammas, and single ladies, who did not look for partners in the ball-room, had taken refuge in an ante-room, for the benefit of a fire that was blazing there; and as Time looked in, and nodded to them with a sympathizing air, he soon found that they were not so unmindful of his presence. He left them looking at their watches, and fidgetting about the young people; and passing once more unperceived through the ball-room, he stepped at once into a far different scene.
The lodging room of a sick lady was lighted by the feeble ray of a night lamp, which cast flickering shadows round the wall, and against the heavy hangings of the bed. Time lingered there ; there he flapped his weary wings, and hung heavily on each lengthening hour. A thin white hand appeared, and drew aside the curtain, and then a gentle voice was heard, calling on the nurse. A middleaged woman rose hastily from her pallet-bed, to obey the summons.
'I hear sleigh bells, nurse, and voices in the street; it must be morning.
• Oh! dear, no ma'am !' said the nurse ;' it is but the turn of the night, and they are seeing the new year in,' merrily, ma'am ; that's all.'
• Are you sure it is no later, nurse? How slowly the hours drag along! Oh! when will daylight come !'
'Can I get any thing for you, dear madam ?- a composing draught, or the like?
No, no. What need had she of medicine? Full well she knew
that the great physician' was at hand, to administer the final cure.' In a feeble voice, she asked for a small and curiously-fashioned writing case, which lay on the toilette near; begged for a lamp on the stand at her bed side; and the nurse, weary with long watching, betook herself to sleep again. When the woman's hard breathing proved that she slept, the sick lady raised her head, and detaching from her neck a small key, with the ribbon which secured it, applied it to the tiny lock of her writing case, and taking thence a small packet, pressed it with trembling hands to her lips, to her bosom, all pale and emaciated as they were ; and then turning her streaming eyes on Time : · These, these are all thou hast left me! Ah! cruel thief! thou art mocking me with another year! The past, the past! Oh! bring me back my friends - my health — my early joys!'
Time said nothing; but he fanned her with his leaden wings, as she proceeded to untie the precious relics, over which he knew she was weeping her last. When each envelope was removed, and nothing appeared but a withered rose-bud, and a lock of hair, which the poor lady pressed convulsively to her lips, and gazed on with passionate fondness, the eyes of Time glistened with something like a tear. He had mingled with the dust the manly head on which that raven tress once grew; and each sister rose he had long since scattered to the elements from which they sprang; but here love had mastered him. He had outlived Time's withering touch, and held fast these sad emblems of his own undying power.
As Time turned slowly from the scene, and was passing onward to the fulfilment of his destined course, he encountered a mysterious and shrouded form. It was the · Angel of Death.'
• Whither away, dark angel !- and why do I meet thee here ?' whispered Time.
•I come,' said Death, 'to exclude thee forevermore from the presence of her thou wouldst treacherously pretend to soothe, and to heal, after having robbed her of the best gifts of earth. I come, with a hand of might, to scare thee from thy prey !'
Time answered not, but fled affrighted before the terrible countenance of his destroyer ; and when morning dawned, and the beautiful sun, outshining the sickly lamp, shed a bright glow through the curtains, on the very pillow - there, on that pale brow, death sat triumphant.
What! chain the spirit! - sooner might'st thou chain
The bounding billows to the rock-ribbed shore,
Or, svoner might'st thou lether with a thread
The ponderous clouds, which, with an air of dread,
And the big storms which wrestle far at sea,
And with the mountains hold society,
An endless life on an eternal shore.
H. W. h.
BY THE AUTHOR OF THE LAMENT OF THE CHEROKEE,' IN THE NOVEMBER NUMRER.
Cold blows the wind! - across the moor
The smothering tempest flies ;
In wailing accents cries :
Amid the drifting snow?
I hear ils voice of wo:
"Wild is the woful night, and drear!
Is at its frozen shrine decayed,
See ! yonder shines the lighted hall,
Your revelry and noise;
And all your vapid joys.
Lack the enjoyment of no earthly gift,
Chilled 'neath the faithless shelter of a drift!
• For him no hearth with ruddy embers glows,
See yon proud dome, whose turrets high
There Avarice dwells!
Heaven's record tells !
Ye lull his slumbers on his bed of down,
Bui bear not to his ears the stifled moan
'Is life a blessing to a few,
While thousands in its wilds who grieve,
Shall the bright sun bestow delight,