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One after another, they all continued going up to the bed-side, and then coming away sobbing or silent, to see their merry little sister, who used to keep dancing all day like a butterfly in a meadow field, trifling for awhile in the silence of her joy~ now tossing restlessly on her bed, and scarcely sensible to the words of endearment whispered around her, or the kisses dropped with tears, in spite of themselves on her burning forehead.
Utter poverty often kills the affections, but a deep, constant and common feeling of this world's hardships, and an equal participation in all those struggles by which they may be softened, unite husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, in thoughtful and subdued tenderness, making them happy indeed while the circle round the fire is unbroken, and yet preparing them every day to bear the separation, when some one or other is taken slowly or suddenly away. Their souls are not moved by fits and starts, although, indeed, nature sometimes will wrestle with necessity; and there is a wise moderation both in the joy and the grief of the intelligent poor, which keeps lasting trouble away from their earthly lot, and prepares them silently and unconsciously for heaven.
“Do you think the child is dying ?” said Gilbert with a calm voice to the surgeon, who, on his wearied horse, had just arrived from another sick bed over the misty range of hills, and had been looking steadfastly for some minutes on the little patient. The humane man knew the family well in the midst of whom he was standing, and replied, " While there is life there is hope ; but my pretty little Margaret is, I fear, in the last extremity." There was no loud lamentation at these words—all had before known, though they would not confess it to themselves what they now were told—and though the certainty that was in the words of the skillful man made their hearts beat for a little with sicker throbbings, made their pale faces paler, and brought out from some eyes a greater gush of tears; yet death had been before in this house, and in this case he came, as he always does, in awe, but not in terror.
There were wandering and wavering and dreamy phantoms in the brain of the innocent child; but the few words she indistinctly uttered were affecting, not rending to the heart, for it was plain that she thought herself herding her sheep in the green, silent pastures, and sitting wrapped in her plaid upon the sunny side of the mountain. She was too much exhausted—there was too little life, too little breath in her heart, to frame a tune; but some of her words seemed to be from favorite old songs; and at last her mother wept, and turned aside her face, when the child, whose blue eyes were shut, and her lips almost still, breathed out these lines of the beautiful twenty-third psalm.
“The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want;
He makes me down to lie
The quiet waters by."
The child was now left with none but her mother by the bedside, for it was said to be best so; and Gilbert and his family sat down round the kitchen fire for awhile in silence. In about a quarter of an hour they began to rise calmly, and to go each to his allotted work. One of the daughters went forth with the pail to milk the cow, and another began to set out the table in the middle of the floor for supper, covering it with a white cloth. Gilbert viewed the usual household arrangements with a solemn and untroubled eye; and there was almost the faint light of a grateful smile on his cheek, as he said to the worthy surgeon, " You will partake of our fare after your day's travel and toil of humanity.”
In a short, silent half hour the potatoes and oat-cakes, butter and milk were on the board; and Gilbert, lifting up his toilhardened but manly hand, with a slow motion at which the room was as hushed as if it had been empty, closed his eyes
in reverence, and asked a blessing. There was a little stool on which no one sat by the old man's side. It had been put there unwittingly, when the other seats were all placed in their usual order ; but the golden head that was wont to rise at that part of the table was now wanting. There was silence-not a word was said—their meal was before them—God had been thanked, and they began to eat.
While they were at their silent meal, a horseman came galloping to the door, and with a loud voice called out, that he had been sent express with a letter to Gilbert Ainslie, at the same time rudely, and with an oath demanding a dram for his trouble. The eldest son, a lad of eighteen, fiercely seized the bridle of his horse and turned his head away from the door. The rider, somewhat alarmed at the flushed face of the powerful stripling, threw down the letter and rode off.
Gilbert took the letter from his son's hand, casting at the same time a half upbraiding look on his face, that was returning to its former color. “I feared,” said the youth, with a tear in his
eye, “ I feared that the brate's voice and the trampling of the horse's feet would have disturbed her.” Gilbert held the setter hesitatingly in his hand, as if afraid, at that moment to read it; at length he said aloud to the surgeon, “You know that I am a poor man, and debt, if justly incurred, and punctnally paid when due, is no dishonor.” Both his hand and his voice shook slightly as he spoke; but he opened the letter from the lawyer, and read it in silence.
At this moment his wife came from her child's bed-side, and looking anxiously at her husband, told him "not to mind about the
money, that no man who knew him would arrest his goods or put him into prison. Though, dear me, it is cruel to be put to it thus, when our child is dying, and when, if so it be the Lord's will, she should have a decent burial, poor innocent, like them that went before her.” Gilbert continued reading the letter, with a face on which no emotion could be discovered; and then folding it up, he gave it to his wife, told her she might read it if she chose, and then put it into his desk in the room beside the poor dear child. She took it from him without reading it, and crushed it into her bosom ; for she turned her ear toward her child, and thinking she heard it stir, ran out hastily to its bedside.
Another hour of trial past, and the child was still swimming for its life. The very dogs knew there was grief in the house, and lay without stirring, as if hiding themselves, below the long table at the window. One sister sat with an unfinished gown on her knees, that she had been sewing for the dear child, and still continued at the hopeless work, she scarcely knew why, and often, often, putting up her hand to wipe away a tear.
66 What is that?” said the old man to his eldest daughter.
66 What is that you are laying on the shelf?” She could scarcely reply that it was a ribbon and an ivory comb that she had bought for little Margaret, against the night of the dancing-school ball
. And at these words, the father could not restrain a long, deep and bitter groan; at which the boy nearest in age to his dying sister looked up, weeping, in his face, and letting the tattered book of old ballads which he had been poring over, but not reading, fall out of his hands, he rose from his seat, and, going into his father's bosom, kissed him, and asked God to bless him, for the holy heart of the boy was moved within him; and the old man, as he embraced him, felt that in his innocence and simplicity he was indeed a comforter. “ The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” said the old man; “ blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The outer door gently opened, and he whose presence had in former years brought peace and resignation hither, when their hearts had been tried, even as they now were tried stood before them. On the night before the Sabbath, the minister of the parish never left his Manse, except as now, to visit the sick or dying bed. Scarcely could Gilbert reply to his first question about his child, when the surgeon came from the bed-room and said, “ Margaret seems lifted up by God's hand above death and the grave:
I think she will recover. She has fallen asleep, and when she wakes, I hope I believe that the danger will be past, and that your child will live.”
They were all prepared for death; but now they were found unprepared for life. One wept that had till then locked up all her tears within her heart; another gave a short palpitating shriek; and the tender-hearted Isabel, who had nursed the child when it was a baby, fainted away.
gave way to gladsome smiles, and calling out his dog Hector, who used to sport with him and his little sister on the moor, he told the tidings to the dumb, irrational creature, whose eyes it is certain sparkled with a sort of joy.
The letter received by the rude horseman proved to be from an executor to the will of a distant relative, who had left Gilbert Ainslie fifteen hundred pounds. “This sum,” said Gilbert, “is a large one to folks like us, and will do more, far more than put me fairly above the world at last. I believe that with it, I may buy this very farm on which my forefathers have toiled. May God, whose providence has sent this temporal blessing, send us also wisdom and prudence how to use it, and humble and grateful hearts to him for his goodness."
There was silence, gladness and sorrow and but little sleep in Moss-side, between the rising and setting of the stars that were now out in thousands clear, bright and sparkling over the unclouded sky. Those who had lain down for an hour or two in bed, could scarcely be said to have slept; and when, about morning little Margaret awoke, an altered creature, pale, languid, and unable to turn herself on her lowly bed, but with meaning in her eyes, memory in her mind, affection in her heart, and coolness in all her veins, a happy group were watching the first faint smile that broke over her features; and never did one who stood there forget that Sabbath morning on which she seemed to look round upon them all with a gaze of fair and sweet bewilderment, like one half conscious of having been rescued from the power of the grave.
JEPHTHAH'S DAUGHTER.-N. P. WILLIB,
She stood before her father's gorgeous tent, To listen for his coming. Her loose hair Was resting on her shoulders, like a cloud Floating around a statue, and the wind, Just swaying her light robe, revealed a shape Praxiteles might worship. She had clasp'd Her hands upon her bosom, and had raised Her beautiful, dark, Jewish eyes to heaven, Till the long lashes lay upon her brow. Her lip was slightly parted, like the cleft Of a pomegranate blossom; and her neck, Just where the cheek was melting to its curve With the unearthly beauty sometimes there, Was shaded, as if light had fallen off, Its surface was so polished. She was stilling Her light. quick breath, to hear; and the white rose Scarce moved upon her bosom, as it swellid, Like nothing but a lovely wave of light, To meet the arching of her queenly neck. Her countenance was radiant with love. She look'd like one to die for it—a being Whose whole existence was the pouring out Of rich and deep affections. I have thought A brother's and a sister's love were much; I know a brother's is—for I have been A sister's idol-and I know how full The heart may be of tenderness to her! But the affection of a delicate child For a fond father, gushing, as it does, With the sweet springs of life, and pouring on, Through all earth's changes, like a river's course, Chastened with reverence, and made more pure By the world's discipline of light and shade'Tis deeper-holier.
The wind bore on The leaden tramp of thousands. Clarion notes Rang sharply on the ear at intervals ; And the low, mingled din of mighty hosts Returning from the battle, pour'd from far, Like the deep murmur of a restless sea. They came, as earthly conquerors always come, With blood and splendor, revelry and wo. The stately horse treads proudly—he hath trod The brow of death, as well. The chariot wheels Of warriors roll magnificently onTheir weight hath crushed the fallen. Man is thereMajestic, lordly man—with his sublimo And elevated brow, and godlike frame;