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A morning after a snow-storm.
"Blow, blow, thou winter's wind,
Thou art not so unkind
O, that men's ears should be
Brief as the lightning in the collied night,
Whereto serves mercy,
but 'tis not so above:
“ Master Fang, have you entered the action ?"
A WINTER's night is long, even to the happy healthful sleeper ; but to the sick, the afflicted, or the faithful watcher, it is doubly long. The agitated, suffering mother, knew no rest. The sun, tormented by conflicting thoughts and images, knew not the balm of sleep.
The pious matron poured her soul in prayer. If, for a moment, her sighs and sobs were not heard, and her tears ceased to flow-if slumbers fell upon her exhausted senses, visions of years long past, made the reality of the present more bitter after the momentary cessation of pain.
Henry, at times, paced the floor ; at times sat motionless, gazing at the pitiable object whose presence banished rest, and scarcely breathing in the hope that his mother slept ; but when a sigh or sob fell on his ear, he started.
“Can I help you to any thing, mother ?” “ No, my son.”
And again he walked the floor, while the past, the present, and the future, revolved again and again in his troubled mind. The last was a cloudy prospect, but hope seldom deserts youth, and a light broke through the darkness, and discovered the form of Emma Portland. But the clouds of the present encompassed him around. His only resource for the support of his mother through the winter, was the scanty wages he received: as a watchman—a pittance earned by the sale of that rest which youth requires. The last quarter's rent for the hovel they lived in, had not been paid, and another had become due that day. He had served the stipulated time, within a few weeks, as a clerk, and had qualified himself for the salary, he was, by agreement, to receive for the succeeding year, commencing at the time his present service of probation ended; but, in the mean time, for months to come, he had only his present inadequate resources to support his mother and himself, and no means of pacifying his iandiord, even by a payment of a small portion of the debt, without depriving his mother of necessaries for subsistence.
His father was present—was before him—was rolling in wealth—but he shrunk from him with loathing. He congratulated himself that he was unknown as his son. There sat, in deathlike insensibility, the husband and father, who was the cause of misery to the wife and son ; whose' wife was sinking prematurely to the grave prepared by him, and who was himself committing the most cowardly suicide.
“ Time and the hour runs through the longest day.” And so, the longest night. Day dawned on the mother and son: but a winter's day on the first of February 1812 did not promise much consolation to them, although worthy of "joy and gladness.” Long as is the night when the snow covers the earth, and the winds howl around the poor, the sleepless, and the sick, the day will come; but it came unattended by comfort to Mrs. Johnson. She looked from her curtained bed, a luxury yet preserved to her, and saw the disgusting object, still sleeping, who might claim her as a wife, and her beloved Henry as a son. She turned again to her pillow, and drew the curtains around her.
The fire had almost expired, and Henry, chilled by long watching, felt that the room had become cold : he brought fuel from the ill-supplied wood-pile in an adjoining closet. He brought it reluctantly; for he saw that the scanty store would barely suffice to warm the room for his sick mother for the coming day. It is only day by day that the poor can purchase, and that at the dearest rate, that article necessary for
the support of life. The city authorities aid the poor in the 1. last extremity ; but it is such as those we are now contemp
lating, who are the last to look for such succour. They suffer in silence, while the improvident and vicious complain.
Freely could Henry Johnson have given to the stranger and the sufferer; but he reluctantly threw down the wood on the hearth, and turned away again with a degree of irritation, from the man for whose immediate comfort he was about to sacrifice what might be required for his mother's support. The noise made by the falling wood roused the lethargic sleeper. He looked with blood-shot eyes sleepily around him; and that face, which native intellect had so often brightened into all the flashing changes of the most energetic passion—that countenance, on which thousands of admiring spectators had gazed, and testified their delight at the intellectual powers which illumined it by shouts of applause, was a bloated, discoloured, disgusting mask, incapable of any expression but that of idiotic vacancy.
• Where am I ?” he asked. “Who are you? 0, ay-the watch-house. Watchman! Fellow! I'm cold-cold-cold-"
The last words were muttered as to himself, and he continued in the same tone.
The scoundrel !-Strike me-me-in his own house." And his face assumed an expression of despair and malignity as he growled somewhat louder, “ I've been ranging all night in hell!—Watchman !–Get me a bottle of brandy!”
0, who can feel—who can realize the agony which these sounds conveyed to the hearts of the hearers ? To a wife! To a son! To a mother!
When we see such objects, (they are even yet sometimes seen) and hear them uttering sounds of insensate joy, or desperate and, perhaps, blasphemous defiance. When we ask, has he a wife, and children? has he parents ? heart-stricken parents certainly--if death has not mercifully removed them! How painful is the question to the benevolent !
Henry cast a look on the face of the wretched man and hastily withdrew his eyes.
“ Fellow, I tell you I am cold-here's money-get me brandy!”
The young man kneeled down and blew the fire. “ Watchman! I say, get me a quart of brandy! I am cold!" " I will make more fire." “ Brandy! I say, brandy!" " You have had too much already.” “ Ha! do you talk to me! who are you, sirr ?”
“ A man, and in my senses. A man who has not drowned the voice of conscience by strong liquor, or reduced himself by indulging his vitiated appetite to a state of helplessness and idiotcy."
The youth stood erect before his father. The returning reason of the unhappy being, on whom his stern eye rested, seemed to be quickened by its flash. His eyes brightened into partial speculation, and the pupils dilated as if to gain distinct images for the sluggish and diseased soul they served. He gazed in Henry's face—then around the room--at the fire—and again on the young man's face--and the muscles of his own visage betrayed emotions of pain and confusion.
- This is not the watch-house?—The watchmen brought me into the watch-house- the snow- - the street-I was sleeping on the street-yes-it would have been my last sleep-on, God!"
And he shuddered as awakened reason presented images of the past, and of the imagined future, mingled and twined, and succeeding each other in mazes, now bright, now indistinct, but all fearful ; and his face assuming the demoniacal expression which he had studied for, and his admirers had applauded in the horrible character of the unnatural father in Massinger's play, he groaned as he shouted—“ brandy-bring me a quart of brandy!"
6 Not a drop sir. I see that you can understand what I say, and I tell you that you are in the room of a sick woman. My mother! and you must not disturb her by this vociferation. You were found perishing in the street, and brought hither by those who wished to preserve your life; you shall have shelter, and warmth, and food, until your friends come to you, or until you can remove yourself, provided you behave with decency, otherwise
During these words the tragedian had rouzed himself, and sat erect on the chair he occupied, and now, with a tone of more sanity, he interrupted the speaker with—“ What sirr ?otherwise what?"
• I will thrust you from walls your presence pollutes."
Cooke's eye kindled, and he was preparing a reply, when uis attention was called to the bed by a loud groan from the sufferer within. The fire blazed a momentary flickering light, and he saw in the partial opening of the curtain, a thin pale ghastly face, and heard a faint exclamation of " oh no! no!"
• Who is that?-what's that?” cried the conscience-stricken man, and he crouched down in the chair, his eyes still fixed on the curtain, now closed, and his lips moving in convulsive horror. He then cast down his head, closed his eye-lids, and covered his face with his clasped hands.
Henry went to the bed-side, and the son and mother communed in whispers.
Some minutes elapsed. The aged misguided sufferer seemed to sink into the insensibility from which the awakening of reason and consciousness had aroused him. Suddenly he exclaimed.
“ I saw her !--I saw her before!-Where am I?-I have seen her and heard her all night-sick--well-young-olddying-saving me-cursing me—"
The sick woman sobbed aloud, and her son advanced to still the raving dreamer. “ Hush, sir, you
sick mother.” “ Your mother? That face-0, ay, I recollect now—the street—the storm—the snow—you preserved me--you saved me from perishing like a famished cur in the street of a populous city-thrust out and dishonoured by a blow—no matterbut you were not alone—there was a female-a guiding and a guarding angel-she appeared alone—and strove to help meshe disappeared—and devils came in her stead—she appeared again—she hovered round me-she strove to save me!" “ Yes, there was a female, one but for whom you
perished, a frozen outcast in the night storm. There was an angel that guided the strength which rescued you. Was she the first female who, by her efforts, has rescued you
from death? Who, by her cares, has tried to save you from destruction ?"
“ Who are you that ask that question? Fellow, do you know-Fellow !-good fellow-you saved me-give me-give me-some water-some water."
He threw himself back in the sick woman's chair, for it was that he sat in, and Henry, softened to pity, flew to present a glass of cold and refreshing water to his burning lips.
Again the old man shut his eyes, seemingly offended by the