Images de page

testimony. My grandfather put on his light blue coat, placed in his shoes his square silver buckles, took down his three-cornered beaver, seized his ivoryheaded cane, and in ten minutes we were riding as fast as old dobbin would carry us, to the widow Russel's, whose only son was apprehended to be on his dying bed.

It had been so often my lot to drive my grandfather on such expeditions, that perhaps I should have felt little emotion, had I not known young Russel, a few weeks before, blooming in all the promises of youth and expectation. He was the son of a fond mother, who was ready to testify her fondness for her son by the most boundless indulgences. There was a passion in the young lads of Bundleborough, about that time, to cast off their rustic slough, and to go into Boston and polish their manners behind a counter; insomuch that I have seen many a hard hand and brown face, blackened by the dust of a potato field, after a few months' residence with a city shopkeeper, become as soft and as white as a petit maitre. They exchanged the honest simplicity of the country, for all the vice and affectation of a town life. I remember my aunt Hannah used to compare them to grub worms changed into butterflies; and what was very wonderful, some parents, sober enough themselves, seemed to rejoice in the transformation.

The widow Russel's house, stood near the burying ground. It was a small white mansion, with a few

willow trees before it; which grew in a little inclosed garden, dedicated to grass and to flowers. As we walked up to the door, the knocker of which was muffled, it seemed to me that the very pinks and daffodils drooped their heads, as if conscious that youth and beauty were approaching the tomb. A profound silence reigned around the mansion; the dust at the gate was worn by the wheels of the physician's sulky, who had turned away his steed for the last time; and nothing now remained, but for the mental physician to minister, if possible, to a mind diseased, and fit a trifling spirit to take its flight to its Maker and its God. As we went in, his mother came with tears in her eyes to request my grandfather to deal gently with her son; to be faithful, to be sure, but not to alarm his spirits with the horrors of his condition. "He must die, I know," said she,


no art can save him. But he is still cherishing foolish hopes of life, and a sudden fright might distract him. O, Sir, save his soul, but do not increase his weakness and accelerate his death."

We entered his chamber, and found him sitting up with several pillows at his back, near the head of his bed; a green silk gown was thrown over his shoulders; his bosom was ruffled with much care, and a shining breastpin held the parts of his well-plaited shirt together; in his hands he held a gold watch, which his fond mother had given him, and on his bed lay an inverted pamphlet, which he had just

been reading, and which on inspecting I found to be the farce called the Wags of Windsor. He was excessively pale; his eyes prominent and staring; his breathing already difficult; and he looked like a skeleton dressed out in the fopperies of a beau. I never saw a more ghastly sight.

He started as we entered, as if he saw unexpected guests; but my grandfather with a kind of paternal familiarity approached his bedside, took him by the hand, asked him how he did and how he felt. O, Sir, said he, I am growing better; my mother and friends are somewhat alarmed about me, but I conceive without reason. These last pills which my doctor has left me, will set me on my legs again, and next week I hope to ride out and take the fresh air, and in a fortnight return to my business. For, Sir, I always choose to look on the bright side of things.

Dea. O. And is life the only bright side?


Russel. Yes, Sir, if I were to die, I should be in despair indeed.

Dea. O. Why so?

Russel. Because I have been very wicked. I have no hope beyond the grave; I have no peace of mind.

Dea. O. Well, my young friend, whether you live or die, it is vastly important that your peace be made with God. Tell me, do you believe in his word? Have you confidence in your Bible?

Russel. I once had.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Dea. O. And how is it now? Have you lost your compass? Have you lost your path?

Russel. Alas, Sir, the city is a bad place for a youth like me, unfixed in his principles. If you will take this key and unlock yonder trunk, you will find the book that has undone me.

Here, with his pale, trembling hand, he took out the key and sent the old gentleman to a trunk, who went and took out the volume of some infidel, I forgot who. "There, Sir," said he, "there is the false wisdom which lured me in prosperity, and lurches me in my distress. I never told my mother my principles. Pray take the book and throw it into the fire."

"Well," my dear son, said my grandfather, taking him by the hand, "it is never too late to repent, and you certainly now have no time to lose."

Russel. O, Sir, I cannot; it is impossible; my heart is like a rock; I have passed the exclusive line; I am gone forever.

Dea. O. But this is sinful despair; God commands all men every where to repent, and invites all to accept his gospel.

Russel. I wish, Sir, I had strength to tell you my story. There! adjust this pillow; raise my head a little; let me breathe the fresh air; I will try to speak. There was a time when I could not sleep without praying. But when I went to the city, I thought myself another man. Dress, and foppery, and amusement, and, I must say, vice, occupied my

heart. I went to scenes where I would not have had my mother's eye pursue me, indulgent as she is, for all the world. Shall I tell you, Sir, my present sickness is in consequence of my vices; and I bear the secret sting in my body and my soul. I soon joined a club of young men, whose principles conformed to their practices, and we were accustomed to meet on Saturday evening; that once calm evening of preparation; to ridicule our Bible; to blaspheme our Saviour, and to fortify ourselves in our courses. But I am exhausted-I am faint-call in my mother.


Here he sunk, and his distracted mother came rushing into the room, for she thought him dying. "Speak, William, speak," said she, "shall this good man pray for you.' "Yes," said he, "pray that I may live; for I cannot-I must not die. Pray that I may live-I am not prepared to go. Pray, pray, pray that I may live."

Here my grandfather kneeled down by his bedside, and took out his white pocket handkerchief, and, while the mother bent over her son, grasping his hand and laving his forehead, he offered a short but fervent prayer. He prayed for his life, to be sure, but he prayed more fervently, I thought, for his repentance. When he had done, the youth lay in a stupor, grasping his mother's hand and already half a corpse. She, with a woman's solicitude to catch some gleam of hope in the last extremity, with a frantic earnestness pressed his hand and said, "Speak,

« PrécédentContinuer »