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CHAPTER VIII. A PATHETIC SCENE.




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ABOUT mid-day, a young man fantastically dressed, with his clothes soiled and torn, rushed up the little desolate mount known as Mount Misery, and glanced about on the surrounding landscape. After a few minutes he started off once more in the direction of the settler's residence, with which our readers are already intimate. He soon arrived at the bank, where he stood for some time, then quickly descended, and calmly approached the garden, which was directly in front of the dwelling-house.

To put our readers out of pain, we may as well state that this person was the lunatic who had escaped from Dr. Arabin's bedroom the previous morning. He reached the garden already noticed, and glanced cautiously about as if afraid of being discovered. The front casement was open, and a voice was heard singing plaintively —

“She wore a wreath of roses, the night when first we met;
Her lovely face was smiling beneath her curls of jet;
Her footsteps had the lightness, her voice the joyous tone,
The token of a youthful heart, where sorrow is unknown.
I saw her but a moment, yet methinks I see her now,
With a wreath of summer flowers upon her snowy brow.

“A wreath of orange blossom, when next we met, she wore;
The expression of her features was more thoughtful than
before.”—




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The deep swell of the pianoforte died away as the lady finished with a full sweep o'er the “ivory keys:” the tones of the performer's voice were no longer audible, and yet the traveller stood entranced. Once again the singer allowed her fingers to wanton among the keys of the instrument; she then closed it, and began to walk about the room, and pet a bird which had been drinking in the tones of the music as if it had passions to be moved.

“Poor little Dick! are you a lady-bird? You feel your captivity, poor little fellow! would you like better to fly about the woods than to be pent up in cage? You would nestle among the leaves, and talk love to some other bird, and caress a mate. Poor Dick! I would give you the liberty you seem to covet—only I should feel your loss, and pine away for my own lady-bird. Poor Dick!”

As she uttered these words, she reached the door, and seeing a stranger with disordered dress, and intoxication and insanity depicted in his countenance screamed aloud.

“Do not alarm yourself, lady,” said the stranger; “there is not the least cause for alarm: it is but your poor heart-broken friend Willis.”

“Is it indeed you, Mr. Willis?” replied she mournfully. “I have not seen you for such a long time, I was almost afraid you had gone away without wishing me good-bye. How have you been for a long time?”

“How can you ask me?” replied the young man with a downcast look—“how can you ask me, when you know my feelings?”

“Do not recur to such unwelcome topics,” replied


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the young lady. “How did you come? where is your horse?”

“I came from the town of —,” screamed the young man. “I have been days on the road, chased by men with coffins, who wished to murder me, and bury me in their coffins; but I escaped. I hope you will not allow any of them to enter your house, Miss Martha,” said the young man, with a shiver and a glance in which both fear and imbecility were depicted.

The young lady listened to him surprised and terrified. There could be no uncertainty; the wild eye, the incoherent talk, the disordered dress, all indicated but too truly a mind diseased. She was inexpressibly sorry, well aware of the probable cause; and to an unconcerned observer, it was heart-breaking to see manhood overcome and sunk so low. She did not answer his question, but asked if she might order in something to eat. The current of the lunatic's ideas changed; he smiled graciously, and replied that “he was so happy—only he was afraid it would be giving Miss Martha trouble—but he certainly was rather hungry.”

“Then,” continued the lady, “perhaps you will excuse me,”

She had hardly got the door closed behind her, when she burst into tears. She astonished her sister, who, busy in the kitchen superintending her domestic arrangements, had not been aware of Willis's arrival. She inquired tenderly of her sister if anything had occurred, or if she were ill?

“Oh! sister, I have been so terrified! There is Willis in the parlour, and he is mad and talking such


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absurdities! I become afraid; what can we do with him—especially as Butler is from home?”

“Well, Martha,” replied the elder sister, “you must not cry; we must do our best. Surely poor Willis, however mad, will not hurt two unprotected women. Do not cry; for we will go to him, and speak to him kindly—and who is not overcome by kindness?”

The two sisters entered the parlour bearing preparations for dinner. They found Willis seated at the pianoforte; his head was almost resting on the instrument, and his attention was occupied with the song which the young lady had just been singing. He raised his head as the door opened, and they observed a tear drop from his eyelid. He started, and politely bowed to the eldest, who had advanced to shake his hand, but declined the proffered honour. “Miss Martha had not given him her hand, and he was positive they did not wish for his company, and he should retire, he would never remain where he was not welcome.”

“How can you say that?” replied the younger sister. “You know that you are welcome to shake my hand: here, Willis, take it.”

“I wish,” continued he, taking her hand, “you could love me as you love your pretty bird; I would requite it better. Perhaps some cold chill or frost might cut him off, or some strange cur might steal in and kill him, or he might wander back into the woods; while you would find me ever the same kind, devoted, and passionately fond.”

“Where we cannot give our love, Willis,” answered the young woman mournfully, “we ought not to barter


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it. Love should not be bought and sold like an article of merchandise. If I could have given you my love, Willis, I would, and you had my respect before you commenced your eccentric pranks; but love cannot be bestowed with the wishes of parents or guardians, or even with one's own wishes: it is a hallowed—a heavenly feeling. The heart which for years has been cold and overshadowed by deep pride, will thaw at the smile of beauty or of manhood. A new light, a combination of music and beauty, breaks upon a mind hard as marble; an animation of delight bears the mind above every-day life; the two leave father and mother, and almost instinctively cleave to each other, ‘And what unto them is the world beside,
With all its changes of time and tide?
Its living things—its earth and sky —
Are nothing to their mind and eye.
And heedless as the dead are they
Of aught around, above, beneath —
As if all else had pass'd away,
They only for each other breathe.’

“Alas! I regret that Byron was a licentious man; the beauty and power which break out everywhere fascinate the mind. To return to the subject—this is true love. The love of the fashionable world is as artificial as the society in which it prevails; it is, in fact, a part of a drama in a play, where the company are acting such characters as may best push them forward.”

The young man hung his head and listened to the speaker. Her words appeared to fall on his ear like


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deep music, sweet as the fabled strains of the AEolian harp. When she ended, he raised his face, and the ladies were almost terrified at the intense anguish depicted in it. He answered not, but walked to and fro across the room for some time in silence. The table was covered, and preparations were being made for dinner; and in reply to the question of Mrs. Butler whether he would have tea or brandy for dinner, he replied, “Let me have brandy, by all means.”

Mrs. Butler was by no means anxious to give him brandy; but she thought it might afford him temporary relief. A decanter was placed on the table, and he helped himself with no sparing hand. The ladies took their places, and requested him to do the honours of the table. It may be unnecessary to remark, that they had met him before; but never, even in his best days, had he behaved more properly. He supplied their wants in the most regular manner; nay, he was polite. They observed, however, with alarm, that he paid by far too many visits to the decanter which contained the brandy, and trembled for the effects upon his mind. Mrs. Butler then remarked that Bob, the hut-keeper, would require to be rewarded with a glass of brandy for his obliging behaviour; and she took the decanter, and asked her sister expressively to take him one, in a tone which was meant to convey a very different meaning.

Her motions were scrutinised by the young man; but by the time she returned, the current of his thoughts appeared to have changed—he was detailing his imaginary troubles.




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“You must have had a hard struggle;” remarked the lady.

“Yes, you may well say so,” he replied; “the men with coffins chased me for days across those long, burning plains; but I was too swift for them. They tried hard to get me down, but I knew better; I fled hundreds of miles, and they ran behind me grinding their teeth for sheer vexation. But at last, I could endure it no longer; but, about a mile from Mount Misery, I turned upon one and buried him in his own coffin.”

“You buried him, did you?” said the young lady.

“Oh, yes! I buried him: he was not quite dead, you know, but I buried him.”

“Then,” replied the young lady, “you need not be afraid of his giving you any further disturbance, if you buried him.”

“Oh! but mind,” exclaimed Willis; “he was not dead, you know—he might rise and chase me in his coffin. You see these two gentlemen,” he said, pointing expressively to two large flies which had settled upon his face. “Now, what do you think they say?”

As a matter of course, the ladies expressed their total ignorance.

“This nobleman,” continued he, pointing to the largest, “is a Puseyite, and is from Oxford; the other is a doctor, who teaches water-cures—he says he is named the Hippodame. Then this little one says he is a Methodist parson, and starved to death.”

The ladies hardly understood if he really thought that the flies were speaking to him, or if he intended


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it as a joke. It soon became evident, however, that he believed himself in close conversation with the gentlemen flies. He put several questions to the Puseyite on polemical subjects; and of the Hippodame he inquired about the town he had just left, and likewise how he liked the Australian country. The ladies were aware that contradiction would but increase his malady, and perhaps make their unwelcome guest frantic, and they allowed him to continue his conversation with the flies without comment. They were anxious for Mr. Butler's arrival, as it was just dark. Both feared the night. It is true, there were menservants upon the station; but, still, to have charge of him was a responsibility from which they shrank. An internal shiver crossed the frame of the elder, as she reflected on the emotion of her sister when she first observed Willis's frame of mind.

They were surprised by the near approach of a horseman; each of the ladies started, hoping to see the settler enter. At length the horse stopped, and —— but we must not mention the name of the intruder at present.

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