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How could it be that no dream of bliss grew so strong within him, that, shattered by its very strength, it should part asunder, and allow him to perceive the girl among its phantoms? Why, at least, did no smile of welcome brighten upon his face? She was come, the maid whose soul, according to the old and beautiful idea, had been severed from his own, and whom, in all his vague but passionate desires, he yearned to meet. Her only could he love with a perfect love, — him only could she receive into the depths of her heart, – and now her image was faintly blushing in the fountain, by his side ; should it pass away, its happy lustre would never gleam upon his life again.
“ How sound he sleeps !” murmured the girl.
She departed, but did not trip along the road so lightly as when she came.
Now, this girl's father was a thriving country merchant in the neighborhood, and happened, at that identical time, to be looking out for just such a young man as David Swan. Had David formed a wayside acquaintance with the daughter, he would have become the father's clerk, and all else in natural succession. So here, again, had good fortune – the best of fortunes -stolen so near, that her garments brushed against him; and he knew nothing of the matter.
The girl was hardly out of sight, when two men turned aside beneath the maple shade. Both had dark faces, set off by cloth caps, which were drawn down aslant over their brows. Their dresses were shabby, yet had a certain smartness. These were a couple of rascals, who got their living by whatever the Devil sent them; and now, in the interim of other business, had staked the joint profits of
their next piece of villany on a game of cards, which was to have been decided here under the trees. But finding David asleep by the spring, one of the rogues whispered to his fellow,
“ Hist!— Do you see that bundle under his head?” The other villain nodded, winked, and leered.
I'll bet you a horn of brandy,” said the first, " that the chap has either a pocket-book, or a snug little hoard of small change, stowed away amongst his shirts. And if not there, we shall find it in his pantaloons pocket.”
« But how if he wakes ?” said the other.
His companion thrust aside his waistcoat, pointed to the handle of a dirk, and nodded.
“ So be it !” muttered the second villain.
They approached the unconscious David, and, while one pointed the dagger towards his heart, the other began to search the bundle beneath his head. Their two faces, grim, wrinkled, and ghastly with guilt and fear, bent over their victim, looking horrible enough to be mistaken for fiends, should he suddenly awake. Nay, had the villains glanced aside into the spring, even they would hardly have known themselves, as reflected there. But David Swan had never worn a more tranquil aspect, even when asleep on his mother's breast.
“I must take away the bundle,” whispered one. “ If he stirs, I'll strike," muttered the other.
But, at this moment, a dog, scenting along the ground, came in beneath the maple trees, and gazed alternately at each of these wicked men, and then at the quiet sleeper. He then lapped out of the fountain.
« Pshaw !” said one villain. “ We can do dan
nothing now. The dog's master must be close behind.”
“ Let's take a drink and be off,” said the other.
The man, with the dagger, thrust back the weapon into his bosom, and drew forth a pocketpistol, but not of that kind which kills by a single discharge. It was a flask of liquor, with a blocktin tumbler screwed upon the mouth. Each drank a comfortable dram, and left the spot, with so many jests, and such laughter at their unaccomplished wickedness, that they might be said to have gone on their way rejoicing. In a few hours, they had forgotten the whole affair, nor once imagined that the recording angel had written down the crime of murder against their souls, in letters as durable as eternity. As for David Swan, he still, slept quietly, neither conscious of the shadow of death when it hung over him, nor of the glow of renewed life, when that shadow was withdrawn.
He slept, but no longer so quietly as at first. An hour's repose had snatched from his elastic frame the weariness with which many hours of toil had burdened it. Now he stirred, — now moved his lips, without a sound, - now talked, in an inward tone, to the noonday spectres of his dream. But a noise of wheels came rattling louder and louder along the road, until it dashed through the dispersing mist of David's slumber — and there was the stage-coach. He started up, with all his ideas about him.
Halloo, driver ! — Take a passenger?" shouted he.
“Room on top!” answered the driver.
Up mounted David, and bowled away merrily towards Boston, without so much as a parting
glance at that fountain of dreamlike vicissitude. He knew not that a phantom of Wealth had thrown a golden hue upon its waters, - nor that one of Love had sighed softly to their murmur, that one of Death had threatened to crimson them with his blood, - all, in the brief hour since he lay down to sleep. Sleeping or waking, we hear not the airy footsteps of the strange things that almost happen. Does it not argue a superintending Providence, that while viewless and unexpected events thrust themselves continually athwart our path, there should still be regularity enough, in mortal life to render foresight even partially available ?
10! I have climbed high, and my reward
is small. Here I stand, with wearied knees, earth, indeed, at a dizzy depth
below, but heaven far, far beyond me still. O that I could soar up into the very zenith, where man never breathed nor eagle ever flew, and where the ethereal azure melts away from the eye, and appears only a deepened shade of nothingness! And yet I shiver at that cold and solitary thought. What clouds are gathering in the golden west, with direful intent against the brightness and the warmth of this summer afternoon! They are ponderous air ships, black as death, and freighted with the tempest; and at intervals their thunder, the signal-guns of that unearthly squadron, rolls distant along the deep of heaven.
These nearer heaps of fleecy vapor — methinks I could roll and toss upon them the whole day long !- seem scattered here and there, for the repose of tired pilgrims through the sky. Perhaps — for who can tell ? beautiful spirits are disporting themselves there, and will bless my mortal eye with the brief appearance of their curly locks of golden light, and laughing faces, fair and faint as the people of a rosy dream. Or, where the floating mass so im.