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though numberless centuries old, have been kept as fresh as violets by the virtues of this wonderful
An acquaintance of mine, knowing my curiosity in such matters, has sent me what you see in the vase.”
“ Ahem !” said Colonel Killigrew, who believed not a word of the doctor's story; “and what may be the effect of this fluid on the human frame?”
“ You shall judge for yourself, my dear colonel,” replied Dr. Heidegger ; “and all of you, my respected friends, are welcome to so much of this admirable fluid as may restore to you the bloom of youth. For my own part, having had much trouble in growing old I am in no hurry to grow young again. With your permission, therefore, I will merely watch the progress of the experiment.”
While he spoke, Dr. Heidegger had been filling the four champagne glasses with the water of the Fountain of Youth. It was apparently imprego nated with an effervescent gas, for little bubbles were continually ascending from the depths of the glasses and bursting in silvery spray at the surface. As the liquor diffused a pleasant perfume, the old people doubted not that it possessed cordial and comfortable properties ; and, though utter scepties as to its rejuvenescent power, they were inclined to swallow it at once. But Dr. Heidegger besought them to stay a moment.
“ Before you drink, my respectable old friends," said he, “ it would be well that, with the experience of a lifetime to direct you, you should draw up a few general rules for your guidance, in passing a second time through the perils of youth. Think what a sin and shame it would be, if, with your peculiar advantages, you should not become pat
terns of virtue and wisdom to all the young people of the age !”
The doctor's four venerable friends made him no answer, except by a feeble and tremulous laugh ; so very ridiculous was the idea, that, knowing how closely repentance treads behind the steps of error, they should ever go astray again.
“ Drink, then,” said the doctor, bowing: “I rejoice that I have so well selected the subjects of my experiment.”
With palsied hands, they raised the glasses to their lips. The liquor, if it really possessed such virtues as Dr. Heidegger imputed to it, could not have been bestowed on four human beings who needed it more wofully. They looked as if they had never known what youth or pleasure was, but had been the offspring of Nature's dotage, and always the gray, decrepit, sapless, miserable creatures who now sat stooping round the doctor's table, without life enough in their souls or bodies to be animated even by the prospect of growing young again. They drank off the water, and replaced their glasses on the table.
Assuredly there was an almost immediate improvement in the aspect of the party, not unlike . what might have been produced by a glass of generous wine, together with a sudden glow of cheerful sunshine, brightening over all their visages at
There was a healthful suffusion on their cheeks, instead of the ashen hue that had made them look so corpse-like. They gazed at one another, and fancied that some magic power had really begun to smooth away the deep and sad inscriptions which Father Time had been so long engraving on their brows. The Widow Wycherly
adjusted her cap, for she felt almost like a woman again.
“ Give us more of this wondrous water!” cried they, eagerly. “We are younger, – but we are still too old! Quick, - give us more !”
“ Patience, patience !” quoth Dr. Heidegger, who sat watching the experiment, with philosophic coolness. “ You have been a long time growing old. Surely, you might be content to grow young in half an hour! But the water is at your ser. vice.”
Again he filled their glasses with the liquor of youth, enough of which still remained in the vase to turn half the old people in the city to the age of their own grandchildren. While the bubbles were yet sparkling, on the brim, the doctor's four guests snatched their glasses from the table, and swallowed the contents at a single gulp. Was it delusion? even while the draught was passing down their throats, it seemed to have wrought a change on their whole systems. Their eyes grew clear and bright; a dark shade deepened among their silvery locks; they sat around the table, three gentlemen of middle age, and a woman hardly beyond her buxom prime.
My dear widow, you are charming !”cried . Colonel Killigrew, whose eyes had been fixed upoa her face, while the shadows of age were fliting from it like darkness from the crimson daybreak.
The fair widow knew, of old, that Colonel killigrew's compliments were not always measured by sober truth; so she started up and ran to the mirror, still dreading that the ugly visage of an old woman would meet her gaze. Meanwhile, the three gentlemen behaved in such a manner, as
proved that the water of the Fountain of Youth possessed some intoxicating qualities; unless, indeed, their exhilaration of spirits were merely a lightsome dizziness, caused by the sudden removal of the weight of years. Mr. Gascoigne's mind seemed to run on-political topics, but whether relating to the past, present, or future could not easily be determined, since the same ideas and phrases have been in vogue these fifty years. Now he rattled forth full-throated sentences about patriotism, national glory, and the people's right; now he muttered some perilous stuff or other, in a sly and doubtful whisper, so cautiously that even his own conscience could scarcely catch the secret; and now, again, he spoke in measured accents, and a deeply deferential tone, as if a royal ear were listening to his well-turned periods. Colonel Kil-. ligrew all this time had been trolling forth a jolly bottle-song, and ringing his glass in symphony with the chorus, while his eyes wandered toward the buxom figure of the Widow Wycherly. On the other side of the table, Mr. Medbourne was involved in a calculation of dollars and cents, with which was strangely intermingled a project for supplying the East Indies with ice, by harnessing a team of whales to the polar icebergs.
As for the Widow Wycherly, she stood before the mirror courtesying and simpering to her own image, and greeting it as the friend whom she loved better than all the world beside. She thrust her face close to the glass, to see whether some longremembered wrinkle or crow's foot had indeed vanished. She examined whether the snow had so entirely melted from her hair, that the venerable cap could be safely thrown aside. At last, turning
briskly away, she came with a sort of dancing step to the table.
My dear old doctor,” cried she, “pray favor me with another glass !”
“ Certainly, my dear madam, certainly !” replied the complaisant doctor; “see! I have already filled the glasses.”
There, in fact, stood the four glasses, brimful of this wonderful water, the delicate spray of which, as it effervesced from the surface, resembled the tremulous glitter of diamonds. It was now so nearly sunset, that the chamber had grown duskier than ever ; but a mild and moonlike splendor gleamed from within the vase, and rested alike on the four guests, and on the doctor's venerable fig
He sat in a high-backed, elaborately-carved, oaken arm-chair, with a gray dignity of aspect that might have well befitted that very Father Time whose power had never been disputed, save by this fortunate company. Even while quaffing the third draught of the Fountain of Youth, they were almost awed by the expression of his mysterious visage.
But the next moment the exhilarating gush of young life shot through their veins. They were now in the happy prime of youth. Age, with its iniserable train of cares and sorrows and diseases, was remembered only as the trouble of a dream, from which they had joyously awoke. The fresh gloss of the soul, so early lost, and without which the world's successive scenes had been but a gallery of faded pictures, again ew nchantment over all their prospects. They felt like new-created beings, in a new-created universe.
“ We are young! We are young !” they cried exultingly.