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Well, so the world goes! They that sow to the wind, must ever reap the whirl-wind!
The lovely Imogene got no more cherries from 'the Scribe.' Whether she sickened and pined away on that account, who can tell? Certain we are, that school-masters have a great deal to answer for! There was no harm in gathering a few innocent bunches of cherries, my clever Dominie! But Bob Jones's neck! A fig on it! - what business had he to
Soon we missed the beautiful Imogene from school. Day by day did we gaze down the long sycamore lane that led to the school-house, tear-drops gathering in our eyes, to see if we could greet the happy face of the light-hearted girl. But alas! there was no Imogene! Imogene was sick! Imogene was smitten with consumption! Alas! I did not then realize the meaning of those words. I did not dream that one so young and lovely could die! It was the same sad story. No better! The physician day by day made his calls. Summer wore away, and autumn. The earth had put off its beautiful garments, and Nature was robing herself in mourning. The days were dark and dreary. Winter came; the earth was mantled with snow. Imogene was dying!-dying in the cold winter! The angel of Death had touched her with his darksome wing! Soon must she make her lonely bed in the cold earth, and the howling winds would wrap her grave with snowdrifts! Ah! it seems hard that the young and beautiful should die! But so it must be: For so HE giveth His beloved sleep.' 'Blessed are the dead who die in the LORD: even so saith the SPIRIT, for they rest from their labors!'
At last, it was Christmas-eve: the long-dreaded message came: Imogene had gone to her long home!
I saw her no more! But there is a brighter world, a fairer clime, in which there is no death, no sorrows, no partings!
It was on Christmas-day, late in the afternoon, that I stood by her new-made grave, my heart-strings quivering beneath the keen stroke that had left them torn and bleeding; the cold and piercing wind of December sung her solemn requiem; but rising above it, in tones of love and majesty, I heard that heavenly and thrilling sentence: 'I am the RESURRECTION and the LIFE! How grand and solemn and consoling! Even then these words sent the 'sound of glory' ringing through my ears, into my heart!
How appropriate and beautiful, too, at that hallowed season, when we are called to celebrate the anniversary of a SAVIOUR born, and sing the song of the angels: 'Glory be to GOD in the highest; and on earth, peace, good-will toward men.'
Young as I was, my heart learned a solemn and holy lesson. Imogene, the pure, the lovely, the gentle, was gone-but she lived in the angel-land, and beheld the 'KING in His beauty!'
The young heart defies the storms of adversity. Its sorrows, though real, and for the time cutting, come and go, like the hasty clouds of spring.
Young as the Scribe' was, he was a philosopher, and deemed it unwise to bury his affections in that new-made grave. Why should he go mourning through all the period of joyous youth, when Hope held out before him so many golden prizes in the future, and his young life was attuned to the harmony of the beautiful world around him! The world has full enough of sorrows, keen and piercing, that come unbidden, without our forever calling up those that are past.
The beautiful Imogene was not forgotten; only the affections, that had been so plentifully bestowed upon her, were in due time transferred to another! Older hearts than that of our 'Scribe' have done the like; therefore, let us trust that charity will throw her beautiful mantle over his sin, if sin it be, and conceal it forever from the eyes of the censorious!
It happened on this wise: 'The Scribe' got terribly flogged by 'the Dominie,' for impudence and misconduct in general; on which account, he petitioned the 'governor' (and was successful in the petition) to allow him to seek more congenial quarters. This, to be sure, did not increase his educational advantages, but it introduced him to another sweet-heart, a lovely, gentle little creature, like the lost Imogene.
Now, it must be told, that to the charming Jennie he soon attached himself, with an ardor that threatened to eclipse his passion for the lost Imogene.
But alas! the Scribe' was a coward; the most he essayed in the premises was to make love with his eyes, and build baby-houses for his fair one.
The little school-house stood at the head of a pretty ravine, embowered beneath the wide-spreading branches of a cluster of beautiful oaks. From the base of one of these gushed a fountain as clear as crystal, known for twenty miles around as the schoolhouse spring.' Many a jaded traveller has turned aside to assuage his thirst, and rest the jaded limbs of his faithful beast at this famous spring. How that old spot, sanctified by a thousand pleasant memories, rises now before my imagination, with all its tender and thrilling reminiscences! I am not surprised that that man of felicitous thoughts, Thomas De Quincey, should have compared the memory to a palimpsest! Ever and anon, as life sweeps on to eternity, and age unrolls this great palimpsest, does it reveal the hidden secrets of the past, and bring us face to face with the days of our boyhood! And how we love to cherish and linger over its revelations! Blessed gift of memory! Who would forget the heyday of his youth, when his heart, free from selfishness, went out, as it were, in the pursuit of the pure, the true, the good, and the beautiful, or twined its affections about loving companions and genial spirits, giving and receiving LOVE, and thus imitating the order and harmony of that heavenly world, where Love forever holds its court, and thrills all hearts with its own happiness!
Ah! we all remember the sunny days of youth, it may be with a saddened heart! The old school-house, the gushing fountain,
the clustering oaks, all at this hour are sanctified in our mind's-eye; and the happy, laughing voices are ringing in our ears as of old! But alas! how many of them come from the shadowy land,' soft, gentle, tender and winning as in the days that are past, certifying us that here we have 'no stay;' that in a few more years, the winding-sheet and the grave shall claim us, and the funeral-crape proclaim that we too are gone!
But about the Scribe?
Beneath those beautiful oaks we youngsters gathered, especially at 'play-time' during the summer, and spent each day an hour or two - for our Dominie gave immense recesses, especially when he took a dozein building, repairing, and re-modelling baby-houses for the dolls of our sweet-hearts. Bless those institutions, we say-baby-houses and dolls! They are a great privilege; and if we were a poet, we would certainly immortalize them! But let that pass now. They brought 'the Scribe' many happy hours, for the space of three long years, therefore he owes them much.
But it is a long lane that has no turn, and clouds often succeed the sun-shine. Toward the end of these three happy years, when Jennie was a woman grown, and 'the Scribe' nearly another,' on a day long to be remembered, a sad event occurred. The 'governor,' wearing an uncommonly serious and serene countenance, took 'the Scribe' aside, and whispered the fact into his ear, that he had spent a large amount of money in educating him, that he might be fitted to fill a dignified station among his fellow-men, in proof of which, he drew from his pocket-book as many as a dozen wellworn receipts, whose sum total, when carefully added, amounted to exactly eleven dollars twelve-and-a-half cents, which he had cheerfully spent for the aforesaid laudable purpose: in consequence of all of which, it was decreed that, like Jacob of old, he must bid farewell to the scenes of his childhood, and go forth into the wide world, a seeker of his own fortune!
This was not an over-agreeable message to the sentimental young gentleman. But what can't be cured must be endured.' This maxim'the Scribe' had long since learned by heart;' so he submitted with a good grace. And within two weeks from that memorable day, he was scratching his head over rusty tomes in the law-office of a fourth-rate country lawyer in Muddleton. And now the fair reader wishes to know how he managed about Jennie? We shall answer.
Muddleton was only about fifteen miles from his paternal home; what then did hinder an occasional 'sly' visit to his friends? And is it to be wondered at, that, on these occasions, whenever he could get to 'the windward' of his 'old folks at home' for he was very shy of their knowing any thing about it - he should have contrived to spend a portion of his time with the charming Jennie Lyndon? Ah! these periods were god-sends, and as they generally occurred in summer, when Camp-meetings were all the rage,' they were generally improved by a ride with her to one of these heterogeneous omnia-gatherums.
In this unsatisfactory style of courtship, three or four years rolled away, the poor 'Scribe' growing more and more desperately in love, while receding farther and farther from the real point at issue. Through this long period, long indeed for a pining lover, and those numberless camp-meeting jaunts, the Scribe,' as he well remembers, got no nearer a 'declaration' than something like the following:
JENNIE: It is a very pretty day.'
SCRIBE: Very, indeed, Miss. Hem! ha!'
JENNIE:Yes: I think so!' Cutting her black eyes rogueishly
JENNIE: 'Do you think it will rain to-morrow?'
JENNIE: Only James Grimes sent me word he was coming to take me with him to the 'Camp-meeting,' to-morrow.'
And I could not be along! Confound the law-office and books! Confound the impertinent puppy! How I hated the very name, Grimes!
Then I, like a gump, would choke up more, and carry my in my mouth for the next hour, wholly unable to speak a word! Then, perhaps, to clap the climax, at the close, or in the midst of one of these deeply absorbing conversations, when I was nearly wrought up to the true point of courage, as we jogged leisurely along, up would scamper the aforesaid Grimes, and take his post on the opposite side of the fair one, without so much as with your leave, Sir!' I would sooner have seen the Old Nick!' (And I want to know if something cannot be done with such fellows, to teach them manners and morals!)
But now bend your organs of vision upon the party. Off they dash-Jennie, whom I thought as good as belonged to me; Jennie, for whom I built so many baby-houses, (O the ingratitude of womankind!) and whom mine eyes had faithfully wooed for the last six or seven years, and that ugly, detestable fellow, Jim Grimes-into a spirited and flashing conversation, while I, a silly ninny, rode along hiding my diminished head,' as dumb as though I had been an Egyptian mummy! And sometimes I wished I were one; for then I could not have heard. I wonder if Jennie was a coquette ?
This was not to be endured! It gave me the night-mare whenever I closed my eyes! I went to studying Mythology and writing poetry. From Mythology I gathered a world of notions about Cupids, Junos, Venuses, Dianas, and the like, (not knowing or caring whether they were true or false,) which I strung into doggerel rhymes to my fair one not one of which did she ever see!
neither shall you see them. They are sacred, and shall never see the light of day. They would grace the pages of the KNICKERBOCKER, and most likely make its fortune; but I am under no obligations to make a fortune for your Magazine, without thanks. No! I am determined I'll not do it.
This state of affairs, I say, was not to be endured; so, having returned to Muddleton one Monday morning, after one of these unpleasant rencontres with the aforesaid Grimes, 'as mad as a March hare,' I determined to fix the business at once. Sure enough, that very day, with a palpitating heart, I penned the following letter, which I have no doubt will serve for a pattern for all similar emergencies in the future:
'Muddleton, April 1st, 18—
'DEAR MISS JENNIE: It is laid down in the books, as I read them, that ' A faint heart ne'er won a fair lady.' Whether this be the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I know not. But as we lawyers are wont to say, it is necessary that he who would win a fair lady,' should come to the point and make up his pleadings. This, with much of fear and trembling, I now undertake in my own behalf. I have often wished, and as often failed, to say in person what I now commit to black and white. And now I do not know how to say it, but will try. COKE says: A reversion reverseo cometh of the Latin word revertor, and signifieth a returning again.' That seems to be to the point; a 'returning again' of my ardent affection is what I plead for at your hands and of your heart!
'Now I hope and trust, Miss JENNIE, that you will not non-suit me; but take pity on me, and your petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc.
'Miss J. LYNDON, Lyndonville.'
Capital! This was intended to bring matters to a crisis, and it did it.
The next point was to get it safely and securely into the hands of the fair one. Sallying forth, with the precious epistle in his pocket, 'the Scribe' by accident (providentially, as he thought) met an old negro fellow, who lived near Jennie, to whom, after binding him over to secresy, he committed it, with the following instructions, well-seasoned with a shilling:
SCRIBE: Now Simon, this letter, mind, is to be given to Miss Jennie by you yourself. You are to ask for her and give it to no one else at the peril of my everlasting displeasure. And, you old if you dare to give it to any one else I'll cane you the first time I lay my eyes on your 'blackness!''
'He! he he! Massa Scribe, you tink old Simon dun' no; he! he! but he does know, do! He knows what dat letter 's 'bout, for sartin. He aint gwine let no body for see dat letter. He he he!'
Now I'll venture a wager 'the Scribe' is in a fix. Nor is it amiss for us just here to 'give an opinion as is an opinion,' as was predicated of Captain Bunsby. The Scribe got a wife, or he did n't get a wife.
The letter reached its destination, but alas! it was placed in the wrong hands. Here was a flutter! It was read by all the Lyndons, including the children and the old gentleman. Scandalous, outrageous, desperate! The news came to the poor 'Scribe' upon