Page images
PDF
EPUB

much of, in Shiloh. Well, his father was sot on makin' him a lawyer, but Henry wanted to be a painter, he took to brush and pellet jest as nateral as a duck takes to water; couldn't help makin' picturs no more than he could help breathin', poor fellow! His father forbid it, in extinct terms, over and over again, but his mother derived at it, in secret, I guess,-anyhow, Henry had his canvas-backs and his boxes of brushes and collars up in his own room, and painted all the time he could get. Well, the upshop of it all was that Major Burcham found it out, one day, and flew into a tearin' passion, and told Henry that if he was bent on disgracin' his name by being a poor miserable painter, he wished he'd clear out and never show him his face agin. The boy took him at his word,--it was an awful, stormy night jest like this; and in the morning, they found his room empty, and him miners; and he's never been heerd on since. That's most eight year ago. It's strange you never happened to hear on't, and you a-stayin' at the Divines, too! Why, if you say, 'Henry Burcham!' to that great dog of theirs, now to this day, he'll whine and take on like mad.”

“Leo!" I exclaimed, “what has he to do with it? "Why, Leo was Henry Burcham's dog, first. Somebody made him a present of him, when he was a pup, and they were uncommonly detached to each other. You nev er saw one without t'other; Mr. Dragner used to call 'em "Tamon and Pathos.' When Henry went off, he give the dog to Mike, his father's Irishman, to keep for him;—but the Major never could bear the sight of him, I guess he was an onpleasant momentum of his son !—and he kicked him, one day; and the dog sprang at his throat, and like to choke him to death afore they could pull him off; so the Irishman had to sell him to Mr. Divine."

For some moments, I sat various items of information. and began writing rapidly.

and

silent, slowly digesting these Then, I took out my tablets

"What are you doin'?" asked Aunt Vin, with sur prise,—“ takin' notes?"

"No; I am writing these words;- Your mother is dangerously ill, and longs to see you. Come immediately.' I sign it with my name, and I am going to send it, by Leo, to Henry Burcham-alias, Harry Archum-alias, Mr. Cambur!"

"Good land!" exclaimed she, settling into the nearest chair, and jerking her head in her grimmest fashion, "if that don't beat all! And to think that I never once inspected him! Yet I've told him, a dozen times, that he dissembled somebody I'd seen afore!"

"And now," said I, wrapping my tablets in a part of the oiled-skin so seasonably provided, "if you think you can venture to open that door, I will call Leo out, and send him on his errand."

"Bless us!" ejaculated Aunt Vin, recalled to the recol lection of her patient's situation, "I ought to have done it afore!"

I led Leo quietly into the porch, and closed the door behind us.

"Take this," said I, slowly and distinctly, and strongly emphasizing the underscored words,—“ take this, quickly, to Henry Burcham. He may be at the studio, or at Mrs. Danforth's, or at the depot. FIND HIM!

The last words, I knew, Leo understood perfectly. How far he comprehended the rest of my directions, I could not be sure: but, as he had often surprised me by showing that he knew the names of many persons, places, and things, which no one had taken any special pains to bring to his notice; and as he had visited all these spots with me, on several occasions; I felt tolerably at ease, even on this point. The more, that he took the tablets between his teeth, and, without the least hesitation, dashed out into the storm. The thunder was dying away in the distance, but the rain fell more heavily than ever, and au

2

angry wind drove it in sheets against the windows and shook it from the groaning trees. It was a wild night, dark to utter obscurity; no man would have liked to face it; my messenger, I felt, was the fittest, swiftest, surest, that could have been provided. In that faith, I went back to the sick-room.

Before taking you thither, however, I will give you the explanation of my instructions to Leo. A few days previous to Mrs. Burcham's seizure, the artist had gone to the city, on business. He had told me that he should positively return on this (Saturday) evening. The train would be late, I knew; it would not reach the depot till after the storm had begun. He might wait there for it to cease; he might set forth, and be glad to take shelter with Mrs. Danforth; or he might persevere till he reached the studio. In one or the other of these places, I felt certain, he would be found.

Mrs. Burcham was quietly falling asleep. The anodyne which I had administered, aided by the relief of mind and heart afforded by Major Burcham's promise, was at last taking effect.

I stole softly to Aunt Vin's side and asked, in a whisper, if the mother ought not to be informed that her son was nearer than she had believed, and that she might hope to see him soon?

"Not till she's slept," answered Aunt Vin, decidedly. "That's her great consideratum, now. Time enough to break his revival to her, when he gets here. But you'd better tell Major Burcham."

I

He listened to the communication almost without a word. He looked even more pained than surprised to find that his son had been in Shiloh so long without making himself known; nor did the shadow wholly dissipate as talked of his rising fame as an artist. He exhibited some fear lest my message might not reach its destination, and talked of setting forth himself; but, being made to consider

the fury of the storm, and Leo's excellent qualifications for the task entrusted to him, he went sadly and wearily back to the silence and solitude of his chamber, The argument which really prevailed with him, however, was probably shadowed forth in a few words spoken as he went ;

"After all, Mrs. Burcham might-want me, before I could get back again."

Together, Aunt Vin and I kept the watch in the sickroom. Neither of us could sleep, now, till this matter was brought to some conclusion. We sat and listened through the subsidences of the wind and rain,

Ten-eleven

Very slowly the hours wore away. struck; midnight drew near. It was three hours since Leo's departure. Anxiety took possession of me;-perhaps he had misunderstood my directions-perhaps he had failed in his quest-possibly the artist had not arrived,—a hundred ifs and peradventures, the gray, teasing progeny of suspense and expectation, thronged my mind and tormented me with their pertinacious, yet changeful, shapes, It exasperated me to see Aunt Vin's calm patience; it sickened me to think what long experience of just such vigils, such expectation, such delay and such anxiety, it argued!

Was there a sound outside? I held my breath to listen, with my eyes involuntarily resting on the outer door of the sitting-room. I saw the latch noiselessly lifted; the door swung open; two dripping figures, a man and a dog, entered. Between them and me rushed Major Burcham,more upon the alert than I,—to throw his arms around his son, and murmur some incoherent words.

It was all the work of an instant. Before Aunt Vin could turn round to see what was going on, before I could reach and close the bedroom door, Mrs. Burcham opened her eyes, saw the tableau, and read its meaning.

"My son!" she cried, in tones that thrilled every heart," it is my son!"

XL.

THROUGH SHADOW TO LIGHT.

[graphic]

T is said that joy never kills; neither does it always cure.

Sunday morning dawned fair and still. Its early rays showed Mrs. Burcham's face lit up with such peaceful brightness, the soft reflection of a mind and heart at rest, that I thought her better; but Aunt Vin, quicker to detect the signs betraying the waste and progress of dis

ease, quietly shook her head.

[ocr errors]

At seven o'clock,-the hour which the nurse's experi ence declared to be the one wherein her patients were strongest, the long weariness of the night being over, and that of the day scarce begun,-Mr. Taylor came, according to previous arrangement, to administer the Holy Communion to the sick woman.

"You will join us?" he said to Harry, as he was preparing for the feast.

you

66

Yes, as my mother wishes it so much. That is, do not think I am unfit."

"You have been confirmed?"

if

"Oh, yes, and I have communicated,-before I left home; but-"

"But what? Have you lost your religious faith and hope?"

"No, I think not. I believe firmly in religion, and I have tried to live it,-of late, at least, according to my

« PreviousContinue »