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“But, my son, such conduct, unless you learn to restrain yourself, may one day cause you much repentance."
Indeed, this trait in his character often gave his mother the liveliest concern, and many were the prayers she uttered by day and night that it might be changed. As he grew older, his filial affection seemed to grow stronger, and it was an affecting sight to see them enter this little church together-the aged mother leaning on the arm of her strong and manly son. Many a bright eye sent forth its softest look for him, as he took his seat by her side in their little pew. But to mark the fond, yet anxious look of the mother, as it rested upon his unobserving face, you might see how strong can be a mother's love, how watchful a mother's care.
About this time there came to spend a week or so with them a cousin, whom George had not seen since they were playmates together, for he had been living for several years in a neighboring city. Frank was a forbidding young man, as far as appearance went, and it was whispered about that his character for sobriety and morality was none of the best. Be that as it might, he and George soon became most intimate companions, as was natural enough, for the one possessed an insinuating address and engaging manners, while the latter was of a nature wholly confiding and fond of excitement. Soon George's mother began to perceive symptoms which to her were of the most alarming character. He no longer came to her to read some favorite passage ; his hours at night were unseasonable, and whenever he and Frank came in at a late hour, they would excuse themselves by saying that they had been taking a long walk together. Alas! she knew not that in the short time they had been thus acquainted, a great change had been wrought in the character of her son ; she knew not that those walks never extended beyond the tavern, where, after a social glass together, they would sit and converse with the idlers whom they met there. To a nature such as George possessed, this was a most dangerous experiment. The first glass delights, the second excites, and then comes a hardening of the heart, the wild delirium of unnatural feelings and utter recklessness; then a love for low conversation ; then an absolute necessity for some kind of excitement; and finally the confirmed habits of the sot. On this precipice stood George ; an ungovernable nature, aided by the tempter's hand, was hurrying him nearer and nearer to the brink. He had never drank enough yet really to excite him, but the passion was growing strong and stronger upon him ; yet at times the pale face of his mother at her lonely home would rise up in his mind, and mechanically his hand would drop the cup as it was raised to his lips.
“ Drink, man,” Frank would exclaim, “ surely you are not afraid of another glass, are you?”
“No, Frank, but I was thinking of my mother!"
“ Poh! how will she know anything about it? besides you are a man now, and not a child to mind the silly talk of a woman."
“Silence, sir! speak not so of my mother; one unkind word of her I will not listen to.”
“ Nonsense! who thought of saying any thing disrespectful of the old lady ? she loves you, I dare say; but come, once more, and we will go;" and George would drink it to the dregs.
But all this could not be kept long from a watchful mother. She heard one night that he had been seen entering the tavern, and her fears took the alarm immediately. Her anguish was heightened when she perceived on his return, from his excited eye and unsteady walk, that he had been drinking.
“George, my son! can it be?" she exclaimed, as she caught his arm frantically, “are you too to become a drunkard ?”
“Come, mother, I have only been drinking a glass of wine with Frank, and it has got into my head a little-come, do not be frightened ;” for he was sobered in an instant by her frenzied look.
“And you, too, George !” she exclaimed, without heeding his words, “ have I lived so long for this ? did I endure all that misery and live through it to see you a drunkard ? have my prayers by night and by day availed me nothing ? father and son ! both to be - Oh! my God, let it not be so." Then turning wildly around, she cried, “ George, as you love me as you wish not to see me a broken-hearted wretch in my grave—as you hope for salvation, swear! swear that you will never put the cursed cup to your lips again, never so much as think of it with a guilty wish, swear! I say, or strike me down here at your feet."
As she uttered the last word, her son sank on his knee, and raising his hands, exclaimed, “I swear! as I love you and hope for mercy, I swear !" then rising, the mother and son were locked in each other's
“God be praised," she cried, “ for my poor heart would break if you too were lost to me. Let not the tempter prevail again, or you are lost, my son. I know it, George, for 'twas so with him-him your fatherhe tasted, and the demon snatched him away to a drunkard's grave !" ,“ Pardon, mother, and this shall be my first and only time of offence while I live.”
" Dear George, you have it, but oh! beware! avoid the tempter."
And where was he ? At the first sound of that mother's voice his guilty conscience smote him, and he slipped without the door, for he dared not meet her eye. His was a dark and dangerous nature, delighted in doing evil, without thought for the misery of others—such a spirit as the Evil One might well send upon earth to aid his own iniquities. At first, remorse may have touched him; but when he heard her counsel to beware of the tempter, rage and wounded pride banished all other feelings. “Ha! ha! say you so, you swear ? let us see, oaths are easi. ly taken and easily broken; ha! ha! She called me tempter, did she. I will be a tempter to some purpose;" and he laid his head upon his pillow that night with the avowed intention of ruining one for whom he professed the holy tie of friendship, and of bringing misery to the door of a helpless widow-his own aunt.”
The sun rose bright on the morrow, and both George and Frank felt a mutual hesitation when they met at breakfast. The one felt ashamed
for sin committed--the other for sin in contemplation. For a few days no mention was made between them of the matter, but it was easy to perceive that George was acting under some restraint, which was hard for him to bear. Alas! there is but one step, and that once taken, it is a thousand steps back. He felt a craving, burning appetite for excitement; the deep-rooted desire could not so easily be eradicated. One evening, however, shortly afterwards, as they were sitting alone after tea, Frank proposed that ihey should take a walk together and light a cigar on their way past the tavern.
“ You forget, Frank, surely !" “Why, there's no great harm in stopping a moment to light a cigar!"
“Well, perhaps there is none,” replied George, quickly, “but do not ask me to stay a minute longer," and the two started off together on that fatal walk, arm in arm A short walk brought them to the tavern, and they entered the little bar. Here they found several whom they had mei when they were last there, and a conversation immedialely commenced. George had not felt in such good spirits for some time; in fact, it was the want of such excitement that he had felt so much. Presently some one invited the rest to step up and take a drink with him; all did so except George.
" Come, man,” said his companion, “ we are all waiting for you."
“Excuse me,” replied George, gently, “but I do not wish to drink to-night."
“What harm can one glass do ?” said Frank, with hesitation, for he felt uncertain how George might take his interference.
“You forget my promise, sir !" was the reply.
“Come, come, don't speak so; that was a forced promise, and forced promises are never binding, you know, a mere ruse de guerre ;' you surely are not afraid that one glass will upset you, are you?”
“As for that matter, I can drink as much as any of you, but I do not choose," replied George, angrily.
“Oh! that is very easy to say, but the doing it is a different thing, you know, ha! ha!” and a tittering rung through the little crowd around. Here was a most dangerous temptation, for such a nature as George's always feels afraid to acknowledge itself afraid of any thing, and is especially irritated and thrown off its guard by any approach to ridicule, and alas the temptation was too strong to be withstood.”
“ You think so, do you ?" said George.
“Come here if you wish to know, and let these men judge who is the most daring ;" and forgetting mother, promise and all, in the wild energy of his nature, he seized the glass and drained it! Lo! how the tempter triumphed, but he was not yet satisfied ; he determined to lead him still farther on. “One glass and you are lost !" had his mother said, and her words were prophetic.
They drank long and deeply—a crowd soon gathered around them, for one at least was becoming excited ; and the flashing eye of George and his dilating form showed that there was a fire within him now that
was blazing and consuming all other emotions save the tickling pleasure that its flames inspired. Frank began to be seriously alarmed, for he perceived that unless they stopped soon, George would become unmanageable ; he therefore said, coaxingly
“ Come, we've had enough, let us stop now."
“Stop! ha! ha! no, you dared me to it; let us see then who is the most daring; do you dare to drink this ?" and he poured out two glasses full and seized one of them.
“Oh! I did not propose it on my own account,” cried Frank, irritated at his words, and imitating him in swallowing the draught—"but, my dear fellow,” continued he, ironically, “I was only about to ask you, if you drink any more, how you expect to get home ?"
As that last word caught the ear of poor George, inebriated as he was, there flashed across his mind a gleam of misery awful in the extreme-the idea of his mother, his perjury, the dread of witnessing her agony-all condensed into one dark instantaneous thought rushed upon him with such force that he staggered back and had well-nigh fallen.
“What is the matter ?” cried Frank, now too late repenting his expression, “ are you sick ?”
When he heard that voice, George raised his pale and trembling face, his eye flashed with such a gleam of determined fury, that the other recoiled in terror. “ Sick! villain, sick! he cried, double-dyed scoundrel, who brought me here? who tempted me here? devil! answer me ! who tempted me ?-ab! she said, 'beware the tempter,'” and his voice sank to a supernatural whisper, and then rose to a wild scream of rage. “Ha! ha! sick ! let me clutch thee, tempter, and learn how strong I am." With one sudden and tremendous bound he leaped upon Frank, and griping him by the throat shook him with the strength and sury of a demon. They rushed upon them and by main force tore them apart.
“ Villains ! unhand me,” he shouted, hoarsely, “ death! do you dare! -see! he will escape me! he, the tempter ! off! let me go, I say-let me—a-h-h-h.” They started from him, for from his ears, his nose, and mouth there spirted forth a dark red stream of blood, sprinkling those around with its crimson dye; with a loud crash he fell upon the floor.
“ Great God !" cried some one, raising him up-" run for a doctor, he has broken a blood vessel !”
So indeed it was—the tide of anguish, remorse, and rage that boiled within his breast had broken forth in an overwhelming torrent, defying all restraint. The doctor came--but one glance at his flushed countenance, and one touch to his pulse was enough he was dead! They laid him on a bench, and in mournful silence bore him towards his mother's lonely home.
Young man, I have seen many a sight of misery, but anguish such as her's I never witnessed. She had been watching anxiously for the return of her son, and the first sight she caught of him was his dead body borne along by four strong men. She rushed toward them; there was a gurgling in her throat, and without another sound sank in violent hys. terics on his corpse. They bore her to her home, and for the live-long night they watched by her side. Not for one moment did she cease from the dreadful fits that shook her poor weak frame. At length the morning broke, and the sun's rays shone brightly through the window on her bed. Suddenly she was still, and they thought, nay, almost hoped, that all was over, but she raised herself on her arm, and gazing calmly around seemed to have forgotten the cause of her grief. In another instant the dreadful scene of the last night rushed upon her mind. “My son ! my son! George! good God! was it true ?-dead !oh ! mercy! mercy! my heart is b-r-o-k-e-n !” and with a convulsive sob she fell back on the pillow—they raised her up, but life had fled !
But where was the tempter ? he was gone, and no one hereabouts has since beheld him, and if that mother's shriek does not haunt him through this world, it will give him no peace in the next. They bore them to the grave, and placed them side by side, the mother and her son, and no one has lived in that house since. Such is my tale.”
The old man ceased, and the tear of memory stood in his eye. We left the spot together, but never do I enter a grave-yard that I do not think of · The Mother's Grave.”
c. J. P.
THE LOST STUDENT.
By a smouldering fire of half burnt brands,
A disconsolate student sat;
And he thought of his napless hat.
And he felt of his elbows worn and patched,
And patched and worn again ;
In the following dolorous strain :
" Why should I toil through the livelong night,
And weary my aching head,
For that which is not bread ?
“Why should I columns of figures add,
When their sum is nought to me?
And the student he sighed at the sound of the word,
And suddenly sprang from his chair,
And he thought, “ Could a coin be there!"