« PreviousContinue »
of the fairies, and ugly enough to be king of the gnomes, and takes a flying leap into the saddlc. Merrily, merrily plays the music, and merrily gallops the pony, and merrily rides the little old gentleman. Come, Annie, into the street again ; perchance we may see monkeys on horseback there!
Mercy on us, what a noisy world we quiet people live in! Did Annie ever read the Cries of London City ? With what lusty lungs doth yonder man proclaim that his wheelbarrow is full of lobsters! Here comes another mounted on a cart, and blowing a hoarse and dreadful blast from a tin horn, as much as to say · Fresh fish!' And hark ! a voice on high, like that of a muezzin from the summit of a mosque, announcing that some chimney sweeper has emerged from smoke and soot, and darksome caverns, into the
What cares the world for that ? But, welladay, we hear a shrill voice of affliction, the scream of little child, rising louder with every repetition of that smart, sharp, slapping sound, produced by an open hand on tender flesh. Annie sympathizes, though without experience of such direful
Lo! the town crier again, with some new secret for the public ear.
Will he tell us of an auction, or of a lost pocket book, or a show of beautiful wax figures, or of some monstrous beast more horrible than any in the caravan? I guess the latter. Sce how he uplists the bell in his right hand, and shakes it slowly at first, then with a hurried motion, till the clapper seems to strike both sides at once, and the sounds are scattered forth in quick succession, far And ncar.
Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong!
Now he raises his clear, loud voice, above all the din of the town; it drowns the buzzing talk of many tongues, and draws each man's mind from his own business; it rolls up and down the echoing street, and ascends to the hushed chamber of the sick, and penetrates downward to the cellar kitchen, where the hot cook "urns from the fire to listen. Who, of all that address the public ear, whether in church, or court house, or hall of state, has such an attentive audience as the town crier? What saith the people's orator?
“Strayed from her home, a LITTLE GIRL, of five years old, in a blue silk frock and white pantalets, with brown curling hair and hazel eyes. Whoever will bring her back to her afflicted mother —
Stop, stop, town crier! The lost is found. O, my pretty Annie, we forgot to tell your mother of our ramble, and she is in despair, and has sent the town crier to bellow up and down the streets, affrighting old and young, for the loss of a little girl who has not once let go my hand ? Well, let us hasten homeward ; and as we go, forget not to thank Heaven, my Annie, that, after wandering a little way into the world, you may return at the first summons, with an untainted and unwearied heart, and be a happy child again. But I have gone too far astray for the town crier to call me back.
Sweet has been the charm of childhood on my spirit, throughout my ramble with little Annie! Say not that it has been a waste of precious moments, an idlo matter, a babble of childish talk, and a reverie of childish imaginations, about topics unworthy of grown man's notice. Has it been merely this ? Not so; not so. They are not truly wise who wonld atfirm it. As the pure breath of children revives thr: life of aged men, so is our moral nature revived by their free and simple thoughts, their native feeling, their airy mirth, for little cause or none, their grief, soon roused and soon allayed. Their influence on us is at Icast reciprocal with ours on them. When our infanry is almost forgotten, and our boyhood long departed, though it seems but as yesterday ; when life settles darkly down upon us, and we doubt whether to call ourselves young any more, then it i'; good to steal away from the society of bearded ser, and even of gentler woman, and spend an hour or two with children. After drinking from those fountains of still fresh existence, we shall return into the crowd, as I do now, to struggle onward and do our part in life, perhaps as fervently as ever, but, for a time, with a kinder and purer heart, and a spirit more light's wiw). All this by thy sweet magic, dear little Arrie!
In some old magazine or newspaper, I recollect a story, told as truth, of a man - let us call him Wakefield — who absented himself for a long time from his wife. The fact, thus abstractedly stated, is not very uncommon, nor - without a proper distinction of circumstances to be condemned either as naughty or nonsensical. Howbeit, this, though far from the most aggravated, is perhaps the strangest instance, on record, of marital delinquency; and moreover, as remarkable a freak as may be found in the whole list of human oddities. The wedded couple lived in London. The man, under pretence of going a journey, took lodgings in the next street to his own house, and there, unheard of by his wife or friends and without the shadow of a reason for such selfbanishment, dwelt upwards of twenty years. During that period, he beheld his home every day, and frequently the forlorn Mrs. Wakefield. And after so great a gap in his matrimonial felicity - when his death was reckoned certain, his estate settled, his name dismissed from memory, and his wife, long, long ago, resigned to her a itumnal widowhood - he entered the door one evening, quietly, as from a day's absence, and became a loving spouse till depth
This outline is all that I remember. But the incident, though of the purest originality, inexampled, and probably never to be repeated, is one, I think, which appeals to the generous sympathies of mankind. We know, each for himself, that none of us would perpetrate such a folly, yet feel as if some other might. To my own contemplations, at least, it has often recurred, always exciting wonder, but with a sense that the story must be true, and a conception of its hero's character. Whenever any subject so forcibly affects the mind, time is well spent in thinking of it. If the reader choose, let him do his own meditation; or if he prefer to ramble with me through the twenty years of Wakefield's vagary, I bid him welcome ; trusting that there will be a pervading spirit and a moral, even should we fail to find them, done up neatly, and condensed into the final sentence. Thought has always its efficacy, and every striking incident its moral.
What sort of a man was Wakefield ? We are free to shape out our own idea, and call it by his name. He was now in the meridian of life; his matrimonial affections, never violent, were sobered into a calm, habitual sentiment; of all husbands, he was likely to be the most constant, because a certain sluggishness would keep his heart at rest, wherever it might be placed. He was intellectual, but not actively so his mind occupied itself in long and lazy musings, that tended to no purpose, or had not vigor to attain it; his thoughts were seldom so energetic as to seize hold of words. Imagination, in the proper meaning of the term, made no part of Wakefield's gifts. With