Page images


"O! goodly golden chayne, wherewith yfere
The virtues linked are in lovely wize."


Mr. Parshalls skim

TIME wore on thus ming the cream of life, such as it was, and leaving only a sky-blue remainder for his devoted wife, who excused all his exactions on the ground of his being "so fleshy!" Henry Parshalls bearing his enforced change of condition with little attempt at cheerfulness; and his pretty Mary generally in either extravagant spirits or equally extravagant depression, but, through all, evincing a scarce-disguised contempt for her mother-in-law, and gradually withdrawing little Alfred from her as much as possible.

This was any thing but happiness; and the care-worn countenance of Aunty Parshalls showed how deeply she felt that heaviness which weighs at a mother's heart

[blocks in formation]

when she sees things "going wrong" among her dear ones. There was a gleam of something like joy when Mary gave birth to a little daughter; but this was soon overclouded by the extreme illness of the mother, and the subsequent death of the child.

When Mrs. Henry Parshalls had recovered so far as to be considered out of danger, things wore a still more unhappy aspect; for her variableness and her angry grief for the loss of her infant, approached the tone of insanity; and after some months had elapsed in this way, her husband looked like a broken-down man, and scarcely made an effort towards securing the means of life. Here again the burthen fell on the muchenduring mother, who found time, even from her husband's service, to labour for her son's family, and who also found means, in spite of penury, to contribute many a little comfort to that gloomy and desolate household. Yet never did these efforts and sacrifices succeed in winning, in the smallest degree, the regard of the wayward Mary.

She evinced ever the same scorn and hatred of her mother-in-law's coarse appearance and rude habits, wilfully closing her eyes to traits of character which could have derived no real lustre from any station on earth.

But there was yet a shade to be added to this unhappy picture. Little Alfred, who, before the birth of the baby, had been the darling of the young wife, had, for some time, been observed to call forth her irritable feelings more than any other object. When in her seasons of wild and flighty spirits she would sometimes play with him as before; but when the tide turned, as it was sure to do, the unnatural flashing of her dark eyes turned first upon him; and the innocent creature, feeling the malign influence, would hide himself from her, and sometimes run away to his grandmother, and whisper to her, that mother was very naughty.

It is not to be supposed that these things passed unnoticed by those most interested. Even the old man was aroused to a sus

picion that Mary was "going crazy," and his wife spent her days and nights in the most painful anxiety lest some dreadful catastrophe should yet prove the correctness of the idea; especially as Henry, with a pride which was part of his very existence, treated his mother's anguished hints and cautions with scorn and derision, though in his secret heart he felt convinced that some sad change had taken place in his unhappy wife. He even requested his mother not to come to his house, telling her that it was only her odd ways that irritated Mary.

If any thing was yet lacking to complete the crushing of poor Aunty, it was a stroke like this. To know that her presence was tolerated only because it was needed, had been killing enough to a heart overflowing with affection; but to find herself excluded as a thing to shudder at! And that dear boy, over whom her old heart yearned so fondly was he to be left to the mercy of a mother who was all but a maniac, and who would doubtless teach him to hate his grandmother, if she taught him any thing?

She could only go away and pray that "yet worse things" might be spared her.

It was with all this load at her heart, and the bitter tears of wounded affection welling from her old eyes, that Mrs. Parshalls, in the weary round of her daily labours, ascended the hill, of which mention has been made, her steps tottering beneath the weight of the dish-kettle which she scarcely used to think of while little Alfred trotted by her side. Arrived at the top, her eye wandered mechanically around the various fields in the neighbourhood - the watching of unruly or straying cattle being, as we said before, a part of her imposed duty. At this moment, she saw Mary, holding little Alfred by the hand, come out of her house and walk hurriedly towards a wood which lay at some little distance west of the village. The mother's heart died within her. She felt-who has not felt?that dread presentiment of evil whose agony can scarcely be exceeded by the occurrence of all we fear. She hesitated but for a moment, and then, with all the speed her

« PreviousContinue »