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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.
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 ". 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
trembling limbs could muster, hastened to the wood by another path.
Fears that had haunted her for months past, led her at once to a deep hollow at some distance from the road, where was a small circular pond without any apparent outlet one of those deposits of water called, in this country, cat holes,-completely imbedded in hills, and shaded by great overhanging trees.
Those fears, the result of perceptions rendered acute by a mother's anxious love, had not deceived her. Before she could reach the spot, she heard the piteous cries of her darling"Oh mother! mother! mother!" and Mary's voice replying, "You shall not live, little wretch, when my own baby is dead and buried!" then struggles and blows, and then a plunge into the still water.
With a piercing shriek she sprang forward, and, at the sound, the unhappy Mary, clasping her hands above her head, threw herself into the pond, before Mrs. Parshalls had gained the bank.
To rush down, to plunge into the slimy
water, and to draw to land both the victims, was the work of a moment. The little boy was able to stand, at once, but poor Mary was entirely insensible, and Mrs. Parshalls, knowing it would be in vain to call for help from that remote recess, bore her in her arms to the top of the bank, the child following, and thence, often resting on her weary way, succeeded in carrying her to the road side, where assistance was easily found.
Long did this death-like swoon hold the unfortunate creature; so long that almost all hope was exhausted but Aunty's. She ceased not for a moment to chafe the helpless limbs, and to try all her simple restoratives in succession, till, at length, returning life rewarded her efforts, though the stupor was still so heavy, that it seemed as if no ray of reason would ever be rekindled. The physician, when questioned by the wretched husband, declined giving a present opinion, but recommended rest and extreme quiet, and left the sufferer to Mrs. Parshalls.
It was midnight in that sad chamber, and