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“A long-lost friend, or hapless child restored,
Smiles at his blazing hearth and social board;
BIDDING adieu to the now deserted and lonely mansion which to him had been, for the four past fleeting months, the scene of so many mingling pleasures, toils, and trials, our hero, with slow and pensive steps, returned to his lodgings. He had contemplated making several calls that evening, both for the transaction of business, and the reciprocation of courtesies received, preparatory to leaving town the next morning. But the strong and varied emotions which had been excited in the scene he had just passed through, added to the state of his health, that, for several days, he had felt to be giving way, had so much disinclined and unfitted him to meet company, that he soon concluded to defer his visits till the following morning, and retire, as he early did, to the more congenial seclusion of his own room, where he could indulge the moody reveries of his mind, and the physical languor of his feelings, unrestrained and unmolested. Here his thoughts reverted to the past. He recalled the interesting incidents described at the opening of these pages, forming, as he was ever sensible, the first marked era of his life. He recurred to the unconsciously prophetic intimation then given him of his subsequent career by her whose image, while she thus indicated the way, imparted an ever-during
impulse to pursue it. And with pleased and curious thought, he ran over the events that followed: the persevering exertions which had resulted in bringing him before the public as a teacher; the engagement in his first school, attended by the singular circumstances that led to an acquaintance with the only man who would have brought him to Cartersville, and the only man, who, when this was effected, would or could have placed him and the fair prophetess and seeming maker of his fortunes together in the relation they had lately sustained to each other. He saw, or thought he saw, in all this, a train of circumstances which formed the connecting links of a chain of destiny, which, from the parts disclosed, the ministering sisters, Hope and Fancy, now tempted him to trace onward into the dim .confines of futurity, gilding the way for him, as usual, with many a bright illusion, and opening to his enchanted view many a fairy scene of love and happiness for him and the fair cynosure of his waking dream. But Reason and Conscience, here interposing, checked the lured heart in its rising anticipations, and coldly whispered of present destitution, — of the distant prospect of worldly means, on the one hand, and, on the other, of orphan innocence, inexperience, and perhaps love, that might listen to a connection involving circumstances which must defeat its own object, and bring poverty and its attendant miseries upon one who was worthy of, and who would otherwise meet with, a happier destiny.
Such were the conflicting emotions that now strangely agitated the usually tranquil mind of Amsden, as, for hours, he slowly paced his solitary apartment, sometimes cheering himself with the visions of Hope, and sometimes, as he looked upon the stern realities of his present situation, and those which his judgment told him would be likely to succeed, sinking into despondency. The latter feeling, however, as little good cause as he could assign for it, in any thing relat
ing to the past, or the rational prospects of the future, seemed more and more to predominate. And, as the evening wore away, he became conscious of an unusual depression of spirits, a certain boding solicitude and restlessness of mind, for which he could not account, but which he could not but feel to be vaguely suggestive of some jeopardized interest, or some approaching crisis of his fortunes. After endeavor. ing awhile, in vain, to shake off these constantly intruding fancies, he betook himself to his pillow, and soon fell asleep. But sleep brought no repose to disturbed sensibilities. The sweet restorer had lost the power of tranquillizing. It is Dryden, we believe, who says, in a couplet alike remarkable for neatness of expression and condensed poetic thought,
“Dreams are but interludes that Fancy makes ;
But whether this contains the true philosophy of dreams or not, it is certain that the idea here conveyed seemed to be strikingly exemplified in the visions of the sleeper, that now succeeded. While the same dark current of thoughts and undefined solicitudes which cupied his last waking moments continued to run in his mind, those thoughts, as reason ceased to control and regulate, soon began to shape themselves into a succession of wild and mysterious fantasies. In all of these, however, one characteristic prevailed. They all presented Mary Maverick as the principal figure, and always in circumstances of difficulty or danger. In the last mimic scene that was conjured up by the changing fancies of the troubled dreamer, he at first seemed reclining on the flowery bank of a sun-lit lake; a light boat came wafting before the ruffling breeze towards the spot where he lay; as it approached, he distinguished, seated within, the same angelic form and face which, in different situations, had been constantly rising on his vision. She raised her white hand in token of
gratulation. He even thought he could trace the sweet dimpling smile with which she was wont to receive him, playing upon her countenance. “ In one moment more," he thought, “she will be safe and happy, and all her fearful trials and perils will be over.” But while he yet spoke, the sun became suddenly hid by doubling racks of dark and angry clouds, that seemed, with magic quickness, to have been gathered from every part of the horizon to a point directly over head. In another moment, the black convolving mass burst downward, and fell, in hurricane blasts, upon the lake; converting at once its mirror-like surface into a wild waste of tumbling, breaking, and raging billows, upon which the frail little bark of his fair friend — by this time almost within reach of his hand, now eagerly extended to grasp it as it came — began to pitch and whirl with a violence that threatened instant destruction. Now it was borne off on the eddying surges, and lost to his sight in the clouds of wind-driven mists and mingling atoms, that were sweeping over the face of the agitated waters. Now again it appeared on the refluent billows, and again it was lost. Once more it was revealed to the eager and strained vision of the distressed lover; but it appeared now only to complete his despair. It was foundering amidst the raging waves; and its lovely freight, with an imploring look, was stretching forth towards him her arms for aid. With a cry of agony, he plunged into the angry flood for the rescue, and awoke awoke, and thanked Heaven that it was but a dream. But, although the illusion was dissipated, and the particular excitement it had caused soon allayed, the same feelings with which he fell asleep, the same boding, undefined solicitude which had attended, and probably given character to all his dreams, still continued to haunt and disturb him. The feeling grew even more painfully oppressive, and, after trying awhile in vain to sleep, he arose, lighted a lamp, and dressed himself. He con.
sulted his watch, and found it past midnight. He listened for some sounds from without; but all, for a while, seemed hushed in repose. The silence, however, was at length broken by the noise of heavily-rolling wheels and the splashing of horses' feet, proceeding, as he soon concluded, from the southern stage, which, owing to the bad travelling, had but just arrived, and was now passing on its way to the post-office or stagehouse, at the other end of the village. As these sounds receded, he turned from them with indifference ; for they were not those which he seemed to have expected. But what did he expect? He knew not; and yet he felt a strange consciousness that something unusual was about to happen. And in obedience to an impulse which now seized him, he took his hat, descended to the door, and gained the street, without being able to tell why he did so, or where he was going. As he stood hesitating, a distant voice, in the earnest tones of one calling for aid, reached his ears; he sprang round a corner, in the direction of the sound, and the next instant heard repeated, by a nearer and more startling voice, the appalling cry of fire! “ Carter's house is on fire, and the family perishing in the flames !” Heeding not the inquiries that now assailed his ears amidst the creaking of the opening doors, or hastily-raised window-sashes of almost
house around him, Amsden bounded forward by the lurid light that now began to glimmer along the street, with the speed of the wind, towards the spot indicated by this awful and, to him, agonizing announcement. The turn of another corner brought the eagerly-sought building into plain view. It was completely enveloped in one black, eddying cloud of swiftly-mounting smoke, through which the flickering flames began fiercely to gleam, as they burst successively from the windows along the lower story. The domestics, who slept in this part of the house, had just escaped. At that instant, a window was dashed out from the second story; and Mr. Carter, his wife,