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The Pickwick Papers 139







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The Pickwick Papers

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One day she failed to come, for the first time. Another morning arrived, and she came alone. The child was dead. They little know, who coldly talk of the poor mans bereavements, as a happy release from pain to the departed, and a merciful relief from expense to the survivor--they little know, I say, what the agony of those bereavements is. A silent look of affection and regard when all other eyes are turned coldly away --the consciousness that we possess the sympathy and affection of one being when all others have deserted us--is a hold, a stay, a comfort, in the deepest affliction, which no wealth could purchase, or power bestow. The child had sat at his parents feet for hours together, with his little hands patiently folded in each other, and his thin wan face raised towards them. They had seen him pine away, from day to day; and though his brief existence had been a joyless one, and he was now removed to that peace and rest which, child as he was, he had never known in this world, they were his parents, and his loss sank deep into their souls. It was plain to those who looked upon the mothers altered face, that death must soon close the scene of her adversity and trial. Her husbands fellow-prisoners shrank from obtruding on his grief and misery, and left to himself alone, the small room he had previously occupied in common with two companions. She shared it with him; and lingering on without pain, but without hope, her life ebbed slowly away. She had fainted one evening in her husbands arms, and he had borne her to the open window, to revive her with the air, when the light of the moon falling full upon her face, showed him a change upon her features, which made him stagger beneath her weight, like a helpless infant. "Set me down, George," she said faintly. He did so, and seating himself beside her, covered his face with his hands, and burst into tears. "It is very hard to leave you, George," she said; "but it is Gods will, and you must bear it for my sake. Oh! how I thank Him for having taken our boy! He is happy, and in heaven now. What would he have done here, without his mother!" "You shall not die, Mary, you shall not die;" said the husband, starting up. He paced hurriedly to and fro, striking his head with his clenched fists; then reseating himself beside her, and supporting her in his arms, added more calmly, "Rouse yourself, my dear girl. Pray, pray do. You will revive yet." "Never again, George; never again," said the dying woman. "Let them lay me by my poor boy now, but promise me, that if ever you leave this dreadful place, and should grow rich, you will have us removed to some quiet country churchyard, a long, long way off--very far from here--where we can rest in peace. Dear George, promise me you will." "I do, I do," said the man, throwing himself passionately on his knees before her. "Speak to me, Mary, another word; one look--but one!" He ceased to speak: for the arm that clasped his neck grew stiff and heavy. A deep sigh escaped from the wasted form before him; the lips moved, and a smile played upon the face; but the lips were pallid, and the smile faded into a rigid and ghastly stare. He was alone in the world. That night, in the silence and desolation of his miserable room, the wretched man knelt down by the dead body of his wife, and called on God to witness a terrible oath, that from that hour, he devoted himself to revenge her death and that of his child; that thenceforth to the last moment of his life, his whole energies should be directed to this one object; that his revenge should be protracted and terrible; that his hatred should be undying and inextinguishable; and should hunt its object through the world. The deepest despair, and passion scarcely human, had made such fierce ravages on his face and form, in that one night, that his companions in misfortune shrank affrighted from him as he passed by. His eyes were bloodshot and heavy, his face a deadly white, and his body bent as if with age. He had bitten his under lip nearly through in the violence of his mental suffering, and the blood which had flowed from

The Pickwick Papers page 138        The Pickwick Papers page 140