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in the trees that stretched their arms silently to the gentle breeze, and in the very sods that basked in the sunshine. The leaf was preparing to put forth, the green blade to sprout, and the pulses of man beat lightly and happily under the spell of the season. Henry felt the soft west wind on his cheek, and heard the first notes of the spring birds. As soon as the sun rode high in the heavens, he went to summon Mary from her toils, to walk with him as far as the Great Oak, a spot which she loved, because it commanded a wide and beautiful prospect, and which was dear to him, because she loved it, and because it was always the end of their first walk in spring. Mary hesįtated, for she feared the dampness of the ground; but Henry had gone with a younger brother all the way up to the Great Oak on purpose, and assured her the path was dry. She stood at the door, and as she looked up at the clear and beautiful sky, around on the landscape, and again on the pleading face of her blind brother, she could not find in her heart to say, "No." They went out together, and Mary was glad she had gone. Her own heart seemed to expand with quiet happiness as she walked. What invalid is not happy in breathing the open air for the first time, after tedious months of confinement, and feels not as if the sin plest act of existence were in itself a luxury? Henry went leaping by her side with short and joyous bounds, pouring forth the exuberance of his spirits in the songs she had taught him, asking a thousand questions, and sometimes stopping to listen when the sound of a sheep-bell, the note of a bird, or the murmur of a distant voice struck
on his quick ear. When the way was rough, he walked closer to her side, holding her hand tightly, and seeming as if made happier by the pensive snuiles on that pale face he could not see. He asked her sometimes if the walk was making her cheeks red, for then he knew that his father would say she was well ; and sometimes he furnished her with food for reflection, as she wondered what ideas were conveyed to his mind by the terms he had learned to use in speaking of visible objects. At last they came to the Great Oak; and as they sat resting together on a rock under its leafless branches, the gaiety of the blind boy subsided, and he caught something of the same sedate happiness which pervaded the spirit of Mary. They talked together for a long time, and at last sunk into silence. Henry sat musing, and Mary involuntarily gazed upon the varying expressions that passed over his sightless, but eloquent face, sometimes lighting it almost with a smile, sometimes fading into sadness, betraying the changing tenor of his thoughts, which flowed on, guided only by the mysterious laws of association, and unchecked by the movements of outward objects. At last he asked, with a mournful tone.
Mary, do you think it would be a hard thing if I were to die young ?”
Mary shrunk from a question which seemed so natural for one in his situation; because she did not imagine that such thoughts had ever entered the mind of the gay and laughing boy. She was startled, too, at the coincidence between their reflections; it was as if she had looked into his mind, and found it a mirror
of her own. But she asked Henry quietly, if he were weary of the life God had given him.
“Oh! no,” returned the blind boy; “but it would not frighten me, or make me uphappy, if I knew that I were going to die. I know I must be a burthen all my life to my parents, and I can be of little use to any one —
even to you! I think — I know not why-it was not meant I should stay here long. God will soon see whether I am patient, amiable, and pious; he will take me away, when I have been sufficiently tried.”
Mary made no answer. She, too, had moments when the conviction that her life was not to be a long one, came upon her most powerfully, and to her, too, it brought that same gentle, melancholy satisfaction which seemed stealing over the mind of her blind brother. He had once asked her, when a very little boy, if she thought he should see in heaven ; and the question had made her shed many tears. now, while she listened to his plaintive voice, and heard him talk with humble piety of his willingness to die in the first blossoming of youth; yet her tears were not tears of bitterness, for she saw that the frame of mind in which he spoke was one calculated to make him happy, living or dying.
She told him so at last ; and strove to strengthen in his mind that feeling which disarms all vexation and
a perfect confidence that there is a secret good in every event that befalls us. Her own spirit was so deeply imbued with this conviction, that it gave coloring to her whole character; it was the idea which occurred to her habitually and incessantly; it was the
secret of that peace of mind which neither trouble, poverty, nor sickness could ruffle. She taught him how to exercise his mind in trying to discover the good shrouded in seeming evil; and how, when the justice and mercy of any event were past finding out, to give up the search in undoubting confidence that all was right, suffering not his soul to be disquieted.
The youthful pair rose at last to return home, in the holiest and happiest temper. Their hearts were filled with devotion, and with love for all God's creation, and the pure
and beautiful instinct of fraternal love had received an impulse from a conversation, which they felt had made them both wiser and better. The influence of communion on holy topics is happy and salutary, and the glow of renewed confidence and esteem, which succeeds such intercourse between kindred spirits, is delightful.
Mary was still an invalid, and soon felt that she had made more exertion than she ought to have done. She paused a moment at the foot of the hill, because there were two ways that led home. They had come by a circuitous path, leading through pleasant fields and lanes; and the road by which they now proposed to return, would conduct them across the mill-brook straight to the village. She was weak and faint, and they took the shortest way. Silently they walked on, till they had almost reached a small rising ground which lay between them and the mill-stream, when Henry suddenly exclaimed, “Sister Mary, where are we?
I hear the water running!” Mary listened a moment with a surprised and anxious countenance, and
quickened her pace as they ascended the hill. As soon as they came in sight of the stream, she stopped, astonished, and almost terrified. The heavy rain of the previous day, and the melting of the snow among the hills, had swollen the mill-brook into a deep and rapid stream, and it now rushed by them with the sound of many waters, bearing on its turbid bosom marks of the devastation it had already wrought in its course. The young birches and alders, that had shaded its green banks the preceding summer, torn up by the roots, were whirled along with the current; and amid the white foam, Mary descried the wet, black planks and beams which told the destruction of an old mill of her father's higher up the stream. The bridge, and the new mill just below it, were yet standing, but the waters rose furiously against them, and both shook and tottered. Sounds came up every moment amid the tumult, which told that something unseen had given way; and Mary looked around in vain for help or counsel. There was not a human being in sight. She did not try to conceal from Henry their situation ;, and though the hand she held did not tremble with the natural fear of one so young and helpless, she saw by his countenance that he was awed. A short but fervent prayer was in her mind. There was no time to be lost. She grew weaker every moment; and summoning up all her strength for one effort, with a quick, firm step, looking neither to the right nor left, she hastened upon the bridge, leading her blind brother. They had already half crossed it, when Henry, bewildered by the noise and the shaking under his feet, shrunk back involun