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we not? Why should we separate ? let us be married again, dear! The day of the funeral will do ; the clergyman, you know, will be here, and
your father will be present, and we will invite the sexton, and the grave-diggers, and the pallbearers, and the mourners, and the bell shall toll ; ah, that is just the thing !”
Fanny burst into a hysterical laugh, and then fell into a long fainting fit. Mr. Roberts rang the bell for assistance, and after he had carried her to her bed-room, left her with Mrs. Hawkins. Some hours afterwards, when she had revived, she sent for her husband: there was a rigid statue-like quietness about her, very unlike her usual appearance.
“I am perfectly composed,” said Fanny, in answer to his entreaty that she would be calm. “Do not fear that I shall so lose possession of myself again ; I promise to be calm. I have some questions to ask of you, and some affairs of importance to settle. Are you resolved to go to Europe?”
“ Yes, Fanny ; I think it would be better for us both; but let us avoid all excitement; it is enough that we cannot be happy together, and therefore part.”
“What do you mean to do with our boy?” Fanny nearly lost her self-command as she spoke the word.
“I mean to leave him with you, Fanny."
« But would you not like to have him yourself? Surely you love that baby; he has never done wrong ; do you not love him?" There was a frightful stiffness in her muscles as she asked this question.
“God knows I love him better than life!” answered her husband.
“ Then why do you leave him ?”
“Because," said Roberts, “ I think you have the best right to him. You have endured much for him; a mother's sufferings give her an inalienable right to her child; no law of man, no opinion of the world, can abrogate that higher claim. I have as yet done nothing to deserve the name of father; you have endured pain and privation for his sake, and have the highest claim to him."
“That is very generous in you, William.” After a short silence, during which she seemed lost in thought, she said, “I know I am not competent to the charge of Willy. I have, however, thought of a plan which will promote his best good. I know of a person who might take the care of him, who is entirely competent, and whom,
I know, Willy would be happy with. I want you to promise to give me your sanction to my choice, and aid me in my plan.”
Surely I will promise to agree to it, if it is a good thing for my child,” said Roberts.
“It is, I can solemnly assure you, the best provision that can be made for him: only promise ; it is the only favor I ask of you.”
“But I do not know the person,” said her husband.
“ You do know the person,” said Fanny, “and you do know him to be upright, and generous, and kind, and all that such a one should be ; O promise! do promise, William ! it is Fanny, your own Fanny, she whom you once loved so well, who begs, who implores you to make this one promise to her; it is her last, her dying request, for 0, my head is so hot it must be consumed ere
“ You told me, Fanny, you would be calm,” said Roberts, greatly alarmed.
“And I will be," she said, with a calm but yet more earnest tone, “if you will only promise. But 0, promise me to agree to what I propose for Willy! here I remain on my bended knees till you promise ;” and she actually fell upon her knees before him.
In a state of unspeakable agony of mind, Mr. Roberts raised her from the floor, and promised to agree to whatever she should propose. With a strange, unearthly expression of joy, Fanny exclaimed, “Thank God! I have saved my child! Let what will become of me, I can bear it now.”
“What are you going to do with our boy? said her husband; he feared that she was really insane.
“I am going," she said, “to place him with his only safe and worthy protector, his only truly good friend; one who will teach him what is right, and walk himself in the way he points out; one who is just, and kind, and O, so patient ! One who will never let him know his mother's faults; for O, once he loved her! it is in his father's hands I put my child, my only earthly treasure. Take him, dear William, take our dear boy! and keep him, and guard him as the apple of your eye; watch over him day and night, in the early morning, and in the feverish noon-day. Shelter him in your arms at night, keep him from the cold; be mother and father, too, to him. If he is sick, let no one sit by him and nurse him but you.
Lead him to God. Do all this ! O, 1 know you will do all this, and more than this, for our sweet Willy; and O, forget and forgive his faulty mother, who could not make you happy."
Fanny said this in such a hurried and vehement manner, that it was in vain that her husband attempted to interrupt her with his protest against taking their child with him. In the midst of his agony of mind at witnessing his wife's sufferings, and his admiration of her magnanimous self-sacrifice, he felt a strange joy thrill through his whole soul.
“Be composed, my dear Fanny ; I cannot take away our boy from you ; I never will do this. Do not ask this."
“O, but you have promised you will; and you must take Willy with you."
“He sha'n't take me from my mother,” said the child, who just then ran in, and heard the last words.
“ He is your own boy, Fanny ; you have the best right to him. If I must go, I will leave our dear child with you.” 6 But
you shall not go ; you shall not leave me,” said Willy. “I will stay with father and mother too; let me hug you both together." And with his little but irresistible strength, the child pulled his father towards his mother, and lifted
up his mother's arm to put it round his and his father's neck; but it dropped lifeless. Mr. Roberts caught his wife, just as she was sinking on the floor.