Page images


brain was so constructed as to supply the and a proud breastwork of safety planted means of carrying out into actual and ma- deep arzongst its raging waves. terial results.

But what could all this mean? The Gazing still more and inore intently upon wondering gazer turned to the

angel again this wonderfu! picture, she who dreamed and again to ask the question—what could she was the mother of the child, became all this mean? And still the heavenly aware that the finger of the attendant messenger kept silence, only pointing angel pointed to one particular portion of ever to the same object, as if that alone the brain; and, turning her eyes in that contained all the message which it was his direction, slie soon discovered that there mission to deliver. especially were manifest those indications With an increase of effort to obtain the of life and action which she had previously knowledge so much desired, the dreamer noticed busily at work. At first, the office awoke. It is difficult at first to shake off of this function was but dimly developed ; the effects of any impressive dream, and but, on looking more narrowly, all doubt it is still more difficult to make that imwas dispelled, for a most elaborate and pression understood and felt by others. complicated architectural scene was made Had Mrs. Clifton been a more imaginative beautifully manifest, in which, while all woman than she was, she might still have was still so minute that the eye of spiritual failed in attempting to convey any just inspection alone could trace the different idea of this strange vision to the mind of lines and orders, yet all was clear, and her husband. Even to her own il bore no each part perfect in itself, without the further importance than as being distinct slightest intersection confusion of and curious in itself, not as having any any kind. And there, in that fairy region kind of relation to the duties which were of vital action and exquisite beauty, arose about to occupy her life. Indeed, she was the slender column of Corinthian grace, almost vexed that the dream hung about the classic portico, the majestic dome, the her as it did, and endeavoured, as people silent shadowy aisle spanned by the Gothic often do, to get rid of the troublesome arch; nor these alone, but minarets, and idea by communicating it to others. towers, and castellated-halls, each adorned | Thus a nurse was soon made her confiin every part, according to its separate dent; and with characteristic sagacity, order, with the richest embellishments ap- that domestic oracle gave out her interpropriate to the times in which that order pretation thereof. “The child," said the prevailed. Here, too, might be seen the nurse, “is to buil:i up the fortunes of his Pyramids, the avenue Sphinxes, and , house and family, and great fortunes they the giant statue, still majestic, though re- will be. Riches," she said, “were in duced to a mere speck-for what cannot store for the son and heir of the Cliftons; dreamers effect ?-the statue sitting in its' there could be no doubt of that-most ancient solitude, and slunibering on likely titles for his descendants; and all through all the revolutions of time. through his own energy and skill in

But in all this wonderful panorama, putting things together with a profit in nothing was quiescent, with the exception them.” of these memorials of the past, and even Mrs. Clifton did not quite see the riches these began to totter on their base ; each which the nurse talked about, manifested structure seemed rather to be in the very in her dream ; but, like many others, she act of growing, of rising into form and allowed the woman to go on talking, not fitness, and placing itself in some position altogether displeased with the nonsense of utility; and that immediately out of the which she uttered. rough material of which it was composed. And so in due time :his sagacious perHere the graceful bridge was thrown sonage, the nurse, held upon her knee a across the river by an unseen hand—there real infant, and uttered all her oracles in the promontory was pierced by the rapid | the living voice, with infinite variety of tunnel ;-on one hand the side of the tone and cadence, the demand for which, mountain was cleft, and a smooth passage on the part of helpless infancy, would carried over the scattered rocks—on the seem, according to popular usage, to be other the very sea itself was driven ont, without choice, as it is without limit. And so the nurse went on, building up the would have been far from satisfactory; fortunes of the family to the appropriate for the busy merchant was now beginning tune of “ Auld lang syne," or any other to have less and less time to attend to his that might suggest itself, with the little domestic affairs. We have said that even heir of the Cliftons in her arms; for the in early youth, Mr. Clifton gave promise child was a boy, and consequently there of being an active, industrious, and sucwas reasonable ground for belief that her cessful man. He was one of a large family interpretation of the dream would be ful- of brothers and sisters, and consequently filled.

did not embark in life with any superThe mother, however, lightly as she abundance of capital. Besides which, his thought of the picture which had been habits were mostentatious; his mode of presented to her sleeping senses, had her living respectable, rather than showy. waking dreams, to which she attached He boasted sometimes that his wants were infinite importance. Yes-practical woman few; and so they certainly were in the way as she was, she still employed herself in of personal indulgences. But, as often dreaming, and trusting to her dreams ; | happens to men of his temperament, no for this trick of looking perpetually into sooner did he begin to realize the cares of the future can scarcely deserve a more a family, the increased requirements of substantial name than dreaming, unless even one addition to his household, than the occupation is carried on with some he took up the notion that he must set regard to system and principle as the about more earnestly than he had ever foundation of purpose. And while the done before, to make money ; and thus it nurse sung loud and long about the for- was, that while not wanting in kindness, tunes of the house, the mother lay quietly either as a husband or a father, he became planning and scheming for her child, with daily more and more at a loss for time to as much decision of will and certainty of discharge the duties attaching to both. feeling about its future lot, as if no un- He believed, in short, that it was his busiexpected accident or change had ever ness which required his supreme attenhappened either to mother or child in all tion, and his utmost stretch of time. He this changing world. There was this believed that his grand duty was to prodifference betwixt the nurse and mother, - vide the pecuniary resources for a rising the nurse could sing of her prognostica- family, and like thousands of fathers tions to any tune, or to no tune whatever ; and husbands similarly circumstanced, he the mother deeply pondered in her heart was in imminent danger of growing to all that she imagined or pictured out for believe that he had no other duty to disthe future fortune of her child ; and to no charge. one, not even to her husband, did she ever Mr. Clifton rejoiced with genuine gladdisclose one hundredth part of those images ness that his wife was safe and well; he which forined the grouping of her pic- was not a little pleased, too, that the child

was of the nobler sex; but what availed The things that are dearest to us, we to him all the blandishments of the nurcannot always speak of the most freely; sery, all the wiping of a little mouth to and very dear to the brooding heart of the nake it fit to be kissed, all the fitting of a mother were the schemes she was forming new hat much to the discontent of the for her first-born child. She could not little wearer, all the talk about coming well have borne to have them dragged to teeth, and utterances of actual words, light, and openly discussed. There was which singularly enough connect themsomething too sacred in the fabric she was selves with the very earliest stages of weaving for the future-weaving, as it infancy, where a first child is concernedwere, in the very depths of her soul - what availed all these to the man of busibut which was to clothe her child in dignity ness, when the omnibus which conveyed and beauty before the world.

him every morning 10 the city was actually It is more than probable, that even had at his door? Mrs. Clifton communicated to her husband Thus circumstanced, and believing one half of that which she saw so clearly implicitly in the popular creed of the in her waking dreams, that the result genuine man of business, Mr. Clifton


rejoiced exceedingly in the wise selection give him confidence in his son, so that he he had made of a wife who was fully would rise rapidly from one position of trust competent to take upon herself the personal to another; his father's commercial trans. management of his entire family. It was actions prospering and rising in the same an excellent thing for him, he said to proportion all the while. Then there were himself again and again, that he had so pictures of civic honours interwoven with clever and managing a helpmate, one who these pleasant waking dreams-aldermanic was eminently qualified for looking far into dignities, and gorgeous city feasts ; farther, the future, and taking into account all honours received at the hands of royaltythose little circumstances which he had knighthood,conferred in acknowledgment of no time for. Indeed his sphere of thought signal services—all agreeing well with that and action lay, as he believed, in a widely interpretation of the mother's dream, as different and far more important line. delivered by the nursery oracle, that the The bringing up children, with such little child was destined to become the buildermatters, was for the woman—the weaker up of the fortunes of his family. vessel ; for him! — why there were those Not that Mr. Clifton needed particularly taxes on colonial produce, and the effects just now, or appeared likely to need, much they would be sure to bring upon the building up in that way. He was justly prices of sugars and molasses. If mini-considered to be a prosperous man; but sters really meant to carry out that scheme, he owed much of his prosperity to his own they must look to their places, — that was prudence. In all his transactions, as all he had to say.

already stated, and especially in all his So Mr. Clifton darted every morning personal indulgences, he evinced a degree into the crowded omnibus, exchanged of self-denial not often exemplified by the a few passing observations with his accus- younger branches of what is called a tomed fellow-travellers, took out his pocket- prosperous house. Mr. Clifton, however, book, made a few calculations, and was knew his own circumstances best. With then duly set down at the corner of a honest manliness he had looked them murky dismal street leading to his own fairly in the face before placing himself office.

at the head of a household ; and, while Thus the mother and the nurse remained perfectly aware that he might as reasonsole and undisputed disposers of the ably keep his horse and groom as half the affairs of the nursery, nor did they mur- young men who dashed past him on their mur at their responsibility. Mrs. Clifton, way to the city, he still rode complacently indeed, for a young mother, felt herself in a vulgar omnibus, not unfrequently unusually competent to bear all in her congratulating himself by the way upon own person; so much so, that it is quite the escape from trouble, expense, and possible she might not have yielded any vexation which this humble conveyance considerable portion of it with a good grace enabled him to enjoy. to another. The plan of life laid out by Perhaps this constitutional desire to her for her child was neither unreasonable escape from trouble and responsibility in itself, nor unlikely to be realised. The stood out rather prominently sometimes framework of the plan was this, but it amongst Mr. Clifton's other characterhad infinite variety of details, not neces- istics. In business, nothing could exceed sary to be specified at this stage of our his alacrity and attention. But then he story. Robert, the eldest son, now slum- liked business, it was his forte. His senses, bering in lace cap and pinafore, was to his very soul, delighted in business. All be brought up to his father's business those extra responsibilities, those little

--there could be no demur about that. tiresome home matters, in which the He would have a liberal education bestowed women-folk are so conversant,-it was these upon him, and would then be placed, as which he did not, and would not trouble early as possible, in his father's office. his head about; nor could he be brought Here he would distinguish himself, not to consider them in any way worthy the only by general application to business, but attention of a man of business. Yielding, by superior skill and acuteness as an ac- then, as he did, to a sort of constitutional countant. This would please the father, and shrinking from these duties, it may easily be supposed how the increasing cares of So Mrs. Clifton went on scheming and his family added day by day new weight planning for her family, with the greatest to Mr. Clifton's estimate of the provisional satisfaction to herself, and not the less so, propensities of his wife. If, for instance, that she met with no interruption, nor was Mrs. Clifton wished to consult her hus- thwarted by any interference from others. band respecting any family matters, and it would have been strange had her so addressed herself to him on his return schemes been limited to the position, home from the city, his answer usually character, and destiny of one child alone. was, “ Do just as you think best, my love. In her prospective vision, there were more I am quite knocked up to-night. It is places than one to be filled, and the second impossible for me to be troubled about was, if possible, more important than the such things after all I have to do and first. think about during the day.” If Mrs. Mrs. Clifton had pride in her family. Clifton made a second attempt in the There was an uncle who had obtained the morning, the case was still more hopeless, rank of admiral on her side of the house; for then the hasty breakfast had to be and this fact, seldom forgotten or left out swallowed, the omnibus was rattling along of calculation, afforded no unreasonable the road, and attention was manifestly ground of hope, with regard to patronage impossible.

and promotion, could one of her sons be On Sunday, too, there was quite as little fairly placed in that particular line of chance of success on the part of the wife. distinction. This was a more secret-a Mr. Clifton was as bustling and punctilious deeper, and, perhaps, a dearer thought in his religion as in his business; and on the mother's part, than any which what with sleeping two good hours longer found utterance respecting her first-born, on that morning than on any other; and but it was not the less fixed in form, or what with getting all his family off to determined in purpose, for being seldom church, and ascertaining the time of the expressed. servants' return, and whether they had It was a curious circumstance in the really been to church or not ; what with an history of this family, that, previous to the excellent practice of his, that of inviting birth of each child, the dream was repeated, a clerk or two, who had no relatives in in which the angels again appeared to the town, to eat their Sunday dinner at the mother, again disclosed, as it were, the villa; somehow or other, the day always inner-working of the infant's brain, again slipped over without any opportunity for pointed to some particular development, engaging the ear of the husband and and again refused to explain by words father on subjects which he did not con- what their message was intended to convey. sider as within the sphere of his personal Mrs. Clifton believed that each repetition duties.

of the dream was nothing more than a In connection with this constitutional recurrence of her own mind to the imprestendency of Mr. Clifton, it must, in justice sion made on a previous occasion. To be to him, be stated that he did not, like some sure the scene was distinctly different in husbands, refuse to attend when consulted, each, and in each the heavenly messenger yet reserve for himself a large amount of pointed to a different exemplification of privilege in the way of finding fault when the meaning indicated. But it was all the thing was done. No. He was so fully nonsense” Mrs. Clifton said on awaking; satisfied with the superior capabilities of and so slight was the attention which she his wife, that he rather slid off from his gave to the fact, that even the dreams themown shoulders upon hers all the moral selves grew fainter each time they were responsibilities of their entire domestic repeated, and their meaning consequently world

, with the sole exception of getting less distinct and intelligible. Only in the his servants off to church on Sundays, and second instance will we attempt to describe having them in for early prayers on the the scene which was even then but dimly evening of that day; but these items of and partially disclosed. responsibility he regarded as religious, not The second little Clifton, if a boy, was with the latter he had nothing to be Admiral Clifton; the mother

thought this a fine-sounding title, and

moral to do.

the child was to be placed under the i agony, and cry so piercing that the especial patronage of her uncle, a peculiar mother woke,—woke weeping, and terriold gentleman, who did not appear to ! fied, and only to be comforted by the conhave a superabundance of the milk of viction that it was a dream,—a foolish human kindness to bestow upon any dream, and nothing more. child. The dream which preceded the What could be the matter with her ? birth of this child was of difficult intrepre- ; Mrs. Clifton asked the nurse, that she tation even to the nurse ; who, on hearing must always be tormented with these it described, looked wise as ever, and stupid dreams. The nurse prescribed a shook her head in a more than usually sleeping cordial, and little more was said knowing manner, but kept her wisdom about the matter, until the birth of the to herself,—thus showing more clearly little admiral that was to be—a puny, than by words, that she had some preten- slender, blue-eyed babe, as unlikely as sion to the possession of that gift.

anything in human form could be, to climb The dream, so far as language might the tall mast of the gallant vessel, or to render it intelligible, was after this fashion. breast the billows of a wild and stormy A peculiar solemnity seemed to envelope sea. the scene, when the filmy curtain was Some mothers would have suspected about to be removed. Indeed, a peculiar there was really a design, or at least a and strange beauty hung about this child, meaning, in these dreams, repeated as -something which the mother said on they were. But Mrs. Clifton suspected awaking made her weep,—she knew not 110 such thing; and not even when the why; so that she would almost have drawn boys exhibited, as they often did in their back the veil, from an impulse of tender- childish sports, some striking characness towards the unconscious sleeper. Sel-teristics, did the mother yield to any dom, indeed, did the mother afterwards suggestions that she might bave been speak of this dream. It pained her, she wrong in the destination which she had said, to recall it; and yet it hung about assigned to each. her even more than the former dream had Some mothers would have read in their done. It seemed to her, she said, when at infant traits of character instructive lessons first she did speak of it, that a clear soft as to the training and the choice of circummusic played about the child as it slept,- stances, so far as they can be chosen, of sometimes low and deep, and then so their children. Some mothers would shrill and plaintive, as if the voice of have thought it not only wiser, but more prayer were mingled with the cry peni- kind, to consult the leading tendency of tence; that the great agony of character in choosing their children's posi.. primeval sin was the burden of the sound, tion, and future mode of life, than to con--far more than any merely earthly feel. sider only what in a worldly point of view ings or passions ? And then the scene appeared most advantageous; but Mrs. which the living brain presented was so Clifton knew as much about the philosophy strange!--it was half shadow, and half of human nature, as she did about that of light; something, on the one hand, like the the moon and stars ; nor did the former deepest midnight, or the most awful sepul- enter much more into her domestic calcuchral gloom,-on the other, the clear shin- lations than those bright luminaries ing of early sunlight upon mountain tops. themselves. Then there was the wreathing smoke of For this reason it is that we shall incense burning on an altar, and then the pursue the history of this family, not to far-off chanting of an unseen multitude, exhibit any want of kindly feeling on the and harps were struck of sweetest melody, mother's part, nor even of the most and angel-voices answered to each other, earnest solicitude for the good of her but all cried “welcome !" in different children ; but to show how inattention to tones, and various speech. And then a those principles which lie at the foundatempest came, with wind and hail, and the tion of character and conduct in general, deep booming of wild cold waves, and on may frustrate the best intentions, and the deck of a lone vessel lay a slender turn the chief purpose of a busy and crouching form, with countenance of well-meaning life into a mistake.


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »