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brain was so constructed as to supply the means of carrying out into actual and material results.
Gazing still more and more intently upon this wonderful picture, she who dreamed she was the mother of the child, became aware that the finger of the attendant angel pointed to one particular portion of the brain; and, turning her eyes in that direction, she soon discovered that there especially were manifest those indications of life and action which she had previously noticed busily at work. At first, the office of this function was but dimly developed; but, on looking more narrowly, all doubt was dispelled, for a most elaborate and complicated architectural scene was made beautifully manifest, in which, while all was still so minute that the eye of spiritual inspection alone could trace the different lines and orders, yet all was clear, and each part perfect in itself, without the slightest intersection or confusion of any kind. And there, in that fairy region of vital action and exquisite beauty, arose the slender column of Corinthian grace, the classic portico, the majestic dome, the silent shadowy aisle spanned by the Gothic arch; nor these alone, but minarets, and towers, and castellated-halls, each adorned in every part, according to its separate order, with the richest embellishments appropriate to the times in which that order prevailed. Here, too, might be seen the Pyramids, the avenue of Sphinxes, and the giant statue, still majestic, though reduced to a mere speck-for what cannot dreamers effect?-the statue sitting in its ancient solitude, and slumbering on through all the revolutions of time.
But in all this wonderful panorama, nothing was quiescent, with the exception of these memorials of the past, and even these began to totter on their base; each structure seemed rather to be in the very act of growing, of rising into form and fitness, and placing itself in some position of utility; and that immediately out of the rough material of which it was composed. Here the graceful bridge was thrown across the river by an unseen hand-there the promontory was pierced by the rapid tunnel;-on one hand the side of the mountain was cleft, and a smooth passage carried over the scattered rocks-on the other the very sea itself was driven out,
and a proud breastwork of safety planted deep amongst its raging waves. The
But what could all this mean? wondering gazer turned to the angel again and again to ask the question-what could all this mean? And still the heavenly messenger kept silence, only pointing ever to the same object, as if that alone contained all the message which it was his mission to deliver.
With an increase of effort to obtain the knowledge so much desired, the dreamer awoke. It is difficult at first to shake off the effects of any impressive dream, and it is still more difficult to make that impression understood and felt by others. Had Mrs. Clifton been a more imaginative woman than she was, she might still have failed in attempting to convey any just idea of this strange vision to the mind of her husband. Even to her own it bore no further importance than as being distinct and curious in itself, not as having any kind of relation to the duties which were about to occupy her life. Indeed, she was almost vexed that the dream hung about her as it did, and endeavoured, as people often do, to get rid of the troublesome idea by communicating it to others. Thus a nurse was soon made her confident; and with characteristic sagacity,. that domestic oracle gave out her interpretation thereof. "The child," said the nurse, "is to build up the fortunes of his house and family, and great fortunes they will be. Riches," she said, "were in store for the son and heir of the Cliftons; there could be no doubt of that-most likely titles for his descendants; and all through his own energy and skill in putting things together with a profit in them."
Mrs. Clifton did not quite see the riches which the nurse talked about, manifested in her dream; but, like many others, she allowed the woman to go on talking, not altogether displeased with the nonsense which she uttered.
And so in due time this sagacious personage, the nurse, held upon her knee a real infant, and uttered all her oracles in the living voice, with infinite variety of tone and cadence, the demand for which, on the part of helpless infancy, would seem, according to popular usage, to be without choice, as it is without limit. And
so the nurse went on, building up the fortunes of the family to the appropriate tune of "Auld lang syne," or any other that might suggest itself, with the little heir of the Cliftons in her arms; for the child was a boy, and consequently there was reasonable ground for belief that her interpretation of the dream would be fulfilled.
The mother, however, lightly as she thought of the picture which had been presented to her sleeping senses, had her waking dreams, to which she attached infinite importance. Yes-practical woman as she was, she still employed herself in dreaming, and trusting to her dreams; for this trick of looking perpetually into the future can scarcely deserve a more substantial name than dreaming, unless the occupation is carried on with some regard to system and principle as the foundation of purpose. And while the nurse sung loud and long about the fortunes of the house, the mother lay quietly planning and scheming for her child, with as much decision of will and certainty of feeling about its future lot, as if no unexpected accident or change had ever happened either to mother or child in all this changing world. There was this difference betwixt the nurse and mother, the nurse could sing of her prognostications to any tune, or to no tune whatever; the mother deeply pondered in her heart all that she imagined or pictured out for the future fortune of her child; and to no one, not even to her husband, did she ever disclose one hundredth part of those images which formed the grouping of her pic
The things that are dearest to us, we cannot always speak of the most freely; and very dear to the brooding heart of the mother were the schemes she was forming for her first-born child. She could not well have borne to have them dragged to light, and openly discussed. There was something too sacred in the fabric she was weaving for the future-weaving, as it were, in the very depths of her soulbut which was to clothe her child in dignity and beauty before the world.
It is more than probable, that even had Mrs. Clifton communicated to her husband one half of that which she saw so clearly in her waking dreams, that the result
would have been far from satisfactory; for the busy merchant was now beginning to have less and less time to attend to his
domestic affairs. We have said that even in early youth, Mr. Clifton gave promise of being an active, industrious, and successful man. He was one of a large family of brothers and sisters, and consequently did not embark in life with any superabundance of capital. Besides which, his habits were unostentatious; his mode of living respectable, rather than showy. He boasted sometimes that his wants were few; and so they certainly were in the way of personal indulgences. But, as often happens to men of his temperament, no sooner did he begin to realize the cares of a family, the increased requirements of even one addition to his household, than he took up the notion that he must set about more earnestly than he had ever done before, to make money; and thus it was, that while not wanting in kindness, either as a husband or a father, he became daily more and more at a loss for time to discharge the duties attaching to both. He believed, in short, that it was his business which required his supreme attention, and his utmost stretch of time. He believed that his grand duty was to provide the pecuniary resources for a rising family, and like thousands of fathers and husbands similarly circumstanced, he was in imminent danger of growing to believe that he had no other duty to discharge.
Mr. Clifton rejoiced with genuine gladness that his wife was safe and well; he was not a little pleased, too, that the child was of the nobler sex; but what availed to him all the blandishments of the nursery, all the wiping of a little mouth to make it fit to be kissed, all the fitting of a new hat much to the discontent of the little wearer, all the talk about coming teeth, and utterances of actual words, which singularly enough connect themselves with the very earliest stages of infancy, where a first child is concernedwhat availed all these to the man of business, when the omnibus which conveyed him every morning to the city was actually at his door?
Thus circumstanced, and believing implicitly in the popular creed of the genuine man of business, Mr. Clifton
rejoiced exceedingly in the wise selection he had made of a wife who was fully competent to take upon herself the personal management of his entire family. It was an excellent thing for him, he said to himself again and again, that he had so clever and managing a helpmate, one who was eminently qualified for looking far into the future, and taking into account all those little circumstances which he had no time for. Indeed his sphere of thought and action lay, as he believed, in a widely different and far more important line. The bringing up children, with such little matters, was for the woman-the weaker vessel; for him! why there were those taxes on colonial produce, and the effects they would be sure to bring upon the prices of sugars and molasses. If ministers really meant to carry out that scheme, they must look to their places, that was all he had to say.
So Mr. Clifton darted every morning into the crowded omnibus, exchanged a few passing observations with his accustomed fellow-travellers, took out his pocketbook, made a few calculations, and was then duly set down at the corner of a murky dismal street leading to his own office.
Thus the mother and the nurse remained sole and undisputed disposers of the affairs of the nursery, nor did they murmur at their responsibility. Mrs. Clifton, indeed, for a young mother, felt herself unusually competent to bear all in her own person; so much so, that it is quite possible she might not have yielded any considerable portion of it with a good grace to another. The plan of life laid out by her for her child was neither unreasonable in itself, nor unlikely to be realised. The framework of the plan was this; but it had infinite variety of details, not necessary to be specified at this stage of our story. Robert, the eldest son, now slumbering in lace cap and pinafore, was to be brought up to his father's business --there could be no demur about that. He would have a liberal education bestowed upon him, and would then be placed, as early as possible, in his father's office. Here he would distinguish himself, not only by general application to business, but by superior skill and acuteness as an accountant. This would please the father, and
give him confidence in his son, so that he would rise rapidly from one position of trust to another; his father's commercial transactions prospering and rising in the same proportion all the while. Then there were pictures of civic honours interwoven with these pleasant waking dreams—aldermanic dignities, and gorgeous city feasts; farther, honours received at the hands of royaltyknighthood, conferred in acknowledgment of signal services-all agreeing well with that interpretation of the mother's dream, as delivered by the nursery oracle, that the child was destined to become the builderup of the fortunes of his family.
Not that Mr. Clifton needed particularly just now, or appeared likely to need, much building up in that way. He was justly considered to be a prosperous man; but he owed much of his prosperity to his own prudence. In all his transactions, as already stated, and especially in all his personal indulgences, he evinced a degree of self-denial not often exemplified by the younger branches of what is called a prosperous house. Mr. Clifton, however, knew his own circumstances best. With honest manliness he had looked them fairly in the face before placing himself at the head of a household; and, while perfectly aware that he might as reasonably keep his horse and groom as half the young men who dashed past him on their way to the city, he still rode complacently in a vulgar omnibus, not unfrequently congratulating himself by the way upon the escape from trouble, expense, and vexation which this humble conveyance enabled him to enjoy.
Perhaps this constitutional desire to escape from trouble and responsibility stood out rather prominently sometimes amongst Mr. Clifton's other characteristics. In business, nothing could exceed his alacrity and attention. But then he liked business, it was his forte. His senses, his very soul, delighted in business. All those extra responsibilities, those little tiresome home matters, in which the women-folk are so conversant,-it was these which he did not, and would not trouble his head about; nor could he be brought to consider them in any way worthy the attention of a man of business. Yielding, then, as he did, to a sort of constitutional 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, seldon 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 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 inessenger ret 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 inoral — with the latter he had nothing to be Admiral Clifton ; the mother
thought this a fine-sounding title, and
the child was to be placed under the especial patronage of her uncle, a peculiar old gentleman, who did not appear to have a superabundance of the milk of human kindness to bestow upon any, child. The dream which preceded the birth of this child was of difficult intrepretation even to the nurse; who, on hearing it described, looked wise as ever, and shook her head in a more than usually knowing manner, but kept her wisdom to herself, thus showing more clearly than by words, that she had some pretension to the possession of that gift.
The dream, so far as language might render it intelligible, was after this fashion. A peculiar solemnity seemed to envelope the scene, when the filmy curtain was about to be removed. Indeed, a peculiar and strange beauty hung about this child, -something which the mother said on awaking made her weep,-she knew not why; so that she would almost have drawn back the veil, from an impulse of tenderness towards the unconscious sleeper. Seldom, indeed, did the mother afterwards speak of this dream. It pained her, she said, to recall it; and yet it hung about her even more than the former dream had done. It seemed to her, she said, when at first she did speak of it, that a clear soft music played about the child as it slept, sometimes low and deep, and then so shrill and plaintive, as if the voice of prayer were mingled with the cry of penitence; or that the great agony of primeval sin was the burden of the sound, -far more than any merely earthly feelings or passions? And then the scene which the living brain presented was so strange--it was half shadow, and half light; something, on the one hand, like the deepest midnight, or the most awful sepulchral gloom,- -on the other, the clear shining of early sunlight upon mountain tops. Then there was the wreathing smoke of incense burning on an altar, and then the far-off chanting of an unseen multitude, and harps were struck of sweetest melody, and angel-voices answered to each other, but all cried "welcome!" in different tones, and various speech. And then a tempest came, with wind and hail, and the deep booming of wild cold waves, and on the deck of a lone vessel lay a slender crouching form, with countenance of
agony, and cry so piercing that the
What could be the matter with her? Mrs. Clifton asked the nurse, that she must always be tormented with these stupid dreams. The nurse prescribed a sleeping cordial, and little more was said about the matter, until the birth of the little admiral that was to be-a puny, slender, blue-eyed babe, as unlikely as anything in human form could be, to climb the tall mast of the gallant vessel, or to breast the billows of a wild and stormy sea.
Some mothers would have suspected there was really a design, or at least a meaning, in these dreams, repeated as they were. But Mrs. Clifton suspected no such thing; and not even when the boys exhibited, as they often did in their childish sports, some striking characteristics, did the mother yield to any suggestions that she might have been wrong in the destination which she had assigned to each.
Some mothers would have read in their infant traits of character instructive lessons as to the training and the choice of circumstances, so far as they can be chosen, of their children. Some mothers would have thought it not only wiser, but more kind, to consult the leading tendency of character in choosing their children's posi.. tion, and future mode of life, than to consider only what in a worldly point of view appeared most advantageous; but Mrs. Clifton knew as much about the philosophy of human nature, as she did about that of the moon and stars; nor did the former enter much more into her domestic calculations than those bright luminaries themselves.
For this reason it is that we shall pursue the history of this family, not to exhibit any want of kindly feeling on the mother's part, nor even of the most earnest solicitude for the good of her children; but to show how inattention to those principles which lie at the foundation of character and conduct in general, may frustrate the best intentions, and turn the chief purpose of a busy and well-meaning life into a mistake.