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Now cling to the rock, now give me your hand,—
Come rest on my bosom, if there ye can sleep;
Ye've crossed the wild river, ye've risked all for ma,
BLIFKINS THE RURALIST.—B. P. Siiillarer.
Blifkins had leased a house at a convenient distance from Boston, and every morning he might have been seen with the " innumerable caravan" that streamed down town from one of out- railroads, and, as the evening shades prevailed, with his basket of purchases, entering the railroad depot as regularly as a cow accustomed to come into a byre for milking.
When he first moved to his country residence, Mrs. Blifkins and her mother—Blifkins was blessed in his motherin-law, she was so good to advise—thought the place was charming. It was delightfully situated on the outskirts of the village, with a hill rising from the back door to a respectable altitude, and a brook but a short distance from the house, in which the children and the ducks could paddle with perfect freedom, and where the frogs came at night to serenade the neighborhood, and soothe it into peaceful rest by their dulcet notes.
His nearest neighbor, Mr. Pparin, dwelt in the house opposite, who, as Blifkins found a short time after he had located, was in the habit of indulging in occasional "times," —"benders"the initiated call them,—when he would be away for several days in the enjoyment of sublime indifference to home and everything else; but he was harmless to everybody except himself; and, after the fit was over, he would return, and settle down to work again as quietly as though nothing had happened, looking his neighbors in the face as composedly as though he had returned from a political convention, or a missionary meeting in some other place. If any one inquired as to where he had gone, he had an answer always ready, that, to those unfamiliar with iiis habits, was of the most satisfactory character. He informed Blifkins, who was at first curious regarding his disappearance, that he had been up in the country to see about some property that had been left to his wife; aud Blifkins had nothing more to say.
Sparin had been away three days at the time the grand incident of this veracious story transpired; and, as Blifkins alighted from the cars on his return from the city on that day, he was informed that Sparin had been seen by one of the neighbors going towards home across the pasture. On arriving home, he was surprised to find his wife, and his mother-in-law, and all the children arranged along the front of the house in a sort of evening dress-parade, gazing intently up towards Sparin's house. The night was calm and pleasant, and he thought at first, before he joined them, that they were enjoying the beauties of the evening. He was past the dressing-gown and slippers period, and therefore knew the parade was not complimentary to himself; but he said by way of a joke,—
"This, now, is really kind of you. There is nothing that cheers a man up so, on returning fatigued from business, like a kind reception from ' wife and weans.' This is really pleasant."
"Blif kins, don't be a fool," said his wife; "but look up there."
She pointed to a front upper window in Sparin's house, aud a queer sight met his startled gaze. A bright light that sat on a table near the window shone full upon a human face, that with staring eyes seemed to glare wildly upon vacancy, with a meaningless expression, motionless, while, at intervals of a few moments, alternate hands stole up to the top of the head, and then, with a seeming effort to grasp something, dropped again from sight.
"A pretty place you've brought us to!" said Mrs. Blif kins, with the acid slightly preponderating over the sweet.
"I'm glad to hear you say so, my dear," said he ; " I knew you would like it. The quiet of the place and the convenience of access—' five minutes' walk from the depot,' as the advertisement said, though I must confess that the five min
btesseem rather long between the railroad and my treasures." Gallant Blifkins!
"Don't be a fool always," said Mrs. Blifkins; " what is that?"
She pointed up at the window opposite, where the face yet remained—the eyes staring out into vacancy, and the hands alternately clutching the air, as it appeared. Poor Blifkins was as puzzled at the sight as was Belshazzar when he saw the writing on the wall. He scarcely dared to breathe his suspicions to himself; but it at once ran through his mind that the face opposite belonged to Sparin, who he deemed had come home, and was then in a fit of delirium tremens, fancying the air full of snakes and other venomous reptiles, and he was engaged in the interesting game of catching them. The idea was a horrid one, and he imparted his suspicions to Mrs. Blifkins with some timidity. Her mind immediately took alarm.
"What if he should kill his family," said she, " with a carving-knife, and then go round murdering his neighbors, and setting fire to their houses, and then finish with himself! Gracious goodness, it makes my blood run cold."
"I guess he won't do any hurt," said Blifkins, with affected cheerfulness. At that moment the figure gave what seemed a desperate grab, as though a particularly big snake were aimed at, and Mrs. Blifkins, in a tone of great earnestness, said,—
"Why don't you do something, stupid?"
"What can I do?" responded the unfortunate Blifkins.
"Why, go over and tie him," said the excellent woman, with a quick mind that never lacked for expedients. Blifkins, however, looked timidly at the stony face and the staring eyes and the hands grasping at the snakes, and did not jump at her proposition with the alacrity that a tender husband ought to have done, she thought.
He had a half-formed plan of raising an alarm of fire, and bringing out the engine company, but was stayed by the imperative question of his wife,—
"Why don't you go?"
Mustering courage, he ran across the street, when it occurred to him that Uncle Bean, as be was called, a soldier of the " last war," lived in the house with Sparin, and would undoubtedly go in and see how it was with his unfortunate neighbor. Uncle Bean, however, was in bed, and in response to Blif kins' knocks a window was opened over the door, and a voice harshly demanded, what the deuce was the row. Blifkins explained the matter as well as he could, which was poorly enough, as the veteran was a little hard of hearing. As soon as he could make the story out, he told Blifkins that he must be excused from doing anything, as he had just retired on four fingers of whiskey and a bad cold, and didn't want to be disturbed. He advised Blifkins to go down the street to Constable Grabem's, and get him to come up and attend to the affair, as it was his especial business.
The office of constable had been filled, from time immemorial, by some unfortunate who was unable, from bodily infirmity or otherwise, to get a living, but who was deemed sufficient to preserve the peace and dignity of the town, though a home guard of seventy men are now enrolled for that purpose.
Blifkins assured himself, as he came out again into the street, that the unfortunate was still there, though Mrs. Blifkins and the domestic forces had retreated to the citadel.
"Mr. Blifkins!" said his wife from an upper story window, "have you tied him?"
Without deigning a reply, because it might involve too long an explanation, and provoke unpleasant remark, Blifkins started at double quick for Grabem's, who lived some twenty rods down the street. The old fellow was cooling offin the porch of his house, tilted back in a chair made of a flour barrel, which just admitted his spacious person, and smoking a clay pipe. He heard the story patiently, but vouchsafed no reply to Blifkins' prognostications regarding the inebriate's performance of mischief, except "Let him."
"He'll cut his own throat, and then murder his family," said Blifkins.
"Let him," replied Grabem, puffing away.
"He'll set fire to the house, and burn the neighborhood!" screamed Blifkins.
"Let him !" shouted the constable.
"He'll kill everybody, and play the deuce generally!" yelled Blifkins.
"Let him !" roared the official, breaking the clay pipe as he tipped energetically forward.
Blifkins went back, and bethought himself that Sparin had a son,—a sort of second edition of himself,—who was disposed uf an evening to make merry with boys of his age, by the grocery at the other side of his residence, about as far as he had come to find the constable. He would go and see him, and have him go home and look after his eccentric paternal. He accordingly rushed, as fast as his weary limbs would carry him, to where he expected to find the lad. He looked up at the house as he passed by, and there was the face, still there, with the set eyes and the busy hands.
Fortunately for Blifkins, the boy was found; and on being informed of the suspicions concerning his parent, and expressing his own convictions thereon in a very precocious manner, involving sundry unfilial remarks, implying a wish that he might be permitted to punch his head, they started down the street together. The outposts of the Blifkins stockade saw them coming down the street by the uncertain light of the stars, and the whole garrison turned out to meet them, with the remark of Mrs. Blifkins, that he had been gone two hours, and that all of them might be killed and scalped if they depended upon such as he for protection. It was an exaggeration with regard to the time, because not more than half an hour had elapsed since he had arrived from the city; but something must be allowed for excitement, when a maniac, threatening violence, and perhaps death, was in the case.
Blifkins thought it would be best for the boy to go in, while he would wait outside of the door, armed with a bludgeon, to rush in at the first alarm. He accordingly provided himself with a cat-stick, and stood with a beating heart to await the result. He heard no sound from within. The stillness of death prevailed. Could it be possible that the maniac had rushed upon the lad suddenly and strangled him! He glanced up at the window, and saw that the Btony face had disappeared. He couldn't leave his youthful