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less on the thin coverlid that insufficiently protected him from the cold.
On the doctor's entrance, the invalid languidly raised his eyes, as if in surprise at the interruption, but as quickly withdrew them to gaze perhaps for the last time, with all the fond affection of a father, on the countenance of the child beside him.
The little fellow could hardly have been five years old, but sorrow and he had made early acquaintance; nojoyous childhood had been his, no laughing playmates had he to share his sports, no tender mother's care to meet his every wish, and lull his infant woes to rest upon her bosom. He could not call to mind the remembrance of a kind word uttered from any lips save his father’s. Not an endearing expression, not an encouraging look, had ever been directed towards him, except from his only parent; all were strangers, and in his mind every thing of happiness was centred in the approving smile and affectionate caress of him who alone, of all the world, had ever treated him with gentleness and love.
This it was that imparted to the child's face a melancholy, thoughtful expression, such as is rarely, if ever, witnessed in the countenances of infants of so early an age.
But this poor boy, from the dawning of his memory, could only recollect the unceasing sorrow of his sole friend, and often, after watching his father's deep dejection, the fair-haired child, creeping to his side, and placing his little hand within his parent's grasp, would gaze into his face with a countenance so touchingly sorrowful, that it seemed as if he had been gifted with power to understand and enter into the feelings which made his friend and companion so unhappy.
Sorrowfully did the invalid gaze on the beautiful features of the infant, and what at that time must have been the agony of his feelings, when his internal monitor forced the conviction upon him that, in a few hours, perhaps minutes, he must for ever leave his boy, uncared for and unprotected, to the doubtful mercies of a cold, unfeeling world.
Life was with him fast ebbing to a close, and as the little fellow, unconscious of the near approach of his bereavement, nestled in his father's bosom, the unhappy parent breathed a silent, though fervent, prayer to Heaven, that at whatever time he might be summoned hence, he should not be parted from the only link which bound him to the world.
Who can tell the inward workings of that man's mind, when in rapid succession the destitution and misery to which he must leave his child, rose to his quick imagination! The hot tears coursed each other down his pallid cheeks, and the convulsive sob and heaving of the chest too plainly spoke the harrowing grief of that sad parting hour.
It has before been said, that Dr. Glitzom was a kind and warm-hearted man; and to a sympathizing mind like his, the scene before him spoke more eloquently to the heart than any words that could have been uttered. He was not one of those who can stand by the bed of death unmoved and unconscious of any thing beyond his own professional duties, and who can as readily turn away and enter on the common topics of the day at the instant the soul has left the quivering frame. Far different were his feelings, and the air of poverty and desolation which reigned around, too plainly bespoke the presence of stern misery and almost starvation.
Seating himself on the bed, the doctor silently placed the emaciated hand of the invalid within his own, and in that feeling tone of sympathy which never can be mistaken for feigned, anxiously enquired regarding his malady. Once or twice the patient attempted to speak, but the effort was too much; the sound from his lips died ere the words were formed; but his half closed eyes, intently fixed upon the child, bore certain evidence as to the direction in which his thoughts rested.
“What can I do for you ?” eagerly exclaimed the practitioner, as though in reply to the stedfast look with which he continued to regard the boy. “Where are bis friends to whom I may conduct him-where may I seek his relations, where?” But at this instant the well-meaning comforter checked himself, and mentally upbraided his own indiscretion in asking such uncalledfor questions—"where are his friends ?” Did the slow and pain. ful dissolution then so apparent, without a single voice to comfort him, speak of the anxiety of relations for his welfare? The questions seemed as very mockery, and the good samaritan checked his speech.
But what was to become of the child ? The parent was evidently dying; and could the infant be left there to perish? Heaven forbid ! But how to gain the required information to enable the doctor to be of eventual service, he knew not; and yet to let the spirit pass away without an effort to obtain some clue as to who the person was that now lay stretched before him, he felt to be a cruel injustice towards the offspring, so young, so helpless, and so beautiful.
Under this conviction, which he rapidly scanned over in his mind, the practitioner determined to make one more attempt, and was on the point of speaking, when the eyes of the patient lit themselves up with sudden brilliancy, and turning them full on his visitor's face, he slowly raised one of his almost transparent hauds towards Heaven, and with the other pointing to the child, uttered in a hollow and almost unearthly tone
“Will you ?”
"I will,” was the nearly unconscious reply; and the next moment Dr. Glitzom gazed upon a corpse.
Here was a situation far from enviable, in which the old gentleman found himself-sitting in a strange house, situated he knew not where—called in to witness the dissolution of a fellow creature for another world, and becoming involuntarily, and as if decreed by fate, the protector of an infant of whose parents he knew literally nothing, nor was he even acquainted with the name which had formerly belonged to the body now fixed in death before him.
From the boy he could gain no information whatever; in fact, the poor little fellow, although unconscious of the extent of his loss, knew, as if by instinct, that his only friend was inseusible to his caresses; and when he found his endeavours to obtain the accustomed endearments unavailing, he hid his face upon his parent's breast and sobbed with very anguish.
In this dilemma, the doctor happily bethought him of the woman, whose summons in the first instance had been the remote cause of his participating in the miserable scene he had but just witnessed ; nor had he far to search, for on pushing open the door, the land lady was found standing close to the threshold ready to act as circumstances might require.
“ Is all over ?" was her first and eager question.
“ The child," answered the apothecary,“ is of course too young to know the extent of his loss-neither can I glean any information from him regarding the names of his parents; probably you can assist me.
Indeed,” said the woman, “ not I; what know or care I who his relations are, though from all appearance they are not likely to do much for him : but come, let us see what the dead gentleman has left behind him," and following up her words by deeds, the unprepossessing dame advanced to take possession of the few things which the chamber contained, and had already appropriated to her own share a small writing desk, when Dr. Glitzom thought fit to interfere.
“My good woman," commenced the doctor.
“Good woman, forsooth, "repeated the lady. “Who do you good woman, here, I should like to know? And don't you suppose I am going to pay myself for two weeks' lodging with what I can find? And who do you imagine is to indemnify me for keeping the brat, till I get it on the parish ? No, no, live and let live; you've plenty of rich patients, so let me alone, and as I cannot afford to lose the price of my lodgings, I must therefore help myself.
At this most unfeeling address, the benevolent doctor was in no slight degree astonished-the more sn, as he was greatly at a loss to account for the apparent incongruity in her having in the first instance braved the inclemencies of so dreadful a night, apparently for the charitable purpose of procuring medical aid for her lodger-conduct which was wholly irreconcileable with this disgusting manner of speaking of the deceased; and it was not until the lady had explained that the reason of seeking professional advice was solely with the view of meeting any unpleasant remarks which the coroner might eventually feel disposed to make—and from no other motive did the apparently christian solicitude emanate-that the doctor began clearly and dispassionately to review the affair in which he saw himself entangled.
The poor child still lay weeping on the corpse, and as Dr. Glitzom marked his affectionate embraces, now lavished on a heap of senseless clay, the benevolent old gentleman inwardly vowed that, as long as life was spared to him, the boy should never need a protector. And well that promise was performed.
The first and greatest difficulty having been surmounted, the rest was comparatively easy of accomplishment, for on the doctor undertaking to pay up all arrears for lodging which the landlady might feel disposed to demand, the few things belonging to the deceased were readily handed over—the medical man at the same time promising to attend the inquest on the body.
All that now remained was to draw the child from the room where his father's body lay-nor was it without much persuasion and some force that he was carried to another apartment, where, in a short time, overpowered with grief, excitement, and fatigue, he sunk into one of those heavenly slumbers which none but children can enjoy.
The next morning's sun shed his glorious beams on the windows of Dr. Glitzom's old house, and penetrating the clean white curtains surrounding a small bed in an upper room, woke the young protege to a new existence, which in time left the impression of the events of his previous life but as the indistinct shadow of a dream upon his mind.
“ The strawberry grows underneath the nettle,
KING HENRY V.
In accordance with the promise made to the morose landlady, the doctor sallied forth on the following day, for the purpose of attending the inquest; and also with the view of gaining any information that might be collected regarding the deceased. In the first of these objects, he fully succeeded, neither was it a task of much difficulty to point out to the Coroner and his coadjutors, that the natural follower on grief and bitter privation may, in all human probability, be death; nor was it necessary to seek for hidden causes, wherewith to account for the dissolution of the prisoner, since there was little visible in the miserable apartment where the body reposed, which was likely to have induced the late occupier to cling to life with more than common tenacity.
Of the child's existence all appeared wholly ignorant ; nor was a word uttered which could lead the worthy practitioner to imagine the circumstance an object of interest to any human being safe himself. No anxiety whatever was manifested, with regard to the property of the dead, if property it could be called
-the external evidence of all around, rendering it superfluous to enquire whether anything of value could by possibility have been in the possession of the defunct.
The only circumstance which seemed to excite the slightest particle of interest, arose in the complaints and murmurs of the parish officers, upon whom devolved the duty of seeing consigned to the earth, the body, on which when instinct with life, they would not have expended the meanest trifle.
Thoroughly disgusted with the parties, and feeling a somewhat compunctious throb at leaving the remains of the parent of the child he had adopted, in the hands of such mercenary agents, he at once expressed his determination to defray all expenses of the funeral, and thus in an instant converted the gloomy looks of the bystanders into a satisfactory smile, anything but in accordance with the scene around.
In vain the worthy doctor endeavoured to elicit some information regarding the dead. None of those present knew aught on the subject; and if the truth were told, cared as little. The