There was amongst that host of children one little boy whose face was very fair; whose eyes were very bright, and whose little feet made merry music on the smooth pavement. Girls have a strong intuitive love of the beautiful, and Johnny with his liquid eyes, and dimpled cheeks, and floating ringlets of gold was the favorite of all the girls at school, often wished that I had roses to place upon his brow, and the waters of paradise to sprinkle on his cheeks, that I might preserve their bloom forever. But, alas! city flowers droop and fade and die; and though tears fall, like Hermon’s dews, upon the cold green earth where they are sleeping, it will not renew their blooming, nor bring them back from the grave.
I looked amongst the tiny throng one day, and Johnny was not there—I came again and again, and still he was not there. “He has gone away,” said I, “to gladden his grandmother’s bosom—his grandmother, who doubtless lives far away in some little cottage in the country. He will soon come back again.”
And he did come back again, for on a lovely summer day, when the birds and butterflies and children were sporting in the sun, I saw him seated in a little chair, amidst his young companions.
“Shall I soon get well again, to play with them?” said he, lifting his pale face and sad eyes towards his mother’s.
“Yes,” said his mother, with a sad smile and a deep sigh, “you will soon get well again, Johnny.”
Alas no, fond mother; the bloom has gone from his cheek forever, the beauty from his form. Henceforth, if he lives, the thoughtless will laugh at him, as he moves painfully about the streets—the wicked will mock him. In thy heart only, and in the bowers of paradise, shall he now, henceforth and forever live and bloom. Slowly and sadly I saw his pale cheek grow paler, and the lustre fade away from his eyes.
Time wore away, and this stricken flower of the city faded away with it. He could no longer sit and look upon his former playmates; the airs of Autumn were too cool at last for his sensitive, thin, pale, transparent cheek.
I was walking one day, in a pensive mood, along a crowded thoroughfare, where active men jostled each other in the pursuit of business. There was life and hope in their eyes, and vigor in their limbs. It is not on the streets that one is likely to meet the blighted flowers of the city—the drooping and the dying do not wither away there. Within the chambers of silent and sorrowful homes they breathe out their lives, and fade away.
As I walked along, gazing at the tall grim buildings and dark alleys, that were so full of old, historical memories, I was suddenly recalled from a reverie, by a feeble cry; and turning quickly round I saw, in the arms of a robust and rosy lad, the wasted, corpse-like form of my little friend. I do not know how I recognized him. It was by an intuition of the soul, for not a feature that his countenance bore in his healthful days, was visible.