And so the boys chippered, chirped, and laughed on to a late bed-time, and then went to bed perfectly happy.
Then came inquiries about Henry, who had written not long before, and had wondered why he had not heard from Barton; and, at last, wearied and worn with his three hundred miles’ walk, Bart bade his mother good-night, and went to his old room, to rest and sleep as the young, and healthful, and hopeful, without deep sorrows or the stings of conscience, may do. In the strange freaks of a half-sleeping fancy, in his dreams, he remembered to have heard the screech of a wild animal, and to have seen the face of Julia Markham, pale with the mingled expression of courage and fear.
The blue chamber.
In the morning he found the front yard had a wild and tangled, and the garden a neglected look, and busied himself, with the boys, in improving their appearance.
In the afternoon he overhauled a small desk, the contents of which soon lay about on the floor. There were papers of all colors and sizes—scraps, single sheets, and collections of several pages—all covered with verses in many hands, from that of the young boy to elegant clerkly manuscript. They seemed to represent every style of poetic composition. It would have been amusing to watch the manner and expression with which the youth dealt with these children of his fancy, and to listen to his exclamations of condensed criticism. He evidently found little to commend. As he opened or unrolled one after another, and caught the heading, or a line of the text, he dashed it to the floor, with a single word of contempt, disgust, or derision. “Faugh!” “Oh!” “Pshaw!” “Blank verse? Blank enough!” Some he lingered over for a moment, but his brow never cleared or relented, and each and all were condemned with equal justice and impartiality. When the last was thrown down, and he was certain that none remained, he rose and contemplated their crumpled and creased forms with calm disdain.
“Oh, dear! you thought, some of you, that you might possibly be poetry, you miserable weaklings and beguilers! You are not even verses—are hardly rhymes. You are, one and all, without sense or sound.” His brow grew severe in its condemnation. “There! take that! and that! and that!”—stamping them with his foot; “poor broken-backed, halting, limping, club-footed, no-going, unbodied, unsouled, nameless things. How do you like it? What business had you to be? You had no right to be born—never were born; had no capacity for birth; you don’t even amount to failures! Words are wasted on you: let me see if you’ll burn.” Lighting one, he threw it upon the hearth. “It does! I am surprised at that. I rather like it. How blue and faint the flame is—it hardly produces smoke, and”—watching until it was consumed—“no ashes. Too ethereal for smoke and ashes. Let me try the rest;” and he did.