When Armstrong raised himself from the ground the storm had ceased, the clouds had left the sky, and the stars were shining brilliantly. He gazed around, then looked up into the blue vault. What were those innumerable shining points? Were they worlds, as the learned have said? Were they inhabited by beings like himself, doomed to sin and suffer? Did they suffer, more or less? Could the errors of a few years be expiated by sufferings of ages, as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore? He struck the palm of his hand violently on his forehead; he threw out his arm, as if in defiance, toward heaven, and groaned aloud. It seemed as though from every heaped-up grave that groan was echoed, and called to him like an invitation to join the hosts of darkness. He started, and looked again at the gruel sky. But no voice of comfort was breathed thence. The silver stars were now sparks of an universal conflagration. With a gesture of despair, he left the city of the dead.
Silence and darkness still shrouded the house of Mr. Armstrong on his return. He closed the door quietly after him, and, cautiously as he had descended, ascended the stairs, which, in spite of all his precaution, creaked under his feet. The sounds sent a thrill of alarm through him as though he feared discovery. It was as if he were returning from some guilty enterprise. Without striking a light, he threw off his soaked garments, and got into bed. Strange, perhaps, to say, he soon fell into a sleep, deeper and more refreshing than any he had for a long time enjoyed. It may be that the excitement of his system was worked off by rapid motion, and exposure to the night air and rain, or that nature, unable longer to endure it, sunk beneath the tension. It was not until a late hour he arose, when he found breakfast awaiting him. After the usual greetings, Faith said:
“Here is your penknife, father, which Felix found lying on the path this morning. You must have lost it from your pocket.”
Mr. Armstrong took the knife, without reply, and, when unobserved, dropped it into the fire.
Cities humming with a restless crowd
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain.
We have a little anticipated the order of events for the purpose of presenting more clearly the details of the story, it being after the departure of the Solitary and Pownal that some of them occurred. The favorable wind for which the packet Calypso had waited for two or three days at last came, and with a flowing sheet the good sloop sped over the waters of the Severn.