“I’m glad,” said the wood-chopper, as they stepped out of the clearing, and turned to look back upon what he had accomplished, “that job’s done, and I can turn my hand to something else more like summer work.”
“Do you mean to proceed no further with your chopping?” inquired Armstrong.
“Not at present. All has been done that I desired, and I ought to respect Gladding’s conscientious scruples.”
Armstrong looked inquiringly from one to the other, but asked no question.
The hospitable invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Perkins was too pressing to be resisted, and it was not until the full moon had risen, that the gentlemen departed. The soft beauty of the delicious evening, or some other cause, exercised an influence over Armstrong, that disposed him to silence and meditation, which his companion perceiving, they returned home without exchanging scarcely a dozen words.
Man is a harp, whose cords elude the sight,
Each yielding harmony disposed aright;
The screws reversed (a task which if he please,
God in a moment executes with ease),
Ten thousand thousand strings at once go loose,
Lost, till he tune them, all their power and use.
The aberration of mind of the unhappy Mr. Armstrong was at last with inevitable and steady step approaching its dreaded culminating point. To the outward eye he exhibited but little change. He was indeed, at times more restless, and his eyes would wander round as if in quest of some object that was trying to elude his sight; at one moment listless, silent, and dejected, and again animated, almost gay, like one who, ashamed of an exhibition of moody temper, tries to atone by extraordinary efforts of amiability for the error. His intimate friends had some knowledge of these changes, and to Faith, above all, living with him in the same house, and in the tender relation of a daughter to a parent, each of whom idolized the other, they were painfully apparent, and great was the anxiety they occasioned. How bitter were the tears which in solitude she shed, and frequent and fervent her supplications to the universal Father to pity and protect her father! How willingly, even at the sacrifice even of her own life, would she have restored peace and happiness to him!
But to the neighbors, to those who saw Armstrong only in public, no great change was manifest. He was thinner and paler than usual, to be sure, but every one was liable to attacks of indisposition, and there was no reason why he should be exempt; he did not speak a great deal, but he was always rather taciturn, and when he did converse, it was with his usual sweetness and affability. They guessed he’d be better after a while.