Mr. Clement was a father, and an affectionate one, and this allusion to the innocence of the little sufferer touched his heart, and he was silent.
The widow proceeded: “there he lies, my only—only son—his departed father’s image, and I looked up to him to be one day my support, my pride, and my happiness—but see what he is now! Oh! James, James, wouldn’t I lay down my life to save yours!”
“You look at the dark side of the picture, Mrs. Vincent,” said the curate. “Think upon what he may escape by his early and his happy death. You know not, but that there was crime, and sin, and affliction before him. Consider how many parents there are now in the world, who would feel happy that their children, who bring shame, and distress, and misery upon them, had been taken to God in their childhood. And, surely, there is still a God to provide for your self and your other little ones; for remember, you have still those who have tender claims upon your heart.”
“I know you are right, sir,” she replied “but in cases like this, nature must have its way. Death, death, but you’re cruel! Oh—blessed Father, what is this!”
One last convulsive spasm, one low agonizing groan, accompanied by a relaxation of the little fingers which had pressed her hands, closed the sufferings of the widow’s pride. She stooped wildly over him and pressed him to her heart, as if by doing so she could draw his pains into her own frame, as they Were already in her spirit; but his murmurings were silent, and on looking closely into his countenance, she perceived that his Redeemer had, indeed, suffered her little one to go unto him; that all his little pains and agonies were over forever.
“His sufferings are past,” she exclaimed, “James, your sufferings are over!” As she uttered the words, the curate was astonished by hearing her burst out into one or two wild hysteric laughs, which happily ended in tears.
“No more,” she continued, “you’ll feel no more pain now, my precious boy; your voice will never sound in my ears again; you’ll never call on me to say ‘mother, take away my pain;’ the Sunday mornin’ will never come when I will take pride in dressing you. My morning and evening kiss will never more be given—all my heart was fixed on is gone, and I care not now what becomes of me.”
What could the good curate do? He strove to soothe, sustain, and comfort her, but in vain; the poor widow heard him not.
“Jenny,” said she, at length, turning to, the other sick child, “your brother is at rest! James is at rest; he will disturb your sleep now no more—nor will you disturb his.”
“Oh! but he couldn’t help it, mammy; it was the pain that made him.”
As the child uttered these words, the widow put her hand to her heart, gave two or three rapid sobs—her bosom heaved, and her head fell back over a chair that was accidentally beside her. Mr. Clement caught her in time to prevent her from falling; he placed her upright on the chair, which he carried to, the little dresser, where he found a jug of water, the only drink she had to give her sick children. With this he bathed her temples and wet her lips, after which he looked upon the scene of death and affliction by which he was surrounded.