’Finally, he was attacked by a cold, a very slight one, he at first thought, but it clung to him, and could not be shaken off. The poor fellow is now wasting away by consumption, but I cannot convince him of his danger, and to-day when I called on him at the house of his brother, I found him surrounded by books and papers, his large dark eye absolutely glowing with enthusiasm, and a deep red spot burning on either cheek.’
‘Oh, father, what did you say to him?’ inquired Harry, earnestly.
’A short time ago I recommended quiet and relaxation, telling him plainly that his disease was beyond the reach of medicine, so he understood my look of painful surprise at once.
’He only shook his head, laughingly, and said, “Ah, Doctor, this life is too short to throw away, and so I have gone to work. But you must not blame me,” he said, observing that I was about to speak, “I am only planning a few sermons I intend to preach next summer.”
’And then he went on to talk about his intentions, and inquired my opinion of some particular sentiments that he had been writing down, until he became so much excited that I was obliged to order the removal of all his papers. Poor fellow! he will never preach a sermon. In his impatience to become useful, he has destroyed his power to do good.’
‘I don’t think,’ said Effie, ’that poor Mr Varden makes knowledge his god exactly, because he does it all for good; but it would be very wicked for Harry or me to do so, because we know how wrong it is. I wish everybody that praised people for studying too hard could know it is wicked.’
‘But remember,’ said Mr Maurice, ’that where one person’s cheek is paled by hard study, fifty make themselves utterly useless by neglecting the bodily exercise which moderate mental effort demands. It is aversion to active employment, and not the love of knowledge, that has slain its hundreds and crippled its thousands.’
It was a bright and sunshiny day, and so warm as to make the snow moist and yielding beneath the foot—such a day as children love and choose for their happiest sports; but to at least two children it was anything but a day of pleasure. Poor Mrs Gilman’s little James had lingered on beyond all expectation, and finally died, calmly and quietly, as if he had been composing himself for sleep. And so it was—a long sleep.
This was the day on which the little one was to be buried, and Harry and Effie were sincere mourners. Not like the poor mother—oh no, no one could feel like her—but they wept as one child of adversity weeps for another, all through life, from the cradle to the grave.
Children are sad when they see those of their own age falling like the spring flowers around them; and when the little infant grows cold and lifeless in its cradle, beneath a loving mother’s eye, and is borne away to the silent, lonely graveyard, they insensibly grow thoughtful, and if they have been deprived of previous instructions, death becomes their teacher, and for a little time they grow wise beneath the influence of his lessons.