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The Path of Duty, and Other Stories eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 262 pages of information about The Path of Duty, and Other Stories.

EARNEST HARWOOD;

OR,

THE ADOPTED SON.

CHAPTER I.

It was on a pleasant afternoon, in the month of June, some years ago, that a small funeral procession might have been seen slowly wending its way to the church-yard from the dwelling of Mr. Humphrey, in the village of Walden in one of the Eastern States.  Although a deep seriousness pervaded the small company, and the manner of each was subdued, yet there were no visible tokens of that strong grief which overwhelms the soul when the ties of nature are rent asunder; for, with the exception of a little boy, apparently about five years of age, whom Mr. Humphrey kindly led by the hand, no one present bore any relationship to the deceased.  As the procession approached the grave, and the coffin was lowered to its final resting-place, the little boy sobbed bitterly as he begged of Mr. Humphrey not to allow them to bury his mamma in the ground.  Mr. Humphrey took the child in his arms, and endeavored to quiet him by many kind and soothing words, explaining to him, so far as the child was able to comprehend his meaning, that the soul of his mamma was now in Heaven, but that it was necessary that her dead body should be buried in the grave; and that although he would see her no more in this world he would, if he were a good boy, meet her one day in Heaven.  The child still continued to weep, though less bitterly than before,—­and when the grave had been filled up he quietly allowed Mr. Humphrey to lead him from the church-yard.

In order that the reader may understand the event above narrated, it is necessary that I should go back a little in my story.

A few weeks previous to the circumstance related at the opening of this chapter a pale weary-looking woman, leading by the hand a little boy, might have been seen walking one evening along the principal street of the small village of Walden.  Although her dress was extremely plain, yet there was a certain air of refinement about her which informed the observer that she had once occupied a position very different from what was indicated by her present appearance.  The little boy by her side was indeed a child of surpassing beauty.  His complexion was clear and fair, and a profusion of dark brown hair clustered in thick curls around his full white brow.  His childish features were lighted up by large and expressive eyes of a dark hazel color.  He was a child which the most careless observer would hardly pass by without turning to gaze a second time upon his wondrous beauty.

I have been thus particular in describing the little boy as he is to be the principal actor in the simple scenes of my story.

As they walked slowly forward the woman addressed the child in a voice that was weak and tremulous from fatigue, saying,—­

“We must call at some house and seek a shelter for the night, for indeed I am unable to walk further.”

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