“But if Mrs. Mudge finds it out she will abuse you.”
“I am used to that, Paul,” said Aunt Lucy, with a sorrowful smile. “I have borne it many times, and I can again. But I can’t lie quiet and let you go without one word of parting. You are quite determined to go?”
“Quite, Aunt Lucy. I never could stay here. There is no pleasure in the present, and no hope for the future. I want to see something of life,” and Paul’s boyish figure dilated with enthusiasm.
“God grant that you do not see too much!” said Aunt Lucy, half to herself.
“Is the world then, so very sad a place?” asked Paul.
“Both joy and sorrow are mingled in the cup of human life,” said Aunt Lucy, solemnly:
“Which shall preponderate it is partly in our power to determine. He who follows the path of duty steadfastly, cannot be wholly miserable, whatever misfortunes may come upon him. He will be sustained by the conviction that his own errors have not brought them upon him.”
“I will try to do right,” said Paul, placing his hand in that of his companion, “and if ever I am tempted to do wrong, I will think of you and of my mother, and that thought shall restrain me.”
“It’s time to go bed, folks,” proclaimed Mrs Mudge, appearing at the door. “I can’t have you sitting up all night, as I’ve no doubt you’d like to do.”
It was only eight o’clock, but no one thought of interposing an objection. The word of Mrs. Mudge was law in her household, as even her husband was sometimes made aware.
All quietly rose from their seats and repaired to bed. It was an affecting sight to watch the tottering gait of those on whose heads the snows of many winters had drifted heavily, as they meekly obeyed the behest of one whose coarse nature forbade her sympathizing with them in their clouded age, and many infirmities.
“Come,” said she, impatient of their slow movements, “move a little quicker, if it’s perfectly convenient. Anybody’d think you’d been hard at work all day, as I have. You’re about the laziest set I ever had anything to do with. I’ve got to be up early in the morning, and can’t stay here dawdling.”
“She’s got a sweet temper,” said Paul, in a whisper, to Aunt Lucy.
“Hush!” said the old lady. “She may hear you.”
“What’s that you’re whispering about?” said Mrs. Mudge, suspiciously. “Something you’re ashamed to have heard, most likely.”
Paul thought it best to remain silent.
“To-morrow morning at four!” he whispered to Aunt Lucy, as he pressed her hand in the darkness.
Paul begins his journey.
Paul ascended the stairs to his hard pallet for the last time. For the last time! There is sadness in the thought, even when the future which lies before us glows with brighter colors than the past has ever worn. But to Paul, whose future was veiled in uncertainty, and who was about to part with the only friend who felt an interest in his welfare, this thought brought increased sorrow.