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Chapter 22 Offences are Easily Pardoned Where There is Love at Bottom.

  • THE next morning I took my daughter behind me, and set out on my return home.
  • As we travelled along, I strove by every persuasion to calm her sorrows an_ears, and to arm her with resolution to bear the presence of her offende_other. I took every opportunity, from the prospect of a fine country, throug_hich we passed, to observe how much kinder Heaven was to us, than we to eac_ther, and that the misfortunes of nature's making were very few. I assure_er that she should never perceive any change in my affections, and tha_uring my life, which yet might be long, she might depend upon a guardian an_n instructor. I armed her against the censures of the world; showed her tha_ooks were sweet, unreproaching companions to the miserable, and that if the_ould not bring us to enjoy life, they would at least teach us to endure it.
  • The hired horse that we rode was to be put up that night at an inn by the way,
  • within about five miles from my house; and as I was willing to prepare m_amily for my daughter's reception, I determined to leave her that night a_he inn, and I to return for her, accompanied by my daughter Sophia, early th_ext morning. It was night before we reached our appointed stage; however,
  • after seeing her provided with a decent apartment, and having ordered th_ostess to prepare proper refreshments, I kissed her, and proceeded toward_ome. And now my heart caught new sensations of pleasure the nearer _pproached that peaceful mansion. As a bird that had been frightened f rom it_est, my affections outwent my haste, and hovered round my little firesid_ith all the rapture of expectation. I called up the many fond things I had t_ay, and anticipated the welcome I was to receive. I already felt my wife'_ender embrace, and smiled at the joy of my little ones. As I walked bu_lowly, the night waned apace. The laborers of the day were all retired t_est; the lights were out in every cottage; no sounds were heard but of th_hrilling cock, and the deep-mouthed watch-dog at hollow distance. _pproached my little abode of pleasure, and before I was within a furlong o_he place, our honest mastiff came running to welcome me.
  • It was now near midnight that I came to knock at my door; all was still an_ilent; my heart dilated with unutterable happiness; when, to my amazement, _aw the house bursting out in a blaze of fire, and every aperture red wit_onflagration! I gave a loud convulsive outcry, and fell upon the pavemen_nsensible. This alarmed my son, who had till this been asleep, and h_erceiving the flames instantly waked my wife and daughter, and all runnin_ut naked and wild with apprehension, recalled me to life with their anguish.
  • But it was only to objects of new terror; for the flames had by this tim_aught the roof of our dwelling, part after part continuing to fall in, whil_he family stood with silent agony looking on as if they enjoyed the blaze. _azed upon them and upon it by turns, and then looked round me for my tw_ittle ones; but they were not to be seen. 0 misery! "Where," cried I, "wher_re my little ones?"-"They are burnt to death in the flames," says my wife,
  • calmly, "and I will die with them." That moment I heard the cry of the babe_ithin, who were just awaked by the fire, and nothing could have stopped me.
  • "Where, where are my children?" cried I, rushing through the flames, an_ursting the door of the chamber in which they were confined. "Where are m_ittle ones?"-"Here, dear papa, here we are," cried they, together, while th_lames were just catching the bed where they lay. I caught them both in m_rms. and snatching them ran through the fire as fast as possible, while jus_s I was got out, the roof sunk in. "-Now," cried I, holding up my children,
  • "now let the flames burn on, and all my possessions perish. Here they are; _ave saved my treasure. Here, my dearest, here are our treasures, and we shal_et be happy." We kissed our little darlings a thousand times, they clasped u_ound the neck, and seemed to share our transports, while their mother laughe_nd wept by turns.
  • I now stood a calm spectator of the flames, and after some time began t_erceive that my arm to the shoulder was scorched in a terrible manner. I_as, therefore, out of my power to give my son any assistance, either i_ttempting to save our goods, or preventing the flames spreading to our corn.
  • By this time the neighbors were alarmed, and came running to our assistance;
  • but all they could do was to stand, like us, spectators of the calamity. M_oods, among which were the notes I had reserved for my daughters' fortunes,
  • were entirely consumed, except a box with some papers that stood in th_itchen, and two or three things more of little consequence, which my so_rought away in the beginning. The neighbors contributed, however, what the_ould to lighten our distress. They brought us clothes, and furnished one o_ur outhouses with kitchen utensils; so that by daylight we had another,
  • though a wretched dwelling, to retire to. My honest next neighbor and hi_hildren were not the least assiduous in providing us with everythin_ecessary, and offering whatever consolation untutored benevolence coul_uggest.
  • When the fears of my family had subsided, curiosity to know the cause of m_ong stay began to take place; having, therefore, informed them of ever_articular, I proceeded to prepare them for the reception of our lost one, an_hough we had nothing but wretchedness now to impart, I was willing to procur_er a welcome to what we had. This task would have been more difficult but fo_ur recent calamity, which had humbled my wife's pride and blunted it by mor_oignant afflictions. Being unable to go for my poor child myself, as my ar_rew very painful, I sent my son and daughter, who soon returned, supportin_he wretched delinquent, who had not the courage to look up at her mother,
  • whom no instructions of mine could persuade to a perfect reconciliation; fo_omen have a much stronger sense of female error than men. "Ah, madam," crie_er mother, "this is but a poor place you have come to after so much finery.
  • My daughter Sophy and I can afford but little entertainment to persons wh_ave kept company only with people of distinction. Yes, Miss Livy, your poo_ather and I have suffered very much of late; but I hope Heaven will forgiv_ou." During this reception the unhappy victim stood pale and trembling,
  • unable to weep or to reply; but I could not continue a silent spectator of he_istress; wherefore assuming a degree of severity in my voice and manner,
  • which was ever followed with instant submission: "I entreat, woman, that m_ords may be now marked once for all; I have here brought you back a poo_eluded wanderer: her return to duty demands the revival of our tenderness.
  • The real hardships of life are now coming fast upon us; let us not, therefore,
  • increase them by dissension among each other. If we live harmoniousl_ogether, we may yet be contented, as there are enough of us to shut out th_ensuring world and keep each other in countenance. The kindness of Heaven i_romised to the penitent, and let ours be directed by the example. Heaven, w_re assured, is much more pleased to view a repentant sinner, than ninety-nin_ersons who have supported a course of undeviating rectitude. And this i_ight; for that single effort by which we stop short in the downhill path t_erdition, is itself a greater exertion of virtue than a hundred acts o_ustice."