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Wilson's Border Tales
The Cripple


OR, EBENEZER THE DISOWNED.

It is proverbial to say, with reference to particular constitutions or habits of body, that May is a trying month, and we have known what it is to experience its trials in the sense signified. With our grandmothers too, yea, and with our grandfathers also, May was held to be an unlucky month. Nevertheless, it is a lovely, it is a beautiful month, and the forerunner of the most healthy of the twelve. It is like a timid maiden blushing into womanhood, wooing and yet shrinking from the admiration which her beauty compels. The buds, the blossoms, the young leaves, the tender flowers, the glittering dew-drops, and the song of birds, burst from the grasp of winter as if the God of Nature whispered in the sunbeams—"Let there be life!" But it is in the morning only, and before the business of the world summons us to its mechanical and artificial realities, that the beauties of May can be felt in all their freshness. We read of the glories of Eden, and that the earth was cursed because of man’s transgression; yet, when we look abroad upon the glowing landscape, above us and around us, and behold the pure heavens like a sea of music floating over us, and hear the earth answer it back in varied melody, while mountain, wood, and dale, seem dreaming in the sound and stealing into loveliness, we almost wonder that a bad man should exist in the midst of a world that is still so beautiful, and where every object around him is a representative of the wisdom, the goodness, the mercy, the purity, and the omnipotence of his Creator. There is a language in the very wild-flowers among our feet that breathes a lesson of virtue. We can appreciate the feeling with which the poet beheld

"The last rose of summer left blooming alone;"

but in the firstlings of the spring, the primrose, the lily, and their early train, there is an appeal that passes beyond our senses. They are like the lispings and the smiles of infancy—lowly preachers, emblems of our own immortality, and we love them like living things. They speak to us of childhood and scenes of youth, and memory dwells in their very fragrance. Yes, May is a beautiful month—it is a month of fair sights and of sweet sounds. To it belongs the lowly primrose blushing by the brae-side in congregated beauty, with here and there a cowslip bending over them like a lover among the flowers; the lily hanging its head by the brook that reflects its image, like a bride at the altar, as if conscious of its own loveliness; the hardy daisy on the green sward, like a proud man struggling in penury with the storms of fate. Now, too, the blossoms on a thousand trees unfold their rainbow hues; the tender leaves seem instinct with life, and expand to the sunbeams; and the bright fields, like an emerald sea, wave their first undulations to the breeze. The lark pours down a flood of melody on the nest of its mate, and the linnet trills a lay of love to its partner from the yellow furze. The chaffinch chaunts in the hedge its sweet but unvaried line of music; the thrush hymns his bold roundelay, and the blackbird swells the chorus, while the bird of spring sends its voice from the glens, like a wandering echo lost between love and sadness; and the swallow, newly returned from warmer climes or its winter sleep,

"Twitters from the straw-built shed."

The insect tribe leap into being, countless in numbers and matchless in livery, and their low hum swims like the embodiment of a dream in the air. The May-fly invite the angler to the river, while the minnow gambols in th brook; the young salmon sports and sparkles in the stream, and the grey trout glides slowly beneath the shadow of a rock in the deep pool. To enjoy for a single hour in a May morning the luxuries which nature spread around—to wander in its fields and its woods—to feel ourselves a part of God’s glad creation—to feel the gowan under our feet, and health circulating through our veins with the refreshing breeze, is a recipe worth all in the Materia Medica.

Now, it was before sunrise on such a morning in May as I have described, that a traveller left the Black Bull, in Wooler, and proceeded to the Cheviots. He took his route by way of Earle and Langleeford; and, at the latter place, leaving the long and beautiful glen, began to ascend the mountain. On the cairn, which is perhaps about five hundred yards from what is called the extreme summit of the mountain, he met an old and intelligent shepherd, from whom he heard many tales, the legends of the mountains—and amongst others, the following story:—

Near the banks of one of the romantic streams which take their rise among the Cheviots, stood a small and pleasant, and what might be termed respectable or genteel-looking building. It stood like the home of solitude, encircled by mountains from the world. Beneath it, the rivulet wandered over its rugged bed; to the east rose Cheviot, the giant of the hills; to the west, lesser mountains reared their fantastic forms, thinly studded here and there with dwarf allers which the birds of heaven had planted, and their progeny had nestled in their branches; to the north and the south stretched a long and secluded glen, where beauty blushed in the arms of wildness—and thick woods, where the young fir and the oak of the ancient forest grew together, flourished beneath the shelter of the hills. Fertility also smiled by the sides of the rivulet, though the rising and setting sun threw the shadows of barrenness over it. Around the cottage stood a clump of solitary firs, and behind it an enclosure of allers, twisted together, sheltered a garden from the storms that swept down the hills.

Now, many years ago, a stranger woman, who brought with her a female domestic and a male infant, became the occupant of this house among the hills. She lived more luxuriously than the sheep-farmers in the neighbourhood, and her accent was not that of the Borders. She was between forty and fifty years of age, and her stature and strength were beyond the ordinary stature and strength of women. Her manners were repulsive, and her bearing haughty; but it seemed the haughtiness of a weak and uneducated mind. Her few neighbours, simple though they were, and little as they saw or knew of the world, its inhabitants and it manners, perceived that the stranger who had come amongst them had not been habituated to the affluence or easy circumstances with which she was then surrounded. The child also was hard-favoured, and a disagreeable countenance—his back was strangely deformed—his feet were distorted, and his limbs of unequal length. No one could look upon the child without a feeling of compassion, save the woman who was his mother, his curse, or his keeper (for none knew in what relation she stood to him), and she treated him as a persecutor who hated his sight, and was weary of his existence.

She gave her name as Mrs. Baird; and, as the child grew up, she generally in derision called him "Esop," or in hatred—"the little monster!" but the woman-servant called him Ebenezer, though she treated him with a degree of harshness only less brutal than her whom he began to call mother. We shall, therefore, in his history mention him by the name of Ebenezer Baird. As he grew in years, the disagreeable expression of his countenance became stronger, his deformity and lameness increased, and the treatment he had experienced added to both.

When nine years of age, he was sent to a boarding-school about twelve miles distant. Here a new series of persecutions awaited him. Until the day of his entering the school, he was almost ignorant that there was an alphabet. He knew not a letter. He had seen one or two books, but he knew not their use—he had never seen any one look upon them—he regarded them merely as he did a picture, a piece of useless furniture, or a plaything. Lame as he was, he had climbed the steep and the dripping precipice for the eggs of the water ouzel—sought among the crags for the young of the gorgeous kingfisher, or climbed the tallest trees in quest of the crested wrens, which chirped and fluttered in invisible swarms among the branches. The birds were to him companions; he wished to rear their young that they might love him, for there was a lack of something in his heart—he knew not what it was—but it was the void of being beloved, of being regarded. It is said that Nature abhors a vacuum, and so did the heart of Ebenezer. He knew not what name to give it, but he longed for something that would show a liking for him, and to which he could show a liking in return. The heart is wicked, but it is not unsocial—its affections wither in solitariness. When he strolled forth on these rambles about the glen, having asked the permission of his mother or keeper (call her what you will), before he went, "Go, imp! Esop!" she was wont to exclaim, "and I shall pray that you may break your neck before you return." There were no farmers’ or shepherds’ children within several miles—he had seen some of them, and when they had seen him, they had laughed at his deformity—they had imitated his lameness, and contorted their countenances into a caricatured resemblance of his. Such were poor Ebenezer’s acquirements, and such his acquaintance with human nature, when he entered the boarding-school. A primer was put into his hands. "What must I do with it?" thought Ebenezer. He beheld the rod of correction in the hands of the teacher, and he trembled—for his misshapen shoulders were familiar with such an instrument. He heard others read—he saw them write—and he feared, wondered, and trembled the more. He thought that he would be called upon to do the same, and he knew he could not. He had no idea of learning— he had never heard of such a thing. He thought that he must do as he saw others doing at once, and he cast many troubled looks at the lord of a hundred boys. When the name of "Ebenezer Baird" was called out, he burst into tears, he sobbed, terror overwhelmed him. But when the teacher approached him kindly—took him from his seat—placed him between his knees—patted his head, and desired him to speak after him, the heart of the little cripple was assured, and more than assured; it was the first time he had experienced kindness, and he could have fallen on the ground and hugged the knees of his master. The teacher, indeed, found Ebenezer the most ignorant scholar he had ever met with, but he was no tyrant of the birch, though to his pupils

"A man severe he was, and stern to view;"

and though he had all the manners and austerity of the old school about him, he did not lay his head upon the pillow with his arm tired by the incessant use of the ferula. He was touched with the simplicity and the extreme ignorance of his new boarder, and he felt also for his lameness and deformity. Thrice he went over the alphabet with his pupil, commencing—"Big Aw—Little Aw," and having got over b, he told him to remember that c was like a half moon—"Ye’ll aye mind c again," added he, "think ye see the moon." Thus they went on to g, and he asked him what the carters said to their horses when they wished them to go faster; but this Ebenezer could not tell—carts and horses were sights that he had seen as objects of wonder. They are but seldom seen amongst the hills now, and in those days, they were almost unknown. Getting over h, he strove to impress i upon the memory of his pupil, by touching the solitary grey orbit in his countenance (for Ebenezer had but one) and asking him what he called it—"my e’e," answered Ebenezer.

"No, sir, you must not say your e’e, but your eye—mind that, and that letter is I"

The teacher went on, showing him that he could not forget round O, and crooked S; and in truth, after his first lesson, Ebenezer was master of these two letters. And, afterwards, when the teacher in trying him promiscuously through the alphabet, would inquire—"What letter is this?" "I no ken," the cripple would reply, "but I am sure its no O and it’s no S." Within a week he was master of the six-and-twenty mystical symbols, with the exception of four—and those four were b and d, p and q. Ebenezer could not for three months be brought to distinquish the b from the d, nor the p from the q; but he had never even heard that he had a right hand and a left until he came to the school—and how could it be expected.

Scarce, however, had he mastered the alphabet, until the faculties of the deformed began to expand. He now both understood and felt what it was to learn. He passed from class to class with a rapidity that astonished his teacher. He could not join in the boisterous sports of his school-fellows, and while they were engaged in their pastime, he sought solitude, and his task accompanied him. He possessed strong natural talents, and his infirmities gave them the assistance of industry. His teacher noted these things in the cripple, and he was gratified with them, but he hesitated to express his feelings openly, lest the charge of partiality should be brought against him. Ebenezer, however, had entered the academy as the batt of his school-fellows—they mocked, they mimicked, they tormented, they despised, or affected to despise him; and his talents and progress, instead of abating their persecutions, augmented them. His teacher was afraid to show him more kindness than he showed to others; and his school-fellows gloried in annoying the cripple—they persecuted, they shunned, they hated him more than even his mother did. He began to hate the world, for he had found none that would love him. His teacher was the only human being that had ever whispered to him words of praise or of kindness, and that had always been in cold, guarded, and measured terms.

Before he was eighteen he had acquired all the knowledge that his teacher could impart, and he returned to the cottage among the mountains. There, however, he was again subjected to a persecution more barbarous than that which he had met with from his school-fellows. Mrs. Baird mocked, insulted, and drove him from her presence; and her domestic showed him neither kindness nor respect. In stature, he scarcely exceeded five feet; and his body was feeble as well as deformed. The cruelty with which he had been treated had given an asperity to his temper, and made him almost a hater of the human race; and these feelings had lent their character to his countenance, marking its naturally harsh expression with suspicion and melancholy.

He was about five-and-twenty when the pangs and the terrors of death fell upon her whom he regarded as his parent. She died, as a sinner dies--with insulted eternity frowning to receive her. A few minutes before her death, she desired the cripple to approach her bedside. She fixed her closing eyes, which affection had never lighted, upon his. She informed him that he was not her son.

"Oh, tell me then, whose son am I? Who are my parents?" he exclaimed eagerly—"speak! speak !"

"Your parents!" she muttered, and remorse and ignorance held her departing soul in their grasp. She struggled, she again continued—"Your parents—no, Ebenezer! no!—I dare not name them. I have sworn!—I have sworn!—and a deathbed is no time to break an oath!"

"Speak! Speak! tell me, as you hope for heaven!" cried the cripple, with his thin, bony fingers grasping the wrists of the dying woman.

"Monster! monster!" she screamed wildly and in terror, "leave me! leave me!—you are provided for—open that chest—the chest!—the chest!"

Ebenezer loosed his grasp—he sprang towards a strong chest which stood in the room. "The keys! the keys!" he exclaimed wildly, and again hurrying to the bed, he violently pulled a bunch of keys from beneath her pillow. But while he applied them to the chest, the herald of death rattled in the throat of its victim; and, with one agonizing throe and a deep groan, her spirit escaped, and her body lay a corpse upon the bed.

He opened the chest, and in it he found securities, which settled upon him, under the name of Ebenezer Baird, five thousand pounds. But there was nothing with threw light on his parentage—nothing to inform who he was, or why he was there.

The body of her who had never shed a tear over him, he accompanied to the grave. But now a deeper gloom fell upon him. He met but few men, and the few he met shunned him, for there was a wildness and a bitterness in his words—a railing against the world which they wished not to hear. He fancied, too, that they despised him—that their eyes were ever examining the form of his deformities; and he returned their glance with a scowl, and their words with the accents of hatred. Even as he passed the solitary farm-house, the younger children fled in terror, and the elder laughed or pointed towards him the finger of curiosity. All these things fell upon the heart of the cripple, and turned the human kindness of his bosom into gall. His companions became the solitude of the mountains, and the silence of the woods. They heard his bitter soliloquies without reviling him, or echo answered him in tones of sympathy more mournful than his own. He sought a thing that he might love, that might unlock his prisoned heart, or give life to its blighted feelings. He loved the very primrose, because it was a thing of beauty, and shrank not from his deformity as man did. To him it gave forth its sweetness, and its leaves withered not at his touch; and he bent and kissed the flower that smiled upon him whom his kind avoided. He courted the very storms of winter, for they shunned him not, but spent their fury on his person, unconscious of its form. The only living thing that regarded him, or that had ever evinced affection towards him, was a dog, of the mastiff kind, which ever followed at his side, licked his hand, and received its food from it. And on this living thing all the affections that his heart ever felt were expended. He loved it as a companion, a friend, and protector; and he knew it was not ungrateful—it never avoided him; but when mockery or insult was offered to its master, it growled, and looked in his face, as if asking permission to punish the offender.

Such was the life that he had passed until he was between thirty and forty years of age. Still he continued his solitary rambles, having a feeling for everything around him but man. Man only was his persecutor—man only despised him. His own kind and his own kindred had shut him out from them and disowned him—his sight had been hateful to them, and his form loathsome. He avoided the very sun for it revealed his shadow; but he wandered, in rapture, gazing on the midnight heavens, calling the stars by name, while his soul was lifted up with their glory, and his deformity lost and overshadowed in the depth of their magnificence. He loved the flowers of day, the song of morning’s birds, and the wildness or beauty of the landscapes, but these dwindled, and drew not forth his soul as did the awful gorgeousness of night, with its ten thousand worlds lighted up, burning, sparkling, glimmering in immensity—the gems that studded the throne of the Eternal. While others slept, the deformed wandered on the mountains, holding communion with the heavens.

About the period we refer to, a gay party came upon a visit to a gentleman whose mansion was situated about three miles from the cottage of the cripple. As they rode out, they frequently passed him in his wanderings—and when they did so, some turned to gaze on him with a look of prying curiosity, others laughed and called to their companions, and the indignation of Ebenezer was excited, and the frown grew black upon his face.

He was wandering in a wood in the glen, visiting his favourite wild-flowers (for he had many that he visited daily, and each was familiar to him as the face of man to man—he rejoiced when they budded, blossomed, and laughed in their summer joy, and he grieved when they withered and died away), when a scream of distress burst upon his ear. His faithful mastiff started and answered to the sound. He hurried from the wood to whence the sound proceeded, as rapidly as his lameness would admit. The mastiff followed by his side, and by its signs of impatience, seemed eager to increase its speed, though it would not forsake him. The cries of distress continued and became louder. On emerging from the wood he perceived a young lady rushing, wildly, towards, and behind her, within ten yards, followed an infuriated bull. In a few moments more, and she must have fallen its victim. With an eager howl, the dog sprang from the side of its master, and stood between the lady and her pursuer. Ebenezer forgot his lameness, and the feebleness of his frame, and he hastened at his utmost speed to the rescue of a human being. Even at that moment a glow of delight passed through his heart, that the despised cripple would save the life of a fellow-mortal—of one of the race that shunned him. Ere he approached, the lady had fallen, exhausted and in terror, on the ground—the mastiff kept the enraged animal at bay, and, with a strength such as he had never before exhibited, Ebenezer raised the lady in his arms and bore her to the wood. He placed her against a tree—the stream passed by within a few yards, and he brought water in the palms of his hands and knelt over her, to bathe her temples and her fair brow. Her brow was, indeed, fair, and her face beautiful beyond all that he had looked upon. Her golden hair, in wavy ringlets, fell upon her shoulders—but her deep blue eyes were closed. Her years did not appear to be more than twenty.

"Beautiful!—beautiful!" exclaimed the cripple, as he dropped the water on her face, and gazed on it as he spoke—"it is wondrous beautiful! But she will open her eyes— she will turn from me as doth her race!—as from the animal that pursued her!—yet, sure she is beautiful!" and again, as he spoke, Ebenezer sighed.

The fair being recovered—she raised her eyes--she gazed on his face, and turned not away from it. She expressed no false horror on beholding his countenance--no affected revulsion at the sight of his deformity; but she looked upon him with gratitude—she thanked him with tears. The cripple started—his heart burned. To be gazed on with kindness, to be thanked and with tears, and by one so fair, so young, so beautiful, was to him so strange, so new, he half doubted the reality of the scene before him. Before the kindness and gratitude that beamed from her eyes, the misanthropy that had frozen up his bosom began to dissolve, and the gloom on his features died away, as a vapour before the face of the morning sun. New thoughts fired his imagination—new feelings transfixed his heart. Her smile fell like a sunbeam on his soul, where light had never before dawned; her accents of gratitude, from the moment they were delivered, became the music of his memory. He found an object on the earth that he could love—or shall we say that he did love; for he felt as though already her existence were mysteriously linked to his. We are no believers in what is termed—love at first sight. Some romance writers hold it up as an established doctrine, and love-sick boys and moping girls will make oath to the creed. But there never was love at first sight that a week’s perseverance could not wear away. It holds no intercourse with the heart, but is a mere fancy of the eye; as a man would fancy a horse, a house, or a picture which he desires to purchase. Love is not the offspring of an hour or a day, nor is it the ignis-fatuus which plays about the brain, and disturbs the sleep of the youth and the maiden in their teens. It slowly steals and dawns upon the heart, as day imperceptibly creeps over the earth, first with the tinged cloud—the grey and the clearer dawn— the approaching, the rising, and the risen sun—blending into each other a brighter and a brighter shade; but each indistinguishable in their progress and blending, as the motion of the pointers on a watch, which move unobserved as time flies, and we note not the silent progress of light till it envelope us in its majesty. Such is the progress of pure, holy, and enduring love. It springs not from mere sight, but its radiance grows with esteem; it is the whisper of sympathy, unity of feeling, and mutual reverence, which increases with a knowledge of each other, until but one pulse seems to throb in two bosoms. The feelings which now swelled in the bosom of Ebenezer Baird were not the true and only love which springs from esteem, but they were akin to it. For, though the beauty of the fair being he had rescued had struck his eye, it was not her beauty that melted the misanthropy of his heart, but the tear of gratitude, the voice of thanks, the glance that turned not away from him, the smile—the first that woman had bestowed on him—that entered his soul. They came from the heart, and they spoke to the heart.

She informed him that her name was Maria Bradbury, and that she was one of the party then on a visit to the gentleman in his neighbourhood. He offered to accompany her to the house, and she accepted his offer. But it was necessary to pass near the spot where he had rescued her from the fury of the enraged bull. As they drew towards the side of the wood, they perceived that the bull was gone, but the noble mastiff, the friend, companion, and defender of the cripple, lay dead before them. Ebenezer wrung his hands, he mourned over his faithful guardian. "Friend! poor Friend!" he cried (the name of the mastiff was Friend), "hast thou too left me? Thou, of all the things that lived, alone didst love thy master! Pardon me, lady—pardon an outcast; but until this hour I have never experienced friendship from man nor kindness from woman. The human race have treated me as a thing that belonged not to the same family with themselves; they have persecuted or mocked me, and I have hated them. Start not—hatred is an alien to my soul—it was not born there, it was forced upon it—but I hate not you—no! no! You have spoken kindly to me, you have smiled on me, the despised, the disowned Ebenezer will remember you. That poor dog, alone, of all living things, showed affection for me. But he died in a good cause! Poor Friend! poor Friend!—where shall I find a companion now?" and the tears of the cripple ran down his cheeks as he spoke.

Maria wept also, partly for the fate of the noble animal that had died in her deliverance, and partly from the sorrow of her companion; for there is a sympathy in tears.

"Ha! you weep!" cried the cripple, "you weep for poor Friend and for me. Bless thee! bless thee, fair one!—they are the first that were ever shed for my sake—I thought there was not a tear on earth for me."

He accompanied her to the lodge of the mansion where she was then residing, and there he left her, though she invited him to accompany her, that he might also receive the congratulations of her friends.

She related to them her deliverance. "Ha! little Ebenezer turned a hero!" cried one—"Ebenezer the cripple become a knight-errant!" said another. But they resolved to visit him in a body and return him their thanks.

But the soul of the deformed was now changed, and his countenance, though still melancholy, had lost its asperity. His days became a dream, his existence a wish. For the first time he entertained the hope of happiness—it was vain, romantic, perhaps we might say absurd, but he cherished it.

Maria spoke much of the courage, the humanity, the seeming loneliness, and the knowledge of the deformed, to her friends; and their entertainer, with his entire party of visitors, with but one exception, a few days afterwards proceeded to the cottage of Ebenezer, to thank him for his intrepidity. The exception we have alluded to was a Lady Helen Dorrington, a woman of a proud and haughty temper, and whose personal attractions, if she ever possessed any, were now disfigured by the attacks of a violent temper, and the crow-feet and the wrinkles, which threescore years imprint on the fairest countenance. She excused herself by saying, that the sight of deformed people affected her. Amongst the party who visited the cripple, was her son, Francis Dorrington, a youth of two-and-twenty, who was haughty, fiery, and impetuous as his mother. He sought the hand of Maria Bradbury, and he now walked by her side.

Ebenezer received them coldly; amongst them were many who were wont to mock him as they passed, and he now believed that they had come to gratify curiosity, by gazing on his person as on a wild animal. But, when he saw the smile upon Maria’s lips, the benign expression of her glance, and her hand held forth to greet him, his coldness vanished, and joy, like a flash of sunshine, lighted up his features. Yet, he liked not the impatient scowl with which Francis Dorrington regarded her attention towards him, nor the contempt which moved visibly on his lip when she listened delighted to the words of the despised cripple. He seemed to act as though her eyes should be fixed on him alone—her words addressed only to him. Jealousy entered the soul of the deformed; and shall we say that the same feeling was entertained by the gay and the haughty Dorrington? It was. He felt that, insignificant as the outward appearance of the cripple was, his soul was that of an intellectual giant, before the exuberance of whose power the party were awed, and Maria lost in admiration. His tones were musical, as his figure was unsightly, and his knowledge universal as his person was diminutive. He discoursed with a poet’s tongue on the beauty of the surrounding scenery; he defined the botany and geology of the mountains. He traced effect to cause, and both to their Creator. The party marvelled while the deformed spoke; and he repelled the scowl and contempt of his rival with sarcasm that scothed like a passing lightning. These things produced feelings of jealousy also in the breast of Francis Dorrington; though from Maria Bradbury he had never received one smile of encouragement. On their taking leave, the entertainer of the party invited Ebenezer to his house, but the latter refused; he feared to mingle with society, for oft as he had associated with man, he had been rendered their sport— the thing they persecuted—the butt of their irony.

For many days the cripple met, or rather sought Maria, in his solitary rambles; for she, too, loved the solitude of the mountains or the silence of the woods, which is broken only by the plaintive note of the wood-pigeon, the chirm of the linnet, the song of the thrush, the twitter of the dial-finch, or the distant stroke of the woodman, lending silence a charm. She had become familiar with his deformity, and as it grew less singular to her eyes, his voice became sweeter to her ears. Their conversation turned on many things—there was wisdom in his words, and she listened to him as a pupil to a preceptor. His feelings deepened with their interviews, his hopes brightened, and felicity seemed dawning before him. As hope kindled, he acquired confidence. They were walking together, he had pointed out the beauties and explained the properties of the wild flowers on their path, he had dwelt on the virtues of the humblest weed, when he stopped short, and gazing in her face—"Maria!" he added, "I have loved these flowers—I have cherished these simple weeds, because they shunned me not--they shrank not from me, as did the creatures of the human race—they spread their beauties before me—they denied me not their sweetness. You only have I met with among the children of Adam, who persecuted me not with ridicule, or who insulted not my deformity with the vulgar gaze of curiosity. Who I am I know not—from whence I was brought amongst these hills I cannot tell—I am a thing which the world has laughed at, and of which my parents were ashamed. But my wants have been few. I have gold to purchase flattery if I desired it—to buy tongues to tell me that I am not deformed; but I despise them. My soul partakes not of my body’s infirmities—it has sought a spirit to love, that would love it in return. Maria, has it found one?"

Maria was startled—she endeavoured to speak, but her tongue faltered—tears gathered in her eyes, and her looks bespoke pity and astonishment.

"Fool! fool!" exclaimed the cripple, "I have been deceived! Maria pities me!—only pities me! Hate me, Maria—despise me as does the world. I can bear hatred— I can endure scorn—I can repel them!—but pity consumes me!—and pity from you! Fool! Fool!" he added, "wherefore dreamed I there was one that would look with love on deformed Ebenezer? Farewell, Maria! farewell!—remember, but do not pity me!" and he hurried from her side.

She would have detained him—she would have told him that she reverenced him—that she esteemed him; but he hastened away, and she felt also that she pitied him—and love and pity can never dwell in the same breast, for the same object. Maria stood and wept.

Ebenezer returned to his cottage; but the hope which he had cherished, the dream which he had fed, died reluctantly. He accused himself for acting precipitately—he believed he had taken the tear of affection for pity. His heart was at war with itself. Day after day he revisited the mountain side, and the path in the wood where they had met, but Maria wandered there no longer. His feelings, his impatience, his incertitude, rose, superior to the ridicule of man—he resolved to visit the mansion of his neighbour, where Maria and her friends were residing. The. dinner bell was ringing as he approached the house; but he knew little of the etiquette of the world, and respected not its forms. The owner of the mansion welcomed him with the right hand of cordiality, for his discourse in the cottage had charmed him; others expressed welcome, for some who before had mocked now respected him, and Maria took his hand with a look of joy and her wonted sweetness. The heart of Ebenezer felt assured. Francis Dorrington alone frowned, and rose not to welcome.

The dinner bell again rang; the Lady Helen had not arrived, and dinner was delayed for her, but she came not. They proceeded to the dining-room. Ebenezer offered his arm to Maria, and she accepted it. Francis Dorrington muttered angry words between his teeth. The dinner passed—the dessert was placed upon the table—Lady Helen entered the room—she prayed to be excused for her delay—her host rose to introduce her to Ebenener.

"Ebenezer!—the deformed!" she exclaimed in a tone of terror, and dashing her hands before her eyes as he rose before her, she fell back in hysterics.

"Turn the monster from the house!" cried Francis Dorrington, springing forward, "my mother cannot endure the sight of such."

"Whom call you monster, young man?" said Ebenezer angrily.

"You—wretch!" replied Dorrington, raising his hand, and striking the cripple to the floor.

"Shame! Shame!" exclaimed the company.

"Coward!" cried Maria, starting from her seat.

The cripple, with a rapidity that seemed impossible, sprang to his feet—he gasped, he trembled, every joint shook, rage boiled in his veins—he glanced at his insulter, who attempted to repeat the blow—he uttered a yell of vengeance, he clutched a dessert knife from the table, and within a moment, it was plunged in the body of the man who had injured him.

A scream of horror burst from the company. Ebenezer, with the reeking knife in his grasp, stood trembling from rage, not from remorse. But he offered not to repeat the blow. A half-consciousness of what he had done seemed to stay his hand. The sudden scream of the party aroused the lady Helen from her real or affected fit. She beheld her son bleeding on the floor—she saw the vengeful knife in the hands of the cripple. She screamed more wildly than before—she wrung her hands! "Monster!—murderer!" she exclaimed, "he has slain!—he has slain his brother/"

"My brother!" shouted Ebenezer, still grasping the knife in his hand—"woman! woman!—mother! mother!—who am I?—answer me, who are you ?" and he sprang forward and held her by the arm. "Tell me," he continued, "what mean ye?—what mean ye?—my brother—do ye say my brother? Art thou my mother? Have I a mother? Speak!I—speak!" and he grasped her arm more fiercely.

"Monster!" she repeated, "offspring of my shame!— away! Away!—he is thy brother! I have shunned thee, wretch—I have disowned thee--but thou hast carried murder to my bosom!" and tearing her arm from his grasp, she threw it round the neck of her wounded son.

The company gazed upon each other. Ebenezer stood for a moment, his eyes rolling, his teeth rattling together, the knife shaking in his hand. He uttered a wild cry of agony—he tore the garments from his breast, as though it were ready to burst, and with the look and the howl of a maniac, he sprang to the door and disappeared. Some from an interest in his fate, others from a desire to secure him, followed after him. But he fled to the woods and they traced him not.

It was found that the wound of Francis Dorrington was not mortal, and the fears of the company were directed from him to Ebenezer, whom they feared had laid violent hands upon his own life.

On the following day, without again meeting the company, Lady Helen left the house, having acknowledged the deformed Ebenezer, to be her son—a child of shame—whose birth had been concealed from the world.

On the third day the poor cripple was found by a shepherd, wandering on the hills—his head was uncovered— his garments and his body were torn by the brambles through which he had rushed. His eyes rolled wildly, and, when accosted, he fled, exclaiming—"I am Cain!—I am Cain!—I have slain my brother!—touch me not—the mark is on my forehead!"

He was secured and taken to a place of safety.

The circumstances twined round Maria’s heart—she heard no more of Ebenezer the cripple, but she forgot him not. Several years passed, and she, together with a friend, visited a lunatic asylum, in a distant part of the country, in which a female acquaintance, once the admired of society, had become an inmate. They were shown round the different wards—some of the inmates seemed happy, others melancholy, but all were mild; all shrank from the eye of their keeper. The sounds of the clanking chains, around their ancles, filled Maria’s soul with horror, and she longed to depart. But the keeper invited them to visit the garden of his asylum. They entered, and beheld several quiet-looking people engaged in digging; others were pruning trees; and some sat upon benches on the paths, playing with their fingers, striking their heels upon the ground, or reading stray leaves of an old book or a newspaper. Each seemed engaged with himself—none conversed with his neighbour. Upon a bench, near the entrance to a small arbour or summer-house, sat a female, conning an old ballad; and, as she perused it, she laughed, wept, and sang by turns. Maria stopped to converse with her, and her friend entered the arbour. In it sat a grey-headed and deformed man; he held a volume of Savage in his hand, which had then been but a short time published.

"I am reading ‘The Bastard,’ by Savage," said he, as the stranger entered, "he is my favourite author. His fate was mine—he describes my feelings. He had an unnatural mother—so had I. He was disowned—so was I. He slew a man, and so did I—but I my brother."

The voice, the words, fell upon Maria’s ear. She became pale, she glanced towards the arbour—she cast an inquiring look upon the keeper.

"Fear not, ma’am," he replied, "he is an innocent creature. He does not rave now—and but that there is an occasional wildness in his language, he is as well as you are. Enter and converse with him, ma’am; he is a great speaker, and to much purpose, too, as visitors tell me."

She entered the arbour. The cripple’s eyes met hers— he threw down the book. "Maria!—Maria!" he exclaimed, "this is kind! this is kind, indeed!—but do not pity me—do not pity me again! Hate me, Maria! you saw me slay my brother!"

She informed him that his brother was not dead—that he had recovered within a few weeks.

"Not dead?" replied the cripple, "thank Heaven Ebenezer is not a murderer. But I am well now—the fever of my brain is passed. Go, Maria, do this for me, it is all I now ask—inquire why I am here immured, and by whose authority; suffer not my reason to be buried in reason’s tomb, and crushed among its wrecks. Your smile, your words of kindness, your tears of gratitude, caused me to dream once—and its remembrance is still as a speck of light amidst the darkness of my bosom—but these grey hairs have broken the dream"—and Ebenezer bent his head upon his breast, and sighed.

Maria and her friend left the asylum, but in a few weeks they returned, and when they again departed, Ebenezer Baird went with them. He now sought not Maria’s love, but he was gratified with her esteem, and that of her friends. He outlived the persecution of his kindred, and the derision of the world; and, in the forty-sixth year of his age, he died in peace, and bequeathed his property to Maria Bradbury—the first of the human race that had looked on him with kindness, or cheered him with a smile.


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