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stranger came out, and seemed to be looking eagerly and wildly 175 around. He was dressed in seaman's clothes, was emaciated and ghastly pale, and bore the air of one broken by sickness and hardships. He saw her, and hastened towards her, but his steps were faint and faltering; he sank on his knees before her, and sobbed like a child. The poor woman gazed upon him with a 180 vacant and wandering eye. “O, my dear, dear mother! don't you know your son? your poor boy George?" It was indeed the wreck of her once noble lad, who, shattered by wounds, by sickness and foreign imprisonment, had at length dragged his wasted limbs homeward, to repose among the scenes of his 185 childhood.
I will not attempt to detail the particulars of such a meeting, where joy and sorrow were so completely blended: still he was alive! he was come home! he might yet live to comfort and cherish her old age! Nature, however, was exhausted in him; 190 and if anything had been wanting to finish the work of fate, the desolation of his native cottage would have been sufficient. He stretched himself on the pallet on which his widowed mother had passed many a sleepless night, and he never rose from it again.
The villagers, when they heard that George Somers had returned, crowded to see him, offering every comfort and assistance that their humble means afforded. He was too weak, however, to talk, — he could only look his thanks. His mother was his constant attendant, and he seemed unwilling to be helped by 200 any other hand.
193. Pallet (Lat. palea, chaff; Fr. paille, straw), a humble bed of straw or chaff.
202-219. Notice the beautiful tribute to a mother's love.
There is something in sickness that breaks down the pride of manhood; that softens the heart, and brings it back to the feelings of infancy. Who that has languished, even in advanced life, in sickness and despondency; who that has pined on a 205 weary bed in the neglect and loneliness of a foreign land; but has thought on the mother "that looked on his childhood,"
that smoothed his pillow, and administered to his helplessness? Oh! there is an enduring tenderness in the love of a mother to her son that transcends all other affections of the heart. It is 210 neither to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger, nor weakened by worthlessness, nor stifled by ingratitude. She will sacrifice every comfort to his convenience; she will surrender every pleasure to his enjoyment; she will glory in his fame, and exult in his prosperity; and, if misfortune overtake 215 him, he will be the dearer to her from misfortune; and if disgrace settle upon his name, she will still love and cherish him in spite of his disgrace; and if all the world beside cast him off, she will be all the world to him.
Poor George Somers had known what it was to be in sickness, 220 and none to soothe; lonely and in prison, and none to visit him. He could not endure his mother from his sight; if she moved away, his eye would follow her. She would sit for hours by his bed, watching him as he slept. Sometimes he would start from a feverish dream, and look anxiously up 225 until he saw her bending over him; when he would take her hand, lay it on his bosom, and fall asleep with the tranquillity of a child. In this way he died.
My first impulse on hearing this humble tale of affliction was to visit the cottage of the mourner, and administer pecuniary 230 assistance, and, if possible, comfort. I found, however, on inquiry, that the good feelings of the villagers had prompted them to do everything that the case admitted; and as the poor know . best how to console each other's sorrows, I did not venture to intrude.
The next Sunday I was at the village church; when, to my surprise, I saw the poor old woman tottering down the aisle to her accustomed seat on the steps of the altar.
She had made an effort to put on something like mourning for her son; and nothing could be more touching than this 240 struggle between pious affection and utter poverty: a black
211. Notice the alliteration.
ribbon or so, a faded black handkerchief, and one or two more such humble attempts to express by outward signs that grief which passes show. When I looked round upon the storied monuments, the stately hatchments, the cold marble pomp, 245 with which grandeur mourned magnificently over departed pride, and turned to this poor widow, bowed down by age and sorrow at the altar of her God, and offering up the prayers and praises of a pious, though a broken heart, I felt that this living monument of real grief was worth them all!
I related her story to some of the wealthy members of the congregation, and they were moved by it. They exerted themselves to render her situation more comfortable, and to lighten her afflictions. It was, however, but smoothing a few steps to the grave. In the course of a Sunday or two after, she was 255 missed from her usual seat at church, and before I left the neighborhood, I heard, with a feeling of satisfaction, that she had quietly breathed her last, and had gone to rejoin those she loved, in that world where sorrow is never known, and friends are never parted.
244. Passes, surpasses, exceeds, goes beyond. Storied monuments, monuments on which are inscribed some accounts of the brave deeds or the noble lives of those in memory of whom they are erected.
245. Hatchments. In heraldry, a hatchment is the coat-of-arms of a person dead; by it, his rank may be known. More specifically, "A hatchment (corrupted from achievement) is an armorial escutcheon [or frame bearing such escutcheon], lozenge-shaped, suspended in front of a house, in a church, or on the hearse at funerals, to mark the decease of a member of the family. From the form and accompaniments of the field, and the color of the ground of the hatchment, the sex, position, and rank of the deceased may be known." Zell's Encyclopædia.
SUGGESTIONS OF TOPICS OF INQUIRY.
What is the general character of this sketch? humorous? pathetic? narrative ?
Where is the scene laid? Quote to prove the correctness of your answer. What is the author's description of the church and the congregation? Give it in your own language.
Of whom does he speak particularly? Why?
Describe the funeral in your own words.
What funeral service was read? Evidence of the correctness of your answer?
Why is the sorrow of the poor woman very great?
Tell in fresh words all that is related of George Somers.
Commit to memory, "When I looked round upon the storied monuments," etc., to the end of the paragraph.
Select some of the most pathetic passages and expressions.
Are the words used in this sketch, generally speaking, short or long, common or unco mon?
Select all the words that are at all uncommon, and all the long words, and make an answer to the previous question from your own knowledge of words, and by means of your own judgment.
Is there simplicity or complexity in the story? Are the incidents multiplied and complex, or few and simple? Are they extraordinary, or do they relate to the common life of poor people? Can you give any reason why the story is so touching? Does the author seem to feel what he says? Would this have any effect on his writing?
Give the substance of the last paragraph of the sketch. Give in your own words an equivalent for each sentence in this paragraph, being careful to get in all the ideas and no more.
Find synonymous words (i. e. words having the same or nearly the same meaning) fo. the following: serenity, frigidity, awarded, survived, inscribed, quitting. Point out any difference that may exist in the meaning or use of the equivalent words.
RIP VAN WINKLE
[The following Tale was found among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker, an old gentleman of New York, who was very curious in the Dutch history of the province, and the manners of the descendants from its primitive settlers. His historical researches, however, did not lie so much among books as among men ; for the former are lamentably scanty on his favorite topics; whereas he found the old burghers, and still more their wives, rich in that legendary lore so invaluable to true history. Whenever, therefore, he happened upon a genuine Dutch family, snugly shut up in its low-roofed farmhouse, under a spreading sycamore, he looked upon it as a little clasped volume of black-letter, and studied it with the zeal of a bookworm.
The result of all these researches was a history of the province during the reign of the Dutch governors, which he published some years since. There have been various opinions as to the literary character of his work, and, to tell the truth, it is not a whit better than it should be. Its chief merit is its scrupulous accuracy, which indeed was a little questioned on its first appearance, but has since been completely established; and it is now admitted into all historical collections, as a book of unquestionable authority.
The old gentleman died shortly after the publication of his work, and now that he is dead and gone, it cannot do much harm to his memory to say, that his time might have been much better employed in weightier labors. He, however, was apt to ride his hobby his own way; and though it did now and then kick up the dust a little in the eyes of his neighbors, and grieve the spirit of some friends, for whom he felt the truest deference and affection; yet his errors and follies are remembered "more in sorrow than in anger," and it begins to be suspected that he never intended to injure or offend. But, however his memory may be appreciated by critics, it is still held dear by many folk whose good opinion is well worth having; particularly by certain biscuit-bakers, who have gone so far as to imprint his likeness on their new-year cakes; and have thus given him a chance for immortality, almost equal to the being stamped on a Waterloo Medal, or a Queen Anne's farthing.]