Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

was not admitted, even in this partial way, into the secret. She was made to consider the stranger as some common strolling countryman; and the better to sustain this idea, he was taken into the cow-herd's service, and employed in various ways, from time to time, in labours about the house and farm. Alfred's thoughts, however, were little interested in these occupations. His mind dwelt incessantly upon his misfortunes and the calamities which had befallen his kingdom. He was harassed by continual suspense and anxiety, not being able to gain any clear or certain intelligence about the condition and movements of either his friends or foes. He was revolving continually vague and half-formed plans for resuming the command of his army and attempting to regain his kingdom, and wearying himself with fruitless attempts to devise means to accomplish these ends. Whenever he engaged voluntarily in any occupation, it would always be something in harmony with these trains of thought and these plans. He would repair and put in order implements of hunting, or anything else which might be deemed to have some relation to war. He would make bows and arrows in the chimney corner, lost all the time in melancholy reveries, or in wild and visionary schemes and future exploits.

One evening, while he was thus at work, the cow-herd's wife left, for a few moments, some cakes under his charge, which she was baking upon the great stone hearth, in preparation for their common supper. Alfred, as might have been expected, let the cakes burn. The woman, when she came back and found them smoking, was very angry. She told him that he could eat the cakes fast enough when they were baked, though it seemed he was too lazy and good for nothing to do the least thing in helping to bake them. What wide spread and lasting effects result soinetimes from the most trifling and inadequate of causes! The singularity of such an adventure befalling a monarch in disguise, and the reproaches with which the woman rebuked him, invest this incident with an interest which carries it every where spontaneously among mankind. Millions within the last thousand years have heard the name of Alfred, who have known no more of him than this story; and millions more, who never would have heard of him but for this story, have been led by it to study the whole history of his life ; so that the unconscious cow.herd's wife, in scolding the disguised monarch for forgetting her cakes, was perhaps doing more than he ever did himself for the wide extension of his future fame. How Alfred regained his kingdom, the

at things he afterwards did for the benefit of his country, and how he at length died in peace and honour, we will tell you very soon.

A BLIND, DEAF, AND DUMB BOY. ABOUT 1817, Professor Stuart read to the Royal Society at Edinburgh a paper containing a singular account of a boy born blind and deaf. The name of the boy (he said) was James Mitchell, the son of a clergyman, in the county of Nairn, in Scotland. His chief pleasures were derived from his taste and smell. He found amusement also in the exercise of touch, and would employ himself for hours in gathering,

from the bed of a river, round and smooth stones, which he afterwards arranged in a circular form, seating himself in the midst of the circle. He explored, by touch, a space of about 200 yards round the parsonage, to every part of which he walked fearlessly and without a guide; and scarcely a day elapsed in which he did not cautiously feel his way

into grounds which he had not before explored. In one of these excursions, his father, with terror, observed him creeping along a narrow wooden bridge, which crossed a neighbouring river, at a point where the stream was deep and rapid. He was immediately stopped; and, to deter him from the repetition of such perilous experiments, he was once or twice plunged into the river-a punishment which had the desired effect.

When a stranger arrives, his smell immediately informs him of the circumstance, and directs him to the place where the stranger is, whom he proceeds to survey by the sense of touch.

In the remote situation where he resides, male visitors are more frequent, and, therefore, the first thing he generally does, is to examine whether or not the stranger wears boots; if he does wear them, he immediately goes to the lobby, feels for and accurately examines his whip; then proceeds to the stable, and handles his horse with great care, and with the utmost seeming attention. The servants were instructed to prevent his visits to the horses of strangers in the stable; and after his wishes in this respect had been repeatedly thwarted, he had the ingenuity to lock the door of the kitchen on the servants, in the hope that he might accomplish unmolested his visits to the stable.

Having appeared to distinguish, by feeling, a horse which his mother had sold a few weeks before, the rider dismounted to put his knowledge to the test; and the boy inmediately led the horse to his mother's stable, took off his saddle and bridle, put corn before him, and then withdrew, locking the door, and putting the key in his pocket.

In 1811, when this poor boy was in his sixteenth year, he lost the guidance of his father. His feelings on the occasion are somewhat variously represented. Some of his relations represent him as betraying the liveliest sense of his irreparable loss; but the testimony of his sister and of Dr. Gordon appears to prove, that attention, curiosity, and wonder, were excited by the novelty of the outward circumstances, rather than that he felt those sentiments which presuppose some conception of the nature of the change which had occured in the state of his parent.

He had previously amused himself with placing a dead fowl repeatedly on its legs, and laughing when it fell; but the first human dead body which he touched was that of his father, from which he shrunk with signs of surprise and dislike. He felt the corpse in the coffin ; and on the evening after the funeral, he went to the grave, and patted it with both his bands; but whether from affection, or imitation of the art of beating down the turf after the grave was closed, his sister could not determine. For several days he returned repeatedly to the grave, and regularly attended every funeral that afterwards occured in the same grave-yard.

On one occasion, after his father's death, discovering that

his mother was unwell and in bed, he was observed to weep. At another time, soon after, a minister being in the house on a Sunday evening, he pointed to his father's Bible, and then made a sign that the family should kneel.

The boy's only attempts at utterance are the uncouth bellowings by which he sometimes labours to give vent to that violent anger, to which his situation seems prone. His tears are most commonly shed from disappointment in bis wishes; but they sometimes flow from afectionate sorrow. He displays, by boisterous laughter, his triumph at the success of contrivances to place others in situations of ludicrous distress.

His sister has devised some means for establishing that communication between him and other beings, from which nature for ever seemed to have cut bim off. By various modifications of touch, she conveys to him her satisfaction or displeasure at his conduct; which is not only the means of communication, but the instrument of moral discipline. To supply its obvious and great defects, she has had recourse to a language of action, representing those ideas which none of the simple natural signs known by the sense of touch could convey. When his mother was from home, his sister allayed bis anxiety for her return by laying his head gently down on a pillow once for each night that his mother was to be absent; implying, that he would sleep so many nights before her return.

Diderot alludes to a case like that of Mitchell, and the Abbe de L'Eppe had anticipated the possibility of such a

« AnteriorContinuar »