Arthur Cheney Train.

The Goldfish online

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differently. I took a cigar out of my pocket, lit it and, opening the
book haphazard, glanced over the pages in a desultory fashion.

"_That is that which I seek for, even to be rid of this heavy Burden;
but get it off myself, I cannot; nor is there any man in our country
that can take it off my shoulders_ - "

So the Pilgrim had a burden too! I turned back to the beginning and read
how Christian, the hero, had been made aware of his perilous condition.

"_In this plight therefore he went home, and refrained himself as long
as he could, that his Wife and Children should not perceive his
distress, but he could not be silent long, because that his trouble
increased: Wherefore at length he brake his mind to his Wife and
Children; and thus he began to talk to them: 'Oh, my dear Wife,' said
he, 'and you the Children of my bowels, I, your dear Friend, am in
myself undone by reason of a Burden that lieth hard upon me.' ... At
this his_ _Relations were sore amazed; not for that they believed that
what he had said to them was true, but because they thought that some
frenzy distemper had got into his head; therefore, it drawing toward
night, and they hoping that sleep might settle his brains, with all
haste they got him to bed: But the night was as troublesome to him as
the day; wherefore, instead of sleeping, he spent it in sighs and
tears_."

Surely this Pilgrim was strangely like myself! And, though sorely beset,
he had struggled on his way.

"_Hast thou a Wife and Children_?

"_Yes, but I am so laden with this Burden that I cannot take that
pleasure in them as formerly; methinks I am as if I had none_."

Tears filled my eyes and I laid down the book. The bridge party was
going home. I could hear them shouting good-bys in the front hall and my
wife's shrill voice answering Good night! From outside came the toot of
horns and the whir of the motors as they drew up at the curb. One by one
the doors slammed, the glass rattled and they thundered off. The noise
got on my nerves and, taking my book, I crossed to the deserted drawing
room, the scene of the night's social carnage. The sight was enough to
sicken any man! Eight tables covered with half-filled glasses; cards
everywhere - the floor littered with them; chairs pushed helter-skelter
and one overturned; and from a dozen ash-receivers the slowly ascending
columns of incense to the great God of Chance. On the middle table lay
a score card and pencil, a roll of bills, a pile of silver, and my
wife's vanity box, with its chain of pearls and diamonds.

Fiercely I resolved again to end it all - at any cost. I threw open one
of the windows, sat myself down by a lamp in a corner, and found the
place where I had been reading. Christian had just encountered Charity.
In the midst of their discussion I heard my wife's footsteps in the
hall; the portières rustled and she entered.

"Well!" she exclaimed. "I thought you had gone to bed long ago. I had
good luck to-night. I won eight hundred dollars! How are you feeling?"

"Anna," I answered, "sit down a minute. I want to read you something."

"Go ahead!" she said, lighting a cigarette, and throwing herself into
one of the vacant chairs.

"_Then said Charity to Christian: Have you a family? Are you a married
man_?"

"CHRISTIAN: _I have a Wife and_ ... _Children_."

"CHARITY: _And why did you not bring them along with you_?"

"_Then Christian wept and said: Oh, how willingly would I have done it,
but they were all of them utterly averse to my going on Pilgrimage_."

"CHARITY: _But you should have talked to them, and_ _have endeavored to
have shown them the danger of being behind_.

"CHRISTIAN: _So I did, and told them also what God had shewed to me of
the destruction of our City; but I seemed to them as one that mocked,
and they believed me not_.

"CHARITY: _And did you pray to God that He would bless your counsel to
them_?

"CHRISTIAN: _Yes, and that with much affection; for you must think that
my Wife and poor Children were very dear unto me_.

"CHARITY: _But did you tell them of your own sorrow and fear of
destruction? - for I suppose that destruction was visible enough to you_.

"CHRISTIAN: _Yes, over and over, and over. They might also see my fears
in my countenance, in my tears, and also in my trembling under the
apprehension of the Judgment that did hang over our heads; but all was
not sufficient to prevail with them to come with me_.

"CHARITY: _But what could they say for themselves, why they come not_?

"CHRISTIAN: _Why, my Wife was afraid of losing this World, and my
Children were given to the foolish Delights of youth; so, what by one
thing and what by another, they left me to wander in this manner
alone_."

An unusual sound made me look up. My wife was weeping, her head on her
arms among the money and débris of the card-table.

"I - I didn't know," she said in a choked, half-stifled voice, "that you
really meant what you said upstairs."

"I mean it as I never have meant anything since I told you that I loved
you, dear," I answered gently.

She raised her face, wet with tears.

"That was such a long time ago!" she sobbed. "And I thought that all
this was what you wanted." She glanced round the room.

"I did - once," I replied; "but I don't want it any longer. We can't live
our lives over again; but" - and I went over to her - "we can try to do a
little better from now on."

She laid her head on my arm and took my hand in hers.

"What shall we do?" she asked.

"We must free ourselves from our Burden," said I; "break down the wall
of money that shuts us in from other people, and try to pay our way in
the world by what we are and do rather than by what we have. It may be
hard at first; but it's worth while - for all of us."

She disengaged one hand and wiped her eyes.

"I'll help all I can," she whispered.

"That's what I want!" cried I, and my heart leaped.

Again I saw the glint of the angel's wing!



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Online LibraryArthur Cheney TrainThe Goldfish → online text (page 15 of 15)