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"Woman, Behold Thy Son!"
by [?]

The golden rays of a summer afternoon were streaming through the windows of a quiet apartment, where every thing was the picture of orderly repose. Gently and noiselessly they glide, gilding the glossy old chairs, polished by years of care; fluttering with flickering gleam on the bookcases, by the fire, and the antique China vases on the mantel, and even coqueting with sparkles of fanciful gayety over the face of the perpendicular, sombre old clock, which, though at times apparently coaxed almost to the verge of a smile, still continued its inevitable tick, as for a century before.

On the hearth rug lay outstretched a great, lazy-looking, Maltese cat, evidently enjoying the golden beam that fell upon his sober sides, and sleepily opening and shutting his great green eyes, as if lost in luxurious contemplation.

But the most characteristic figure in the whole picture was that of an aged woman, who sat quietly rocking to and fro in a great chair by the side of a large round table covered with books. There was a quiet beauty in that placid face–that silvery hair brushed neatly under the snowy border of the cap. Every line in that furrowed face told some tale of sorrow long assuaged, and passions hushed to rest, as on the calm ocean shore the golden-furrowed sand shows traces of storms and fluctuations long past.

On the round, green-covered table beside her lay the quiet companion of her age, the large Bible, whose pages, like the gates of the celestial city, were not shut at all by day, a few old standard books, and the pleasant, rippling knitting, whose dreamy, irresponsible monotony is the best music of age.

A fair, girlish form was seated by the table; the dress bonnet had fallen back on her shoulders, the soft cheeks were suffused and earnest, the long lashes and the veiled eyes were eloquent of subdued feeling, as she read aloud from the letter in her hand. It was from “our Harry,” a name to both of them comprising all that was dear and valued on earth, for he was “the only son of his mother, and she a widow;” yet had he not been always an only one; flower after flower on the tree of her life had bloomed and died, and gradually, as waters cut off from many channels, the streams of love had centred deeper in this last and only one.

And, in truth, Harry Sargeant was all that a mother might desire or be proud of. Generous, high-minded, witty, and talented, and with a strong and noble physical development, he seemed born to command the love of women. The only trouble with him was, in common parlance, that he was too clever a fellow; he was too social, too impressible, too versatile, too attractive, and too much in demand for his own good. He always drew company about him, as honey draws flies, and was indispensable every where and to every body; and it needs a steady head and firm nerves for such a one to escape ruin.

Harry’s course in college, though brilliant in scholarship, had been critical and perilous. He was a decided favorite with the faculty and students; yet it required a great deal of hard winking and adroit management on the part of his instructors to bring him through without infringement of college laws and proprieties: not that he ever meant the least harm in his life, but that some extra generous impulse, some quixotic generosity, was always tumbling him, neck and heels, into somebody’s scrapes, and making him part and parcel in every piece of mischief that was going on.

With all this premised, there is no need to say that Harry was a special favorite with ladies; in truth, it was a confessed fact among his acquaintances, that, whereas dozens of creditable, respectable, well-to-do young men might besiege female hearts with every proper formality, waiting at the gates and watching at the posts of the doors in vain, yet before him all gates and passages seemed to fly open of their own accord. Nevertheless, there was in his native village one quiet maiden who held alone in her hand the key that could unlock his heart in return, and carried silently in her own the spell that could fetter that brilliant, restless spirit; and she it was, of the thoughtful brow and downcast eyes, whom we saw in our picture, bending over the letter with his mother.