Return to Duty

"My dear Gilbert! I wish you would try to be a little more amiable," said my mother, one morning after some display of unjustifiable ill humour on my part. "You say there is nothing the matter with you, and nothing has happened to grieve you, and yet I never saw anyone so altered as you within these last few days: you haven't a good word for anybody--friends and strangers, equals and inferiors--it's all the same. I do wish you'd try to check it."

"Check what?"

"Why, your strange temper. You don't know how it spoils you. I'm sure a finer disposition than yours, by nature, could not be, if you'd let it have fair play; so you've no excuse that way."

While she thus remonstrated, I took up a book, and laying it open on the table before me, pretended to be deeply absorbed in its perusal; for I was equally unable to justify myself, and unwilling to acknowledge my errors; and I wished to have nothing to say on the matter. But my excellent parent went on lecturing, and then came to coaxing, and began to stroke my hair; and I was getting to feel quite a good boy, but my mischievous brother, who was idling about the room, revived my corruption by suddenly calling out:--

"Don't touch him, mother! he'll bite! He's a very tiger in human form. I've given him up, for my part-- fairly disowned him--cast him off, root and branch. It's as much as my life is worth to come within six yards of him. The other day he nearly fractured my skull for singing a pretty, inoffensive love song, on purpose to amuse him."

"Oh, Gilbert! how could you?" exclaimed my mother.

"I told you to hold your noise first, you know, Fergus," said I.

"Yes, but when I assured you it was no trouble, and went on with tile next verse, thinking you might like it better, you clutched me by the shoulder and dashed me away, right against the wall there, with such force, that I thought I had bitten my tongue in two, and expected to see the place plastered with my brains; and when I put my hand to my head and found my skull not broken, I thought it was a miracle and no mistake. But poor fellow!" added he, with a sentimental sigh--"his heart's broken--that's the truth of it--and his head's--`'

"Will you be silent NOW?" cried I, starting up, and eyeing the fellow so fiercely that my mother, thinking I meant to inflict some grievous bodily injury, laid her hand on my arm, and besought me to let him alone, and he walked leisurely out, with his hands in his pockets, singing provokingly--"Shall I because a woman's fair," etc.

"I'm not going to defile my fingers with him," said I, in answer to the maternal intercession. "I wouldn't touch him with the tongs."

I now recollected that I had business with Robert Wilson, concerning the purchase of a certain field adjoining my farm--a business I had been putting off from day to day; for I had no interest in anything now; and besides, I Was misanthropically inclined, and, moreover, had a particular objection to meeting Jane Wilson or her mother; for though I had too good reason, now, to credit their reports concerning Mrs Graham, I did not like them a bit the better for it--or Eliza Millward either--and the thought of meeting them was the more repugnant to me, that I could not, now, defy their seeming calumnies and triumph in my own convictions as before. But to-day, I determined to make an effort to return to my duty. Though I found no pleasure in it, it would be less irksome than idleness--at all events it would be more profitable. If life promised no enjoyment within my vocation, at least it offered no allurements out of it; and henceforth, I would put my shoulder to the wheel and toil away, like any poor drudge of a cart-horse that was fairly broken in to its labour, and plod through life, not wholly useless if not agreeable, and uncomplaining if not contented with my lot.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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