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should never be tired hearing papa tell the tales current in India, about what they have performed in dreams, prophecies, and miracles.”
“ Well,” answered Malony, “ you shall be gratified if I can task my memory with effect. Now, listen ! I am going to tell you a story I often heard in Travancore, called The Oyster.”
“O dear!” exclaimed all, “ what in the world can any one say about such a stupid fish! Why it scarcely ever opens its mouth ; and sees nothing of the coral wonders in the submarine world around its cottage of pearl.”
“ My friend,” said Malony, with a sigh, “ you should check this luxuriant growth of fancy in your children. Have you forgotten what Sir Walter Scott has charmingly said, in Rokeby ?
- Woe to the youth whom Fancy gains,
Is oft contemplative and kind.' » “ True, my dear fellow," answered I, “ it forms part of my plan in education to curb fancy. But are there greater spendthrifts than the sons of misers ? I endeavour to familiarize my children to wonders of fiction, that they may not be taken by surprise
when left without a guide. They can talk of ghosts and monsters ; of dreams and visions ; of promises in sleep and disappointments in life, without terror, because habit has reconciled them to invisible fabrics, and air-drawn gigantic forms. I can assure you that my
little ones retire to a lone room, and fear nothing in the dark. They laugh at the idea of apprehension excited by darkness; whilst in some families that I know, where a story is never told, except in disobedience of strict orders, in the nursery and the kitchen, the children start at their own shadows, and turn pale even at noon day. The fact is, a superstitious feeling universally pervades mankind. Who can think of invisibility with untouched nerves ? When in London, how did you feel, when St. Paul's in sullen, deep moan, tolled the hour of midnight? If alone, writing, did not something steal through you as though the wanderers of air were passing, and causing your flesh to creep? Did you drop your pen-smile at your folly—take it up again, like me-try to think, but retire for safety to your pillow? We cannot help it.- I like, therefore, to make fancy a servant instead of a mistress; and to accustom my little ones to look upon
her daggers, and castles, and spectres, with as little concern as soldiers do upon the destructive instruments of war. Besides, what is the human mind but a vision? What is the soul but a breathless ghost? It is continually presenting forms to our bodily faculties, beyond their comprehension ; suggesting notions which we can neither catch, nor reduce into tangibility. Can you, in writing, equal conception? Can you paint what your soul adumbrates ? No. This peculiarity of our nature has been beautifully noticed by Rogers, in his
of Human Life. How often I have felt the truth of his remark (the thought, though not new, has seldom been so well expressed) when looking over my own composition! I find it poor, and spiritless, compared with its original image in my brain.
• Do what he will, he cannot realize
The truth, the beauty pictured in his mind.' “ But, you are going to give us the story of the Oyster.”
“ There lived in one of the beautiful valleys of Travancore," commenced my friend Malony, respectable man named Chunda Gopal, who pos
sessed a small estate in pepper plantations, cocoa-nut groves, and plantain gardens. His house was delightfully situated on a fine river; and in it you would have been charmed to see his affectionate wife Luxana and her children, looking like flowers in a greenhouse, or pictures in gilt frames. It is impossible for me, if I had a thousand tongues, to exaggerate their happiness. They were all the world to each other. Their pepper brought in plenty of money—their fields yielded them nourishing crops of rice—their fruit trees were productive to superabundance—and their tempers were sweet and contented. Every morning was spent in superintending the operations of their vegetable gold mines; and in the evening you beheld them seated in the vine bowers with their children, or dancing and singing under the trees on the green; or amusing themselves with hearing stories respecting the achievements of the Hindoo gods, and the innumerable heroes of romance who figure in Indian tales. In short, their children were as good as they were handsome; and you are not more happy among yourselves than they were in every respect.
66 But no one in this uncertain world is sure of
the continuance of fortune's breeze till to-morrow. It will be well, therefore, if you make up your minds to meet every thing that can happen, as an event that may happen; and this, believe me, is very needful in a state, where we have reason not only to fear the loss of somewhat every moment, but of our own life, the instant Providence may deem it good to stop our breath. It pleased that bountiful source of all we enjoy to shut up the flood-gates of heaven in most parts of India for two years in succession. You may easily conceive what misery this produced in a country where scarcely any kind of grain will grow without frequent and careful irrigation. Se vere scarcity soon made its appearance, and all the horrors of want assailed the poor.
The fine river on which the house of Chunda Gopal stood became quite dry ; his pepper vines drooped and withered under the sun ; all his cocoa-nut trees pined with thirst, and yielded not a single fruit ; nor would his plantains produce a banana. His rice-fields were equally barren. Indeed he had soon to send out for every thing his large family required; and, long before the famine ceased, he saw himself and those he loved reduced to the sore necessity of selling their