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A fire was once within my brain,
I REMEMBER very well the time when I was quite a boy, one of the most childish in age and manners at school. I remember a poor woman who used to appear once or twice in the summer time, as she passed along on her wandering tour, and returned home again to the place of her abode. We knew not where that abode was, but we were told by those who knew little more about her than ourselves, that poor Amy was a harmless maniac, who was permitted by her kind-hearted keepers to roam away by herself during six weeks in the summer. She generally appeared at the same time, and her journey was always over the same ground. I seldom quitted her side when she visited our school and sat down in the old stone porch, gazing round upon the boys with quiet delight, and every now and then speaking a few careless words to us with
her calm soft voice. We were a wild boisterous crowd in general, but the most insolent fellow ever regarded poor Amy with respect, and would, I really believe, have fought manfully in her defence at any time. There was something particular in the dress of this gentle maniac: she wore a petticoat of crimson stuff, and a jacket of white calico confined by an old riband round her waist; her head was never covered either by a cap or bonnet, but her hair was drawn up entirely off her face and forehead, and bound round her head by a' blue riband: her appearance otherwise betrayed no signs of mental derangement: her eyes had no wildness, but usually a mild quietness in their expression. She had little pretensions to beauty, except in the clearness of her complexion. Although seemingly more than fifty years of age, the colour on her cheek was like the fresh bloom of a rosy child; her features were small, and her face broad, somewhat resembling the countenances of the few Dutch women I have seen, but the neatness and delicate cleanliness of her person were most reviarkable: every thread of her soft hair
(then already sprinkled with the silver of age) was in exact order, and her hands were always delicately. white. Year after year Amy paid her short visit to us, and her history was unknown to me. I only knew that she was certain to come in the summer time, and there seemed a mystery about her which I hardly wished to have cleared away.' After I had left school, I often thought about the poor maniac—there was to me, something peculiarly interesting in her appearance. It matters not how I became acquainted with her story, but here it is, for those who please to read it:
- Amy Wilton was a miller's daughter, and a laughing high-spirited girl; never .very pretty, but often much admired for a certain expression of frank good humour, which gives a charm to many a plain countenance. Her mother, a weak, helpless sort of person, who never attempted to manage her daughter, died when Amy was about fourteen years of age, and from that time she became the mistress of her father's house. Sometimes the old miller treated her with intemperate severity, but more usually indulged her in all her wild and foolish fancies : he allowed her as much liberty as she desired ; and so much money, that Amy dressed more gaily than any girl in the neighbourhood of
F M . The miller's house was often crowded with visitors, and his vain and certainly attractive daughter was sometimes the only female present at their riotous parties. She was the favourite partner of many dashing lads at all the fairs and dances in that part of the country, and the envy of too many maidens.. .
Amy was about nineteen years old when the parents of her cousin, Lucy Falknor, died suddenly, and the young girl was left alone, and unprotected. Her father had kept a small shop at Alton: but after the expenses of the funeral were paid, and the debts called in and settled, Lucy found that little remained to her. She half determined to go out to service, but her good-natured uncle pressed her warmly to come and live with his daughter Amy and himself; and her cousin repeated the invitation so frequently, and so kindly, that Lucy returned with them to F m . She