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Twice Told Tales

David Swan
We can be but partially acquainted even with the events which actually influence our
course through life and our final destiny. There are innumerable other events, if such they
may be called, which come close upon us, yet pass away without actual results or even
betraying their near approach by the reflection of any light or shadow across our minds.
Could we know all the vicissitudes of our fortunes, life would be too full of hope and
fear, exultation or disappointment, to afford us a single hour of true serenity. This idea
may be illustrated by a page from the secret history of David Swan.
We have nothing to do with David until we find him, at the age of twenty, on the high
road from his native place to the city of Boston, where his uncle, a small dealer in the
grocery line, was to take him behind the counter. Be it enough to say that he was a native
of New Hampshire, born of respectable parents, and had received an ordinary school
education with a classic finish by a year at Gilmanton Academy. After journeying on foot
from sunrise till nearly noon of a summer's day, his weariness and the increasing heat
determined him to sit down in the first convenient shade and await the coming up of the
stage-coach. As if planted on purpose for him, there soon appeared a little tuft of maples
with a delightful recess in the midst, and such a fresh bubbling spring that it seemed
never to have sparkled for any wayfarer but David Swan. Virgin or not, he kissed it with
his thirsty lips and then flung himself along the brink, pillowing his head upon some
shirts and a pair of pantaloons tied up in a striped cotton handkerchief. The sunbeams
could not reach him; the dust did not yet rise from the road after the heavy rain of
yesterday, and his grassy lair suited the young man better than a bed of down. The spring
murmured drowsily beside him; the branches waved dreamily across the blue sky
overhead, and a deep sleep, perchance hiding dreams within its depths, fell upon David
Swan. But we are to relate events which he did not dream of.
While he lay sound asleep in the shade other people were wide awake, and passed to and
fro, afoot, on horseback and in all sorts of vehicles, along the sunny road by his
bedchamber. Some looked neither to the right hand nor the left and knew not that he was
there; some merely glanced that way without admitting the slumberer among their busy
thoughts; some laughed to see how soundly he slept, and several whose hearts were
brimming full of scorn ejected their venomous superfluity on David Swan. A middle-
aged widow, when nobody else was near, thrust her head a little way into the recess, and
vowed that the young fellow looked charming in his sleep. A temperance lecturer saw
him, and wrought poor David into the texture of his evening's discourse as an awful
instance of dead drunkenness by the roadside.
But censure, praise, merriment, scorn and indifference were all one—or, rather, all
nothing—to David Swan. He had slept only a few moments when a brown carriage
drawn by a handsome pair of horses bowled easily along and was brought to a standstill
nearly in front of David's resting-place. A linch-pin had fallen out and permitted one of
the wheels to slide off. The damage was slight and occasioned merely a momentary alarm