« AnteriorContinuar »
steward. The cottage was larger than their diminished household required; and she let two rooms to a respectable woman, the widow of the parish beadle, who paid liberally, according to her means, and proved a quiet, friendly lodger. She let the field by the year, for its just value, which nearly settled the rent of the whole premises; and managed the little garden so well that its produce brought in a small sum, after supplying the family table. A few fowls, Helen's peculiar care, yielded their quota of profit in the neighbouring village market; James kept rabbits, which, thriving well on the refuse of the garden, helped to replenish the general purse: the same prolific garden nearly maintained a pair of ducks, presented to little Willy in their infancy, and soon learning to forage for themselves, to the great advantage of lettuces and savoys, wbich bad often borne the marks of sundry nocturnal depredators, against whom the said ducks waged exterminating war. Willy sank a little round tub in the fowl-yard, and predicted that his ducks would soon prove the most valuable of their possessions.
Richard had profited well by the advantages placed within his reach : he was of a serious, thoughtful turn, but exceedingly active. The school where his father had placed him at seven years old was established for the benefit of boys in an humble walk of life, and the gratuitous teaching was excellent. Richard acquired whatever was to be learned, by his diligence and good conduct earning a reputation that ensured him employment during every spare hour among the neighbours; and bis gains, from which he never deducted a halfpenny for his own gratification, added to the produce of his grandmother's unwearied industry and that of Helen, assisted in
time by the improving habits of Mary, who was often roused into ó a great fight,' as she called it, against her natural love of ease, placed the family above want, and indeed in possession of every comfort they could reasonably desire.
But alas for the stability of human happiness, so far as it is dependent on perishable things! The last life in the lease was one on which they might fairly have reckoned for many a long year to come. A severe illness, however, seized on the strong frame of the young man, the only survivor of the three named in that document; and although he rallied in some degree, his state was evidently a precarious
The lodger, too, was summoned to take possession of some little property left to her in another county, and must leave them shortly. James, the second boy, fell into weak health, imposing an additional care and expense on the household, just as he and they anticipated his becoming an important help, through a good situation that was offered, but for which his increasing debility unfitted him. All these things tended to cloud the atmospbere, and made even the giddy Mary observe that they were 'going down in the world.'
Of this, however, no visible token as yet appeared ; and when the two girls, fresh from their early walk, drew near the beloved cottage, all was as smiling as their own faces. James had cleaned out his rabbit-coop, Willy was gazing with admiration at the exploits of his young ducks in their narrow pond, and Richard made the most of a spare half hour in digging up the bed where a crop of peas had yielded their last produce. As Helen and Mary approached, he struck the spade into the ground,
gave his hands a rinsing under the pump, and joined the group, who together entered the cottage door with wholesome appetites for their breakfast.
Breakfast, however, was not the first concern with this assembled family. The girls, throwing off their bonnets, and hastily smoothing back the hair which had become somewhat disordered by the sea-breeze, followed the widow Green into an adjoining room, occupied by the lodger, and the boys brought up the rear. On a little round table lay the Holy Bible, with a small manual of family devotion ; and on the appearance of Mrs. Barker, who promptly answered the accustomed signal, and her settlement in an arm chair, all seated themselves : the widow Green selected a portion of scripture, read it with much deliberation, and offered up a devout prayer of thanksgiving for past mercies, with supplication for guidance, and every needful blessing through the day. A short greeting between the young people and their lodger, marked by affectionate respect on their side, and great kindness on hers, concluded the scene: they then hastened back, to enjoy the morning's meal.
• What sort of a walk had you, girls ?' inquired Richard. I understand Mary was not quite awake when Helen pulled her out at the door.'
“I was rubbing my eyes,' answered Mary, but awake for all that. 'Tis only seven now, and two good hours have I been on my feet.'
• And a great blessing it is, my child,' observed the old lady, to be up and at work while many are lying on the bed of sickness, and not a few on the bed of sloth.
* I wish old John Buckle would lie in bed,' con
tinued the little girl,' and not get up to scold as he does.'
• Fie, Mary,' said Helen, laying the threepence beside the old lady's saucer ; ' consider how kind he is at heart;' and she delivered his message.
I don't mind a few hard words,' remarked James - if I get a good basin of milk broth along with them.'
• Hard words break no bones,' said Richard ; and if none of us ever come to get hard blows into the bargain, we may think ourselves well off.'
Blows! I should like to see the person who would try to beat me!' exclaimed little. Mary, in high disdain.
? Hush, my dear child,' responded the widow. * Strokes of the rod are sometimes needful for us ; and we have a Father in heaven who will apply them when he sees good. You must not speak so hastily,' she continued, as Mary opened her lips to reply: 'the wise man tells us that a haughty spirit cometh before a fall. Let us be humble.'
You had better mind what granny says,' added James : 'none of us will ever be the worse for minding her.'
All eyes were turned, beaming with affection, upon the old woman, while a half-whispered assent escaped from every lip. If ever any person succeeded in attaching all around her to herself and to each other, the widow Green assuredly did so. She knew it, she saw it daily and hourly, and she numbered it among the chiefest of her earthly blessings.
Now, granny,' said Richard, when the short, frugal repast was ended, “I've a long errand after school, and you need not expect me home till sup
per. There's some parish business to do, and I must take a letter from the overseer to Mr.-I forget his name--the new vestry clerk, and wait for an answer. So don't be uneasy if I am late.'
A hearty good bye was exchanged, and away went the lad to his school-work, which was that of a teacher rather than a pupil. We will leave the cottagers to their daily avocations, and take a peep into a higher grade of society.
O My dear brother, learn to know Christ, and him crucified ; learn to sing a new song, to despair of your own work, and to cry unto him, Lord Jesus, thou art my righteousness, and I am thy sin ; thou hast taken on thee what was mine, and given to me what is thine; what I was not thou becamest, that I might become what I was not. Beware, my dear George, of aspiring after such a purity, as that thou mayest not have to acknowledge thyself a sinner; for Christ dwells only in sinners. Meditate often on this love of Christ, and you will taste its unspeakable comfort. If our labours and affections could give peace to the conscience, why did Christ die opon the cross? You will find peace in him alone; despairing of yourself and of your works, and beholding with what love he spreads his arms to you ; taking all your sins on himself, and bestowing on you all his righteousness.—Martin Luther.