Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

eagerness. The Tragedy deepened and darkened. Intelligence was brought to Mrs Redford of her son's death, and the circumstances under which he was killed ; and by and bye his body was brought home to her in its coffin, ready for the grave.

Wo's me for this now childless widow! Who may tell her hour and power of sorrow! As for Edgar, so morbidly acute was his ear, in the expectancy of his haunted spirit

, that he heard the bringing in of the coffin ; and he cried out, “ That's he! He is come !" It was dreadful to hear him. And he trembled so violently, that his bed shook under him. To aggravate if possible the dismal affair, the officers of justice had traced the man-slayer, and were now waiting the chance of his recovery, in order to seize him. Young Redford was buried next day beside his sister Agnes. It was proposed by Edgar's relatives that the day following they should remove him to where they dwelt, about a couple of miles off; and the medical adviser, on being made acquainted with some of the very peculiar circumstances of the case, gave his consent that it should be done. destined to be otherwise. That very night, as Mrs Redford was sitting by her fireside, her head bowed to her breast, in the profound depth of a sorrow which had no utterance, and with a female neighbour or two sitting beside her, in the dim and silent house, the door of the chamber was opened, and Edgar, who had been left for a little while alone, in consequence of his having to all appearance fallen into a deep sleep, was seen coming in with some of his clothes on, his countenance the countenance of death, at once wildered and eager-bent. Ere the horrorstricken women could rise up, he half fell and half flung himself at Mrs Redford's feet. “ Pardon! pardon ! pardon ! This was his piercing cry, and he kissed with passionate vehemence the feet of the poor woman whom he had injured so grievously. She clasped her hands when she saw him, gave a shriek, and fainted away. Help was soon got. Edgar had died on the spot. Mrs Redford recovered from her swoon. But she walked

It was

softly the few remaining days of her mortal life, and went bowing down to the grave. She died within a year after the death of her children.

CHAPTER XII.

OUR VILLAGE CHILDREN. In its beautiful combination of the natural, the moral, and the Christian, no sight to me is sweeter than the baptism of children. The cordiality of the assistant maidens; the blushing, downcast, fond happiness of the recovered and thankful mother; the manly earnestness of the father, conscious that the weight of duty lies with him, and standing forth in the eye of God and man to take it solemnly upon him; the white-robed babe gently moved in his arms, its face upheld to Christ, many little dimplings thereon—the first instinctive motions of the mysterious spirit within, and its half-closed blue young eyes moistly gleaming; the pure symbolical water, taking the heart away to the Blood of Calvary; the holy servant of the living God sprinkling it, in cleansing emblem; and the impressed attention of the deeply sympathising people, all this hallows and endears to us the gracious sacrament of admitting another new-born lamb of life into the fold of the Good Shepherd. I saw lately two peculiar varieties of baptism, still more touching than the usual mode of the ordinance. In one of the cases, the widowed mother, whose husband had died before the birth of her child, held up the infant herself, and took the vows upon her. It was very affecting. In the other instance, the father was on his death-bed when his babe was born. He desired to have it baptized before he died, and the holy rite was hastened on accordingly. The mother would not be gainsaid in the matter; but strengthening herself as with a supernatural strength, she left her own apartment to be present with her husband on the solemn occasion. She herself put their infant into his arms. Lying on his back he held it across his bosom in the bed, till the sacrament was finished.

When he moved his head in token that he took the vows upon him (ah!—“should God spare his life”), I saw that young mother, pale as death from child-bed, and standing as she was on the very verge of widowhood, yet composed and still, almost awful in her beauty of holiness, bow her head also, reverentially conscious that she was one with her husband in all things; that, his spirit being just about to depart, the vows were in truth laid upon her; and that she took them upon herself accordingly. The dying father then kissed his child, and murmured a blessing upon it, naming its name, as it was taken from him by his wife; and, with his dim glazed eyes still fondly following them, he yielded up the ghost. It is in scenes like these, in lowly cottages, that the best points of the Scottish character are fairly brought out.

In almost every case of disease gradually leading to death, there is (as I have already remarked) a perfect resignation in the sufferer. Children show this holy contentedness even more than those of mature life; often displaying at the same time an intelligence about spiritual things which is altogether extraordinary, being more like a direct instillation of wisdom from the gracious Spirit above, than the natural result of early instruction and precocious apprehension. Wonderful things do these dying bairns say. I have seen this strikingly exemplified, of late, in a little boy, the only child of a poor widow who lives near our Village. Dependent from his earliest infancy on her industry, he had to be much alone in his childhood, both at home, and lying wrapped up in some warm corner of the field, while she was busy working for him. A patient composure grew up in him accordingly, and being one of those natures that won't spoil even by a mother's great fondness, he was early wise and good. The poor little fellow is now pining away, conscious that he is so, and quite intelligent about the future world, and all the while soothing his mother by his holy sayings. I saw him the other day, and noticed for the first time in his face a strong resemblance to his grandfather, whom I had known. A family likeness often misses a generation or two, and reappears in a new generation of descendants; and whether it be that the attenuation of decay, and the earnestness of suffering, bring down the plump happy round of the young face somewhat nearer to the meagre lineaments of old

age, I have often observed dying children become more and more like their grandfathers. So was it with the boy of whom I am speaking. And there lay the dear child, pale and meek, palm to palm on his patient bosom ; often looking down and wondering at his little feet almost touching the bottom of his bed—for, as his mother more than once remarked to me," he had shot out” since he lay down.

The coming in of children's games in their respective seasons is like the coming of the swallows—instinctively, all at once, nobody knows how. There blows the March wind, licking up the moisture of the earth ; and there go the bools and the “peeries,” just as of yore, without the slightest pre-arrangement among the callants. And the same of other sports. I find the games of the children here just as they were in my boyhood, save that they seem to me to be less vigorously pursued than of old. But age has aye this trick of undervaluing the present. There is a complete deficit, however, in one great department of amusement; I mean the telling of stories about witches, brownies, fairies, kelpies, bogles, wraiths, ghosts, and all their fraternity, with the omens of magpies, hirpling hares, and so forth. The great Belief of our grandmothers is fairly hors de combat before the birch of the “ Schoolmaster.” Even the Comet is 66 no go” now-a-days in anything but literal speed of travel: Not an urchin but

you from his “Lessons on Objects" all about the very harmless Peripatetic: As for the “pestilence and war which of old he was supposed to shake from his “horrid hair," the Mistress of the Boarding-school has fairly combed them out ; and her young monkeys of minxes, having first of all playfully Mesmerised the hairy gentleman, have done up those flaming locks of his in curling-papers torn from the Penny Magazine, and have put the old dotard of Prophetic Danger fairly a-bed.

can tell

There is thus far less fear in boyhood now-a-days, but thus also there is far less of that stimulating food which nourishes so well the great imaginative faculty. Mad dogs still keep their place, however. Nay, the decay of the thin Supernaturals has left our friend Rabies in spicier stimulus than ever to the prurient fancy of fear-fascinated childhood. Query-does this account for the unusually great number of cases of hydrophobia which we have had of late years? In the entertainment drawn from light reading, how great are the facilities in the present day, compared with the resources of village children when I was a boy! Chambers' cheap publications are in every house now. And yet I often think the

very

abundance of books injures by cloying the young appetite of curiosity. The sharpest and boldest intellects are those which have been sparingly nurtured, and not crammed with books in childhood. O! for the days when Jamie Mabon visited our Village twice a-year with his basket of “A Pennyworth of Wit,” “Sleeping Beauty," “ The Fisherman's

George Buchanan,” “ John Cheap, the Chapman,” “Tam Hickathrift,” (a monstrous strong chap), “Leper the Tailor," "Sinbad,” “ Aladdin,” “ Jack the Gaint-killer, the “Seven Champions of Christendom," and so on through the whole of that dear old library of pamphlet worthies! There's Chambers for you, and all the Cheap Chapmen (except Jock)—give me back Jamie and his Basket! And look how the same thing works in producing literature. The very facilities of publication in newspapers and magazines which the young men of the present day have, is one main cause of so much triviality in our modern writings. Our authorlings pitch upon a certain current key at once; and wanting the sustenance of quiet, deep, patient, and maturing meditation, they seldom get beyond their first early clevernesses. How different the state of matters in the bold fresh era of Queen Elizabeth, for instance! Not a dramatist of that wonderful age but, girded up in the silent struggles of self-conscious self-relying genius, came out all at once upon the world with some terrible tragedy, rioting in the very lust of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »