Page images
[ocr errors]

may be.

doubtful may-be so,' or humble 'I don't, a hardy plant-springing sometimes from the know,' while all the time I should be secretly clefts of rocks—" comforting myself with some beautiful theory “Hold, good sir! my flowers begin to witber. that I cannot get into words, or if I could, They hang their heads in bashful confusion, would be trampled upon and rooted about in a | they are utterly confounded by their magnificent manner that might bring to mind that injunc- nomenclature. Show a little mercy, pray. Do tion concerning the casting of pearls. Now they speak to you only scientifically? Do they which of these august authors occupying your make no tender appeal to your heart? Why,'you study-chairs would you dispossess to accommo- classify them and designate the peculiar property date an humble individual like myself, quite of each, just as you denominate and describe weary with travelling though it be on golden the religions of men, enumerating and roads? Here, looking quite dusty and neg. distinguishing them by their ruling characterlected, is Bunyan, 'honest Bunyan,' as he is istics of faith, with divisions, and sub-divisions, called, as though honesty were so uncommon a and hair-breadth differences that quite distract virtue among Christian people that it should the inquiring mind and suggest the old German name the fortunate soul possessing it. I will aphorisin, uttered when classification was far brush the dust off from him the good, simple less difficult and perplexing than at the man, whose charming allegory was the delight present day : and wonder of my childhood, and the image of some of my later experiences—and he, the Lutheran, Popish, Calvinistic, all these creeds and humblest of them all, shall marshal the hosts doctrines three that stand in solemn rank and file on your li. Extant are; but still the doubt is where Christianity brary shelves. May I arrange my flowers at your table? You would not find time to go out and read with me in God's sweet poem Ah, if all wrangling, cavilling, anathema(Spring); and so you see I've brought in to you tizing believers would but stoop to learn a a tender line or two. Pray you push hither lesson of the flowery folk, how loving, humble

, that huge quarto for a footstool."

reverent would they grow towards one another! “Irreverent child! As if I would devote the There is no dissension between these lowly, choicest volume in iny library to such ignoble gentle worshippers ! though differing in forms use."

and babits of life, each with the other tenderly “Pardon! I am not the first who has erred mingles its breath of praise, and with one spirit in judging worth by station. In sooth, you let they adore the Infinite Father. To-day I was your favourites lie low, uncle. But now to the drawn into their charmed circle and permitted, charge of irreverence I plead not guilty. Show in my poor blundering fashion, to take part in me but the faintest trace of Divinity between their sacred rites of worship. I was standiog those dingy covers and my soul will fall pros- on an eminence crowned by an aged oak; trate before it. But to-day I cannot bow to suddenly out of the great sunny calm came a shams, to anything profane or hypocritical. I wandering breeze like an itinerant preacher of have been reading in a book more sacred, and divine truths, and smote upon the oaken harp fuller of wise suggestions, heavenly truths, and with wondrous skill and power; the wild sweet intimations of God's loving providence columbine from her stronghold in the rocks than any ever penned by human hand, dictated rung her gold and purple bells with music by human intelligence. Had you bent your too fine for mortal ear, and all the flowery knee upon the sod where grew this odorous hosts with one accord swung their censers and flower, its clear eye would have darted a ray of poured their incense on the air, while I, moved heavenly light into your soul; and even now, by the general impulse to thanksgiving and plucked, and withering in my hand, does it not praise, fell upon my knees in an ecstasy of love speak with an eloquent tongue of the tenderness and gratitude, and the infinite hope and aspiraof God?"

tion of my soul broke forth in the word that The rector leaned forward and examined the compasses all human and divine possibilities, fower critically. "I used to be quite an ardent God! God! Then as suddenly as it began to disciple of Linnæus in my boyhood,” said he, sound the harp of hope grew still, the columbine taking the fragile blossom in his hand. “A bells hung motionless in their rocky towers, species of the genus Viola, is it not ? Leaves and here and there in groups and pairs, the heart-shaped, downy underneath, lateral petals foral children, late so jubilant, stood with meek, with a hairy central line ; Viola Oderáta, Idowncast heads, beautiful in humility. It was think."

the season of penitence and prayer, and in the “Pr’ythee do not crush my meek, sweet solemn hush that lay on earth and sky, I violet with your ponderous Latin names," remembered my infirmities and bowed my pleaded the girl.

forehead to the dust, finding no word to tell my But the rector was inexorable. “What need but God! ob, God! yet that, for its fulhave we here?” he continued, fingering the ness of knowledge, power, mercy, and com, contents of the overflowing basket. The pretty, passion, did unspeakably ease my burdened trailing Potentilla repens with its yellow flowers, heart, what I could not express the Omniscient a few late specimens of the Cowslip and what's One knew. Now I can understand why Jesus this? Ah, I remember, Aquilegia Vulgaris, 1 sent with the multitudes up to a mountain

[ocr errors]

when He taught those sublime truths which do no other hope or motive than to reap abundantly never wax old, but grow in beauty as the to his own advantage. Perhaps I do seek God centuries roll; and I wonder why the good too much in His eternal works, recognizing him shepherds who care for His sheep do not some- only in the material goods which He showers times literally lead their flocks into the green upon me, loving Him for these alone, and lackpastures and beside the still waters, or up to ing that inner spiritual consciousness of His the hills and into the Gothic temples builded love and power which makes one feel His omniby the Lord, and there preach from the Holy presence, draws one near to Him whatever the Word, illustrated, as no Gustave Doré can time or place.

I frankly confess that under illustrate, by the hand of the master artist. No certain conditions, and those, too, of a character need to pray for faith in the being, wisdom, conceived to be conducive to religious feeling love; and tender care of God when we are drink and worship, I cannot dispose my mind so as ing the blessed air, sunshine, and fragrance of to receive any good impression. Sometimes of the outer world. Oh, He is real-He is near! a Sabbath, in the house of God, I miss His we stand in his visible presence, and the spirit presence altogether. Don't interrupt me. I of devotion that we struggle to attain at your acknowledge the fault mine. The trouble is, new moons and your appointed feasts, your my soul lives in a terrestrial body, and the Sabbaths and your solemn meetings, comes things seen, heard, and felt through that without thought or effort. We fall down and medium, vex and disturb it sorely. The deeper worship not from a sense of duty but because trouble is that my soul living so is vexed and we cannot help it.”

disturbed when it should be calm and patient. “You speak as one who has had no deep But when I am sitting in the sanctuary gasping religious experience,” said the rector, gravely. for a breath of pure air, with my head in the "Your devotion is purely emotional, the mere torrid zone, my feet in the frigid, and my body outgrowth of impressions made through the alternating between the chill and fever of the medium of the senses on a soul highly suscep- Arctic and Equator, I really cannot think tible to beauty in its material form, but unable rationally of my spiritual condition. And when to perceive and feel by an interior way the the women come in like Hiawatha's wedding existence of a God whose wisdom, goodness, guests— and power are unspeakable; and who, at all times and in all places, is near to those who Clad in all their richest raiment, seek Him. A truly earnest and devout spirit is

Robes of fur and belts of wampum, not so much influenced by outward things, but Splendid with their paint and plumage, can worship the Infinite Creator on the barren Beautiful with beads and tassels,' sandy desert with as great love and zeal as when surrounded by the most magnificent and it is difficult to realize that we are gathered toawe-inspiring works of His hand. These a gether to

murmur with

contrite hearts, religious man can rejoice in, but he feels the • Lord, have mercy on us miserable sinners,' power of God less in them than in the wonderful for there is nothing in our appearance which experiences of his own soul. The pious monk, indicates that we feel ourselves anything of the kneeling on the hard floor of his cell with all sort. And when the men stand talking on the the glory of the natural world shut out steps and in the vestibule, or seated in the by frowning monastery walls, gets nearer house work their jaws in a mysterious manner, to the Divine person than you with all your leaning forward now and then to eject a mouthsilent raptures and impulsive hallelujabe over ful of strange coloured liquid of sickening odour the beauty of cloud and flower, sunshine and into some dark corner, or perhaps into the forest-temple."

very aisle, I fancy I have made a mistake, and “That may be true,” Helena said, after a come to a club meeting or a political caucus, brief silence, in which she thoughtfully threaded where indulgences of that kind are, if in any her fingers through a spray of delicate grass. place, permissible. And when the preacher “When it comes to individual comparisons I kneels down, or not having, the grace to do am generally a sufferer. But what appears that, stands up and tells the Lord, with quite a most singular to me is that this pious-praying rhetorical flourish, of all the events that are friar, living so near to God as he is supposed, happening in the world and of the weakness and does not perceive that the body which is given sinfulness of all His creatures, and then to be the faithful instrument and servant of His proceeds to instruct Him what to do in a voice will, ought, according to the teachings and loud and peremptory, with no touch of the blessed example of our Lord, to be worn pleading in it, I feel my heart sinking, for with out in the loving service of human kind, and every word he utters God seems to recede, and not by fasts, penances, mortifications, and' long at the Amen' I am only conscious that there is prayers, which profit no one; no, noi even him a tradition of a Diviné Being who rules in self; for the law of recompense, if I understand human affairs, but has to be greatly urged and it rightly, is that every man shall receive good entreated to do the right thing. When the in the ratio that he dispenses good to others. Jubilate Deo sounds through the church I seein As he sows so he reaps. I have grave doubts, to hear the petty jealousies, and spite, and ill however, as to the fulness of the harvest will of the singers figbting against the divine gathered by him who scatters broadcast with spirit of the words, and there is a discord in

^ a


[ocr errors]

the music which does not proceed from any “excellent sermon," as some will name it, violation of harmonic laws in their outward and never think of it again, there are many in form, but froin a lack of love, which is the soul your congregation who would be more benefited of all harmony; and instead of being sootbed, if you would set it quite aside and come right lifted up and inspired with heavenly life, I am down to the discussion of those matters which filled with unrest, dissatisfaction, and de- engross them through the week, and which they pression. Then, agaio, when the speaker rises evidently regard as something entirely apart and gives forth his text, I listen eagerly to the from their religion, that being much too fine discourse which follows, in the hope that some for every day use, and only put on with their word of all will touch upon the real vital affairs Sabbath suits and worn choicely on rare occa. of every-day life, and be as a staff to lean upon sions. If I stood in your place, I would not in the toil and struggle of the week; but have these sheep, who seek the fold only one oftenest he soars so high and talks on themes day in seven, looking up at me with such conso remote from the common interests and scious meekness and innocence, as if they never experiences of his hearers, that I for one am harboured a wrong thought in their lives. I ready to weep because I am so tired, so utterly would seize upon their individual evils, hold tired of contemplating the grim, fleshless skele- them up and exhibit them in all their hideoustons of doctrines, and long so much to hear a ness and deformity; I would lash them most little plain practical talk on the duties of daily unmercifully for their sins, and cry, ' Repent ! life. Altogether, without enumerating any repent! repent!' louder than ever John the farther, as I might do, I go away with a weary, Baptist did.” perplexed, unsatisfied feeling, unable to compre- " That you would," answered the rector, hend how God can be pleased with such worship, emphatically. “ And what would you gain ? and murmuring under my breath the words of No one present would imagine himself guilty the preacher of old, Surely this also is vanity of the evils which you would be sure to paint and vexation of spirit.'”

in very strong colours ; each would think his “ Your own fault, as you said," answered the neighbour sat for the picture, laugbing in. rector, with considerable severity of tone. “If wardly at the correctness of the sketch, but you went to the house of worship with some never dreaming that it bore any resemblance to better motive than to criticise the babits and himself. Very few, even of those most ready appearance of others there assembled, I think to perceive faults in others, can recognize their you would get a little nearer to God, and would own failings, however strong the point you come away more refreshed and satisfied in your make of them. Now I know a young lady, soul. The evils which you enumerate un- and see her sometimes in my congregation, with doubtedly exist, but so long as you are not all her week-day finery put off, and her hair yourself guilty of them, they need not trouble drawn smoothly and penitentially back under you.”

the most unfashionable of bonnets, who I think “Truth, I trow; but unfortunately they do possesses this common weakness of being quite trouble me. I don't know but I am guilty of blind to her own imperfections, while she is some of them, or might be under other circum- painfully alive to those of others. She spares stances. Besid I have a weakness, while neither youth nor age in her strictures and trying to grow good, of wishing other people to animadversions, but whenever she sees, or grow good too. Why should any evil' that fancies that she sees, wickedness or folly, be it exists go unrebuked?' Is it not the duty of in high places or in low, she sends a flying our spiritual leaders and teachers to point out shot from her ever-playing batteries, never and reprove whatever error they may observe heeding whether it hit her dearest friend or in our principles or practice ? Is not this their deadliest foe. of reverence using the word peculiar office, and is there a greater service in its common acceptation-she has not a which they can render us? I hear much about particle. Nothing is too high or holy for her to the eloquence of certain preachers, but I con. criticize; no opinion or belief will she accept fess I am only able to appreciate eloquence in until

she has thoroughly weighed and gauged its effects as manifest in the amended lives of it by some curious standard of her own, as if those on whom it is brought to bear. I hear, her wisdom exceeded that of the sages and sometime, what are called good sermons, good divines who have lived and died in the faith prayers, and the like, but I can judge of them which she presumes to question; and forms only by their fruits ; if they awaken aspirations and customs, sacred and dear to hearts purer for a better life, if they assist the feeble efforts in the sight of God than hers, she attacks with; of those who are striving against sin, they are out compunction, treating them with a kind of unquestionably good. But I think this end is contempt that seems to a simple reverent soul oftener attained when one speaks directly from almost blasphemous. the heart and froin individual experiences, than The rector paused. Helena's head, which when one treats us to airy speculations and pro- bad been drooping lower and lower during

his found doctrinal expositions, and I cannot help speech, was bowed upon the table, and her face saying—while I veg you to pardon my freedom was bidden from his view. of speech-that great as may be the labour and “Is the lady a friend of yours, Helena!" care you have expended in the preparation of “ No; an enemy. Pray, go on,” she an. the discourse which you will deliver to-morrow, I swered, faintly.



[ocr errors]

"Nay, indeed, I never strike the penitent.”. tive, and the next bowed down with such a

“You need not fear,” she said, lifting a pale sense of your utter nothingness that one is conface, and trying to force a smile. "Nothing strained to pity you." that you


say would strike so deep as the Helena did not reply, but rose and walked accusations of my own conscience. Those are unsteadily to the window, looking out on the only a few of my outside faults which you world that had seemed so fair a little while name; I have crueler ones, that I know. Just before, but over whose brightness bad suddenly at this moment I do not realize that I have drifted the cloud of her infirmities. She could any virtue at all. How dark it is. Is the sun not understand either these swift descents into shining ?"

the valley of bumiliation, where she felt as if ་ "Brightly."

the world's whole burden of guilt had rolled " I cannot see."

upon her shoulders, but she had learned the The rector regarded her curiously. “I do way of ascent lay through the performance of not understand your moods, said he. “One some good deed, and she tarried not long in moment you are so bold, free, and self-asser. I the darkness.




Llanaber was the prettiest little village in ro. by the dandies of the town, whispering meanmantic Caernarvonshire, and Maggie Pugh was ingless, soft-spoken nothings at every opporthe prettiest girl in Llanaber. A red-cheeked, tunity? Would she have been happier at have red-lipped girl she was, with sparkling black ing a volume of idiotic

poems dedicated to her, eyes, and smooth, dark hair, but her principal than she was when Richard Owen named his charm was the lovely expression of her face, to new boat “Maggie"? B: that as it may, sbe which no words can do justice-her principal was happy, contented, and beloved. charm, I say, by which I mean her outward Now one bright morning Richard Owen charm, for her disposition far excelled her face sighed like a furnace, and determined that day in its fascinating properties.

should decide his fate. Blind Richard! Had Maggie Pugh was everybody's friend; no he but remarked Maggie's pretty face each time one listened with such patience to a list of fan- they met he need not have feared much. Had cied ailments; no one showed so great an in- he but recalled glances and words, the doubts terest in incipient love affairs, and no one gave and fears which agitated his broad chest would 80 good advice in either case. It is not, there- soon have vanished. A dozen stammering fore, to be wondered at that she was the depo- words, increasing in vigour as he felt their sitory of numerous secrets, and that her face truth, a timid request couched in but four words was a welcome one in every cottage in the vil. -a pause: then came the answer: first a blush, lage. There was, however, one cottage where and then an incomprehensible murmur; another Maggie's rosy, happy face was particularly wel. moment and Maggie was in his strong arms, come, and that was the one owned by Mrs. looking up into his face, and smiling through Owen; but even the happiness caused to that her tears. Thump, thuip, thump went worthy old lady, when Maggie's pretty form Richard's heart, and he walked home whistling crossed her threshold, sank into insignificance gaily, stopping every now and then to recall her when compared with the pleasure and the heart- words and gestures, and then, again, pursuing beatings of Richard Owen, her nephew : and, his path with a little laugh, and a louder, merif the truth be confessed, Maggie herself felt rier whistle than before. more pleasure when sitting near the stalwart Now of Maggie's admirers there was but one young fisherman (for he was a no more exalted other besides Richard who had ever thought of personage) than at any other time.

her as bis wife. Not that the others were luke. The old, old story, of course! Whether the warın in their affection for her; but she really scene be laid in the garden of Eden, Sir Fiery appeared so far above them, that they could Cannon's castle, or the fishing village of more readily have written a note to her most Llanaber, it is still the old, old story-love! gracious Majesty, requesting the honour of an Maggie Pugh, I have already said, was the vil-alliance with the first unappropriated princess, lage beauty, consequently she did not lack ad- than have asked Maggie Pugh to wed them. mirers; indeed, when the men were not upon This other exception was Hugh Griffiths. some fishing expedition, she could not walk Were I inventing this tale I might, perhaps, many steps from her home without being sur- draw this second lover as an incarnation of evil, rounded by a troop of admiring beaux. Was it who would use any unlawful means to get rid of better, I wonder, to be accompanied by these his successful rival, and abduct the lovely hearty fishermen, paying her rough, but really Maggie: but, as it is, truth compels me to say felt compliments, than to be the belle of a Lon that, in his way, he was quite as worthy a fellow don season, with a carriage in the park, mobbed as Richard Owen, although he found less favour


[ocr errors]

in the eyes of the Llanaber beauty. Now doing so you have caused me more unhappiHugh had been for some daye endeavouring to ness than I can tell you." screw up sufficient courage to propose to “But, Hugb, you must not blame mne for Maggie, and, as luck would have it, but a few that: surely you would not quarrel with me! hours after Richard had gone home a happy It has been a clear field, and neither of us bave man, the second suitor sought, and found, an , sought to undermine the other. Maggie has opportunity to speak to Maggie. She had a decided in my favour, and bas made me the bappresentiment of what was coming, as he stood piest man in Llanaber ; but that is no reason by her side, nervously shifting from one leg to why you and I should not remain friends." the other, and fidgeting with his cap. She strove And Richard held out his hand, wbich, after to go on calmly with her knitting, but she a momentary deliberation, Hugh took. wished the interview over.

“ We are none of us perfect,” he said, as he Hugh stood pondering as to the words he did so." And I have bad feelings in me, should ise--a silence.

Richard. I know the truth of what you say, Maggie!" the word came out like a pellet but it is easier for you, situated as you are, to frum a popgun.

speak those words, than for me to act upon “ Well!” said she.

them. I love Maggie with my whole heart, “ Could you love me well enough to be my and I cannot feel friendly to you, who have dewife?"

prived me of her. We will not quarrel, but let Ob how his heart beat when the words were us keep apart for a time.” spoken! Would she never answer? The few "I am sorry for you, Hugh; but —" moments seemed ages while he waited for her “Yes, you can afford to be sorry, you can reply, although he knew from her face what it spare pity," said the rejected suitor, bitterly; would be.

and he turned and walked rapidly away; “No, Hugb, I could not marry you."

Richard Owen was vexed, but most decidedly "Oh, Maggie, dear, do not say that! I will had no Quixotic notions of turning over Maggie wait: but do not say you will not marry me!”. to the sorrowing and disconsolate lover, even

And the tone of grief came so truly from his supposing she could be brought into the state heart, that Maggie's sorrow for his anguish was of mind to consider herself “ bank stocks" or almost as great as his own.

“railway shares,” to be transferred from one “Do not think me unkind, Hugh," she said. person to another. “ You would not have me wed you if I love That evening Maggie and Richard talked of another better! Oh, I am sorry, indeed I am, Hugh's offer and united in pitying him, while to see you so unhappy; but I-I- I have pro- he at the time was seated in the parlour of the mised Richard Owen!"

Llanaber public-house, grumpily smoking, and Hugh punched his cap viciously.

ready to quarrel with or without cause. Poor " Then good-bye, Maggie."

Hugh! He was really to be pitied, he was a And he opened the door to depart.

fine manly fellow, and possessed many good “Do not be ang!y,” sobbed Maggie: "we qualities, but, as he sat there brooding over could not help loving each other,” she added, bis rejection he became more and more incensed innocently; but Hugh took no notice of her against fortunate Richard Owen. speech, and strolled on listlessly, with a chok- Is it not the case with us all? Do we not all ing sensation in his throat, and a strong desire look upon a successful rival, be it in love, in his mind to quarrel with the first person he ambition, or position, as if he were an enemy? met.

Our better feelings tell us that we should not Maggie went on with her work for a few mo- do so, but the demon Envy gnaws restlessly at meuts, but her tears blinded her, and, laying it us. Oh, brother author, when Tompkins' book down, she cried, and murmured to herself

, is praised and yours cut up, would it not ease "Oh, why should I have it in my power to make your mind to insult and fight Tompkins? So him so wretched ?". For she had not had the it was with Hugh Griffiths; could he have but advantage of a finished education at a fashion- punched or been punched by his rival, he able school; and her kind heart grieved at would have felt happier, but, as it was, he had causing misery to anyone.

nothing better to do than brood over and That evening Richard and Hugh met face-to-magnify his grievance. face. Hugh would have turned aside without Day after day passed, and all Llanaber talked speaking; but Richard, knowing nothing of the of the coming wedding, for the pair were to be cause, stepped after him, and laid his hand upon married without delay. Poor Hugb, as he the other's shoulder. Hugh shook it off walked through the village, met children bearroughly.

ing flowers to decorate the church for the " What is the matter, Hugh P” asked the wedding; if he entered a cottage he saw a new other, amazed, for the two had hitherto been the dress preparing for the wedding. How be best of friends. “ What is the matter?"

wished it all over ! for then, he thought, time “ You know well enough,” was the reply: would soften his bad feelings. then, after a moment's pause, “I beg your par- The happy day for Richard and Maggie was don, Richard; I should not quarrel with you : at hand, the dresses were prepared, the church you are lucky in having won the affection of decorated, but still, for those who live by the the best and prettiest girl in Wales, but in I sweat of their brow, business must be attended

« PreviousContinue »