Imágenes de páginas

wretched one, the forsaken, might have stolen near, under the shadow of the night, to gaze like the outcast lain on the tents of peace from which he was for over exiled ?" O, not from hence, not from his father's roof!" was the old man's unconscious murmur, as, under the influence of that agitating thought, he flung open the cottage door and stepped out into the quiet garden. There was no sign nor sound of mortal intrusion, no footprints on the dewy herb-bed beneath the casement betraying its pressure by the exhalation of unwonted fragrance, the old horse was grazing quietly in its small pasture, the low garden-gate closely latched, and no object visible on the common to which it opened but the dark low pyramids of furze distinct in the cloudless starlight, and soon that feverish fancy passed away from the old man's mind as the balmy air played round his throbbing temples, and he inhaled the wafting of that thymy common, and gazed fixedly on the dark blue heavens and its starry myriads. Ten days had dragged on heavily since Andrew ('leave's mournful tranquillity had been thus overthrown. During all that time he had not ventured beyond his own little territory. The weekly

journey to C with his cart-load of rural

merchandise, the produce of his garden and dairy, had been relinquished, though its precarious sale now furnished his sole means of subsistence: but towards the end of the second week, finding himself unmolested by fresh rumours, he began to hope that the whispers of his son's re-appearance in the neighbourhood might have arisen in vague suspicion of fancied or accidental resemblance. So reasoning with himself the old man shook off the influence of those paralyzing apprehensions, and bis morbid

reluctance to re-enter the busy streets of C ,

where he felt as if destined to encounter some fresh and overwhelming misfortune; so girding up his loins for renewed exertions, he loaded his little cart with its accustomed freight, and as

cheerfully as might be, set out for C

market. By the time he reached it, bodily exercise and mental exertion, co-operating with change of scene, had in a great measure restored to him his usual firmness and self-possession, and he transacted his business clearly and prosperously, provided himself with such few articles of home-consumption as he had been accustomed weekly to take back from C——, and once more set his face homeward, inwardly blessing God that he was permitted to return in peace.

As he turned the corner of Market Street into that where the Court-house stood, in which the magistrates were holding their weekly meeting, his progress was impeded by an unusual crowd which thronged the doors of the building with an npppnranco of strange excitement. Andrew was, however, slowly making his way through the concourse, when two or three persons observed and recognized him, and suddenly a whisper ran through the crowd, and a strange hush succeeded, and all eyes were directed towards him, as thepeople pressed back, as though

in sympathy, to leave passage for his bumble vehicle. But the old man, instead of profiling by their spontaneous courtesy, unconsciouslj tightened the reins and gazed about him with troubled and bewildered looks. In a moment he felt himself the object of general observation, and then his eyes wandered instinctively to the Court-house doors, from whence confused sounds proceeded, and at that moment one or two persons from within spoke with the eager listeners on the steps, and the words, "prisoner" and " committed," smote upon Andrew's ear, and the whole flashed upon him. As if struck by an electric shock, he started up, and, leaping upon the pavement with all the agility of youthful vigour, would have dashed into the justice hall, but for a firm and friendly grasp which forcibly »ithheld him. Wildly striking down the detaining hand, he was rushing forward, when himself, and all those about the door, were suddenly forced back by a posse of constables and others descending the Court-house steps, and clearing the way for those who were conducting the prisoner to gaol. And now it was that the poor old man, overcome by agonizing expectation, leant heavily and unconsciously on the friendly arm, which, a moment before, he had dashed aside with impatient eagerness. Cold drops gathered on his forehead, he breathed short and thick, and his sight became misty and imperfect as he strained it with painful intensity towards the open door-way, but it cleared partially as the expected group came forth. Three persons only, and in the midst a hand-cuffed, guarded felon, whose downcast features,haggard, and dark, and fierce, and shadowed by a mass of coarse red hair, were seen but for a moment as he was hurried short round the corner of the Court-house to the adjacent prison, but the old man had seen them—he had seen enough. A gonial glow diffused itself through his shivering frame, and, with a burst of renovated clasped his hands together and cried out, with a piercing voice : " It is not he! oh, God! it is not he I"

It was a piercing cry. The prisoner started and half-turned, but be was hurried off, and the crowd had already closed-in between him and Andrew Cleave, who, recovering a degree of self possession, looked up at last to note and thank those who had befriended bin) in his agony. Everywhere and from all eyes be encountered looks of compassionate interest and distressful meaning, and no one spoke but in some low whisper to his neighbour, and again Andrew's heart sunk with a strange, fearful doubt. "That dark, gaunt, countenance; that could not be my curly-headed boy—you saw it was not he I" the old man faintly uttered, as his eyes wandered from face to face, and, resting at last on that of the friend whose arm still lent him its requisite support, read there eucha page of fearful meaning as scarcely needed the confirmation of words to reveal the whole extent of his calamity, but the words were spoken— the few and fatal words, which dispelled his transcient security. They sounded in his ear like the stunning din of rushing waters, yet they were low and gentle; but his physical and mental powers were falling under the rapid transition of conflicting passions, and overtasked Nature obtained a merciful respite by sinking, for a time, into a state of perfect unconsciousness.

It needs not to tell the particulars of the last exploit, which had been the means of consigning Josiah into the hands of justice, nor the progressive circumstances which had drawn him back, step by step, with the hardened confidence of infatuated guilt, to receive the punishment of his crimes on the very spot where he had first broken through the laws of God and man, nor will we attempt to trace the miserable weeks that intervened between the committal to the county gaol and his trial, which came on at the next assizes; still less, may we venture to paint minutely the first meeting of parent and child in such a place, and under such circumstances. On one side the overwhelming agony of grief and tenderness, on the other the callous exterior of sullen insensibility, and sneering recklessness, and unfilial reproaches, sharper than a serpent's tootb.

It is too painful to dwell upon such a scene, too harrowing to depict it; rather let us pass on to the brighter days of that awful period which was most blessed in its prolongation. Light from above penetrated the dungeon; the prayer of faith prevailed. The sinner's heart was touched, and at last the tears of the repentant son fell like balm upon the father's bosom. The good seed, though mixed with tares, had been sown early in Josiah's heart, and God gave time in mercy that the hand which first sowed them there should, with gentle and dear-bought experience, revive the long-hidden and unfruitful germ, and cherish it to life everlasting.

Andrew's labour of love was ably seconded by the good officiating chaplain, who was unremitting in his visits to the prisoner's cell, especially at those times when imperious necessity detained Andrew in his desolate home or forced him, more unwillingly, into the public haunts. But when Mr. Grey, the chaplain, found the father and son together, it was affecting to observe with what a humbled spirit the old man acknowledged his own need of instruction, and earnest desire to profit by the pious exhortations addressed to his unhappy son. Mr. Grey's voice not seldom faltered with emotion as he looked on his two hearers, the eyes of both fixed on him with such earnest reverence, the beautiful youth and the old greyhaired man, and both so near the grave.

The hour approached of Josiah'sarraignment, but his trial did not come on till the last day of the assizes. The result was inevitable, had the cause been defended by the ablest counsel in the land; but no defence was attempted, and when Josiah, in a low and steady voice pleaded 'guilty," aud, in spite of merciful dissuasion from the bench itself, firmly persisted in that plea, and it was finally recorded, his father, who bad accompanied him into court, and borne up

through all the preliminary forms with unshaken fortitude, bowed his head in total acquiescence with that decisive act; and, yielding at last to natural weakness, suffered himself to be led away, as the judge rose to pronounce the sentence.

On the evening of the day preceding that appointed for his execution, far different was the scene in Josiah's cell from what it had presented in the earlier stages of his imprisonment. Its occupants were the same as then, the afflicted old man and the guilty youth, and they were alone together, and now for the last time, and of earthly hope there was none for either of them. And yet in that gloomy cell— that portal of the grave—there was hope—not of this world—and peace, such as this world can neither give nor take away, in the father's heart a humble and holy confidence, that, through Christ's atonement and intercession, the pardon of his repentant son was already registered in heaven, and, in the son's, a more chastened and trembling hope, built upon the same corner-stone, and meekly testified by a perfect submission to his awarded doom, far removed from the miserable triumph of false courage.

That evening was the close of the last Sabbath Josiah was to spend on earth, and the old man had obtained the mournful privilege of being locked up for the night in the condemned cell. Father and son had, that day, partaken together of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and when the pious and compassionate chaplain, who had administered the holy rite, looked in upon them before the closing of the prison-door, they were sitting together upon the low pallet, side by side, hand clasped in hand, though few words passed between them, for they had spoken all.'; but the bible lay open upon the father's knees, and the eyes of both followed the same line, as the old man read, in his deep solemn voice, some strengthening and consolatory sentence. The youth's tall form was attenuated, and his face was very pale, yet it had regained much of its sweet and youthful expression. The jetty curls, of which the father had been so proud, again clustered in glossy richness on his white forehead, and, as his head leant against the old man's shoulder, a large tear, which had trembled on the long black fringes of his downcast lid, dropped upon the sacred page.

As the good chaplain gazed upon that youthful countenance, his own eyes filled with tears and he almost groaned within himself, "to he cut off Bo young!" But repressing that involuntary thought, he addressed to each of his heart-stricken hearers a few words of comfort and exhortation; and, having knelt down with them in a short but fervent prayer, and promised to re-visit them at the earliest hour of admission, he left for the night with his master's emphatic words "Peace be with you!" and from that hour till the earthly expiation was complete, Andrew Cleave did not leave for a moment the side of his unhappy son.

He not only sustained himself firmly throughout the tremendous trial, but soothed and supported the fainting spirit of the youth in his dishonoured passage through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, whispering hope and consolation even within the portal of that gloomy gate, through which, according to the course of Nature, he himself should have gone first; and when all was over his hands helped to compose, in its narrow recepticle, that youthful form which should have followed his own remains to a peaceful grave, and laid his grey head reverently in the dust. Andrew Cleave had provided that his own cart, with his old favourite horse, should be in readiness at the place of execution, that Gallows Hill, at a short distance from C—-, where his first outset with the young Josiah had been so ominously impended. Compunctious bitterness might have sharpened the arrows in his heart, had the absorbing present left room for retrospection. But for him the past, the future, and all extraneous circumstances, were for a time annihilated in comparatively light affliction. The heart takes strange delight in aggravating its own sufferings with bitter fancies, dear remembrances, and dark anticipations; but a mighty grief suffices to itself iu its terrible individuality. So absorbed, and acting as if mechanically impelled while aught remained to do, the old man proceeded with his appointed task, and having with the assistance of friendly hands lifted into the cart the shell containing that poor All that now remained to him upon earth, he quietly took his seat beside it; while those who had so far lent their charitable aid prepared to accompany the humble vehicle with its mournful freight, and to lead the old horse— ah, bow unconscious of his charge!—with slow and respectful pace, to the desolate home of his aged master. Just as [he simple arrangements were completed the old man, whose eyes had not once wandered from the coffin, lifted them for a moment to the face of a woman who bad touched him accidentally as she stood beside the cart. The sight of that face was lightning from the past: it flashed through heart and brain, and wakened every nerve that thrilled to torturing memory; and almost he could have cried out, "Hast thou found me of mine enemy i" But he refrained himself, and, groaning inwardly, let fall his head upon his breast in deep humility, then lifting it looked up again into that remembered face, still fixed upon him with an expression of unforgetting hardness, and laying his hand on the coffin, he said, in a subdued tone, "Woman, pray for me! the hour has come 1"

The old man looked up no more: neither spoke nor moved, nor betrayed further sign of consciousness till the humble car, with its charitable escort, stopped at the gate of his own cottage-garden. Then rousing himself to fresh exertion, his first care was to assist in bearing the body of his dead son under the shelter of that roof beneath which, three-and-twenty years before, he had welcomed him a new-born babe, and to place the coffin on his own bed in his

own chamber; then lingering for a moment behind those who had helped him to deposit the untimely burden, he drew the white curtain before the little casement, glanced round the chamber as if to ascertain that all was arranged with respectful neatness, and stepping softly like one who feared to disturb the slumber of the sick, paused on the threshold for a moment to look back, and making fast the door aa if to secure his treasure, followed his friends into the outer room, and with quiet and collected firmness rendered to all the grateful acknowledgments for their charitable services, and set before them such refreshments as his poor means had enabled him to provide: neither, while they silently partook round his humble board, did he remit aught of kindly hospitality; nor was it apparently by any painful effort that he so exerted himself; but there was that in his countenance and deportment, and in the tone of his low deep voice, which arrested the words of those who would have pressed him to eat, drink, and be comforted, and carried conviction to the hearts of all that to his affliction One only could minister, and that having rendered him all the active service they could immediately render, they should best consult his wishes by leaving him to the unmolested quiet of his solitary cottage. There was a whispering among themselves as they stood up to depart, and then a few lowly-spoken but earnest offers were made to return at the close of evening and watch through the hours of darkness, while his old grey head took rest in sleep by him whose slumbers needed no guardianship. But the kindly offer was declined, with a gentle shake of the head and a faint smile, which spoke more meaningly than words; and the old man thanked and blessed them, and bade them take no care for him, for he should "now take rest." So they retired, slowly and reluctantly retired, and left him to his coveted solitude. But there were not wanting some who, deeply moved with compassionate anxiety for the desolate old man, came about the cottage after nightfall, and crept close to its walla with stealthy footsteps: and they told how, looking cautiously into the chamber of death, where a light was burning, they saw a sight which sostrangelyafl'ected them, that rough peasants as they were, they could not afterwards speak of it without faltering voices. Tbe coffin, from which the lid had been removed, rested as they had helped to place it, at the old man's desire, on one-half of the bedstead, and beside it he had arranged the mattress and pillow, and then his head pressing against the coffin, and one arm flung across over its side, he lay at length in sweet and tranquil slumber. He had told them he should now *' take his rest;" and doubtless that rest so taken, strange and awful as it was to look upon, was sweet and blessed in comparison with all be had lately tasted. For him the bitterness of death was past, and the weariness of his own charge made of slight account the little intervening space of earthly darkness. Once more his eon lay beside him, on that same bed they had so often shared together; and perhaps the moment of reunion with his forgiven child was already anticipated in the dreams of that placid sleep, which composed his venerable features in such unearthly peace.

Four days after the remains of Josiah Cleave were quietly interred in Redburn churchyard. Six labourers, formerly in the employ of Andrew, volunteered to bear the body to its last restingplace; and two or three respectable persons, in deep mourning, walked behind the aged solitary mourner; and beside him none other was akin to the dead of those who stood that day about that untimely grave in Redburn churchyard; yet his was the only face which, as the affecting service proceeded, maintained unmoved composure, and his the only dry eyes that followed the descent of the coffin as it was lowered into the ground. Andrew Cleave had unavoidably incurred a few trifling debts during the time of Josiah's imprisonment and the relaxation of his own industry. To discharge these and the burial-expenses he parted with his cow, and with his last freehold, that small old pew in the parish-church which had descended to him from his father, the heirloom of many generations, where he himself, a small urchin, had stood aloft upon the seat between his father and mother, and when the old couple were laid sideby-side in the churchyard, where he had sat alone upright against the high dark oak-back a thriving bachelor, "the cynosure of neighbouring eyes," and afterwards a staid and serious bridegroom, with his matronly bride, and then again alone in impregnable widowhood; and, last of all, a proud and happy father, with his little son lifted up beside him in the very place where he had stood between his own parents. Andrew Cleave had said to himself, as he gazed upon the body of his son, that no after circumstance of human life could affect him with any emotion of joy or sorrow; but, when he finally made over to another the possession of that pew, one pang of deep feeling thrilled through his heart, and moistened the aged eyes that had looked fearlessly into his son's grave.

The next Sunday after the funeral Andrew Cleave was at church as usual, but not in his accustomed place. Many pew-doors opened to him as he walked slowly and feebly up the aisle, and many a hand was put forth to the old man's arm, essaying to draw him in with kindly violence: but, gently disengaging himself, and silently declining the proffered accommodation, he passed onward and took his seat near the communion-table, at the end of one of the benches appropriated to the parishpoor, and from that day forward to the end of his days, Andrew was to be seen twice every Sunday in the same place, more dignified in his sorrow and humility, and perhaps more inwardly at peace than he had ever been when the world went well with him, and he counted himself a happy man.

Andrew Cleave was an old man when his

great calamity befel him: he had already numbered seven years beyond the age of man— three-score years and ten; and though he bore up bravely during the time of his trial, that time told afterwards tenfold in the account of Nature, and he sank for a time almost into decreed feebleness : yet still the lonely creature crept about as usual, and was seen at his daily labour and at church and market, and answered all greetings and kindly queries with courteous thankfulness, and assurances that he was well, quite well, and wanted for nothing, and was content to tarry the Lord's leisure: but it was easy to see that he hoped to depart, and all who spoke of him said that his time was short, for the old man's strength was going; nevertheless, it was God's pleasure to delay the summons, which could not but have been welcome, though it was awaited with submissive patience.

Andrew Cleave survived his son's death upwards of nine years, and not only did his strong and sound constitution in a great measure recover from the shock which for a time had prostrated its uncommon power, but his mind also settled in a state of such perfect peace as at times almost brightened into cheerfulness, and never before had he tasted such pure enjoyment. One evening, when divine service was over, and Andrew was missed from his accustomed seat, many persons bent their way to the lonely cottage, and soon the general expectation was verified. The cottage-door was closed, and, when forced open, Andrew was seen sitting in his old high-backed chair before the little oak-table. It seemed at first glance that the old man was reading: but not so. One hand was still opened on the chapter beforehim; but his head had dropped on his breast; his eyes were closed, and he slept the sleep of the righteous. The old man had been committed to earth four days after his decease, and some hours after the funeral a person came hurrying, about nightfall, into the tap-room of the Jolly Miller, affirming that, having passed the churchyard, and looking accidentally towards the new-made grave, he had seen a white spectral shape rise out of the earth at the head of the dark, fresh mound, which strange appearance gradually increased in size, till he was afraid to look again. Though unable to repress a smile at this period of my hostess's story, I looked grave, and volunteered to head a chosen band that very evening, and really see what was this strange appearance which had made so great a commotion. So towards nightfall off we set at a good sound pace, and dashing through the churchyard gate, made straight for the haunted grave. Just then I struck my foot against a stone, and one behind me stumbled over another, over rough stones that had been thrown down.

"Oh, oh," cried I, "ghosts do not break down walls, my friends." And on we went, and all fear soon exchanged for pitying exclamation; for there, stretched on his old master's grave, lay the faithful old horse, who had been his companion for so many years. He had been turned into the next meadow to await there the leisure of the squire's hounds, and I suppose natural instinct had led him to the grave where be hud borne his old master; but, in trying to get over the wall, it had been thrown down, and the poor old horse, falling with the earth and stones, breathed his last on his old master's grave, making good bis Baying, '' We shall last out each other's time."


Oh, why though we ourselves should go

A dark and sorrow-clouded way, Why should wc not to others show

The clear blue light of gladsome day?

Why in dull silence should wc stand,
Or dumb and sullen sit and ween,

Because we saw a fairy land,
But wanted strength the path to keep?

What, though no more our eyes should gaze

(In loveliness so wondrous fair, May wc not point thee out the ways,

The flower-paved ways which led us there?

What, though our souls be bound in sin,

And now we fallen are so low, Though holiness be dead within,

And weaker weaker still wc grow?

Yet will remembrance never die!

And oftimes still do visions bright Pass flashing o'er our memory

Like meteors through the sombre night.

Oh, there are lands beyond us lie

Of beauty supernatural,
And though we cannot thither hie

Yet oft do we with grief recall,

The fay-like flowers, the music strauge,
Those skies so bright and souls so kind,

Love which eternal knows no change,
Fidelity which none may find

In this tumultuous fleeting life,
This world of madness, woe, and strife.

There, wrapt in ecstasies divine,
Wc seem'd to dwell in God's own light,

But when to earth wc did incline
Back wc fell to cheerless night.

Back we fell, and we may never

Hope again that land to view; Wc ourselves the bond did sever

Which around our souls it threw.

We ourselves have lost the way,
Plunged us deep in dreary night,

Wilfully shut out the ray
Lit us to that world of light.

Like the foolish soul who travcll'd

Till he found a fairy spot, By a silken clue unravell'd

From a charm enwoven knot.

Saw but once that happy place
Long having left its quiet dell,

His footsteps uever could retrace,
Nor ever call to mind the spell.

So to us the charm is lost,

And we cannot thither wander,
Into thec the ball is toss'd,
Seek to work the knot asunder,

Though on the path we cannot light,
Nor bring the holy charm to mind,

Still wc dream of scenes so bright.
Still we long the clue to find.

As in Thcssaliau proves of old

Some solitary shepherd spied A dryad fair her charms unfold

From the wood where she did hide,

Wanders through the forest brown,

Sighing still her face to see, Longing, sighing, but she's llown.

And he clasps a lifeless tree;

So have we iu happier growth

Seen a vision oi a laud,
Home of beauty, love, and truth.

Fresh from its Creator's hand.

Do you wish its shores to win?

None other can the power give, But purify thy soul from sin,

And seek iu holiness to live.

Then, perchance, thou yet may'st travel

Onwards unto happiness, And the charmed clue unravel

To that fairy laud of bliss.

J. P.


Pluck colour from the morning sky,
And wear it as thy diadem;

Nor pass the wayside flowers by,
But star thy robes with them.

Far in the temple of the sun
The vestal fires of being burn;

Thence beauty's finest fibres run,
And weave where'er we turn.

Thy plumes arc in the yellow com,
But chief the gold of priceless days

In bosom of thy friend is borne,
Coined in his kindly rays.

Here lies thy wealth, go gather it.
The mine is near, its deeps explore,

And freely give love, metal, wit—
Thine is the exhanstless ore:

Thine are the precious stones whereon
The weary pass grief's flooded ford,

And thine the jewelled pavement won By those who Jove the Lord.

« AnteriorContinuar »