Obrázky na stránke


the "old house” never loses a sort of sanctity in our eye from the very simple fact that we were born there ; be it in some sweet sequestered village then no change that after-life may bring can efface the recollection of all that is most sweet to dwell upon. With whatever feelings we may leave our little country home, whether with but the simple regret of childhood, or with the pride of manhood going forth to battle with the outer world, still every little nook and incident is treasured up, never-no, never—to be forgotten. And if this be true upon departure, what, then, are the feelings on return? Happy, or otherwise, may have been the time elapsed—other scenes and other lands—sweet friendships and bitter enmities—fortune in her happiest mood or clouded with her darkest frowns—all this and more-much more—may have been our lot, yet still our inmost heart will leap with joy

gaze again upon our native village spire. Aye, even more, the feeling lasts till death; for how often is it felt, when the spirit takes its flight in distant lands, that could our bodies lie but in our "own churchyard,” we should be farther from the world, and nearer to the heaven we seek.

It was with feelings partaking of something of this character that I approached the little hamlet where first I saw the light, longing to proceed, yet almost fearing to go on, for what, I thought, must be the changes now that twenty years have passed away? New faces would look coldly and inquiringly upon me; old houses, that once would seem to smile upon me as I passed, would now be changed, new-tenanted, and improved, -and should I find some of my old friends yet alive, how many would be the vacant chairs ! But then again, I thought of those with whom I played and frolicked as a boy, of my own age, and full of joyous recollections like myself,—they must be happy still, no iil could have befallen those pure souls, no harm could penetrate the circle of this rural spot. But the brightest of all my recollections was of Annie Medway-we were of the same age, we were inseparable as playfellows, and always shared our little griefs and joys together—the bond of love in childhood as in age. Ah! what a picture did I conjure up! there did I see my Annie grown to womanhood, pure, bright, and beautiful as when a child—perhaps a wife, proud of her husband, loving to her child. But, false at this might prove to be, of this I felt quite sure, wherever Annie was, there I should find a friend.

Thus pondering, I gently strolled across the fields till I reached a little lane that led up to the church. That at any

rate was little changed; the ivy creeping round its ancient tower was somewhat thicker than of yore, and here and there the symptoms of decay were growing more visible as laid bare by the hand of Time, but in other respects it was the same peaceful spot that the imagination might wreathe with joyous smiles at a marriage or a christening, or enshroud with melancholy shadowings at a funeral. I had become deeply engaged in looking at the newest tombstones, when my reverie was interrupted by the sound of footsteps approaching from the village, and quickly perceived that the interment of one of its inhabitants had brought them hither. All about the mournful procession had an air of extreme modesty, even of poverty ; but nevertheless, one could trace with ease that whatever might have been the social position of the departed, a high one in the estimation of the villagers was unquestionable : strong men thought it no disgrace to shed a tear to the memory of departed worth and beauty, while the old men shook their heads and thought it strange that one so young as her they mourned should thus have led the way so soon before them.

Not wishing to intrude upon the thoughts or sorrows of the mourning villagers, I withdrew to a distant part of the churchyard until the solemn and impressive ceremony of our Church was concluded and the corpse committed to its parent dust. All but the old sexton had retired,—a man I recollected well that I had looked upon with fear and trembling when a child-and as much perhaps from curiosity as from interest inquired the name of her, whose earthy resting-place he was hastily filling up.

Sextons and grave-diggers are not proverbial for their sensitiveness of character; their occupations, their associations, the very fact of their living by other's deaths would be enough to prevent that; but now this man's eye was moist, and a large rolling tear trickled down his aged cheek and fell upon the earth, - probably the first of his that had ever fell upon a grave! After looking at me hard without the least sign of recognition, he said:

“What! don't ye know her sir ? the fairest lass in all the country round,—at least once was.-Alas! alas! there lies the last of poor heart-broken Annie Medway!”

Why, reader, should I intrude the painful thought that occupied me when I heard that name on you ; mayhap that you may guess them better than I can tell—if from the earliest dawn of intellect and love you have cherished one sweet fancied image of all that is most bright and heaven-like

grave, and

-if in your day-dreams and your sleeping phantasies one sweet form has hoyered always like a meteor too fair for earth and yet is of it,-ifi in the darkness which sometimes besets us in our path through life, one vision of angelic form has led you to the light,-if you have felt a touch of this and thought at last to clutch the impersonation of your dreams and find it dashed away by the Almighty's fiat, and lying in the cold damp earth a corpse, then you may know what my thoughts were of Annie Medway. But little time elapsediere we were sitting on a moss-grown

was listening to the old man's narrative of the ills and sorrows that had brought my childhood's friend to meet me on the way to seek her. I will not tell it in his own words, for in good truth I think they were more rambling than my own, and tales of woe had little need be long, for lack of space to tell them in.

Few readers would participate in the interest I felt in listening to the details of the early years of Annie, but to me there was a charm, difficult indeed to explain, but: exquisite to feel ;--for what on earth is lovelier to contemplate-except it be a flower about to bloom--than childhood's youth and beauty, growing under heaven's care to womanhood ; intelleet, loveliness of form and face, a heart bursting with love, which seeks but the happiness of other's to be contenti all day by day combining as they grow to form the loveliest of all God's works, at once the fairest and the best.. And so it was withis her'; with smiles-and joyous words for ever playing was on her lips, what wonder that she used to think this world was made of happiness. Butitime passed on, and Annio Medway loved, and now, where care had never sat before, was sometimes iseen a cloud, transient as morning mists 'tis trae, and almost sweet to think upon when passed, yet they threw a shadow o'eri her path; but when at' eventide she wandered forth teeming with woman's fond dependence on her lover's arm, surrounded by Nature's works of every beauteous mould, and honied accents: falling on her ear and sinking deep into her heart, she some thought it was a bliss too sweet to last, so fair a portion was too heavenly for earth. No, Annie - you were wrong; the Almighty in his great beneficence to man, has given us sweets like this as blessings to enjoy, but not-abuse ; and had you fallen to the lot of one of even worldly honour, a lasting, everlasting bliss would then have been your own'; but he you loved, alas ! how tenderly and well, he had a

[ocr errors]

* Tongue could wheedle with the blind, And he could smile, and murder while he smil'd." And thus they wandered under the blue vault of an autumnal sky-Eve, Tempter, and the Fall, personified.

Winter has come with its cold, dark nights, and sleet and snow without—with its blazing hearths, and merry faces laughing at the oft-told tales, within. But there sits Annie, in the darkest corner of their little farmhouse room-listening? Yes, listening; for still a ray of hope is cherished in her breast, but, as too oft before, in vain--no lover's step comes leaping over the crackling grass--no sound comes borne upon the winds of night to cheer her lonely heart, chilly, cold, and frozen as the ice-bound lake-brothers and little sisters laugh and joke of Annie's sweetheart staying so long away, and she

-what can she do but smile again?: Oh, bitter mockery ! a smile on her face now, is like the flowers upon a new-inade grave, a dreadful contrast to the death beneath. But, hark ! a step, with hurried, unbated tread, is drawing nigh, and Annie seems instinctively to know that sorrow-still more sorrow-lags not far behind, and in a minute more her father stands before her-one glance tells her that the truth is known, and she who ever greet with smiles of filial love his gaze,

then hid her face and wept.

But Annie's tears were little worth:

Away girl, away wench! and never, never let my home be tainted with thy form again! Nay, no pleading, it is in vain; begone! no more my daughter, but my shame!" these were the words which fell on Annie's ears-no friend, no mother there to save the blow !

Cold, dark, and miserable the night, and Annie heard the door of that loved cottage shut on her for ever! Oh, Heaven! the shorn lamb has left the fold, lull the loud blast, be merciful, inore merciful than man! Courage, poor Annie, courage ! put not your trust in reeds : your earthly father may discard you;

sin no

and never will your heavenly parent let you want. On, on, Annie; wrap tightly round you your red cloak - two lives are on the issue ; battle the storm, and put your trust in him!

Two years have passed away, and in the upper room of a house in a narrow street of a town about four miles from her native village, sat Annie Medway, toiling to earn what man





refused to give-her daily bread. Her eyes are brighter, wilder than when we met her last ; her cheek has still a bloom, but of another cast, than when she walked the village green at home; and though there is no look of happiness, there is another, better feeling to be traded—of resignation ; for she has drunk deeply, very deep of the cup of sorrow, but in that sorrow hath she found a treasure to be enjoyed--above.

But has she no comfort in her lonely hours ? no object now, to which to pour out the loving gushes of her faithful heart? Oh yes ! her cause of trouble has become her only joy : see on the floor, that little rosy Annie's second self ; see with what glee and blest unconsciouness she looks up to her mothər's face—one moment's smile repaying hours, nay, days of grief to her. Aye, wakeful nights might raise their shades of mournful inemory, bringing to mind all bitter thoughts but one, reproach, for that would never enter Annie's mind; long trains of melancholy visions would appear, to drive refreshing slumber from her eyes, but brightly, beautifully, with the breaking morn, was all repaid by one sweet laughing smile of that dear child, loved the more for all the sorrow she brought.

And now the sun is gently passing to another hemisphere, and Annie, with her child, set out to pay a visit to a friend —the only one she has residing not far from her father's house. Away, over hills and through dales, her spirits soothed to heavenly repose by the balmy evening atmosphere, until they arrive beside the river's brink which separates her from her village; here she meets her old acquaintance, the ferryman, who, for friendship’s sake, always refuses his rightful fare; on, gently over the rippling stream glides the frail bark with all its precious crew, and Annie's eyes are fixed upon the distant woods, which seem almost to fascinate her gaze:-what wonder that they should ?- but what was that plashing, gurgling sound? what meant that terrific shriek? Her little one, while leaping in her arms in playful mood, has fallen in the stream, never to rise to life again on earth! In vain the old man rowed about; in vain the raving mother called on heaven for aid, and fell at last into a deadly swoon.

With some little help, the old man carried her to her father's house, where, let it be in justice said, she was not now sent forth again. But her glass was run—she never knew what reason was again, but for a few short moments ere she went to seek her babe in other regions than of earth.

« PredošláPokračovať »