Зображення сторінки

from above; a word or two reached me, and they seemed sweeter than the songs of angels. I ascended the stairs as quickly and as lightly as my heaviness of body permitted, and stood outside the half-open door to listen, glad of the rest, for I was somewhat out of breath. "" And if you ain't come to pay me,


are you come for ? ” the woman screamed out.

* Elias, I will not tell you what the lad said, or was trying to say, but I understood partly then, and the rest afterwards. He had resisted suicide—had fled from the tempter-devil's last fitting blandishment—had thought of you, Kezia, Hirell, me; and so in his extremity had run, literally run through the darkening streets in the fear that his better mood might pass away; and thus he had come back like a poor hunted hare to his form, knowing not where else to get even a crust of bread.

• Every bit of clothing beyond what bare decency required he had pawned and sold, and the lad was literally starving; yet he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat, and no man gave unto him, or was willing to give.

'I went in, pushed aside the brawling virago, and went to Hugh, who was supporting himself, while confronting her, against the corner of a table; his head drooping in spite of a certain rigidity and uprightness of his frame; his face shrivelled and ghastly, full of misery and despair; and yet, Elias there was a kind of mocking smile upon it fearful to behold, as though he rather looked on like a bystander, amused at the pretence of a struggle betwixt life and death, between God and Satan, and waited in a strange patience the issue.

• But I sent that damnable smile out of his face pretty soon, I can tell

you. This was, as well as I can remember, our first salutations, when I sent the woman out and locked the door :

Hugh!” 6" Well.” "“ Is it well? Dare you say it is well, with that friend at

your elbow ?"

He turned hastily, and seeing no one, said 6. What friend ? I see no friend."

"I did not choose to notice the touch of bitterness in the last few words, and the low, half-stifled sigh that accompanied them.

"“ Look again, young man,” said I, and in no gentle accents. " He is there, whispering even now in your ear, and bidding you keep his whisperings from mo. Oh, your friend and I have had many a tussle. The devil, Hugh, is behind you; and I bid you kneel with me now, and let us try which of us, he or I, has the best right to you ! ”

• He stared, and seemed half inclined to laugh.

"“ Down on your knees-down before God Ask Him pardon, while I, too, offer my soul in prayer ! "

. I said no more, but knelt.
'He stood still; stiff, silent, and gloomy.

'I prayed aloud : first to God on my own account, that He would forgive whatever of remissness I had shown in not watching more closely the youth given to my charge. Then I asked for power to speak, that this unhappy sinner by my side should understand that he was yet precious in his Father's sight: and then I poured forth all I felt of the beauty of the life thou hadst taught him, of the wondrous gift I myself was witness to; of the temptations to which I supposed his young spirit had given way ; of the chastisement he had received and was then enduring—but for what? why, thạt he might yearn once more for innocence, pardon, and peace; and I was about to conclude with words of promise, when he stopped me.

• I had known for some time that he was beginning to be moved by my words, or rather by God's Holy Spirit that moved me, and I felt as though I could have struggled then, and successfully, for a soul ten thousand million times more evil than his; but as I was about to finish, as I said, with words of divine promise, he gasped out hoarsely rather than spake the word “ Stop!' -came to my side in a terrible silence, knelt down as one possessed might do, while I, though I said nothing, marvelled greatly, and looked at him for perhaps a full quarter of a minute or so.

"“My son ! ” I said, at last, feeling truly as though he were bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.

• And my voice, I suppose, getting somewhat shaky, the lad could bear no more, but fell into my arms as I opened them, and cried on my breast like a child.

• He would not let me stir, even to get food, till he had told me his whole story, which I am sure he told me truly, excusing nothing--concealing nothing, except the shame that

saw overpowered every other emotion, and at times threatened to affect his


wits. That story I do not propose to tell thee, Elias, unless thou expressly wishest it. It will be a great comfort to him, if thou canst forgive, and take him to thee unknowing the particulars. I advise thy doing so.

'Friend Elias, the lad greatly needs comfort. His very lifo depends upon it. So let me say this: he has done nothing to prevent him from yet going forth again into the world, with a renewed heart and strengthened frame, and becoming a true and shining light.

'He is now at home with us; but I see he must remain no longer than is indispensably necessary, or the poor wife will complain she loses a second son when he goes. Expect us, therefore, soon. Ever thy friend, EPHRAIM JONES.'



ROBERT CHAMBERLAYNE lived in the village of Nytimber, in Kent.

A three-cornered pound stands where the roads meet at the entrance of the village, which seems to have been almost deserted at this end, for there is seldom anything in the pound but the stones thrown by the Nytimber boys at unfortunate strays in the times when it was kept in better use. Tramps are fond of resting on its low wall to eat their bread and cheese while spelling out and digesting the meanings of the names on the finger-post, and deciding their further progress.

On Sundays some lazy reprobate from the village will come and smoke his pipe there, to be out of the way of the churchgoers in the morning; or if sent out by his wife to take the children for a walk, is glad to impound them there while paying a visit to the “Hop Pole,” kept by John Clutterbuck, whose sign swings at the bottom of the long narrow garden, before a crumbling house a little beyond.

Opposite this, a pond lies stagnant, trying to draw over its dead water a decent covering of duckweed, which the dipping of a willow bough disturbs; lifting it as an inconsolablo mourner lifts the shroud to kiss the cold face of the dead.

No more signs of the village appear for some twenty yards or so, when the little church comes in view, and the old parish stocks just outside the graveyard wall, in passing which the gaitered legs of certain elders of Nytimber may still be seen to twitch a little as they go by with their gaily-dressed, unconcerned sons and daughters.

Cottage gardens walled right in, and approached by steps over the wall, come next, with their flowers and vegetables, their luxuriance, poverty, order, and untidiness. After these the road narrows, and on each side of it the hay-ricks stand so thickly together that the beholder trembles at the thought of the conflagration that would ensue if a lighted match were dropped among them. The air begins to smell of farmyards. Grunting snouts appear under large wooden gates, bits of yellow hay stick to the hedges, the wagon ruts in the muddy road cross and recross just here, like lines at a railway junction; for the two huge barnyards on either side are the headquarters of two farms-Brockhurst and the Rookery Farm.

If one watches the fowls of either farm just here, it will be seen that they are not particular as to which of the two yards they run into, out of the way of the brisk mail-cart or lumbering wagon. The great, placid, heavy-maned horses, too, unharnessed from the plough, will, with great contentment, turn into whichever gate chances to stand open; and the dogs, who were the last to allow of such neighbourly freedoms, are now deriving more advantages from the alliance of Brockhurst and the Rookery than any other animals on the two estates ; and are constantly trotting across the road, giving and receiving each other's experience and advice concerning the barn rats and other important matters of business.

Brockhurst farmhouse stands with its back to the road, a stone's throw from the great gates, covered from basement to chimneys with ivy cut sharply all round the windows, and looking simply very warm and comfortable and well kept from here; but over the wall one catches a glimpse of something more than warmth and comfort-of vine-houses and conservatory ; of great bow-windows shining through a well-trained luxuriance of fresh green beginning to cluster in coloured buds ; of nearly covered trellises, archways, green mounds, lilac-tree tops dark with buds, quaint summer-house, roof dovecotes, white guelder roses, beehives—all these are to be seen over the rich old wall of the garden at Brockhurst.

The Rookery farmhouse is down an avenue, farther along the road. It has a rich moated-grange air about the ancient windows, every one of which has a thatched projection over it like a hood. The rooms are dark; near the house the trees have been allowed to grow too tall and bushy—the whole place wants the brightness and loving cultivation of Brockhurst. Yet it is at the old hooded Fookery-house that the master of the two farms had resided for the last month, and there he had made arrangements to stay for the rest of the summer. Till his mother's death Brockhurst would not really be his own; and he had taken the Rookery Farm on lease, intending to go on with certain experiments which the careful old-world agriculturist, who was his mother's foreman, looked grave over when being tried on her property. So the young man took

up his residence at the hooded house down the avenue, and went to work as if he had all his fortune to make.

As the two houses were so near, this was much wondered at in Nytimber; and another reason besides anxiety about his new farm was hinted at, by certain wiseacres, for his having left the comforts of Brockhurst and his invalid mother for the damp old Rookery place. It was reported that Mrs. Chamberlayne bad had a poor relation thrown suddenly upon her—a very pretty girl--but so humble and so poor, so beneath Mr. Robert in every respect, that his mother, who knew there had once been a foolish fancy for her in his mind, had judged it best to encourage him in his whim of living at his new tenancy.

The pretty, smart maids, whose pleasant faces and bright ribbons made the passages of oak and the many ivied doorways of Brockhurst more lively and homely still, were constantly flitting to and from the hooded house with little notes and messages to Mrs. Payne, the old woman who lived there, concerning Mr. Robert's comforts. Every morning there was something to be sent over—his garden lounging chair-a new magazine, a bunch of lilac for the hall, or a dish of young peas, at each of which attentions Mrs. Payne murmured inwardly. Had she not kept house for old Farmer Stubbes, who held the farm before Mr. Robert ? Had she no peas and lilacs in the Rookery garden ? What need, then, for such litter from Brockhurst ? And as for cooking, she thought it time enough when Mr. Robert complained for his mother to interfere, sending those ' tossed-off jades' over every hour of the

« НазадПродовжити »