« ZurückWeiter »
Is-she-dead ?' he falteringly articulated, shivering as with intense cold. • Thank God, no; though I am not sure what the result may
be.' Make haste,' said he, now impetuously; make haste, for God's sake, and tell me all. Suspense is too dreadful. Tell me, if I die for it.'
I will not torture myself by describing the scene of that sad morning; but will relate, in as few words as possible, the additional particulars I had gained by the morning's letter; adding enough from subsequent explanations to enable the reader to understand our anxiety and distress.
Fewston had given Miss Walter, on leaving for Ireland, a letter of introduction to the Mrs. Leslie just referred to, and had also written to the lady direct respecting her; and thus had been somewhat quieted after receiving the startling intelligence of her abrupt departure from H-- House, by the belief that she would at once repair to Cork, So, indeed, she had determined on doing. And, dreadfully agitated as she was at feeling herself instinctively constrained, thus hurriedly and secretly, to depart before day, she had presence of mind enough to possess herself of the letter to Mrs. Leslie, intending to avail herself of it, if necessary. But her purpose was, if possible, to place herself on board the steamer from Cork to Bristol, without delay. Unfortunately, some sixty miles lay between her and the city; and as her finances would barely suffice for the voyage, she unhappily made the journey on foot. Ignorant of the way, and vaguely dreading to be recognised, so that she seldom inquired, she wandered on those hot June days many a weary mile out of the road. On the fourth day, with much difficulty, she hardly reached a cabin she had long seen before her in the distance, when she sunk down, exhausted, at the door. The poor woman tended her as carefully as she knew how; and when, after some hours, she somewhat revived, she remembered her letter of introduction; and, putting it into the hands of the peasant woman, feebly expressed a wish to be conveyed to Cork, which was still ten or twelve miles off. After a good deal of delay a very humble kind of cart was procured, and the kind-hearted Irish woman insisted on seeing her safely to the house she had named. But, before arriving, her revived strength again gave way, and it was in a fainting state that she was borne into Mrs. Leslie's house. After a long time she again became conscious, but only to sink back, in a few minutes, once more into the same state of collapse. When Mrs. L. wrote, although she could announce her arrival beneath her roof, she could not report much that was satisfactory. The physician was convinced the mind had experienced some severe shock, and feared the nervous system was too terribly depressed to warrant any hope of speedy recovery; if, indeed, nature did not sink altogether.'
This was the intelligence, then, that came to us on that bright June morning ; and while the birds were singing, and the sun shone brightly, and all nature looked a fit accompaniment for only human happiness, Jephson was a prey to all those cruel thoughts, and imaginations, and feelings, which the reader may more easily conceive than I describe.
We all thought he would have lost his reason. For some time he was frantic. And what could we say? We recognised the wisdom of silence. And when the first violence was somewhat abated, the major sat by him, supporting him as tenderly as a sister. Presently, he felt • able to go,' and wanted to start off at once.
But trains and steamers must be consulted; and so, consigning him to the gentlest of feminine care, the major and Fewston withdrew to ascertain the necessary particulars, and consult about arrangements. This was Tuesday; a boat would leave Bristol on Thursday morning, arriving in Cork about noon on Friday. Nothing could be done till the morrow! And then -Jephson could not be suffered to go alone; yet-yet-how could Fewston dream of accompanying him? Does the reader ask, why? My unworldly friend ! in this present state there are, alas, many sad obstructions in the way of the good we yearn to do; so that we have to be the more watchful and thankful for the little that we can. tell the real truth, however, although, as a school-boy, Fewston could have given a very good reading of the res angusta domi, yet, as a Nonconformist minister, he could have construed it much more feel. ingly. Then, how to get a supply' for Sunday ? &c., &c. However, in the course of the day, one circumstance after another occurred that compelled him to abandon the idea of carrying out the desire of his heart. For this decision some of his people' were answerable, though they knew it not. Fewston had his own troubles just then -church troubles, which are sui generis, and often as annoying as any one knows of — and when the major begged to be allowed to go instead, his proposal was readily accepted.
The next day they went. Followed by what sympathies, what hopes and fears, from Fewston and his family, the reader may easily guess; although Mr. Deacon Sludge, and his brother Wiggins, with the amiable Mrs. Babbit, and others, who of course heard of their departure, hoped to goodness that major and his crony would never
' come back again.'
And in the pages of the Christian Spectator' they never will.
However the partialities of friendship might prompt the writer to linger among other scenes in which his friends shared, yet the laws which regulate · Monthlies,' and their readers, are as ascertainable and fixed, I suppose, as those which sway the tides, or propel the planets; and the month of brown October’ is, perhaps, the most fitting one for writing. Finis' to an already too-long tale like the present.
Still, there are some inquiries which the reader will, probably, insist on having answered. So I promise to answer a few, provided only three of thein relate to Jephson and Miss Walter.
I casily anticipate your first, my amiable young friend : “Did they find her alive?' They did; but this was almost more than the physician had expected. • Did she die, then, after all? Oh, do not say, “Yes.” My dear young lady, I have already received several remonstrances against letting the intimations previously dropped of the sonnet-like brevity of her life be realized. ut have I the power life and death? Do you want a tale by a writer of fiction, and all
ending, after approved fashion, with merry marriage bells ? Is life, then, arranged, think you, on the plan of a three-volume novel? Or is it but the opening chapter or two of human life, or perhaps, indeed, only the preface, that writes itself in the present state, while the world beyond the veil becomes the chief scene of action ? When the noble and the good are withdrawn from our admiring observation, have they gone out like the snuff of a candle? Are they clean perished ? Nay, do you think of them as even lying in the grave, and, while the prey of the worm, waiting patiently for some far distant day to re-awaken them? Hearken, I pray you. Hath not Christ conquered death for all his followers ? I heard the voice of Him that is true, proclaiming,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that keepeth my saying shall never see death.' And when the angel of the Resurrection pointed to the forsaken tomb of the great Redeemer, and said, 'He is not here, he is risen,' the heavenly words did not then expire and cease ; but, being committed, by God's decree, to this living atmosphere, have remained till now as the blessed portion of every one that hath ears to hear; and may still be caught by the listening believer, as he stands by whatsoever tomb where affection has deposited the relics' of departed worth.
Such a tomb is that which, a few months after the date of this chapter, might have been seen in the Protestant Cemetery, outside the city of Cork. A short marble cross, of most perfect white, is raised over the grave, which, in the spring of the year, is sweet with lilies of the valley. There is no name, no date, but, in small gilt letters, the words
SHE RESTS WITH CHRIST. And if the passer by, arrested by this simple memorial, were just to push aside the grass at the foot of the marble cross, he might trace, in small characters, only two or three inches above the ground, the additional memento, which affection loved to inscribe
CHAPTER XXI.-VANISHED ALL,
The reader is entitled to answers to his remaining questions. Jephson, as we have seen, had learned to pray; and he could say, 'My Father!' Need I say more? Would it not be impertinently superfluous to tell that his grief was very deep, and very long? And how could the heart of friendship bear to disclose the manifestation of his woe? Could the surgeon lay the body of his own brother, or son, on the dissecting table, and act as demonstrator ? The reader will respect real grief so much as to consent that a veil shall be drawn over it:
For, with a soul that ever felt the sting
Of sorrow, sorrow is a sacred thing.' Or, need I tell that such a crisis gave a colour to all his after life ? As to his subsequent course, it falls not under the title of this tale.
Reader, let him depart. He has completed one circle of his life, which, to such as he, is spiral. Understandest thou ?
Well then, the major ?' you ask. He devoted himself to his friend with all the nobleness of his nature; and, having revealed the sacred secret which disclosed itself in the last chapter, Jephson took him into a still closer heart relation. Theirs was a beautiful specimen of what the friendship of two noble men can be. It was, indeed, one soul in two bodies,' as Aristotle defines it. The marble monument was a joint memorial of their affection; and, having agreed together on the simple inscription, it was the major who proposed the two words that were added at the base, while their position was the suggestion of the more deeply bereaved one. The major's subsequent course is not to be hinted on the closing page of the narrative; but I cherish his name among my deepest memories, and I know that we shall meet again.
Perhaps Biggins has been too 'humble a person to awaken any interest. But if any one inquires concerning him, it may be told that the poor fellow paid dearly for the new pleasure he derived from being made free of our circle. The man about whom he came to consult Fewston, when he first made his appearance in these pagesthe man who had not sat down' for so many months—had determined to work the oracle,' as he said, to unseat the worthy little village pastor. And as, about that time, one or two of the very religious magazines' and newspapers had denounced Fewston as a Neologist,' and branded him as 'little better than an infidel,' and poor · Biggins had been a good deal in his company of late,' and, moreover, bad grown somewhat more quiet and reverent in the pulpit, which some folks called, being less earnest like,' here was a quite sufficient handle. So Master Grabble, the deacon, took counsel with brother Pukeley, the leader of the singing, and Mrs. Whinnett, the chapel-cleaner; and these, setting to work, made things so uncomfortable, that, eventually, Biggins was glad enough to go.' But to the mortification of the Grabbles and Pukeleys (who, I am told, are a large family, and much spread abroad) the worthy vicar engaged him forthwith, as a sort of scripture-reader and itinerant pastor among the poor people on the commons; and, which was a mighty puzzle to some folks, with no restriction whatever on his teaching, or preaching, or -baptizing, even! And the poor fellow often feelingly distinguishes between the Christian gentleman, “though a Churchman,' and Dissenting roughs,' as he irreverently terms the “Grabbles' of the churches.
*Well, now the vicar ?' He kept the even tenour of his way for some years longer, and then he was not; for God took him.' To the last he had this testimony, that he pleased God. The stone that marks his resting-place in the retired church-yard of Beechington was erected to his memory by the Dissenters of the parish. He was little of the Churchman, and much of the Christian; and Fewston and he were brethren, till earth was made, to the former at least, the poorer by his removal. But God be praised that—
Such as he have lived-and died.'
An Invalid's Winter.
THERE are many negroes amongst the inhabitants of Algiers ; the young remarkable, if rarely for beauty of features, yet often for the fine formation of the limbs, and for delicacy in the texture of the skin. The old, on the contrary, both in feature and limb, are something frightful. I feel almost guilty of inhumanity in writing it; yet so they affected me. Some of the Jews likewise present as exaggerated forms of the features peculiar to their race as caricature could desire; while the Jewesses are almost invariably unpleasant looking. In Tangiers, on the contrary, where there is a mixture of Spanish blood in the race, the Jews are, I am informed, a very fine people. But in Algiers, from being constantly treated with all the distinctions of a separate and inferior race, they seem to have degenerated. To return to the negroes. From the fact that the Moors do not permit their young women to go to the mosqne, and, therefore, that their religious necessities are left unsupplied, some of the negresses have attained great influence over the Moorish women ; secming, indeed, to occupy the position of priestesses between them and some good or bad power which they attempt either to propitiate or disarm by barbarous ceremonies. At certain wells on the coast negresses meet one day in every week, to sacrifice fowls and perform other rites. To these assemblies some of the Moorish women repair, to have their faces laved in the holy water, and be fumigated by the negresses with incense. But on frequent occasions they assemble in an appointed house; that is, in the central open court of one of the Moorish dwellings, and anyone may easily gain admittance.
At one of these I was present, but I should not choose to go again ; it left such an impression of doleful, uninteresting horror. Nor were the performances at all such as to be worth describing. They consisted chiefly of intense bewildering noise from half a dozen drums, as many iron castanets, and some other instruments, accompanied at times with a most peculiar shrill whistle, resembling that of a steam-engine, from one or other of the negresses, with which they used to excite others to join in the second principal part of the performance-namely, a kind of frantic and degrading dance, in which at one time they threw themselves heels over head on the ground, and at another crawled backwards, beating time with their hands on the paved floor; or again, belaboured themselves with ropes, and pretended to stab themselves with knives. Whenever anyone seemed going too far, or likely to injure himself, another patted him on the back, and at once brought him to his senses. At length, however, one or two were carried away senseless. This kind of performance, I understand, is usually kept up to a late hour; and in many cases, when the excitement reaches its height, marvellous tricks of jugglery are said to be performed,