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It was noontide. The sun was very hot. An old gentlewoman sat spinning in a little arbour at the door of her cottage. She was blind; and her grand-daughter was reading the Bible to her. The old lady had just left her work, to attend to the story of Ruth.
Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her.” It was a passage she could not let pass
without a comment. The moral she drew from it was not very new, to be sure. The girl had heard it a hundred times before and a hundred times more she could have heard it, without suspecting it to be tedious. Rosamund loved her grandmother.
The old lady loved Rosamund too; and she had reason for so doing. Rosamund was to her at once a child and a servant. She had only her left in the world. They too lived together.
They had once known better days. The story of Rosamund's parents, their failure, their folly, and distresses, may be told another time. Our tale hath grief enough in it.
It was now about a year and a half since old Margaret Gray had sold off all her effects, to pay the debts of Rosamund's father-just after the mother had died of a broken heart; for her husband had fled his country to hide his shame in a foreign land. At that period the old lady retired to a small cottage, in the village of Widford in Hertfordshire.
Rosamund, in her thirteenth year, was left destitute, without fortune or friends: she went with her grandmother. In all this time she had served her faithfully and lovingly.
Old Margaret Gray, when she first came into these parts, had eyes, and could see. The neighbours said, they had been dimmed by weeping : be that as it may, she was latterly grown quite blind. “God is very good to us, child; I can feel you yet." This she would sometimes say; and we need not wonder to hear, that Rosamund clave unto her grandmother.
Margaret retained a spirit unbroken by calamity. There was a principle within, which it seemed as if no outward circumstances could reach. It was a religious principle, and she had taught it to Rosamund; for the girl had mostly resided with her grandmother from her earliest years. Indeed she had taught her all that she knew herself; and the old lady's knowledge did not extend a vast way.
Margaret had drawn her maxims from observation ; and a pretty long experience in life had contributed to make her, at times, a little positive : but Rosamund never argued with her grandmother.
Their library consisted chiefly in a large family Bible, with notes and expositions by various learned expositors from Bishop Jewell downwards.
This might never be suffered to lie about like other books—but was kept constantly wrapt up in a handsome case of green velvet, with gold tassels—the only relic of departed grandeur they had brought with them to the cottage—every thing else of value had been sold off for the purpose above mentioned.
This Bible Rosamund, when a child, had never dared to open without permission; and even yet, from habit, continued the custom. Margaret had parted with none of her authority; indeed it was never exerted with much harshness; and happy was Rosamund, though a girl grown, when she could obtain leave to read her Bible.
It was a treasure too valuable for an indiscriminate use ; and Margaret still pointed out to her grand-daughter where to read.
Besides this, they had the “Complete Angler, or Contemplative Man's Recreation," with cuts—
Pilgrim's Progress,” the first part—a Cookery Book, with a few dry sprigs of rosemary and lavender stuck here and there between the leaves, (I suppose, to point to some of the old lady's most favourite receipts,) and there was
6. Wither's Emblems,” an old book, and quaint. The old fashioned pictures in this last book were among the first exciters of the infant Rosamund's curiosity. Her contemplation had fed upon them in rather
Rosamund had not read many books besides these; or if any, they had been only occasional companions : these were to Rosamund as old friends, that she had long known. I know not whether the peculiar cast of her mind might not be traced, in part, to a tincture she had received, early in life, from Walton, and Wither, from John Bunyan, and her Bible.
Rosamund's mind was pensive and reflective, rather than what passes usually for clever or acute. From a child she was remarkably shy and thoughtful
- this was taken for stupidity and want of feeling ; and the child had been sometimes whipt for being a stubborn thing, when her little heart was almost bursting with affection.
Even now her grandmother would often reprove her, when she found her too grave or melancholy; give her sprightly lectures about good humour and rational mirth; and not unfrequently fall a crying herself, to the great discredit of her lecture. Those tears endeared her the more to Rosamund.
Margaret would say, “Child, I love you to cry, when I think you are only remembering your poor dear father and mother-I would have you think about them sometimes—it would be strange if you did not—but I fear, Rosamund; I fear, girl, you sometimes think too deeply about your own situation and poor prospects in life. When you do so, you do wrong-remember the naughty rich man in the parable. He never had any good thoughts about God, and his religion : and that might have been your case.”
Rosamund, at these times, could not reply to her; she was not in the habit of arguing with her