صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Scotland 1,925, and in Ireland 918. And under the head of 'rag-cutters, dealers, and gatherers,' we find in England 1,316, in Scotland 108, and in Ireland 881. Of boot and shoe makers,' we find 187,943 in England, 26,837 in Scotland, and 50,334 in Ireland; and of 'butchers,' 45,495 in England, 3,202 in Scotland, and 5,832 in Ireland. The inferences here are obvious. Of clock and watch makers,' there are 13,577 in England, 1,202 in Scotland, and 885 in Ireland. Of grocers and tea dealers,' there are 41,929 in England, 7,277 in Scotland, and 3.434 in Ireland. In all occupations ministering either to necessity, comfort, or luxury, the proportions are about the same, excepting in the case of pig-dealing, rag-collecting, and several minor callings. We find in England 662 pig-dealers, in Scotland 9, and in Ireland 969! Under the head of tavern-keepers' -which includes beershop-keepers, hotel and innkeepers, publicans and victuallers, and spirit merchants-we find in England a total of 59,779, in Scotland 8,546, and in Ireland 12,652. Ireland has the services of a smaller proportion of professional men than the other parts of the United Kingdom. It has rather less than double the number of medical men for four times the population that Scotland has. In clerical gentlemen, its supply is the largest.

THE POET AND BRIGAND. THE evening shadows were falling from the lofty Apennines into the bosom of the valley of the Pescara, and the bells of the sheep and zampogna of the shepherd were mingling in merry harmony, as two mounted travellers, attended by four lacqueys, were winding through the mountain pass which is the gateway of the Abruzzi, immediately above the romantic town of Castel di Sangro. The two travellers were men of distinction; the gay beaver, cloak, and rapier of the younger, and the rich vestments of the elder, were sufficient attestation of this, although they had not been attended by squires; but even supposing their attendants and garments had been of a very inferior order, their personal bearing would have marked them out from the vulgar crowd. The senior of these travellers was a priest, whose tall portly frame was encased in robes whose richness of texture seemed to mock their sacerdotal modesty of fashion; he was mounted on a beautiful black horse, which he managed with the ease and grace of a practised equestrian, and his keen penetrating eye and haughty bearing showed that the priestly office to him was nothing more than a family arrangement. He was grave and taciturn, and seemed to be absorbed in his own reflections—a state of mind which his companion did not seem anxious to disturb, for his large black eyes rolled incessantly over the lofty rugged scenery which rose before them. This second traveller was tall and slender in his form, and his long black hair fell luxuriantly over his shoulders. His extremely handsome face seemed to reflect the ever-varying aspect of the wild and rugged landscape which lay around him, for it would lighten with a gleam of wild enthusiasm as the setting sunbeams would burst through an opening of the hills, or it would darken into a look of almost sullen wrath as the shadows would deepen on his path. The gentlemen travellers seemed either to be totally absorbed by the aspect of the country, or the reflections incidental to some important mission, as they rode along; for neither the place where they rode nor the approaching twilight called forth any remarks upon the necessity of finding shelter for the night.

the death-like silence of the glen, and, as it was intended, roused the travellers from their reverie.

'I hear old Pietro grumbling, Torquato,' said the ecclesiastic, rousing himself with an effort, and smiling as he turned to his companion; there must be a wine-shop within a league, and he is anxious that we should push on.'

[ocr errors]

If he thirsts he may drink of the waters that flow from yonder grotto,' said the younger traveller, pointing to the clear stream that issued from a dark cave, and sprung from rock to rock until it was white with foam; his head will be clear and his finger steady if he drinks nought else,' he continued, gloomily.

Come, come, Torquato,' said the cardinal, speaking gaily and even affectionately to his companion, thou must not let these moods get the better of thee. We shall quaff our good Falernian in time, I trust; and then, when with me at Arreti, thou wilt forget the contumely and the injustice thou hast borne.'

Have I not been immured for years in a dark and gloomy dungeon? Have I not been insulted by the carrion crows of literature? Have I not been driven from principality to principality, like a wolf without a covert?' said the poet, while his eyes glared wildly; and thinkest thou, Arreti, that I can enter again into the joys and loves of life? No, no; the happy may quaff wine, or those who wish to forget their misery. I, who am not happy, and do not wish to forget my wo, am content with the clear stream, or tears if they could be found in sufficient libations.'

This is a lovely country, Torquato,' said the cardinal, as he drew up his steed and looked around him, evidently with the intention of distracting his friend's thoughts from himself.

'Beautiful!' exclaimed the enthusiastic Italian, entering at once into the cardinal's design, and his dark eyes flashed, and his nostrils expanded as he threw his keen glance around him. This is the land of Ovid-this is the early home of the bard of love and beauty; it was to these mountains that the goddesses came and breathed into his spirit the sounds which themselves delighted afterwards to hear! You have not the vine-clad, grape-festooned elms of the Campania Felice here,' he continued, neither do you see the broad-bladed corn that sparkles in the dew of Favoro; there are no flowering orchards, tall shady pines, nor hedgerows of clymatis or eglantine; but there is peace, rest, contentment, and truth,' said the enraptured poet, whose mind had evidently suffered from his misfortunes; and he clasped his hands together and gazed steadily upon the mountain-peaks and then on the flocks that were gathering on the hills and seeking the lower pasturage.

'Let us on, Torquato,' said the Cardinal Arreti, gently, in the ear of his friend; the night-shades are falling, and Castel di Sangro is still a league distant from this glen. Let us hurry on.' As the cardinal spoke, the loud tinkling of goat-bells fell close upon the ears of his band, and directly a few of these creatures sprung from a hollow close beside the travellers, followed by a shepherd clad in the picturesque habiliments of the Abruzzi.

The Abruzzi are two provinces in the north-east of Naples, which may be styled the highlands of that kingdom; they are broken up into valleys by lateral branches of the Apennines; and, being ill adapted for agriculture, they are principally used as sheep-walks and cattle-breeding valleys for the richer grain-growing inhabitants of the They love to go ambling along these mountain-paths plains. The Abruzzese, like all mountaineers, are fond of as if they were caracoling in the Corso; and they seem to a pastoral life, delighting also in traditions, music, and be as sentimental as if they were lying star-gazing in the the dance. During the tyrannical dominion of the Spanish Campo Vecchia,' said old Pietro, the leader of the escort, viceroyship in Naples, many of the Neapolitans fled to the as he pricked his steed and led his men closer to the car-mountain fastnesses of these provinces, and maintained dinal and his friend. They don't seem to think, my a wild and predatory independence, bursting down upon masters, that there are Neapolitan sleight-o'-hand gentry the valleys like the cateran highlanders of old, and carryin these walks as well as sheep, goats, and Abruzzese, and ing off persons of distinction whom they held to ransom. that Marco Sciarra is king of this region as surely as These bands were not the spontaneous growth of the the viceroy lords it over Terra di Favoro, or the Happy Abruzzi; they were drawn together either by that principle Plain.' of attraction which resides in natures almost identical, or a community of wrong drew them into mass for mutual

[ocr errors]

The old equestrian's voice sounded loud and harsh in

protection and retaliation. Sometimes the shepherds, attracted by the adventurous and licentious life of the brigands, would leave their flocks and herds to join in their predatory excursions, and sometimes an Abruzzese would organise a band for himself; but as a people these Italian mountaineers are peaceful and averse to warlike pursuits. At the period, however, when Cardinal Arreti and Torquato Tasso were on their way from Chieti to Naples, the Abruzzi were said to be infested by a band of daring outlaws, whose leader, in addition to the courage and strength of a Rob Roy, possessed all the generosity and sense of honour of that celebrated Scottish outlaw. The cardinal, in addition to arming himself and his friend well, had also provided himself with an escort, dreading an interview with the celebrated outlaw; but, having nearly arrived at the boundary of the mountain district, he had thrown his spicions away, forgotten his precautions, and was absorbed in his thoughts of shelter and a supper, when the Shepherd crossed his path. The mountaineer was a short spare man of weather-beaten aspect, but with a clear, calm, satisfied eye, and the reserved taciturn look of one who had passed much of his time in the solitudes of the hills; his sheepskin jacket fitted tightly to his handsome agile frame, and his sheepskin buskins clung round his clean active limbs; over his shoulder hung a long ox-horn; a straight, sharp-pointed knife was encased in a bark scabbard that was suspended from his waist-belt; and in his Land he carried a long strong pole, while a large white shaggy wolf hound bounded along by his side. When he aw the strangers, he stopped and looked at them with lent surprise; then, touching his cap to the poet, and lifting it to the priest, he bent reverently and crossed their

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Hilo, my son!' cried the cardinal, observing the peasant about to pass, canst thou tell us the way to Castel li Sangro?'

Fou are on the way, good father,' replied the shepherd, quietly.

Shall we arrive there before sunset, my good shepherd?' inquired the cardinal.

Ah, I do not know, father,' said the mountaineer, smilng and shaking his head; the road is smooth enough, and your steeds are strong; but who knows what cause your reverence may have to turn aside to the sheilings on the way??

Tuts, cause have we none to make us tarry,' replied the cardinal, rather shortly, unless some unforeseen one may intervene: they say that that most famous of thieves, Marco Sciarra and his band, are in these parts. Dost thou know that such is the fact?'

The peasant stood for a few seconds as if musing, while Pietro and the escort gathered close round him; then, slowly raising his eyes to Arreti, he exclaimed, 'I will not say that Mareo Sciarra is not in the lower Abruzzi, for I did hear the shepherds speak of him having been seen at a gathering at Sulmona two days ago.'

1

He is ubiquitous, this Marco,' exclaimed the cardinal in surprise; I heard that he had been prowling round Chieti four days hence.'

Ay, and how felt the good burghers of Chieti?' said the peasant, with a meaning smile. Did they feel their coffers lighter for Marco's visit?'

Come now, master shepherd,' cried Pietro, angrily, the shadows are falling too deeply for us to stand parley ing here; thou mightest rather put us on the nearest track to Sangro, for I for one am indeed a-weary of this mountin-land of yours, and would fain taste the wine of the plains. I shall lead thee the nearest way to Sangro in good Sooth,' said the peasant, with a good-natured smile, and I will cheer thy way into the bargain." So saying he unung his horn, and, waving the travellers to follow him, tured into a broken narrow ravine, and began sounding e notes of his instrument.

[ocr errors]

The shepherd was light and agile, and he strode over the broken ground as nimbly as if he were bounding over the turf; but the gloomy aspect of the ravine and the broken

[merged small][ocr errors]

Hillo there!' cried the irascible old Pietro, unslinging his carbine and imperiously ordering the guide to halt; ‘if thou dost not lead us by some more practicable way than this to Sangro, or restore us to the valley from which you have decoyed us, I will send something in an easy way through you ere long, master peasant.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

You will, proud soldier?' cried the shepherd, as, with a sardonic laugh, he sprung up a shrub-grown cleft of the hill which bounded one side of the narrow pass, then I will send a hundred through thee!' When he ceased to speak he whistled long and loud, and immediately the sides of the narrow rocky mountain-way were bristling with the dark matchlocks of Marco Sciarra's band. Bewildered and surprised, the cardinal first looked upon his friend, next at the escort, and then at the weapons of the robbers, when, making a virtue of necessity, he ordered Pietro and his men to throw away their weapons, and to submit themselves to the clemency of the Abruzzese chief.

The entrapped travellers had scarcely thrown down their weapons, when the tall and picturesque brigands were seen rushing from all points towards them; and then they seized and pinioned them, and began to rifle their portmanteaus of their contents.

We shall send his reverence into Castel di Sangro a lighter man than when he left Chieti,' said one of the band, as he tore some golden ornaments and a crucifix from the case where they had been placed by the pious hands of the cardinal's sister, the Abbess of Chieti.

Lighter in purse, but with a heart a ton weight,' responded a companion, as he dragged a miniature from the bosom of Tasso.

6

That is a more precious lady-love than the flesh and blood one it represents,' retorted another of the band; and that lack-a-daisical youth will weep for it more than for the loss of his weeping Cara.'

The dark eyes of Tasso gleamed with the fury of his excited nature; but, checking any outburst of impotent passion, his haughty lip curled, and he maintained a rigid silence.

'And so, gentlemen, you were rightly informed when you were told that Marco Sciarra was in these parts,' said the pretended shepherd, as he walked towards the cardinal. He had exchanged his long staff for a ritie, and his woolly cap for a high peaked hat; otherwise he was clad as when they first saw him. I shall show thy escort the nearest way to Castel di Sangro,' he continued, or any other city they may choose to think of, where thy wealthy friends reside; for thee, and this thy companion, you must be content to remain with me until this old carbineer bringeth thy ransom.'

If thou art Marco Sciarra,' said the cardinal, mildly, I have hopes that you will let us hence upon our words of honour. I travel to Naples upon business affecting the welfare of Italy, which brooks not of delay; and Torquato Tasso accompanies me, to clear his fame from aspersions

and slanders.'

Torquato Tasso!' cried Marco, with enthusiasm, for it was he. Is this Torquato, the poet of the Gerusaleme? Hillo! my men, unhand these travellers,' he continued; this is the poet who has restored to Italy the name she held when Ovid and Virgil sung. What, ho! brethren, he too has been outlawed by the noble and the great; he has been hunted, and caged, and scorned, and derided! Shall we multiply his sorrows, and rob him of the little that the cruel have left him? No. A wreath for the bard, and homage too, for he well deserves thein!'

As Marco spoke he cut the ligatures which bound the poet's hands; and the band, partaking of their leader's enthusiasm, restored to him and his companions the property of which they had robbed them, and taking the horses by the reins, they led them once more out into the

valley, with loud shouts. They plucked the rapient geranium, which was in full and luxuriant bloom, and, wreath ing it into a corona, they placed it upon the poet's head. Ay, Torquato Tasso, princes, dukes, and parasites had slandered, scorned, and imprisoned thee; but here, in the wilds of the Abruzzi-here, amongst savage, outlawed men, the incense of thy song had softened human nature, and the glory of thy name had penetrated!

Marco led the prisoners to the verge of the mountain's brow, and pointed towards the lofty towers and glimmering lighted windows that shone in the romantic town to which they were wending; then, taking a ring from his finger, he placed it on that of Tasso. Go, poet of my country,' he said, wringing the hand of the proud bardgo; and may you be happy! And if men will hunt you, and scorn you, and imprison you, gain some lonely path, if you can, and return to these hills, and you shall live secure from their power and malice in this our wild moun tain-land.'

Marco Sciarra,' said Tasso, clasping the hand of the brigand warmly, may the poor and the lonely heart never know a fiercer foe than thee! may the wo-worn poet ever meet with such homage as thine! and may all to whom fortune will enable you to do a generous deed, have a heart as pregnant with gratitude as mine!'

They parted-the brigand and the poet of Italy. Marco Sciarra, the robber, and Torquato Tasso, the dreamer, never saw each other more; but sometimes, when he lay with his hand beneath his cheek upon the rugged mountain's brow, the outlaw would fondly remember his meeting with the dark-eyed son of song; and oft, when weary of life, and disgusted with the perfidy and selfishness of men, Torquato Tasso would stretch himself upon his hard and sleepless couch, his mind would insensibly wander back to that mountain-way in the Abruzzi, and his heart would cheer itself with recollections of the power of poetry and the homage of the outlaw chief.

GEYSER S.

ICELAND, which is situated in the north-western corner of the map of Europe, and in a latitude which renders its climate particularly frigid and sterile, possesses several of the most remarkable natural phenomena. It is indeed almost totally a volcanic formation, with great lava plains lying on its surface, and great fissures cracking and rending these up into broken sections. The volcano of Mount Hecla is one of the most active burning mountains in the world, and pours forth most tremendous eruptions of flame and lava; and the Yokuls, although they only send forth the fire which smoulders below their yawning craters after a cycle of years, nevertheless exert a strange influence on the internal geological character of the island.

It never has been ascertained from what causes the spontaneous combustion of burning mountains is sustained; but that these causes must be very active is apparent from the fact that the latent fire of the Icelandic volcanoes produces great streams of boiling water, which issue from the earth at considerable distances from the volcanic vents. It is supposed that sodium and potassium, two chemical substances which possess the wonderful property of burning in water, must enter largely into the composition of the igneous fluid; but, speculation apart, the geysers, or boiling streams, furnish plenty of cause for wonder and reflection.

In the vicinity of the volcanic mountains the ground seems to be cavernous, or rather it really is so, for the traveller hears the tread of his foot produce a hollow echo, and the rushing of subterranean waters rises sometimes on his ear, steam also issuing from orifices in the ground. The geysers are not periodical eruptions, like the volcanoes. Instead of the fire, smoke, molten lava, scoriæ, and lapille, which are hurled from the depths of the mountain, a constant rush of hot steam and boiling water is maintained, which spouts up into the air in jets, and runs away in streams. The greatest of these remarkable springs is at Haukadal, a considerable distance from

tri-peaked Hecla, where about a dozen of distinct spouts take place, throwing their hot white vapour high into the sky, and rendering the same visible for miles distant. It may be as well to remark, that geyser is a derivative from the Icelandic verb geysa, which signifies to rage or burst wildly forth.

The Great Geyser at Haukadal is the largest in Iceland; it is surrounded by a hollow circular mound, which it has formed by its own action during the many centuries in which it has been in existence. This mound is a large basin, about one hundred and fifty feet in circumference, which is ordinarily filled to the depth of four or five feet with clear, pure boiling water. In the centre of the great basin there is a vent or funnel, about ten feet in diameter, which gradually contracts and descends to about eighty feet, into the bowels of the earth. The inside of the basin presents a most beautiful and smooth appearance, being covered also with whitish siliceous incrustations, which have been acted upon and rendered an excellent coating by the boiling water. From the basin open two channels, which allow of the constant flow of this highly impregnat ed mineral water, which, wimpling through a turfy soil, and acting on the moss and grasses, produces several of the most beautiful specimens of incrustation, causing the moss plants, as well as the stunted trees, to appear like white stones, with all the niceties of their vegetable cha racter preserved.

The eruptions of the geysers are quite irregular; no chronic calculation of their action can be given. The Great Geyser has been observed to throw out its jets at periods within six hours, and to cast its waters one hundred and fifty feet high. This water falls in drizzling showers of soft, cool rain, beneath which travellers have stood, without inconvenience, save from the wet. Beautiful prismatic appearances take place when the springs are in motion, the sunbeams forming rainbow halos in their passage through the vapours.

Many of the geysers have ceased to act within these last sixty years. During the dreadful earthquake of 1784, which shook Iceland to its very heart, and tore up its bosom with many gashes and openings, thirty-five new geysers burst forth. They have since expended their strength, however, and are now inactive.

The other most remarkable boiling streams in Iceland, in addition to the Great Geyser, are the Little Geyser, the Strockr, and the Little Strockr-the two last deriving their name from a verb strocka, to agitate or move violently.

The Icelanders, who are a very primitive, simple people, possessing few natural incentives to advancement, are yet almost as superstitious as were their Runic fathers, and these phenomena appear to them the results of supernatural agency; and assuredly the geysers would almost seem to confirm their superstitions by a secret intelligence. If stones are thrown into these springs, their guardian gnomes immediately become angry, and roar, and then they belch forth boiling water and steam. The intrusion of stones immediately causes an agitation in the fountains, and, after such, the water will fly considerably higher than it does naturally, throwing the stones violently forth. Sometimes the quantity of vapour emitted from these geysers is so great that, in its ascension, it rolls out, forming a vast, dense cloud that eclipses the mid-day sun; and the deep hollow roaring of their eruptions, like subterranean artillery, rises impressively upon the ears of the stranger during the stillness of the night.

There are, in addition to the erupting geysers, others more passive, which produce water, at a temperature of two hundred degrees of Fahrenheit, and these waters are used by the people of Iceland for washing, and other domestic purposes; and near to these are also banks of hot sulphur and clay, which produce the efflorescence of alum. In some parts of the island there are hot springs of water, below the beds of rivers whose strata of water are very cold; but yet, so powerful is the hot spring, that it forces itself through the volume of the river, and bubbles up on its surface, flowing on and preserving its heat, for a considerable way, with the current of the river.

THE CANT OF PROGRESS.'

Ir is an amusing as well as melancholy matter of observation to note the facility with which, in past or present times, a few clever charlatans have succeeded in gulling and deluding the public mind, by ministering to popular vanity and flattering popular foibles. In John Bull's character the love of praise is a prominent feature, and the only one which can be worked to advantage. Let any honest man try to point out his errors, or to benefit him by showing where his weakness and ignorance lie, and immediately the popular tongue will wag against him, and wag loudly and long, till it has silenced him; but let him come with any hocus pocus creed, half-mystic, half-profane, but eminently adapted to minister to the infallible wisdom of the people, and the vanity of the vulgar, and be that creed whatever it may, the panderer will find followers, and his pockets be filled. Few people do think for themselves in the honest acceptation of the term; they receive the thoughts of others into their own minds, without investigating them, and, provided they do not contradict prejudices or prepossessions long cherished, cling honestly by them; and, so long as this is the case, it is no matter of objection that they do not understand what those who profess to guide them, may utter. Nay, it seems to us they prize the incomprehensible all the more because it is so. Any literary quack who chooses at a little labour to acquire a verbose, unintelligible style, only distinct enough to show that he feeds popular passions, the discerning public' will hunt out and uphold as a man of genius. Nor does it seem to matter much that they like their friend the less, although his motives be quite apparent. The parasite may show he is such, yet the oak cherishes him all the more. If he has only ability enough to maintain the hue and cry, when once raised, his success may be considered certain. Of course our observations must be understood with some limitation. There are certain exploded doctrines that those earnest souls' now enlightening the reading public may show up, and successfully. The disadvantages of dirty dwellings and advantages of fresh air-the necessity of education-the right of private judgment the ignorance of superstition, and kindred topies, may all be handled with advantage by those whose mission it is to hasten the dawn of the good time coming;' and as the people are now so far advanced as to recognise such truths or errors, the philanthropy of their advocates will be duly rewarded. These, intermitted with a little superficial dabbling in the sciences, form nearly the limit of what the public, already having learned, will allow the propriety of being taught, and beyond these few of the oneness-of-purpose men attempt to instruct them in. To cry out you are dirty still;' you are ignorant still;' you are socially, morally, and politically retrograding still;' you are feeding on intellectual poison;' you are deceiving yourselves--these oracles, whether they know it or do not, would never for a moment dream of. Their craft would be in danger. But instead of dealing thus honestly, they administer the subtle flattery, ye shall be as gods, and not men. The deluded mass is told it is on the adFance to a better condition-helping itself on-informed that in every point of view it is reaching the acmé of perfection-taught that it is only to struggle and strive a little longer as it is now doing, and the good time' will arrive-that the long dark night of old ignorance and error under which it has groped, it has now already dispelled, and a glorious light is dawning. Such is the burden of the song, the essence of the philosophy, the treasured truth the mass believe, with much more which neither ve nor they can understand, all comprehended under the term 'Progress.'

Now, so long as this word is employed in reference to Eterature, or arts and science, we don't object much. Bet of the way in which it is generally used, and of those Tas do so, we are strongly suspicious. There is a cheap Lerature, some of it of older standing, but most of it recently sprung up, more or less advocating it. There are journals of progress, records of progress, oracles of

160

progress, and magazines of progress-progress newspapers and progress pamphlets. No penny periodical seems to consider itself safe without registering this title. All of these are more or less rabid on the subject, and the wilder they are the greater the chance of success. It is not good cheap literature the majority of the public want: they have no desire for that. In proof of this, there was Hunt's London Journal,' and Charles Knight with his second series of the Penny Magazine;' both refused to pander to a depraved taste, and both were shamefully neglected. But the dozens of cheap sheets just now issuing from the London press need only to adopt a few cant phrases-mystify the lower orders a little-praise them largely-give them plenty of filthy poison to drink in, and their success is certain. Does any one question the truth of these assertions, let him gather from a cheap periodical shop an armful of such stuff at random, take them home and read them, and if he be a man possessed of one spark of genuine honest principle, he will rise saddened from their perusal. He will find these journals of three classes: the lowest ministering indirectly to every vile passion, exhibiting vice tricked out in all the draggled finery that can captivate a youthful imagination, and serve to deaden principle and religion in the heart; the next class avowedly hostile to Christianity; and the last, but not the least dangerous, making the melancholy recommendatory boast, that it has carefully avoided every allusion to religion. The real teaching of the first is, Whatsoever seemeth good unto you;' of the last two Self-sufficiency.' We do not speak of the talent with which some of these journals are conducted; many of them have a fair share of it, and delight in displaying some crack names in the list of their contributors; but these all advocate progress, and mainly advocate it. Now it is easily enough observable that, from whatever source this cock-and-bull story proceeds, the obvious aim and tendency of one and all is the same-the exaltation of human nature, and its independence of divine aid or authority. Should any of these parties stumble at the last conclusion, and enter a protest against it, we refer them for proof to their own writings, and ask whether they do not teach human advancement as wholly dependent upon human sufficiency. That cannot be denied, else the existence of the sheets and printing is fabulous. And what else is infidelity-the meanest and most contemptible species of it too-infinitely far behind the doctrines of heathen sages or philosophers?

Like every other species of imposition, this favourite cry will have its day. So long as it pays the promoters well enough, they will keep it up. When the profits cease, the prophesying will cease too. Meanwhile, it answers admirably the end for which it was got up. It is accommodat ing enough to clothe any subject and suit any writer-and, like charity, it covers a multitude of sins.

THE CHARITY BOY. LITTLE George was a timid thing-a mild, retiring, tiny boy, with traces of grief in his pale young face, and sorrow in his soul-lighted eyes. He was not a pretty child, with waving glossy hair that mothers delight to smooth, nor with rosy cheeks and lips that sisters fondly kiss; he was but an ordinary-looking boy, and neither fond mother nor fair young sister had he. If he had had a father to fondle him at even when his labour was done, and to lavish upon him the fullness of his love, the poor child might have been deemed in one respect a happy one; but in all the wide world of hearts there was not one to give a fond and holy throb of love for him. He was alone, although he was in the heart of the busy world. He was isolated in spirit and sad of soul, for he was an orphan and a charity boy.

George Wilson was an inmate of Hartford poor's-house, New England. It was not a large, dull, grim, gloomy workhouse in which he dwelt, like those of Old England; nor was it environed by high dark walls, as if to shut out the sunshine and the fresh winds, that came laden from the green fields with the breath of flowers. It was a rather sweet-looking house, with abundance of wild geraniums

and dandelions clinging to the walks around it, and disputing possession with the buckwheat and Indian corn of the grounds that were attached to it. Yet this child was not happy, nor did he feel at home. Nobody who knew him could have discovered from his words that he was sad of heart; for his low sweet voice, that trembled with the vibrations of his early sorrow, was never attuned to querulousness. He was thoughtful and retired although so young, and what he suffered he suffered in silence like a hero. They do not know the human heart who deny to the young the capacity of deep sorrow. A first grief leaves one of the most indelible impressions that the soul can feel, and it generally outlives all after-dreams. This child that sat alone and gazed abstractedly upon the dandelions that grew at his feet and wondered whence they came, or who turned his large, earnest, thoughtful eyes to the stars, and felt his little soul stirred with strange inquiring feelings, had lost a father and mother whom he loved and who had loved him, and had left a home, where he had once rejoiced in the sunshine of a mother's affection, to be fed and clothed in charity, and therefore he was sad. The matron of the workhouse might call him a moping, silly thing, and strive to shake him into spirits with her vigorous arm, and the master might tell him he was hardly worth the rearing,' and whip him because he was not strong and active; but still he went silently about, looking amongst the stars and flowers for the beautiful which had beamed in his mother's eyes, and which had forsaken his sight when she had left his home for ever. If the officials in Hartford workhouse looked upon little George as a mere problem in political economy, and calculated according to their own parochial rules that he would never be a great man, they were very right; for that he would never be as large as Mr Gruff the parish overseer, or Major Waghorn of Waghorn, was as certain as analogy could render any probability. He was a small child, with rather pale cheeks but large open brow; he was formed more for thought than action, and anybody but Mr Gruff might have seen so; but Mr Gruff did not look upon children as God's sentient, soul-stirred problems waiting man's solution; he merely looked upon them as the consumers of so much of the parish stores, and calculated how far they might reimburse the state for their sustentation when they grew men; and as he calculated that little George would never be a great chopper of wood or labourer in the fields, he had an idea that he was a useless thing, and thoroughly despised him. Despite of the large family of Gruffs that occupy a goodly portion of this fair world, however, God will send warm, holy sympathies to cheer poor hearts that mourn. If the parish master and his wife despised this little pauper-boy, and looked upon him as a mere caricature of bone and muscle, old Gaffer Strikland the pauper loved him, and delighted to hobble along with the meek, patient child at his side, who turned up his earnest mild eyes and drank with greedy ear the old man's words.

fore they went to heaven.' But before he had acquired many of those mysterious little letters which were to reveal to him such mighty truths and holy thoughts, Gaffer Strikland had died, and left little George a sadder boy and a lonelier than he had been since his mother's death. The boy wept for his old friend; his were true and guileless tears, wrung from a little heart that had already deep wells of sorrow in it; but with the death of Gaffer there sprung to life a quickened impulse in the child's soul to obey his injunctions, and the determination came stronger upon him to learn to read.

[ocr errors]

Well now, there's a bold boy,' said Mr Gruff, with a sardonic laugh, as little tiny George, with his cap in hand, stood before the master, and looked timidly in his large red face; why, you'll ask to be governor of this state some of these days-you will.'

[ocr errors]

'No, sir,' said the simple, earnest child, while the tears swam in his large lustrous eyes; indeed, I will not. Old Gaffer used to tell me that men who walked in the world long, long ago, and who knew about the stars above us and the flowers around us, yet live and speak in books, and I want to know them.'

'Well, that beats ginger,' cried Mr Gruff, still laughing more loudly; why, we've got a ready-made philosopher in you already; you don't need to read; go and teach yourself to use the hoe, and learn to pay your board, you little owl. Books, indeed!' and Mr Gruff turned up his eyes, and looked serious.

The abashed boy hung his head and wept as he retired. The request which he had deemed so meritorious, and which he had never doubted would be granted, to be thus sneered at, was more than his young soul could bear, and, like a truthful devotee who sees a venerated relic scorned by a ribald and profane jest, he sat him down and sobbed in the bitterness of his spirit.

'I wonder if everybody is like Mr Gruff,' said the boy, suddenly, his face brightening with re-animated hope. 'I wonder if the men who dwell in the city and sit at their own fires at night, and discourse to little boys like me, will laugh at books as he does. I wonder if any of them would teach me for the sake of my father who is in heaven, and of my mother who is beside him. I am not strong,' continued the child, his bosom swelling with hope and a sense of noble independence, but I would run errands and work as much as I could for any one who would take me and learn me to read.'

The boy rose from his crushed posture, animated with a new idea, and he stretched himself up as if his body were too small to contain his expanding spirit. He went to his little couch that night to dream of books and letters. In his prayers he besought that God would open a path to him of learning; and when the sun rose in the morning he sprung to his feet, hurriedly put on his poor habiliments, stole quietly from the workhouse, and, bounding along the road, fled into the town.

Gaffer Strikland was not one of those who had grown The morning was a bright and beautiful one on which cross with the world, and querulous as he grew old and little George ran away from the workhouse; but it was poor. He was rich in kindly feeling, although poor in not brighter than the hopes of the ardent boy. The workworldly substance and weak of limb; and he delighted to house stood beyond the suburbs of the town, and in his sit upon a stone bench at the workhouse gate with this flight the child had to pass the houses of the wealthier child hanging on his knee, telling him of the beautiful citizens. The birds sang out from the laburnum trees earth and of the still more lovely heaven, and teaching before their doors the merriest songs he had ever heard, him to read the painted board which was over the poor's and the sunbeams painted their window-glass with the box. It was an appeal to the charitable—a verse from the brightest gold he had ever seen. He heard joyous whisScriptures a text of loving-kindness-a promise of hea-perings among the fluttering leaves over his head as he ran venly requital for deeds of charity and mercy, to which beneath the boughs that overhung the wayside rails. The the old man often directed the eyes of this thoughtful child; dew that clung to the yellow blossoms of the laburnum and then he would tell him of the book that was full of sparkled in his eyes like lovely gems, and in their prissuch holy sayings, and he would urge him to learn to read. matic beauty dazzled the boy with hope. I shall learn I shall, dear Gaffer, if you teach me how,' the child to read!' he shouted in his joy; and he thought that every would earnestly reply. little chirping linnet replied, You shall.' And men live in large dull houses, and cover their windows with thick green cloths,' cried the boy, looking up at the mansions that stood like dormitories on his right; they surely do not know that they shut out so beautiful a morning as this. Ah, would that every one had been as bright and lovely at the workhouse!'

[ocr errors]

'I shall borrow a horn-book or primer from some good person who has boys and girls at school,' the old man would say, and you shall see how we will get along.' 'I shall learn to read,' George would say to himself with a look of resolve; and I shall know what were the words that made my father and mother look so happy be

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »