Page images
PDF
EPUB

for Sundays, and (thanks to the chest in which they were kept all the other days of the week) almost as good as on the happy day of their marriage, though the pattern was a little ancient. Fashion enjoys in the village an empire less rapid and less despotic in its mandates, but Fet it does enjoy one; and the young girl, in her black corset, bordered with red, with short, puffed, shift-sleeves, and her straw hat, that covers one ear, titters at her mother's long train, her grand mother's hanging sleeves, and at both her mother's and grandmother's caps with large muslin lappets, without ever dreaming, that her children will titter at her own finery in their turn. Psalm-books are carried in the hands of all; but some are shut with silver clasps, which glisten in the sun, while others are more modestly ornamented with a sprig of rosemary, and a large red pink. All this troop of honest villagers appears to be going to a festival; and a festival it is, for pure and simple hearts, to begin the day of rest by joining together in an offering of prayer and praises to the Most High.

In a solitary and half ruined cottage, before a small window with panes of oiled paper, stood an old man, looking mourufully at the procession of those that were going to church.

He followed them with his eyes till the last had entered, and the door was closed; and now, the bell ceased, and he heard the united voices of the congregation singing a psalm. He cast a look on his ragged clothing, and two tears flowed down his Wrinkled cheeks, he wiped them with the back of his hand, and then turned toward his wife, who sat crying aloud on a wretched stool, her head resting upon a board which served them for a table, and her eyes covered with a table-cloth in which there were more boles than places to receive her tears.

Cry not thus, Bertha, said her husband; this is not as it should be, my child; you give offence to God, who requires that we bear with the lot which he assigns us : full well he knows that it is not our fault that we are not, like others, at prayer in his house. Could we dare to go, in these tatters which scarcely cover us? In the days of our prosperity, Bertha, we always went to church; Even when we had two leagues to go, we went with pleasure : 199, we can go no longer; but God sees the intention, he reads hearts, and he knows, that ours are given to him, as well here as in church. Forbear, therefore, to cry, Bertha; that will do no good; but give me the prayer-book, and I will read a prayer to you as well as the minister can, and afterward we will sing a psalm together, which I will lead as well as the chorister.

Bertha rose, and took from off the tester of the bed a book half torn to pieces, and gave it to her husband. I am very willing, said she, to pray with you, my beloved ; but not to sing : that is more

than

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

had died with present miserys it that we were

than I am able to do. When I see all these happy old women going to church, with their children and grandchildren

MARCELLUS. And their wedding clothes, Bertha! it is that which wrings your heart, is it not? Don't you think of your own, your pigeon’s-breast poplin, which became you so well, and which was so beautiful ? Alas! yes, poor Bertha, it was burnt with the rest, but what is left us to do? God was pleased that it should be so; we might have been burnt also, and we were saved.

BERTHA. What signifies it that we were saved, if we are to perish in our present misery? Would it had pleased God that I had died with my poor Georgette!

MARCELLUS. Bertha, Bertha ! is this your love for me? What will be left me now, if I have lost my good wife too?

Bertha. (Holding out to him her hand.) You are right, Marcellus, and I beg your pardon. With you I can suffer all. But we have bread but for one day, and you see our clothes!

MARCELLUS. God and good people will provide it for us, my wife. To-morrow it will not be Sunday, and we shall work. I have four pair of shoes to mend, which will bring me four pence each; and your wheel, how it will go! We are not yet dead with hunger, though we have been very near it. We have not beeu obliged to beg, and it is that which would give me the greatest grief of all. As to receiving what is given us, I am content. Those that seek out the poor have certainly good hearts, and it is pleasing to give them thanks; but to ask of those who will perhaps refuse us, or give with an ill grace, accompanied with abuse ; alas ! that is hard, very hard; and it is that from which I pray God to spare my old age!

There is great need of it, perhaps, said Bertha, beginning again to weep. Who can answer for any thing? who could have told us that our son would die in an hospital ?

MARCELLUS. Who could have told us, at one time, that he would have died before ourselves? This is the real misfortune ; for, as to the hospital, which you take so much to heart, many brave men die there, and go not the slower to heaven. Our children are in heaven, make yourself sure of that. God has taken them in their innocence, before they had sinned. Do you know that you could have kept them so, had they lived ? Do you know that your daughter would not have left you for the first seducer, and your son for the first serjeant that offered him a cockader Would not that have been much more grievous to you, than to render them up to the God who lent them ? Cry no more, therefore, Bertha, and listen to the prayer that I am going to read. Bertha sighed without replying. The afflicted mother could not resign herself to the vicissitude, in having had two beautiful children, and having them now no more; and in having been rich for her station, and being now in poverty. Her husband lamented the loss of his meanis, and still more of his children, not less than she; but grief in men has a quite different character; it is internal; and it is rarely that they like to give it issue, and to speak of it. Women, on the contrary, have a talkative sorrow, and very ready tears; and hence doubtlessly the cause, why grief is sometimes so fatal to men, while it is said that women thrive upon it. Be this as it may, Marcellus was not dead with his, but it bore heavier upon his heart than upon Bertha's : what he suffered from it made him dread to indulge it, and his single study was, to turn the conversation quickly when it fell upon the subject, or to appear more resigned than he really was. His son Francis, a youth of promise, wished to be a carpenter, and had discovered a talent for that useful calling. His father, then much at his ease, had put him apprentice, at twelve years of age, to a substantial master-carpenter of the town. He was going on most satisfactorily, when he was seized with a contagious disease; his master was apprehensive for his family, and sent him to the hospital, where, after a time, he died. Bertha had this hospital upon her mind. She fancied that he had been badly attended, and she would have wept for him less bitterly if he had died in her arms. They had still left to them a daughter, of sixteen years of age, a pretty and good girl, who, doubtlessly, by marrying, would soon have restored to them a son, when a new misfortune reached them. Their house was struck by lightning, and entirely consumed, together with all the outbuildings, and all that they contained. It was after harvest, so that nothing was left them, not even their chief treasure ; for their beloved daughter died of the terror of that dreadful night. The father and mother were long ill with grief; and were still longer in recovering their perfect bealth. To pay for their lodging, and for the expenses of their sickness, they borrowed money on their little stock in land. Having no longer any children, they did not restore their farm. They might still, with frugality, have found the means of subsistence; but the terrible seven-years' Var came on, and they, like many others, were its victims. They Were obliged to provide lodgings for soldiers, and, not having a house, it cost them much to do so. They were called upon for contributions, and their fields and meadows were mortgaged. They were obliged to pay heavy interest, and, failing, their small estate was taken from them, and sold for nothing.

They were thus at last reduced to the most abject poverty, and compelled to abandon the place of their birth, and to seek an asylum. Some neighbours joined, to raise them a little sum, with which they

13

bought

bought this solitary and almost uninhabitable cottage, at the end of a little village, ten leagues at least from that which they had left. Bertha spun from morning till night for the country people; and Marcellus, too old to work in the field, mended shoes by the side of his wife's wheel. The village called him the Old Cobbler of the Cottage, and never let him want for work. Both together, they gained enough to keep them from starving, but they had not yet been able to save any thing for clothes. Their garments being worn to rags, they dared not go to church, and they dreaded the approach and rigours of winter. But winter was not yet come; the month of July had scarcely begun, and Marcellus read to his wife, that God feeds the young ravens, and clothes the lilies of the field.

As he finished the prayer, the congregation came out of church, and this was another melancholy moment for him. The groups gathered on the turf around the church, the young people gaily meeting each other, and their parents looking on with smiles ; this picture of joy and paternal love, which represented to him a state of happiness lost beyond return, wracked his bosom. The crowd dispersed, and he remained pensive at the window, absorbed in his recollections. Before the cottage was a green hillock, shaded with some fine nut-trees, under one of which a traveller was sitting to repose himself. A wallet on his back, a stick in his hand, and his shoes covered with dust, showed that he travelled on foot; but still he was well dressed, and had no appearance of poverty. After resting for some moments, he laid down his stick by his side, took his wallet from his back, and, drawing out a piece of white bread, and some dried fruit, eat with good appetite this simple breakfast, in which Marcellus, who had not breakfasted at all, would willingly have shared. He also drew out a piece of fine new cloth, which was in his wallet, half spread it out, looked at it with apparent pleasure, and put it back again. Here was another ohject of envy, to the poor, ragged, old man. After this, the stranger rose, took a good silver watch out of his pocket, threw a glance round the adjacent country, and proceeded on his journey.

This man had seemed to Marcellus so happy in the place where he sat, that the latter felt an inclination to go and repose himself under the same beautiful nut-tree. Hethought, that perhaps an hour's sleep under its shade would make him forget his troubles and his hunger.

He went out, without saying any thing to Bertha, who was employed in furnishing her wheel with flax, in readiness for the next day. He crossed the high-road, and ascended the little hill. He had not reached the nut-tree, when he already discovered something white lying at its foot. It was a folded piece of paper. He took it up, and, finding it heavy, opened it. It contained, first, four double louis-d'ors, and, in a second fold, one of those large crosses

which women hang round their necks, attached to which was a small gold chain. Even in his better days, Marcellus, perhaps, had never seen so much gold at once; but this at least is certain, that he bad seen it but very seldom.

(To be continued.)

ON THE PARTS OF TREES PRIMARILY IMPAIRED

BY AGE. In a Letter from T. A. Knight, Esq. F.R.S. to the Right

Hon. Sir Joseph Banks, Bart. K.B. P.R.S.* MY Dear Sir, In the first communication I had the honour to

address to you, (it was in the year 1795,) I stated the result of many experiments on grafted trees, from which I inferred, that each variety can be propagated with success during a limited peTiod only; and that the graft, or other detached part of an old tree, or old rariety, can never form that, which can with propriety be called a young tree.

I have subsequently endeavoured to ascertain which, among the ranous organs that compose a tree, first fails to execute its office, and thus tends to bring on the incurable debility of old age ; and the result of the experiments appear sufficiertly interesting to induce me to communicate an account of them.

Whatever difference exists between the functions of animal and vegetable life, there is a very obvious analogy between some of the ogans of plants, and those of animals; and it does not appear very improbable, that the correspondent organ, in each, may first fail to execute its office; and satisfactory evidence of the imperfect action of any particular organ can much more easily be obtained in the vegetable than in the animal world. For a tree may be composed, by the art of the grafter, of the detached parts of many others; and the defective, or efficient operation, of each organ may thus be observed with the greatest accuracy. But such observations cannot be made upon animals, because the operations necessary cannot be performed; and therefore, though there would be much danger of error in incautiously transferring the phenomena of one class of organised beings to another, I conceive, that experiments on plants may be, in some cases, useful to the investigator of the animal economy. They may direct him in his pursuits, and possibly facilitate his enquiries into

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »