Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

sed, it seemed to me, as none ever could do. She was my first and best, and most enduring friend. There was no falsehood, no treachery, in her love. And was she not my earliest instructor ?—I cannot tell when or how—yet surely none but she taught me the amazing truth, " There is a God!"

How oft by the ingle, at the woodbined window, or on the green footpath by a pretty flower-bed, when, with my hands upon her lap, I knelt beside her, has she declared the things of highest moment to man! She would tell, in mellow accents not unmingled with sighs, —(for a subdued melancholy, ever after my father's death, dwelt with her, that sent home to my heart the inculcated truths with double emphasis,)—that all must die, and live again;—that at the last day, my father, and she herself, and I, in spite of my fancies about hiding me at that dread period, should have to come forth from our graves at the summons of the trump;—that those who did evil, and died impenitent, should be wicked and miserable for ever and ever; but that those that were good and pious should, to all eternity, be growing greater, happier, and more glorious.

Thrice blessed may she be!—Immortal happiness to my mother! who told me of the angels, whose youth fadeth not; who are the heralds of God; with whom the good are for ever to dwell and to be likened. More illustrious glory and joy be to her, who first told me of him who died that sinners might live! 'What themes are these! —Does their mighty and melting power not come best from a mother's lips ?—Yes; and If ever aparent hung over a child with looks of yearning love, it was mine, at these seasons; and if ever a child watched and greedily treasured a parent's every expression, with eyes fixed and full of glistening earnestness, it was the writer of these lines, when in the hallowed presence of his mother's priesthood. Itseemed that at thosetimes I mysteriously gainedacloser union with the fountain of my blood; I followed all her gestures with a corresponding exactness; all her emphases with an echoing precision. Oh! how she would exclaim, "My child! my child!—of such is the kingdom of heaven; and holy mothers shall join them there, never to be separated."

At no time was I a very intractable child; nor particularly refrac. tory: yet a heavy load of painful remembrances presses me, of offences committed directly against my mother, from my earliest years down, wards. Alas! how many have slipped from that record! At present, however, I shall not waste words by attempting any general description of my natural character, of my innate and original predominating propensities; but at once proceed to give facts, and describe events which will more clearly exhibit the truth, than any laboured description. Nor need I descend to any late period of my history, when searching for an index with which to decipher me.

In my tenth year, my mother forbade me, with more than her usual peremptoriness, going near a deep pool of water where I wished to plant some fishing-lines. The authority appeared to me to be unnecessarily exerted, and I was determined to disobey it. She had ordered me to my lesson, and was keeping a watch over me. At the same time, though I held my face to my book, I preserved silence; I was sulky, and studying to retaliate evil. Thus employed, the very wicked thought was suggested, that my most complete revenge would be satisfied, could I make her believe I was lost or drowned by the first opportunity that occurred for an escape from her thraldom. But it was of a piece with my purpose, that I planned how to drop a hint, which would, as soon as I was missed, direct her mind to the worst conjectures; therefore, at length, I announced, and, as I persuaded myself, it was with magnanimity, " Ye'll rue this afore the morn, and seek me at the deep pool." How very faulty, it may be said, must my training have been ere I durst utter such a threat in the hearing of my parent! But this was the first instance of such rebellion; therefore she arose and left me in disorder, no doubt to gather composure, after such an alarming disclosure of temper, and to consider what was best to be done.

Now, as soon as left, I very cunningly managed to conceal myself under her bed. Nor was it long ere she sought for me throughout the house; but she found me not; and then she cried to the servants to help her in her search. Wild hurry immediately commenced as they ran to and fro, as between life and death; some to the pond, others to fearful precipices, which abound in the neighbourhood. Again and again my mother returned with such a frail hope as was sickening, to search the house, or to see if I had chanced to cast up, whilst it was deserted by all. I marked her groans as she passed me in my hiding place. I could have touched the hem of her garment; yet all the while my vile heart stood out, and would not allow me but to utter, " I am here!" Matchless villany!—The same spirit in manhood would fly out into conspiracies and covert assassinations. I was in a cowardly manner deliberately and perseveringly, with unprovoked wantonness, breaking my mother's heart. Her bitter wail of "Oh,mychild! my son!" was heard by me with an adder ear; for I spoke not, I stirred not, to loosen her from her despair.

Four long hours did I thus wring my parent's bosom with ruffian grasp. But I was not at ease in my revenge. I felt that a frightful power bound me down: my heart was conscious of being in league with Satan against the life of my mother. I was full of horrors; and remorse stung me deeper every moment as the fiendish spirit held on. Nevertheless I stood out: I would not yield either to save her, or to unfetter my own soul.

[ocr errors]

Who knows how hard the obduracy of my heart might have grown, had not a signal expression of Heaven's displeasure been an overmatch for my revenge.i It was as the domestics had all given up their search, to attend my mother, who was in fits, in the very apartment where I was concealed, that a piercing pain shot thrice through my frame, which made me cry and scream for that very being to help me, whom I had been so cruelly destroying. This brought her instantly to herself; anger, pity, and love filled her breast; her face reddened, then grew pale: she rung her hands woefully; and at last, when seeing me well and in some one's keeping, said, " I do this day know that I am a widow."

Very shortly before this I had recovered from a protracted illness, during which she had been my unwearied nurse. None could lay my troubled head upon that bed under which I had hidden myself so softly as she; no hand thrill me, amid my raving, with intelligence, but her's; no other voice still my clamour. All this, instead of exhausting her patient love, only bound me more endearingly to her heart. Yet after all this, and against that very mother, I levelled a deadly and malignant blow.

It must have been from an overpowering conviction that after this event she often said—" So long as he was an infant, my griefs and fears were light on his account; but now I see him hastening on by plain steps to something greater,—to whatever is to be good or evil in his doom; and now I can in part understand what a parent feels, when it has to be said of a son, " I wish he never had been born." The dark omen found in the principles of my rebellion, together with extreme anxiety for my dearest interests, and the pensive melancholy that was habitual to her, worked so upon her imagination, as frequently to give her up to a foreboding spirit and visions where gloom and disaster prevailed. Was her foresight of my doom on earth wise, or only guided by an erring and over-sensitive nature? Let the story I am now telling present the answer. It is by this time an ascertained point: the clue has been unrolled that bound up my doom while here below.

But was my mother's heart alienated from me because of vile behaviour towards her? It is not wise to presume so. The occasions of sorrow and joy between parent and child are so interwoven as to afford the most affecting views of their reciprocal love. One can easily conceive how a short-lived estrangement of devoted hearts may be followed by an attachment of redoubled power, and by a reconciliation cemented by finer materials, than could have cause or scope under an unruffled and uniform course of sentiments: like bodies that naturally adhere, sunder them for a moment, and next they come together with greater force, and cling closer than before they were sundered

Under my parent's tuition I made at an early age considerable progress as a scholar. She had time, taste, and capacity for the office of teacher. I learned quickly to read the simpler narratives of the Bible, and to understand them as I read. As my years increased, so did my learning. Amongst my mother's favourite books were Doddridge's Rise and Progress, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Wodrow's History of the Kirk of Scotland, and Robinson Crusoe; on all of which I was in the habit of pondering. Controversial works on knotty points of religious faith she sedulously kept from me during my unripe years; often however giving me an outline of what she herself knew of them, closing the glance with a statement of her own persuasions, which on all important matters were agreeable to the standard of the national church. On these occasions I was an apt, because an eager, scholar; and my enjoyment was also great, for I felt myself to be gathering that which was worthy the capacity of the human mind.

My mother had a taste for whatever was elegant or noble. Persons of her order do not deal in bombastic description when they speak of their finest and highest emotions, but abide by plain and sententious words. Though therefore she seldom expatiated over her delights, when beholding, for instance, the beauties of external nature, I know that her eye and her heart were intensely alive to them. Often have I seen her enraptured by the splendours of scenery, and carried away by the beauties of pastoral poetry. It was a favourite exercise with her in kindly weather and at soft hours, to traverse the wide fields, generally alone, or only accompanied by old Trusty, who in his advanced years failed not to frolic with the skirts of her dress in the simplicity of his good will.

But of all seasons she gloried chiefly in the Sabbath-day. It was not a weariness to her, but a day of elevated devotion and commemoration. I shall not take it upon me to speak of the principal duties of this solemn portion of the week; but I may declare that her soul oft soared to the Mount with the same emotions as did that of the sweet singer of Israel, when he sung;—as she walked by the blooming hedge of hawthorn, on a pasture of gowans, of a summer Sabbath morn;—when the larks were springing to heaven, all the while pouring forth with redundant richness their stirring notes; when the sun was gloriously bright, and all proclaiming it to be the bridal of the earth and sky ;—when the chime of the distant village bell led the heart to think of the day's coming solemnities. Nor less at eventide after the services of the temple had closed, was she wont to worship in silence and alone in the fields, when disturbed by no ruder visitant than the falling dew, the humming bee, or some peaceful creature repairing to its rest. These indeed are the seasons for the close intercourse of spirits; and so long as they are held sacred in Scotland, shall that land be a chosen heritage.

After my father's death our farm was managed, under the superintendence of my mother, by an experienced and steady servant, Robin Turner. When he entered upon this office he was past the age for trifling or folly; yet he was a man of no uncommon talents, unless his own estimate of himself as a ploughman be excepted, and a style of drollery in his manners and conversation, which I cannot well describe: it was such however as to make him an entertaining companion. I have often supposed that Robin's peculiar humour was most palpable when he was least studious of it; and that his knack lay in the unusual position or use of a familiar word. Sometimes indeed the contortions of his visage were all the comedy; and sometimes it was merely the discordant pitch of his voice as respected the key maintained by those with whom he conversed, or in the inequality and irregularity of his own articulation and emphasis. After all, perhaps, the thing was chiefly, that no one could'anticipate the effect produced could come from such a quarter.

Robin was one of those rare men that would rather wrong themselves than their employers. He there got good wages, yet he ever had been and would be a poor man: for he could not contrive to keep his " sair won fee" from his needy and rapacious relatives, who were numerous and thriftless. They beset him like harpies, whenever his wages were drawing near to be due, or, as he termed the period, "when the cow was about to ca\" No advice given by his real friends, no previous ill usage from his connexions, could steel his heart to their appeal. To every remonstrance from the one class or application from the other, his uniform answer was, " WiF deed—nae doubt— what can a body do ?—bluid is thicker than water."

Robin was to me a true friend, and most indulgent. It wason his knee that in the long winter nights, when I was a boy, I was rocked asleep. Throughout the day he was my principal associate. My early pastimes and employments were working along with him, when I used such puny instruments as suited my strength, being always in imitation of his tools and implements. Gawdy toys are not called for to engage children; if pains be taken to employ them in a manner commensurate with their capabilities, their health and taste may be more successfully cultivated by expedients that encourage useful exercise than by unmeaning trifles. I delighted more in what I could do with my little spade in the field, than I could have done in the most costly gewgaws on the richest carpet. To my post along with Robin I would repair; I would hurry when he was in haste, and relax when he breathed: therefore often receiving his hearty commenda

« AnteriorContinuar »