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THE WIDOW TO HER HOUR-GLASS.
Come, friend, I'll turn thee up again:
I've often watched thy streaming sand
Its conic crown
Still sliding down,
And mingling joy and pain.
While thus I spin and sometimes sing,
Though silent now
Still shalt thou flow
Thou gett'st a Holiday.
Steady aa Truth, on either end
Come, lovely May!
Thy lengthen'd day
I'll turn thee up again.
Blo Jmfield. A NIGHT IN A CHURCH.
It is now nearly twenty years ago, that I was staying for some months in the village of , in Cumberland: the place itself is
small, but the church is a large Gothic structure, dimly lighted by coloured glass windows, and enriched by splendid monuments of the former lords of the manor. I was sent for one evening to visit a sick friend, and left word with my family, that if I found her worse, I should probably pass the night with her. She was, however, much better than I had anticipated, and after remaining an hour with her I prepared to return home. I had to pass a meadow adjoining the church-yard, and, as a heavy shower of rain had fallen, the grass was wet; the church-doors were open for the purpose of cleaning it for the next day, which was Sunday, and, by walking through the church I should avoid the inconvenience of the damp path. The pew-opener, who was coming out, let me in at the door, and shut it after her, telling me that I should find the door at the other end open, as some one was still employed there. As I passed through, I stopped for a moment to look at the effect of the coloured shadows from the window on one of the monuments, and the appearance of it was so brilliant and so beautiful, that I remained several minutes before it wrapt in admiration, and was only roused from my contemplation by the noise of the door violently closing and shutting out my retreat
I acknowledge that at that moment I suffered extreme agitation; my heart beat audibly, and I felt as if the power of breathing had left me. I knew there was no possibility of making myself heard, and that I had no prospect but that of passing the nightwhere I was. In a little time, however, reason came to my aid; I reflected that I was in no real danger; the weather was warm, and I had no reason to apprehend injury to my health from remaining one night in the church: no one would be made uneasy by my absence from home, for my family were prepared to expect it; and, in short, I argued with myself on the folly of my fear, and in some degree succeeded in removing it. The next consideration was, in what part of the church should I endeavour to rest, and I fixed on the large seat belonging to the lords of the manor. It was a spacious square pew, with a carpet on the floor, well-stuffed cushions on the seats, and moreen curtains drawing all round it; a comfortable resting-place might well be made there, and I worked myself up to a pitch of philanthropic heroism, by wishing that hundreds of poor creatures, who were wanderers on the earth, were lodged as well as I was.
I had only one objection to this seat, and that appeared to me so very puerile and absurd, that I would not permit it to have any effect on me: the front of the pew was immediately opposite to a large monumental tomb erected to the memory of Sir William Herbert, the last of the family who had resided on their manorial estate in the neighbourhood, and of this Sir William I had, when I first came to the village, heard a story that now, in spite of myself, would recur to my mind.
Soon after my arrival, I had observed the deserted and dilapidated appearance of the manor-house and garden; the latter was wild and running to ruin through neglect; nettles and weeds obscured the once beautiful walks and parterres of flowers: the vases and images were defaced and overthrown; the spacious fish-ponds were choked with mud, and covered with the rank luxuriance of the water-plants; and the adjoining park had been let to a farmer, who had converted the whole to the purposes of agriculture. The house exhibited the same symptoms of neglect: the farmer's family inhabited one wing —but in the rest of the house the windows had been bricked up—the whole conveyed the idea of decay, and the swallows and other birds had taken undisturbed possession of theturretsand the chimney-tops. Some of the great rooms were converted into granaries, and the principal hall was made a receptacle for the farmer's carts, &c.
I expressed curiosity to know the cause why so magnificent a residence should have been so abandoned, and the farmer, to whom I applied for information, told me that the last resident possessor was Sir William Herbert: that since his death it had been twice let to occasional inhabitants, but that neither of the families had stayed more than a few nights: and that the present owner had given orders to dispose of the grounds on a lease to any of the neighbouring farmers, and to let the house be included in the agreement with them. "I am surprised," said 1, Hthat so lovely a spot should^not have attract, ed the attention of some one who would have rescued it from its present state, and I wonder that its owner should have so little taste as thus to abandon so delightful a possession."
"Why, madam," replied the farmer, "it is along story, and it happened a great many years ago, but as you seem curious, if you will walk in and rest yourself I will tell you all about it."
"It was before my time, for l was a little boy when Sir William died, but my father was his huntsman and lived at the manor-house, and I have heard all the particulars often enough from him. This Sir William, madam, was a fine portly gentleman as ever you saw, and the ladies all round admired him, and he might have chosen a wife from any of the great families in the neighbourhood, and he was very rich, and was come of a very ancient and great family himself; but somehow, as I have heard my father say, he was never for good; he had always a hard and cruel heart: when he was a cluld, it wag his delight to torture flies and worms, and he would take the young birds from the nests, and torment them to enjoy the misery of the old ones; and when he grew to be a man, all his delight was in badger-baiting, cock-fighting, or any sport that would enable him to indulge his cruel nature. He was also very fond of matching dogs to fight, and he kept bull-dogs that were the terror of the neighbourhood. He had one, in particular, which was reckoned to have more courage than any dog that had ever been seen in this country, and he had gained Sir William a great deal of money by the wagers that he had laid on him. One day, a neighbouring gentleman, who had long been a sort of rival to Sir William in every way, boasted at a public dinner, that he had procured a dog that he would match againsthis, which was now considered almost invincible; Sir William accepted the offer, and laid very large sums of money on his dog, and a day was fixed, and many of the neighbouring gentlemen were invited to see the sport, as they called it. The dogs were set at each other, and a more obstinate fight had never been seen: they were both creatures of wonderful strength and power, and both staunch in their way. The contest lasted very long, and the poor brutes were excited by their cruel masters to continue it, though they had hardly strength left to crawl to each other. At last the victory was decided; Sir William's dog was completely exhausted, and lay bleeding and breathless on the ground, and no effort could induce him to return to the attack; the other dog was declared the conqueror, and was carried off amidst shouts of triumph from the human brutes who had witnessed his prowess. My father, who was present, said he turned towards Sir William at that moment, and was terrified at his countenance: he looked almost mad with rage and disappointment: his face was swollen and black with passion, and his eyes seemed bursting from their sockets. He took from one of his attendants a loaded hunting-whip, and called to the miserable dog to come to him. The wretched animal heard the voice of his master, and though nearly blind, and hardly able to drag himself across the floor, he yet crawled to his foot, and licked the hand that was extended to seize him. My father, madam, couldnever tell the story without a shudder of horror: but Sir William held the animal fast in one hand, while with the other he flogged him with the hunting-whip, which he never let go, till the miserable creature had breathed his last in agony. Several gentlemen who stood round, and cried shame on him, had made ineffectual attempts to stop his cruel arm, but he was infuriated; he foamed at the mouth with rage; at the moment when the dog had received his last stroke one of them caught his arm to stop him. Sir William turned round to make a deadly blew at him with the butend of the whip, when, in one moment, the blood gushed from his mouth, nose, and ears, in a continued torrent. He fell to the earth, never to rise from it more a living man, but there he lay a swollen and discoloured corpse. In his fury he had burst a bloodvessel, and his life and his cruelties ended together."
"The title and estate went to a gentleman who was a second or third cousin, and he lived somewhere in foreign parts, as his wife was not in good health, and was not able to bear the changeable weather in England: the house was after a while let to a nobleman's family, but they only staid two days, and were off the third morning; some say, because my lady did not like the sight of the bleak mountains; but others said, that the family had all been alarmed by noises at midnight and nobody has ever since that staid long together there. I myself put no faith in this sort of stories but many of the neighbours will tell you, that long after Sir William's death, horrid sounds were heard, at the hour of twelve at night, from the room in which he was laid before the funeral; the noises were said to resemble the howlings of a dog, mixed with the cries of a human being in the last extremity of agony. What they might have been I do not know, but the house is quiet enough now, yet I never go to that partof the mansion myself, and I do not much like to talk or think about it. None of the family have been here since, and the large tombstone that faces the great pew in the church was put up in memory of Sir William by his successor. This, madam, is the history, and this is the reason why the house was at first neglected, until now, as you see, it is only fit for a farm-house, and we have lived very comfortably in it, much more happily than ever Sir William did, I am sure.
Now this account at the time I heard it, had certainly shocked me as far as respected the awful death of Sir William; but the latter partof it I thought absurd in the extreme, for, my good friends, I was not then either nervous or superstitious ; but, at the moment I speak of, alone in a church, I felt that my mind was weakened, and I determined not to look at the tomb, or to think of the story. I composed myself as well as I could, and fell into a sort of doze, which I imagined lasted some time, for, when I awoke, the moon had risen, and was now high in the heavens, pouring a flood of softened radiance through the Gothic windows on a part of the church, while the other was left in dark shadow. I rose from my reclining position, to make some change in the arrangement of my cushions, and perceived that the light was thrown most strongly on the tomb, on which I had previously resolved not to look; but, as I dare say you may some of you have experienced at times, we feel ourselves irresistibly impelled to look at, or think of, those things, from which we would most wish to withdraw our attention, so I felt, I know not how, a strange