Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

avoided them, but this his pride permitted not.

It was not until they met that he was perceived by the opposite party: Sir Richard was alarmed, Andrew astonished, at his appearance.

“Thou wert, last night, our prisoner!" said Westrill.
“I know it,” replied Edward, “and this morning I am free.

“ Even so !" cried Sir Richard : 6 even so! Secure as we were, I felt that his life could not be taken. But I will conquer yet! The boy shall not thus ever foil me. Rest not secure, young man!” added he, turning to Edward; “I have sworn it, I have sworn not to leave thee !- thyself didst hear my vow !--my designs are deep, and I am determined to succeed.”

“ Wherefore this hate ?" asked Edward.

“ Wherefore !" cried Sir Richard, in fury; “wherefore ? thou art in my path, is not that enough? But I do not hate thee-it is impossible! And if I do, what then ? thou hatest me."

“I pity thee," replied Edward, “not hate."

“ Pity!” cried Sir Richard; “ pity from thee is loathsome ! I pity thee sometimes, -and yet I hate-would slay thee."

“ Obey," said Edward, “ the voice that sometimes prompts to pity. Desist from this persecution; I will be first to forget the past."

“Could I believe that,” said the other," it would tempt me,”

Andrew Westrill was about to interrupt;-Sir Richard continued :

“ Fear not, Andrew, I know what thou wouldst say; I am not to be tempted, for I believe him not. He promiseth that which is not in man's nature to perform.”

“My word is good,” replied Edward ;“ but why should I urge a promise thou art resolved to disbelieve? The bell already tolls for church; I have business with the priest ere the service of the day commence.”

“ Is this the Sabbath ?" asked Sir Richard.

Ay," replied Westrill, "to those that keep account of days, this is. Why! Sir Richard ! what aileth thee?"

The man was in tears.

“I know not,” replied he, “ why it should come thus suddenly upon me; but, as the bell now tolls, I remember one bright day when I was a child; I heard it then as I do now; I was on this spot, sitting on a grave, my mother near, watching as I wreathed a basket of flowers into garlands—they were for little Beatrice, then a girl. Strange that the thought of this should now return ! How changed is all since then! I was then light-hearted and happy; but now my brain endures a ceaseless torment. Beatrice was a pretty little thing, and used to love me dearly for my childish favours :-she hath loved me since that time; and now, —now she is in the cold, silent tomb, and it was I that sent her there! Poor little child, she little thought that boyish lover, mine accursed self, was destined to blast all her fair, peaceful prospects! She little thought that, in bestowing upon me her guileless love, she was cherishing the thankless viper in her bosom! Oh, for one hour of that fleeting childhood's time, that Beatrice could rise from her grave-clothes and her mouldering dust, to be again a child,- to love her Richard as of old she loved,—that I might sit with her upon this grave, and tell her of affection pure as mine then was! Oh, but for one such hour,that it may be our last! Alas! alas! why did we not perish then, ere all the years of sin and misery commenced ?"

“ This is folly!” said Andrew, “ weakness! Thou art still a child !"

“ Am I still a child ?" cried Sir Richard; “would thou hadst spoken truth! But I remember deeds of blood that no child could have committed ; murders, none but a foul villain could have perpetrated; ingratitude, no viper would be guilty of; deceit; crime in every ugly form, causing misery to those who should by nature have been happy! Whose, whose are all these noble actions ? They are mine,-mine,—they are mine, I say ! They all proceeded from this brain; there the memory of each one remains, branded with fearful, ghastly distinctness; I cannot forget one, no, not the least one of mine offences; in long succession, each night, do they stand before me, and grinning, fright me from my sleep! Can I be a child to have done all this, to feel this horrid retribution ?"

Edward shuddered—Andrew Westrill turned away with a contemptuous smile.

“ Relent then," said Edward, “I have already forgiven thee; attend at the church to-day, it is not yet too late.”

“ It is too late," replied Sir Richard ; “think you I dare set foot of mine within that holy building? Would the stones bear the polluted burthen ? But it matters not; my hour of weakness is at an end : I cast forgiveness in thy teeth, and remain thy bitter enemy. But two lives more, and I have gained mine ends—then shall the devil help me to repentance."

Edward urged farther, but in vain; the vindictive rage of Sir Richard Ellerton had returned, and remained as violent as before: they soon parted; Heringford sincerely compassionating the wretched man, whose conscience, thus acutely sensitive, punished him so severely for the crimes that his corrupted nature still did not scruple to commit.

Edward waited now for Father Francis at the church-door, and soon saw him approaching, surrounded by villagers, whose children played in sport around him. Staying only to inquire after Kate's health, and receiving a satisfactory answer, he joined the rest within the church,

The interior of Ellerton church, simple as it was, lost thereby nothing of its solemnity; there were arches, it is true, and sculptured tombs; marble columns, and carved seats; but no pageantry of adoration; no choristers attended to the fair sound of a worship in which the sense was forgotten ; no incense-bearers to perfume the sacred house, and offer a sacrifice of scented drugs rather than that of a pious, humble heart. The old priest, attired in a simple robe, hallowed to the occasion, stood in the pulpit, before his assembled family of villagers, and explained to them the contents of that volume, which the then religion of the state would have sealed, had not the scarcity of books of any kind, and those but manuscripts, placed it beyond the general possession.

With a candid tongue, the good old man explained his Master's doctrines; with reverence his words were attended to; and the lives of the villagers showed that his precepts were well remembered and obeyed. If the hymn that concluded their service was rude, it came from the heart; if the singers had not previously practised their parts, at least they knew what and wherefore they were singing. There is, no doubt, more solemnity to the ear, when the praise or thanksgiving is chaunted by a chosen few; but where all join in a heartfelt adoration, the effect is far more lasting and beneficial. With slow and thoughtful step the congregation departed; nor was the churchyard, through which they passed, entirely without its lesson: most, ere they returned home, wandered -awhile amid the narrow homes of their departed relatives and friends. A son stood over a mother's grave, and made her a pattern for his children; a mother bent over the grave of her son, it was newly filled, and the tear that fell upon it, although one of sorrow, was not of vain repining, for, as she wept, her thoughts had winged their rapid flight to heaven and a bright eternity.

Father Francis, on again meeting with Edward, invited him to join the party at his cottage. This was another of the good priest's customs : each Sabbath a certain number of the villagers partook of their old friend's meal in due rotation, so that thus additional familiarity was raised up between them, and a new spur given to the people of the village, who never enjoyed, without benefit, the society of Father Francis.

There was a happy and a merry party that day in the old man's cottage ; for he banished not mirth or innocent pleasure from a day intended for our happiness. Kate Westrill remained, of course, in her own retirement, but Edward did not fail to see her. In the kitchen was Willie Bats, enlivened by his recent conversation with the "charmer,” who kindly entertained an admiring circle with legends of treasure-hunting for forty long years past, and Cicely, as she heard them, “looked and sighed, and sighed and looked again," to think that one who had endured so much should have fixed upon

her his fond affections. In the little parlour, among the group of happy villagers, Father Francis led the conversation into such channels as might interest and instruct his friends, until they again parted for church, when the former scene was repeated. Each then returned to his own house to spend the evening, as he might think most proper, in social intercourse and family prayer.

Thus passed the Sabbath at Ellerton; and upon its peace we have rested with the greater pleasure, since soon the course of this history will plunge us into scenes of a far sterner character;-leading us to homes, the abodes of Vice, and Misery her attendant, to which the Sabbath rest hath never penetrated, to view the workings of hearts scared by sin, and the throes of a pure heart that another's sin hath tortured. Sin and sorrow, sin and sorrow-rightly do the names come linked together; but while we peer into the darkness of sin, and fathom the depths of sorrow, let not the image of Ellerton fade from our memories ; let us not forget that there is bright happiness too upon earth, where modest Virtue dwells.

RUINS.

“I have seen the walls of Balclutha, but they were desolate. The fire had resounded in the halls; and the voice of the people is heard no more. The thistle shook there its lonely head: the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked out from the windows; the rank grass of the wall waved round its head. Desolate is the dwelling of Moina; silence is in the house of her fathers.”

OSSIAN's Carthon. There is a feeling of no common interest excited by the contemplation of the crumbling walls of a ruined edifice, which springs up, not only in the mind of the poet, the painter, the antiquary, and the philosopher, whose “ trade it is to talk

“Of life's vicissitudes and vanities,” but which is present, in no slight degree, even to the idle and unlearned spectator. Things which have been fair in the days of “hoar antiquity,” and are now mouldering in their return to the nothingness from which they came, seem to carry with them a reverence like that so scrupulously paid to the grey head by all the ancient nations, and so rigorously enjoined by the law of Moses.

It is a strange thought that the ruins we now contemplate were once the scene of mirth and enjoyment that the soil, now overgrown with the nettle and the brier, was once trodden by feet as light as our own that the walls, round which we still see the green ivy clinging, like Childhood embracing Age, which now echo but the solitary tread of the lonely moralizer, once rang with the shouts of revellers who laughed at the saws of the aged which told of desolation and decay—and yet it was even so. Even the stately edifices of our own day, on which we now look with pride and exultation, may one day be a ruin too-ay! and many a goodly city, stretching out, as in sleep, its gigantic outline beneath the meridian glory of the noontide suu, may in some yet unborn age, lie, even as in death, a sightless and unlovely wreck,

“ Its dwellings down-its tenants past away,” beneath the faint rays of the fading eve, or the cold shadows of the midnight moon.

Ruins ! ruins !-all creation utters its voice, and proclaims aloud “ Decay! decay!" The faded flower, the grey hair, and the autumnal tints embrowning all nature far and wide; all these give out, with a voice like that

“ which he
Who saw the Apocalypse, heard cry in heaven,"

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »