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“No,” replied the schoolmaster, resolutely, “no; albeit poetry, such as Milton's, softens and elevates the mind. o shall write one copy in text, and one in small-caps, and do two exercises; so that will be sufficient occupation for one day to satisfy you, Grace ; – though, methinks, you might leave me to decide the quantity as well as quality of his studies.” “You are not offended with me, father ?” “Ah, no, Grace you never, my child, gave me reason to be angry in your life; yet, when I look at you now – it is very strange—my heart grows heavy — not light. There, tie your cloak firmly, my own child; and God bless you ! But, as you hope to lay your dying head on a peaceful pillow, do not send the lad away. I will make him work—indeed I will, Grace. Your mother went first; then you deserted your father's hearth; but the child Abel ! — do not bereave me of him, Grace -- do not leave me to say, like Jacob of old, ‘If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved 1" Grace affectionately kissed her father; and, in a few minutes her hand was upon the latch of her own cottage-door. Ere she had crossed the threshold, a voice, whose tones could not be mistaken, thrilled to her heart. It was that of her husband 1. He was standing before the fire, holding his hands over the flame; his figure seemed more muscular than ever, but its fine proportions were lost in the appearance of increased and (if the term may be used) of coarse strength. His hair hung loosely over his brows, so as to convey the idea of habitual carelessness; and his tattered garments bespoke the extreme of poverty. He turned slowly round, as the exclamation of “Mother, dear mother!” burst from the lips of Josephine, who had i. gazing from a corner at her father, more than half afraid to approach lin. One look – and one only, was enough to stifle all reproach, and stir up all the affection of Grace's heart. Want was palpably stamped upon his countenance; and, as her eye glanced rapidly over his figure, she shuddered at the alteration which a few months had accomplished. For some moments neither spoke ; at last, he advanced and held out his hand to her: as he walked, she perceived that his feet were shoeless and bleeding. All his faults, all his cruelties, were forgotten — she only remembered that he suffered, and was her husband; and she fell upon his bosom and wept bitterly. - wover were the sins of Joseph Huntley, either before or after this period of his life, it is but justice to him to believe, that the tears he that night mingled with his wife's were those of a contrite heart. When she asked him how and where he had spent his time during the past months, he entreated her to forbear such questions for a little while, and that then he would satisfy her: but the period never came; and the dislike he evinced to afford her any information on the subject, together with his speedy relapse into intemperance and dissolute habits, checked her inquiries, and renewed her fears for the future well-doing of her eldest son. In the vicinity of gentlemen's seats there are always a proportionate number of poachers; and it requires more than magisterial vigilance to restrain their devastations. Although it was impossible to fix a stigma of this kind on any particular person in the village of Craythorpe, there were two men, basket-makers by trade, who were strongly suspected of such practices. John and Sandy Smith lived together in a wretched hut on the skirts of Craythorpe Common. No one knew whence they cane. Lonely and reserved in their habits, they seldom mingled with the villagers. Little children loved not their approach; and the large Newfoundland dog, at “The Swinging Hen,” would never form acquaintance with them or their mongrel lurcher: the latter, to confess the truth, was as reserved as his masters, and made but few friendly overtures towards the nobler animal. The only thing connected with the strangers that made a respectable appearance was a fleet and firm-footed black pony, which they maintained and treated with great care, for the ostensible purpose of hawking their brooms through the country; but people did talk; and, indeed, it was difficult to account for various petty peculations that had occurred; or how the landlord of the same “Swinging Hen” obtained his exquisite French brandy. Grace learned with regret that an acquaintance had commenced, and quickly ripened into intimacy, between her husband and these men. Joseph was no sooner clothed, and reinstated in his humble cottage, than his bad habits returned, and his evil propensities grew stronger and stronger.
Yet the ill temper so constantly manifested towards his wife and younger children was never extended to his eldest boy, who, happy in the removal of all restraint, and heedless of the misery his conduct inflicted on his aged grandfather, flung aside his books, and, careless of his mother's injunctions, appealed to a higher power when he was reproved for his frequently repeated faults. He gallopped on the Smiths' pony, and made friends with their dog Covey; began by shooting sparrows and titmice with bow and arrows, and ended by bringing home a hare as a present to his mother, which she resolutely refused to dress, notwithstanding the entreaties of the son and the commands of his father.
“Did you see, or take any silver away from hence?” inquired Grace, who had been anxiously occupied in looking over her small chest of drawers. “How could we get at the drawer, mother?” replied Abel quickly; but reddening at the same time. “Oh, Abel !” exclaimed Josephine. “If you have taken the money, tell the truth,” enjoined his mother, in her clear quiet voice. Abel made a sign of silence to his little sister. “Why should I take it?” he said, sullenly, at last. “Abel, Abel !” screamed Josephine, attempting to put her hand on his mouth at the same time, “God will hate you if you lie! I saw you o: the money — all mother's white shillings; but I thought she bid you o so.” Grace turned slowly round from the table; her face was of an unearthly paleness: no word—no sound passed from between her parted lips; but she stood, like the cold fixed statue of Despair, gazing upon her children. Josephine rose, and, climbing on the table, endeavoured to win her mother's attention. Gerald, the sickly brother, getting up from his chair, clasped and kissed her hand. With Abel, there was a struggle — not of long duration, but nevertheless powerful – the struggle of bad habit with good principle; the latter conquered, and he fell at his mother's feet. “Forgive me—forgive me! God knows I am sorry. It was not for myself I took it—father told —” “Hush" interrupted Grace, “do not say that before these” – and she pointed to the children; adding, with great presence of mind, “It was our father's money, if it was mine, Abel; but you were wrong in not telling me of it. There, Josephine and Gerald, go out into the lane, if you will; I wish to speak to your brother.” With almost inconceivable agony, this excellent woman learned that her son was far gone in falsehood. His heart was opened by the sight of his mother's distress; and it takes time to make a practised deceiver. With the earnestness of truth, he poured forth the wicked knowledge he had acquired; and Grace shuddered, while she prayed that the Almighty would watch over her son in this sore and dangerous extremity. And now came one of her bitterest trials. She had guarded Abel from the effects of his father's sin, as an angel watches over the destinies of a beloved object, — unceasingly, but unseen. She had never alluded to her husband's faults, nor even to his unkindness, before her children; yet now the time had arrived when she must rend the veil—she must expose his shame; and to whom? —'To his own son 1 Now it became her duty, her painful but imperative duty, to caution Abel openly against his own father —against his influences and habits; and to show the child that the parent was guiding him in the way that leadeth to destruction. If anything like justice has been done to the development of Grace Huntley's character, this sacrifice will be appreciated. How many a deed of unostentatious but devoted virtue is performed beneath a peasant's roof —amid the lanes and alleys of humble life, unknown to, or unheeded by, the world ! Huntley soon discovered that his wife had been influencing their child's conduct: indeed, the sacred law of truth formed so completely the basis of h; words and actions, that she did not attempt for a moment to conceal it. “Then you mean to set yourself in opposition to me!” he said, all evil passions gathering at his heart and storming on his brow. “Not to you, but to your sins, Joseph,” was her meek but firm reply: whereupon he swore a deep and bitter oath, that he would bring up his own child in the way which best suited him; and dared her interference. “As sure as you are a living woman,” he continued—with that concentrated rage which is a thousand times more dangerous than impetuous fury – “as sure as you are a living woman, you shall repent of this I see the way to punish your wilfulness: if you oppose me in the management of my children, one by one they shall be taken from you to serve my purposes! You may look for them in vain; until (he added, with a fiendish smile) you read their names in the columns of the Newgate Calendar.” That night, as latterly had been his custom, he sallied forth about eight o'clock, leaving his home and family without food or money. The childron crowded round their mother's knee to repeat their simple prayers, and retired, cold and hungry, to bed... It was near midnight ere her task was finished; and then she stole softly into her chamber, having first looked upon and blessed her treasures. Her sleep was of that restless heavy kind which yields no refleshment; once she was awakened by hearing her husband shut the cottage door; again she slept, but started from a horrid dream — or was it, indeed, reality—and had her husband and her son Abel quitted the dwelling together? She sprang from her bed, and felt on the pallet — Gerald was there; again she felt—she called—she passed into the next room—“Abel, Abel, my child as you value your mother's blessing, speak 1" There was no reply. A dizzy sickness almost overpowered her senses. Was her husband's horrid threatindeed fulfilled—and had he so soon taken their child as his participator in unequivocal sin . She opened the door, and looked out upon the night: it was cold and misty, and her sight could not penetrate the gloom. The chill fog rested upon her face like the damps of the grave. She attempted to call again upon her son, but her powers of utterance were palsied—her tongue quivered — her lips separated, yet there came forth no voice, no sound to break the silence of oppressed nature; her eyes moved mechanically towards the heavens-they were dark as the earth: —had God deserted her?— would he deny one ray, one little ray of light, to lead her to her child? Why did the moon cease to shine, and the stars withhold their brightness?. Should she never again behold her boy—her first-born ? Her heart swelled and beat within her bosom. She shivered with intense agony, and leaned her throbbing brow against the door-post, to which she had clung for support. Her husband's words rang in her ears —“One by one shall your children be taken from you to serve my purposes 1". Through the dense fog she fancied that he glared upon her in bitterhatred—his deep-set eyes flashing with demoniac fire, and his smile now extending, now contracting, into all the varied expressions of triumphant malignity. She pressed her hand on her eyes to shut out the horrid vision; and a prayer, a simple prayer, rose to her lips: like oil upon the troubled waters, it soothed and composed her spirit. She could not arrange or even remember a form of words: but she repeated, again and again, the emphatic appeal, “Lord, save me; I perish P’ until she felt sufficient strength to enable her to look F. into the night. As if hope had set its beacon in the sky, calmly and brightly the moon was now shining upon her cottage. . With the sudden change, at once the curse and blessing of our climate, a sharp east wind had set in, and was rolling the mist from the canopy of heaven; numerous stars were visible where, but five minutes before, all had been darkness and gloom. The shadow assed from her soul—she gazed steadily upwards–her mind regained its firmness—her resolve was taken. She returned to her bed-room— dressed—and, wrapping her cloak closely to her bosom, was quickly on her way to the Smiths' dwelling, on Craythorpe common. . The solitary hut was more than two miles from the village; the path leading to it broken and interrupted by fragments of rocks, roots of furze, and stubbed underwood, and, at one particular point, intersected by a deep and brawling brook. Soon after Grace had crossed this stream, she came in view of the cottage, looking like a misshapen mound of earth; and, upon peering in at the window, which was only partially lined by a broken shutter, Covey, the lurcher, uttered, from the inside, a sharp muttering bark, something between reproof and recognition. There had, certainly, been a good fire, not long before, on the capacious hearth, for the burning ashes cast a lurid light upon an old table and two or three dilapidate chairs; there was also a fowling-piece lying across the table; but it was evident none of the inmates were at home; and Grace walked slowly, yet disappointedly, round the dwelling, till she came to the other side, that rested against a huge mass of mingled rock and clay, overgrown with long tangled fern and heather: she climbed to the top, and had not been many minutes on the look-out ere she perceived three men'rapidly approaching from the opposite path. As they drew nearer, she saw that one of them was her husband; but where was her son 7 Silently she lay among the heather, fearing she knew not what—yet knowing she had much to fear. The chimney that rose from the sheeling had, she thought, effectually concealed her from their view; but in this she was mistaken — for while Huntley and one of the Smiths entered the abode, the other climbed up the mound. She saw his hat within a foot of where she rested, and fancied she could feel his breath upon her cheek, as she crouched, like a frightened hare, more closely in her form; however, he surveyed the spot without ascending farther, and then retreated, muttering something about corbies and ravens; and, almost instantly, she heard the door of the hut close. Cautiously she crept down from her hiding-place; and, crawling along the ground with stealth and silence, knelt before the little window, so as to observe, through the broken shutter, the occupation of the inmates. The dog alone was conscious of her approach; but the men were too seriously engaged to heed his intimations of danger. Merciful powers : —had Grace Huntley suffered so long, so patiently, only to witness such a scene! She almost wished that God, in his mercy, had stricken her with blindness; she prayed for insensibility—for deathfor anything save the knowledge now imparted with such fearful truth. o Would that it were a dream But no —the horrid proofs were before her eyes—in her ears; and the one drop of comfort, the only one, was the information that her son had returned home by a shorter path—that the ruffians feared yet (oh, the import, the dreadful import, that little word carried with it!) — that they feared yet to trust him with all their secrets: they feared to bring him yet to their den. “Then there is hope for my poor child,” she thought, “and I can — I will save him!” With this resolve, she stole away as softly and as quickl as her trembling limbs would permit. The depredators revelled in their fancied security. The old creaking table groaned under the weight of pheasant, hare, and ardent spirits; and the chorus of a wild drinking-song broke upon her ear as returning strength enabled her to hasten along the rude path leading to Craythorpe. The first gray uncertain light of morning was visible through the old church-yard trees, as she came within sight of her cottage. She entered quietly, and saw that Abel had not only. returned, but was sleeping soundly by his brother's side. Grace set her house in order — took the work she had finished to her employer— came back, and prepared breakfast, of which her husband, having by this time also returned, partook. Now he was neither the tyrant whose threat still rung in her ears, nor the reckless bravo of the common; he appeared that morning, at least so his wife fancied, more like the being she had loved so fondly and so long. “I will sleep, Grace,” he said, when their meal was finished – “I will sleep for an hour; and to-morrow we shall have a better breakfast.” He called his son into the bed-room, where a few words passed between them. Immediately after, Grace went into the little chamber to fetch her bonnet. She would not trust herself to look upon the sleeper; but her lips moved as if in prayer; and even her childen still remembered that, as she passed out of the cottage-door, she had a flushed and agitated appearance. “Good morning, Mrs. Huntley,” said her old neighbour, Mrs. Craddock. “Have you heard the news? Ah! these are sad times—bad people oing—” go. True, true !” replied poor Grace, as she hurried onwards, “I know.— I heard it all — ” Mrs. Craddock looked after her, much surprised at her abruptness. “I was coming down to you, Grace,” said her father, standing so as to arrest her progress; “I wished to see if there was any chance of the child Abel's returning to his exercises; as this is a holyday, I thought—” “Come with me,” interrupted Grace, “come with me, father; and we will make a rare holyday.” She hurried the feeble old man along the road leading to the rectory, but returned no answer to his inquiries. The servant told her, when she arrived at her destination, that his master was engaged – particularly engaged—could not be disturbed— Sir Thomas Purcel was with him ; and, as the man spoke, the study door opened, and Sir Thomas crossed the hall. “Come back with me, sir!” exclaimed Grace Huntley, eagerly; “I can tell vou all you want to know.” The paronet shook off the hand she had laid upon his arm as if she were a maniac. Grace appeared to read the expression of his countenance. “I am not mad, Sir Thomas Purcel,” she continued, in a suppressed tremulous voice, “not mad, though I may be so soon. Keep back these people, and return with me. Mr. Glasscott knows I am not mad!” She passed into the study with a resolute step, and held the door for Sir Thomas to enter; her father followed also, as a child traces its mother's footsteps, and looked around him, and at his daughter, with weak astonish