Imágenes de páginas
PDF

where they had so long lain, they were frequently forced back to it again from too soon exerting their feeble strength in efforts to work. Reduced to utter want, with the heavy burden of a now diseased and wretched child, - with house rent, besides smaller debts to pay, -their daily food to supply, with languishing health and broken spirits, – what could be more. hopeless than the state of these poor friendless women, so far from their own country and kindred? Yet God did not foraske them. Those who had little to give bestowed what they could to assist them, and sent effectual relief by telling a worthy doctor of their state. Their landlady, herself a poor woman, remitted their half-year's rent. Some benevolent people, who came to the knowledge of their misery, sent them assistance; which, . raising them from utter despair, they struggled through and began to recover. Blessed be sober industry in spite of the sick child, which required constant nursing, in a few months they were able to maintain themselves as before; were always clean and neat; always busy; paid off all their debts; and before the end of a year, were again active, cheerful, and comfortable; though the poor little boy, now three years old, can't yet stand on his feet. It requires little knowledge of the world to be perfectly aware that, under such circumstances, had habits of industry and the principle of honest independence not been strong within these poor Irish women, they must have become wandering beggars for life.”

TALENT WITHOUT PRINCIPLE.

As Simon and I stood one day on a solitary road, puzzling over an accident which had befallen his wagon, and defied all our mechanical skill to put to rights, a shabby-looking labourer, with a spade and pick over his shoulder, came slowly plodding from an adjoining field. He stopped as he came up to us; and, on observing Simon, pulled off his bonnet and addressed him, as one acquainted, with a gladdened air and voice. The recognition was mutual; though, judging from Simon's manner, I did not think the pleasure was. “ at has come owre ye, sir?” said the man; “nae accident, I hope 7” “Indeed, Jacob,” said Simon, “a very troublesome one; and how we are to proceed, I cannot tell.” “Let’s see, sir,” said our new friend, heaving the tools from his shoulder; “we’ll maybe be able to help it.” “No, no,” replied Simon, “we can do nothing without a smith—and what’s worse to come at – a smithy.” “Let’s see, sir; it's maybe no sae ill;” and he set to an examination of the broken wheel. “A gay unlucky mischance that, now, after a’,” continued he, as he scratched his brow and lip, and still silently pored, and felt and shook the various parts here and there: then he stood looking up, and down, behind and before, as if he was going to lay out the ground, “but troth, sir, I think I’ll no let it ding me yet! #. sir, we'll tryoti Agin I had it but a wee nearer my ain house, I could manage it fine!, Ye see, sir, its a' down hill, and gin ye could lighten't a wee, ye might lead the ponie, and this young gentleman will guide the broken wheel, and I would lay my shoulder to the wagon and bear it up.” At this suggestion Simon instantly emptied the cart of its heaviest contents, and as the day was good, left them under the care of our faithful dog upon the road. We then, with far less o* was anticipated, conveyed our precious vehicle to the bottom of the hill. “Now, sir, a will soon be right; just bide a wee, and I will soon be back,” he cried, as he ran on towards a house at a little distance. “Who on earth is that?” said I. “Jacob Gray,” replied Simon, “a clever fellow one intended for better things than his appearance betokens.” “And what has

befallen him 1" “A wife,” said Simon. “A termagant, I suppose ?” “You are out there;” he replied, “a termagant might keep at least his body in clean food, and clean clothes, but Sarah does not do that, you may perceive!” “And what wretch is she 7”, “One who was most respectable; every member of her father's family is respectable. So also are all of his, all well-doing, all thriving, all but him, in ability the flower of the flock; he never, to appearance, gets his head above want. He married this precious Sarah, when he ought to have married another woman, but her he deceived and forsook : ‘His sin has found him out” with a vengeance, and, verily, I believe Sarah is his punishment!” “Is it not an odd manoeuvre, stopping us here 7” said I, seeing him come loaded from the house. “It is his terror of our seeing Sarah and the house,” was Simon's reply. Just then Jacob reached us with a wheel-barrow filled with strange incongruous-looking articles. Having immediately taken off the wheel, and removed thebroken ring, he examined, and with Simon's help, speedily repaired the wood-work: then, turning to a niche in the bank by the side of the road, he said, smiling, “I maun now set up my foundry;” and soon making a hot fire with the peats and coals he had brought, by the help of a coarse, but powerful pair of bellows, and an old fifty-six pound weight without the ring, as an anvil, -in an incredibly short time, he had put the whole iron of the wheel in order, had mended and replaced the ring, repaired nails and bolts and screws; put all neatly and strongly together, and restored the wheel to its place . *} office had been to blow the bellows; and I looked from my post on all this, with the utmost admiration, and Simon, himself an excellent workman, was much surprised; both of us were very grateful, and much gratified with the success of the job. “Surely, Jacob,” said I, “you must have served an apprenticeship to the gipsies?” “Na, sir,” he replied, “I had a far better master.” “He must have been a clever fellow, indeed!” said I. “At least he has been reputed to mak some clever fellows, sir,” he answered, removing his bonnet, and passing his sleeve across his brow, with a most saddened look. “My master, sir, was ane they ca' Necessity, and a gay hard master, I ha'e whiles thought he has been to me, first and last! } . made but little under him yet, for a’ he has learned me. —What I might ha'e been without him, I canna tell:” And a bitter look passed over his face for an instant. The cart being driven back to the spot where it broke down, and all found right and tight, Simon expressed his sincere thankfulness to the poor man in the most gratifying language he could use, and attempted to put a crown into his hand. But he started back, crying, “Pity me, sir! what's that ye would be about? would ye mak a fule o' me a'thegither, sir!” “That would be no easy job,” said, Simon, laughing; “but I must and cannot but pay you the loss of your time and for your materials; tho' I can not pay our obligation for the very essential service you have done us, when we could not have moved forward or backward another step.” “Oh, sir,” he replied, “but I am blythe to serve you! Ye canna be half sae glad, or half sae thankful that I was able to do it, as I am, sir, and it was just a cast o' providence that brought me in your gate. Pay my time and my materials f Wae's me, – what’s my materials” —just bits o' auld brass or iron, nails and cleeks—or hoops– or teeth of rakes or harrows, and sic like, that no one but myself would see, gathered up when I'm working or walking, like the skill to mak use o' them, amang ither folk's feet! I ne'er put either the one or the other to better use, and so, sir, fare ye weel, and Gude be wi' you and guide you !” He had resumed his spade and pick while speaking, and before he ended, had flung himself over the dike and hurried away. Simon looked after him with the utmost compassion, saying, “To think how that man is cast away! What a lesson— *

what a mournful proof, he affords, of the utter insufficiency of the most

useful and varied talents to attain, at least to preserve, comfort and respectability. Even in this life, these will not abide with us when the firm groundwork of sound principle, vital religion, and personal virtue are wanting! But he must not go without the reward of this day's good deeds, so kindly and effectually performed,”— and going to his goods, he measured off a whole suit of stout blue cloth, and adding a bonnet, stockings, neckcloths, and whateve else occurred to him, we made up a large bundle with which I proceeded to his house. Its situation was lovely, and everything showed a capability of its being made a little paradise. But as I approached, this vision vanished — was expelled from my mind, by the inconceivable abominations which assailed all my senses. I hastened to knock at the door, which was shut ; but no one answering, I lifted the latch and stepped forward to o down the bundle, when a little lean, miserable-looking woman, with a long skinny neck, tatooed with the bites of ten thousand fleas, came creeping from an inner apartment. Her back was bent, as if with the weight of conscious degradation; hér face pushed forward, while, with two long, bony, dirty aws, more resembling the toes and talons of some unclean bird than that eautiful piece of mechanism, the human hand, she grasped (apparently no needless precaution) her tattered petticoats close to her body. “What's your wull, sir? Ye'll be wantin' Jacob, sir? he's no in, sir, – but I'll get him in a minute, sir. Sarah!— Betty' –Jock 1 — whare are ye? rin every ane o' ye, rin for your father,” she yelled forth in a wailing voice that seemed to have forgotten the sounds of joy, and three or four dirty, half-naked, squalid, most piteous-like children came spouting like rabbits out of sundry nooks and holes. I at length got her disastrous offers of service overwhelmed, by the reiterated assurance that I did not want her husband, and laying my hand on the bundle, told her I had brought it for him from Simon Frazer. “Oh, sir! oh, but Mr. Frazer's a kind gentleman? Oh, but he has been the kind friend to Jacob' Mony's the gift he has gi'en to Jacob, sir! Oh, but he is kind.” All this was uttered in the most deploratious voice, like one wailing the dead. Meanwhile I had observed that there were many remains which showed that the house had been, and still was, capable of being made decent. What had evidently been respectable curtains, hung, half covering two beds apparently filled with masses of the most unimaginable dirt and confusion and rubbish. A female dog lay muttering and growling in the midst of a great litter of puppies, and a large sow came grunting from under one of the beds, and was instantly attacked by an exasperated clucking hen, with three or four wretched, lame, draggled chickens, clamouring for food. Among them all, the din was so great, it was impossible to hear. “Oh, ye clatty, noisy, skirling brute!” despairingly squalled this human scarecrow, making an effort to kick the hen, and still gripping her petticoats tight in front. “Pity me! what ill's the puir sow doing you? Oh, sirst gin ye would but leeve in peace, ye wile ill-natured brute, and let the puir sow alane!” The state of the floor on which all this was transacted, perhaps, may be imagined, it cannot be described; and probably nothing contributed more to the desolation the whole exhibited, than a chest of mahogany drawers which retained marks of the most beautiful workmanship, with most of the handles and brass ornaments knocked off, standing in the clay on three feet, and a lump of peat supplying the place of the fourth. The assault upon the hen having made a diversion in my favour, I turned to retreat, upon which this comfortable wife and mother hurried after me, still holding the petticoats, pursuing me as long as her sad treble wailings

could be heard, with most mournful and reiterated expressions of gratitude. On once more gaining the open country, the regions of pure air and clean grass, I stopped to scrape from my shoes the unmentionable horrors of the floor I had crossed; and then made my way to Simon, who had, in the mean while, passed the house. I told him of the astonishing appearances it exhibited. “I know it,” said he, “I know it, and I know that no tongue of man could describe it and be believed;— even when I saw it last, it was so, and I am aware it must grow worse. As I told you,” he continued, “Sarah, though never a genius of the first class, was a respectable, cleanly, amiable young woman, and at the time of their marriage, they were both servants in the same family, and both were liked. He is an admirable ploughman, and has won many prizes at ploughing matches. He is equally expert at every species of farming, gardening, and what is called out-door work. This was the line of life to which he was bred, but, as you have seen, his usefulness does not stop there, for, besides being master of all sorts of smiths' and wrights' tools, and able to make wheel-barrows, ladders, rakes, harrows, and most things needed about a farm, he can also do masons' and slaters' work. The unhappy man can likewise make and mend keys and locks, can alter and fit locks to keys, and keys to locks. God help us, and lead us not into temptation. He is also the best shot in the country, and has more than once cobbled up an old gun or pistol, so that it would carry as far, and hit as true as the work of the best gun-smith. He makes and mends his own and his children's shoes—nay, I once before gave him cloth for a suit, when alarmed at every step he took, lest the fluttering rags, that were suspended round his thighs, might fly away; and he made the trowsers himself, as well as any tailor. And, by the way, these said trowsers had some queer fate, I cannot tell what. I happened to call at his door one morning, after having had the pleasure of knowing that he had been, for a day or two, drest in decency and comfort in his new suit, — and what did I behold but Jacob, with a great needle and thread, sewing at pieces of white flannel. The blood gushed into his face, as I said, laughing, ‘What new work is this you have found out, now, Jacob?” and he confusedly replied, ‘Oh, sir, ye see — sir–Sarah has gotten a bit wee lassie this morning, sir, and she was na'e just sae weel provided — puir thing! So I'm just steekin' some bits o' flannins thegither for 't.' I stepped forward to wish him joy of his daughter, when, to my infinite amaze, I beheld the wretched infant lying in the cradle with an incongruous mass of materials under it and over it, and its poor wee, new-born head pillowed upon its father's new trowsers. . How Sarah finally disposed of them, I cannot tell — but after this time, the neighbours remarked, Jacob was never seen with them again. “He was then, and for many years before and after, farm servant to a gentleman who had a small farm and pleasure grounds, and so situated, for a time his usefulness had been very great. But his zeal gradually declined. His work, fell in arrears,—the fences, gates, avenues, – every thing got into disorder; and in .. and grounds weeds overtopped every plant and flower. He lounged about in a dreary drowsy state, quite indifferent as to the situation of things, – his dress was disgraceful, and it was often thought, that but for the food daily sent to him from his master's kitchen, he would have died of inanition. Yet his wages were high, and his master's family ever lavishing upon his; for his want of activity and care were charitably imputed to weakness, the result of his miserable fare, and the numberless discomforts of his nasty home. “To the great amazement of his master and most others, one day while quietly at his work, two ominous-looking fellows inquired for him, and being sent to the field where he was, they served him with a summons at the in:

stance of a neighbouring nobleman, to answer for his deeds as a poacher. He laughed at the accusation, and in every respect behaved like an innocent man, and innocent he certainly was considered by those he served; but in spite of all that could be done, he was tried at the next quarter sessions, and on the most unjustifiable, inadmissible species of testimony, viz. that of the gamekeeper, his accuser, to whom, I suppose, you know, the fine imposed is always in such cases paid, and a sham, letter which had no existence, quoted by the agent of the nobleman on whose grounds he was supposed to have trespassed, he was condemned either to pay a heavy fine or to take three months' confinement in Bridewell. The amount of the fine was greater than all his earthly possessions; and under the strongest conviction of his innocence of the alleged misdemeanor, and, innocent or guilty, of the indefensible means employed to convict him, the most prompt measures were instantly adopted in his behalf, and in a week or two he was released, very little improved, as it appeared, by his residence in a prison. Whether that proceeded from the company he met with there, or from the degradation which a man must feel, even in his own eyes, however guiltless, after having been dragged like a felon and lodged in jail, though for the shortest period, I cannot tell. . But he sunk in estimation from that hour, and a few months brought to light, to the conviction of Jacob's best friends, that he was too truly guilty, and that night after night was spent in ranging not only the fields belonging to his master, but the whole surrounding hill and moor, and probably he killed more game than all the poachers in the country. “This discovery excited extreme disgust in the minds of his master's family, and in union with the fact which as unexpectedly came to light, of his having long rented two fruit gardens secretly besides his potato-ground, which being all cultivated by his own hand, sufficiently accounted for the worn and sleepy state in which he came to work, or rather to repose in his master's barn. It also solved a problem which had often puzzled them, and that was the dying away and disappearance of many valuable plants and shrubs and trees from the garden and grounds; fruit of every kind becoming invisible almost as soon as it was ripe, as did all sorts of vegetables. Hay, straw, corn, potatoes, and coals, which for years had consumed without a fire! yet no locks were broken and no dog barked. He had two milk cows and a sow, and sold milk, sold fruit, vegetables, young plants of all descriptions; but with all these sources of wealth he daily grew poorer and poorer, and his wife, his children, his house, grew daily more abject and beggarly. A year after, he lost his excellent master and his place. But he never was out of work, for he was known to be ingenious and capable of turning his hand to anything, and his wages often amounted to a guinea aweek, and sometimes to more, and this without taking into account his nameless profits and acquisitions, if ever there was any profit in that which is obtained by a breach of honesty or of the laws. It was also strongly alleged that Jacob was only more cautious, not cured of his thirst for the blood of hares and moor-game, for which he always found a ready sale in the hotels and inns of the neighbouring towns. “No one thinks more hardly of many parts of the absurd and tyrannical ame-laws than I do. . But whether it may be from the skulking knavish abits, the deceit, falsehood, and meanness consequent upon smuggling of any description, either as a poacher, illicit distiller, or a vender of contraband goods, I cannot pretend to tell,—but I have invariably observed, that entering on any of those practices, even sporting without a license, certainly one of the least blameworthy of them all, *. a man's integrity, and leads to the ruin of soul, body, and estate. People go on toiling and struggling to procure money, the means of wealth, as if the means, no matter how obtained, were all that is necessary! — Poor short-sighted creatures! With

« AnteriorContinuar »