A SCENE ON THE SUSQUEHANNA.
BY JOSEPH R. CHANDLER.
The incidents of life around us—of common life—of everyday events, and the common scenes which Nature has prepared on every side, are full of interest, full of means of gratifying a taste formed or cultivated to rational enjoyment. The Hymmalayen mountains may overtop the Andes, and the Amazon bear more water to the sea than the Susquehanna, but it follows not thence that the combination of scenery—points of beauty to be associated with the eye—are less attractive in the latter than in the former; and though thousands may tread, may ride, or may murder on the unfrequented path of the elder world, and give tragic effect to narrative, yet on all sides of us, in our home experience, and our limited wandering, events are every day occurring of as much interest to the participators as are those which constitute the theme of the foreign tourist; and scenes are presenting themselves almost daily within our own observation, that need only the pen of a Radcliffe to describe, or the pencil of a Claude to depict, to fix them on the imperishable canvas of the artist or the immortal page of the gifted poet.
How often have we been struck with the clustering beauties of a seashore by Birch, or some landscape by Russell Smith, and while we gazed in admiration at the production so rich in artistic skill, and felt astonishment at the fidelity of the representation, have shrunk away from the picture, ashamed that objects so constantly before our eyes should have remained unadmired till the pencil of the artist had transferred them to canvas—had selected the moment when sunshine had brought out the clustering beauties of some gentle promontory, or shade had deepened the darkness of the dell, and all which to our eyes had been daily spread out in constantly changing hues, had been fixed in beauty to challenge our admiration and create new love for the original.
Events which strike us with astonishment in their record, whether they are real or imaginary, acquire much of their importance from our knowledge of the antecedent circumstances and present condition of the actors. We connect the present with the past, and our sympathies becoming enlisted with the joys or sorrows of others, all that relates to them acquires the exaggerated importance to us which it has with those who are really connected with the occurrences. Every group of immigrants we meet, every wedding party we attend, every funeral train we join, contains in itself a story of deep and thrilling interest; the power of genius only is necessary to collect and combine the incidents, to bring in the feelings and hopes of the parties, and to present to the reader what the unobtrusive actor does, feels, hopes, fears and suffers.
Ungifted to catch the beauties of the landscape and transfer them to canvas, unpracticed in the simplest movement of the artist's duties, I can only stand and admire what Providence has spread around with a profusion of bounty, and as colors deepen or fade, and beauties augment or diminish, I bow with admiration at the object, and increased love to Him whose hand garnished the heavens, and whose goodness is as manifest "in these his lower works" as in the constellated glories of the firmament, whose systems combine to enrich with heatless light worlds of space—and the infinite seems exhausted to gem with starry lustre earth's evening canopy.
Equally unsupplied am I with that genius which seizes on passing incidents, and moulds them to important events, building the interesting and the sublime on the simple and the ordinary. I have not these gifts, but I have the love for the gifts, the sense of their existence in others, and a sort of conception of the time and the place in which they should be employed; and often, as I pass along, I select groups and note incidents that with the child of genius would be seed for a golden harvest. And scenes, too, that escape the general eye, or only excite the exclamation "how beautiful," press upon me till I wish that I had the genius and skill to fix the picture which Nature has drawn, and show that our own land and own vicinity are full of those beauties which true taste admires, which, transferred to canvas, become in turn the stimulant to taste. Yet the scenes which I see, and the occurrences which I note, may be of use to those who know better how to combine and present the materials; and what I saw and heard, others may present in an attractive form.
During the close of August and the first of September last I was, in obedience to an imperative call, engaged in some business in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The little borough was crowded with delegates to two conventions then being held, for the purpose of nominating candidates by the opposing parties for the office of Governor of the Commonwealth; a part of the machinery to which our institutions give rise, and those who affect to sneer at these preliminary movements, do not understand the true theory and practice of republicanism, where action, to be effective, must begin in the will of the people, and to be beneficially operative it must continue in concurrence with that will. Notwithstanding the presence of two antagonistic parties there were peace and much social intercourse between the delegates of opposite creeds; nor was this marvelous, the contest had not yet been delivered to the parties; the rivalry and antagonism were between the members of the same party, who should be the candidate—that settled on each side, then the divided fronts of the main divisions would unite, and the hostility be transferred from sections of the same party to the parties themselves. The general field of contest was of course not taken there, so that the elements of political warfare were held in abeyance, and the thronged streets wore a holyday appearance of pleasure and hope.
Standing early one morning at the door of the hotel, before the customary hour of rising, I was struck with a little procession from the canal toward the centre of the place. A stern woman led the company, in which were four men, two of whom, and the youngest, each carried a child; and in the rear was a very tall man, bearing also a younger child, wrapped about with parts of a ragged female dress. The man by his height and measured tread drew attention particularly to himself. The appearance of the whole was that of poor immigrants; Germans probably; though the stateliness of the march of its principal man was that of some one who had a spirit of independence, and felt that whatever might be his appearance, he was, for a time at least, above the influence of outward circumstances. The company passed me, and for some time I lost sight of them, and indeed nothing but the peculiar look of the woman and the remarkable tread of the man would have kept them in my memory. It was not long, however, before I saw a gathering in front of a public building, and loving to hear the remarks of those who speak out unrestrainedly, I joined the little company. Its centre was the band of immigrants. It was evident that some movements toward effective sympathy had been suggested. What they were or by what suggested I could not tell. The strangers could speak little or no English, and for a time their appearance only appealed to the kindly feelings of the multitude. I had pressed in close to the strong man, who was still bearing the little child in the same position in which it rested when he passed me at the door of the hotel. The same fixed look of independence was in his face and his position. There was much of sternness on the face of the woman, but it was marked by pain, referable perhaps to her situation, and to the marks of recent grief. Something was to be done, but what I could not yet determine. As I pressed nearer to the man the company crowded closer.
"You need help," said I to the strange man.
He intimated plainly that he could not understand me.
"You want bread," said I.
"Das brod," exclaimed he, shaking his head. "Nein—das grab!"
And he threw the clothes from the face of the child on his arm, and the pale, quiet features of the little one were cold in death.
One low, agonizing cry went up from the depth of the woman's heart. One proud look around was given by the father, but that look was exchanged for one of anguish as he turned his eye downward toward the burthen which his arm sustained.
The company had come up, not to solicit charity, that they might eat and drink before they should die—but that they might obtain a burying-place for the little one of their flock, whom death had released from its parents' troubles.
It was a pretty child; the blue eyes were visible beneath the half divided lids, and the long lashes hung over them like gentle palls, defending them from the rudeness of earth's winds. The fine light hair lay smoothly over the marble forehead, and a few white teeth shone out from between the lips that were shrinking away from each other in the coldness of death.
It was a grave the parents needed.
The contributions were liberal, and a grave was provided. It would seem that in the wilderness of unreclaimed lands which lie along the public works of Pennsylvania, there might be found a resting-place for an infant stranger, without the eleemosynary aid which had been sought—but, alas! who does not desire when they "bury their dead out of their sight," that it may be in a place which memory may cherish.
We cannot comprehend the unconsciousness of the grave. We hedge it about, we make the last house as if comforts were to be enjoyed therein, and we love to place our dead side by side with others, as if there were fellowship with the mouldering clay. It is of no use to argue against this—it is better perhaps to encourage the feelings, and assist in their gratification. They refine the mind, they elevate views, they meliorate passions and keep alive affections. Let the resting-place of the dead be sanctified to all, it is the home of the temple of God. It is the Moriah of the Christian dispensation.
I cannot leave Harrisburg at any season of the year, but especially in the early part of Autumn, without seeking the shore of the Susquehanna at sunset. All day long the river is beautiful, the quiet stream as it goes shining down to the ocean is full of loveliness, and all upon it or near it, partakes of its character. But it is exquisitely rich and attractive near the close of the day. I went alone to enjoy the scene. And placing myself upon the bold bank between the town and the river I looked westward for the sight that had so often been enjoyed. It was there; no change comes over such beauties; they are immortal, they are without mutation. In the bosom of the broad river—glowing with the golden beams of the retiring sun—sat the islands that break the unity of the stream and augment its beauties. So rich, so full was the sunlight upon the river, that these islands seemed to be floating in the gorgeous light. Some shot out prominent angles into the water, and presented salient points to break the uniformity, while others sat swan-like down, their rounded edge touching the stream, as if they had been dressed by art to present the perfection of symmetry; the dark green of the shrubbery that sprung up in the moisture of the islands was mingled with the golden hues of the sun, and here and there the gentle current, by passing over some obstructing object, broke into a ripple, that danced like liquid gold in the sunlight.
It was a rich and lovely sight, one to which frequency of enjoyment can bring no satiety, and he who sits down to such a scene finds the impressions of unfriendly association passing away—the resolutions of revenge, which unprovoked rudeness excited, melting into the better determinations of the heart—and all of bitterness and animosity which unchastened pride encourages, are neutralized and lost in the deep emotions of love which such a view of God's works and such a sense of man's enjoyment necessarily promote.
I sat absorbed in the scene until the sun began to drop below the hills, and the warmth of the coloring upon the water was yielding to the neutral and colder tints of evening, but upward along the sides of the hills the gorgeousness of the sunlight was in its fullness. Casting my eyes away to the right, I noticed a gathering on the upland: and on looking closer I could discover the forms of those who had composed the morning procession. They had made a grave for the little one of their flock, and had gathered around it to do the last offices to the inanimate form. They all bowed together, as if taking a last look, and when they raised their heads, I thought I caught a little of the wild cry of the anguished mother—but I must have been deceived, the distance was too great, but the signs of grief were visible, and I saw the father sustaining with his arm the afflicted wife, and the other members of the group cast their eyes toward their afflicted female companion. The air was full of dust, the consequence of a long drought, and as the floating particles reflected the sunbeams, the funeral gathering seemed for a moment, bathed in the glorious light of the setting sun, transfigured on their mount of sorrow—transfigured from the poor mendicant wanderers they had appeared in the morning, to children of light.
That glorious sunset on the islands and waters of the Susquehanna cannot soon fade from my memory—nor shall I easily forget the blaze of glory shed around the infant's grave. Strange that the richness of sunlight should spring from the impure particles by which it is reflected—but in this world of ours what but errors and impurities of the human kind make visible and beautiful the grace of Him in whose light and heat "we live and move and have our being?"
PEDRO AND INEZ.
BY ELIZABETH J. EAMES.
[It is a well known fact that the hapless Inez de Castro, the young and beautiful bride of Pedro of Portugal, was murdered, while he was absent on a hunting excursion.]
Softly broke the light of morning, through a pictured window's gloom, Blandly strayed the zephyr's winglet 'mid rich plants of Eastern bloom, Shedding a strong spicy fragrance round that gorgeous room, Lightly on her couch of purple slumbered Pedro's new-made bride, In her young unshadowed beauty, with no other thought beside That which his deep love had poured o'er her spirit's tide.
Softly had Prince Pedro risen from his nuptial couch that morn, Lightly donned his hunting vesture, at the call of hound and horn: Yet he bends enamored o'er that face of Beauty born. One more love-glance, yet another, on the sleeping face he cast; Soft he stoops to meet that red lip—one light kiss—the last! "God and our Lady bless thee, love!"—and so Prince Pedro passed.
Softly faded into twilight gorgeous gleams of gold and red, Valley, stream, and purple mountain lay in mellow glory spread. And the lemon's snowy blossom dewy odors shed. Homeward through eve's tender shadows speeds Prince Pedro with his band, While with love almost paternal his fond eye drinks in the land, Over which he soon may govern with a kingly hand.
Now the mellow horn he soundeth through the leafy olive groves, Far and wide the clear notes echo, but they bring not her he loves— "Inez? is it thou, sweet Inez, where yon shadow moves?" Never more shall Inez answer to that fond familiar call— Of the lovely bride left sleeping, bleeding clay is all— Of a fiendish hate the victim lies she, wrapt in gory pall.
Never more from that dread hour was Prince Pedro seen to smile! Never more did chase or revel his still agony beguile— But he walked in the shadow of dark thoughts the while! With her martyred form forever graven on his memory, He became a scourge and terror from whom all men sought to flee, Tortured were his victims, but he smiled in mockery!
Such the change, and such the monarch whose reft hand made discord ring Like a clarion through the country that had gladly hailed him king. Darkly, like the tempest, rode he on the avenger's wing! And when midnight drew her curtain round the land, that hour In her blood-stained chamber did he stand with fearful power, And renew the fatal vow to avenge his martyred flower!
A LEGEND OF CLARE.
THE TRICKS UPON TRICKS, AND THE TWISTS UPON TWISTS;
OR KHUR ENEIN KHUR, AGUS KHAOUN ENEIN KHAOUN.
BY J. GERAHTY M'TEAGUE.
THE GUBBAUN SEARE.
One of my own dear countrymen, casting his eye on the above title, may possibly recognize something in it familiar to him, especially should he ever have resided on the classic shores of Galway or of Clare, our own "Far West;" but to others who may chance to honor our legend with a perusal, some few words of introduction are necessary to transport them, "in their mind's eye," from the city of "brotherly love," to the far distant and far different land of the O'Malleys, the Macnamaras, and the Blakes.
An Irishman is, in my humble opinion, rather unlike a prophet, for this reason, he is in one sense only, to be honored in his own country—transplant him; and though he may be unimpaired, perhaps, in vigor of body; though he may make an excellent fabricator of rail-roads and canals, yet it has always appeared to me he loses his native raciness, except under very peculiar circumstances; he grows different; in a word, he gradually becomes—like the rest of the world!
[Footnote 1: Let me assure my readers that this word is pronounced Macnamahra.]
Is it the absence of the unique fragrancy of his native turf smoke, which at home he so freely inhaled, or is it the substitution of beef and pudding for his former scanty meals of the never-failing root of plenty? Let us leave these vexatae questiones to those whom they may concern, but on one point let us give our decided opinion. Our readers may say, "O, now you all are changed! since your Father Mathew has made five millions of you teetotallers, your country is not worth the living in! No more doth the invigorating, all-inspiring, thrice concentrated juice of the 'barley grain' push you forward to glorious deeds of heroic daring—of skull-breaking, dancing, or of story-telling; so that for all intents and purposes you have nothing left worth chronicling—you are getting like the rest of the world!" "Aisy a bit," say I, "the fiddle and the bagpipes have just the same charms to 'put the capers in our heels' as in whisky's balmiest days; and as for story-telling, that we can do equally well over a good cup of fine hot coffee. No, no; while the same fresh and free breezes shall continue to be wafted across the Atlantic to us; while we have our own green fields and wild, lofty mountains to behold, Irishmen we shall be in all our better qualities; and though Father Mathew may have been influential enough in cooling our heads, (we admit,) yet our hearts are as warm as ever!
Irish cabins, which you all have heard of, would not be such bad concerns after all, and we should get
on very well indeed, if we were only a leetle better treated. On all hands it is admitted that we are pretty nearly able (and take my word for it we are willing enough) to eat and to drink all that a bounteous Providence causes to be brought forth from the most fruitful of soils; in truth, a superficial observer might even be tempted to utter an exclamation of surprise on being told that with a territory one thousand square miles less than that of the state of Maine, and six thousand less than that of Pennsylvania, ten millions of human beings should be supported; but then consider, kind reader, when our beef, and our butter, and our eggs, and even the little cabbages from our gardens, must fly on the wings of steam to pay the rent, and that rent flies away again, you know, to pay whom; (a slight glance at a certain map will tell you that;) consider, I say, that we cannot always be light-hearted, that a little sadness will sometimes creep over us. Think how our poor countrymen must sometimes suffer, and let ever our warmest sympathies be exerted when we hear of their distresses.
But, "stop!" you say, "these are twists you're getting into, indeed. What has this to do with your legend?" Well, then, reader, jump over with me into a snug cabin, which is not so very unlike a log-cabin, only built of stone or mud, (excuse me,) and sit down with me and a collection of choice spirits, round a blazing turf fire, keeping it warm, as we say, with the pipe and the "darlin' tibacky" taking their accustomed rounds. I may as well introduce Jimmy Carmody to you—my "Micky Free"—Tom Dillon, and a few others. So, now we are all settled.
"What's this you're all discussing so learnedly, boys?"
"O, nothing very partic'lar, your honor, only we're just saying what mighty quare owld ruins them is—them round towers. Did your honor never see any of them? Sure there's one on Scattery Island, in the Shannon, and one at Kilmacduagh, I believe, in this county."
"O, yes, Tom, I've seen those you mention, and a great many more, too; and if any of you have ever been to Dublin by the canal, I'm sure you must have seen the one at Clondalkin. There's one, too, you know, in the county Wicklow, at the lake that Tommy Moore made the beautiful song about:
'By that lake, whose gloomy shore Skylark never warbled o'er.'"
"Why, now, yer honor's perfectially right!" said Jimmy, who just then remembered some incidents in his former travels to Dublin about his "little spot of a pratee garden, that was near being sowld at the Four Courts for non payment. Quite right your honor is. Sure I wint down to see where the blessed Saint Kevin done all his miracles—where he turned the loaves into stones, and where he med the owld king's goose, that he was so fond of, young again, and all that; but sure your honor knows all about it; but after a while, the man that was there showed me a little hole up over the lake in the clift above, and 'look!' says he, 'that's St. Kevin's bed,' says he. 'Why, then, now!' says I, 'up in that little pigeon-hole!' says I. 'O! and did his blessed reverince go up there to bed?' says I. 'No! you fool!' says he, 'but to avoid the darlin' young lady,' says he. 'And it's there he threw her down into the deep, cowld, dark lake,' says he. 'Would you like to go up and lie down in his bed?' says he. 'Is it me,' says I, 'to do it? Why my brain is like a spider's web wid lookin' at it,' says I. But a young man that was used to crawling in them unchristian places—them mines—went up; and I thought I could jump through a key-hole, I felt so, to see him do it; and says I, when he came down, 'Young man, I pray, when you settle in life, you may have a handier way of gettin' into bed than that, particularly if you're—'"
Here a burst of laughter, which it is not hard to elicit from such an auditory, interrupted Jimmy, who is requested to tell "whether he ever heard who built these round towers, or why they were built at all?"
"Why," remarks Jimmy, "why they were built, no one can tell—they don't look like any thing Christian; but the man that undoubtedly built some of them was the Gubbaun Seare."
"Who was he, Jimmy?" asked all.
"Why, then, your honor, myself doesn't know much about the Gubbaun Seare, only as the owld people tell us."
"Well, Jimmy, that don't make what the old people tell us of no account; for with all our new improvements, (I had been explaining a rail-road to them the evening before,) we are obliged to retain nearly all their inventions also; so you may as well tell us what you know about the Gubbaun Seare, for you may depend there must be some truth and value in it."
"Why, then, that's true for your honor," said another; a sentence, by the bye, which always greets you when you utter an opinion, correct or incorrect.
"Well, then," said Jimmy, "in them owld times, I believe, when the round towers was building, there was a mason—and if there was, he was as fine a mason as ever lived, or ever will again—and, indeed, your honor, you know the round towers would prove that, if he built them—for where is the mason-work that's equal to what's on them? That one at Glendalough is a fine one, to be sure—and there's many finer than that. Well, he lived in a fine cottage, somewhere in Munster, and I don't know exactly where.
"He had been married, and had an only son—and proud was he of him, you may depend. Well, it was given up to the Gubbaun, that he was not only the best mason in all the world, but along with that, sir, he was the cutest man known, and the greatest hand at all kinds of plans and contrivances. He was able for every one, and any one; and nobody ever had to boast that they had gained the least advantage over him."
"I suppose, Tom, that with all this wisdom of the father, the son must have been as wise as he was himself, or may be wiser?"
"Why, to be sure, so one would imagine; but it was far from him to be as good a boy as the father—and that the father knew right well, for he was always trying to make him sensible of the scaming; but the son was always too honest, and that vext the father.
"However, he said nothing until the son grew up a dashin' fine young man; and if he wasn't the best av scamers, he was nearly as good a mason as the father himself, and was quiet and honest, only a terrible simpleton, and what the English gentleman that used to come to see your honor called spooney; though what a man had to do with a spoon, myself doesn't see. But the father racked his brains constantly to find out some way to make him knowin'; and at last he came to be determined in his mind that nothing would do the son so much good, or put sinse so well into his head as a fine, clever, smart young woman av a wife, if he could meet one to his mind; and, your honor, though I never tried it myself, I have no doubt an excellent plan it is. Well, sir, after he once hit on a plan, sorra long he was in puttin' it into execution. One morning he got up very early, and called his son into the field. 'Now, Boofun,' (that was the young man's name,) 'now, Boofun,' says he, 'run an' catch the sheep beyant there—that big white one, with the fine fleece, and bring her to me quick!' So Boofun did; an' if he did, the Gubbaun pulled out his big knife, and kill'd her; an' by the same token the summer was comin' on, and the fleece was fine, and long, and silky."
"What did he do that for, Jimmy?"
"Wait a bit, your honor. When the Gubbaun had her skinned, he embraced his son, (that's hugged him, boys, d' ye mind,) an' spoke to him as this:
"'Now, Boofun, avick, (my son,) and it's you was ever the good boy of a son to me, only I never could make you understand the coorse of the world's doin's as well as I could wish; but never heed! you'll improve yet—so take courage and do as I desire you; but mind, if you don't, never call the Gubbaun Seare your father more, the longest day you have to live! Do you see that skin?' 'I do, father—I see it,' says he, innocent as a child. 'Well, Boofun, you must take to the road now at once, and you must walk on, and never stop till you get some one that will buy this skin, and pay you for it, and then give you your skin back again into the bargain.'
"'O! O! father!' says the other, 'I'm a fool myself, I know, and yet I'm sure I wouldn't do sich a simple thing as that,' says he, 'and I think, indeed, father, you must be a fool yourself to think so,' says he. 'Howld your tongue, an' be off, you natral!' says the father; 'what do you know about it! Be off at wanst; and here, take this! here's cost enough for the road,' says he, 'and be sure an' remember what I towld you,' says he.
"So poor Boofun, sir, wint off; and sorrowful he was to lave his father, and his business, and his comfortable home, and to go away on what he thought sich a wild-goose chase. It happened that it was market-day at the next town, an' many a one overtook him, an' he cryin'.
"'Well, Boofun,' they'd say, for they knew him, 'are you going to sell that fine sheep's skin?' 'I am,' he'd say; 'but I know you wont buy it, for by the way I'm selling it, it would be a dear article for you.' 'Why so, man? I'm in want of wool, an' very little would make me buy the same skin, for it's fine wool.' 'Yes, but,' Boofun would say, 'you must pay me for it, and then give it me back if you buy it!' So he would be always laughed at, an' he was nearly dying av dishpair.
"However, on he traveled and walked; and many miles from home he came to a beautiful lake, all surrounded with trees, very like that lake where your honor and the captain, and the ladies used to go and fish, and make peckthers, (pictures,) Inchiquin lake, sir; an' if he did, there was as darlin' a young lady as could be seen, an' she standing on the shore of the lake, and after finishing washin' some of the finest fleeces of iligant wool. 'O!' said he to himself, 'if I could only get this darlin' to buy my fleece! But no one will ever do so foolish a thing as that, an' I shall never sell it, nor get back again!'
"However, Boofun took courage, and wint up to her. 'God bless your work, alanna! 'tis yourself's not idle this morning! And what beautiful wool! I've a fleece here myself, an' I thought it good, but yours bates it intirely! I would sell mine, too, but neither you nor any one else will ever buy it! A voh! voh!'
"'Why, that must be a curious fleece, if no one'll buy it. Sir,' says she, 'what may be the price?'
"'O, for that,' says he, 'it's for little or nothing I'd sell it; but what good would that do you, agrah, when I'm never to enter my father's house again, nor call myself his son, until I bring him back the skin and the price of it as well! However, it's no use talking to you, at any rate, for you'll have nothing to do with me.'
"'Why, how can you say so till I tell you?' says she.
"'O, my thousand blessings for that word,' says he, 'it makes my heart rise like a cork to hear you!'
"'Well, what will you take for the skin?'
"'O, very little, then—only so much, (mentioning a small sum.)
"'Very good,' says she, 'I'll give you that much, and welcome;' and whisper, 'are you the son of the Gubbaun Seare?'
"'I am; but how could you guess that?'
"'Because,' says she, 'no one could think of such a plan but his own four bones, and I think I see the meanin' of it, too,' says she. 'Hand me the skin.' So Boofun did, sir; and she fell to work, and in a very short time she had the wool stripped off. 'And here, now,' says she, 'here is your skin back for you, and here is the price of it,' says she, handing him the money; and tell the Gubbaun a very good buraun the skin'll make,' says she.
"'O, my million thanks to you,' says he; 'though I never should have thought of this in thousands of years, yet you've settled it with one word!'
"So, sir, after much more talk, away he ran, and never stopped till he came home; and the Gubbaun had just returned from his work, and findin' the house so lonesome, was almost repentin' he'd ever sent Boofun away. Glad he was, though, when Boofun came in, and gave him a great account of all he had done; but what was his joy when Boofun drew forth the sheep's skin, and counted out the money. Well, after some of the joy was over, the Gubbaun put on a very long, sarious face, 'And now, Boofun,' says he, 'don't as you love me,' says he, 'deny any thing I ask,' says he, 'but tell me the truth. I know, you needn't tell me, it was a woman that thought of the plan of skinning the fleece, for no man in Ireland would think of it but myself.'
"'Faix, then, so she said herself,' says Boofun.
"'Hah! well, I knew it was a she; but was she young or owld? for, by my trowel and hammer!' says he, 'the owld ones are sometimes as cute as any!'
"O, then, she was young, and handsome, too, and rich beside,' says he.
"'O, never mind the riches,' says the Gubbaun, 'for half a grain of sinse is worth a ton of it; but you're my darlin' son at last, and be off at the first light of morning,' says he, 'and take the best horse I have, and put on the best clothes you have, and bring her home—and I'll engage she comes.'
"Long before the Gubbaun was up, Boofun started; and not many hours was he on the road, when he met the very same young lady, an' she goin' to market all by herself. Well, sir, they had a great salutation, an' he coaxed her to take a sate on the horse. She wanted to get off at the market, but it wouldn't do, sir; and he came to his father's house airly in the evening.
"Well, you'd think, sir, the Gubbaun knew it all. Some said surely that he could foretell. There was the house, all beautiful and nate, and a most splendid intertainment on the table; there was a large party of the Gubbaun's friends, and plenty of all that was good.
"And the Gubbaun was the boy that could intertain them all. And, sir, when all were in high good-humor, and herself laughing and jokin' with Boofun, then he brought forward the match. To be sure, she was very shy, and ashamed, the crayther, (all by herself, you may say,) but you know, sir, even now, as we see every day, a match isn't long comin' round, when the parties are willin' an' the spaykers are good. So it was now; she agreed to lave all for Boofun—and she did well. To make my long story short, in a few days they were married; and in the meantime they had got her friends' consint. And a great weddin' they had."
"Well, Tom, now we've got them well married, jump up for some turf! don't you see the fire's a'most out?"
"O, then, that your honor may never want for a good fire, I pray."
"Yes, Jimmy, nor a good warrant, like yourself, to tell a good story."
"To be sure, sir, it shortens the night, as we say, an' if Jimmy wont be offended, for taking the story out av his mouth, I'll tell your honor some more of the Gubbaun's doin's."
"That's a good boy, Tom," said Jimmy, myself doesn't remember any more about him."
"Well, then, sir, they were not very many weeks married, when the Gubbaun wished to try the wife still more, to see whether she was knowin' enough for him, in order that she might be depended on completely, if any thing should happen. So one day he towld the son to get ready, and to come with him, for that he had heard of a fine job of work. So they started; and when they had got about three miles on the road, the Gubbaun turned sharp round, and asked Boofun the distance to the next place.
"'Twenty miles, no less,' says Boofun.
"'Well,' says the Gubbaun, 'every inch of the road we have to go,' says he, 'but it's too long by ten miles.'
"'Sure I can't help that,' says Boofun.
"'You can, sir!' says the Gubbaun, 'you can make it ten miles, if you like; and if you can't, go back, sir, and stay at home with your wife, for you're not fit to travel with me,' says he.
"Boofun said 'he couldn't do it;' so he had to go back. And when he came home, his wife ran out.
"'Well, what's brought you back? Any thing the matter?'
"'Every thing!' says poor Boofun. 'We hadn't got three miles before the Gubbaun towld me to shorten the road one half; and sure, you know, all I could say wouldn't shorten it!'
"'I don't know that,' says she, 'may be not; but take my advice, run back, and begin to tell him some story,' says she, 'no matter whether it is true or not, but amuse him as well as you can; and if he isn't satisfied, cut my head off when you come back,' says she. So, sir, he never stopped until he overtook the Gubbaun; and the very minute he began the story, he had confidence in Boofun's wife.
"Now, Tom, tell us—what reason could he have had for that? Couldn't they and she both have taken care of themselves?"
"Howld on a while, and maybe you'll see, sir."
"They traveled on and on, a hundred miles, or maybe more, and at last they came to a most splendid, iligant, noble palace, that the King of Munster was building. Thousands of masons, and carpenters, and all kinds of workmen, were in full operation at it—and the finest of work they were doing. It was just dinner-time, as it happened, when the Gubbaun and Boofun came, but they made no delay, but asked the steward of the works, sir, for employment, an' they didn't let an they were any thing in particklar, only just masons.
"'O!' says the steward, says he, 'there's plenty av employment for men in your line,' says he, 'but wait till after dinner, and then I'll talk to you,' says he.
"'Why, for that matter,' says the Gubbaun, 'it's a while ago we eat our dinner,' says he, 'and if it's all the same to you, we'll be glad if you'll set us some piece of work that we can be at till you come back.' And just then, sir, the dinner-bell began to ring. 'Well, gentleman,' says the steward, laughin' out loud, an' turnin' up his nose, an' winkin' round to the rest of the men, since you are so impatient, an' sich wonderful men, just sit down here, and take that block of marble,' says he, 'and have a cat an' two tails made out of it when I come back,' says he, runnin' into dinner.
"Well, sir, it was a fine block of stone, sure enough, and likely, rale Kilkenny marble; but it was any thing like a Kilkenny cat they med, for they never stopped until they had a splendid cat, wid two noble tails carved out, and all this before the lazy steward and his men came back from their dinner; and what was the most astonishin' to all, the surprisin' fierce pair of whiskers that the Gubbaun was puttin' out from the cat's nose when the steward came out! But who should be along with him but the King of Munster himself; and when he saw the cat, and the two tails, and the warlike pair of whiskers, he was all but ready to split with the laughin', and when he got words at last, he never stopped praisin' the Gubbaun.
"'But,' says the King of Munster, turning round to the unfortunate steward, (that hadn't one word to say,) 'you scoundrel! your intention was to make game of this honest man, and now he has done in one hour, what you wouldn't do if you were to live as long as that cat would last; and it's he, and not you, that has the best right to be steward here,' says he. So the Gubbaun was appointed steward over all the palace; and it was he that made all the ornaments, and all the images and statues that was in the place intirely, he and Boofun; and the King of Munster grew fonder and fonder of him every day.
"But, sir, in the course of time the king got curious notions into his head, and the worst was, that at last he determined that his palace should not only be the finest and grandest in all Ireland, but what was worse for the Gubbaun, he resolved that as soon as all was finished, he would put an end to the poor fellow's life, and particularly because he had lately found out that the King of Leinster had heard of his beautiful palace, and that he intended to send for the Gubbaun and construct one still finer.
"But, sir, though the King of Munster was certainly determined to kill the Gubbaun Seare, he found it very difficult to lay a plan to do it—for he well knew who he had to deal with, and how hard it would be to catch him. However, the king incraysed his wages, and made him very well off, so that he mightn't suspect any thing; but, for fear he should, he sent for the man who owned the house where the Gubbaun and Boofun lived, privately, and made him great presents to keep the saycret, and to lay hands on the Gubbaun if he suspected that he was about to start away in any hurry. But, sir, as luck would have it, this very man's daughter, who loved the Gubbaun and Boofun dearly, happened to be behind the door, or in a closet, while the king was giving these horrible directions to her father, and determined at once to let them know the danger they were in."
"I wonder, Tom, the Gubbaun didn't suspect something?"
"O, then, most likely he did, and was well prepared, I dare say, (for we all know, sir, how hard it is to trust these kings and great people,) still the girl found it very hard to make the Gubbaun sensible of his danger; and she knew there was always a strict guard over him, and spies out, for fear he'd make his escape; though, the palace not being finished yet, the king did not like to do the action for a while.
"One day the Gubbaun and Boofun had been hard at work at some grand temple, and they came back at night, mighty hungry. This very girl was the cook, and she had a very fine lookin' pot of pratees on the fire for dinner."
"Potatoes, Tom! No! Why they came from America, a thousand or more years after this!"
"Why, then, now, did they, your honor? Well, I suppose it was something as good; any how, we'll call them pratees."
"'Good evenin'!' says the Gubbaun; 'is supper ready?'
"'O, quite ready,' says she; 'but it's a poor one we have to-day, only pratees and eggs,' says she; for you know, your honor, they didn't live then as we do now—they knew better than that.
"'Well, them same's good,' says he. 'Did you never hear the old saying, When all fruits fail, welkim haws!' for he'd always a pleasant joke or saying in his mouth. 'But what's this?' says he; 'Why, how came so many raw ones among them?'
"'O,' says she, looking hard at him, 'if you will stop here, you must take things as they come, agreeable and disagreeable, for that's the way they're going!'
"'By my trowel and hammer!' says the Gubbaun, to himself, 'if that's the case, its full time to be goin' ourselves likewise;' and when they were going to work, he told Boofun every word, for he never suspected. 'But never fear,' says he, 'we'll get out of this scrape, if they did their worst and their best, and if they were seventeen times wiser than they are, and if they had all the guards in his kingdom to watch me; but howld your tongue, and don't let on a word of what I've said.'
"Next morning, when the king was up, and in his room, where he transacted all his affairs, the Gubbaun came and sint up word that he would be glad to see his majesty about something that was wanted for the palace. Now the Gubbaun, sir, was always welcome; and it was only because the king had too good an opinion of him, that he was going to kill him. When he was admitted, 'Well,' says the king, (mighty grand,) 'is my palace finished, or what do you want with me?' says he.
"'Why, plaze your majesty's reverence,' says the Gubbaun, (for he was a fine spoken man,) 'your majesty's palace is not quite complately turned out of my hands yet,' says he, 'nor I can't exactly call it finished, nor let the people that's to come after me speak of the name of the Gubbaun Seare along with it, unless one thing is done, that should be done, if your majesty raylly wishes it to be perfect.'
"'Well, spake your wishes, and then, if I plaze, they shall be attinded to,' says the king.
"'Well, then, plaze your majesty, there is an instrument, and without it, your statues, and your images and pillars can't be polished nor complayted unless I get it, and that instrument is at home with me,' says he.
"'What may be the name of it?' says the king.
"'Why, we call it,' said the Gubbaun, (of course they spoke in Irish,) 'Khur enein khur, agus khaoun enein khaoun!' (and that, your honor, manes, the tricks upon tricks, and the twists upon twists;) 'no one in Ireland owns such an instrument but myself, or at any rate not half such a good one; and if your majesty plazes, I'll go home and get it.'
"'No,' says the king, 'you must never laive me; when I've this palace built, I'll build another, and I'll want you; if I let you go now, may be you'd meet something better, though that you could hardly do, I believe; but may be you'd die on the road, and I'd never see you again. No,' says he, 'you must never laive me!'
"'Do you think so?' says the Gubbaun to himself. 'By my trowel and hammer, though, I think you're considerably wrong! Why, indeed, your majesty,' answered the Gubbaun, 'tis yourself that was ever and always the good friend to me and my son; and, indeed, so happy am I here, long life and good luck to your majesty!' says he, 'and may you incrayse, and long reign,' says he, 'that I would certainly never wish to part from you, and I'd be satisfied to build palaces for you all my life; may be, then, in that case, your majesty would be graciously plazed to allow my son, Boofun, to set out and get the khur enein khur, agus khaoun enein khaoun?'
"'No!' says the king, says he, 'I'm nearly as fond and as proud of Boofun as yourself; and it's my orders to double his wages, and to double your own from this minute.'
"'Well, very well, your majesty, let it be so, then. I would tell no common fellow here where it is, he'd just break it on the road; and if I'm not, nor Boofun, to go for this instrument, things must stop as they are, and the palace will remain unfinished to the end of the world.'
"The king considered for some time; at last, 'Gubbaun Seare,' says he, 'I must have my palace finished, and yet I must have your instrument; now my son, the prince, has nothing on earth to do—and will you be satisfied if I send him? I will be your security that he takes the greatest care of it.'
"'Well, your majesty, your will must be law. O! O! my poor instrument, if any thing should happen you!'
"So, sir, the prince was ordered up, and the Gubbaun gave him all kinds of directions how to carry it, and towld him where he'd get it, 'in the big chest, over the chimney-piece.'
"The next day the prince set out, and took but one companion with him; and who should that be but his younger brother, a young lad that wished for some divarsion—and the two only thought it a pleasant ride.
"In a few days they reached the Gubbaun's cottage, and when Boofun's wife saw them coming, she was sure something was wrong. Some of her people were in the house, but she bundled them out; 'Be ready, though,' says she, 'for fear I'd want you, but leave those lads to me.' So they came in, and the prince saluted her most kindly, towld her who he was, and begged lave to put up his horse. Then she asked him 'how her husband and the Gubbaun were?' But he gave her a full account of all I've told you, as far as he knew. 'But, ma'am,' says the prince, very gracious intirely, 'there is an instrument that the Gubbaun can't do without, that he wants to polish the stones,' says he, 'and my father's so fond of them both,' says he, 'that he wouldn't let him or Boofun home,' says he, 'and the Gubbaun wouldn't let any common fellow come, for fear he'd break it, and so I'm sent to ask you for it.'
"'And plaze your highness,' says she, 'what may be the name of this instrument? for he left so many afther him here, in that terrible big chest over the chimney-piece, that raylly I don't know which it could be.'
"'Ah! sure enough,' he said, 'it was in the big chest,' says the prince, 'and the name of it is—let me see, I dare say you know it ma'am—the khur enein khur, agus khaoun enein khaoun.'
"'O, yes, your highness!' says she, 'I know the twists upon twists, and tricks upon tricks very well, and a very fine, useful kind of instrument it is, as you'll soon see. I don't know whether I'll be able to get it out av the chist or not, but if I'm not able, you can do it aisy, for you're a fine, tall young man, and may you live long!' says she. So she got up on a chair and tried, and all she could reach was the lid av the chest. Then she put another chair on that one, and tried again, but she could only get her hand a little way in, and, says she, 'O, the lid's mighty heavy! but do you try, and I'm sure you'll bring it, for I can just reach it; I can almost feel it.' So the prince fell to laughin', and mounted on the chairs in no time, and opened the big lid av the chest, and looked in, while she gave the sly wink to one of her brothers.
"'O!' says the prince, 'but it's very deep! I can't see the bottom av it yet, it's so dark,' says he; 'get a candle.'
"'O, no!' says she, 'creep down, your highness; the instrument is quite at the bottom, I'm sure,' says she. 'Now,' says she to her brother, 'when I say you're very near it, catch a howlt av his legs, and bundle him into the chest.' Now the prince's brother all this time was ayten some bread and milk, and never suspected a ha'porth.
"'O, ma'am,' says the prince, 'I can't reach it,' says he, bendin' over, and balancin' his body on the edge av the chist, 'is it here at all?' says he.
"'O, you're very near it now!' says she. And, sir, in a minute they had him doubled up an' pitched into the chest, and caught a howlt of the young brother and tied him neck and heels.
"'Ha! ha! what your highness asked for, you got,' says she. 'In all your life now, did you ever see a finer trick or a nicer twist? Faix! I think it was a rale trick upon trick, and a twist upon twist! Your brother may go back now, as quick as he likes, and tell his father that as soon as the Gubbaun is done polishin' the statues, we'll be very glad to see him back, and Boofun too, and we'll take iligant care of yourself until he comes; it was a good messenger he found to go for the khur enein khur, agus khaoun enein khaoun. That's a fine fellow,' says she, (to the young chap,) 'pelt away home, and when we see the Gubbaun and Boofun in view of this house, we'll release your brother; but mind me! if they are not in this house within one week from this day, your father will never see the prince again!'
"So he rode home, tearin' over the roads like mad, and as soon as he was gone, sir, she had the prince taken out av the chest, (for he was a'most smothered,) and took him up the mountains in hide, and fed him well, and took care av him.
"But O! your honor, how can I tell you how mad the king was, when he saw the hare that the Gubbaun had made av him, and how he wouldn't spake a word all day, but cursin'. However, next mornin' he considered that after all it was useless to fret, and that no time must be lost, or he'd lose the prince.
"So he put a good face on the business, and called the Gubbaun and Boofun to him, but took great care to explain to the Gubbaun how he didn't mean to harm him, and all that, and they say that kings and sich like people were always tolerable good hands at the blarney. And he paid them all their full amount of wages, and made them presents, and sent to the stables, and had two of the most splindid hunters that could be found saddled and bridled, and gave them to them.
"Well! they set out, and weren't long till they got home, and glad and thankful they were for their great escape; and to be sure Boofun's wife was proud indeed to see them, and she went and had the prince brought down, and the Gubbaun invited all his friends, and a great intertainment was prepared in honor of his return, and in honor of the prince.
"In the evening, or rather the morning of the next day, the prince asked leave to take his departure, but the Gubbaun wouldn't let him go till he had written a letter to the king, and I think this was the letter:—
"'May it plaze your majesty—I returned here quite safe, but I can't let his highness the prince off without returnin' you many thousand thanks for all you have done for me. You have made a family comfortable and happy for life, and, by my trowel and hammer, I will forever pray for your majesty's reverence! However, plaze your majesty, the instrument I have safe here, which the prince wasn't able to make out; and in all my expayrience I never yet met with one that answered my purpose better than the Khur enein khur, agus khaoun enein khaoun.
THE GUBBAUN SEARE.'"
BY T. S. ARTHUR.
How many beautiful, lovely-minded women do we meet in society, who are united, by marriage contract, with men whose tastes, habits and characters, cannot but be in every way uncongenial. And on the other hand, how often do we see the finest specimens of men unequally joined to women who seem to have no true appreciation of what is really excellent in morals or social life. The reason for such inequality is very apparent to all who observe with any intelligence. The affinities which govern among those who enter life's dazzling arena, are, in most cases, external instead of internal. Accomplishment, personal appearance, and family connections, are more considered than qualities of the heart. Beauty, wit, station and wealth, are the standards of value, while real merit is not thought of or fondly believed to exist as a natural internal correspondent of the external attractions so pleasant to behold. In this false and superficial mode of estimating character lies the bane of domestic happiness. Deceived by the merest externals, young persons come together and enter into the holiest relation of life, to discover, alas! in a few years, that there exists no congeniality of taste, no mutual appreciation of what is excellent and desirable in life, and, worse than all, no mutual affection, based upon clearly seen qualities of the mind. Unhappiness always follows this sad discovery, and were it not for the love of children, which has come in to save them, hundreds and thousands, who, in the eyes of the world, appear to live happily together, would be driven angrily asunder.
Aunt Esther, whose own experience in life, confirmed by much observation, made the evil here indicated as clear as noonday to her perceptions, saw the error of her beautiful niece, Edith, in courting rather than shunning observation while in society.
"You wrong yourself, dear," she would often say, "by this over carefulness about external appearance. You attract those who see but little below the surface, while the really excellent and truly intelligent avoid instead of seeking your society."
"Would you have me careless about my appearance, aunt?" Edith would sometimes say, in reply to these suggestions.
"By no means," Aunt Esther would reply. "A just regard to what is appropriate in externals marks the woman of true taste and right feelings. But you go beyond this."
"Then I violate the principles of taste in dressing."
"I will not say that you do very broadly. Most persons would affirm that you display a fine taste, and in using the word display would express my objection. I think a woman infringes good taste when she so arrays herself as to attract attention to her dress."
"As I do?"
"Yes, Edith, as you do. If you disguise from yourself the fact that you both love and seek admiration for personal appearance, you do not do so from others—at least not from me."
Aunt Esther did not wrong her niece by this judgment. It was Edith's weakness to love admiration; and what we love we naturally seek. Without actually infringing the laws of taste and harmony, she yet managed to dress in a style that always attracted the eye, and set off her really fine person in the most imposing manner. The consequence was that she had many admirers, some of whom were elegant and attractive young men. But none of these were drawn to the side of Edith from a love of her moral beauty. It was the beauty of her person, the fascination of her manners, and the sparkle of her wit, that made her an object of admiration.
Edith had a friend whom she dearly loved; a sweet, gentle, true-hearted girl, named Mary Graham. Those who were dazzled by an imposing appearance, passed Mary with indifference; but the few who could perceive the violet's odor by the way-side, as they moved along through life, sought her company, and found, in the heart of a loving woman, more of beauty and delight than she ever gives as a creature of show and admiration.
Different as they were, in many respects, Edith and Mary were alike in the possession of deep affections. Both loved what was pure and good; but, while one had an instinctive power of looking beneath the glittering surface, the other was easily deceived by appearances. While one shrunk from observation, the other courted attentions. The consequence was, that Edith had hosts of admirers, while only the discriminating few lingered near the retiring Mary. The one was admired for what she appeared to be, the other was loved for what she was.
Two young men, entirely dissimilar in character, yet thrown together as friends, by circumstances, met one evening, when one of them, whose name was Ashton, said to the other,
"Erskine! I met a glorious creature last night—a perfect Hebe!"
"Ah! Who is she?"
"Her name is Edith Maurice."
"She's a showy girl, certainly."
"Showy! She's a magnificent woman, Erskine. And so you've met her?"
"A few times."
"Were you not enchanted?"
"No. Your glorious creatures never turn my brain."
"You're an anchorite."
"Far from it. I delight in all things lovely; and, above all, in the presence of a lovely woman."
"A lovelier woman than Edith Maurice I have not seen for a twelvemonth."
"Though I have."
"You have, indeed!"
"I think so. She has a friend, named Mary Graham, whom I think far more interesting."
"Pray introduce me."
"I will, when opportunity offers."
Not long afterward an introduction took place, and Ashton spent a short time in the company of Mary Graham.
"That's your lovely woman," said the young man to his friend, in a tone of contempt, when they next met.
"To me she is exceedingly interesting," returned Erskine.
"Interesting! A duller piece of human ware it has not been my fortune to meet for these dozen years. I should say she has no soul."
"There you are mistaken. She is all soul."
"All soul! If you want to see a woman all soul, look at Edith Maurice."
"All body, you mean," replied Erskine, smiling.
"What do you mean by that?" inquired Ashton.
"All external. It is rather the beauty of person than the beauty of soul that you see in Edith; but, in Mary, every tone and motion but expresses some modification of the true beauty that lies within. Edith bursts upon you like a meteor; but Mary comes forth as Hesperus, scarcely seen at first, but shining with a purer and brighter light the more intently you gaze upon her."
"Not a meteor, my dear fellow," replied Ashton. "I repudiate that comparison. Edith is another Sirius, flashing on the eyes with an ever-varying, yet strong and beautiful light. As for your evening stars, with their unimpassioned way of shining—their steady, planet-like, orderly fashion of sending forth their rays—I never had any fancy for them."
"Every one to his taste," said Erskine. "As for me, I like true beauty—the beauty of the mind and heart."
"Oh, as for that," returned Ashton, lightly, "let people go in for hearts who understand such matters. I don't profess to know much about them. But I can appreciate, ay, and love a magnificent woman like Edith Maurice. You can have Mary Graham, and welcome; I will never cross your path."
From this time Ashton became the undisguised admirer of Edith. The young man was handsome, well educated, and had a winning address; yet, for all this, there was something about him from which the pure-minded girl at first shrunk. Erskine she sometimes met; and whenever she happened to be thrown into his company, she was charmed with his manners, and interested in his conversation. Unobtrusive as he was, she admired him more than any man she had yet seen. But the showy exterior of Edith hid from the eyes of Erskine her real worth. He looked upon her as vain, fond of admiration, and of course, as possessing little heart—and turned from her to find a congenial spirit in her friend Mary. Had Erskine sought to win the favor of Edith, a man like Ashton would have proved no rival. But Erskine evinced no disposition to show her any thing more than ordinary polite attentions, and with an inward sigh, she suffered the heart which shrunk at first with instinctive repugnance, to turn with its affections toward Ashton.
Vain with the thought of having so imposing and beautiful a woman as Edith for a wife, Ashton did not stop to inquire whether there was a relative fitness for mutual happiness, but pressed his suit with ardor, and won her consent before the half-bewildered girl had time for reflection. Friends, who understood the character of the young man, interposed their influence to save Edith from a connection that promised little for the future; but their interposition came too late. She was betrothed, and neither could nor would listen to a word against the man with whom she had chosen to cast her lot in life.
A brilliant and beautiful girl, Edith was led to the altar by one, who, as a man, was her equal in external attractions; but he was far from possessing her pure, true, loving heart. It did not take many months to lift the veil that had fallen before the eyes of Edith. Gradually the quality of her husband's mind began to manifest itself—and sad, indeed, was her spirit, at times, when these manifestations were more distinct than usual.
The experience of a single year was painful in the extreme. The young wife not only found herself neglected, but treated with what she felt to be direct unkindness. She had discovered that her husband was selfish; and though, to the world, he showed a polished exterior, she had found him wanting in the finer feelings she had fondly believed him to possess. Moreover, he was a mere sensualist, than which nothing is more revolting to a pure-minded woman. External attractions had brought them together, but these had failed to unite them as one.
No wonder that, in such a marriage, a few years robbed the cheeks of Edith of their roundness and bloom, and her eyes of their beautiful light. Those who met her, no longer remarked upon her loveliness, but rather spoke of the great change so short a period had wrought. A certain respect for himself caused Ashton to assume the appearance of kindness toward his wife, when any one was present; but at other times he manifested the utmost indifference. They had three children, and love for these held them in a state of mutual toleration and forbearance.
Ill health was the understood reason for the change in Edith's manner and appearance. Few, if any, knew the real cause. Few imagined that the fountain of her affections had become sealed, or only poured forth its waters to sink in an arid soil. In society she made an effort to be companionable and cheerful for the sake of others; and at home, with her children, she strove to be the same. But, oh! what a weary, hopeless life she led; and but for the love of her little ones, she would have died.
Mary Graham was united to Mr. Erskine, shortly after the union of Edith with Mr. Ashton—and it was a true marriage. A just appreciation of internal qualities had drawn them together, and these proved, as they ever do, permanent bonds.
Mary and Edith had retained a tender regard for each other, and met frequently. But in all their intercourse, with true womanly delicacy, Edith avoided all allusion to her own unhappy state, although there were times when her heart longed to unburden itself to one so truly a sympathizing friend.
One evening—it was ten years from the time of Edith's marriage—her husband came home in his usual cold and indifferent way; and while they sat at the tea-table, something that she said excited his anger, and he replied in most harsh and cutting words. This was no unusual thing. But it so happened that Edith's feelings were less under her control than usual, and she answered the unkindness with a gush of tears. This only tended to irritate her unfeeling husband, who said, in a sneering tone,
"A woman's tears don't lie very deep. But it's lost time to use them on me. I'll go where I can meet cheerful faces."
And then rising from the table, he put on his hat and left the house to spend his evening, as usual, in more congenial society.
Edith dried her tears as best she could, and going to her chamber, sought, by an effort of reason, to calm her agitated feelings. But such an effort for a woman, under such circumstances, must, as in this case, ever be fruitless. Calmness of spirit only comes after a more passionate overflow of grief. When this had subsided, Edith remembered that she had promised Mrs. Erskine, who lived only two or three doors away, to come in and spend the evening. Had she consulted her feelings now, she would have remained at home, but as she would be expected, she rallied her spirits as much as was in her power, and then went in to join her friend.
How different was the home of Mary to that of Edith. Mutual love reigned there. The very atmosphere was redolent of domestic bliss. Mr. Erskine was away when Edith joined Mary, and they sat and talked together for an hour before he returned. A short time before Edith intended going home, he came in, with his ever cheerful face, and after greeting her cordially, turned to his wife, and spoke in a voice so full of tenderness and affection, that Edith felt her heart flutter and the tears steal unbidden to her eyes. It was so different from the way her husband spoke. The contrast caused her to feel more deeply, if possible, than ever, her own sad, heart-wrung lot.
Rising suddenly, for she felt that she was losing the control of her feelings, Edith excused herself, and hastily retired. Mary saw that something had affected her friend, and, with a look, made her husband comprehend the fact also. He remained in the drawing-room, while Mary passed with Edith into the hall, where they paused for a moment, looking into each other's faces. Neither said a word, but Edith laid her face down upon the bosom of her friend, and sobbed passionately.
"What is it that pains you, Edith?" Mary asked, in a low, tender voice, as soon as her friend had wept herself into calmness.
Edith raised her face, now pale and composed, and pushing back with her hand a stray ringlet that had fallen over her cheek, said, with a forced but sad smile,
"Forgive my weakness, dear—I could not help it. A full heart will at times run over. But, good-night—good-night!"
And Edith hurried away.
A few years more and the history of a hopeless, weary life was closed. Is the moral of this history hard to read? No; all may comprehend it.
Vain our hopes with pleasure glowing, False the light ambition burns, Swift the tide of time is flowing, And the dial quickly turns.
Mark the flowers how they wither, As the north winds pass them by, And the sparrow passing thither At the falcon's luring cry:
So our movements straight are bearing Courses to the silent grave, All alike its terrors sharing, E'en the monarch and the slave.
From its verge there's no retreating, Wayward, helpless masses throng; Nature's wheels are still repeating Revolutions swift and strong.
Onward with the current rushing Atoms and their kindred blend; Worlds to dust in fragments crushing, As they proximate the end.
Thus all things, in perfect keeping, Point direct to that dread day When the trump shall wake the sleeping, And this orb shall fade away:
When the planets wildly rolling, As by Heaven's fierce lightnings hurled, Thunders deep, like curfew's tolling Requiems of the dying world:
Then shall join, in quick succession, Stars, celestial bodies, all, Form the trembling, vast procession At their Maker's final call. S. S. HORNOR.
A DAY OR TWO IN THE OLDEN TIME.
BY A NEW CONTRIBUTOR.
[It is related of Justin Martyr that, while a young man, walking upon a certain occasion on the seashore near Alexandria, and meditating doubtfully on the immortality of the soul, he met a stranger of venerable appearance, who accosted him, and discovering the subject of his thoughts, revealed to him the doctrines of the Gospel on that subject. Justin shortly after embraced Christianity—became one of the brightest ornaments of the church—and suffered martyrdom at Rome, at a very advanced age. From this text the following sketch was produced, which may be considered rather as a fanciful outline of what might have befallen any Christian in the days of Rome's fierce domination, than as faithfully following the history of any real personage.]
The sun was setting over the wide waste of sand which surrounded the ancient city of the great Alexander. The sultry heat of a summer day was beginning to give place to a refreshing coolness. All was calm and still—the bustle of the mighty city, faintly heard in the distance, seemed to enhance the quiet of the solitary shore upon which walked one alone and in deep thought. He was a man in his youthful prime, but clad in the grave robes of one devoted to the study of philosophy, and his face was marked with the lines of much thought and study. Sometimes he moved slowly on, his eyes fixed on the sand which the retiring tide had left a firm and even footing. Anon he paused to look at the play of the little waves, as they came murmuring in, and curled their light foam over the last traces of his footsteps. Far as the eye could reach, the blue waters of the Mediterranean spread themselves, scarcely agitated by the faint breeze, and reflecting, in a long line of undulating light, the glory of the setting sun. As the bright luminary sunk, the eye of the wanderer rested on it, and a shade of deep melancholy gathered over his face.
"Another day thou hast fulfilled thy task, O sun! and done thy Makers bidding—again thou hidest thyself in the ocean's bosom, to arise to-morrow with renewed splendor. Thou art no enigma, to give the lie to all the conclusions of philosophy. Clear as thy light is the purpose for which thou wast hung on high; steady as thy Maker's will is thy bright obedience. Thou fulfillest thy destiny—but man, man—I and such as I—alas! we but resemble these useless waves which foam out their little moment and vanish on the barren sand. Alas! shall it never be that we shall find a solution of the mystery of our being? How aimless, how useless, appears our existence. Confined to this narrow stage, how vain are our mighty energies, our inexhaustible wishes, our infinite hopes. Where now," he exclaimed, as turning to retrace his steps, his eye was caught by the towers and temples of the distant city, lit by the sun with transitory splendor, "where now is the mighty hero who founded yonder city? He is gone forever from the stage of being, as little regarded or remembered as the dust which the hurrying crowd tramples in its streets. O for some certainty, some assurance that this life is not all; that hereafter permitted to awake from the sleep of death, man shall yet fill a part worthy of his mighty spirit, shall yet find in infinite perfection an object on which to expend those treasures of thought and feeling which corrode hidden here in his heart, or are wasted on idols as vain as yonder vapor which rises from the sea."
Absorbed in mediation, he had not perceived until now that another was approaching, walking at a slow pace along the margin of the sea. As the stranger came nearer, the young philosopher could not avoid observing him with interest. He was apparently very aged. Long locks of white hair streamed on his shoulders and mingled with the hair of a beard equally as white. His robe was arranged with careful soberness, and in his hand he carried a staff, though his erect and firm figure did not seem to need its support. In his clear, bright eye, his ruddy cheek and benign expression, appeared intelligence, health and goodness, all the beauty of a green old age, all the charm of the fully ripened autumn of life. As they drew nearer each other, the stranger looked earnestly on the young philosopher, who regarded him with increasing interest.
"Dost thou know me, my son," said the old man, at length, "that thou lookest on me so earnestly?"
The young man bowed reverently as he answered.
"No, father; but I wondered to see one like thee here at such an hour."
"I am here," replied the stranger, "to meet one who promised to be with me at this place. But what, my son, brings thee to this lonely spot, when yonder busy city is thronged with whatsoever can minister to pleasure or the thirst of knowledge?"
"It is therefore I am here; for it is when alone with the great Author of Nature, among his works, that we can best seek that highest wisdom which is learned only by meditating on His nature and the end of our being. The fountains of divine philosophy may be found even here in the cold sea-sand."
"Alas! my son, and if they be, of what avail shalt thou find them? The sand upon which the showers descend vainly for centuries, is not more barren nor more unstable than that philosophy of which thou makest thy boast."
"I boast not—I am but a seeker after Truth."
"Ay, so say all you philosophers; but what profit shalt thou have of that truth which cannot be practiced in life, nor console thee at death?"
"My father, it was but now that I lamented to myself my own useless and aimless existence, and the vanity of those speculations wherewith we strive in vain to pierce the mystery of our being. There are moments when that foundation of reason on which I build my hopes of eternal life seems to shift beneath my feet, as unstable as this sand; when life and its purposes, death and its consequences, seem to me a mystery more unfathomable than yonder sea. What assurance have I that my existence will not terminate like that of the beasts which perish? What certainty that, with my mortal frame, this spirit which I feel within me shall not also die and disappear forever? It is true, there are many probabilities that the soul is immortal, nature and reason seem alike to teach that it is so, but still I have no assurance, still that mighty hope at times seems vain, often it is eclipsed entirely, and my soul is shrouded in darkness."
"My son, what wouldst thou give to one who could give thee an assurance, a positive certainty, that thy hopes of immortality are not vain?"
"Did there exist one able to give me that assurance I would deem the devotion of my whole life a poor return for so vast a blessing. But thou mockest me with so vain a hope. No created being is able to give me such assurance, or is worthy of belief did he promise it. No—the great Maker of my spirit alone can reveal to me if it be immortal; but where shall I seek him to ask for that revelation? He is to be found only in his own works, and I can but go back to that school, and strive by meditation on Him to strengthen my spirit in the only faith which gives any value to life."
The stranger regarded the young man with a long and wistful gaze.
"Wouldst thou believe me, my son, were I to tell thee that I possess that assurance? that I am as firmly convinced of my existence after death, as I am that I am now a living, breathing man? that I feel an absolute certainty that you and I will meet, immortal spirits, before the throne of God, who is the Judge of all men?"
The young philosopher smiled mournfully, regarding the aged man with a look of affectionate pity.
"Thou thinkest now that this is delusion, but it is a truth, a hope full of immortality. Listen, my son; has God left himself without a witness of his own existence? Is it not written on the heavens and on the earth in characters as clear as the light that he is, and that his hand hath made all these things? Behold the sun which performs his daily task so perfectly, the stars which write all over the heavens the story of God's glory. Go forth into the field and behold his work. See him preparing the bright cloud, which the winds gently upheave, from whose bosom drops the softening shower—how richly the grass springs in the valley—how the golden grain steals splendor from the sunbeam which has smiled on it so long—how his hand is ever at work providing for the wants of his creatures, and ever reminding men by this silent ministry that he is the Author and Giver of every good and perfect gift. If God hath so clearly revealed the great truth of his own existence, is it not reasonable to suppose that he hath in like manner revealed to man that truth concerning his own destiny which it is most important for him to know?"
"That it is, indeed," replied the young philosopher, "on which we build our hopes. It is reasonable, and it may be hoped that God will yet make such a revelation—but, alas! it is only a hope."
"My son, my son, it is no longer a faint, uncertain hope, it is a matter of perfect certainty, and if thou wilt abide by my words thou wilt find it so, and it shall give thee, after a season, a peace past all understanding. If thou wilt but submit thyself to God's teaching thou shalt no longer grope as the blind at noonday, but a light above the brightness of the heavens shall shine into thy soul."
The young man bowed his head, and crossed his arms upon his breast, as he sadly replied, "God's teaching—but where, O, my father, may it be found, save where I have vainly sought—among his works?"
The old man, without reply, drew a manuscript from his bosom, and laying his hand on the arm of the other they walked forward together over the smooth sand, while he read aloud high and burning words, which the ear of his companion drank eagerly in. Upon that silent shore, in the still evening air, arose that clear voice, uttering to the astonished sense of the young heathen philosopher the argument of Paul the Apostle, in which he persuades the Corinthians of the resurrection of the dead. He read on and the other listened as one in a dream, and the sun had gone down over the wide sea and outspread sands where they walked alone, and one silver star came forth in the west, the lovely Vesper, and looked at its image in the quiet wave, as the old man read, with tears which would not be restrained, the mighty conclusion, "O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?"
Behold another scene in the shifting panorama of a life. In a poor and humble chamber, on a mean couch, lay one dying. It is evening, and he is alone. Fearfully sounds the gasping breath and the low moan, terrible is the look cast upward in anguish. The hurrying tread of the busy multitude is heard without, the sound of music and merry voices, and trampling of steeds and rattling of wheels, and still he lies there alone. He is aged and poor, and his kindred have forsaken him, for the heathen creed taught nothing better than the leaving such as he to struggle alone with the last enemy. The light of evening waxes fainter and fainter, and now a step is heard on the threshold, and a form enters, dimly seen in the fading twilight. It is the same we beheld on the seashore hearkening to the words of eternal life. The seed there sown germinated soon under the culture of that faithful teacher. In that heart it found a good soil, and it sprung up, and bore fruits manifold of faith and temperance and heavenly wisdom. That divine word taught him to seek his suffering fellow mortals and minister to their necessities. This was not his first visit to this poor dying man, and he was welcomed even now with joy and gratitude. How gently did he smooth the pillow, how tenderly support the sinking frame, how kindly bathe the brow and wet the parched lips. Philosophy had not taught him this. O, no! occupied in high meditation, she swept past the couch of suffering humanity; "commercing with the skies," she forgot that man's mission is to his fellow man, and that his life's business is to do, not altogether to think. Christ had taught this young disciple a new, a different and a better lesson; and he sat there now, patient and humble beside the dying man, regarding him, not as an atom, soon to be swept from an aimless existence, but as an immortal spirit shaking off encumbering clay and preparing for a new and glorious state of being. With his own hands the young Christian lighted the little rude lamp which hung from the ceiling, and sat down on a low stool by the bed-side, and drawing a manuscript from the folds of his robe, read aloud the same hallowed words he had first heard on the seashore in the still twilight of a summer evening long past away. Sometimes he paused to add a word of comment or explanation, and when he had finished reading, he kneeled down to pray. He was famed even then in the schools of philosophy. He had been the envy of his fellow-disciples in the academic grove for his profound wisdom and various learning. But had one of those fellow-students stood there and beheld him, he would have scorned him. He kneeled on the stone-floor. The dim light of the lamp fell on his bowed head and long, dark robe, and lit faintly the couch of the dying beggar. The only sounds to be heard were the voice of earnest, heartfelt prayer, and the quick breathing which told that life was ebbing fast with him for whom that prayer was offered with trembling accents and tears fast falling. But, ah! there was a presence there better than philosophy, greater than Plato, holier than Socrates, "higher than the kings of the earth," even of Him "that sitteth on the circle of the heavens," and saith "To this man will I look—even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."
The whole night through the young Christian was a patient watcher by the bed of death. Once he had wasted the midnight oil in the study of vain wisdom and false philosophy, utterly forgetful that thousands lay all about him perishing in ignorance and misery. Now how rich was his reward when the glazing eye opened with a gleam of intelligence, and the pale lips murmured the sweet hope of pardon, or strove to frame the language of some remembered promise from the word of God. The noise of the great city had long ago subsided. Solemn, indeed, was the stillness; and the spirit of that faithful watcher almost quailed when the King of Terrors laid hold of his victim with the last, inexorable grasp. Long did he struggle in that savage hold with agony not to be described. At last it was over, and he lay calm and scarcely breathing. The beams of the cold, pale dawn stole in and dimmed "the ineffectual fire," of the lamp, as the young man bent over that form to ascertain if life yet lingered in it. As he did so the dying eyes opened. How full of consolation was that look! He pressed the hand that still held his; a faint, sweet smile stole over his face, and he whispered in a tone so low that the eager ear of the listener could scarcely catch it. "Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!" They were the last words. As the golden sun rose once more to light the towers and temples of the city, he sent one rich beam into that humble chamber. The Christian was alone with the dead now. He had composed the body in decent order with his own hands, and reverently covered it over. The face was still visible, but no distortion was there; the lips were gently closed, and the eyes, as if in slumber; the white locks fell quietly down over the hollow temples and wasted cheeks, and over all was written the fulfillment of the promise, "Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon Thee." Awful is the presence of Death always; and when he has set his seal on the aged servant of God, there is a holiness there which every human spirit must bow down before. No matter how rude the form, how coarse the features—with his plastic hand he moulds them into lines of superhuman grandeur. He robs the face of the hues of life, and it becomes as pure as marble. He touches the white hair, and it falls into beautiful repose. He breathes on the distorted brow and smoothes every wrinkle. We know that the messenger who has wrought this wondrous change is none other than the servant of God, that he is the last commissioned of the ministering spirits to the earthly tabernacle, that he hath no more that he can do, and he compels us to look on his handiwork and stand in awe.
Long did the young Christian gaze on the face of the dead with solemn thoughts and unuttered prayers—not, indeed, for the departed spirit, for he knew that with that his business was accomplished and over for ever—but for himself, that his latter end might be such. His thoughts, not unnaturally, went forward into the distant future, and speculated on his own dying hour, and he wondered what might be its accompaniments. He prayed that it might be as peaceful as this he had just witnessed, that he might descend into the grave as a shock of corn fully ripe; that he might lie down with the sweet consciousness that his work was done, and his reward sure. With no unhallowed curiosity did he strive to pierce the future, but had some evil genius been permitted at that moment to lift the veil which hid his own death-scene, how would he have shrunk and shuddered, and his yet young faith fainted in the contemplation.
It was a bright, busy day in Imperial Rome. Never had her resplendent sun shone more brightly on her marble palaces, her gorgeous temples, her lovely groves and gardens. The scented air stole in through open windows, where sat secluded lovely damsels and noble matrons; and it wantoned, too, over humbler homes, where little children played and sung and shouted joyously. It fanned the cheek of the pale student, as he paced the lonely grove in silent meditation, and lightly touched the troubled brow of the orator as he took his way to the forum. It wooed the captive, in his cell, to dream of freedom and long-remembered home. In the streets were heard quick footsteps, and loud, merry voices. Traffic went on in the crowded mart, and pleasure was pursued in the luxurious halls of the noble. Here, flower-crowned guests reclined at the banquet, listening to sweet music, while yonder the squalid miser counted his gold, and there a fair young mother smiled upon her children. Just the same passions crowded into human hearts that day, just the same delusions were followed, the same pleasures felt, arid the same griefs deplored on that bright day in Imperial Rome, as now agitate, or delight, or torture us who have beheld that great city a living tomb.
While all this went on in the fresh air and sunshine of a summer-day, far down, beneath the earth which upheld the city, were other and sadder sights. In those terrible caverns, which run in veins of darkness under its foundations, which travelers now fearfully explore by torch-light, human beings, guilty of no crime but that of bearing the name of Christians, were shut up, expecting, hoping no release until summoned to a frightful death. In a solitary cell, small, damp and noisome, lighted by a dim lamp, an aged man sat alone. It is easy to picture to ourselves the hideous gloom, the walls sweating unwholesome vapors, the oppressive thickness of the air, never stirred by a fresh breath from heaven, the jar of water and mouldy crust, the miserable garments, the pallid face and emaciated form of a prisoner in such a place. It is less easy to guess what might be the thoughts of one sitting there in expectation of an instant summons to execution. More than seventy years had laid their weight upon him. His hair was quite white, but his eye was bright and beaming, his whole countenance informed with a noble, thoughtful expression, and beautified, despite of man's cruelty, with benevolence. It was plainly to be seen that only the outer tabernacle of the spirit was suffering and declining, while that within was burning brighter and higher as the mortal part drew toward extinction. He knows that his days are numbered, but he meditates peacefully on the change which awaits him. He knows that his death will be painful and ignominious, but he knows not yet the exact manner of it—at least, it will be the end of his long course, and then remain only the reward and rest. He has now nearly arrived at a long-desired period, and he finds all the sweetness of that immortal hope which first dawned upon his soul on the seashore beside far-distant Alexandria. It seems as if that glorious faith could only be known in its perfection of consolation in such a dungeon, and awaiting such a doom; and promise after promise from the word of God comes upon his memory, making that living grave "all glorious within." Yea, it will be a blessed change. To-day he will be done forever with sin and sorrow, and to-morrow he will be "where the wicked cease from troubling." To-day he will take farewell of a world lying in wickedness, and to-morrow will behold him a companion of "just men made perfect." To-day he will quit his dungeon and miserable garments, and wear to-morrow a crown of glory and robes of righteousness.