A few months after this, the lawsuit being ended, my husband was ordered abroad. I declined to cross the Atlantic a second time, and from this period I became chiefly dependent on my own exertions. My mother had joined me in Ireland, having been made a partaker in the like precious faith and hope with myself. * * *
We took up our abode in the town of Kilkenny, so richly blessed with gospel privileges, and so far removed from the annoyances to which I was exposed while trying to fulfil the landlord's part over a property inextricably involved, and now also placed in the hands of trustees. I had sought the maintenance of that character for the sake of the poor tenants, whose affection, for me was very great, and among whom I had of late been frequently allowed to read the scriptures. The necessity, however, of providing for myself, and the hopeless perplexities of my nominal office, between head-landlords, under-tenants, trustees, a receiver, and all the endless machinery of an embarrassed little Irish estate, compelled me to seek a more quiet sphere; and in Kilkenny I found all that could combine to encourage me in the pursuit of honest independence in the way of usefulness. I finished "Osric," which formed a good-sized volume, and commenced the pleasant task of writing penny and twopenny books for the Dublin Tract Society, who paid me liberally, and cheered me on my path with all the warmth of Christian affection. It was indeed a delightful task, and God had raised up to me also a friend to whose truly paternal kindness I owe more than ever can be told, Mr. George Sandford, now Lord Mountsandford, who, from our first acquaintance, entered with a father's interest into all that concerned me. Thus encouraged, I held on my way, and tasted the sweets that I hope to enjoy to the end of my days—those of the original curse brightened by the irreversible blessing: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread;" "Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor shall not be in vain in the Lord."
I have already told you my escape from the snare of Socinianism; and now I am to narrate a trial of faith and doctrine which by the mercy of God produced effects just the reverse of what was intended. This was no less than a vigorous attempt to convert me to Popery. I had not yet bestowed any great attention on the details of that abominable device, but was most fully persuaded of its being a system of idolatrous delusion, the working of which was strikingly manifested in the wretchedness, the immorality, the turbulence and degrading superstitions of the poor creatures around me. It never had been my practice to tamper with or to compromise what I knew to be wrong; therefore I had not suffered curiosity to lead me within the walls of a mass-house, nor in any way to put on the semblance of an agreement which cannot really exist between the temple of God and idols. I believed Popery to be the Babylon of the Apocalypse, and I longed for resolution to proclaim to the deluded victims, "Come out of her, my people," This I had never done, but on the contrary fell cheerfully in with the then cautious policy of my friends, and so framed my little books and tracts as to leave it doubtful whether they were written by a Protestant or not. Paul to the Jews became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews: I, by a false process of reason, thought it allowable to become as an idolater to the idolaters, that I might gain the idolaters. An awful, presumptuous sin! The Jew possesses the fair blossom of gospel truth, which by kindly fostering is to be expanded and ripened into the rich fruit: the Papist holds in his hand an apple of Sodom, beneath the painted rind of which is a mass of ashes and corruption. He must be induced to fling it away, and to pluck from the tree of life a wholly different thing.
My Protestant principles, such as they were, withheld me from visiting the convent which formed a principal attraction to the military and other strangers in Kilkenny. Many sought to draw me thither, adducing the examples of Christian ministers and other spiritual people, who did not scruple to go; but in vain. At length a lady came to me with an earnest request from "the most interesting nun in the establishment," to give her some information on the best mode of conveying instruction to a poor little girl in their school, deaf and dumb. Here was a call of duty: I knew it could not be effectually done unless in person; and to the surprise of my friend, I volunteered to accompany her to the convent.
The nun was indeed a most engaging young lady; in personal appearance, in manner, in feeling, realizing the visions of my girlish romance, when reading idle stories in novels on such topics. She had, moreover, all the animated warmth of a genuine Irishwoman, and her fine countenance beaming with benevolent joy at our successful beginning, and with affectionate gratitude for my services, quite won my heart. I promised to repeat the visit shortly, and on doing so accompanied her to walk round the garden, at the other extremity of which stood a building which I took for their school, and unhesitatingly mounted the stairs with my sweet conductor. Judge what was my dismay when, on passing the folding doors, I found myself in a splendid Popish chapel, opposite the altar, over which shone a richly gilt cross, while my poor nun was prostrated in the lowliest adoration, touching the ground with her forehead before the senseless idol. I was confounded, and unable to say any thing; but after a hasty glance at the fine trappings, left the place secretly praying for grace and strength to protest openly against the abomination from which my soul revolted with unspeakable horror from the moment of my witnessing the act of idolatrous homage rendered to a thing of wood and stone. On leaving the convent, I met a person who informed me that my poor nun was a Protestant lady of high respectability, sprung from one of those iniquitous mixed marriages, her mother belonging to the established church, her father a Romanist, who, however, honestly adhered to the terms of the wicked covenant by which the sons were to be educated in his, the daughters in her persuasion. A family of daughters were born to them, who, with their mother, continued nominally Protestant; but after his death, when the house was filled with Romish priests, performing for a week together their mummeries over the corpse, these poor females had become a prey to the subtle perversions of the ecclesiastics, and had openly apostatized, all save my new friend, who with a better informed mind and more scriptural knowledge withstood their sophistries, until sundry mock miracles performed by means of saintly relics and a well-contrived nocturnal visitation from the ghost of her father whom she fondly loved, had so unnerved and frightened her that she too fell a prey to the delusion. They ended by admitting her into the sisterhood of this convent, excusing the payment of the large sum usually demanded; and as her darkness was now great in proportion to the measure of light against which she had sinned, they found her a valuable decoy-bird to draw others into the snare. I did not learn all these particulars at the time, nor until after her decease, when I met with a near family connection of hers who told them to me. I simply gleaned the fact of her apostasy, with that of her abounding zeal in the antichristian cause.
With all my heart I loved the gentle, affectionate, elegant nun, and earnestly did I pray for help in bringing her back, as I was resolved to do, from the path of destruction; and while I deliberated on the best means of commencing the work, the difficulty was removed by her openly attempting to convert me. To this end she urged on me a strict inquiry into the real doctrines and tenets of her church, for myself and by myself, promising to lend me books of the most candid character, if I would engage to read them. I agreed, stipulating that I was freely to write out my remarks on them for her consideration; and with this mutual understanding, I brought home from the convent as a loan Dr. Milner's "End of Controversy," furnished for my especial benefit by a seminary of Jesuit priests, located near the town: and thus was I become the object of a combined attack from the forces of great Babylon.
True to what I considered a tacit engagement to study the matter alone, I read the book. Never shall I forget the effect it produced on me. I seemed to be holding communion with Satan himself, robed as an angel of light, the transparent drapery revealing his hideous form but baffling my endeavors to rend it away. Such sophistry, such impudence of unsupported assertion, such distortion of truth and gilding of gross falsehood, I never met with. I tried in vain to find an answer to things that I saw and felt to be antiscriptural and destructive; but this "End" was the beginning of my controversy, for I was wholly new to it, and ignorant of the historical and other facts necessary to disprove the reverend author's bold assumptions. At last I burst into tears, and kneeling down, exclaimed, "O Lord, I cannot unravel this web of iniquity: enable me to cut it in twain." I was answered; for after a little more thought, a broad view of the whole scheme of man's salvation as revealed in the holy Scriptures appeared to me the best antidote for this insidious poison. I read through the New Testament with increased enjoyment, and casting from me the wretched fabric of lies, with all its flimsy pretences, I resolved, instead of attempting a reply to what I saw to be falsehood, to set forth a plain statement of what I knew to be truth. Indeed it is indescribable how disgusting the painted face, the gaudy trappings, and the arrogant assumptions of the great harlot appeared in my eyes, when thus contrasted with the sublime simplicity, purity, and modesty of the chaste spouse of Christ.
I wrote; and in reply got another and a smaller book, containing the pretended reasons of a Protestant for embracing Popery. They were of course artfully put, and made a formidable exhibition of the peril of heresy. I thought I could not do better in return, while writing my dissent, than to enclose some small books of my own to the nun, inviting her comments thereon. This brought a letter which was probably written by stealth, though so cautiously worded as to be safe if intercepted. She said she did not wish to leave me under a wrong impression, and therefore told me that she was not permitted to read any of my letters, or the little books I had sent, as those who watched over her spiritual interests and whom she was bound to obey, thought it wrong to unsettle her mind by reading any thing contrary to the true faith which she held. Here was a pretty exposure of one-sided honesty. I thanked God for the further insight given me into the mystery of iniquity, and from that day devoted all my powers to the investigation of that against which I had become a stanch protester.
In the midst of our proceedings, a nun had taken the veil at the convent. Every body almost, to their shame be it spoken, was trying for tickets to the unhallowed show. My poor friend sent us two, informed me that two of the best front seats would be reserved for us, and accompanied her kind note with a programme of the ceremony and a translation or transcription of the service, all in her own handwriting. I felt deeply the pain of hurting her, and perhaps for a moment the workings of natural curiosity, but the hesitation was short. I sent back both books and tickets, with a grateful but decided refusal to be present. In all Kilkenny I did not find a person who could go along with me in my objections; but it is a matter of great joy to me to this hour, that I kept myself wholly unpolluted by any participation in these idolatrous doings; and I do believe that a double blessing has attended my efforts against Popery in consequence of it.
The affair of the little deaf mute at the convent led me to turn my attention to some poor children similarly circumstanced in the streets of Kilkenny; and while prosecuting that work the Lord brought to me that dear dumb boy whom you well remember as the brightest, most lovely of Christian characters. He was then very little, and had a brother of sixteen, one of the most genuine paddies I ever beheld. This lad was living very idly; a fine, sensible, shrewd fellow, who could read and write, and very soon made great proficiency in the finger language by helping me to instruct Jack. No one above Pat's own rank had ever taken any interest in him; I did, a strong one, and as he was much with me, and of a character most intensely Irish, he became attached to my with a warmth of devotion rarely met with among any other people.
One day Pat made his appearance with an important look, his brogues stamping the carpet with unwonted energy, his fine bare throat stiffened into a sort of dignified hauteur, and his very keen hazel eyes sparkling under the bushy luxuriance of chestnut curls that clustered about his face and fell on his neck. The very beau ideal of a wild Irish youth was my friend Pat. Seating himself as usual, he began—and here I must observe that my chief knowledge of the phraseology and turn of thought so peculiar to the Irish peasant was derived from this source. Whenever Pat came "to discourse me," I got rich lessons in the very brogue itself, from the fidelity with which his spelling followed the pronunciation of his words—"I wouldn't like," said he, "that you would go to hell."
"Nor I either, Pat."
"But you are out of the thrue church, and you wont be saved, and I must convart ye."
"That is very kind of you, my good lad. If I am wrong, you cannot do better than set me right."
"Sure and I will."
"With this," said he, pulling out a small pamphlet nothing the cleaner for wear. "You must learn my catechism, and it's you that will be the good Catholic."
Delighted with the boy's honest zeal, I asked him where I should begin; and he no less pleased at my docility, desired me to read it all, and then get it all by heart. I promised to do the first at any rate; and Oh what a tissue of falsehood and blasphemy that "Butler's Catechism" was. Next morning my teacher came early: "Well, Pat, I have found out what makes you anxious about me: here it is said that none can be saved out of the true church."
"That's it, sure enough."
"But I do belong to the true church, and I'll show you what it is;" so I pointed out to him two passages, and added, "Now, I do love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and therefore I am one of those to whom St. Paul wishes grace and peace; and do you think an apostle would send his blessing to any body who was not of the true church?"
Pat shook his head: "That's your catechism, not mine."
"Very true. Dr. Butler wrote yours, and God wrote mine," holding up the Bible; "which is best?"
"That is not the real Bible," persisted Pat; "my priest has the true Bible."
"Then ask him to lend you his."
"I wouldn't get my ears pulled, would I?" said he, smiling: "but if he lent me his Bible he must lend me a car to bring it home in, for it's as big as this table. Yours is too little, and doesn't hold half the truth. That is why you are so ignorant."
I soon proved, by showing him Matthew. Henry's Commentary, that the word of God would lie in a very small compass, the great bulk of the book being man's work. I also urged on him the absolute necessity of reading what God had given for our learning, and the danger of resting on man's assertion.
Pat stood his ground most manfully, astonishing me by the adroitness with which he parried my attacks, while pursuing, as he hoped, the good work of my conversion. For many a day was the controversy carried on, Butler versus the Bible, without any other effect than that of bringing Pat to read the sacred book for himself; but it opened to me the awful wiles of darkness by which the poor and ignorant are blinded, while for the more educated class such polished sophistry as Milner's is carefully prepared. I reaped the fruit, however, six years afterwards, when, in a little English church, Pat kneeled beside me and his brother, a thankful communicant, at the Lord's table.
THE DUMB BOY.
I turned my attention to the deaf and dumb children, whose situation was deplorable indeed: I took four out of the streets to instruct them, of whom one proved irreclaimably wild and vicious; two were removed by a priest's order, lest I should infect them with heresy: the fourth was to me a crown of rejoicing, and will be so yet more at "that day." * * *
John, or Jack as we always called him, was a puny little fellow, of heavy aspect, and wholly destitute of the life and animation that generally characterize that class, who are obliged to use looks and gestures as a substitute for words. He seemed for a long while unable to comprehend my object in placing before him a dissected alphabet, and forming the letters into words significant of dog, man, hat, and other short monosyllables; and when I guided his little hard hand to trace corresponding characters on the slate, it was indeed a work of time and patience to make him draw a single stroke correctly. His unmeaning grin of good-natured acquiescence in whatever I bade him do, was more provoking than downright rebellion could have been; and I secretly agreed with my friends that the attempt would prove a complete failure, while impelled, I hardly could tell how, to persevere with redoubled efforts. Jack's uncouth bristly hair fell in a straight mass over one of the finest foreheads ever seen, and concealed it. I happened one day to put aside this mass, for the benefit of his sight, and was so struck with the nobly expansive brow, that I exclaimed to a friend then in the act of dissuading me from the work, "No; with such a forehead as this, I can never despair of success."
* * * * *
It was by a sudden burst that the boy's mind broke its prison and looked around on every object as though never before beheld. All seemed to appear in so new a light to him; curiosity, in which he had been strangely deficient, became an eagerly active principle, and nothing that was portable did he fail to bring to me, with an inquiring shake of the head, and the word "what?" spelled by the fingers. It was no easy matter, before we had mastered a dozen common substantives and no other parts of speech, to satisfy his inquisitiveness, which I always endeavored to do, because it is wrong to repress that indication of dawning reason in a child, and Jack at eleven years old was in the predicament of a mere infant. More especially was I puzzled when his "what?" was accompanied by a motion pointing first at the dog, then to himself, to learn wherein consisted the difference between two creatures, both of whom, as he intimated, could eat, drink, sleep, and walk about, could be merry or angry, sick or well; neither of whom could talk; and yet, that there was a very great difference, he felt. The noble nature of man, was struggling to assert its preeminence over the irrational brute, which he, nevertheless, loved and feared too; for Barrow was a splendid dog, and used to assist me very cleverly in keeping my little wild Irish crew in order. Oh what a magnificent wreck is man! I do love to watch the rapid approach of that glorious time when, the six thousand years of his degradation beneath the reign of Satan being fulfilled, he shall rise above the usurper's power, and resume his high station among the brightest works of God.
I do not remember exactly how long after his first coming to me it was that Jack began to inquire so diligently about God. He seemed full of grave but restless thought, and then approaching me, pointed towards the sun, and by a movement of the hands as if kneading something, asked me whether I made it. I shook my head. Did my mother? No. Did Mr. Roe, or Mr. Shaw—two Protestant clergymen—or the priest? He had a sign to express each of these. No. Then "What? what?" with a frown and a stamp of fretful impatience. I pointed upwards, with a look of reverential solemnity, and spelled the word "God." He seemed struck, and asked no more at that time, but next day he overwhelmed me with "whats," and seemed determined to know more about it. I told him as well as I could, that He of whom I spoke was great, powerful, and kind; and that he was always looking at us. He smiled, and informed me he did not know how the sun was made, for he could not keep his eyes on it; but the moon he thought was like a dumpling, and sent rolling over the tops of the trees, as he sent a marble across the table. As for the stars, they were cut out with a large pair of scissors, and stuck into the sky with the end of the thumb. Having thus settled his system of astronomy, he looked very happy, and patted his chest with evident self-applause.
I was amused, but of course not satisfied: my charge was necessarily an Atheist, and what I had told him was a very bare sort of Deism indeed. To communicate more, however, seemed utterly impossible, until we should have accomplished considerable things in the way of education. We had not above a dozen of the commonest words—all names of things—to which he could attach a meaning; and our signs were all of his own contriving, which I had to catch and follow as I might. So said reason, but reason is a fool. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." "For my ways are not your ways, neither are your thoughts my thoughts, saith the Lord." It pleased him to enlighten the mind of the boy; and instead of that work being dependent on human wisdom, all that human wisdom could do was to creep after it at a modest distance.
Next day, Jack came to me in great wrath, intimating that my tongue ought to be pulled out. This was his usual mode of accusation where a lie had been told. So I looked innocent and said, "What?" He reminded me of yesterday's conversation, telling me he had looked everywhere for God: he had been down the street, over the bridge, into the churchyard, through the fields, had peeped into the grounds of the castle, walked past the barrack-yard, and got up in the night to look out at the window. All in vain; he could not find God. He saw nobody big enough to put up his hand and stick the stars into the sky. I was "bad," my tongue must be pulled out; for there was "God, NO." And he repeated "God, no," so often that it went to my heart.
I considered, prayerfully. My view of the scriptures told me that without divine help none could really seek after God: and also that when he vouchsafed to give the desire, he would surely increase knowledge. Here was a poor afflicted boy getting out of his bed to look by night for one whom he had vainly sought all the day: here was Satan at work to strengthen unbelief: I was commanded to resist the devil, and surely there must be some way of resisting him. I sat silent on the opposite side of the fire, and a plan having struck me, I looked at Jack, shrugged my shoulders and seemed convicted of a deception. He shook his head at me, frowned, and appeared very much offended at my delinquency. Presently I seized a small pair of bellows, and after puffing at the fire for a while, suddenly directed a rough blast at his little red hand, which hung very near it. He snatched it back, scowled at me, and when again I repeated the operation, expressed great displeasure, shivering, and letting me know he did not like it.
I renewed the puff, saying, "What?" and looking most unconscious of having done any thing; he blew hard, and repeated that it made his hands cold; that I was very bad, and he was very angry. I puffed in all directions, looked very eagerly at the pipe of the bellows, peering on every side, and then, explaining that I could see nothing, imitated his manner, saying, "Wind? no!" shaking my head at him, and telling him his tongue must come out, mimicking his looks of rebuke and offended virtue. He opened his eyes very wide, stared at me and panted; a deep crimson suffused his whole face, and a soul, a real soul shone in his strangely altered countenance, while he triumphantly repeated, "God like wind! God like wind!" He had no word for "like;" it was signified by holding the two forefingers out, side by side, as a symbol of perfect resemblance.
Here was a step, a glorious step, out of absolute atheism into a perfect recognition of the invisible God. An idea, to call it nothing more, new, grand, and absorbing, took possession of his mind. I numbered seven years of incessant care over him from that day; and I will fearlessly assert that in his head and in his heart God reigned unrivalled. Even before he knew him as God in Christ, the Creator and Preserver were enthroned in his bosom; and every event of the day, every object that met his view, gave rise to some touchingly simple question or remark concerning God. He made me observe that when trying to look at the sun he was forced to shut his eyes, adding, "God like sun." An analogy not very traceable, though strictly just; for the glory that dazzled his mind was not visible. He was perpetually engaged in some process of abstract reasoning on every subject, and amazed me by explaining its results; but how he carried it on without the intervention of words, was and is a puzzle to me.
Previously he had been rather teasing to the dog and other inferior creatures, and had a great desire to fish; but now he became most exquisitely tender towards every living thing, moving his hand over them in a caressing way, and saying, "God made." At first he excepted the worms from this privilege, remarking that they came up through holes from beneath the earth, while God was above, over the sky; therefore they were not made by him; but I set him right, and he agreed that they might be rolled up in the world, like meat in a pudding, and bite their way out. Thenceforth, woe to the angler whom Jack detected looking for live bait!
When my first pupil from being irregular in his attendance fell off more and more, until he wholly discontinued coming, and the others were withdrawn for fear of heretical infection, I became more anxious lest this dear boy might also leave me before he had received the knowledge of Jesus Christ. I had, at his earnest entreaty, taken him into the house altogether, his home being at some distance; but I knew not how long he might be permitted to stay. The ravages of a dreadful fever among the poor, increased my solicitude to see my devout little Deist a Christian. I have, in a small memoir of this "Happy Mute," related the manner of his receiving the gospel, but I must not pass it over here. To the glory of God's rich grace it shall be recorded, as one of the most signal mercies ever vouchsafed to me. As before, the boy was led to open the way, and in the faith of the Lord's willingness to reveal himself to an inquiring soul, I followed it up.
Jack had noticed the number of funerals passing; he had occasionally seen dead bodies placed in their coffins, and one evening he alluded to it, asking me by significant gestures if they would ever open their eyes again. Considering that he had often been present at the interment of the dead, and had also witnessed the decay of animals cast out to perish, it struck me as a singular question, plainly indicating that the consciousness of immortality is natural to man, and unbelief in a future state foreign to his untaught feelings. On the present occasion, my heart being then lifted up in prayer for divine assistance on this very point, I caught at the encouragement, and instantly proceeded to improve the opportunity, I sketched on paper a crowd of persons, old and young; near them a pit with flames issuing from it, and told him all those people, among whom were we, had been "bad" and God would throw us into the fire. When his alarm was greatly excited, I introduced into the picture another individual, who I told him was God's Son; that he came out of heaven; that he had not been bad, and was not to go in the pit; but that he allowed himself to be killed; and when he died, God shut up the pit; so the people were spared. This seemed to myself too strange, vague, meagre, to convey any definite idea to the boy's mind; but how effectual does the Lord make our poorest efforts when HE wills to work! After a few moments' deep thought, Jack astonished me by an objection that proved he saw the grand doctrine of a substitute for sinners, which I was so hopeless of bringing before him. He told me the rescued people were many; he who died was one, and his earnest "What?" with the eloquent look that now peculiarly belonged to his once stupid countenance, showed his anxiety for a solution of this difficulty.
With unutterable joy in my heart, but great composure of manner, I rose, and taking from a vase a bunch of dead flowers, inadvertently left there, I cut them into small bits, laid them in a heap on the table, and beside them my gold ring: then pointing to each, with the words "many- one," I asked which he would rather have? He struck his hand suddenly to his forehead, then clapped both hands, gave a jump as he sat, and with the most rapturous expression of countenance intimated that the one piece of gold was better than the room full of dead flowers With great rapidity he applied the symbol, pointing to the picture, to the ring, to himself, to me, and finally to heaven. In the last position he stood up and paused for some time, and what a picture he would have made! A smile perfectly angelic beaming on his face, his eyes sparkling and dancing with delight, until, with a rush of tears that quite suffused them, he gazed at me, then again raised them to the ceiling, his look softened into an expression of deep awe and unbounded love, while he gently spelled on his fingers, "Good ONE, good ONE!" and ended by asking me his name.
"How sweet the name of Jesus sounds In a believer's ear!"
Jack was not to hear that name with his bodily ears until the voice of the archangel and the trump of God should call him from sleeping in the dust of the earth; but he received it into his mind, and the gospel, the glorious, everlasting gospel, into his soul, and the Holy Spirit into his heart, without the intervention of that sense. In that hour it was given unto him to believe, and from that hour all things were his—the world, life, death, and a bright immortality. Never but once before had I laid my head on the pillow with such an overwhelming sense of perfect happiness. The Lord had indeed shown me his glory, by causing his goodness to pass before me.
Henceforth I had a Christian brother in my little dumb charge: his love to Jesus Christ was fervent and full; his thoughts about him most beautiful. By degrees, I gave him some knowledge of our Lord's mortal birth, his infancy, work, death, resurrection, and ascension; together with his coming to final judgment at the end of the world. * * *
Very great indeed was Jack's emotion when he discovered that the Saviour in whom he was rejoicing was the object represented by the image he had been taught to bow down before. He resented it deeply: I was quite alarmed at the sudden and violent turn his feelings took against Popery. * * * He spurned the whole system from him, as soon as the light of the gospel fell upon its deformities.
Returning from the chapel one day, soon after this, he came up to me under great excitement: he took up a clothes-brush, set it on one end, and with a ludicrous grimace bowed down before it, joining his hands in the attitude of prayer and chattering after his fashion; then asking the brush if it could hear him, waiting in an attitude of attention for its reply, and finally knocking it over and kicking it round the room, saying, "Bad god, bad god!" I guessed pretty well what it was all about; but as he concluded by snapping his fingers exultingly and seating himself without further remark, I spoke on other subjects.
Next morning, Jack was very animated, and came to me with an evident budget of new thoughts. He told me something very small came out of the ground, pointing in opposite directions; it grew: and then two more points appeared. I found he was describing the growth of a plant, and expecting some question, was all attention; but Jack was come to teach, not to learn. He soon showed that his tree had reached a great height and size; then he made as if shouldering a hatchet, advanced to the tree and cut it down. Next came a great deal of sawing, chopping, planing, and shaping, until he made me understand he had cut out a crucifix, which he laid by, and proceeded to make a stool, a box, and other small articles; after which he gathered up the chips, flung them on the fire, and seemed to be cheering himself in the blaze. I actually trembled at the proceeding; for where had he, who could not form or understand half a sentence, where had he learned the Holy Spirit's testimony as recorded by Isaiah?
The sequel was what I anticipated: he feigned to set up the imaginary crucifix, and preparing to pray before it, checked himself, saying, "No;" then with animated seriousness reverted to the springing up of the little seedling, saying, "God made;" and as it grew, he described the fashioning of the trunk and branches and leaves most gracefully, still saying "God made;" he seemed to dip a pencil in color, to paint the leaves, repeating, "God made beautiful!" Then, that God made his hands too; and he came to the conclusion that the tree which God made, cut out by his hands which God made, could not be God who made them. Then he got very angry, and not satisfied with an unsubstantial object for his holy indignation to vent itself upon, he ran for the clothes-brush, and gave it a worse cuffing and kicking than before; ending with a solemn inquiry whether I worshipped crosses, etc., when I went to church.
I trembled to give the encouragement I longed to bestow. However, I distinctly intimated my detestation of idolatry, and confirmed his strong repudiation of it. He told me he would not go any more to chapel, but I told him, as well as I could, the almost certain consequences, and he then remembered that other boys had told him those who ate meat on Fridays would go to hell. He became greatly distressed as the next Sabbath approached, but contrary to all my expectations returned from mass in excellent spirits. Pat told me, laughing, that Jack was become so musical he insisted on going to sit by the organ, that he might feel the vibration; and when alone with me, Jack joyfully told me that he had run up the stairs from the outer door to the organ- loft, and so escaped even the necessity of bowing down to the cross. This plan he persisted in from that day. Some years afterwards I asked his brother if he had any suspicion at the time of the boy's object in so doing: he answered, None at all; and that if he had, he would have forced him into the body of the mass-house, and compelled him to prostrate himself.
* * * * *
Early in the summer of 1824, I received a summons to return to England. It was most unwelcome, for my heart was knit to Ireland, and to share the lot of her devoted people was its earnest desire. At home I had many old friends; but what were they to the beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, who had been my fellow-helpers for the last four years in the work of the Lord? All ties were weak to that, save one, the tie that bound me to my beloved brother. Him I had not seen for nine years: he had continued on the staff of the Portuguese army until the establishment of the Cortes, who dismissed all British officers; and then he settled in the interior of that country, cultivating some of the land which he had gallantly fought to rescue. It was a subject of continual sorrow to me that he was residing in the heart of an exclusively Popish country, far from every means of grace; not even a place of worship within many leagues, and wholly shut out from Christian intercourse. I knew that he had been equally dark with myself on the subject of religion; and truly can I say, that from the very hour of my being enabled to see the truth as it is in Jesus, my life had been a constant prayer for him, that God would make him a partaker in the like precious faith. There was now a prospect of his returning, and this added to the summons I have mentioned, made my way plain. The state of Jack's mind, too, on the subject of Popery, helped to reconcile me, since I had made up my mind to take him with me if his parents would agree to it. There was no difficulty in bringing them to do so; they gave a willing, a grateful consent. His mother's words, while tears rolled down her cheeks, were, "Take him; he is more your child than ours." His father remarked, "Why shouldn't we let him go with you, seeing he would grieve to death if you left him behind?" When I began to state that I could not promise he would not openly embrace my religion, they interrupted me, repeating that he was my child more than theirs, and could never come to any harm under my care. Coward as I was, I did not use the opportunity then given to set before them their own danger, and commend the pure faith that I knew their child held. I had occasionally talked in a general way, and once very strongly, when the mother told me of the dreadful penances she had done, walking on her bare knees over a road strewed with pebbles, glass, and quicklime, to make her sufferings greater, in order to obtain from God and the saints the restoration of the boy's hearing and speech. She was then pleading the power and holiness of her clergy, and their superiority to all the rest of the world. I looked from the window, and said, "See, there goes your bishop; now do you think this bright sun warms him more than it does any Protestant walking beside him?" "Troth, and I am sure it does," answered she. "What, do you think he has any particular advantage over other men in things that are common to all?" "That he has, being a holy bishop." "Well, now, if I call him up, and we all put our fingers together between these bars, do you think the fire would burn him less than us?" She hesitated; her husband burst into a laugh, and archly said, "I'll engage his reverence wouldn't try that same."
I was now to bid adieu to my pleasant haunts, chief among which was the lordly castle of Kilkenny, where I had passed so very many delightful hours. Its noble owners were abroad, but by their favor I had a key to the private door beside the river, and full access to every part of the castle and its beautiful grounds. It was there I used to muse on days of Ireland's bygone greatness, though not then well read in her peculiar history, and gradually I had become as Irish as any of her own children. How could it be otherwise? I was not naturally cold-hearted, though circumstances had, indeed, greatly frozen the current of my warm affections, and I had learned to look with comparative indifference on whatever crossed my changeful path; but no one with a latent spark of kindly feeling can long repress it among the Irish. There is an ardor of character, an earnestness in their good will, a habit of assimilating themselves to the tastes and habits of those whom they desire to please —and that desire is very general—that wins on the affections of those who possess any, a grateful regard, and leaving on the scenes that have witnessed such intercourse, a sunshine peculiar to themselves. Reserve of manner cannot long exist in Irish society. I have met with some among the people of the land, who were cold and forbidding, insensible and unkind, but these were exceptions, establishing the rule by the very disagreeable contrast in which they stood out from all around them; and I never found these persons in the humbler classes, where the unmixed Irish prevails. Hospitality is indeed the polestar of Ireland; go where you will, it is always visible; but it shines the brightest in the poor man's cabin, because the potato that he so frankly, so heartily, so gracefully presses upon your acceptance is selected from a scanty heap, barely sufficient to allay the cravings of hunger in himself and his half-clad little ones. In this, as in all other particulars, a change for the worse has come over the people of late; priestly authority has interposed to check the outgoings of kindness from a warm-hearted people to those who are indeed their friends, and a painful, reluctant restraint is laid upon them; but the evil had not become evident at the time of my sojourn there, and I can only speak of them as the most respectful, most courteous and hospitable peasantry in the world.
At the same time they were in many respects the most degraded. Nothing could equal the depth of their abasement before an insolent priesthood, except the unblushing effrontery with which the latter lorded it over them. For any infraction of their arbitrary rules, the most cruel and humiliating penances were imposed. I knew an instance of a young woman, a Romanist, who engaged in the service of a Protestant family, and went out with them to America. While there, she was led to join in family worship, but without any intention of forsaking her own creed; neither had they attempted to draw her out of the net. On her return to Kilkenny she went to confession, and among other things divulged the fact of having heard the Bible read, and prayed in company with heretics. This was an enormity too great for the priest to deal with alone; so he ordered the girl off, fasting, to her original confessor, who then officiated in a chapel seven good Irish miles distant. On hearing the case, he ordered her to go thrice round the chapel on her bare knees, and then to set off, still fasting, and walk back to Kilkenny, there to undergo such additional penance as his reverend brother should see good to impose. The poor creature scarcely reached the town alive, through fatigue, exhaustion, and terror; she was ill for some time, and on her recovery subjected to further discipline. These particulars I had from one of her own friends and a bigoted Papist to boot, who told it in order to convince me that the girl had committed a very great sin.
I once asked a young man how he got on at confession—whether he told all his sins. He replied, "Sometimes I disremember a few, and if the priest, suspects it, he pulls my hair and boxes my ears, to help my memory." "And how do you feel when you have got absolution?" "I feel all right; and I go out and begin again." "And how do you know that God has really pardoned you?" "He doesn't pardon me directly; only the priest does. He, the priest, confesses my sins to the bishop, and the bishop confesses them to the pope, and the pope sees the Virgin Mary every Saturday night, and tells her to speak to God about it." "And you really believe this monstrous story?" "Why shouldn't I? But it is no affair of mine, for, once I have confessed, all my sins are laid on the priest, and he must do the best he can to get rid of them. I am safe." Of such materials is the net composed that holds these people in bondage; and who can marvel that such prostration of mind before a fellow-mortal should lead to an abject slavery of the whole man, body, conscience, and understanding? We see the effects, and abhor them; but we do not go to the root of the matter.
The priest himself is equally enslaved; his oath binds him to an implicit blind reception of tenets which he is not permitted to investigate, and which make him the pliant tool of a higher department of this detestable machinery. He receives his cue from the bishops, and they are wholly governed by the Propaganda at Rome, whither each of them is bound periodically to appear for personal examination and fresh instructions. The Propaganda is, of course, the primum mobile of the system, set agoing by Satan himself. Hence the mischief that is perpetrated by the unhappy beings who form the operative section of this cunning concern—the handicraft men of blood. It is an awful spectacle, and one that we cannot long avert our eyes from contemplating with the deep interest that personal peril excites. All is preparing for a burst of persecution against the people of the Lord, and happy is he who shall be found armed with watching.
We started for Dublin with sorrowing hearts, for it was likely to be a long, if not a last farewell to friends who were endeared as well by a participation in danger as in feeling. * * *
Jack had never before been beyond the environs of his native town, and I expected to see him much astonished by the splendid buildings of Dublin. He regarded them however with indifference, because, as he said, they were not "God-mades;" while the scenery through which we had travelled, particularly the noble oaks on Colonel Bruen's fine demesne, and the groups of deer reclining beneath their broad shadow, roused him to enthusiasm. It was wonderful to trace the exquisite perception of beauty as developed in that boy, who had never even been in a furnished room until he came to me. His taste was refined, and his mind delicate beyond belief: I never saw such sensitive modesty as he manifested to the last day of his life. Rudeness of any kind was hateful to him; he not only yielded respect to all, but required it towards himself, and really commanded it by his striking propriety of manner. He was, as a dear friend once remarked, a "God-made" gentleman, untainted with the slightest approach to any thing like affectation or coxcombry: indeed he ridiculed the latter with much comic effect: and the words "Dandy Jack," would put him out of conceit with any article of apparel that drew forth the remark. He would answer the taunt with a face of grave rebuke, saying, "Bad Mam, bold Mam; Jack dandy? no; Jack poor boy." He had not, indeed, arrived at so copious a vocabulary when we left his home; but he was rapidly acquiring new words.
It was beautiful to see him at prayer. He had never kneeled down with us at Kilkenny; for any Romanist who had detected him doing so must have informed, and the priest would have commanded his removal. In Dublin he volunteered to join us, and as he kneeled with clasped hands, looking up towards heaven, the expression of his countenance was most lovely. A smile of childlike confidence and reverential love played over his features, now becoming most eloquent; his bristly hair had begun to assume a silky appearance, and was combed aside from a magnificent brow, while a fine color perpetually mantled his cheeks and changed with every emotion; his dark hazel eyes, large, and very bright, always speaking some thought that occupied his mind. He was rather more than twelve years old. In profile, he much resembled Kirke White when older; but the strongest likeness I ever saw of him is an original portrait of Edward VI., by Holbein, in my possession.
It was taken after consumption had set its seal on the countenance of that blessed young king, as it did on that of my dear dumb boy.
In Dublin, he had one adventure that afforded him much enjoyment. I went into an extensive toy-shop to make some purchase, and Jack, enchanted with the wonders around him, strolled to the further end, and into a little adjoining recess, well filled with toys. A great uproar in that direction made us all run to inquire the cause, and there was Jack, mounted on a first-rate rocking-horse, tearing away full gallop, and absolutely roaring out in the maddest paroxysm of delight, his hat fallen off, his arm raised, his eyes and mouth wide open, and the surrounding valuables in imminent peril of a general crash. The mistress of the shop was so convulsed with laughter that she could render no assistance, and it was with some difficulty I checked his triumphant career, and dismounted him. He gave me afterwards a diverting account of his cautious approach to the "good horse;" how he ascertained it was "bite, no; kick, no:" and gradually got resolution to mount it. He wanted to know how far he had rode, and also if he was a God-made? I told him it was wood, but I doubt whether he believed me. Thenceforth Dublin was associated in his mind with nothing else; even at nineteen years of age he would say, if he met with the name, "Good Dublin, good horse; small Jack love good Dublin horse." The shipping pleased him greatly, and many of his beautiful drawings were representations of sailing vessels.
I had now been in Ireland five years and three months; and with what different feelings did I prepare to leave its green shores from those with which I first pressed them. Unfounded prejudice was succeeded by an attachment founded on close acquaintance with those among whom I had dwelt, contempt by respect, and dislike by the warmest, most grateful affection. I had scorned her poverty, and hated her turbulence. The first I now knew to be no poverty of soil, of natural resources, of mind, talent, or energy, but the effect of a blight, permitted to rest alike on the land and people, through the selfishness of an unjust, crooked policy, that made their welfare of no account in its calculations, nor would stretch forth a hand to deliver them from the dark dominion of Popery. Their turbulence was the natural fruit of such poverty, and of their being wholly under the influence of a party necessarily hostile to the interests of a Protestant state, and bent on subverting its ascendency. What Ireland was, I too plainly saw: what she might be, I clearly understood; and the guilt of my country's responsibility lay heavy on my heart as I watched the outline of her receding coast.
Bristol was our destination; and for the ensuing year, Clifton became our abode. This period of my life was one of severe trial, which it is not necessary to particularize. Incipient derangement, which afterwards became developed, in a quarter where, if I did not find comfort and protection, I might expect their opposites, occasioned me much alarm and distress, while my brother's protracted absence increased the trial. Much secluded, I pursued my literary avocations, and watched the progress of Jack's growth in knowledge and in grace. * * *
My sojourn at Clifton brought me into personal acquaintance with that venerable servant of God, Hannah More. We had for some time corresponded, and she had afforded me great encouragement in my humble labors, taking an especial interest in my attempts to instruct the deaf and dumb children. I had now the pleasure of showing her the progress made with Jack, who delighted her greatly, and who, to the last day of his mortal existence, most fondly cherished the memory of that sweet old lady. She was, indeed, one of the excellent of the earth, permitted long to beautify the church which she had so mainly helped to strengthen and advance, and to be an honor to the land where she had nobly stood forth to repel the assaults of revolutionizing impiety. I often wonder that so little stress is laid upon this branch of Mrs. More's extensive labors. We hear much of her schools, her charities, her letters, her devotional and educational publications, and all of these deserve the full celebrity that they have attained. But England should especially bear in mind her effective championship of the good cause, by means most admirably adapted to its furtherance among the most dangerous, and generally speaking the most unapproachable class—a class who congregated in ale-houses to hear the inflammatory harangues of seditious traitors, while as yet Bibles were scarce, religious tracts not in existence, and district visiting unthought of. In a lady of refined taste, and rare accomplishments in the higher style of writing, to volunteer in a work so new, and to furnish the press with a series of plain truths dressed in a most homely phrase, rendered attractive by lively narrative and even drollery, and the whole brought down to the level of coarse, uninformed minds, while circulated in a form to come within the narrow means of the lowest mechanics—this was an enterprise worthy especial note, even had not God openly blessed it to the turning of that formidable tide. When I looked upon the placid but animated countenance of the aged saint, as she sat in her bow-window looking out upon the fair fields, the still inviolate shores of her beloved country, I thought more of her "Cheap Repository Tracts" than of all her other works combined. There lay the Bristol Channel, that noble inlet to our isle, by which the commerce of the world was even then finding its peaceful way to the great mart of Bristol; and there sat the aged lady, so long the presiding spirit of the place, with one hand, as it were, gathering the lambs of the flock into green pastures among the distant hills, that formed a beautiful feature in the landscape; with the other vigorously repulsing the wolf from the field. If I could have discovered, which I could not, a single trait of consciousness that she was a distinguished being, exalted into eminence by public acclaim, I must have conceived her to be dwelling upon this branch of her many privileges, that she had been a Deborah where many a Barak shrunk from the post of honor and skulked behind a woman. She took that lively interest in the public, secular affairs of her country that Jeremiah and Ezekiel did of old; and on the same plain ground—that where the state professes to be modelled and the executive to act on principles of God's instilling, with a view that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us, nothing done by the state can be indifferent to the church, or unworthy the anxious watchful regard of Christians. To be called a carnal politician by those whose minds, at least on religious subjects, could contain, but one idea, was certainly a light affliction to balance against the joyous consciousness of having materially aided in preserving those cavillers' homes from the hand of the spoiler, and their Bibles from that of the Atheist.
When I saw Hannah More, she was really at ease in her possessions; and none who loved her less than the Lord himself did, would have laid a sorrow upon her grey hairs. Man would have decreed that such a full-ripe shock of corn should be brought into the garner without further ruffling or shaking. She had suffered exceedingly from rheumatism and other ailments, and yet more from the tongue of calumny and the hand of ingratitude. She was an illustration of that striking couplet,
"Envy will merit as its shade pursue, And, like the shadow, prove the substance true."
She had, however, triumphed over all by meekly committing her cause to Him who judgeth righteously; and now she seemed to be placed beyond the reach of further molestation, and about to end her useful life in peace. But she had another lesson to give to the people of God, another fire in which to glorify him: and not long after I saw her reclining in that lovely retreat which had grown up about her, a perfect bower from slips and seeds of her own planting, as she delighted to tell us, she was actually driven out of her little paradise, compelled to leave the shadow of her nursling trees, and to cast a tearful farewell look on the smiling flowers, and to turn away from the bright sea and the waving line of her Cheddar hills, to find a lodging in the neighboring town; and all through treachery, domestic treachery against her whose whole life had been a course of unsparing beneficence towards others. Hannah More perhaps needed to be again reminded, that she must do all her works "as to the Lord," looking to him alone for acceptance of them; or if she needed it not, others did; and often since she entered into her Saviour's presence, "to go no more out," has the scene of the last trial to which her generous, confiding, affectionate spirit was subjected, been blessed to the consolation of others. God's children find that it is good for themselves that they should be afflicted; but they do not always remember how good it is for the church, that they should be so. They look within, and seeing so much there daily, "justly deserving God's wrath and condemnation," they lie still in his hand, willing and thankful to have the dross purged out, and the tin taken away. Their fellows look on, and not seeing the desperate wickedness of their hearts, but fondly believing them to be as near perfection as human frailty will permit, they argue, "If such a saint as —— be thus chastened and corrected, what must a sinner like me expect?" So they learn watchfulness and fear in the day of prosperity; and when adversity comes, they are enabled more lovingly to kiss the rod. Oh, if we could see but a little of the Lord's dealings, in all their bearings, how should we praise him for his goodness and the wonders that he doeth unto the children of men. What profit, what pleasure has he in afflicting us? Surely it is, so to speak, more trouble to correct than to leave us alone; and he would not twine the small cords into a scourge, unless to cleanse and sanctify his temple.
I have said that my brother's return home was delayed. A hurt received in shooting, with its consequences, detained him in Lisbon nearly a year; but his family came over, and I had a new delicious employment, a solace under many sorrows, an unfailing source of interest and delight, in teaching his eldest surviving boy the accomplishments of walking and talking. I almost expected Jack to be jealous of such a rival, but I wronged him: nothing could exceed his fondness for "baby boy," or the zeal of his Irish devotion to the little gentleman. Knowing that in the event of my removal, Jack must earn his bread by some laborious or servile occupation, I had kept him humble. He ate in the same room with us, because I never suffered him to associate with servants; but at a side-table; and he was expected to do every little household work that befitted his age and strength. A kind shake of the hand, morning and evening, was his peculiar privilege; and the omission a punishment too severe to be inflicted, except on occasions of most flagrant delinquency, such as rebelling against orders, or expressing any angry emotion, to which he was constitutionally liable, by yells and howls that almost frightened our hosts from their propriety. He had, of course, no idea of the strength of his own lungs, nor of the effect produced by giving them full play in a fit of passion; but the commotion into which it threw the whole house seemed to flatter his vanity, and he became a vocalist on very trifling occasions. This neither agreed with our dear invalid landlady, nor was a fitting example for "baby boy," who speedily tried his own little treble in admiring imitation of Jack's deafening bass; and recourse was at last had to the aid of a young friend, who bestowed a few gentle raps on his head with the bent end of a hooked cane, and then locked him up in a dark kitchen for half an hour, saying to me, rather regretfully, "I suppose my popularity is at an end now. Poor fellow, I shall be sorry to lose his affection." But this was so far from being the case, that to his closing scene Jack retained a grateful remembrance of the proceeding. He used to say, "Good Mr. W——; good little stick beat Jack's head; made bad Jack good. Jack love good Mr. W——." At the very time, as soon as he saw his kind corrector after the business, he very gracefully and cordially thanked him, kissing his hand, with a bow, and saying, "Jack no more cry;" and as he really was hardly touched, and full well knew we had not the heart to be severe, it was a proof of that openness to rebuke which is a lovely mark of true Christianity.
Montgomery beautifully says,
"Prayer is the Christian's vital breath, The Christian's native air."
And so it eminently was with the dumb boy. Under every form of condition and circumstance, in health and sickness, in joy, in grief, in danger, in perplexity—over his food, his studies, his work, his amusements, he was ever turning a look of peculiar sweetness on me, with the two words, "Jack pray." He always smiled when so engaged, and a look of inexpressible eagerness, mingled with satisfaction and the triumph of one who feels that he has taken a secure stand, told me when he was praying, without any change of position, or looking up. There was always a mixture of anxiety in his aspect when he tried to make himself understood by his fellow-creatures; this gave place to something the reverse of anxiety when he was "talking to God," as he sometimes expressed it. He oftener looked down than up; and very often did I see his eye fixed upon the "baby boy," when, as his looks bespoke, and as he afterwards told me, he was "tell God" about him, and that he was too little to know about Jesus Christ yet. Many a prayer of that grateful dumb boy even now descends in blessings on the head of my brother's "baby," and long may the hallowed stream continue to flow down, until they rejoice together before the throne of the Lamb.
One of Jack's lovely thoughts was this: he told me that when little children began to walk, Jesus Christ held them by the hand to teach them; and that if they fell, he put his hand between their heads and the ground to prevent their being hurt. Then, as if he saw this proceeding, he would look up, and with the fondest expression say, "Good Jesus Christ, Jack very much loves Jesus Christ." I hope you are not tired of Jack; I have much to tell about him. God made me the humble means of plucking this precious brand from the burning; and I owe it to the Lord to show what a tenfold blessing I reaped in it. Jack was not the only one of whom He has, in the dispensations of his providence, said to me, "Nurse this child for me, and I will give thee thy wages." I have found him a noble Paymaster.
And now I come to a period of my life that I have scarcely courage to go over. Many and sharp and bitter were the trials left unrecorded here; and shame be to the hand that shall ever DARE to lift the veil that tender charity would cast over what was God's doing, let the instruments be what and who they might. It is enough to say, that even now I know there was not one superfluous stroke of the rod, nor one drop of bitter that could have been spared from the wholesome cup. Besides, he dealt most mercifully with me; those two rich blessings, health and cheerfulness, were never withdrawn. I had not a day's illness through years of tribulation; and though my spirits would now and then fail, it was but a momentary depression; light and buoyant, they soon danced on the crest of the wave that had for an instant ingulfed them.
It is of joy I have to tell: safety, peace, prosperity, under the restored sunshine that had made my early career so bright. Never did a sister more fondly love a brother; never was a brother more formed to be the delight, the pride, the blessing of a sister. He was of most rare beauty from the cradle, increasing in loveliness as he grew up, and becoming the very model of a splendid man; very tall, large, commanding, with a face of perfect beauty, glowing, animated, mirthful—a gait so essentially military, that it was once remarked by an officer, "If B—— were disguised as a washerwoman, any soldier would give him the salute." He had also served in the Peninsula with the highest possible credit, regarded by those in command as one of the best officers in the service, and most ardently loved by the men under him. Many a bloody battle-field had he seen; but never did a wound reach him. On one occasion—at Albuhera—his gallant regiment went into action 800 strong, and on the following day only 96 men were able to draw rations. He became on the field a lieutenant, from being the youngest ensign; and alike in all circumstances he shone out as an honor to his profession. He had also been an especial favorite with John VI. of Portugal, and the high polish of a court was superadded to all the rest, without in the smallest degree changing the exceedingly playful, unaffected joyousness of the most sunshiny character I ever met with.
Ten years' absence had produced the effect on my sisterly love that Burns describes:
"Time but th' impression stronger makes, As streams their channels deeper wear."
I had also many personal reasons for looking forward to his return with peculiar anxiety; and its uncertainty increased the feeling. I had been spending the day with a sick friend, and ran home at night to the lodging occupied by my mother and myself, and there I found my brother. What a dream those ten years' trials appeared!
We remained but a short time in Clifton, and soon bent our way towards the metropolis, where he expected, as is usual, to dance a long and wearisome attendance on the Horse Guards, for a regimental appointment. He had refused that of aid-de-camp to king John, with any military rank and title that he might desire; preferring a half-pay unattached company in the British, to any thing that a foreign service could offer; but he was mistaken: his merits were well known to the Duke of York, and before he could well state to Sir Herbert Taylor his wishes, that estimable man told him he had only to select out of two or three regiments lately returned from foreign service, and he would be gazetted on the following Tuesday. He chose the 75th, and was immediately appointed to it, with leave to study for two years in the senior department of the Military college at Sandhurst, the better to qualify himself for a future staff situation.
A sweet cottage, standing isolated on the verge of Bagshot-heath, sheltered by tall trees and opening on a beautiful lawn, with a distant but full view of the college, became our abode. A delightful room was selected for me, with an injunction to sit down and make the most of my time while he was in the halls of study, that I might be at leisure to walk, to ride, to garden, to farm with him—my brother—my restored brother, whose eye beamed protection, and whose smile diffused gladness, and whose society was what in our happy childhood it had ever been, just instead of all the world to me. If one thing was wanting, and wanting it was, to knit us in a tie more enduring than any of this world's bonds could possibly be, that very sense of want furnished a stimulus to more importunate prayer on his behalf. Some of the good people who for lack of a relay of ideas borrow one of their neighbors and ride it to death, treated me to a leaf from the book of Job's comforters, when the calamity fell on me of that precious brother's death, by telling me I had made an idol of him. It was equally false and foolish. An idol is something that either usurps God's place, or withdraws our thoughts and devotions from him. The very reverse of this was my case. I had an additional motive for continually seeking the Lord, not only in prayer for the enlightening influences of the Holy Spirit on behalf of one so dear, but also for grace to walk most circumspectly myself, lest I should cast any stumbling-block in his way, or give him occasion to suspect that my religious profession was a name, and not a reality. That was surely a profitable idol which kept me always prayerful before God, watchful over myself, diligent in the discharge of duties, and in continual thanksgiving for the mercies I had received. Do I repent loving my brother so well? I wish it had been possible to love him better. These warm affections of the heart are among the sweetest relics of a lost Eden, and I would sooner tear up the flowers that God has left to smile in our daily path through a sin-blighted wilderness, far sooner than I would cease to cherish, to foster, to delight in the brighter, sweeter flowers of domestic love, carried to the full extent of all its endearing capabilities.
The Lord knoweth our frame; he deals with us not according to what we are not, but according to what we are. He sets before us various duties, and to the end that we may the better fulfil them, he gives us aids not contrary to, but accordant with our natural feelings. Men set up a standard, often a just and scriptural one, to which they sorrowfully confess that because of the weakness of their nature they cannot themselves attain; but according to which they sternly judge their neighbors. A person has a path assigned to him, a steep ascent strewed with thorns and crowded with obstacles, before which he often pauses and waxes faint. God gives him a companion for his way, even as he sent forth the disciples two and two, and the pilgrim is cheered. He quickens his pace; another besides himself will be benefited by his progress, and if he fails, another will suffer in his loss. So he goes on thankful, rejoicing, and endued with double energy for the toilsome achievement. But he sees a neighbor to whom the Lord has also granted help through human means, perhaps not exactly similar to that which he has received; he sees his neighbor likewise openly rejoicing in the possession of such a staff; and bringing him to the tests of that perfect law which requires an entire devotedness to and dependence on the Lord, he raises a cry of "mixed motives," "the arm of flesh," "idolatry," and so forth. No doubt he is so far right, that perverse humanity will ever abuse God's gifts, and often make them occasions of sin; but this outcry of the beam against the mote, which is so grievously prevalent in the religious world, is very unseemly. Oh, how infinitely more tender is the Lord to us than we to one another.
Hitherto, many impediments had been thrown in the way of my literary labors. Anxiety, apprehension, and the restlessness of feeling resulting from a continual change of abode, had broken the train of thought, and rendered my work very uncertain. Indeed, it would often have been wholly inadequate to my support, but for the watchful kindness of friends whom the Lord raised up to me, foremost among whom always stood the estimable Mr. Sandford, who never ceased to regard me with paternal affection and care. To he wholly independent was the first earthly wish of my heart; and now a fair opportunity was given of testing my willingness to labor diligently. The result was so far, satisfactory, that in the course of the two years and two months of my residence under my brother's roof, I wrote the Rockite, the System, Izram, Consistency, Perseverance, Allen McLeod, Zadoc, and upwards of thirty little books and tracts, besides contributions to various periodicals. I was going on most prosperously, when an attempt was suddenly made from another quarter to establish a claim to the profits of my pen. The demand was probably legal, according to the strict letter of existing statutes, though circumstances would have weighed strongly in my favor. But it greatly reduced the value of my copyrights for the time being, and I found myself checked in my career at a juncture when it was especially my desire to go on steadily. This brought upon me two temptations, the force of which was greatly increased by the circumstances under which they found me.
When I first began to write, it was with a simple desire to instruct the poor in the blessed truths of the gospel. My own situation soon rendered it needful to turn the little talent I possessed to account. This I did, still keeping in view the grand object of promoting God's glory; and my attempts having been well received, I found a ready market for whatever I wrote, so that the name was considered a sufficient guarantee for the book. Now, I could no longer safely use that name, and anonymous writing became the only feasible plan. A friend, who did not look upon the main subject in the light that I did, made, through my brother, a proposal that I should become a contributor to the most popular magazine of the day, supplying tales, etc., the purport of which was to be as moral as I pleased, but with no direct mention of religion. The terms offered were very high: the strict incognito to be preserved would secure me from any charge of inconsistency, and coming as it did when my regular source of income was suddenly closed, and when the idea of being burdensome to my generous brother with his increasing family was hardly supportable, it was thought I could not demur.
Nevertheless, I did; the Lord in his gracious providence had said to me, "Go work to-day In my vineyard," and I had for upwards of four years enjoyed that blessed privilege. It was now withdrawn, certainly not without his permission; and how did I know that it was not to try my faith? The idea of hiring myself out to another master—to engage in the service of that world the friendship of which is enmity with God—to cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before those whom by the pen I addressed—to refrain from setting forth Jesus Christ and him crucified to a perishing world, and give the reins to an imagination ever prone to wander after folly and romance, but now subdued to a better rule—all this was so contrary to my views of Christian principle, that, after much earnest prayer to God, I decided rather to work gratuitously in the good cause, trusting to Him who knew all my necessity, than to entangle myself with things on which I could not ask a blessing. The conflict was indeed severe; no one attempted to oppose my resolve; but as yet no one could at all understand its real ground; and it was a very trying position in which I stood, thus seemingly spurning an honorable means of independence and leaving myself destitute. But the trial was short: my first friends, the Christian "Dublin Tract Society," exercising that faith which has distinguished all their acts, determined to brave the consequences, and still publish my little books. This, though, the profit was not then very good, I hailed as a gracious intimation of the Lord's purpose still to continue me in his service; and I was the more strengthened to meet the second trial, which coming at a time when the sum proffered would he doubly acceptable, and the refusal involving the loss of a very old and kind friend, was rather a sharp one; more especially as the offence given would and did alienate him from others who had no share in the proceeding, and whose interests were far dearer to me than my own.
Many years before, that friend had published a novel: not a flimsy love- story, but of a class above the common run. I had, as a girl, been very fond of it, and often delighted the amiable author by expressing an admiration that was not general; for the work had failed, and was unsold. Now, finding I had been myself successful with the pen, and full, even, in old age, of natural love for his literary offspring, he had formed a plan, in which he never dreamed of encountering opposition. He wished me to rewrite it, to cast the characters anew, enliven the style, add variety to the incidents, and, in short, make a new work out of his materials. Still it was to be a novel; and as it had been originally published in his name, it was to be so now. My share in the work would never be known; and as he was abundantly wealthy, and equally generous, a carte blanche as to terms was before me.
On the former occasion I had paused, and thought much: on this I did not. The path was plain before me, but dreadfully painful to pursue. A hundred pounds just then would have been more to me than a thousand at another time; and private feeling was most distressingly involved, both as regarded myself and others. It was in an agony of prayer, and after many bitter tears, that I brought myself to do what, nevertheless, I had not a wish to leave undone. I wrote a faithful letter to the friend in question, most unequivocally stating the ground of my refusal—the responsibility under which I conceived we all lay before God for the application of talents committed by him; the evils of novel-reading; and, as far as I could, I declared the whole gospel of Christ to one whom I had no reason to consider as taking any thought whatever for his soul. I heard no more from him to the day of his death, which took place ten years after. I had reason to believe that his intentions towards me were very liberal in the final distribution of his property; for he had known and loved me from my cradle, and he had no family; but my conscience bore a happy testimony in the matter; and I am fully persuaded that the whole was a snare of Satan to betray me into an acceptance of unhallowed gains, by catering to the worldly tastes of those who forget God. No doubt, the business would have been a profitable one, and the inducement to persevere made strong in proportion as I sacrificed principle to lucre. "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." I should neither do justice to the Lord's rich goodness nor to the honored instrument of his bounty if I omitted to add, that, shortly after, my munificent friend Mr. Sandford sent me a gift that left me no loser by having done my duty.
While on the subject of my books, I will record an incident that occurred about the same time, and on which I always look with feelings of indescribable delight. I did not know it until, some years afterwards, the story was related to me by the principal actor in it— the abetter of my heretical pravity. Little did I dream, when writing my humble penny books, that they would be advanced to the high honor of a place in the Papal Index Expurgatorius.
The lady in question took to the continent a sweet, only daughter: a lovely little girl of ten years old, the joy of her widowed bosom, who was fast sinking in decline. I was exceedingly fond of that child, who returned my affection from the depths of an Irish heart; and who, out of love for its author, selected one of my small penny books to translate into Italian during her last stage of suffering. She did not live to complete it; but with her dying breath requested her mother to do so, in the earnest hope of its being made useful to the ignorant people around them. Bessie was a lamb of the Lord's fold; and to lead other children into the same blessed shelter was her heart's desire. As soon as the bereaved mother could make any exertion, she betook herself to the task assigned by her departed darling, and found such satisfaction in it that she extended her labors, and translated several more. Being a lady of rank and affluence, she was enabled to carry it on to publication, and to insure the circulation of the little books among many. One of them, "The Simple Flower," a sixpenny book, thus translated, fell into the hands of an Italian physician, a man of highly cultivated mind; nominally a Romanist; and like all thinking Romanists, in reality an infidel. The book contains not a word on controversy; not an allusion to Popery—it is plain gospel truth, conveyed in a very simple narrative. God blessed it to this gentleman, and he became a Christian. The circumstance excited much remark: curiosity led many to read that and others of the series, and a great number were circulated in the neighboring districts. This was actually within the papal states, under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Sienna, to whose knowledge came the astounding fact that pennyworths of heresy were circulated within the range of his pastoral charge: the matter was reported at head- quarters, taken up with due seriousness, and a Sunday appointed, on which, no doubt, I was quietly worshipping in the college chapel at Sandhurst, wholly unconscious that my name was then being proclaimed at a hundred Italian altars, with a denunciation against all who should read, circulate, or possess any book, tract, or treatise penned by me. One instance was particularized: a poor priest had himself given numbers of these translations to his flock; and after mass, he stood before them deeply moved, telling them he had a painful duty to perform. That he had received from the highest authority a command to proclaim what he held in his hand, and which he proceeded to read to them—a copy of the fulmination above-mentioned. Having done so he folded the paper, and resumed, saying he had given and recommended the little books to them, because he had read them himself and found nothing but what was good in them: however, the church, which they were all bound to obey, judged otherwise; "and now." he added, "you must bring them back to me, or burn them, or in some other way destroy them wholly: nevertheless, I declare in the sight of God I found no evil in those dear little books, but the contrary—they are full of good." He burst into tears, and many wept with him; and not a few of the proscribed productions were wrapped up and buried in the earth, or otherwise put away till the search should be over. Who knows but that very priest was led to the Bible and to Christ through such humble means? I would not exchange for the value of the ten kingdoms ten times trebled, the joy that I feel in this high honor put upon me—this rich blessing of being under the papal curse. * * *
With what fondness does memory linger over those delightful days of sojourn under the sheltering roof of my brother, so soon, to be for ever parted in this world. Another boy had been added to our happy little circle, and Jack's warm heart seemed to receive an accession of love, that he might have it to bestow on the "beautiful baby small," which claimed so much of his thoughts and prayers. Indeed, his thoughts were always prayers, for God was in all. He made but little progress in language, having a great dislike to learning beyond what was needful for communicating his thoughts to me, and as he was then obliged to be more with servants than I liked, I was not anxious to extend his facilities of communicating with them; nor did he at all desire their society. He had a little room of his own, to his great delight, over the coach- house; and when not employed in his work, or talking with me, he was most happy with the pencil. He gave a strong and beautiful proof of the dread with which God inspired him as to ensnaring company; and I cannot pass it over.
My brother declared his intention of keeping a horse, and of course a groom. Jack came to me with an earnest entreaty that he might be the groom, saying he could do it so well. The reason he gave to me, confidentially, was, that men were very wicked; that the man-servant would often shake hands with the devil—his usual mode of expressing wilful sin—and that if Jack shook hands with him, he would some day draw his hand till he got it into the devil's; meaning, that an evil companion would by degrees induce him to become evil too. He also said, Captain B—— was very kind to Mam, and that a servant would cost him money, and eat a great deal; but Jack would take no money, and only eat "small potato, small meat," because he loved Captain B——. When I communicated the request to my brother he laughed, saying such a boy could never groom a horse; but Jack had been privately to a kind friend of his, a retired non-commissioned officer of cavalry, who had the care of some horses, and got him to give him instruction, succeeding so well in his attempt that the serjeant told my brother he really thought him competent to the office. He consented to try; and having purchased his horse, tied him up at the stable-door for Jack to commence operations, while we all assembled to see him. I was apprehensive of a total failure, but he did it admirably, and my brother declared he only wanted a few inches in height to be one of the best grooms in the kingdom. Jack's exultation was very great. When we were alone, he went up to the horse, kissed it, and after telling me how pleased he saw his master look, he added, "No man; all one Jack. Devil cry—go, devil!" and snapped his fingers at the invisible enemy.
His greatest security next to his love of God was his constant fear of Satan. Yet it was rather a fear of himself, lest he should yield to his temptations, for he was perfectly aware Satan would not force him to do any thing. Hence his extreme caution as to what associates he had, and a reserve with those whom he did not know to be Christians, which was sometimes mistaken for pride. He invariably asked me, of every person who came to the house, whether that person loved Jesus Christ; and if I could not give a positive answer in the affirmative, he stood aloof, always most courteous, but perfectly cold, and even dignified in repelling any advance to sociability beyond common politeness. He did not know the meaning of a single bad word, and God kept him so that the wicked one touched him not. I used every means, of course, to this end. I watched him most narrowly, and always interposed if he was required to do any thing, or to go to any place, in which I apprehended danger. My vigilance extorted smiles from those who considered it must all be in vain when he grew a little older; but no obstacle was placed in my way; and I bless God I never relaxed that care, nor did the boy ever depart from his holy caution; and he died at the age of nineteen, a very tall and fine-looking young man, with the mind of a little babe as regards the evil that is in the world. Oh that parents knew the importance of thus watching over their boys.
Soon after the first horse was established in his stall, my brother purchased a second for my riding, saying he should now, of course, get an assistant in the stable; but Jack burst into tears, and himself pleaded with him for leave to do all. My brother greatly delighted in his broken language, and caught exactly his phraseology, so that they conversed together as well as with me; and he told me he could not stand Jack's entreaties. "He is a fine little fellow," said he, "and if you will watch and see that he is not overexerting himself, he may try for a while: he will soon be tired." But far from it; Jack was proud of his two horses; and none in the place were better kept. When a cow was added, a young person came to milk her; but Jack was outrageous, talked of his mother's "Kilkenny cows," and "cow's baby," and expressed such sovereign contempt for the stranger's performance, and such downright hostility against the intruder, that we had no peace till he got the cow also under his especial care. Often afterwards did he talk of that time, saying he was "well Jack," when he had two horses and a cow, and almost crying over his loss. He grew rapidly, and the doctors told me that such a life would have kept him strong to any age.
One day he came and asked me to let him have a large hoop, to make him go faster on messages. I thought it childish, and did not regard it; so he went to my brother with the same request, who inquired his reason. Jack told him the stage-coaches that passed our gate went very fast, because the four horses had four large hoops, meaning the wheels, and if he had a large hoop he could go as fast as the horses. Diverted beyond measure at such an original idea, my brother sent to Reading for the largest and best hoop that could be got; and many a laugh we had at seeing Jack racing beside the London coaches with his wheel, nodding defiance at the horses, and shouting aloud with glee. He often went six miles with his wheel, to bear messages and notes to our valued and much- loved friend General Orde, whom he idolized almost, and who looked on him as one of the most lovely instances of divine grace he had ever met with. On the first formation of the British Reformation Society, General Orde wrote to me, with a prospectus of the intended work. I told it to Jack, who in rapturous delight gave me his whole worldly fortune of two shillings, bidding me give it to put it in their pockets, and to bid good General Orde tell gentlemen to send much Bibles to Kilkenny, that his father and mother and all the poor people might learn to break the crucifixes, and love Jesus Christ. I wrote this to the general, who sent to me for the identical two shillings, which Mr. Noel produced on the platform, with the dumb boy's message, and I believe it drew many a piece of gold from the purses of those who saw the gift, which stands enrolled the very first in the accounts of that noble society's receipts. Jack often prayed for the Reformation Society, and I believe his blessing helped them not a little; there was so much faith in all that he did, such as God alone could give, and he never seemed to entertain a doubt of obtaining what he asked. Many a sweet instance of his childlike confidence in the Lord is engraven on my memory, at once to stimulate and to shame me. His whole experience seemed to be an illustration of the word of promise, "Ask, and ye shall receive."
One of the things that struck me as being referable to nothing but the teaching of the Holy Spirit, was the interest manifested by this boy for the Jews. His active Protestantism was easily accounted for; but to give him an idea of Judaism would have been impossible. He could not read. His knowledge of language did not go far enough to enable him to understand the construction of a sentence; and though he spelled correctly, and wrote readily whatever he wished to say, and his mode of expression was generally quite intelligible to others, he did not comprehend what was spoken or written in the ordinary way. Accustomed to attach a distinct meaning to every word, and acquainted with very few besides nouns and a few verbs, which he only used in the present tense, independent of the pronouns, and without reference to number, he was quite lost among the other parts of speech. For instance, if I had wanted to say, "You must go to the village and buy me a small loaf of bread," I should have expressed it thus: "Jack, go village, money, bread small, one." Grammatically expressed, the order would have been unintelligible to him: but few would have misunderstood it in the uncouth phrase last instanced. He would have gone to the shop, and writing down, "Bread small, one," would have held out the money, and made a sign to express what size he wanted. It was this very fact of the impossibility of conveying to his mind any clear notion of things invisible and spiritual, that so gloriously manifested the power and goodness of God in causing the light to shine into his heart. To a reader who never witnessed the attempts of an intelligent, half-taught deaf mute to express his meaning and to catch that of others, much of what I state respecting Jack may and must appear, if not incredible, at least unintelligible; yet none who ever saw and conversed with him would fail to substantiate it, and they were very many. That zealous missionary, Dr. Wolff, visited my brother's cottage when he and I were both absent, and no one could assist Jack in conversing with him; yet so great was his delight, that he wanted to take him to Palestine, to instruct the deaf and dumb in the doctrine of Christ. The Rev. H. H. Beamish is another who cannot, without emotion, recall his intercourse with that dying Christian. General Orde, who saw him very frequently, regarded him as a wonder of divine grace; and the Rev. W. Hancock, his beloved pastor, who for four years observed him closely, often said he derived greater encouragement from the experience and the prayers of that poor boy, than from almost any other earthly source. Unbelievers will doubt; but those who know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ will adore.
Still it will be evident that Jack could not read the Bible. He took great delight in copying it out, dwelling on such words as he knew; but I have seen him turn over two leaves and go on wholly unconscious, of any mistake: and I have found among his papers whole pages, composed of half sentences and single epithets from Scripture, put together in unbroken paragraphs, without any meaning. With all this, he was ardently attached to the Jewish cause, and always told me "Jesus Christ love poor Jew; Jew soon love Jesus Christ." When speaking of them, he would look very tender and sorrowful, moving his head slowly from side to side, and his hand as if stroking some object in a caressing way. At such times it was curious to mark the effect of naming a "priest Roman" to him. In a moment his aspect changed to something ludicrously repulsive: he stuck his hands in his sides, puffed out his cheeks to their full extent, scowled till his brows overhung his eyelids, and generally finished by appearing to seize a goblet and drain off the contents to the last drop, inflating his body, stroking it, smacking his lips, and strutting about. This he did, not as imputing drunkenness to the priesthood, but their denying the cup to the laity, and swallowing the contents themselves. Though his acting was laughably comic, his feeling was that of serious and severe indignation; and he would reprove us for the laughter it was utterly impossible to restrain, saying, with triumphant confidence, "God see." * * *
The two shortest years of my life were now drawing to a close. My brother had completed his studies, passed his examination, and was under orders to join his regiment in Ireland. Oh how my heart rose in prayer, that where I had found a spiritual blessing he also might receive it. I could not understand the state of his mind on the most vital of all points: he had imbibed a prejudice so strong against the class of people called evangelical, that nothing but his generous affection for us would have induced him to receive under his roof two of that proscribed body, to say nothing of Jack. He confessed to me, laughing, not long after we became his inmates, that he supposed we should be falling on our knees half a dozen times a day, singing psalms all over the house, and setting our faces against every thing merry or cheerful. He had never been acquainted with any serious person before going to Portugal, nor during his short leaves of absence at home: none of that class ever crossed his path abroad, and he came home prepared to believe any thing that was told him of the supposed fanatics, whom he understood to be a sort of ranting dissenters. At Clifton, extremes then ran far; the gay people most violently denouncing their sober neighbors, and making up all sorts of scandal concerning them. Hannah More was pointed out as "queen of the Methodists," and a most infamous lie, wholly destructive of her moral character, circulated among a narrow but dissipated clique as a known fact; while the small fry of fanatics were disposed of by dozens in a similar way. The faithful clergyman, whose ministry we attended, was absolutely persecuted; and his congregation could expect no better at the same hands. I am very far from charging this upon the generality of even worldly people there; but it did exist, visibly and sensibly; and my dear brother evidently had fallen in with some of these wholesale calumniators, before he could possibly judge for himself. A visit to Barley Wood, and a very prolonged interview with the "queen," greatly staggered his prejudices; he was perfectly charmed with her, and remarked to me that if all her subjects were like her, they must be a very agreeable set of people. Still he apprehended an outbreak of extravagance when we should be fairly installed in his abode; and though he soon became undeceived, and learned to take the greatest delight in the society of General Orde, Mr. Sandford, and others equally decided; though he punctually attended the faithful ministry of Mr. Hancock at the college chapel, besides his regular appearance at the usual military service, and would not allow one disparaging word to be uttered in his presence of that zealous preacher or his deeply spiritual discourses; though he chose from among his brother officers a bold, uncompromising Christian as his most intimate associate, and gave many unconscious indications that he had received the doctrine of man's total corruption, and the nothingness of his best works; though he became the warm advocate of a scriptural education for the youthful poor, whom he had always before considered most safe and happy in total ignorance—still, with all this, I could not see even in his beautiful devout bearing in public worship where the reverse so sadly prevailed, and where every thing approaching to seriousness became a matter of suspicion, that he was really seeking God. In fact, I had been too much in the trammels of a system which lays down arbitrary rules, and will not admit that God is working unless his hand be immediately and openly apparent to all. I would not believe that what looked green and beautiful was a blade of corn, just because it had not yet grown to an ear: and I refrained from speaking when perhaps speech on such subjects would have been more welcome than he wished to acknowledge, lest the remarks that I longed to utter might prove unpalatable, and produce the contrary effect to what I desired. He was only going for a little while: an appointment on the home-staff was promised, and then I was to live with him again, and I would zealously pursue the work. Alas, what a rod was prepared for my unbelief and presumption! The present was slighted, in the confident expectation of a future that was never to arrive.