صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

a

The whole town was in great affliction at the death of the minister, for every one loved good Mr. Marvel; and the talk was all about his doings during the time of the plague, and how he visited the sick and dying at the hazard of his own life.

The next day Uncle John was much worse, for we could not hide from him the sudden loss of our friend, and the shock, doubtless, increased his disorder. As I was watching him that evening, while my aunt took a little rest, I heard him sighing deeply, and talking with himself, sometimes as if he prayed, and sometimes as if he was going over his past life.

"Alice," he said at last, “I can't think of one really good deed I have done ; everything seems worthless now ; I have no comfort in looking back.”

“We must look up," I ventured to say.

“Aye. So Mr. Marvel would tell me; but he is gone, his journey is ended. Why was he in such haste to get home before me, when I need his help so much ? Do you think he will be waiting to receive me, Alice ? do you think he will own me for his friend in heaven before the Lord and His angels ? "

“I think,” said I, “ that the Lord himself will be the first to welcome and to own you, for he must love those for whom He died. I don't think, uncle, we shall need anyone to take us to Him."

“I am not worthy of His notice," he replied, with a groan.

“But He loves sinners," said I. "He wants us all in heaven, uncle."

“I have been proud, Alice, and thinking myself very good and charitable. I wonder how the Lord will bear to look upon such a sinful, ungrateful creature as I am."

· Mr. Marvel said He delighted in mercy," returned I, distressed by my uncle's want of confidence in the Redeemer's love and pity.

“There is no one to pray with me now, Alice; and my mind is confused and tumbled about with doubts and fears."

"I will pray with you,” cried I; and then, as soon as I had spoken I repented, for I had never prayed aloud in my life; but uncle thanked me so eagerly that I had not the heart to draw back. I was sinfully ashamed as I knelt down; and then what a few feeble words I said! Yet I think uncle was rather comforted, for he blessed me and said that I should not lose my reward.

That night he died. We were all gathered round his bed; and when poor aunt saw that the end was truly come, her sorrow distressing to behold. With loving words my uncle tried to soothe her grief, bidding her prepare for her own journey. He also gave Will some parting counsels ; and then, turning to my father, he said, “Be assured there are troublous times coming for our country,

[ocr errors]

9

va

Edward; but

my work is done, and a better man will be found to fill my place."

No one can take your place, John,” said aunt, who was ten. derly holding his head on her bosom.

“Not here, dear wife; not in thy heart, I. well believe," he answered; and we all know what an affectionate pair they have been.

I had so shrunk from the thought of death ; but there was nothing to make one afraid, only the chamber seemed more solemn than any church, and it was as if there stood by us beings whom we could not see. We watched and waited, and once, when uncle slept, we thought his spirit had left us; but just before he departed he held out his hands, like one groping in the dark, and exclaimed, "Hold Thou me up, good Lord, or I perish.” Then a soft light broke over his face, he smiled, and, with one gentle sigh, went to dwell in light for evermore.

If we think not on eternity, it is because we will not hear two well-loved voices telling us to remember that we are mortal: the one comes from the waves that roll over the head of our pastor, and the other from a grave beneath the altar of the church.

Master Ralph returned from Cambridge, bringing young Andrew with him; but I scarcely saw our guest, for my aunt would have me to stay with her until the funeral. It was a cold and sunless day when Uncle John was carried to the family vault in Trinity Church. The windows and balconies of the houses were hung with black cloth, which made the streets look very melan. choly. Many hearts were sad, and a number of poor people stood by the wayside, weeping; for uncle was a most charitable man. After the procession had returned, and the principal townsfolk had partaken of Will's hospitality (how strange it was to see him doing the honours as host!), we were summoned to the great drawing-room, and my father opened the will. It had been made since the commencement of his sickness, and related chiefly to a new hospital, to be built near Trinity Church, for the habitation and sustentation of six poor men and six poor women. Amongst the names of dear friends who were to carry out this pious work was included “his good friend Andrew Marvel, preacher of God's Word,”—a name that much affected us all, especially his son, who was present.

When the reading was ended my aunt withdrew, and I attended her to her chamber for company; but Mistress Crowle coming in, I soon left them and returned to the drawing-room. My father was sitting at the table, talking with Mr. Peregrine Pelham (who is to serve in Parliament with Mr. Vane, in the place of my poor uncle). Master Andrew Marvel was standing alone by one of the

windows, and as I came in he invited me to a seat on the cushions. I think he was as embarrassed as myself, for he did not speak directly, and I had time to mark the difference that five years had made in my old playfellow. I had hardly seen him since he went away to Cambridge, leaving me crying bitterly over his departure. Now he is a man, and has the most comely face and figure I have ever seen- except my father's. I see no one that can compare with him. Master Ralph is handsome, but there is something in Andrew's face that is better than beauty. His eyes are large and brown, and his beautiful mouth looks as if it could only say good and true words. Master Ralph dresses very gaily, in velvet and lace ruffles; but Andrew's plain black suit and white collar please me better-they look more manly and scholarly. I blushed to think that once I had told this learned gentleman all my childish troubles, and I wished myself back again in my aunt's room.

At last he spoke, saying that I, too, was changed from the little maiden who used to borrow books from his dear father's study; he supposed that I had become too dignified to sit on the floor with a volume in my lap. I replied that “I was still guilty of that babit, but only indulged in it in private.”

“ "I hope," said he, "you are not going to make a stranger of me, Mistress Alice, now that I am old enough to prize your friend. ship.”

I replied that I should feel honoured by having such a learned friend. He smiled, and rejoined, “I perceive that you still entertain your old reverence for my supposed wisdom; but indeed the honour is all conferred on me."

Presently he referred to his father, and though he tried to hide his emotion, I could perceive that this loss had been a cruel blow to him.

“When did you see him last?” he asked.
“The day before the accident happened," I replied.

“Will you tell me all about it? and do not think me impertinent, Mistress Alice.”

"Oh, no!” cried I, when I could speak, for I had such a lump in my throat, and was trying hard to keep from crying. I told

I Andrew all that passed, and he listened so greedily to every word, that I did wish I had more to tell.

“His last message was for me 'to remember him!”” sighed Andrew. “My father is not one to be soon forgotten.”

“It must be a comfort now to think that you never vexed him," I remarked, wanting to say something.

"I grieved him once, Mistress Alice.” I looked incredulous. 'Ab, he never spoke of it, and I believe he never loved me less. I will tell you, even at the risk of shaking your confidence in my

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

wisdom. Two years ago this very month I left Cambridge, and went up to London. I did not go secretly, for I wrote, telling my father all my reasons for deserting the University. I had fallen in with a very fascinating Romish priest, who was continually seeking my company, and introducing the subject of his own religion. Ho was very artful, and I inexcusably foolish, for he made me believe that it was a glorious thing to belong to his persecuted Church; and so I left my studies and accompanied him to town, eager to declare myself as a champion of the only true Church,' as he styled it. The first thing that shook my confidence in this Jesuit was the contempt with which he spoke of my father; thinking me safe as a convert, he was less guarded, and dropped part of his mask. Wo came to high words, and when my father arrived in London I was quite ready to return to Cambridge. You may imagine how humbled I felt, and how disgusted with the man I had looked upon as almost a saint. But not a word of reproach came from my father. He had travelled night and day, in a state of the greatest anxiety, to rescue me; and I might have supposed he had forgotten all about the matter, except for the sound advice he afterwards gave me, and the care he took to strengthen me in Protestant doctrines and arguments. That piece of folly has weighed heavily on my mind the last few days."

“I remember well your father going to London, as he said, on urgent business ; but I think he did not even hint to my father what that business wag."

“And, now I have confessed my sin and folly, are you still willing to admit me to a share in your regards, Mistress Alice ? " he asked.

а I assured him that if he had been faultless I should have declined his acquaintance, for I was too full of imperfections myself to bear the reproachful society of a faultless being. After such a long speech I felt shy, and there was another awkward silence, which Andrew broke by saying,

“Sometimes, when I am in my own rooms at college, quite alone with my books, I find myself going over my happy boyish days again, and fancy I am chasing my sister Ann round the old garden, or am lying under the pear tree, or sitting with you in the colonel's library, dreaming over some old romance."

Our further converse was interrupted by Master Ralph, who craved my pardon, but said that the Colonel wished to speak with

[ocr errors]

me.

“ Alice,” said my father, "you must bid your aunt good even, and "

“ return with me. I can spare you no longer." And willing enough I was to go home again, though not weary of cheering one who is so sorrowfal.

As he was conducting me home Master Ralph observed that he

did not know I was so well acquainted with young Marvel. It seemed also to me that it did not please him that I should praise that gentleman; and yet only yesterday I heard him say he had discovered that Andrew was “a man of uncommon parts, and of a ready wit."

CHAPTER IIJ.-BAYARD CASTLE. Before ihe month of May had flown, Alice had regained more cheerfulness than she could have believed possible. Not that she forgot in that brief while the kind and large-hearted Sir Joha Lister; and much less did she cease to mourn for the godly minister, whose place on the Sabbath could never be entirely filled. Mr. Marvel's successor, Mr. Styles, might be as faithful a preacher, but peculiar ties bound Alice to her early friend, whose daily life had been more impressive than the most eloquent sermons.

Young Andrew lingered still at home; at first thinking of little else than his trouble and loneliness; but, after a few weeks, the student became a frequent, indeed almost daily, visitor at the Colonel's house; here he always received a warm welcome from the master, a shy but smiling one from Alice, and an uncommonly gracious one from Janet and Simon, with whom he was a great favourite. The only person who felt Andrew's visits to be an unwelcome intrusion, was Ralph Hildyard, who made no mention of leaving Hull, and seemed wonderfully contented with the quiet life which the household in High Street led. Perhaps a little of its charm consisted in the marked contrast it formed to his usual mode of existence; but an observant eye could have detected another cause for prolonged stay; and here, too, contrast may have enhanced the charm. He could not see his host's fair daughter day by day without feeling the influence of her unworldly, loving nature; especially as these qualities were united with great beauty and refinement, and a degree of mental culture that was not commonly possessed by the ladies of Ralph's time. He was soon aware that this timid country maiden was superior to most of the proud dames he knew. Spoiled as he had been by the world, he could still discern between gold and tinsel, and could reverence goodness, though it was dressed in a plain, woollen gown.

But Ralph carefully concealed his feelings, studying Alice as a new specimen of womankind, for as the days wore on she was more at ease in his presence, her words and actions were less constrained. He was willing to work his way steadily to her favour and confidence ; when Andrew aroused bis jealousy, and overturned many of his little plans, by constantly drawing Alice's attention to himself. To her the scholar's presence was some relief from Ralph's oppressive gallantries ; for, when beguiled from his grief, there could not be

« السابقةمتابعة »