Page images
PDF
EPUB

by this time surrounded by a dozen of barking curs and the same number of shouting urchins, a pretty sharp touch of the spurs, as well as for complaining bitterly of the odour of the atmosphere. It is no landscape without figures; and you might notice—if you are, as I suppose you to be, a man of observation—in every sink as you pass along, a 'slip of a pig' stretched in the middle of the mud, the very

beau ideal of luxury, giving occasionally a long luxuriant grunt highly expressive of his enjoyment; or perhaps an old farrower, lying in indolent repose with half a dozen young ones jostling each other for their draught, and punching her belly with their little snouts, reckless of the fumes they are creating ; whilst the loud crow of the cock, as he confidently flaps his wings on his own dunghill, gives the warning note for the hour of dinner.

As you advance, you will also perceive several faces thrust out of the doors, and rather than miss a sight of you, a grotesque visage peeping by a short cut through the paneless windows, or a tattered female flying to snatch up her urchin, that has been tumbling itself heels up in the dirt of the road, lest 'the gentleman's horse might ride over it,' and if you happen to look behind, you may observe a shaggyheaded youth in tattered frieze, with one hand thrust indolently in his breast, standing at the door in conversation with the inmates, a broad grin of sarcastic ridicule on his face, in the act of breaking a joke or two on yourself or your horse ; or perhaps your jaw may be saluted with a lump of clay, just hard enough not to fall asunder as it flies, cast by some ragged gossoon from behind a hedge, who squats himself in a ridge of corn to avoid detection.

Seated upon a hob at the door you may observe a toil-worn man, without coat or waistcoat, his red, muscular, sunburnt shoulder peeping through the remnant of a shirt, mending his shoes with a piece of twisted flax, called a lingel, or perhaps sewing two footless stockings, or martyeens, to his coat, as a substitute for sleeves.

In the gardens, which are usually fringed with nettles, you will see a solitary labourer, working with that carelessness and apathy that characterises an Irishman when he labours for himself, leaning upon his spade to look after you, and glad of any excuse to be idle.

The houses, however, are not all such as I have described— far from it. You see here and there, between the more humble cabins, a stout comfortable looking farmhouse, with ornamental thatching and well glazed windows ; adjoining to which is a hay-yard, with five or six large stacks of corn, well trimmed and roped, and a fine yellow weatherbeaten old hayrick, half cut,—not taking into account twelve or thirteen circular strata of stones, that mark out the foundations on which others had been raised. Neither is the rich smell of oaten or wheaten bread, which the good wife is baking on the griddle, unpleasant to your nostrils ; por would the bubbling of a large pot, in which you might see, should you chance to enter, a prodigious square of fat, yellow, and almost transparent bacon tumbling about, be an unpleasant object; truly, as it hangs over a large fire, with well-swept hearth-stone, it is in good keeping with the white settle and chairs, and the dresser with noggins, wooden trenchers, and pewter dishes, perfectly clean, and as well polished as a French courtier. As

you leave the village you have, to the left, a view of the hill which I have already described, and to the right, a level expanse of fertile country, bounded by a good view of respectable mountains, peering directly into the sky; and in a line that forms an acute angle from the point of the road where you ride, is a delightful valley, in the bottom of which shines a pretty lake ; and a little beyond, on the slope of a green hill, rises a splendid house, surrounded by a park well wooded and stocked with deer. You have now topped the little hill above the village, and a straight line of level road, a mile long, goes forward to a country town, which lies immediately behind that white church, with its spire cutting into the sky before you. You descend on the other side, and, having advanced a few perches, look to the left, where you see a long thatched chapel, only distinguished from a dwelling house by its want of chimneys, and a small stone cross that stands on the top o the eastern gable ; behind it is a grave-yard, and beside it a snug public-house, well white-washed ; then, to the right, you observe a door, apparently in the side of a clay bank, which rises considerably above the pavement of the road. What ! you ask yourself, can this be a human habitation ? But ere you have time to answer the question, a confused buzz of voices from within reaches your car, and the appearance of a little gossoon, with a red close-cropped head and Milesian face, having in his hand a short white stick, or the thigh bone of a horse, which you at once recognise as 'the pass' of a village school, gives you the full information. He has an ink-horn, covered with leather, dangling at the button-hole (for he has long since played away the buttons) of his frieze jacket_his mouth is circumscribed with a streak of ink-his pen is stuck knowingly behind his ear-his shins are dotted over with fire-blisters, black, red, and blue-on each heel a kibe his leather crackers,' videlicet, breeches, shrunk up upon him, and only reaching as far down as the caps of his knees. Having spied you, he places his hand over his brows, to throw back the dazzling light of the sun, and peers at you from under it, till he breaks out into a laugh, exclaiming, half to himself, half to you

“You a gintleman !--no, nor one of your breed never was, you procthorin'thief you!"

You are now immediately opposite the door of the seminary, when half a dozen of those seated next it notice you,

“Oh, sir, here's a gintleman on a horse !-masther, sir, here's a gintleman on a horse, wid boots and spurs on him, that's looking in at us."

“Silence !” exclaims the master ; “ back from the door-boys, rehearse overy one of you rehearse, I say, you Bæotians, till the gintleman goes past !"

“I want to go out, if you plase, sir.” No, you don't, Phelim.” “I do, indeed, sir.” “What! is it afther contradictin' me you'd be ? Don't you see the 'porter's' out,

“Well, 'tis Mat Meehan has it, şir; and he's out this half-hour, sir ; I cant stay in, sir,"

You want to be idling your time looking at the gintleman, Phelim."

No, indeed, sir.” “Phelim, I knows you of ould go to your sate. I tell you, Phelim, you were born for the encouragement of the hemp manufacture, and you'll die promoting it."

In the mean time the master puts his head out of the door, his body stooped to a « half bend” -a phrase, and the exact curve which it forms, I leave for the present to your own sagacity-and surveys you until you pass. That is an Irish hedge-school, and the personage who follows you with his eye a hedge-schoolmaster.

and you

can't

go.”

41.—THE RISING OF THE WATERS.

GALT. [JOHN GALT, a man of decided genius, though very unequal in his efforts, was born in Ayrshire in 1779. He died in 1839. It was late in life before he discovered the proper direction of his talents—that of quiet fiction, founded upon a faithful observation of the domestic characteristics of the humbler classes of his own countrymen. "The Annals of the Parish,—the work which at once established his reputation,

,— was published in 1821.• Lawrie Todd,' from which the following is an extract, appeared in 1830, after Mr. Galt's return from an official station in Canada. As a picture of the Scotchman in America, there is nothing superior in homely truth and quaint humour.]

About daybreak it began to rain, and continued to pour with increasing violence all the morning ; no one thought of stirring abroad who could keep within shelter. My boys and I had for task only to keep the fire at the door of the shanty brisk and plazing, and to notice that the pools which began to form around us did not become too large ; for sometimes, besides the accumulation of the rain, little streams would suddenly break out, and, rushing towards us, would have extinguished our fire, had we not been vigilant.

The site I had chosen for the shanty was near to a little brook, on the top of the main river's bank. In fine weather, no situation could be more beautiful ; the brook was clear as crystal, and fell in a small cascade into the river, which, broad and deep, ran beneath the bank with a swift but smooth current.

The forest up the river had not been explored above a mile or two: all beyond was the unknown wilderness. Some vague rumours of small lakes and beaver dams were circulated in the village, but no importance was attached to the information : save but for the occasional little torrents with which the rain sometimes hastily threatened to extinguish our fires, we had no cause to dread inundation.

The rain still continued to fall incessantly : the pools it formed in the hollows of the ground began, towards noon, to overflow their banks, and to become united. By and by something like a slight current was observed passing from one to another ; but, thinking only of preserving our fire, we no farther noticed this than by occasionally running out of the shanty into the shower, and scraping a channel to let the water run off into the brook or the river.

It was hoped that about noon the rain would slacken ; but in this we were disappointed. It continued to increase, and the ground began to be so flooded, while the brook swelled to a river, that we thought it might become necessary to shift our tent to a higher part of the bank. To do this we were, however, reluctant, for it was impossible to encounter the deluge without being almost instantly soaked to the skin ; and we had put the shanty up with more care and pains than usual, intending it should serve us for a home until our house was comfortably furnished.

About three o'clock the skies were dreadfully darkened and overcast. I had never seen such darkness while the sun was above the horizon, and still the rain continued to descend in cataracts, but at fits and intervals. No man, who had not seen the like, would credit the description.

Suddenly a sharp flash of lightning, followed by an instantaneous thunder-peal, lightened up all the forest; and almost in the same moment the rain came lavishing along as if the windows of heaven were opened ; anon another flash, and a louder peal burst upon us, as if the whole forest was rending over and around us.

I drew my helpless and poor trembling little boys under the skirts of my great coat.

Then there was another frantic flash, and the roar of the thunder was augmented by the riven trees that fell, cloven on all sides in a whirlwind of splinters. But though the lightning was more terrible than scimitars, and the thunder roared as if the vaults of heaven were shaken to pieces and tumbling in, the irresistible rain was still more appalling than either. I have said it was as if the windows of heaven were opened. About sunset, the ground floods were as if the fountains of the great deep were breaking up.

I pressed my shivering children to my bosóm, but I could not speak. At the common shanty, where there had been for some time an affectation of mirth and ribaldry, there was now silence : at last, as if with one accord, all the inhabitants rushed from below their miserable shed, tore it into pieces, and ran with the fragments to a higher ground, crying wildly, “ The river is rising !"

I had seen it swelling for some time, but our shanty stood so far above the stream, that I had no fear it would reach us. Scarcely, however, had the axemen escaped from theirs, and planted themselves on the crown of a rising ground nearer to us, where they were hastily constructing another shed, when a tremendous crash and roar was heard at some distance in the woods, higher up the stream. It was so awful, I had almost said so omnipotent, in the sound, that I started on my feet, and shook my treasures from me. For a moment the Niagara of the river seemed almost to pause—it was but for a moment—for, instantly after, the noise of the rending of weighty trees, the crashing and the tearing of the rooted forest, rose around. The waters of the river, troubled and raging, came hurling with the wreck of the woods, sweeping with inconceivable fury everything that stood within its scope ;-a lake had burst its banks.

The sudden rise of the waters soon, however, subsided; I saw it ebbing fast, and comforted my terrified boys. The rain also began to abate. Instead of those dreaded sheets of waves which fell upon us as if some vast ocean behind the forest was heaving over its spray, a thick continued small rain came on; and, about an hour after sunset, streaks and breaks in the clouds gave some token that the worst was over ;-it was not, however, so, for about the same time a stream appeared in the hollow, between the rising ground to which the axemen had retired, and the little knoll on which our shanty stood ; at the same time the waters in the river began to swell again. There was on this occasion no abrupt and bursting noise ; but the night was fast closing upon us, and a hoarse muttering and angry sound of many waters grew louder and louder on all sides.

The darkness and increasing rage of the river, which there was just twilight enough to show was rising above the brim of the bank, smote me with inexpressible terror. I snatched my children by the hand, and rushed forward to join the axemen ; but the torrent between us rolled so violently that to pass was impossible, and the waters still continued to rise.

I called aloud to the axemen for assistance; and, when they heard my desperate cries, they came out of the shed, some with burning brands and others with their axes glittering in the flames; but they could render no help ; at last, one man, a fearless backwoodsman, happened to observe, by the firelight, a tree on the bank of the torrent, which it in some degree overhung, and he called for others to join him in making a bridge. In the course of a few minutes the tree was laid across the stream, and we scrambled over, just as the river extinguished our fire and swept our shanty away.

This rescue was in itself so wonderful, and the scene had been so terrible, that it was some time after we were safe before I could rouse myself to believe I was not in the fangs of the nightmare. My poor boys clung to me as if still not assured of their security, and I wept upon their necks in the ecstasy of an unspeakable passion of anguish and joy.

About this time the mizzling rain began to fall softer; the dawn of the morn appeared through the upper branches of the forest, and here and there the stars looked out from their windows in the clouds. The storm was gone, and the deluge assuaged; the floods all around us gradually ebbed away, and the insolent and unknown waters which had so swelled the river shrunk within their banks, and, long before the morning, had retired from the scene.

Need I say that anthems of deliverance were heard in our camp that night? Oh, surely no ! The woods answered to our psalms, and waved their mighty arms; the green leaves clapped their hands; and the blessed moon, lifting the veil from her forehead, and looking down upon us through the boughs, gladdened our solemn rejoicing

42.-RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE.

ROBERT HALL. [The following ‘Half Hour' is from a Sermon entitled “The Advantages of Knowledge to the Lower Classes, preached (in recommendation of a school) at Leicester by the Reverend Robert Hall, and published by him in 1810. Robert Hall was the son of a minister of the Baptist persuasion, and was himself educated for the same course of usefulness. He was born in 1764, and died in 1831. His various Tracts and Sermons were collected by Dr. Olinthus Gregory, and published in 6 vols. They have recently been reprinted in a cheap form. Some of his works are of a polemical nature; but many of them recommend them. selves to all Christians by their fervent piety and their flowing eloquence. He may be considered the most celebrated man, amongst the Dissenters, of modern times,-a man fitted to adorn the Ministry, and elevate humanity, by the holiness of his life, as well as by the splendour of his talents and the force of his character.]

Religion, on account of its intimate relation to a future state, is every man's proper business, and should be his chief care. Of knowledge in general, there are branches which it would be preposterous in the bulk of mankind to attempt to acquire, because they have no immediate connection with their duties, and demand talents which nature has denied, or opportunities which Providence has withheld. But with respect to the primary truths of religion the case is different ; they are of such daily use and necessity, that they form not the materials of mental luxury, so properly, as the food of the mind. In improving the character, the influence of general knowledge is often feeble and always indirect; of religious knowledge the tendency to purify the heart is immediate, and forms its professed scope and design. “ This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." To ascertain the character of the Supreme Author of all things, to know, as far as we are capable of comprehending such a subject, what is his moral disposition, what the situation we stand in towards him, and the principles by which he conducts his administration, will be allowed by every considerate person to be of the highest consequence. Compared to this, all other speculations and in. quiries sink into insignificance ; because every event that can befall us is in his hands, and by his sentence our final condition must be fixed. To regard such an inquiry with indifference, is the mark not of a noble but of an abject mind, which, immersed in sensuality or amused with trifles, “deems itself unworthy of eternal life.” To be so absorbed in worldly pursuits as to neglect future prospects, is a conduct that can plead no excuse, until it is ascertained beyond all doubt or contradiction that there is no hereafter, and that nothing remains but that we “eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” Even in that case, to forego the hope of immortality without a sigh ; to be gay and sportive on the brink of destruction, in the very moment of relinquishing prospects on which the wisest and best in every age have delighted to dwell, is the indication of a base and degenerate spirit. If existence be a good, the eternal loss of it must be a great evil ; if it be an evil, reason suggests the propriety of inquiring why it is so, of investigating the maladies by which it is oppressed. Amidst the darkness and uncertainty which hang over our future condition, Revelation, by bringing life and immortality to light, affords the only relief. In the Bible alone we learn the real character of the Supreme Being ; His holiness, justice, mercy, and truth ; the moral condition of man, considered in his relation to Him, is clearly pointed out; the doom of impenitent transgressors denounced ; and the method of obtaining mercy, through the interposition of a divine mediator, plainly revealed. There are two considerations which may suffice to evince the indispensable necessity of scriptural knowledge.

1. The scriptures contain an authentic discovery of the way "of salvation.” They are the revelation of mercy to a lost world ; a reply to that most interesting inquiry, What we must do to be saved. The distinguishing feature of the gospel system is

« EelmineJätka »