« EelmineJätka »
ing, he led him before me into a saloon, where supper was prepared.
“ It was impossible for me, as I sat at supper, to keep my eyes off the child; though my father hinted to me more than once, in German, that my close examination of him seemed to perplex him, for he coloured perpetually, the blood continually mounting in his delicate cheek, and the tears sometimes starting in his dark blue eyes. Still, though he was thus disconcerted, and though he verified not a single idea which I had formed of him, nor any description I had ever heard of him, yet there was a certain something about him, a dovelike softness in some expressions of his sparkling eye, a grace, a courtesy, a humility, and a childlike innocence, so remarkable in all he said, and all he did, that he appeared to me like the creature of another and a sinless
rld; so that I could not help saying to my father, in German, This boy is charming, he is all that is lovely. But what is it which makes him to differ so entirely from every
other child I ever saw?' My father looked at him with eyes beaming with love, and confessed the truth of my remark; but said, that, during the few days they had passed together, he had not been able to induce him to converse much, as he had appeared somewhat bewildered at the variety of new things which presented themselves to his observation, as well as dejected by his separation from his tutor.
“I knew that Mr. Gisborne had been left at Bonn, and I took occasion to ask my father what he was.
"We know him to be a good man,' he said, ' and I have found him to be a polite and even an elegant man in his manners; a neat old gentleman,' added my father, smiling, 'who would die rather than commit å breach of politeness. But I have conversed very little with him, and can give no account of his intellectual acquirements; yet I should hardly think they are very remarkable.'
". But the child looks intelligent,' I said.
“At any rate,' replied my father, parting the golden ringlets on the brow of the child, while the lovely boy raised his gentle eyes to his grandfather, as if to enquire what we were saying of him, this is no ordinary, no common, no vulgar countenance; and yet it is not
the mere beauty of Aesh and blood, of red and white, of shape and feature, that charms me; neither is it altogether an intellectual glory which beams from those eyes; for though there is sufficient fire, yet it is a fire so quenched by love, so shrouded by modest and tender feelings, that I hardly know what to say or what to think of it: but this I know, that Raphael himself could not have desired a fitter subject from whence to draw the features and expression of an infant Jesus.'
“ Thus my father and I reasoned about the expression of this child's countenance, being incapable at that time, and for a long while afterwards, of appreciating his real character, which was that, I have every reason to think, of one truly converted to God, and bearing in heart and character the impression of his new birth ; for, as old John Bunyan beautifully remarks in his Pilgrim's Progress — The Lord setteth a seal upon the foreheads of those whom he hath washed in his blood, which maketh them look exceeding fair.'
“During the first few days after little Alfred's arrival, he seldom spoke, and seemed rather uneasy when particularly addressed. In the mean time, I often saw the tears tremble in his eyes, notwithstanding his efforts to suppress them. But, as the sorrows of childhood speedily pass away, so when the little boy became more accustomed to those about him, the pensiveness of his manner gradually disappeared, and he became more cheerful.
" At the end of a week, my father suggested, as it was not certain how soon Mr. Gisborne might arrive, or how long his absence might be protracted, that it would be well to supply the child with some employment. But before any thing of this sort could properly be done, it was necessary to ascertain what the child had already learned, and how far his mind had been cultivated: Í accordingly undertook to investigate these matters without going through the awful process of a regular examination. It was now the of year wh nature, reviving from the stern influence of winter, begins to adorn the fields and groves with every variety of budding beauty, and when every breeze is filled with the odours of the new-born flowers. I invited my little nephew to walk out with me, and, by way of encouragement, promised to take him to a narrow valley not far distant from Warenheim, which it was said had been inhabited in former times by a water nymph, who used to entice unwary travellers into her place of residence, and there destroy them.
How,' said the little boy, as he stepped out with me upon the lawn in order to commence our walk, how did this water nymph persuade people to come to her?'
". Through the sweetness of her voice,' I replied.
“Ah, then,' replied he, with quickness, I know well of what substance she was made, and I doubt not but her voice is as sweet now as ever it was, unless some of the rocks or hills which surrounded her habitation are removed.'
“I was surprised at the acuteness of his reply, and said, 'I mistake, my little boy, if you have not studied the history of the unfortunate daughter of Tellus and Air: you have undoubtedly read the Metamorphoses of Ovid?'
“ He made me repeat the question again; and then answered, “I have never heard of Ovid.”
“Then how,' I asked, 'came you to fancy the water nymph was only an echo?'
Because,' he answered, “I know that there are no such things as water nymphs; but I have heard echoes many times in solitary places.'
“But how do you know,' I said, that there are no such things as water nymphs? Perhaps you do not believe in fairies?'
“ He looked up to me with a wonderfully sweet and intelligent smile, and said, 'O, aunt Ellen, I know very well what things we ought to believe, and what things are only invented for entertainment.'
“ While I was preparing to answer him, we were come to the brow of the hill on which our habitation was situated, and were approaching a temple erected in that place to the goddess of hunting, whose statue, as large as life, was set up within the temple, with her bow and quiver, and her feet covered with buskins. The ascent to this temple was by several marble steps, and I asked my little companion if he would sit down and take a view of the mountains which were seen from that spot to the greatest advantage: for a wilder or more magnificent scene than that which presented itself where we had taken our station, is perhaps not to be found throughout the Continent, unless it may be among the snowy regions of the mountains of Switzerland. Directly before us was a deep valley, through which poured a rapid mountain stream, dashing and foaming, and, as it were, fretting itself, as it made its way through numerous impediments of huge stones and rocks, which seemed to have fallen from the heights above. On the other side of the valley were hills tumbled upon hills in various forms of rude magnificence; some bare and rugged; some clothed with verdure, and affording many a fragrant sheep-walk and breezy down; while others were black with forests of pine, the growth of ages, dark, intertangled, and impenetrable, excepting to the wild beasts of the forest, or the most savage and lawless of the human race. Here and there a few thatched dwellings were scattered in groups, or single, and at considerable intervals, among the hills or within the valleys; and, from time to time, the tolling of a bell, or the striking of a clock, from the roof of some house, reminded us that there was something like civilization even among these desolated regions.
“I know not what passed in the mind of the child while he sat contemplating the view above described; but on hearing a bell, he turned to me, and said, 'Are these people Christians ?'
“"What people?' I asked. “The people who live in this country,' he added, are they Christians ?'
“Certainly,' I answered. What made you ask the question?'
“He rather hesitated, and slightly turned his eye towards the figure in the temple.
“ I observed this motion of his eye, and said, “You don't suppose, I imagine, that any one here worships these images ? They are only put in these places for ornament.'
"0!' said the little boy, seemingly satisfied with the explanation; but again returning to the chargeis it not wicked, aunt Ellen, to make images?'
• Wicked!' I answered, 'why should it be wicked ?' "Because of the second commandment,' he answer
ed. • You know that the second commandment says“ Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth.”
"And is this the whole of the second commandment?' I asked.
No,' said the little boy, “there is more-- .“ Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shew mercy unto thousands in them that love me and keep my commandments.
Strange to say, I found myself quite embarrassed with this child's questions, and began to feel myself a little uneasy in my situation. I therefore made no further reply to his enquiries respecting images, but referred him to his tutor, and, in pursuit of the object for which I had sought this tête-à-tête, I enquired of him what his studies had been before he left England ?
“ At the name of England his colour heightened, and he hesitated a moment; but at length he informed me that he had been taught to read the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Testament, though he still knew only little of either of them. I then questioned him respecting the Greek; and was surprised to find that his knowledge of the language was by no means despicable, considering his tender age.
“I then proceeded to question him on the subject of history, and found that he was far from being ignorant on that point; though his knowledge was of a kind which in some degree confounded me, and left the game wholly in his own hands: notwithstanding which I found no great difficulty in concealing his triumph from him, so great was the amiable simplicity of his nature. I had commenced my enquiries by asking if he had ever learned history; and upon his replying in the affirmative, I enquired if he could give me the outline of any one history which he had studied. He immediately and without hesitation obeyed; and taking up the history of Assyria, he traced the whole story of that people from their forerunner, Ashur, son of Shem, down to the time of our Saviour.