Page images
PDF
EPUB

MARY ANNERLEY.

Mary Annerley was born in the country, and had abode thero during the short seventeen years which had passed away of her quiet, and, till lately, happy life. The maiden purity of her heart was preserved unsullied amidst the shades that surrounded her humble dwelling. Remote equally from poverty and wealth, she performed the domestic duties which devolved on her, undegraded by any servile occupation. The produce of her father's farm was abundantly sufficient to provide for the comforts of his family, and cheerfulness reigned through every department of . their small establishment. All the sweet links of home-affections were twined around Mary's heart, filling it with such blessed feelings as gilded with a ray of sunshine, her humblest avocations. The very air—the green trees—the blue sky-the smooth stream-were pregnant with delight to her, and her mind blessed by its own piety, seldom went out into the future to search for objects to rest upon. If she tired of her employment within the house she stepped to the door and looked upon the face of nature, dislodging from every nook of her heart, by this gentle remedy, all spleen and discontent. She was so beloved by her parents, by her brother and sister, that she had no leisure to range abroad in search of other attachments, she was blooming in her seventeenth summer, yet all unconscious that there was one stfong tie of love of the strength of which she had had no experience. The marriage of her sister and her consequent removal was the only sorrow that had ruffled the stream of Mary's quiet life. Sometimes even yet she wept when she thought of the distance that divided her from that dear sister. But time had produced its usual effect of diminishing the poignancy of her grief. Her general cheerfulness made her the delight of the little household in the midst of which she dwelt as an angel of peace and joy. She was very beautiful, and her person possessed a sweet gentle grace, which accorded well with the purity and delicacy of her mind. A poet might have compared her, perhaps to Eve, before the cloud of sin and sorrow had marred the brightness of her native beauty.

When, at length, misfortune entered Mary's happy home, it seemed to take permanent abode there. Seasons were bad crops failed and their cattle died under incurable diseases. Like the messengers of Job, one sorrow seemed but the forerunner of another. The little family retired every night to weep over some fresh disaster, and they arose in the morning trembling from a too well-founded anticipation, that the day would bring

them additional cause of mourning. The result of this train of evils was the unwilling surrendering up of the farm the Annerleys had so long held, and the acceptance of a means of competence afforded them by the husband of their married daughter. They were to open a shop in a large commercial town and to the unspeakable regret of Mary-she was to exchange the balmy air, and the pleasant fields of her home, for the thick vapours of a city, and for crowded narrow streets, in which the sun never cheers with his full light of splendour.

It was her duty to yield to the will of Providence, and her countenance and words expressed perfect resignation. Her outward serenity abided the taking away of all their furniture ;-but when the pleasant rooms in which her happy days had been spent, were indeed desolate—when all but herself had left that cheerful place—she pressed her head against the cold, bare wall, and, for the first time in her life, was betrayed into a passionate burst of grief.

Mary leant for the last time from the casement of the little apartment she had been accustomed to occupy. There was scarcely an object upon which she looked, that did not recal some event that had been calendared amongst the white days of her life. She knew the inhabitants of every farm-house within the reach of her eye ; she had lived in habits of intimacy with many of them, and had constantly paid and received those visits of hospitality which cast so cheerful a light upon a countryhome. She thought there was a sighing sound of sorrow borne on the wind as it blew past her-she felt that she never could have tired of looking upon the beautiful landscape that lay around her home. But she felt also that this indulgence subdued her mind so that she would find it difficult to master her grief. At length, she slowly withdrew ; and with her own hand she closed against herself that door, which she had never

seen before with sorrow,—had never left without regret.

She had yet to pass through the little flower-garden that lay in the front of the house. This small plot of ground had been her peculiar case, affording, at once, wholesome exercise and pleasant recreation. She walked slowly over every narrow walk that separated the flower beds. It was unpolluted by a weed, and bore testimony to her assiduous attention to its beauty. There was a gay variety of colours jus unfolding their blushes to the day; and a delicious posfume was exhaled from the profusion of roses and of mignonette. Mary sighed at the anticipation of being immersed in a confined residence barren of all these sweets. She loved flowers with that natural inclination possessed by all delicate minds' ; she had indeed no scientific acquaintance with them, but how little essential that knowledge is to the enjoyment of them, is proved every day with equal force of evidence by the initiated and the ignorant. It is inconceivable how closely the heart will attach itself even to inanimate things which have been reared into beauty by its own efforts. Mary plucked up a rose tree by the roots, and planted it anew in a flower-pot, “ she would carry this one relic with her into town not as a token of remembrance,” she said to herself " for I shall never cease to see in my own mind all that belongs to my home. But I shall seem not to be quite shut out from it whilst I possess one of its prettiest ornaments."

Annerley opened his little shop of haberdashery. It was Mary's office to attend to their customers whilst her father was employed in business in the town, and her mother was occupied in domestic concerns.

The brother had obtained a situation amongst the junior clerks of a large establishment six or eight miles from their dwelling, happy in the prospect of present comfort and future advancement. Mary performed the duties of her new situation resignedly, even cheerfully, but her heart was still in the country whenever she had leisure to indulge in retrospection. The street she inhabited, was very narrow, and the opposite houses were so lofty, that the shop was enlightened by the sun-beams only a few hours in the course of the day. Now, Mary loved the light, because, in the chain of her associations it was allied to cheerfulness and happiness. But she walked daily with her father in the fields that lay around the town, and this judicious plan of regular exercise preserved health and dissipated mental gloom. If her colour was somewhat less vivid, it was not less healthy ; and if her gaiety was not so mirthful, it was natural and unaffected. As the winter came on, the hours of her confinement to the shop were indeed duller than ever,but then the evenings were cheerful, enlivened by a blazing fire; and Mary thought their small sitting-room was as comfortable as that which they had occupied at the farm. The window shutters were closed, and the white curtains were drawn, and the furniture was arranged exactly as it used to be in the country. The darkness concealed what was different, and Mary loved this season because her dream of her former home was then unbroken. The family lived necessarily in complete seclusion; consequently they had none of that knowledge of the persons and external circumstances of their neighbours which most towns people possess. They were too happy in their own small circle, enlivened by the occasional visits of Mary's brother; to regret the retirement, which prudence compelled them.

But the time arrived when Mary,-with all her love of the country,--all ber recollections of stately trees and musical

« EelmineJätka »