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The habitation of Paternus is in one of the sweetest spots in the neighbourhood; the house, and garden, and little shrubbery, lying on a south bank which slopes down to a wild, pure stream. The land rises precipitously from the opposite bank, and is clothed, for a considerable extent, with copse wood, from which not a few fine forest trees rise, break and diversify the monotony of the lower growth.
We found that the old gentleman had prepared to receive us, under the shade of an ancient and wide-spreading sycamore, in his garden at the back of his venerable parsonage, where, as he said, we might hear the ripple of the water over its pebbly channel, and the song of the nightingale from the copse, if she were disposed to favor us with some of her “wood notes wild."
There was an extent of lovely meadows running on the hither side of the stream, in a line with our host's garden, though partially hidden by the quickset hedge which bounded that side of the garden; we were, however, soon admonished of the work which was going on in these meadows by the sweet scent of hay, and the voices of the hay-makers, as well as other sounds connected in the mind of every Englishman, as Paternus remarked, "s with sunny days and flowers, and freedom from tasks, and communion with brothers and sisters, and the sweet companions of early days.”
Another of the company observed, “that it was pleasant when the memories of childhood and of home were associated with beautiful, natural, and simple scenes and objects, rather than with those of artificial life.”
Paternus replied, " that, when used and improved by the Divine Spirit, the memories of each might be rendered equally profitable for instruction in the things of God;" adding, “there is not a page in the volume of life, which has not its lesson of wisdom to unfold to those who are enabled to read it rightly.
Before you arrived, my friends,” he continued, “I was thinking of those mowers; they are working, not for a certain time, but in order to complete a certain task; and in order to make the most of their gains during the harvest, they use unnatural exertions; they work late and early, denying themselves their needful rest, and expending in a few days that strength
which ought to carry them through as many weeks. And what is the consequence ? As I have told these poor men, they probably will obtain at the end of the season a smaller result, than the laborer who goes quietly on from day to day, doing his master's work, without attempting that which is beyond his strength.
“ Far-fetched as the comparison may at first appear,” continued the old gentleman, “I have been comparing these poor mowers to certain well-meaning persons I have known, who, from false conceptions of what is required of them by their heavenly Father, and total ignorance of their own powers, wear themselves out with cares, and anxieties, and efforts, which produce as little result as the much-serving with which Martha cumbered herself.
“One poor lady, at this time in particular, presents herself to my view, not because a portion of the house in which she lived and died is before me, but because she was one of those heavilyladen good people, who always thought that some great thing remained to be done, and that she must do it-always I say, though I should add that these feelings were removed in her last minutes, when the all-sufficiency of the Saviour was made manifest to her.”
“ But,” said one of our party, "you say, sir, that a portion of her dwelling is before you, and you look towards that coppice; we see no house in that direction.”
“Do you not see,” he answered, “that small projection of bare rock, which causes the brook to turn its course after having rushed against the base with its tiny volume of water ? Carry your eye up straight from thence, and you will see a cluster of old brick chimneys twisted like the gnarled trunk of some old forest
those chimneys belong to an ancient hall, the seat of a family possessing all the land, or nearly so, in this part of my parish. It is a fine old place, and the appointments of its chambers remind one of the ruffs and farthingales of times gone by ; but like all such old mansions, it turns its back upon the prospect, and commands nothing from its windows but the shadows of the old woods which encompass it, and rise somewhat above it on all sides. Those chimneys have before now been mistaken for some high blighted trunk; I wonder not at the mistake, and every
year, as the moss grows thicker upon them, they look more unlike what they really are, for the place has been left for many years only to servants. But we look soon to the return of the heir to be with us, he being now nearly of age.”
The old gentleman here paused, as if his mind had run back to other days, but we soon, by questions relative to the former inhabitants of this deserted house, drew him out again, and were much interested in his relation of the following narrative.
“ This sycamore,” he said, “under the shade of which we all find ample space, was but a tender sapling when I first came to this place, which will prove to you that I must have been resident here for many years. Mr. Hartland, the proprietor of Highfieldhall, was killed by a fall from his horse in a fox chase soon after I settled here, leaving an only son, still a youth. When this son came of age, and returned to Highfield, he brought with him a very elegant, pleasing, and even pious wife. I found this
young man himself singularly haughty and unapproachable, but the lady was quite the contrary; she was very kind to the poor, very affable, and much disposed to converse with me on religious subjects, though there was always something in her religion which did not satisfy me, and which I shall explain more in the sequel. Mr. Hartland never appeared to enjoy good health, and probably much of what I thought pride and coldness in his manner might have proceeded from this cause.
“ Soon after the birth of their first child, symptoms of a consumptive tendency were detected in the father, and a warmer climate was recommended ; in consequence of which, Highfield was once more abandoned, and not occupied again till some years afterwards, when Mrs. Hartland returned as a widow with her son, who was the possessor of the estate under guardians.
“ Little Alfred was at that time as fine and as promising a boy as could be seen; most warm and affectionate in his manner, and ready to form a friendship with any who would hold out a hand to him.
“I hastened to pay my respects to the lady as soon as I heard that she could receive me, for I was made to understand that she was in too delicate health, having spent the last few years in a hot climate, to venture to church during the winter. I thought her more changed than time would account for, and I had not conversed long with her, before the idea occurred to me, that if consumption were infectious, she had imbibed the infection, for there was a hollowness in her cheek and a hectic flush, together with a slight cough, and a sort of brilliancy of the eye, which seemed altogether of very evil omen.
“I had heard that she had been a most attached wife, and had never seemed to see a fault in her husband; but whatever her feelings towards the father had been, they then appeared to me to be drawn out to a morbid excess towards the son. I never saw a mother so tormented with cares as she appeared to be,-not altogether physical cares, though she had her full share of these; and never could believe that the boy could be safe out of her sight - but with cares respecting his morals, his education, his habits, his intellectual improvement, his mode of speaking, his very games and pastimes. But whilst enumerating the various sources of this poor lady's perplexities, I have omitted the most inexhaustible of all of them; and this was an incessant solicitude as to the objects and developments of his young affections; and I scarcely know any habit more offensive to a manly boy than such perpetual calls as his poor mother made upon his sensibilities.
“ It happened that I was the only person in the neighbourhood whose company was acceptable to Mrs. Hartland, though I know not how I came to use the word 'happened;' for nothing happens,' in the common acceptation of the word. It would have been most blameable in me, if apprehending what I did of the state of the lady's health, I had lost any time in looking and enquiring into the state of her mind as it regarded religion.
“I soon ascertained that she had, notwithstanding her foibles and her skill in self-tormenting, a much stronger respect for serious matter than I had expected ; but when I first began to converse closely, I found that she was somewhat in the dark as to the work wrought by the Saviour, though adoring him as God, according to her ideas of the Almighty character; and respecting his name and all things belonging to him. In short, there was not one article of the Christian faith she was disposed to deny ; and yet there was scarcely one doctrine of which she had any thing like a correct idea, or which she was prepared to follow as far as it would take her.
“From the deficiency of her views of the Saviour's work, she could have no insight into the doctrine of the assurance of salvation; and wanting this, she wanted every consolation which the truth can give; and though she would confess, if pressed, that Christ is all in all, and that man can do nothing towards saving himself, she was ever bringing forward some if, or some condition, by which she annulled this confession. I contended with her on these points during the whole of that winter, and felt myself very much like one standing by the dead, and calling on them to arise and perform the functions of the living.
Although, as I said before, this lady was not without some notions which might be called religious, it might be doubted whether she possessed spiritual life, or had any feelings which were incompatible with a natural mind, well versed in the obligations of the moral law, acquainted with the language of Christianity, and lying under the strong fear of death and of the judgments which she had been taught would certainly ensue on the termination of the present existence of an offender. If there were no other evidence of this carnal state in her, her total incapacity of receiving the Lord the Saviour, as he has revealed himself; and as the Divine Spirit unfolds him to the believer, was sufficient to convince me that when I addressed her I was addressing the dead. Still however I went on, as we, the ministers of Christ, are admonished to do, as well out of season as in season.
“In the mean time, as I went often to and fro, the little boy took a fancy to me, and entreated his mother that he might go out and come in with me, so I often brought him to my house, and took him with me in my rounds about my parish ; and we had many
many sweet little excursions together, whilst I shewed him various objects in the natural world which he had never before been made to notice, and how sometimes on the most uncongenial winter-day, some tokens of the coming spring might be discerned. I then would point out the connexion of this lovely type of the revival of nature in the spring, with its anti-type the resurrection of the dead ; and so on, from one thing to another, till the infant boy was as ready almost as myself in interpreting the voice of nature. I took him also into the cottages, made him understand the wants of the poor, and shewed him how the Lord the Saviour had made himself poor to render many rich ; and I had great delight in seeing how these truths, which some might call