Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

ceeded towards an open gallery which runs along the first floor on the outside of one front of the house,-a gallery enclosed in lattice work, which was in its time, as I afterward found, a favourite place of the Master's, where he used to show himself in time past, when he sometimes visited his people.* It had been in its day a very fair and beautiful place, and still indeed, though long forsaken, and as it were encumbered and spoiled by the rubbish which had fallen from the loose stones above, showed what it had once been, being adorned with flowering shrubs and odoriferous creepers, winding in and out through the interstices of the lattice. At the end of the gallery he turned into a noble old apartment, which he informed me was the place in which the family met to hear the Lord's letters read aloud and explained. The roof of this apartment was supported by twelve pillars,t and there was to the east one noble window, the frame of which was set with precious stones, and a running pattern of bells and pomegranates, exceedingly beautiful; but it seems that Madame le Monde, who is an enemy everywhere to broad daylight,I had persuaded the doctor to allow certain old tablets, curiously gilt and varnished, to be fixed up as a screen to the window, thus excluding the direct rays of light, and shedding a universal gloom over the apartment. My uncle failed not to point out this abomination, as he called it; at the same time causing me to observe what was graven on these tablets, viz. certain ancient laws which are not now in forces in the family, inasmuch as they have been superseded by such as were more agreeable to the present state of the Lord's servants. In this apartment, as in the hall, I observed a distinction of seats; the chairs which were set for the steward and

*“ Behold he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, showing himself through the lattice," Sol. Song ii. 9.

7" And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.” Exod. xxiv. 4.

I“ And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John iii. 19.

“ And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses ; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Col. ü. 13, 14.

housekeeper being covered with velvet, and studded and embossed with gold, while the benches, nay, and the very walls in the remoter parts of the apartment were sordid in the extreme, being covered with dust and cobwebs.

Having remarked this to my uncle, he replied, “that it was the Lord's will that there should be different orders of men in the household, and also that every man should receive the honour due to him.* Nevertheless," he added, “it should be the desire of every ruler to provide all things convenient in the sight of all men.”+

So we left the chapel, and passed by several small chambers, occupied, as my uncle informed me, chiefly by the more sober part of the household, and those

principally attached to the doctor and to himself. These galleries were still, and had an orderly appearance; and because they opened upon the balcony mentioned before, a sweet and fresh air ran along them, and here also I heard the notes of certain birds which harboured among the lattice work. " This is the old part of the house,” remarked my uncle, "and connects with our apartments, but the library stands not on the old foundation.” So we passed on through the galleries, and came again into the more modern part of the buildinginto wide and gaudy chambers, decorated according to the taste of the housekeeper; and in some of these chambers we met with certain female servants who were in the charge of them. Now I had as yet had little

intercourse with the members of the family, and had not seen any of the female servants, nor so much as heard one of them speak; neither was I now pleased with those I did see, for their dress was any thing but what I should have expected ;I and they were passing along through the rooms idly, and as if, instead of following their business, they were seeking only how they should divert themselves, calling to their fellows, and laughing, as if life and all belonging to it were but an idle jest,

*“Render therefore to all their dues : tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom ; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” Rom. xiii. 7.

+ "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” 2 Cor. viii. 21.

The daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched. forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet.” Isaiah iii, 16.

rather than a serious reality. Now I know not whether my uncle would have passed them without speaking, had they let him alone; but it seems they were not so inclined, for he had scarcely come within hearing of them, when one of them calling to him, said, “So, Mr. Secretary, wherefore do we see you here? we wonder how you can find time from your serious employments to come so far as this. Well, how go the Master's letters, and when do you expect that he will come and look us all up ?"

“ Before you are ready for him, you thoughtless ones,” answered my uncle: “what account could each of you give of your charge, were he to come to-morrow ?"

“ We are accountable to those who employ us,” answered one of the most forward of these ; " the housekeeper is satisfied with us, and gives us our victuals and our wages, and what more do we want, sir ?"

“To be assured,” replied my uncle, “that the housekeeper will always keep her own place, and always be in the same mind towards you that she now is, and that you may not be called away from hence, by one who is stronger than she is, to give an account of the things which you have done in this place."*

“And who may that be ?" asked the same young woman.

“ The Master whom you despise,” replied my uncle; “ hear what he says in his letters, Behold, I come quickly.'”+

With that there was a burst of laughter among them, but one said, “are you sure, sir, those words are in the letters ?"

“Sure as I live,” said my uncle ; “ and if you will take the trouble to look in the book, you may see them there." My uncle then offered her a copy of the book, but while she held out her hand to take it, her fellows took her by the arm, and pulled her away; however, my uncle said that he should bear her in mind, and take care that she should not hold out her hand in vain. So we went on, and as we were coming down the stairs, whom should

*" And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life : and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Rev. XX. 12.

“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." Rev. iii. 11.

we meet on the landing-place but the housekeeper, viz. Madame le Monde herself. I was so all taken aback .and astonished at the sight of her, that what should I do but make her a bow, and that as profound a one as I would have made to the king himself; and I have heard it said, that most persons who see her for the first time are affected in the same way as I was, for she is a most imposing person to strangers, being tall and majestic, seeming as it were to fill the whole eye with the consequentialness of her figure; and then she has a sort of smile, and a glance of the eye, which fixes the beholder, and such a smile of condescension, and so full of meaning, that it would be impossible to pass her for the first time, without being inclined to look after her. As to her dress, I know nothing of what it was then, or what it has been ever since, often as I have seen her, for she is always varying her fashion; but this I know, that she is very fond of changeable ribands and gowns, I mean such as look one thing in one light, and one in another, and that she always wears a huge bunch of keys at her girdle. But withal this, I do not mean to say that she is handsome ; very far from it; nay, I have seen her look downright ugly; yet it is hard, very hard to say No to her, when she smiles upon you. However, as she had tried her courtesies with my uncle till she had ascertained that they were of no avail, seeing that he is upheld by one that is stronger than she is, it was but little that she said to him on this occasion; whereas she bent the full lustre of her eye upon ine, and expressing much pleasure at seeing me, having, as she was pleased to say, heard many things to my advantage ; she added, that she should have the greatest possible satisfaction in receiving me in her apartments, where her daughters would provide a variety of amusements for me, far more befitting my age than could be found in the society of my uncle's room. She was then proceeding to the detail of these amusements, and to state the various agreeable qualifications of her daughters, which she has a way of doing in common with some other mothers into whose company I have chanced to fall, when my uncle cut her somewhat short, saying, he was obliged to every one who intended any kindness to his nephew, although at present he could accept of no invitation for him which might interfere with the service he had accepted, viz. the service of the best of

Masters; and so saying, he turned to descend the stairs, motioning to me to follow him; but as I was slipping by the housekeeper, being near her upon the stairs, she caught the lappet of my coat, and though in such a way that I might have extricated myself with the smallest effort, one would have thought, she brought me to a stand, and said in an under tone, “ Remember, young sir, where you will be welcome;" which whisper threw me into such confusion, that I had not another word to say, but this, “I must needs ask my uncle, madam;" whereupon she smiled, and laid her finger on her lips, as much as to say, say no more at this time, and I was escaping as fast as I could, when I was almost driven to desire to sink into the floor with shame, to hear bursts of laughter over my head, mingled with tones of contemptuous pity, and expressions to this effect"Well, we know who will be the loser," and then again another burst of merriment, though smothered as it were; for instead of following my uncle, I had stood still on the lower part of the stairs, to look to where the voices had come from, and had discerned in the gallery above the daughters of the housekeeper, all standing in a row against the ballustrades, amusing themselves with me; and truly, I thought I had never seen a more comely group of damsels, nor any more set off with the fashion of their attire, or the choice of their colours. But to describe how I was cut and confounded with the ridicule they were passing upon me would be very difficult; any one might have knocked me down with a feather just then. I have often since thought how like a fool I must have looked, standing there gaping and staring up at the maidens; neither can

I tell how long I might have stood, had not the mother tapped me on the shoulder, saying, good-humouredly, as I then thought, “Hear you not your uncle call, young sir ? make haste and follow him, and another time let me see how you can return raillery for raillery, and how you can overcome those young girls with their own weapons. Truly, I hope we shall have many pleasant hours together, when you are thought old enough to slip the collar.” So I recollected myself at last, and running down what remained of the steps, I overtook my uncle, who had turned down a long arched cloister, where the light was scarcely that of twilight, the door of which was directly opposite to the stairs.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »