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glares against the cold grey sky beyond it, as if self-lighted. Yet, though the load is heavy and the horses seem to feel it, the monstrous vehicle moves forward over the yielding snow with the silence of a shadow.
“ Those are Major Goode's things, my dear,” said Mrs. Enderby. “I heard he was to get into his new house by Christmas.”
“ By Christmas? Why, Charlotte, we are in the new year already; but O! I beg your pardon,-I am constantly forgetting your old-fashioned country reckoning, of course you mean old Christmas."
My gaze out of doors tended little to put me in good humour with the prospect of a long country walk, but making the best of it, I buttoned on my great coat, and sallied forth.
“Whew! how the wind whisked round the corner by the gnarled yew trees which stood as sentinels on either side the door of our little home, driving the snow, like mist, into our brick-floored passage, and hurrying my wife and little ones back to their fireside. But putting a good face on the matter, I trotted, rather than walked, on, till I reached the Pheasant, a way-side inn just beyond the village, where I found the wagon I had just before seen, drawn up; the horses looking very sleepy, but now and then rousing up just enough to rattle the harness, and shake the snow from their manes and shoulders; and the men discussing, with closed doors, a mug of ale in the comfortless entry of the house. But all this, by the way.
It was really too cold to think, when I left my house, but exercise had by this time caused my blood to tingle in my veins, and I fell into a reverie. Whilst at home, standing at the window, the mention of Christmas-day had put me on a train of thought that I was now endeavoring to carry out. It is very strange, I said to myself, that a little incident of this kind should tell so forcibly at one time, while it excites no notice at another. As a dry matter of fact, I know very well, and have known almost my whole life long, that there are two Christmas-days in every year—one on the sixth of January, and the other on the twenty-fifth of December. But the fact has never forced on me the alternative of deciding which one of these two days had the advantage of the other. In historical importance, in holy associations, in the duties connected with it, one of them must possess superior claims to the other, and yet whose reckoning shall we take-our own, or that of our grandfathers ?
These thoughts as already remarked, were new to me, for I had ever welcomed the return of Christmas with feelings of religious satisfaction; and on that day especially which is supposed to commemorate our Saviour's advent, had endeavored in spirit to approach the manger of Bethlehem, and to bring thither the incense of adoration, and the pure offering of a trustful and child-like spirit. But the day, now stripped of its authority, though not divested of its sacred associations, appeared to possess quite a different character, and I began to think there might be a little unreasonableness in requiring those who regarded every day alike to conform to the notions of those who esteemed one day above another. Warmed and exhilarated by my walk, I began to discourse, (most eloquently to my own mind), on the curse of intolerance, till checked in the current of my thoughts by a trivial incident, I soon found that I was growing very intolerant myself, in demanding concessions from those who, after all, were but a few hours behind me in my march towards liberalism.
The incident was this. I had just past a bye-lane half grown over with turf, and in summer time musical with the notes of many birds, but now, like every thing else, covered up with snow; though its tall rampant hedges were still beautiful. Instead, however, of being festooned with the wild clematis, and the bindweed, and the far-fragrant honey-suckle, they were now red with winter-fruit, and had become “tables in the wilderness” for those songsters whose choir and oratory they had formed when gemmed with the golden buds of May, or thick with the leaves of June. I had just passed this old lane, when I was overtaken by a ragged little fellow apparently about ten or twelve years of age, who, speaking in a low mumbling tone, begged a trifle “to buy a bit of bread,” as the phrase is.
Thus suddenly interrupted in the midst of my reverie, I stood still, scarcely realizing the appeal, and looked hard, and with apparent sternness, at the little fellow. He seemed frightened, but seeing I did not move towards him, soon came forward with the old plea that he had eaten nothing that day, and was very poor and hungry.
“Who are you, my boy?” said I, kindly—“and what are you doing in this part of the country?”—for conversant as I was with every nook and corner in the neighbourhood, I knew he must have come from a distance.
“ Father's here, sir," said he," he come down last week, and I comed with him."
“ And what is your father ; what does he do, and where does he come from?"
“He don't do nothing: he goes about,” replied the boy.
“Where is you father, now ?” said I, laying an emphasis on the last word.
“Down i' the wood yender,” said the boy, jerking his head in the direction indicated.
“Out of doors, this bitter day? or who does he live with ?"
“He lives along o' mother, and little Charley : but he ain't out o' doors : he's in the cartup.”
“ Where ?" said I, the last word being so slurred over, that I did not catch its meaning ; but as the boy could give me no farther explanation, I came at last to the conclusion that he meant the cart-top or cart-tilt, where I afterwards learned that he had been.
“But what's your name,” I added, as the boy still stared stupidly in my face.
With a grave look, and a tug at his ragged and dusty hair, he handed me a dirty bit of paper, which I at first declined to look at, thinking it might be something of the begging-letter kind ; but as he trotted briskly after me, when I turned away, and seemed anxious that I should see it, I took it from his hand, and read as follows :
“This is to certify that Richard Bozwell was this day admitted by baptism into Christ's Holy Catholic Church, and made a member of the same. Meadow Parsonage,
R. PARADISE, Vicar. Fest S. Egid. 18**
“Well! my boy," said I, when my surprise in some measure abated, “and who does this belong to - where did you get it?"
The boy grinned; but said nothing.
“Whose name is this?" I added, putting the question in another form—“who is Richard Bozwell? Is that your name, or does it belong to any one else?”
The boy gave a nod of affirmation, but as this might be' understood as an answer to either member of the sentence, I continuedDo you mean to say
name?" Another nod settled the point. This ragged little fellow was the baptized party. He evidently looked upon the paper as a kind of charm. It had been given him, as I afterwards found, as a passport for admission into some puseyite school, in the parish where his father had resided some months before, and which school he had a few times attended for the sake of certain pecuniary advantages not unacceptable to his vagabond parents.
Having gleaned these facts, and ascertained the present whereabout of the boy's father, I pursued my walk with increased briskness, for the day was one that would not allow of indolence out of doors. Getting over a style by the road-side I heard a slight rustle by the hedge, and up started a fine hare. On, and on, and on-away he ran as fast as his fleet legs could carry him. The field was a wide one, comprising probably some forty or fifty acres, but he made right across it to the opposite hedge. There, I thought, he would find plenty of cover, but he presently re-appeared on the farther side, and kept on, right away to the birch wood that crowned the rising ground bounding the prospect in that direction, and looking sleepy and shadowy and unreal, amidst the wide, white landscape. Poor thing, thought I-I wish the world would take a lesson
caution. I meant you no harm, and could have done you none had I wished it. Out of arm's length, you would have been out of the way of mischief: beyond the gun's range you might have defied any one. But you did not linger on the skirts of danger : you could not rest till half a mile beyond its reach. How many sorrows should we escape were it so with us, and could we hear and heed the friendly warning" Go not by itturn from it and pass away.”
Trite as were these reflections, they possessed a novel force
from the peculiar incidents of this morning's walk. He who plays near the hole of the asp will sooner or later fall a victim to his folly. Parley and Compromise are near relations-almost as near, probably, as Expediency and Surrender.
I walked on, thinking of the beggar-boy and his baptismal certificate. Was it a genuine document? Of this I had little doubt from the first, and that doubt was removed when I looked at the peculiar manner in which it was dated. The first item in the charge brought against the tractarians of apostolic times— the head and front of their offending' was their superstitious regard to days of reputed sanctity. I took out my pocket Testament, and turning to the fourth chapter of Galatians, read the ninth and tenth verses. “After that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage ? Ye observe days, and months, and times and years,-I am afraid of you!"
What! thought I, could he, who had challenged the magistrates and magnates of Rome, who could stand undaunted before kings and rulers, who had fought with beasts at Ephesus, and could look calmly on bonds, imprisonment, and death-could he fear a concession so apparently trivial, so seemingly paltry as this? And yet undoubtedly he did. Had he lived in our own day he would have told us how easy a step it was from Peter to Alphege ; from James to Hilary; from David to Dominic; from Jesus to Giles. He was determined to know no man after the flesh; and lest the jesuit with all his low cunning craftiness, should plead that Christ was no man, but God: he tells us that He was no exception to the rule, and that henceforth he had resolved, in this sense, to know even Christ no more.
Surely, if it be no light thing to turn from a full, perfect, and soul-satisfying system, to beggarly elements, it must have been a much graver matter to be “ in bondage" to them. Yet this is the pitiful position of those who are turning to such questionable saints as Egidius, or Giles, the fabled patron of cripples and mendicants – who observe his feast as a day of peculiar sanctityof sanctity derivable, of course, solely from its association with its patron ; “for without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better.”