« ZurückWeiter »
hood, were found dry; and on the following evening, Vesuvius fulfilled the augury, and spoke in fire. The new upper crater, after a trembling which lasted several hours, flung up a stream of lava, which, in the course of thirty-five minutes, had descended as far as Pigno del Ginestro. From several points of the ancient crater the volcano shot flame, and after sunset a fresh lava torrent, fifteen feet wide, spread in the direction of Bosco Reale. Two new craters were at the same time formed, from which issued fire stones, with a sound that spread terror through the neighbourhood."
Although this last outbreak has terminated without effecting serious mischief, our young friends will infer from the terrific aspect of the mountain, that there was at least some foundation for the apprehensions entertained. The engraving is copied from the “Pictorial Times,” and purports to represent “The appearance of Vesuvius on the night of the 23rd August,” 1847 ; the date (23) being evidently a misprint for the 2nd and 3rd.
THE LIVING RILL. Twice seven years are passed since Mrs. Langford became a widow, and her son, the infant Horace, lost his father. The seene too is changed, yet not to such a distance but that, from where we now are, a vigorous step might reach Craddock-court within the third of an hour, and the bank of the Teme in a few minutes.
A large thatched cottage with a rustic porch, and sundry windows projecting from the thatch itself, is the place into which our Living Rill now leads us. The cottage stood under a rock at the farther end of a narrow glen which opened on the river ; the banks which enclosed the glen were not so shaded by the apple trees which grew upon them as not to afford a rich crop in the season to the hay-makers, and the pure clear spring which came tumbling from the rock and hastened along the bottom of the dell to the river, was marked along its course with a rich border of velvet mosses, and such water-plants as love to bathe their roots in perpetual moisture. It was summer time, and the work of mowing was still proceeding on one bank whilst every individual of the cottage, which was held by a small farmer, was
engaged with rake and fork on the other, with the exception of two persons only. It was the hour too of what the country people then call sun-down: and it was the evening of a sultry day. That cottage, though it was sufficiently roomy to harbour a large family in a decent way, could boast of no parlour, its best drawing room was what in those days was called the house, and what we, in the present times might term the best kitchen, a large low room with casement windows, chairs of cherry wood, and tables of carved oak, with a vast range of shelves, on which the family pewter was arranged in long and bright array. A cuckoo clock, and a chimney as wide and broad-to speak poetically-as the main tunnel of Vesuvius, were the principal appointments of the apartment; and the only living beings which occupied it at the crisis spoken of, were a large tabby cat, a magpie hanging near the open window in a wicker cage, a comely middle aged woman seated on a three-legged stool, and a fair and delicate youth, in the undress attire of one of superior degree. He was lying on a couch, supported by pillows, close to where the woman sate, the youth being so situated as to be able to watch the movements of the hay-makers, whilst the fresh breezes which came up the glen from the Teme, gently fanned his pale and somewhat sunken cheeks, occasionally lifting the long locks which shaded his temples.
Who were these but Horace Langford and his nurse, Mabel South? But how it happened that her nursling came to be again under her care, after he had been parted from her for nearly two-thirds of his short life, yet remains to be explained.
The clock was ticking, and the bees, out of doors, were humming, for there was a row of bee-hives under the opening window; and the ever brawling Teme was making itself heard for some moments before any one spoke, for the boy had been dozing, and the good woman had been thinking of many things whilst she shifted and rattled her knitting pins, as if she had been born to knit and do nothing else.
At length the youth spoke-somewhat weakly and peevishly "There, nurse,” he said, “you go on, knit, knit, knit, as if you could think of nothing else but knitting.”
“What is it you need, my darling?" replied the nurse ; “if it is the new milk, warm from the cow, here it is, all ready : drink
it my precious one,” she added, as she handed a cup, still frothing, from the dresser, and held it to his lips; “and may God's blessing go with it my darling. May it bring health to my own dear boy."
“I am getting better, dear nurse," he replied, " thanks to your tender care."
“Not to mine, my child, not to mine," she answered ; “ let us give the glory to God for all the good we receive.”
“ You must not mind me, nurse, if I am cross sometimes,” said Horace ; " but sit down again and tell me the things you promised to tell. I can bear them now ; do not be afraid ; I am so much better than when I came here."
“Well my boy,” she replied, as she sat down again, “they are things you should hear, no doubt, and God grant that they may be blessed to you. And now it is all so quiet and pleasant, with no one to interrupt us: we will talk therefore of your dear mother, of whom I can tell you many things which no other person in the wide world knows but myself.
“Well then ; when I came to live with her I could read a little, for my father had had me taught at the school dame's, and I had always been used to go to church; but I had about as much notion of the truth as the bird in that cage up there. The death of your poor father, and the removal to the Court, happened before you had even began to know me, or smile in my face when I chirupped to you."
“You have told me that often,” returned Horace, with a sweet smile ; “ but now I want to hear something new."
“Well," said Mabel, “ it does my heart good to have a little taste of your old sauciness, my boy, I take it for a good sign. The first examples you gave us of your little wayward humours were when you were about three months old. Nothing would then tempt you to go from me to the dear lady, your mother ; whether you were frighted by her pale sad face or her close widow's hood and dismal weeds, I know not; but never did babe resist more obstinately than you did, whenever I tried to coax you to go to her; and though I have seen the tears gush to her gentle eyes when you have shewn these airs, yet so tender was she of her child that she would on no account have your inclina. tions forced, poor dear lady !"
“Do not talk about that, nurse,” said Horace, “ I can't bear that: go on to something else.”
"Well,” returned Mabel -—"well, I wont; though it was only natural ; I scarce ever knew it otherwise with a child nursed by another : they almost always turn, for the time being, against the natural mother; and in many cases it is only what those mothers deserve. But I was sorry for your own widowed mother, my boy, and grieved to my heart to see how much she was alone, hour after hour, and day after day. It was not to be expected that the squire, your uncle, was to put himself out of the way, to give up his sports for his niece, or altogether to change his associates on her account, not even had he understood her case, which I can venture to say he never did ; so he was never any company to her. Then there was not a neighbour lady that suited her; and the old housekeeper, Mrs. Richards, was very jealous of her, though she carried things smoothly before me; and thus passed the first winter of her widowhood. She sate all day in the tea-room, which is in the right hand gable, and had our nursery over it, and the squire's smoking room on the ground floor under it; and there I used to find her, almost always, when I took you in to her, seated at a little round table, with a raised carved border round the edge, making and braiding your frocks ; but many and many a time have I seen the tear drop from her eye upon the work. I had been brought up, my dear boy, in such reverence for the squire and his family, that, how much so ever I pitied the poor lady, it was the most difficult thing possible for me to enter into talk with her, though I oftentimes thought I would try. But her sad and sighing answers, whenever I ventured to speak of anything which had happened about the place, for a long time, always threw me back, and made me feel that I was not the person to comfort such a lady as she was. Once, however, when she said to me, on my praising a little dress she had just finished, 'Oh! Mabel, I think too much whilst I am at my work. Yesterday I had my guitar, I tuned it, and played one or two airs; but that was even worse ; and so I came back to my needle.'
“Have you tried reading, dear lady?'” I was so bold as to answer ; and as she seemed to hearken attentively to me, I added, what I had heard the minister say from the pulpit, that reading was a very profitable employment of time, and asked her if she had ever been in the book-closet inside the squire's dressing room?'
“She answered that she had not; and it was not likely she should ; for the key had been lost, time out of mind.'
“I had little reason to suppose that the words dropped by me at that moment would have indirectly produced the effect they did; but so it was, that the poor lady soon persuaded her uncle to have the closet door opened; and from that time I often saw her with books. But I did not trouble myself to ask of what sort they were, though one of them I felt sure was a Bible, from its large size, and its covering of green baize-the dress in which family bibles are clad in most respectable houses.
“And so the winter passed off, and the sweet spring began to set all nature loose from the bands of frost in which it had been bound, through what had seemed to me a very long season, for I had lived as much in my room as my lady had in her's, and made no acquaintance with any but you, my precious child-my awkward bashfulness on one side, and your mother's delicate reserve on the other, still having kept us apart. When the fair weather arrived, I was much out of doors with you, my boy; ! always took an early walk with you in my arms, and then when we returned, you mostly used to take a long sleep whilst I sat sewing in the window; and there, for many days, till it was far on in April, I used often to watch the movements of your dear mother below.
“It was her habit to go out soon after breakfast, and to walk down the straight walk in the middle of the square garden ; and then she generally turned to the left, along the walk inside, under the outer wall where the alcove is ; and sometimes I could see her stop and look at one flower and then at another, as if admiring them. The mezerion and the fraxinella always detained her longest ; these being what may be called the eldest daughters of the spring. Sometimes also I could trace her figure beyond the door in the wall, going along the path to the church yard, part of which last, as you know, may be seen from our nursery window ; and her figure is still before me, just as it was in a black bombazine dress and train, with a small hoop, the train drawn up by cords and loops, and long crape ruffles with white ones within; her head being shaded by a calash of black cyprus, and she, though her