« AnteriorContinuar »
Twelve Talks with our Girls.
No. II.-EARLY SELF-CONSECRATION.
BY MRS. DAWSON BURNS. A FEW elder girls had clustered round the cheerful fire in their schoolroom, after the short winter day's tasks were over, and the bustle of putting the books away and reducing all to order had subsided. The soft hum of the junior pupils voices mingled pleasantly with their more earnest tones. This was their “liberty hour" before tea; and a suggestion had been thrown out by one of the teachers whether this “ liberty hour" might not be turned to some profitable account, converting it into a "privilege hour" for reading or conversation on topics quite distinct from the usual routine of lessons.
This thoughtful band had recognized from the first the tender anxiety for their real welfare in her whom they generally called their “ Councillor and Friend;" each had personally experienced proofs of her earnesthearted pleadings, and understood how true were such remarks as these, “You are here for something more than the ordinary attainment of knowledge." “ Education, properly estimated, cannot be limited to school-books, nor to certain periods of our life.” “Ever receiving, ever giving forth, is the only faithful living.” She often spoke to them of higher aims, and nobler desires; and now, as their gentle guide joined the group silently, but willingly, they gathered closer, as she, not to lose time, said, “I have, in reading biographies of good men and women, derived such real pleasure, felt so drawn toward self-examination, and experienced such an emulative stimulus, that it occurred to me, could I not, by giving you an outline of these lives, create in each of you a desire for a faller research. I want your hearts to be attuned by the truest of all teachings; I want you to draw goodness from every source, to drink in wisdom from every stream of knowledge, so that by all means you may attain that perfect life ‘Our Father' looks for in each of His children. Let us, then, my dear girls, call the subject of our little chat to-night, ' Early self-consecration for the good of others.'
“I gather these words from the lips of that distinguished and devoted woman, Mary Carpenter. One who though dead, yet speaketh. One who for some twenty or thirty years filled all England, America, and even the dark regions of India, with admiration and wonder at her admirable 'Reformatory measures. The cry of the little foodless, shoeless, homeless children, smote upon her heart, awakening such a sense of her own responsibility, that she wrote down a solemn pledge of selfdedication to ameliorate the social and religious condition of this hitherto neglected class.
"Mary was the eldest child of the Rev. Dr. Lant Carpenter, born in Exeter, April 3, 1807, and her home was the centre of high culture, great intelligence, and deep spirituality.
"Early evidences shewed the bent of Mary's mind, for when only two or three years old, she always busied herself in making a neat nursery; and when taken, on one occasion, to romp among the hay, urged that a rake should be made for her, saying, 'I want to be coseful.” A little later, a missionary zeal was strong in her even to the sacrifice of dolls, and dolls clothes, for the conversion of the heathen.
“When she was ten years old the family removed to Bristol, and her father's chapel was in the midst of a neighbourhood reeking with poverty
65 and vice. A Sabbath-school was established, and Mary had her class of boys, afterwards taking the management of the girls branch entirely. The Rev. J. Martineau, then one of twelve pupils received into her father's house, wrote thus of Mary Carpenter years after, 'As a boy I was inspired toward the sedate little girl of twelve, who looked at you so steadily, and always spoke like a book; there was the trustful reverence of a filial heart, tender alike to the father on earth and the Father in heaven.'
“Mary shared in all the boys' studies, creating not a little surprise among them at the care and correctness of the Greek and Latin exercises; and so marked was her influence that when her father was repeatedly laid aside with indisposition, she occupied his desk, and the lessons continued their usual course andisturbed, she maintaining an astonishing degree of order by her gentle and expostolative tones. I must leave you to find out how highly gifted she was ; and some beautiful little poems of her's are worth reading, if only for their spirituality.
“She was about seventeen when the idea of relieving her over worked and delicate father from the educational part of the toil took a practical form; every opportunity was secured for self-qualification; a years she, her mother and sister, realized that joy, they opening a school for girls; and it is well to remember that some of her greatest benevolent schemes were thought out and executed during this period of daily labour.
“ Bristol suffered in 1831-2 from what was then called the 'Reform Struggle ;' and Mary, as the superintendent of the Sunday-school, visited the abodes of the scholars, and witnessed how awful was their condition. Cholera, too, was feared; a 'fast' day appointed ; and we find in Mary's diary these words, 'I wish on this day, before God, to record my earnest desire to become more useful to my fellow-men. Í must do this simply and humbly, never neglecting any certain duties, and caring not at all for my own comfort and labour.'
“Her desires rather cherished the idea of missionary labour abroad; bat a valued friend, Dr. Tuckerman, passing some wretched abodes with her one day, saw a miserable ragged boy rush wildly across their path, and said, “That child should be followed to his home and seen after.' These words fell with pain and compunction into Mary's heart; here, in here own neighbourhood, was a duty neglected! here, in her own neighbourhood was the opportunity sought for.
"A Visiting Society, or Domestic Mission, was established, Mary being its Secretary; and she never scrupled to take the poorest and worst district, remarking, 'I thus gained my first insight into the condition of the perishing and dangerous classes. Nor did she shrink from the foul air and scenes, though often filled with a terrible loathing. Once among such homes loosened the streams of her compassion, and produced in her only a more desperate determination to mitigate the condition of the boys and girls in these fearful localities.
"I cannot tell you more now of this poor Children's Friend and Helper. Sarely you have gleaned enough to call up before your mind's eye a beautiful picture of a helpful little girl, an anxious, aiding, devoted daughter, and an earnest young Sabbath-school teacher. Some other evening I will, if you desire, refer to the carrying out of her great work, shewing you what one woman can do if her heart is only divinely touched, and if she fully realizes the privilege of humbly following Him “who went about doing good."
THE day following Raymond's first visit to the tavern was Sunday. Until dinner was announced he said nothing of what he had done; but when he, Mr. Bradford, and Elsie, together with Rearden and Mr. Weston, an old friend of Mr. Bradford's, took their places at the table, he said to the housemaid, as she placed beside her master the little jug of ale he was accustomed to take with his dinner. “You may draw some for me too, Mary, if you please; about the same quantity as you draw for Mr. Bradford.” The girl stood gazing at him a moment, as if not quite sure she had heard aright; while Mr. Bradford utterly forgot that he had such a thing as a foot in his surprise at this strange request. As for Miss Waughan, she could not believe her ears, and fairly stared at Oliver. The latter, however, quickly dispelled the doubt from their minds by quietly repeating his request. Whereupon Mary withdrew to obey, though still with a face full of wonder. “What, surely you don’t mean it?” cried Mr. Bradford, the light of mingled pleasure and surprise shining strongly in his face. “But I do, uncle,” returned Oliver, with resolute carelessness; and then he looked at Elsie, meeting the full gaze of her blue eyes. Amos Rearden, as his friend, made his revelation, smiled pleasantly round the table; at Mr. Weston, at Oliver, at Miss Vaughan, at Mr. Bradford; yet he did not miss this look, nor the concentrated meaning it contained. But he seemed not to notice, and went on smiling as pleasantly as ever. Never did Mr. Bradford, if what he said afterwards may be believed, enjoy his dinner so much as on that Sunday afternoon. A dozen times at least he vowed that, if it were not for his foot, he would get up and give Oliver such a cheer as he had never had before. A dozen times he laughed, and said: “Now, this is what I call a real triumph over prejudice; ” or, “I always gave you credit, Oliver, for genuine common-sense; or, “I shall now look upon you as more of a man than ever.” And when the dinner was over he bade Mary bring from the cellar a bottle of that fine old and crusted port which was kept for great occasions only. “For,” said he, smiling benignly on Oliver and the rest, “this is a new departure which deserves high celebration. And it shall have it, too—it shall have it. And you, Elsie, come 1 Can't you see your way to joining us on this special occasion?” . But Elsie, her cheeks still bearing the flush that had come to them with the look she had exchanged with Oliver, answered, “Certainly not, uncle;” and at once left the room, to prepare for her bible-class. “Like her aunt—like her aunt, every inch of her!” said Mr. Bradford, good humouredly. “A Puritan to the backbone.” That “celebration” was a particularly merry one, and “four jolly bachelors,” as Mr. Bradford playfully called himself and his friends, never enjoyed themselves better. Not, however, with any disregard whatever to the day. Mr. Bradford was a steady-going man—tory in thought and deed. Glorying in his admiration for the Queen, the Church, and the Constitution, and for everything else established, he held the Sunday and its sacred character in as high estima. tion as any man could. As one proof of which, behold him, whenever the state of his foot made it at all possible, regularly seated, with Oliver and Elsie beside him, in his high-backed pew in the dingy old church of St. Philip's, one of a sleepy congregation preached to in a sleepy voice by the sleepy-looking old gentleman, the vicar. Mr. Bradford having, then, this appreciation for such an old-established institution as Sunday, nothing unseemly could take place on that day, where he was president. But such an event as Oliver’s “coming out of the darkness of bigotry,” as he characterised his nephew's new departure, FRIEND OR FOE 2 67
could not be permitted to pass without due honour being done it; wherefore, all honour was done it, and the quartette drank their old crusted port and smoked their cigars with exceeding relish.
But, during the rest of that day, and the next—during four clear days, indeed, the flush never seemed to leave Miss Waughan's cheeks. It seemed to increase, if anything; and her eyes, which, when the flush had first come, grew much brighter than they were usually (which is saying much), had never lost their increased light. At least, so Oliver thought, whenever he looked at her. This was one thing that robbed that pleasant afternoon, so far as he was concerned, of much of its pleasantness. Another was a certain uncomfortable feeling which, in spite of the congratulations of his uncle and his friend on what he had done, would pass through his heart. The ordeal—terrible to a child, as he was then, through which twelve years before his aunt Raymond had put him, together with the accident which had robbed him of his gentle mother, had stamped on his brain the motto left him by that mother: “Be true to Jesus Christ.” During four years, too, when that ordeal had been safely passed, he had found almost a second mother in dear Mrs. Bradford, who had lost no good opportunity of warning and teaching him, and leading him along the path of truth. And one of the principal objects of her warning had been this very act of Saturday night. “Never let any consideration whatever induce you to taste this thing,” she had said, over and over again; “for though there is no harm in a little, it has been the means of ruin, body and soul, to thousands.” And now he remembered that, as often as she had warned, so often he had promised to be guided by the warning. Were not these memories sufficient to make him uncomfortable, seeing that they pointed to something like falseness to her, as well as to his word? Then again: he knew what this new light in Elsie's eyes, and the flush upon her cheeks, meant, taken together with the short answers she now gave him; they were explained by that eloquent look of Sunday afternoon. Presently the storm would burst, and there would be an open quarrel.
And yet—why should he care? Was he not justified, as Amos had said, in taking his own course P If he allowed himself to do only what she approved, would he not be ignominiously surrendering his right as a man? And as to its being wrong to drink a little, and as to his having broken his word—Oh, nonsense ! Was he not old enough now to choose for himself? The fact is, eight years of freedom from that second mother's teaching had dimmed the lessons she had taught; eight years of association with steady, tory-minded Mr. Bradford, had not been the best means of keeping the stream of his thoughts and aspirations pure—had, perhaps, rather mingled therewith something worldly. And so, Oliver did not find it hard to crush down his sense of uneasiness, or to look forward carelessly to the expected quarrel. Indeed, as to this last matter, he grew more and more confident that, should it happen, he could not be to blame. Why had Elsie treated him so doubtfully of late P, Was it because he had not taken her to that lecture a week or two ago, when she had defiantly gone off by herself? He might, certainly, have left the warehouse sooner, and so been in time. Yet business must be attended to, and surely she could have awaited another opportunity of hearing the lecturer. But no. She wanted her own way, as Rearden had hinted, and it was the best thing for all that she had not been allowed to have it.
Our friend reached home on the following Thursday evening with these thoughts in his mind, and also with something of that disposition to merriment and teasing which is often the result of our having done a profitable day's work: for Oliver congratulated himself on a great bargain he had effected that day, in buying. Entering the sitting-room, where Miss Vaughan sat alone, knitting , he said, lightly, as he threw himself into an easy chair opposite her:
“Elsie, ask Mary to bring me up a glass of beer; I'm terribly thirsty.”
Miss Waughan, who had greeted him shortly and then fixed her attention on her work, raised her eyes again. She saw something of Oliver's mirthful mood in his face, as she did so, and, her own cheeks reddening deeply, she replied, indignantly:
“I shall do nothing of the kind.”
“Why, you are not cross, are you?” asked Oliver, smiling provokingly.
FRIEND OR FOE?
Elsie made no answer, but rose hastily and was about to leave the room, when, still in obedience to his teasing inclination, the other also started up, placing himself before the door. “You haven't given me an answer,” he said, still smiling. “And you shall not go until you do, and until I have had a kiss. I've not had one all this week.”
“You will get neither. Please let me pass.” The red cheeks grew more red still, but she did not look up in his face.
Oliver, his merriment gone in a moment, and a desire for reconciliation coming suddenly upon him, took her hand, and was drawing her to him, when Elsie snatched it away, and burst into tears. Oliver was the more softened at this sign of submission (as he thought it), and again took her hand, with the intention of soothing her. But the girl-evidently at the cost of a great effort -suddenly checked her tears, and lifted her gaze to his.
“You must think me a miserable creature indeed,” she said, drawing herself erect, while her eyes fairly blazed with passion, "if you suppose I am to be insulted with impunity.”
“What do you mean, Elsie ?” asked Oliver, in astonishment. This defiance was the last thing he had looked for, a moment ago.
“You know what I mean, sir. You know what Saturday evening's work meant. You did it on purpose to insult me. And now you come to insult me again by your
orders “I beg your pardon, Elsie. It's you who are to blame. You defied me to do it, and I did it, and shall go on doing it.”
“I suppose your friend advised you”-Miss Vaughan began, brushing the tears from her eyes with a quick, impatient movement.
“My friend,” interrupted Oliver, with sudden heat at the implied scorn in her words, "is an honourable fellow, and no one shall breathe a word against him in my presence. If he advises at all, he does so wisely.”
“Then,” the other retorted, her bosom swelling with the tumult within, as she swept towards the door, while Oliver made way for her, “then you can choose between your honourable friend and me!” The next moment she would have been gone, had not the door opened to admit Mr. Bradford, who entered very slowly and with great difficulty, assisted by two thick walking sticks.
“Hoity-toity! What's all this?” asked that gentleman, gazing first at one and then at the other. He had heard the high words from his little study, and had come to know the cause.
“Oh,” answered Oliver, angrily, throwing himself on a couch, "Elsie says I've began to drink beer on purpose to insult her.”
“Tut, tut!” returned Mr. Bradford, struggling towards his seat. What a storm in a tea-pot! “Come-kiss and be friends, and don't let little things like that upset you.
“But Elsie had gone-was at that moment, indeed, in her own room, kneeling beside her bed with her face buried in her hands, and sobbing bitterly. The world were much happier if woman could give vent in tears only, to her passion and wounded pride.
It is strange, perhaps, but none the less a fact, that, when we have taken some course at another's prompting, and got into difficulty through taking it, we feel an irresistible impulse to go and confer with that other, when we trust him, as to the best means of overcoming our trouble. This impulse Oliver felt, and felt so strongly that, directly tea was over, he rose and went to Rearden's lodgings. He had the billiard-room in his mind, certainly, with its genial, merry company, and its fascinating game. Still, he was a little troubled at the intense passion Elsie had shown, and he should like to know Rearden's opinion of this rupture. So he hurried away to the latter's lodgings, where-after disturbing Amos and Walter Joyce, a clerk at the warehouse, in a game at cards, though the latter declared that he ought to have gone before, and at once took his leave--he was soon deep in the story of what had passed between Elsie and himself, Rearden listening with a smiling face, but with some peculiar thoughts passing through his mind.