網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

source.

to obtain business; but I was a stranger; none knew or cared for me; and during a residence of ten years we have not found a man, yourself excepted, whom we could truly call a friend. But we had a few dollars and some clothing, and purchasing some things of absolute necessity, we commenced housekeeping.

We did not have a solitary call during the first three months. We had just sufficient money to pay our first quarter, and five shillings to commence the second. Truly a fearful prospect! Ellen obtained a little plain sewing, and I began occasionally to get a tooth to pull, and had some business among the poor for which I received no pay. We purchased nothing scarcely but potatoes, and generally a very small supply of them, and not a particle of tea or coffee or any other luxury passed our lips. The end of the second quarter approached, and there was no prospect that we should be able to pay the rent. We expected to be turned into the street, and had no re

All we had been able to earn hardly sufficed to supply us with potatoes and a few other indispensables. Our landlord having occasion for some medical services, we were permitted to stay another quarter. But our prospects did not improve ; our clothing was wearing out, our cash was gone, our rent was accumulating, and our income not increasing; and to add to our expenses little Mary was added to our family.

We were happy in each other, but all else was dark and fearful.

Our few resources were gradually sliding away, and when gone we had no prospect but starvation. Thus we dragged out our first year; in debt for two quarters' rent, and not a shilling with which to commence the next year. Our landlord, though a man of some feeling, told us he could not afford to keep us longer without rent, and we were compelled to seek other lodgings. But where should we go? We had no reference, and could give no security. Who would receive us ? We looked long before we found a place to put our heads, and when found it was anything but desirable. One room and bedroom was all we dared to take, with no prospect of payment. Under these auspices we commenced our second year.

" It must be confessed,” said Mrs. S., " that my husband was exceedingly sensitive and retiring, and the sense of our poverty drove us

in upon ourselves, so that we doubtless did not make as much effort as we should have done. We had already seen so much of the world's coldness that we distrusted all. We did not expect to find a friend, and consequently did not seek very earnestly. Mr. S. now put out a sign, offering his services gratis to the poor, hoping it might increase his experience and be beneficial to him. It increased his business, but not his income. He saw misery elsewhere, and learned perhaps to bear up under his own with more fortitude; but before one month was passed we were without food. Not a particle did we obtain for two eptire days. We wrote to the father of Mrs. S. in the humblest and most earnest tones for assistance and forgiveness, but received no answer. We had begun to feel the keen gnawings of hunger when our exchequer was increased by the addition of two shillings, the proceed of extracting a tooth. Never was a merchant more rejoiced by the addition of thousands to his stores of wealth than were we on the receipt of the two shillings. It was soon invested in meal and potatoes, and sustained us for several days. Mr. S. had now considerable business, but it was nearly all gratis, and the little charged was not much of it collected. People generally seem to suppose that all bills must be paid before the physician's, and that as his charges are made without an actual investment of cash, he can better afford to wait. Did they know the intense anguish that most young physicians feel in the struggle against poverty and misfortune, they would doubtless be more prompt in their payments. Another source of our anxiety was, that my husband was unable to procure respectable clothing, and this injured his business severely. How sadly he went forth to his accustomed business, and how sadly he returned! The image of despair, dreading to meet those he owed, and yet in agony because he owed them. Thus we dragged through the second year, with our circumstances scarcely improved. It would be tedious to recount all our struggles with misfortune—all our hours

Our sensibilities were ever on the rack, and if one debt was paid, another stared us in the face. Scarcely a day passed that we were not waited on for some bill which we had been compelled to contract or starve. Landlords were pertinacious for their rent

of agony.

[blocks in formation]

trades-people and mechanics could not afford to wait. Meantime one and another was added to our little family. We required more room, and consequently more expense.

Our only way of obtaining business was in keeping a respectable appearance, and to do this it was necessary continually to contract debts, and none were ever more troubled with the debts than ourselves. Often did we sigh for the condition of the poor day-laborer who was not compelled to keep up appearances,' but could live in his own humble way. But time passed on, and cares continually increased. It appeared strange at the end of the year that we had reached that point, and we saw no prospect before us for the future. We allowed ourselves none of the pleasures and enjoyments of life that the very poorest enjoy. Though living in a good house, and moving in good society, none were more hopelessly wretched.

Thus have we dragged out the past ten years of our life. Aside from our happiness in each other, they have been ten years of unalloyed misery.

But for the last few weeks and months, since you have known us, our agony has been increased a thousand-fold, from the fact that our last and only solace must fail. Death, with slow approach, is laying his icy hand upon my husband, and soon will claim him as his own, and then, alas! what shall be my situation ? Would that I could lay down in the same grave! Would that the same winding-sheet might enfold us both!” This passionate burst of feeling-this harrowing up of past, present, and especially future misery, was too much for the delicate sensibilities of Mrs. S. The powers of nature suddenly gave way, and she fell fainting and exhausted upon the floor. It is scarcely necessary to add, that her wants were cared for; that in a few weeks we followed that saddest of all mourners to the grave of her husband, and afterwards succeeded in effecting a reconciliation with her father, and permission for her return to comfort, if not to happiness, in her father's house.

THE LOCK OF HAIR.

Yes! 'tis the same soft, silken curl

That twined itself around her brow, When she, a gay, light-hearted girl,

Was happy, scarcely knowing how.

How much like life these silken cords

Twine round my fingers, and impart A joy, as when remembered words

Come thronging back upon the heart.

It gleams as brightly to the view,
And

sways before the slightest breath, As though the head on which it grew

Had never bowed itself in death.

[blocks in formation]

FATHER FRANCIS;

A TALE OF THE SPANISH INQUISITION.

BY PHIL BRENGLE.

CHAPTER I.

NOTHING can be more beautiful than the white, glancing fall of snow through the air; yet few things are more fearful than those light flakes to the unfortunate traveller, who cannot escape from their noiseless potency. Thick and pitiless, the storm drove down upon the head of such a man, aged and alone, in a wild gorge of the Pyrenees. His bent form, toiling between those tremendous precipices, looked like a feeble insect, made more insignificant by the loftiness of the whitened mountains which surrounded it. Yet this weak old man, fainting before the frail snow-flakes, was one who had moved thousands with his tongue, who had spoken with irresistible authority before nobles, and was even hunted by the mighty Inquisition as a dreaded foe. He was one of those few men who, before the days of Luther, stood up alone and raised a voice against the corruptions of Rome. Through the south of France and the north of Spain, Father Francis was known and reverenced. The Inquisition had often stretched out its hydra limbs for him in vain, for the humble Reformer was protected by a power higher than officials or racks, or the giant reach of this, the most subtle engine of cruelty ever invented by man. He had escaped his foes, seemingly to die in the storm.

As he toiled and staggered in his blind course, the old man's faint, gasping voice was poured

us.

“ Vain prayer! The weary frame which I had hoped to wear out in God's service, must yield to his power. The final sleep is coming upon me–final, but not endless. Let me only reach that rock, and under it I can sink peacefully into the slumber of death, for

my Master has called me. Hark! am I not the only one here to die ?"

There was indeed a low, fretful cry borne to his ear through the storm, and he hurried towards the sound. In the shelter of the rock, half stood, half lay, a boy of eight or ten years, moaning faintly, and already closing his eyes in the slumber which turns to death. At the sight of another he raised his voice into a feeble shout of joy, and fell forwards into the arms of the priest. “ Awake, poor child! God has not deserted

Thanks to his name for this proof that I have something more to do in this life! Thanks too for the strength which hope and faith have restored to my limbs! Awake, my child! we have been made to meet here that our lives may be saved.”

It must have been faith from above, and something more than mere human hope, that enabled him to lift the child and bear him forward with renewed strength. He knew that in these exhausting efforts was his only hope. He dared not remain by the rock, for the wild storm was better than its delusive shelter.

The vigor so suddenly exerted had almost failed him, and he was ready to sink down in utter despair, when the boy opened his eyes, and shouted loudly in his ecstacy.

“ There is home !" cried he, clapping his hands.

A little smoke was indeed curling up from a hut near their path, and with a violent effort the wanderer succeeded in reaching the welcome door. A woman sat alone within, bent

forth in prayer :

“ Father, must I die here before my labor is done? Are there no more eyes to be opened, no more souls to receive thy Truth? Oh! take me not until thou hast no more need of me upon the earth.”

Still the snow whirled furiously around him, and by the fatal drowsiness creeping over his limbs, the priest knew that his last hour had

come.

[blocks in formation]

tray your own! Not now, at least. Bartolemé will not come back until morning, and then this storm will be over. Stay till that time-go

then in peace, and with a mother's blessing upon your guilty head. Take with you her prayers also, that you may recant your heresy, and submit to Holy Church!”

“ Let us not waste words on this,” replied the priest, calmly. “Would that your eyes were opened to see the delusion as it is. In our prayers, at least, we can unite. Let us pray for the erring soul, and pour forth blessings for the lives that have been spared this day. Then I will go. Let us pray, too, that after the storm of this life is over, we may meet in another house of refuge, whence no earthly power has strength to draw us away into the final torture."

CHAPTER II.

and almost stupid in her long grief. She raised her eyes eagerly as the door was cast open.

“ It is my child--my boy!"

She clasped him in her arms and kissed him passionately. The aged man fell to the floor, unheeded in his utter exhaustion.

“ See, mother!" cried the boy. He found me.”

An hour from that time the storm without was as wild as before, but Father Francis was kneeling in that warm hut, and returning thanks with the weeping mother and child for the preservation of their lives. Then the woman arose from her knees, and almost for the first time scanned the face of her new guest. There was something familiar in it, for she started at the second glance, and the warm blessing died upon her lips.

“Are you not Father Francis ?" she inquired, doubtfully.

“So I am called," replied the priest.

“ The heretic! the blasphemer of the Holy Virgin!"

The other shook his head sadly, and was abont to reply, but she added :

“Forgive me; for whatever you may be, you have saved my child. For that one thing you are safe now, but had you not come here with him in your arms, you would have done better to lie down in the snow of these mountains and die, than to take shelter under this roof. You are pursued by a power that can t'ar you from the strongest castle, from the altar of God even, and you have thrown yourself within the reach of one who is sworn to do the bidding of that terrible power. I dare not name il—the word is not to be spoken lightly, and you know what I mean. You have sinned against it, and some time you must die for that sin."

• The Inquisition is not a name of terror to me," replied the priest, very slowly. “I acknowledge but one Grand Inquisitor whom I fear-God himself

and him I also love." She seemed not to have heard his words, for she continued, rapidly :

“ You need not think of this now, husband is gone to search for his child. The boy strayed away this morning, where, he cannot tell; but God has watched over his wanderings, and brought him at last very near to his own home. There you was sent to him ; you saved his life, and yet it is our duty to be

Six months from this time the sun shone brightly on the reverend form of Father Francis as he slowly travelled through the same gorge in the Pyrenees, not as before, stagger ing before the storm, but walking briskly onward in all the cheerfulness of a hale old age. He passed by the large rock where the boy had lain down to die, and slowly slackened his pace in doubtful musings. He felt a natural desire to revisit the cottage, but hesitated as to whether he ought to expose himself to the danger. The matter was soon decided for him. He had unconsciously drawn near the place, and was awakened from his revery by the voice of the child, who was then playing before the open door.

“See, mother, see! The good man has come again."

As the child ran towards him, with outstretched arms, the woman appeared, and advanced a few steps in hasty joy; then stopped, and covered her face. Another form appeared in the door. It was a large, dark man, who stood there, and looked on the scene in silence.

The priest hesitated no longer, but took the child in his arms and blessed him. Then he was about to greet the mother, but her husband stepped forward and stopped him with a quiet gesture.

“ You may speak to the boy, for you have

for my

8ะ

sure

« 上一頁繼續 »