« PreviousContinue »
Whose crimson berries blush between walk. His sudden plunge into the Thy prickly foliage, modestly. simplicity and comparative solitude of Ye winter-flowers, bloom sweet and country life--and that country Yatton fair,
-had quite refreshed his feelings, and Though Nature's garden else be bare- given a tone to his spirits. Of course, Ye vernal glistening emblems, meet Dr Tatham was to dine at the hall on To twine a Christmas coronet.' the morrow; if he did not, indeed, it
would have been for the first time du66 That will do, Doctor --what a me- ring the last five-and-twenty years. mory you have for trifles!"
Christmas eve passed pleasantly and “ Peggy! Peggy!-- you're sadly quietly enough at the hall. After dinoverdoing it,” said the Doctor, calling ner the merry little ones were introout to the sexton's wife, who was duced, and their prattle and romps ocbusy at work in the squire's pew-a cupied an hour right joyously. As soon large square pew in the nave, near the as, smothered with kisses, they had pulpit. * Why, do you want to hide the been dismissed to bed, old Mrs Ausquire's family from the congregation? brey composed herself in hier great You're quite putting a holly hedge all chair to ber usual after-dinner's nap; round.'
while her son, his wife, and sister, sit“ Please you, sir, I've got so much ting fronting the fire-a decanter or I don't know where to put it-so, in two, and a few wine-glasses, and dessert course, I put it here."
remaining on the table behind them " Then," said the Doctor, with a sat conversing in a subdued tone, now smile, looking round the church, " let listening to the wind roaring in the John get up and put some of it in chimney-a sound which not a little those old hatchments; and," looking enhanced their sense of comfort-then up at the clerk, busy at work in the criticising the disposition of the everpulpit, • don't put quite so much up greens with which the room was plenthere in my candlesticks."
teously decorated, and laying out their With this the parson and the squire movements during the ensuing fortnight. took their departure. As they passed Mrs Aubrey and Kate were, with af. slowly up the village, which already fectionate earnestness, contrasting to wore a sort of holiday aspect, they Aubrey the peaceful pleasures of met on all hands with a cordial and a country life with the restless exciterespectful greeting. The quiet little ment and endless anxieties of a Lonpublic-house turned out some four or don political life, to which they saw five stout fellows-all tenants of his him more and more addicting himself; with their pipes in their hands, and he all the while playfully parrying their who took off their hats, and bowed attacks, but secretly acknowledging the very low. Mr Aubrey went up and truth and force of what they said, entered into conversation with them
when-hark!-a novel sound from for some minutes-their families and without which roused the old lady from farms, he found, were well and thriving. lier nap: What do you think, dear
The voices of little Tliere was quite a little crowd of women reader, it was ? about the shop of Nick Steele, the girls singing what seemed to be a butcher, who, with an extra hand to
Christmas hymn: yes, they caught the help him, was giving out the second
wordsox which had been sent from the hall,
6. Hark! the herald-angels sing, to the persons whose names had been Glory to the new-born king ; given in to him from Mrs Aubrey.
Peace on earth, and mercy mild "Further on, some were cleaning their “ It must be your little school-girls," little windows, others sweeping their said old Mrs Aubrey, looking at her floors, and sprinkling sand over them; daughter, and listening. most were sticking holly and mistletoe “I do believe it is,” quoth Kate, her in their windows, and over their man- eyes suddenly filling with tears, as she tel-pieces. Every where, in short, sat eagerly inclining her ear towards was to be seen that air of quiet pre- the window. paration for the cheerful morrow, They must be standing on the which fills a thoughtful observer with grass-plot just before the window," feelings of pensive but exquisite satis- said Mr Aubrey : the tiny voices were faction.
thrilling his very heart within him. Mr Aubrey returned home towards His sensitive nature might be compadusk, cheered and enlivened by liis red to a delicate Æolian harp, which
NO, CCXCIII, VOL. XLVII,
give forth, with the slightest breath were the greetings of those who soon of accident or circumstance,
after met at the bountiful breakfast “ The still, sad music of humanity." table. Old Mrs Aubrey was going to In a few moments he was almost in church with them—in fact, not even a tears-the sounds were so unlike the domestic was to be left at home that tierce and turbulent cries of political could possibly be spared. By the warfare to which his ears had been lats time that the carriage, with the fat and terly accustomed ! The more the poor lazy looking grey horses, was at the children sung, the more was he affect- hall door, the sun had burst out in ed. Kate's tears fell fast, for she had beauty from an almost cloudless sky. been in an excited mood before this The three ladies rode alone ; Aubrey little incident occurred. “Do you hear, preferring to walk, accompanied by his mamma," said she, “the voice of the little son, as the ground was dry and poor little thing that was last taken hard, and the distance very short. A into the school? The little darling!” troop of some twelve or fourteen serKate tried to smile away her emotion; vants, male and female, presently folbut 'twas in vain. Mr Aubrey gently lowed; and then came Mr Aubrey, drew aside the curtain, and pulled up leading along the beir of Yatton-a the central blind--and there, headed boy of whom he might well be proud, by their mitron, stood the little singers as the future possessor of his name, his exposed to view, some eighteen in fortune, and his honours. When he mumber, ranged in a row on the grass, had reached the church, the carriage their white dresses glistening in the was returning home. Almost the moonlight. The oldest seemed not whole congregation stood collected be. more than ten or twelve years old, fore the church door, to see the Squire's while the younger ones could not be family enter; and reverent were the more than tive or six. They seemed curtsies and bows with which old Mrs all singing from their very hearts. Aubrey and her lovely companions Aubrey stood looking at them with were received. Very soon after they very deep interest.
had taken their places, Mr Aubrey As soon as they had finished their and his son made their appearance ; hymo, they were conducted into the objects they were of the deepest inhousekeeper's rooin, according to terest, as they passed along to their orders sent for that purpose from Mrs pew. A few minutes after, little Dr Aubrey, and each of them received a Tatham entered the church in his surlittle present of money, besides a full plice, (which he almost always put on glass of Mrs Jackson's choicest raisin at home,) with a face, serious to be wine, and a currant bun; Kate slipping sure, but yet overspread with an exhalf-a-guinea into the hand of their pression even more bland and benig. mistress, to whose wish to afford gra- nant than usual. He knew there was tification to the inmates of the hall, not a soul among the little crowd was entirely owing the little incident around him that did not really love which had so pleased and surprised him, and that did not know how heartthem.
ily he returned their love. All eyes A happy Christmas to you, dear were of course on the Squire's pew. papa and mamma!” said little Au. Mrs Aubrey was looking well-her brey, about eight o'clock the next daughter and daughter-in-law were morning, pushing aside the curtains, thought by all to be by far the most and clambering up on the high bed beautiful women in the world—what where Mr and Mrs Aubrey were still must people think of them in London? asleep -- soon, however, they were Mr Aubrey looked, they thought, awoke by the welcome sound. The pleased and happy, but rather paler, morning promised a beautifulday. The and even a little thinner; and as for air, though cold, was clear; and the the little Squire, with his bright eyes, branches of the trees visible from their his rosy cheeks, his arch smile, his windows, were all covered with hoar- curling auburn hair--he was the pride frost, which seemed to line them as if of Yatton ! with silver fringe. The little bells of Dr Tatham read prayers, as he alYatton church were ringing a merry ways did, with great distinctness and peal; but, how different in tone deliberation, so that every body in the and strength from the clangour of the church, young and old, could catchevery London church-bells! Christmas was syllable; and he preached, considerindeed at last arrived and cheerful ately enough, a very short sermon
pithy, homely, and affectionate. He ed her hundredth year-some said two reminded them that he was then or three years before-and had lived in preaching his thirty-first Christmas-day her present little cottage for nearly sermon from that pulpit. The service half a century, having grown out of over, none of the congregation moved the recollection of almost all the infrom their places till the occupants of habitants of the village. She had long the Squire's pew had quitted it ; but been a pensioner of Mrs Aubrey's, by as soon as they had got outside of the whom alone, indeed, she was supportdoor, the good people poured out after ed. Her great age, her singular apthem, and almost lined the way from pearance, and a certain rambling way tlie church door to the gate at which of talking that she had, earned her the the carriage stood, receiving and an- reputation in the village of being able swering a hundred kind enquiries cons to say strange things; and one or two cerning themselves, their families, and of the old gossips knew of things comtheir circumstances.
ing to pass according to what-poor Mr Aubrey stayed behind, desirous of old soul--she had predicted ! taking another little ramble with Dr Dr Tatham gently pushed open the Tatham through the village, for the door. The cottage consisted, in fact, day was indeed bright and beautiful, of but one room, and that a very small and the occasion inspiriting. There one, and lit by only one little window. was not a villager within four or five The floor was clean, and evidently miles of the hall who did not sit down just fresh sanded. On a wooden stool, that day to a comfortable little relish- opposite a fireplace, on which a small ing dinner, at least one-third of them
saucepan pot was placed, sat a girl being indebted for it directly to the about twelve years old, (a daugliter of bounty of the Aubreys. As soon as the woman who lived nearest,) crumbDr Tatham had taken off his gown, he ling some bread into a basin, with accompanied Mr Aubrey in cheerful some broth in it. On a narrow bed mood, in the briskest spirits. 'Twas against the wall, opposite the window, delightful to see the smoke come curl. was to be seen the somewhat remark. ing out of every chimney, scarce any able figure of the solitary old tenant one visible, suggesting to you that they of the cottage. She was sitting up, were all housed, and preparing for, or resting against the pillow, which was partaking of their roast-beef and plum- placed on end against the wall. She pudding. Now and then the bustling was evidently a very tall woman; and wife would show her heated red face her long, brown, wrinkled, shrivelled at the door, and hastily curtsy as they face, with prominent cheekbones and passed, then returning to dish up her bushy white eyebrows, betokened the little dinner.
possession, in earlier days, of a most " Ah, ha! Mr Aubrey !_isn't such masculine expression of features. Her a day as this worth a whole year in hair, white as snow, was gathered back town?" exclaimed Dr Tatham.
from her forehead, under a spreading “ Both have their peculiar influences, plain white cap; and her sightless Doctor; the pleasure of the contrast eyes, wide open, stared forward with would be lost if”.
a startling and somewhat sinister ex66 Contrast? Believe me, in the pression. She was wrapped round in language of Virgil”.
a clean white bedgown; and her long “ Ah! how goes on old blind Bess, thin arms lay straight before her on Doctor?” interrupted Aubrey, as they the outside of the bed-clothes. Her approached the smallest cottage in the lips were moving, as if she were talkvillage-in fact, the very last.
ing to herself. - She's just the same as she has o She's a strange-looking object, been these last twenty years. Shall we indeed!” exclaimed Mr Aubrey, as look in on the old creature ?”
he and Dr Tatham stood watching • With all my heart. I hope, poor
her for a few moments in silence. soul! that she has not been overlooked “ Dame! dame!" said the Doctor, on this festive occasion."
loudly, approaching her bedside, “ Trust Mrs Aubrey for that! I'll “ How are you to-day ? It's Christmas answer for it, we shall find old Bess as day- I wish you a merry Christmas.' happy, in her way, as she can be.'
Ay, ay-merry, merry! More This was a stone-blind old woman,
the merrier! l've seen a hundred and who had been bedridden for the last nine of them!" twenty years. She had certainly pass.
“ You seem very happy, dame.”
“ They won't give me my broth- “ Is it indeed ?" enquired Mr Au
brey, with a sort of mechanical smile. " It's coming, granny,'' called out
Dr Tatham saw that he was in a very the shrill voice of the girl sitting be
serious humour. fore the fire, quickening her motions.
" She's alarmed you, I protest! “Here's the Squire come to see you, I protest she has !” exclaimed the dame, and he wishes you a happy
Doctor, with a smile, as they walked Christmas," said Dr Tatham.
along. Now he knew the disposition “ Whate! the Squire? Alive yet?
and character of Aubrey intimately ; Ah, well-a-day! well-a-day!” said and was well aware of a certain tenshe, in a feeble, mournful tone, slowly dency he had to superstition. rubbing together her long, skinny, “My dear Doctor, I assure you that wrinkled hands, on the backs of which you are mistaken-I am indeed not the veins stood out like knotted whipe alarmed-but at the same time I will cord. She repeated the last words tell you something not a little singu. several times, in a truly doleful tone, lar. Would you believe that a month gently shaking her head.
or two ago, when in town, I dreamed “ Granny's been very sad, sir, to- that I heard some one uttering the day, and cried two or three times,” very words this old woman has just said the little girl, stirring about the been uttering !” hot broth.
“Ah! ha, ha!” laughed the Doctor; “ Poor Squire ! doth he not look and, after a second or two's pause, sad ?" enquired the old woman. Aubrey, as if ashamed of what he had
• Why should I, dame? What have said, echoed the laugh, and their conI to fear?” said Mr Aubrey.
versation passed on to political topics, " Merry in the hall! all, merry! which kept them engaged for the remerry! But no one has heard it but mainder of their walk, Mr Aubrey old blind Bess. Where's the Squire ?" quitting his companion at the door of she added, suddenly turning lier face the vicarage, to be rejoined by him at full towards where they were standing five o'clock, the dinner hour at the
and it seemed whitened with emo- hall. As Mr Aubrey walked along tion. Her staring eyes were settled the park, the shades of evening casting on Mr Aubrey's face, as if she were a deepening gloom around him, his reading lis very soul.
thoughts involuntarily recurred to the • Here I am, dame," said he, with cottage of old blind Bess, and he felt a great deal of curiosity, to say the vague apprehensions fitting with least of it.
darkening shade across his mind. “ Give me your hand, Squire,” said Though he was hardly weak enough she, stretching out her left arm, and to attach
definite meaning or working about her talon-like fingers, importance to the gibberish he had as if in eagerness to grasp Mr Aubrey's heard, it still had left an unpleasant hand, which he gave her.
impression, and he was vexed at feeling • Never fear! never, never! Happy
a wish that the incident--trifling as in the hall! I see all ! How long"
he was willing to believe it should " Why, dame, this is truly a very
not be mentioned by Dr Tatham at pleasant grecting of yours," inter- the hall; and still more, on recollects posed Dr Tatham, with a smile. ing that he had purposely. abstained
“ Short and bitter! long and sweet! from requesting the good Doctor not Put your trust in God, Squire."
to do so. All this implied that the “ I hope I do, granny,” replied matter had occupied his thoughts to Mr Aubrey seriously.
a greater extent than he secretly reor I see! I hear !--my broth! my
lished. On reaching, however, the broth!--where is it?"
hall door, this brief pressure on his “ Here it is, granny,” said the girl. feelings quickly ceased; for on enter
Good-day, dame," said Mr Au- ing he saw Mrs Aubrey, his sister, brey, gently disengaging his hand and his two children at high romps from hers; and before they had left together in the hall, and he heartily the cottage she began to swallow very joined in them. greedily the broth with which the By five o'clock the little party were little girl fed her.
seated at the cheerful dinner-table, “ This is the sort of way in which covered with the glittering old family this old superannuated creature has plate, and that kind of fare, at once frightened one or two of"
substantial and luxurious, which be
fitted the occasion. Old Mrs Aubrey, than he was ? As soon as the ladies in her simple white turban and black had withdrawn, together with little velvet dress, presided with a kind of Aubrey, the Doctor and Mr Aubrey dignified cheerfulness which was de- drew their chairs before the fire, and lightful to see. Kate had contrived enjoyed a long hour's pleasant chat to make herself look more lovely even on matters domestic and political. than usual, wearing a dress of dark blue As to the latter, the parson and the satin, tastefully trimmed with blonde, Squire were stout Tories ; and a and which exquisitely comported with speech which Aubrey had lately deliher lovely complexion. Oh that vered in the House, on the Catholic Delamere had been sitting opposite to, claims, raised him to a pitch of emior beside her! The more matured nence in the parson's estimation, proportions of her blooming sister-in- when he had very few men in the law appeared to infinite advantage in country to keep him company. The a rich green velvet dress, while a su- Doctor here got on very fast indeed ; perb diamond glistened with subdued and was just assuring the Squire that lustre in her beautiful bosom. She he saw dark days in store for Old Eng. wore no ornaments in her dark hair, land from the machinations of the which was, as indeed might be said of Papists; and that, for his part, he Kate, “when unadorned, adorned the should rejoice to “seal his testimony most.” The greyheaded old butler, with his blood,” and would go to the as brisk as his choicest champagne, stake not only without flinching, but with which he perpetually bustled rejoicing--all which I verily believe round the table, and the three steady- he verily believed he would have looking old family servants, going done,)--and coveting the crown of about their business with quiet ce- martyrdom, when Aubrey caught the lerity—the delicious air of antique sounds of his sister playing on the elegance around them,—this was a organ, à noble instrument, which a Christmas dinner after one's own year or two before, at her urgent reheart!--Oh the merry and dear old quest, he had purchased and placed in Yatton! And as if there were not the drawing-room, whither he and the loveliness enough already in the room, Doctor at once repaired. 'Twas a behold the door suddenly pushed open spacious and lofty room, well calcuas soon as the dinner is over, and run lated for the splendid instrument up to his gay and laughing mother, which occupied the large recess fronther little son, his ample snowy collar ing the door. Miss Aubrey was playresting gracefully on bis crimson vel. ing Handel, and with an exquisite vet dress. 'Tis her hope and pride-- perception of his matchless power and her first-born--the little squire ; but beauty. Hark! did you ever hear the where is his sister?-where is Agnes? grand yet simple recitative she is now 'Tis even as Charles says-she fell commencing ? asleep in the very act of being dressed,
“ In the days of Herod the king, beand they were obliged to put her to bed ; so Charles is alone in his glory. hold, there came wise men from the East, You may well fold your delicate white arm around him, mamma.
“ Saying-- Where is he that is born His little gold cup is nearly filled to
King of the Jews ? for we have seen his
star in the East, and are come to worjoin in the first toast: are you
ship him." ready? The worthy Doctor has poured Mrs Aubrey's glass, and Kate's glass, The Doctor officiated as chaplain full up to the brim :-“ Our next that evening. The room was almost Christmas!"
filled with servants, many of wliose Yes, your next Christmas! The vigi. looks very plainly showed the merry lant eye of Dr Tatham alone per doings that had been going on in tlie ceived a faint change of colour in Mr servants' hall; some of them could Aubrey's cheek as the words were scarce keep their eyes open; one or uttered ; and his eye wandered for an two sat winking at each other, and instant, as if tracing across the room
Under the circumstances, the image of old blind Bess; but 'twas therefore, the Doctor, with muchjudggone in a moment-Aubrey was soon ment, read very short prayers, and in much higher spirits than usual. immediately after took his departure. Well he might be. How could man The next morning, which proved as be placed in happier circumstances fine as the preceding, Mr Aubrey was