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And when sharp frost enchains the trembling rills,
And snow-flakes on the barren fields descend,
Traced by the pencil of a gifted friend;
Summer shall seem to glow before my eyes,
Summer, perchance, shall glow within my heart.
AFTER all that philosophers have said with regard to the conduct of life, its high duties and responsibilities, and the individual power to achieve comparative happiness, there is much remaining untold, which sets all their speculations at nought. is in the power of every man to be content,” says the essayist, and it is well for the honour of human nature, that this is not true. To be content under some circumstances, would imply the entire absence of all moral dignity, of self-respect, of natural affection, of worthy resolve, of pity, of benevolence, of every feeling by which humanity is exalted above the brutes that perish. Philosophers take but narrow ground; they seldom wander out of self. The philosophy of Diogenes did not teach him to subdue the cynical pride that had grown with his growth, until he became an epitome of selfishness, it merely suggested to him the happy idea of hurling it at the head of the world, from the confines of his tub; what is true of him, is
* Continued from p. 159, vol. liv. March, 1849.—VOL. LIV. No. ccxv.
true of all; the writing of universal rules was the climax of human vanity. No man is able to follow exactly the steps of another, to think by measure, and to feel by rule. Christ knew the fallacy of this, when he said, “Come to me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Here is the true haven for all that have suffered beyond the bounds of human belief; for all those of whom philosophers and preachers alike lose sight. As the inhabitants of some flat country, whose surface is only bounded by the horizon, where the temperature is moderate, and where the terrific storms of the two zones never come, judge of the inhabitants of other lands, by rules that can apply only to themselves, knowing nothing of the wild alpine passes, where life is now perilled by a false step, and now threatened by an avalanche; nothing of the untracked solitudes of the north, the arid wastes of Africa, with their infrequent oases of water and of shade; the thick jungles of the east, or the boundless prairies of the west ; so do they act, who place all men for judgment on the false level of a common precedent; and, as it is with those who merely think, so also it is with those who suffer. He, whose life has been smooth and eventless, cannot conceive of the strange vicissitude awaiting them that are called upon to pass through the wild regions, where fortitude is tried, and courage tempted above its strength; where love is often crushed down amid the surrounding darkness, and hope overwhelmed at the moment it was grasped firmest ; where the precepts of this world's wisdom are alto. gether perverted, so that to “do well,” implies every species of self-sacrifice, privation unknown, and toil unrewarded, and forbearance unappreciated, and solitariness anvisited, save by such revelations from the depths around, and the heights above, as serve to make the heart sadder, and the spirit wiser; to wing away the thoughts to that “better country,” where imperfection is ended, and where the dismay of doubt, and the trembling uncertainty of expectation, shall alike give place to the joy that is for evermore.
Five weeks had passed from the first day of her attack, and Jessy, still an invalid, was not considered strong enough to quit the confinement of her room, which had been rendered as pleasant to her as under the circumstances was possible, by the kind friends into whose hands she had fallen. An air of neatness and comfort pervaded the small apartment, which was even supplied with luxuries in the shape of books, several volumes being piled on a shelf, hung in the embrasure of the single, deep set window. The girl herself, on at length returning to consciousness, beheld these and other attentions to her comfort, with a strange mixture of affectionate gratitude for the
kindness by which they were prompted, and of bitter regret, that circumstances should have called them forth. The good doctor and his sister, who frequently visited her, Mr. Herbert, and her constant attendant, the motherly nurse, all admonished her to keep her mind easy, and to ask no questions, as the readiest means of re-establishing her health ; but, whilst doing her best to follow this advice, Jessy fell far short of the equanimity required from her. Although she had never seen her grandmother since her illness, nor even ventured to enquire about her, her idea still formed, as it had always done, the one mysterious, yet most palpable horror of her life. Any unusual noise in the house, a footfall on the stairs, or the opening of her room door, caused her to start and tremble, whilst the blood rushed to her pale face, and the faint perspiration of terror bedewed her forehead. They who witnessed this trepidation, and divined its cause, scrupulously forbore making any remark, merely redoubling their efforts to draw her attention elsewhere ; but with the outward visible sign of that life-consuming apprehension, the inward consciousness did not also pass; and the well-meant interference of her friends had no more power to check the deep flow of her hidden thoughts, than has the breeze that changes the aspect of the ocean power to alter the course of its unfathomed depths. Yet, notwithstanding this drawback to her recovery, Jessy, when all danger was passed, rapidly advanced to convalescence; and there were even moments when, soothed by the considerate kindness of those around her, she felt that present mercies were almost an atonement for all the past. For the future she only prayed, dreading to hope, and meanwhile time wore on, adding to the obligations she had incurred, and the perplexities threatening to overwhelm her.
On a bright day in January, she was sitting as usual, propped with cushions, in the easy chair belonging to Mr. Herbert. On a small round table beside her was placed a Bible, and several scattered numbers of the Spectator and Tatler, and one of the latter was in her hand; but her eyes were wandering to the prospect beyond the window; the roofs of innumerable houses, thickly studded with snow, which glittered and scintillated in the clear sunshine. It was past noon, and the nurse was busily employed in putting matters in order for the day, expecting to be released from her duties for a few hours, as had latterly been the 'custom, by the sister of Dr. Blake, who thus prevented the invalid being left alone. The good woman frequently paused in her labour to glance at her charge, who seemed to be more than usually sad and abstracted; and in her simple way, she thought that if God had been pleased to call the girl to him.
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self, few could have been better fitted to enter into the promised rest. And indeed, the whole appearance of the girl, apart from the touching humility and affectionate gentleness of her manner and speech, would have been suggestive of the same thought to any one similarly accustomed to look beyond the confines of mortality. There was something almost angelic in the expression of her pale, thin face; the shadow of what it had been, for the earthly part seemed only to have decayed in order that the spiritual might shine forth more freely; and no mere worldly learning is needed to distinguish this as the true part of every creature.
“Ah, I see you are longing to be out in the bright sunshine," said the woman, at length breaking upon her reverie ; "and very natural it is you should, for it's a beautiful thing surely, and most so to them shut up so long as you have been. Thank God, we are not far from the fields, and we must get you into them, as soon as you are strong enough, for there's nothing better than the fresh air after all, we should soon be wanting the physic again without it.”
“I wish you would come and sit by me, nurse,” said Jessy, without replying to these remarks. "I want to ask a few questions, that I am sure you will not mind answering.”
Well, dear, I shall be done directly, and I'll take up my kniting till Mrs. Blake comes. But I must not have too much talk, you know, or we shall have her and the doctor scolding us both." “It is respecting them, that I wish to speak with you,” said
" How unaccountable has been their conduct to me! I am astonished and overwhelmed, when I think of all they have done, yet my heart is rather depressed than elated, for I know that to their goodness alone, and not to any desert of mine, I owe everything."
“You would not be at all surprised, if you had known them as long as I have,” said the nurse, quietly. “They are nice, charitable people, who have made it the business of their lives to go about doing good; making many better, but none wiser, for there's no noise made with their good deeds, and none but the poor know anything about them. It would take hours to tell you all I myself know of what they have done for people in distress; them and Mr. Herbert together."
“What extraordinary benevolence !” exclaimed the girl, feel. ing something like a pang of disappointment at her heart. “They show the same kindness to such numbers of people, and all strangers; how many of their own good deeds they must needs forget! And I am no more to them than others, yet oh ! how I could love them!”
The nurse looked up with some surprise at the vehemence with which the girl, unconsciously, had spoken. “It is natural you should feel love for them,” she said, “theirs is a labour of love: but like most very benevolent people, their means are small. Dr. Blake's practice lies chiefly amongst the poor, that he never thinks of asking for money; and his nephew, Mr. Herbert, who is the assistant curate of St. Giles's, has more of the church's work than its pay; but to be sure, his heart is in the work, and there is the reward. He is an excellent young man, and truly spends his time going about doing good, as few know better than I do."
The woman paused, and Jessy remained silent, for her words had caused a sickening of the heart, for which she could hardly account; the war of her feelings terrified her. Why, she asked herself, could she not rejoice in this knowledge of the exhaustless benevolence of her new friends? Was it indeed, that vanity had already whispered to her heart, that they might have felt a deeper interest in her fate, than what sprung from mere compassion? or rather, was it not the isolation of that heart, cast upon life without ties, and without a resting place; keen in its perception, of whatever was loveable, and thirsting to be loved as the hart thirsteth for the water-brooks;' was it not this want, and its necessary craving that left her soul desolate, when she found that she had unconsciously been indulging in imaginations which it was so bitter, and so necessary to yield up?
Jessy had seen too little of life and manners to be a close reasoner in her own case, and she did not pause to enquire why the step and the voice of Mr. Herbert had ever been more welcome to her than those of the others, welcome though · they were; why his little attentions, in occasionally bringing her books, and conversing with her on their contents, inspired her with more gratitude and pleasure, than the more frequent attention to her wants displayed by his uncle and aunt; or why, now when all these feelings were forsaking her, fading away like the memory of some pleasant dream, it was so hard to be compelled to believe, that her very remembrance would soon pass away from him, be obliterated by the interest created amongst fresh objects of an equally disinterested compassion.
Conscious only of the desolation of her own thoughts and prospects, Jessy sat silent and oppressed, and the woman resumed the conversation.
“I think it's always the people that have suffered themselves that feel most for suffering. Neither the Blakes nor Mr. Herbert are what the world calls fortunate people. I remember Dr. Blake first coming to live in Holborn, to the very