페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

Jane and Mary Grant were orphans; their parents had both been taken from them at so early an age, that they neither of them retained any distinct recollection of them. Mrs. Grant, their father's mother, had immediately sent for the children, and they had ever since remained with her, receiving the utmost kindness and the most unbounded indulgence from her. She had determined that, if possible, they should turn out two very accomplished young ladies, and as far as externals went, there was every probability that her wishes would be realized. They had now reached the respective ages of fourteen and fifteen, and in point of appearance and deportment they were unexceptionable. Mary had a fine musical taste which had been fostered as far as possible; she had acquired a brilliant touch and a rapidity of execution that it almost made you breathless to listen to. Her voice was full and sweet, and her singing promised to be something quite above the average.

Jane's eye was more correct than her ear, therefore she had been early instructed in drawing; and certainly few girls of her age could copy a drawing with greater ease or fidelity, but of all that constitutes the difference between the work of the mind, and the mere execution of the hand, she was profoundly ignorant. She would have copied a defect as accurately as an excellence: she could give no reason why the light should fall on one particular object more than on another, except that so it was in the copy; and in fact, as far as habits of thought were concerned, the time of both might as well have been spent in play. What were called their lessons, that is, such things as geography, history, and English grammar, were considered by Mrs. Grant as of very secondary importance. A succession of incompetent governesses, failed either to give them much information, or to excite in their minds the desire to procure it for themselves. Their grandmamma's library was not extensive, and consisted principally of books which young girls would not have much desire to peruse: so that their reading was pretty much restricted to what they toiled through with their governesses; that is to say, to dry historical abridgements, in which there was little to interest, as all association of ideas was wanting. They heard few topics discussed by those who visited at Mrs. Grant's, except such as were purely local, so that it is not to be wondered at, if

they were more deficient in general information, and more ignorant of even ordinary subjects of interest, than most girls of their age.

Their mother had been an early friend of my own, and happening to be visiting in the neighbourhood, I was received by Mrs. Grant with the utmost kindness. She was at this time perplexed as to what she should do with her granddaughters. She had resolved on parting with them for a few years, as she was willing to make a present sacrifice in losing their society, in order to secure their permanent advantage. She was, however, quite at a loss where to send them. A London finishing school was what her thoughts most tended to, but then the girls had always lived in the country, and she feared the change might be disadvantageous to their health. It was with a very faint hope of success that I named my friend Mrs. Walters, as one under whose charge it was particularly desirable to place young people. Perhaps it was the fact that she had also been the friend of Mrs. Charles Grant, her daughter-in-law, which decided the point. At any rate, Mrs. Grant, from the first mention of her name, seemed to abandon, all other plans for them, and empowered me to open a negotiation with Mrs. Walters, which was now happily brought to the conclusion which I most desired.

Mrs. Walters had been early left a widow with three little girls, and finding herself greatly dependant upon her own exertions, she had educated with these three or four other children, generally of Indian birth, who were thus entrusted to her individual care for a series of years. She was a person of deep piety, combined with remarkable cheerfulness of manners, and a mind of great resources; gentle, yet firm, she never failed to secure the respect as well as the love of her pupils. Her aim, she always said, was two-fold-so to prepare them for heaven as though she were assured that life was to be short; and so to fit them for the duties of life, as if certain that it was to be extended to the utmost possible limit. She used to say that she did not wish to train her girls exclusively for a drawing room life, but for a life in every room in the house; and she did not forget how many hours, one might say how many lives, are spent in a sick room. She was therefore anxious betimes to store their minds with resources which they might fall back upon when youth and health should fail.

Mary and Jane looked forward on the whole with much pleasure

L

to the prospect of their removal from home, though not without occasional misgivings, and that dread of weariness which always arises from the exercise of faculties which have been too long allowed to lie dormant; for they were well aware that their minds were to be much more exercised than formerly, and their fingers less. They used to delight to talk with me of the mode of life pursued at Oaklands, and Jane would often recur to the subject of geography, as the one which weighed most heavily upon her mind. "I never can-indeed I never can, remember the names of places," was her constant remark.

One day we had taken a long walk, and had ascended a considerable eminence where a lovely view was spread out before us. In one quarter, the prospect was hidden by mists, but in every other direction the view was unobscured. It commanded a part of the country in which I had never been, and Jane pointed out to me village after village, tracked the course of the river, and not only told me the names of the places which I saw, but also pointed out the position of many others which the mist rendered invisible; in fact she succeeded in giving me a most accurate impression of a wide tract of country.

When we were all assembled round the tea table that evening, I told Mrs. Grant that I had been indebted to Jane for one of the most distinct and accurate geographical lessons I had ever received.

It was really amusing to see Jane's look of surprise: it was with some difficulty I could persuade her that she had given a practical illustration of her capacity to learn the thing of all others which she so much professed to dislike. At length she said, “Well, but is it not very different to learn by the eye, and by actual experience in this way? If we could travel about the world and visit all the high mountains, we might learn geography in that way very pleasantly."

"And how long would it take you, do you suppose, to see the world in this way, Jane?”

"Oh, three or four years I suppose at most."

"It so happens," I replied, "that I once met with a calculation of the kind.* It stated, that were a spectator placed on a moun

• See Dick's Christian Philosophy.

tain of such elevation as to afford a view of forty miles in every direction, and were he to change his position so often that a similar landscape were presented to him every hour, allowing twelve hours to the day, it would take more than nine years to see the surface of the globe, even in this hurried and indistinct Then you observe no allowances are made for the state of the weather, nor for drawbacks from ill-health; there is no deduction for the time spent in travelling over the intervening eighty miles of country. Even supposing it were possible to accomplish all this, how confused at the end of this time would our notions on the subject be."

manner.

"Why certainly," said Mary, "one place would soon put another out of one's head. I think if geography must be learnt, that the old way is the easiest; but I do not see that there is any use in going over a book more than once."

"The thing is, Mary, to acquire the information, and that must be done by patient thought and attention; you must have links in your mind which will enable you to associate one place with another, just as Jane was able to associate the places that were hid in the fog to-day, with those that were visible."

"I had never before exactly thought about the size of the earth," said Jane; "only think of its taking nine years to see it all."

"I remember," I said, "another calculation in the same book that I have already alluded to; it was this. That in order to make an accurate survey of the globe, so as to visit every square mile of its surface, if a person were so diligent as to travel over thirty miles a day, it would take-how long do you think Mary?" "Oh I dare say, four times as long as the survey from the mountains."

"And Jane, what is your idea?"

"I would give eight times as long: that will allow plenty of time to rest, and would make between seventy and eighty years. The patriarchs might have done it."

"No Jane: you will be surprised to hear that had Adam himself commenced it, he would not yet have completed more than a third part of his tour, for the whole of which, more than eighteen thousand years would be required. It is difficult to realize this without minute calculation; but when we thus ascer

tain how little one human mind can accurately know of this world we live in, how it enlarges our conceptions of the power and wisdom of Him, by whose word the globe itself was called into being. There is no spot on it unmarked by his watchful eye-no place where his ear is not ready to listen. Nay, more than that, for there is no place where we can escape his presence, and since the creation, there has been no spot on that wide surface where his providence has not been in unceasing operation."

Mrs. Grant here interposed with some questions about our walk, but I was happy to see that the interest of the girls was awakened, and they often afterwards recurred to the subject, and expressed their surprise that, to use Jane's expression, "any religion could be drawn out of a geography lesson."

Every one who not only reads the Bible, but thinks over it, must be struck with the value of geographical knowledge, towards a full understanding of the bearing of one event upon another. Of late years this has been elucidated by many in every variety of form, not only in disquisitions for the learned, but in simpler explanations adapted to the Sunday school; many have, indeed, run to and fro, and knowledge is increased to a degree which our ancestors could have little anticipated. The question is, do we benefit by all this increased information? Have we a stronger and and more deep conviction that the Most High appoints the dwellings of all, whether they be nations or individuals? We have daily proof that knowledge alone, still, as in the time of the apostle, "puffeth up," unless it is accompanied by practical results. Let then, none of our young readers think a geography lesson is a slight and unimportant thing. To the christian, nothing that increases his knowledge in any degree, with the exception of course of things sinful in themselves, is insignificant. Without the light that geography, combined with history, throws upon the Bible, how little of the prophetical scriptures could we understand. We are speaking now simply of fulfilled prophecy, and of such as admits of no difference of interpretation. The promises connected with the Holy Land; the many wonderful circumstances associated with the distribution of the inheritance of the various tribes; the predictions as to the fate of the surrounding nations, every one so minutely fulfilled; the rise and fall of the four great monarchies :-all these things are so many

« 이전계속 »