« 前へ次へ »
to do good to a fellow-creature. But I see, dear madam,' continued the aged lady, that you do not understand me; hear then a story which I am about to relate. It was soon after my return to this house as a widow, that a lady called upon me, desiring to speak with me alone. By the name written upon the card which she sent up to me in the school-room, I knew immediately who she was; viz. a Mrs. Lascelles, a widow of family and fortune, and of a certain age, who then resided at a villa not far from hence; being a person much spoken of, not only for piety, but for such deeds of benevolence as were of more rare occurrence forty years since, than in the present day—that is, she had established charity schools, relieved the sick, assisted the aged, and actually adopted an orphan girl, whom she had reared in her house from infancy. I, however, had never seen this lady before, and somewhat wondered what business she could have with me, as she had no daughters.
* Being come into the parlour, I instantly perceived that the person who had called upon me was a perfect lady, in her deportment, without pride of station, having great warmth of manner, but being evidently under a state of considerable excitement, as appeared from the traces of tears on her eye-lids, and a bright red spot on each cheek.
‘After certain hasty compliments had passed between us, she delayed no longer to open her full heart to me; and I found then that she was precisely in that state which I endeavoured, but now, to describe to you, that is, that she having during the course of several years, made great sacrifices of time, of strength, and of property, for advancing the good, both spiritual and temporal, of those depending upon her, bad suddenly, when she had expected to reap her harvest, found her hand filled with green and empty husks ; for (as she explained her case to me in the bitterness of her feelings) her servants had proved in many instances dishonest—her cottagers corruptthe boys in her school had been detected in mischief, and the girls in idleness, lying, and slovenliness ; in short, none of her plans had answered to her expectations; and that which above all things had grieved her, and induced her to come to me was, that the little girl whom she had reared from her first to her twelfth year, had proved herself totally unworthy (as she said) of her care and instruction-the child having evinced that she would at any time be rather in the house-keeper's-room than in the drawing.. room with her hitherto too indulgent mother.
• The poor lady wept as she made this last complaint, and I perceived that her feelings were deeply lacerated. However, I did not feel myself suficiently acquainted with her to put such questions as might have led to my better understanding the cause of these complaints ; for I was assured that if this excellent lady (for such indeed she was) had met with more ingratitude and unkindness than benevolent persons usually do, there must have been some cause for this which I did not understand ; I, therefore, merely professed my willingness to do anything which might tend to the relieving of her mind.
She thanked me: and was pleased to say that, knowing me to be a woman of principle and piety she had made up her mind to place little Alice (that was her adopted child) under my care for a few
years. She informed me, that when she had first taken the child, she had put aside a certain sum of money to accumulate for her use ; that that sum should at all events be hers when she came of age, and that she was resolved to give her such an education as would be suitable to her fortune. I have failed, continued the poor lady, in making her what I wish : she is a wild reckless child; the pious instructions which I have given her have taken no hold upon her; though, in other respects, she has manifested more than an ordinary intellect. And thus, she added, not without shedding fresh tears, I may be said, in a spiritual point of view, to have done the child no good whatever; and all my efforts, as far as I now see, are likely only to end, in my having merely given her certain present advantages, which will render her guilt still greater in the eyes of God, if she does not profit by the religious instruction which I have endeavoured to impart to her from the time when she was a lisping infant on
'I could have answered these complaints, and shewn where the false principle, which this lady cherished, was filling her mind with bitterness, and threatening to produce a paralyzation of all her hitherto generous and kindly feelings. But I was anxious to receive the little Alice, and I thought it best not to hazard opinions which might not be welt taken, until I had been enabled to establish myself in the confidence of the lady. I therefore, simply promised to take the child, and do my best with her, and thus we parted, Mrs. Lascelles having invited me to visit her during the ensuing summer,
In a few days after this conversation, little Alice
arrived; she was a fine, bloomy, healthy, boisterous, clever child-having, perhaps, more than the usual portion of animal spirits--but, as Mrs. Lascelles had said, not giving the smallest evidence of having received
any serious impressions. She knew a great deal of scripture by rote-I will not say by heart, for there was no heart in the case ; nor had she any corrupt habits; and when put, as it were, in the team with the other children, went through the routine of school duties quite as well as most of her companions. One observation, however, I was glad to make: it was this, that she had not fallen into the sin of too many children who are early deprived of their mothers,—that is, she was not deceitful; and this spoke much for Mrs. Lascelles' kindness.'
' Have your observations led you to think, dear madam,' I asked, “that children who lose tbeir parents at an early age, are commonly induced to speak and act with more dissimulation than others.'
* They have,' replied the venerable lady; "and at another time, we will, if you please, speak farther on this subject: and perbaps we may find it profitable, in a religious point of view, so to do; because, from the consideration of this point, we may be led to see, that as long as our feelings towards the Almighty are not altogether childlike, but such as the poor orphan experiences but too often, as it regards the elders by whom he is governed, there never can be that assurance of unchanging love, and that entire dependance in the Creator and Redeemer of the race of Adam, in which true religion consists, But to proceed with my little narrative. Alice remained with us some months; and in the summer holidays, I went with her to Mrs. Lascelles. I found the dear lady still employed in works of kindness ; for it would have required an effort (as she herself remarked) to break through all ber long established plans for doing good. But it was evident, that languor and disgust were creeping fast upon her; and what was worse, almost a state of doubt as it regarded the promises of God as she had hitherto understood them; for the principle on which she had acted in all her works of benevolence, had been this—that the ministry of man is, through divine assistance, efficient in producing the spiritual good of the individual on whom it is brought to bear: hence, that where it is in operation, good must necessarily follow, as necessarily as where that ministry is used in natural things; in consequence of which it must regularly ensue, that good instruction will nourish the soul of a child in the same degree, and in as uniform a manner as proper food strengthens and invigorates the body. The end being as certain a consequence of the means in one case as in the other in both cases depending upon the divine blessing, of course; but the end in each case being equally consequent upon the means. But although Mrs. Lascelles had, by encountering many failures been brought to see that she had been entirely mistaken in what she had built upon this principle, and that although she had succeeded in many instances of improving the temporal condition of her dependants, she could boast of few evidences of their advancement in spiritual good; yet when I became an inmate for a few days of her house, she was as totally unsuspicious of the error of her principle, as when she had first adopted it; and when I endeavoured to explain to her my assurance that, as far as concerns the spiritual welfare of the