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them, were gone ; the light that played around them in other days was dimmed; the sunshine rested upon them no longer. I heard the clock-chains slipping at intervals, as if they could not keep pace with time; they seemed weary with long watching ; they could no longer keep the firm foot-hold down the steep hill which they had traversed so many years. I looked on those ancient figures, now black with age, and which were bright when they pointed out my hours of pleasure. They no longer told the time when my playfellows would call upon me to wander into the green fields,—they warned me that it was nearly the hour for the delivering of letters, and I became anxious to hear from those whom I had left nearly two hundred miles behind me ;another home, and other cares came before me.
I called memory a coward for thus reverting to the past. I summoned him before me, and he stood up in my own likeness ; a boy who had seen but twelve summers. I looked upon him, and saw that he was unworthy the notice of Care ; that Sorrow disdained to buckle her load upon his back; but gave him his own thoughts for playthings to amuse himself with, till he could learn the great game of life. I saw why the tempest passed oder him harmlessly, for like a lowly plant, he had no bulk to oppose to its might, and had, only after long years become a work for the storm, with bole and branches strong enough to wrestle against its power. • The finger of heaven,' exclaimed I, guideth all things aright.'
fell the old mirror into which I had looked twenty years ago, on which I had gazed when a child, and marvelled how another fire and another room could stand within the compass of so small a frame. It gave me neither flattery nor welcome, but gravely threw me back, seated by the same hearth which I had so often scrawled over with the mis-shapen figures of men and monsters, when a boy. We confronted each other with a familiar boldness, as if proud that we had stood the wear-and-tear of time so well. We looked seriously, but not unkindly upon each other. The image in the mirror seemed as if it would have accosted me, and had much to utter, but its lips became compressed, as if it scorned to murmur. It gave back another form for a moment ; a lovely maiden stood arranging her ringlets before it ; but that was only fancy, for I remembered she had long been dead. The very crack which I had made along the old lookingglass, when a boy, with my ball, seemed like a land-mark dividing the past from the present. I could have moralized for hours on that old mirror.
On the wall hung the large slate on which I ventured to write my first couplet. What I then wrote was easily obliterated: my ragged jacket cuff was the willing critic that passed lightly over my transgressions, and shone all the brighter after the deed. I knew not that such men as authors lived ; every book was taken up without a suspicion of its lacking truth; and strange as they might seem, I felt proud in the wisdom I gathered from their pages. I could point out to my playmates the queer rings which the fairies had made on the grass ; tell them the very colors which the elfins wore; or show them a valley which resembled that wherein Sinbad gathered his diamonds. Ignorance was then bliss indeed !
• Beside the slate hung the old valentine, which had been addressed to my mother when a girl. My glance shifted from the picture to her. self, and I tried in vain to recal the day when she received it. Her grave features mocked every effort of my fancy, nor could I imagine there was even a time when she ran laughing to her gay companions to show her new valentine. Her venerable grey hairs, her deeply-furrowed brows, over which many a sorrow had trod, seemed too solemn ever to have unbended over those hearts and flowers, and that curious scissor-work, which must have been the labor of many a long hour. The very writing had become yellow. I wondered if she ever thought of her old sweetheart' when she rubbed off the dust from the glass on a Saturday,—a task which she had done regularly for above forty years.
• Then, there was that old tea-board, with the stately lady in a garden on the centre, herself overtopping every tree. But that tray was only used on rare occasions, real ‘white-cake days,' when some cousin or aunt came to tea; and the mended china was handed carefully from the corner-cupboard, and the blue glass sugar-basin, which I hoped some day to see broken, that I might have the bits to spy through. The old white table was still in the same place; and its long drawer seemed at last to have found rest; tops, marbles, and fishing-tackle, which it was opened a score of times a day to rummage for, were all gone; there is no danger now of running fish-hooks into their fingers when they open it. Robinson Crusoe and Robin Hood's Garland are gone. That old drawer was a true index to my mind in those days ;they who looked therein might discover the true taste of its occupier ; old and worm-eaten as it now may seem, it has contained the greatest literary treasures—the works of Shakspeare and Milton.
• How little it took to make me happy in those days! A dry crust from the large bread-crock, which yet stands upon the old table; Shakspeare, or a volume of Scott's immortal novels; a day of sunshine —and that a holiday-and I had but to traverse a single street, enter Foxby-lane, and bury myself in the woods to reach my own heaven. No pride; no ambition; no object; poverty was never felt, and therefore unknown; so long as the bread-crock furnished forth its crust, all was pleasure, for the clear brook in the wood was never dry. Ariel passed not a happier life than mine under the blossomed bough.'
* And have I forgotten those days ? No! I traversed the scenes with as much pleasure last summer as ever I felt in my boyhood. And, oh! pardon me, if for a moment I felt proud at the thought, that the emotions which I had gathered in those lonely solitudes had been wafted to a thousand hearths. I carried the sweet sights and sounds of the woodlands with me into the huge city, and many a time, while bending over my lonely hearth, they have come upon me like music from heaven, and I have blessed them unawares.'
There is something very beautiful in this return under these
circumstances to the rustic birth-place of the writer, who had gone thence years before with no better hope than earning his daily bread by his humble trade, and came back to it having achieved an honorable distinction in the literature of his country. In no other nation, not even excepting British America, could this have happened: and besides this, the testimony to the pure and ennobling influences of the beautiful scenes of nature on the youthful mind, has rarely been more strongly demonstrated. The picture of the old cottage, too, in its years of unbroken quiet, and its aged inhabitant mechanically from day to day maintaining the solitary punctuality of her habits, is perfect. Having given the old cottage, let us now present such a scene in one as we have ourselves witnessed more than once. Two young folks are going to be married, and their parents have met to settle matters for them. There is 'no stiffness, no ceremony in such business as this; they mean well, and have no secrets on either side; and although there are no lawyers employed, no deeds to draw up or sign, there are many things to discuss.'
I got next to nought to give 'em,' said the old man, withdrawing the pipe from his lips, and looking at his wife, as if in expectation of some reply, “Thirty years have I and my old Kate been married, and during that time we've toiled and moiled and scratted a few things together, and managed to pay we're way, and bring we're children up like honest men and women. Thank the Lord! we have always main. tained a good character, and if we have'nt grown rich, we have'nt had the werretting of mind to keep up a high head; a right heart and a good conscience have been all that we have had to guard.'
One's all enough to do,' replied old William, so far as that goes, to make all ends meet and tie, as the saying is. But, oh dear! what a blessing it is that we've never had to be ashamed to call we're children one's own...... But let us see what can be done for John and Mary, to give 'em a start in th' world. For my part, my lass,' added he, ad. dressing his wife, 'I think we might spare 'em my old arm-chair ;-if thou remembers, my father gave it us when we were married, and its a good un yet, though, mayhap, a little the worse for wear; and I'm sure John would set great store by it for our sakes.'
*Hey, bless 'em! they shall have that, however,' replied the old dame, though I shall sorely miss it out o'th' corner, where its stood aboon thirty year.'
* And we,' said old John, looking at Nanny, mun e'en give Mary the old rocking-chair ; its what thou nursed her in when she was a bairn; and I dare say she'll often think on it when we're dead and gone, when she's rocking her own children in it.'
* And there's them six little pictures up-stairs,' said old William, about Ruth and Buzz; they'll cover one side o' the house ; and I think we can find 'em a table; then if they buy a yard or two of greenbaize and a tea-board, to rear on th' table when its covered, and stick a chair on each side, and hang up Ruth and Buzz (they are colored and framed) why, you see, there'll be one side of the side-house set out quite respectably at once.'
And we'll spare 'em our little Dutch weather-house,' said Nanny; they'll find it very useful, and very correct; the gentleman always comes out when its going to rain or snow, and the lady when there's going to be fine weather; it will be quite an ornament over the mantelpiece. And we'll buy 'em a bit of a looking-glass of some of those İtalian chaps that come about ; they're apt to alter one's face little when one looks in 'em, but I fancy a house looks naked without a bit of a glass; and if they can't raise a fender, they mun make shift with a part of the tire of a wheel ; its a capital thing to keep the fire frae burning your toes when you happen to fall asleep beside it.'
•Well, and if they should happen to want one,' said Betty, 'I think I can find them an old cradle ; its been shoved under our bed this many a long year. It may want a bit of repair, but any of them basket-making chaps as comes round with a few osiers under their arms, will do it for a penny or twopence, or such a matter. As to pots and pans, they mun buy a kettle, and boil their tatoes in it as well as their tea-watter ; it will keep it frae slating, and that's the way we did when we first began housekeeping:
Hey, my old lass,' said her husband, 'does thou remember we couldn't raise neither a bed nor a bedstead, but went to Gainsbro' together, and brought a bit of ticking, and begged a few sheaves of straw of Farmer Watson, and knocked up a bed of that mander of ways, until we could turn oursens; and how often I used to repeat them old sayings of my father's; 'first creep and then go ;' Rome was’nt built in a day; ' egg before the chicken,' and so on.'
• Hey, my lad, I remember,' responded the old woman, we'd a deal of planning and contriving to make ends and corners meet and tie; but we were always happy in spite of bein' poor.'
* There's a large old pictor up stairs they may have,' said Betty ; it was taken for my mother's likeness, and wan't badly done, only the painter would put a bit of brown color down one cheek, and under her chin. He called it shadow. “Shadow !' says I, pointing to my mother's cheek, “isn't this side the same color as t'other, and where has she any black under her chin?' Marry, it looked as if you might set potatoes in it, regularly ditched with dirt, as if a body's face wasn't all of a colour. Then the fool of a painter said, “ If you shut one eye, you'll see a darkish shadow ;' so said I, •If you shut both your own, you'll see nought at all; for it 'll be all shadow.' Look at mine,' added she, pointing triumphantly to what resembled a large staring doll, but was intended for her own portrait ; 'there's no shadow there, but all clear red and white, same as I was when a young woman.' But before they have that pictor of my mother, I'll buy a bit of white paint and do it over the nasty dirt that they call shadow; marry, I'd shadow 'em, if any of those painter-chaps came to take any of my bairns, and made one of their cheeks, and under their eyes and nose and chin, just for all the world as if they'd never touched either soap or water from the day that they were born.'
That is the way in which many of the old people of our simple hamlets start their children in the world, and in which most of the young ones begin it; but Mr. Miller has seen something of the
ways and means' of the poor in London, and here is the manner in which he contrasts the two estates.
- How different is the life which a woman leads in the country, compared with that spent in a town; the former, if even her husband has but a very moderate income, possesses many enjoyments which the latter seldom attains, unless she be placed now beyond middling circumstances. The London women think it a great treat to spend only a day in the country; to reach Norwood or Greenwich; to take tea at some little roadside cottage, where a board is displayed, announcing, “Tea made, or water boiled ;' to them this is a rural treat, a matter to be talked of for days after, when they have retired to their close streets and unhealthy rooms. In the country · kith and kin’ are dispersed in the neighbouring villages ; relations meet each other oftener; their visits are extended for a week or two; they have plenty of room to accommodate their friends; the children can run on the common, in the garden, or the fields; there is no fear of their being lost. In London, if one party visits another, (I speak of those in very moderate circumstances, they are all crammed together in one room ; perhaps the party visited lives in lodgings; the children are not permitted to go out for fear of being run over; or they have a bit of a yard to run in (miscalled a garden) where there is scarcely room to swing a cat;' where clothes are hung to dry, and often washed over again before night, so thickly are they blackened with falling soot. Thousands of women in London are compelled to do their washing in the small rooms in which they live, and in wet weather to dry their clothes in the same apartments. In the country this is seldom the case, even in what is called wet weather; for only let there come on an interval of dryness, if it be but for an hour or two, and there is so much fresh air, that comes sweeping over the wide heaths and broad meadows, that they are dry 'in next to no time,' to use one of their own phrases. In London, very few of the middling sort' of houses have boilers and ovens; they (the inhabitants] rarely know what it is to eat a bit of
home-made bread;' to enjoy the luxury of a baked potato' on a cold night, or a hot cake of their own making. All these things must be done by the baker, and the price of fuel causes the charges to come high; we pay twopence for a dinner baking, which, in the country, is charged but an halfpenny.
• In the country, the meanest cottage has generally an oven and boiler ; such is also the case in the small market towns. As to buying bread ready made, they rarely think of such a thing; they generally bake once a-week, and on baking days,' have a few yeast dumplings' and hot cakes for tea; to eat baker's bread, they say, is like eating money, its' so swift.' In London, you have to put your hand in your pocket,' as the saying is, for every thing you want.
Coals are very dear; fire-wood the same; milk is high, and often very inferior; butter fetches a great price, and is sold by the regular pound ; rents