Page images
PDF
EPUB

contemplation, especially when meditating on such a theme as death."

" Pause not on death," said Mrs. Neville, with her wonted animation—“ leave it behind you; remember what our dear minister said on Sabbatlr, when speaking on that very subject, he exclaimed, “Oh! what transcendent and surpassing grace! under the softness of overshadowing wings will He carry thee to light and joy! and reveal to thee the blessedness of heaven, just as the exulting and entranced spirit shall have capacity to receive it!' That is the manner," added she, “ in which I would have the children taught to think of the Christian's death. · Death to the Christian is a privilege, a promise, a covenant blessing. All things are your's, even death. Only, believe-all pensiveness and joylessness arise from unbelief."

After a little while, on looking abroad upon the “ eternał ocean," glowing in the sun light, and spread out in all its immensity before us, motionless, tranquil, and still, or moving only like the breathing of a sleeping child, I said, my good friend, I leave you all your unattainable joy, I shall be satisfied with peace with something, in my dying moments, like this inexpressible calm. What a sunset! What unutterable tranquillity! What peacefulness ! How beautiful! How still!

It was now time for us to proceed on our way, so rising up, the children followed us down upon the sands, for the sea had begun to ebb, and the path was now broad enough for us to walk on. The return of the mighty ocean from its limits on the shore by the simple barrier of the soft sand, reminded me of a hymn I had often heard repeated by the children; and Elizabeth entering into the same train of association with myself at the same moment, recited the words :

“ Who made of soft sand a strong bar for the sea." Remembering the interesting circumstances in which I had heard these striking verses for the first time, I desired her to repeat the last verse again.

“ My Saviour is Lord of that turbulent main,

In its greatness and grandeur rolling,
He can bind it about with an icy chain,

Its rage and its rest controlling.

[ocr errors]

He walks on the waters, He says to the deep,
Be still—and the surges in silence do sleep.
Then let His bigh praises my thoughts employ,
I may sing of His power--ask all things with joy-
What cannot that Saviour accomplish for me,

Who made of SOFT SAND a strong bar for the sea.' Just as Elizabeth concluded her verse, a little fishing boat threw out its crooked anchor into the sea, and the man and boy on board for they were near enough for us to see them seemed getting ready to cast their nets. “ Ah!" said Mrs. Neville, “ that fishing boat reminds me of little Bill; poor fellow, he was almost as great a favorite with my mother as the little girl of whom I told you the other evening, that lived in the forest. You would like to hear about him, perhaps, and as we walk quietly homewards, I will tell you all that I can remember, but it is not much.” The children immediately attached themselves to each arm of Mrs. Neville, and I, walking by their side, listened in silence.

“ You must know, my dear children," said this most indulgent friend of the young, you must know that my mother was a person of great excellence, but of some peculiarities. Genius, they say, is always eccentric, talent is not. I know not that she had either the one or the other, for I do not understand either the definition or distinction. But this I know, that if genius lead any one to neglect the duties of their station, the proprieties of life, or the courtesies and civilities of society, it is not a desirable thing, and my dear mother had none of that. She used often to say, we are all dependent creatures, much more dependent on each other than many of us are aware of. I can no more do without Mertoun, my maid, than she can do without me, her mistress. My carriage is of no use to me without my coachman; and this evening, said she, (one beautiful evening, when I was a little girl, and we were living at Sandbay, for the bathing) and this evening, you see I cannot go on the water without my poor

little Bill." “ Who was little Bill?" said Emma, “O then it is little Bill you are going to tell us about, is it not?"

“ Listen,” said Mrs. Neville, “and you shall hear. Little Bill was the son of a fisherman, whose name was Edwards ; they lived at Sandbay, as I told you, on the coast. Edwards was a good man-sober, industrious, contented, and civil: I have heard my mother say, the first time she talked to him was when he was sitting on the beach mending his nets; and as she often took a boat to go on the water, she was looking out for a civil boatman. This man was always so,

He had none of that officiousness about him by which most of the watermen at that place were distinguished-perpetually teazing you, and calling out, "a boat, ma'am, a boat, a boat, ma'am;' following you down one street and up another, and then, when you think you have escaped from their importunity, comes another set with the same cry—a boat, ma'am.' No; Edwards was a mild, humble, unobtrusive man. When he did not go a fishing, he just plied his boat to any one who wanted it; and though he bad a large family to provide for, and all their wants lay upon him, yet he never forced his business, but just took what God was pleased to send him. Where another man would have put to sea with ladies on board, in the view of a squall, or at the risk of having low water when they came back, and no place to land on but the rocks, Edwards would say to my mother, · It looks squally to-day, ma'am,' or, “You are an hour too late for the tide, if you go far.' Thus, though she always took his boat, and always rewarded him most liberally, yet he never would have her go out if there were the least hazard of too strong a breeze, or too rough a sea; only when the appearance of the weather was favourable, the water smooth, and the sky serene, theo Edwards was at her service.”

“ Edwards would be no loser by that,” said Elizabeth “ No, my dear child; as honesty is the best policy, so the absence of covetousness is most likely to bring a man riches. It is not the desire of gain, and the ceaseless pursuit of it, but the hand of the diligent, and the blessing of the Lord, that maketh rich.

“ But to resume my story.--Edwards had a large family, but little Bill was my mother's favourite, for he was a good lad, as you shall hear. This little boy was accustomed to go with his father, to steer the boat, to handle a rope, to assist to drag a net, perhaps, or to carry a pot of bait. The first time dear mother saw his

rosy
cheeks, black

eyes,

and raven curls, struck

[ocr errors]

with the beauty of the child, she asked what kind of a boy he was, and if he had been to school. His father told her that he was a good lad, had been to school, and could read his Bible. • Indeed, ma'am,' added he, he reads no other book, for he has no time; but, get up or lie down when he will, Bill never goes to bed, or wakes from sleep, but he must read his Bible, and also pray to God.' 'Indeed,' said my mother, well pleased to think that God was giving grace to such a child as that?

Indeed, Edwards, if that be true, though no prophet, I will tell you a thing that will surely come to pass—that boy will never want a friend.'

“ At this time poor Bill had no Bible of his own, only his father's, which was lent him, and in which he read aloud to his father on Sundays. My mother, therefore, as if intentionally, but, as she assured me, altogether unconsciously, was the first to fulfil her own prediction regarding Bill—that he should never want a friend-by making him a present of a Bible for himself. How he prized this book none can tell, but He that knoweth the heart, and He that saith, Give me thy heart;' for the law of the Lord was that boy's delight, and in it be might be said to meditate day and night. A great variety of passages in that holy and blessed volume were marked by my dear mother's pencil, with a view of leading her favourite to ponder them more deeply than any other ; such as • Lead me in thy truth, and teach me, for thou art the Lord my God;' • Behold the eye of the Lord is on them that fear him, on them that trust in his mercy;' • Create in me a clean heart, O God, renew a right spirit within me;' If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.' She also marked a few of those which might bear more peculiarly on the feelings of a sailor boy, yet unaccustomed to the tempest and the storin; such as “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea ;' "God stilleth the noise of the sea, the noise of their waves ;' He is the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea ;'. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still; then are they glad, (the wave-tossed mariners) because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.'

[ocr errors][merged small]

“But beside these texts, and many more which were marked for his devout reading in his Bible, she often directed him to the parables and miracles of our Lord, and to those wonders of mercy which he performed when he tabernacled among men, and went about doing good; whereby the boy grew in wisdom and in knowledge, and found the means of steering his little bark through all the shoals of life, so that, in the language of the youthful bard, who sung of the things of Time, he could say,

“ Most wondrous book ! bright candle of the Lord !
" Star of eternity! the only star

By which the bark of man can navigate

« The sea of life, and gain the coast of bliss !"
“ But while I thus speak of this poor sailor boy, remember,
my dear children, that to you also is the word of this salvation
sent. Let it be your study, then, to search the scriptures ; all
other light but leads astray, unless it be first kindled at this
pure and holy flame. Let this be the lamp to your feet, and
the lantern to your path ; for this is

66 That lamp
" Which God threw from his palace down to earth,
“ To guide his wand'ring children home

" To heaven."
“ When the time arrived for our departure from Sandbay,
and return to Neville Park, my mother, still fulfilling her
own prophecy, though without ever once again having thought
of it, took care that Bill should not want a friend; for she left
a sum of money with a person well known to her, in that village,
directing her to provide clothing, and food, and fuel, or what-
ever else might be necessary during the winter, for the family
of poor Edwards, and especially to take charge of Bill, and pat
him to school.

Many months after this, some circumstances occurred which demanded the presence of my dear mother in a distant part of England, where we remained all the while my brother was at college, and we altogether lost sight of Edwards and poor Bill, We heard, afterwards, however, that he had lost his father in the course of that same winter in which we went to the Norththat the widow was left in destitute circumstances, and the younger children had gone to the workhouse ; but that the little

« PreviousContinue »