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The town of Lennoxferry had been very long ago, just what its name imports, a little haven from whence boats, and packets crossed a wide arm of the sea, in Scotland called a Firth, and carried over to the other side, goods and packages, and persons travelling to the North; and brought back again corn, and fruit, and poultry, and game, and such sort of things for the markets in the neighboring city. In the course, however, of many years, perhaps a hundred, or a hundred and fifty years, or it may be even more, the village of Lennoxferry became at length what is called a seaport town; where, instead of packet boats only, or now and then a brig, or perhaps once or twice a-year a three masted vessel coming in--you would now see the flags of almost every nation in the world flying from the ships in the harbor. Instead of the smooth firm beach where even in my own day, you might have walked, or bathéd, or waded in the sea in fine warm weather, gathering prawns, and crabs, and shell-fish, at low water; you now saw nothing but dock-yards--ships upon the stocks-carpenters--boats smeared with tar and heard only the noise of the hammer---the yo heave ho! of the sailors-
the rattling of waggons—the trampling of heavy drays—and all the thundering sounds of busy, bustling commerce.
While the beautiful beach to the westward, on which I have myself so often played from “morn till noon,” and, truant-like, from “noon till dewy eve,” was thus changed into dry docks, and wet docks, and yards to build ships in; the no less beautiful common to the eastward, where the herds and the flocks used to feed, and where the boys used to go of a summer morning, in search (cruel sport) of the nest of the mavis, the chaffinch, or the grey linnet; or in Autumn to look for sloes and bramble-berries—this common,
say, now-covered with warehouses, graneries, and rope-walks, and nearest to the sea, with disagreeable smoky saltpans.
Between the common on the east, and the sands on the west, ran a little muddy river, with hardly a tree upon its banks, except a few poplars, a dwarf willow or so, and here and there the "water-loving alder.” This river passing slowly through the town, and half stagnating in the harbor, at last mingled its waters with the white foam of the billowy Firth. On one side of the harbor a fine stone pier
misery of the poor at home, and what it is, not only to want food to eat, and raiment to put on, but to suck in with every breath the poison of a putrid atmosphere. If you
to go with me into one of these houses where I sometimes see such mournful scenes; and if any of you had a kind and feeling heart, I am sure you would say, O that I were rich enough to build a-street, or a village, for the poor to dwell in! But, my dears, God is rich, and yet he hath said, the poor have ye always with you; the poor shall never cease out of the land. For what inscrutable reason we know not---but one thing we know, that pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father, is this,-to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
The first time I saw Lily Douglas, was one day, when I was visiting some of the poor in Lennoxferry. I had been calling on WidOw Macfarlane; who, and another aged female, had lived for many years together, at the top story of one of those miserable Lands as they are called, with, which that town abounded. Hier old companion was dead, and my visit was one of condolence, and one in which I hoped to have said something that might, by God's blessing, have been for the spiritual benefit of her who was thus bereaved of her friend. As I entered her little chamber, I found it miserably literalized the words of Job; for “the light was dark in her tabernacle, and the spark of her fire did not shine.” There was one comfort however here, that bad as the air was, (for it was hardly any thing but the smoke that issued from the innumerable chimney tops with which the Widow's window was surrounded,) it was always admitted; for Mrs. Macfarlane had long been afflicted with an asthmatic cough, so that, even in the coldest day in winter, she could not breathe in her room without an open window; from this circumstance, therefore, I could generally remain longer in the Widow's lodgings, than in most other houses of the same description.
This Mrs. Macfarlane was the most garrulous old woman in the world, and when she once began to talk, there was no getting away from her. She was poor in every thing but in spirit, and had a great deal more vivacity than I, though old enough to be my grandmother. She had just dined when I went in, and the
meal, from which she had risen, had consisted only of a cup of tea, and part of a salt herring, which she told me had been served up for the third and last time. Yet though she spake of this morsel as of something most delicious, it was with much difficulty I could prevail on her to suffer a single word of exhortation, on the duty of thankfulness to God, who thus fed her from day to day, with food convenient for her; she was impatient to tell me all that had occurred since I last saw her, and I knew it would be in vain for me to attempt to point the moral, unless I listened to the tale.
Well, I did listen to her account of her companion's death, and it was a melancholy tale enough. Suffice it at present merely to say, that she told me it happened on the Sabbath-day; that Widow Brown had been in her ordinary health, and had ate three diets that day-that she had gone out in the evening to see a friend that she was taken ill in the street, and brought home on chair-that she had had a sore turn on the road—that she died in the night—that the parish had given her a coffin, and a sheetthat she was clothed in an apron, a handkerchief, and a cap-that these were her effects,"