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Every member of the congregation got a cake; there were some who had little brothers and sisters at home, and they got two; and from that day forward, till times got better, none of Willie's young friends lacked their morning piece. The neighbours marvelled at Willie; and all agreed that there was something strangely puzzling in the character of “the poor lost lad.”
I have alluded to Willie's garden. Never was there a little bit of ground better occupied ; it looked like a piece of rich needlework. He had got wonderful flowers too-flesh-colored carnations streaked with red, and double roses of a rich golden yellow. Even the common varieties-auriculas and anemones, and the party-colored polyanthus-grew better with Willie than with anybody else.
It was no fault of Willie's that all his neighbours had not as fine gardens as himself; he gave them slips of his best flowers, flesh-colored carnation, yellow rose and all; he grafted their trees for them, too, and taught them the exact time for raising their tulip roots, and the best mode of preserving them. Nay, more than all this, he devoted whole hours at a time to give the finishing touches to their parterres and borders, just in the way a drawing-master lays in the last shadings and imparts the finer touches to the landscapes of his favorite pupils.
All seemed impressed by the unselfish kindliness of his disposition; and all agreed that there could not be a warmer-hearted or more obliging neighbour than Willie Watson, “the poor lost lad.”
Everything earthly must have its last day. Willie was rather an elderly than old man, and the child-like simplicity of his tastes and habits made people think of him as younger than he really was; but his constitution, never a strong one, was gradually failing: he lost strength and appetite; and at length there came a morning in which he could no longer open his shop. He continued to creep out at noon, however, for a few days after, to enjoy himself among his flowers, with only the Bible for his companion; but in a few days more he had declined so much lower, that the effort proved too much for him, and he took to his bed. The neighbours came flocking in: all had begun to take an interest in poor Willie; and now they had learned he was dying, and the feeling deepened immensely with the intelligence. They found him lying in his neat little room, with a table bearing the one beloved volume drawn in beside his bed. He was the same quiet, placid creature he had ever been-grateful for the slightest kindness, and with a heart full of love for all-full to overflowing. He said nothing about the kirk, and nothing about the Baptists, but earnestly did he urge his visitors to be good men and women, and to avail themselves of every opportunity of doing good. The volume on the table, he said, would teach them how. As for himself, he had not a single anxiety. The great Being had been kind to him during all the long time he had been in the world, and he was now kindly calling him out of it. Whatever He did to him was good, and for his good; and why, then, should he be anxious or afraid! The hearts of Willie's visitors were touched. and they could no longer speak or think of him as “the poor lost lad.”
A few short weeks went by, and Willie had gone the way of all flesh. There was silence in his shop, and his flowers opened their breasts in the sun, and bent their heads to the bee and the butterfly, with no one to take care of their beauty, or to sympathise in the delight of the little winged creatures that seemed so happy among them. There was many a wistful eye cast at the closed door and melancholy shutters by the members of Willie's congregation, and they could all point out his grave. Yonder it lies, in the red light of the setting sun, with a carpeting of soft yellow moss spread over it. This little recess contains, doubtless, to use Wordsworth's figure, many a curious and many an instructive volume, and all we lack is the ability of deciphering the characters; but a better or more practical treatise on toleration than that humble grave, it cannot contain. We have perused the grave of the “poor lost lad," and it turns out to be a treatise on toleration. The stone beside it may be regarded as a ballada short plaintive ballad-moulded in as common a form of invention as any, even the simplest, of those old artless compositions which have welled out from time to time from among the people. Indeed, so simple is the story of it, that we might almost deem it an imitation, were we not assured that all the volumes of this solitary recess are originals from beginning to end.
Hugh Miller's Scenes and Legends.
THE WILD ASS. The sun was just rising over the summits of the eastern mountains, when my greyhound started off in pursuit of an animal, which my Persians said, from the glimpse they had of it, was an antelope. I instantly put spurs to my horse, and with my attendants gave chase. After an unrelaxed gallop of three miles, we came up with the dog, who was then within a short stretch of the creature he pursued; and to my surprise, and, at first, vexation, I saw it was an ass.
Upon a moment's reflection, however-judging from its fleetness it must be a wild one, a creature little known in Europe, but which the Persians prize above all other animals as an object of chase-I determined to approach as near to it as the very swift Arab I was on would carry me. But the single instant of checking my horse to consider, had given our game such a head of us, that notwithstanding all our speed we could not recover our ground on him. I, however, happened to be considerably before my companions, when, at a certain distance, the animal in its turn made a pause, and allowed me to approach within pistol-shot of him; he then darted off again with the quickness of thought, capering, kicking, and sporting in his flight, as if he was not blown in the least, and the chase was his pastime.
When my followers came up, they regretted that I had not shot the creature when he was within my aim, telling me that his flesh is one of the greatest delicacies in Persia. The prodigious swiftness and peculiar manner in which he fled across the plain, coincided exactly with the description that Xenophon gives of the same animal in Arabia.
A LEARNED ASS. THERE was a cunning player in Africa, in a city called Alcair, who taught an ass strange tricks or feats. Once, in a public spectacle, turning to his ass (being on a platform to show the sport), he said, “ The great sultan proposes to build himself a house, and will need all the asses of Alcair to fetch and carry wood, stones, lime, and other things needful for that business.”
Presently the ass falls down, turns up his heels in the air, groans, and shuts his eyes fast, as if he is dead. While he lay thus, the player desired the beholders to consider his case, for his ass was dead. He was a poor man, and therefore moved them to give him money to buy another ass. In the meantime, having got as much money as he could, he told the people the ass was not dead, but, knowing his master's poverty, only pretended to be so, that thereby he might get money to buy food withal.
Accordingly he turned again to his ass, and bade him arise : but he stirred not at all. Then did he strike and beat him sorely (as it seemed to make him arise; but all in vain,--the ass lay still. Then said the player again, “ Our sultan has commanded that to-morrow there be a great triumph without the city. and that all the noble women shall ride thither upon the fairest asses; and that this night they must be fed with oats, and have the best water of the Nile to drink.” At the hearing whereof up started the ass, snorting and leaping for joy.
Then said the player, "The governor of this town has desired me to lend him this, my ass, for his old ugly wife to ride upon.” At which the ass hung down his ears, and, like a reasonable creature, began to halt, as if his legs had been out of joint. “Why," said the player, “wouldest thou sooner carry a fair young woman?” The ass wagged his head, in token of assent thereto. “Go, then," said the player, “and among all these fair women choose one that thou mayest carry.” Then the ass looks round about the assembly, and at last goes to a sober woman, and touches her with his nose; whereat the rest wondered and laughed. And so the player went into another town.
Quoted in Wood's Anecdotes.
THE BOBOLINK. The happiest bird of the American spring, and one that rivals the European lark, in my estimation, is the bobolink. He arrives at that choice portion of the year which, in this latitude, answers to the description of the month of May, so often given by the poets. With us it begins about the middle of May, and lasts until nearly the middle of June.
Earlier than this, winter is apt to return on its traces, and to blight the opening beauties of the year; and later than this, begin the parching, and panting, and dissolving heats of summer. But in this genial interval, Nature is in all her freshness and fragrance; "the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”
The trees are now in their fullest foliage and the brightest verdure ; the woods are gay with the clustered flowers of the laurel; the air is perfumed by the sweetbrier and the wild rose; the meadows are enamelled with clover-blossoms; while the young apple, the peach, and the plum, begin to swell, and the cherry to glow among the green leaves.
This is the chosen season of revelry of the bobolink. He comes amidst the pomp and fragrance of the season; his life seems all sensibility and enjoyment, all song and sunshine. He is to be found in the soft bosoms of the freshest and sweetest meadows; and is most in song when the clover is in blossom.
He perches on the topmost twig of a tree, or on some flaunting weed, and as he rises and sinks with the breeze, pours forth a succession of rich tinkling notes, crowding one upon another, like the outpouring melody of the skylark, and possessing the same rapturous character.
Sometimes he pitches from the summit of a tree, begins his song as soon as he gets upon the wing, and flutters tremulously down to the earth, as if overcome with ecstasy at his own music. Sometimes he is in pursuit of his mate; always in full song, as if he would win her by his melody; and always with the same appearance of intoxication and delight.
Of all the birds of our groves and meadows, the bobolink was