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A VISIT TO OLD REUBEN'S-A SCENE IN OLD REUBEN'S GARDEN-
“ How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,
When fond recollection recalls them to view ;-
And every loved spot which my infancy knew!"
HITHERTO I have detained my young readers in our play-ground, where I trust they have found some of those pleasures which I have enjoyed in days of yore ; I will now take them with me on a few of our rural excursions.
It was customary with Mr. White, when we had been diligent in our studies, to propose giving us a treat, by taking us some particular walk, in
order to increase our pleasures. Well, boys," he would say, “you have pleased me very much by your attention to lessons, and you deserve a nice treat this afternoon. I think we will
for a walk-say, to the garden of Old Reuben.
No proposition could have been more agreeable to us than that of a walk to the garden of Old Reuben and no sooner was the dinner over, than we were ready, and waiting for the appearance of our master. One minute's delay, on his part, seemed a full hour ; and when, at length, he did appear, with his book in his hand, we started off without waiting for the word of command. And when we had cleared the gate, and had fairly got into the bye-lanes that led to the said garden, what a race did we lead our master! We walked so fast, that we fairly outstripped him; and we frequently had to peep round a turning to see if he were coming. In our minds we taxed him with delay, for he always charged us not to enter the garden gate without him, which seemed a great hardship. At length, however, we all entered; and the first thing we did, following the example of our master, was to shake hands with Old Reuben.
Maný a rich treat have we had in the garden of Old Reuben. He has stood under the appletrees and shook the richly-laden boughs with such vigour, for our profit, that in a few minutes our hats and pockets have all been filled with fruit. And then, as for the gooseberries and strawberries, we were often told by him to gather as many as we pleased, so long as we did not make ourselves ill. But it was not in fruit
alone that we profited by a visit to Old Reuben. He was a man of sound sense, and many a lesson did we learn from his lips. One fine lesson on humanity, which he gave us in one of our visits, is very fresh on my memory.
I had often observed that Old Reuben was particularly careful not to kill a worm, if it could be avoided, when he was digging. He had just spared one, when we all stood around him, which John Lovell observing, he stepped forward with a hop, skip, and jump to destroy it. He was just planting his foot upon it, when Old Reuben stretched forth his hand and held him back, sternly demanding what he was going to do?
Only kill that worm,” replied John Lovell.
Only kill that worm!” replied Old Reuben ; “only didst thou say, young gentleman ? There, stand back !”
As Old Reuben said these words, he seized his spade in both hands, and, holding it over the head of John Lovell, demanded what he had to say in defence of his own life? The culprit trembled from head to foot, and, not daring to utter a word, Old Reuben continued :—“I tell you, young gentleman, that while you feel for yourself, you have no right to destroy that worm ; for you are both God's creatures. Never yet have I destroyed one wantonly. My spade may pass through them unforeseen; but if I see them, I pause and let them live. Get
into the pathway, for I will also spare you ; and, let me tell you, that if ever I know you injure a worm within my walls, you shall never taste my fruit again.”
A visit to Dame Dunton's was a treat equally
great as that of visiting Old Reuben. Its announcement was received with a loud hurrah and the moment of departure was desired with as much ardour as though we were going to visit a princess.
Dame Dunton lived in a cottage at the corner of a park, far remote from the busy world. It was a "good step," as she used to say, from our master's residence, and that, together with our being loaded with our own provisions, sometimes made us long to reach it before we had proceeded half way.
We knew, however, that we should have a rich treat when we had gained her abode, and that helped to relieve us from a sense of weariness. “Cheer up,” we used to say, to any that lagged, “we are going to Dame Dunton's.”
I fancy I see the good old dame now receiving us on those never-to-be-forgotten occasions. She never knew when we were coming ; but as her cottage commanded a good length of road, she always had time to prepare for our reception, and she never failed to meet us at the gate with this homely welcome: “I saw you, young gentlemen, long before you had reached my gate. How be you? I am right glad to see you. Come in and sit down. I am sure you must be tired, for it is a good step to my cottage. I am glad to see you, young gentlemen.”
It was a rare occurrence if our preceptor was not yet full a quarter of a mile behind; and while he was proceeding onwards, we, accepting the dame's invitation, would enter her cottage, and placing our provisions on the floor, occupy chairs, tables, stools, the capacious chimney-corners, the foot of the stairs, and the ledge of the window.
When we were all seated, Dame Dunton, taking her position in the middle of the room, would always observe :—“I need not ask you whether you have been good boys. If you had not, I know you would not have been here. therefore, what a good thing it is to be good boys. It makes your master love you, and try to make you even more happy an your light hearts would otherwise have made you. Be sure, then, you are always good, and you will always be happy."
Generally speaking, this was the position in which Mr. White found us; and when he entered, he would shake the good old dame's hand with as much warmth as though she were the first lady of the land. On her part, also, Dame Dunton would hail the appearance of our master with a hearty welcome, usually reminding him that he was one of those few who honoured her with a visit. “ The world,” she would observe, “is so busy in searching for honours and happiness, that they have no time to think of a poor lone creature like myself ; but you, kind sir, are pleased to bear me in remembrance, and may you be rewarded for it by the Almighty, whose children I trust we are.
Mr. White and Dame Dunton never failed to enter into some religious conversation for their mutual profit, and our benefit, while we thus rested ; and, when they ceased, it was always proposed that we should go into the shrubberies and amuse ourselves, while she prepared our repast. To exhibit her real character, I will relate one of these conversations, as far as my memory will serve me. The subject of it was