« PreviousContinue »
the goodness of God to his creatures ; and it was drawn forth by the good dame's observing, that she thought, of all people in the world, she had the most reason to be thankful. Wise as
our master was, this observation seemed to stagger him; and he asked whether she did not think that the rich, who enjoyed the luxuries of life, had not greater cause for gratitude.
“Indeed, sir," replied Dame Dunton, promptly, “I do not; and for this reason : their riches often prove a snare to them. Why, now, there is the kind-hearted nobleman, whose bounty supplies me with this cottage, and a sufficiency for nature's few wants; although he is such a generous creature, he is immersed in a giddy round of pleasure, which makes him forgetful of the goodness of God and his eternal interests. I venture to say to him, sometimes, as he places his bounty on my table, that I am thankful to the Almighty for inclining his heart to show me such kindness, and that if I have reason to be thankful, he has much greater, since he hardly knows the extent of his riches. And what do you think is his answer? Why, he says, 'Goody, you are an old fool, and know little about the matter. I was born to this rich inheritance, and therefore it was all chance work that it belongs to me. This world, sir, engages all his thoughts, but I pray every night and morning that he may one day experience a change of heart, and partake of my joys.”
“ I say, Amen, with all my heart,” replied Mr. White.
may I ask you one favour ?” “If it is in my power to bestow it,” rejoined Dame Dunton, “it shall be yours ; for it would give me pleasure to please you."
“I have never heard the history of your life,” continued Mr. White, “nor by what means you have obtained such happiness ; and as it might, nay, would be instructive to my pupils, may I ask you
for such information ?” A shade of sadness came over the face of Dame Dunton as she heard this request, and she dropped a tear; but wiping it away, she replied: “It is hardly worth hearing, sir; but I cannot deny you, because I know you will partake, not only in my present joys, but in my former sorrows.
I was born and brought up, if not in affluence, yet in comfortable circumstances. For many a long year I never knew want.
Under the roof of my parents, I had every thing that heart could desire, and when I married, the same blessings were continued to me. I rejoiced in what the world would call my good fortune. I was not only indeed blessed with plenty, but with a kind husband, whose circumstances placed us above want. I said in my heart that my mountain was so strong that it should never be removed. But the day of adversity followed hard upon the heels of the day of prosperity. The hand of death robbed me of my partner in life; and those to whose care he entrusted my property proved faithless to their trust. I was left destitute; and had it not been for the kindness of my patron, I should have been thrown upon the wide world. But he offered me this cottage, and thither I removed. I did so in sorrow, and the bitter tear often flowed down my cheeks. I
thought of the past, and received no comfort. My treasures are gone, I would say to myself, and I shall go down to the grave in sorrow. But, do you know, young gentlemen," the good dame added, as she addressed herself to us, “I had then a treasure in my box, under lock and key, of which I was ignorant. And what do you think that was
As young folks are fond of guessing, I will see if you can tell me. Come, let me see if you have any sagacity.”
Many were the conjectures as to what treasure Dame Dunton still retained in ignorance, under lock and key, after the wreck of her little fortune ; and an animated discussion took place amongst us, while she and our master looked on in silence. Charles Murphy suggested it was a purse of gold ; George Green a rich cake; and Richard Rumford a jewel. Arthur Sampson and myself consulted together, and we concluded that it was a Bible, which she had long neglected, and Arthur requested me to express this opinion. I believe Arthur was as much entitled to the honour as myself on this occasion ; but, alas ! I robbed him of it by asserting broadly that I could tell ; adding, that it was a Bible.
“You are a good boy,” answered Dame Dunton, as she gave me a look of tender regard ; “it was a Bible. It was given me on my weddingday, by my mother, and I had wrapped it up carefully and placed it in my box ; not having, as I thought, in the days of my prosperity, time to read it. I had forgotten that I had it; but one day, as I was turning over the contents of my box, as I wept at the remembrance of the
past, I saw something in the corner that attracted
•What have I here?' I said to myself, as I unfolded it ; and when I saw what it was, I observed : Oh, it is the Bible my mother gave me on my wedding-day! glad I have laid my hands upon it; for it will serve to wile away a few hours of my loneliness.' I little thought then what a treasure it would prove to me. I read it, and read it, until I became fond of reading it ; and it has not only served to wile away many a lonely hour, but it has taught me to be content with my lot, and to look forward to an inheritance that is incorruptible, and that fadeth not away. When I read in it (as I still do whenever I take it in my hand) my title to the skies, I forget the past and the present, and look forward with a light heart to the future. Oh, sir,” she added, “I would not exchange my joy for those of my
kind patron ; and often do I pray, as I said before, that he may one day experience mine in addition to his own.'
As Dåme Dunton ceased, Mr. White, addressing himself to us, observed :-“Here, boys, is a fine lesson for you. I trust that it will be engraven on your hearts. You see that it is not riches, nor honours, that bring happiness to the immortal mind, but religion.” Then, according to his usual custom, he bade us go and enjoy ourselves in the shrubberies; and, as we left the cottage, the good dame held out the expectation of a treat on our return if we were good boys.
Many a happy hour have I, with my schoolfellows, spent in the shrubberies adjoining the cottage of Dame Dunton. One party would be
beating the bush to discover the bird's nest ; another would be tracking the squirrel as it leaped from tree to tree ; while a third would be playing at hide and seek, in the mazy windings where discovery was almost hopeless. Happiness reigned triumphant in every breast. Even though we sought with eager gaze to discover the bird's nest among the underwood, it was rare that any guilt was incurred by its destruction. We sought them only to look at the beauty of the structure, the variety of the eggs, and the singular appearance of the half-fledged young. We had so effectually learned from our master the cruelty of robbing the bird of its young, that our motto was, “Look, but touch not!”
This was the general feeling amongst our little community. John Lovell, however, could never learn the lesson of humanity ; and, on one occasion, he grievously offended in this respect. With myself, Charles Murphy, and two or three others, hé roved about the shrubberies on a nest-seeking excursion ; and, having strayed a little way from us, all at once he set up a loud cry of joy, and called out that he had discovered a nest of young. Knowing his character, I requested my companions to make haste or he would certainly destroy them. All rushed to the spot; but we were only able to perform a part of our errand of mercy. The cruel boy had wrung the necks of two, and his hand was already stretched out for a third when we arrived and arrested it in its work of destruction. As we did so, the culprit struggled hard to get free ; asserting that as he found them they were his, and he had a