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THE NURTURE OF A YOUNG SAILOR
OR,
THE HISTORY OF COCKLE TOM.
_________


COCKLE TOM was born in poverty, cradled in hardship, and schooled, never in the alphabet, but perpetually in endurance of labour, hunger, and fatigue.  His manhood was brief; but his death was generous and heroic.  He was one of the humble children of genuine romance, which England produces in profusion, but whose lives are unchronicled, and the moral of their story lost, simply from the fact that, though full of virtuous ambition, they are untainted with vain-glory: they neither seek for notice in cities, nor lay claim to distinction in public assemblies; but they restlessly seek to obtain and preserve the reputation that they are hard-workers, undaunted by any danger, and capable of sustaining any amount of fatigue, or undertaking any risk, even that of life itself, to benefit the existence or preserve the life of a fellow-creature.  Such is genuine Saxon character—genuine old English nature: what elements for useful greatness in a nation, if its rulers were Alfreds!  But to proceed with our humble biography:—

    Cockle Tom was born at Northcotes-on-the-Sands, a slender, straggling village, bleakly situate on the Lincolnshire sea-coast, and at no great distance from the mouth of the Humber.  His father was a simple fisherman, who rented the "cockle sands," as they were called,—an extent of something more than a mile, belonging to the parish of Northcotes, and possessed in fee-simple by the principal landholder in the neighbourhood.  Having married young, and being early the head of a numerous small family, Tom's father, from the penury of his condition, was constrained to introduce every one of his male children, at least, to the rough and painful labour of gathering cockles on the sea-beach by the time they had reached the tender age of five years.  And at that age was Tom first taken, by his elder brothers, without shoes or stockings, with a bundle of rags rather than clothes around him, and a red flannel night-cap tied fast round his head, to gather the shell-fish, by scraping them out of the sand with his little hands, and putting them into a small hempen bag tied round his loins.  Little Tom was very eager to go;—for "the sea! the sea!" was his unvarying song (chanted in a wild untaught melody which perhaps even Neükomm himself would have thought beautiful, could he have listened to it) from the day when he was three years old, the first day on which his father bore him on shoulder to gaze upon the ships riding in the German Ocean.  But poor little Tom cried bitterly with frozen hands, and cold, and hunger, before the day was over, and it was time to return to his mother's aproned knee, and the soothing heaven of sympathy that dwelt on her tongue and in her eyes.

    Yet, on the morrow, little Tom would go again.  The father would have left him at home till the Spring strengthened and the sun came nearer, for it was but early March as yet; but the little adventurer was too true to his nature to accept the boon.  And from that day, summer and winter, except when even the father himself was compelled to stay at home by reason of an unusual storm, Tom continued to mount his little red night-cap, like the rest, and make one among the picturesque line of industrious stragglers on the sea-beach.  To school Tom never went in his life: though his lot would not have been more highly favoured in that respect, had he been the child of a peasant in the interior, or even the son of a decent mechanic in Lincolnshire, at that period,—for we are speaking of events of one hundred years' date, from their commencement to our own time,—and at that period the idea of sending a poor man's child to school was regarded as a piece of overweening pride that deserved no gentle rebuke from "the better sort of people."  But what though he could never read? he could make boats; and indeed his earliest error was a display of that kind of ingenuity, for he bored a hole in the bottom of his mother's bread-tin when but four years old, stuck a wooden mast in it, fitted on a sail, and set it afloat on the surface of a brook that ran by the end of his father's little garden; and, while he clapped his little hands in ecstasy, away dashed his ship to the sea!  He was severely chidden for this, but not flogged: that was not his mother's way; she happened to have too much good sense to brutify her offspring: and the lecture served to shew him that he had done foolishly,—but it did not annihilate that passion for ships and the sea which his first sight of them had created within him.  He could make boats—did we say? ay, and he made a ship, too,—such a ship!—tho' this was when he was twelve years old, and had seen the magnificent merchant-vessels from the Mediterranean and the West Indies go by in full sail for the Humber and the port of Hull,—such a ship, with masts, and yards, and rigging, and port-holes, and even miniature sailors,—it was so wondrous a piece of art as the oldest villager in Northcotes had never seen, and rendered little Tom the every-day talk of all its inhabitants.  Such talk did not render little Tom vain, however, for his yearning mind had influenced his hands to form the ship from no principle of praise-seeking: it was a type that signified he meant to sail in such an ocean-vehicle—if the simple people could so have read it.

    Unmindful of praise, and true to the energy that was growing within him, little Tom learnt to swim, and dive, and play with the huge ocean as familiarly as with his elder brothers.  More especially if a vessel chanced to anchor near the shore, either to wait for a change of wind, or to barter for fish, that was a temptation so powerful with Tom, that he seldom waited for his father's return, if at a distance with the boat,—but into the wave he would plunge, and speedily gain the vessel, becoming, in a few minutes, a favourite with every one on board, for his sense and activity.  Tom's brothers shared the pleasure, or at least the benefits, of these ventures, though they were neither skilful nor courageous enough to share the peril; for little Tom usually returned, bearing by the strings in his mouth, like a water dog, his cockle-bag filled with precious scraps of sea biscuit, and sometimes a bit or two of boiled salt beef,—a priceless luxury for the brothers, to whom noble little Tom invariably gave up the bag, as soon as he reached the shore.

    By the time that Tom was regularly entered as one of his poor father's labouring band, the strongest of his three elder brothers was taken by the father into the little boat, taught to assist in managing the bladdered nets, and so advanced from a mere cockle-gatherer to an embryo fisherman.  The two next brothers were neither sufficiently strong, active, or enterprising, ever to rival the oldest; but when Tom was ten years old, though Jack was fifteen, his father preferred taking Tom in the boat.  The little hero not only gained greater knowledge, but rapidly grew in courage, presence of mind, and plan for adventure, by the change.  In fact, the father's circumstances were speedily bettered by his child's intelligence and energy.

    One day, while his father was "dealing" the largest net out of the boat, so as to prevent its getting "foul," and little Tom was riding upon the old horse which the father was necessitated to keep for his daily use, towing the end of the net by a line to the required distance into the water, he perceived that he was among an unusually large shoal of fine fish,—and so swam the horse out, considerably, with the intent to have a full sweep of the treasure.  Much to the lad's chagrin, however, the father hallooed, and motioned, and menaced, for him to come back; and so Tom, who was too true a lad to disobey when his father seemed so angry, was constrained to give up his prize, and the result was that the father had to meet his usual chapman for the Louth market with only a pitiful take of fish for the day.  Tom was then about twelve years old, but his shrewdness discerned how greatly these timid acts of his father served to gird a the hungry family with straitness.  He had never disobeyed on a large scale before; but his spirit prompted him to what, according to his unschooled casuistry, he conceived to be a virtuous disobedience, now—and yet it was a venturous and perilous deed for a child that he undertook.  And thus he went about it.

    He drew his mother aside, as soon as they returned home in the evening, and dazzled her imagination with his brilliant and excited account of the value and fineness of the shoal he had seen, and told her he was resolved to have them before the next morning.

    "The Lord help thee, bairn!" exclaimed the mother; "what art thou talking of?"

    "Talking sense, mother," said Tom; "and you'll see it: for you must sit up till Jack and I come back with the old horse: we'll set off as soon as my fayther has gone to bed and fallen fast asleep."

    "Jack!" cried the mother, "why, it'll make him tremble to talk o' such a thing!"

    "The more's the shame for him, then," replied the little hero; "if he does tremble, and durst not go, I shall think him a lubber"—a word that Tom had learnt from the sailors, and, of course, was very fond of using: "the moon's at full, and we can see as well as by daylight to manage the net."

    "Thou'lt be drownded, bairn," said the mother, "and, besides, the fish may be all gone from where thou saw 'em this morning."

    "Not they," insisted Tom; "they're brits, mother,—fine large brits," he repeated, with sparkling eyes; "and you've heard my fayther say over and over again that flat fish stay in a snug bottom for days together.  I saw 'em spread all along the far flat, within the sunken rocks, toward Donna Hook: they've found fine shelter, and plenty to feed on, no doubt, and they won't go away; they'll make pounds, mother—and we need money, you know, mother."

    Tom's mother gazed at him with fond wonder: so much ardour, so much earnest zeal to benefit his parents, and brothers and sisters, in one so young—it was almost too much for her, and the tears rose, as she stood silently looking at her child, with one hand on his shoulder, and his eager, entreating eyes penetrating into her very soul to learn whether he would win her consent.  He prevailed, however, and she heard the last footsteps of the old horse, as it slowly left the door of the cottage, with Tom and Jack on its back, and the net packed behind, with feelings of excited apprehension she had not felt since the first storm after her marriage, when her husband was out at sea.

    "What's that?" asked the father, half awaking at the sound of the horse's feet, and wondering that his wife was still up; but she rendered him some evasive answer, and continued darning one of the children's rent garments, telling him that she must have it done for the boy to put on in the morning.  Leaving the reader to imagine the mother's agonizing doubts and fears, and anxious listenings to the movement of every changeful sound of the night, let us attend to Tom and his brother, and their daring adventure.  Not that it needs any expanded description,—for it was entered upon, and achieved, with all Tom's soul thrown into it, in such a way as to render it memorable to Jack's latest day, when Jack told it to his children.  Jack was fearful enough at remaining alone in the boat to hand out the net by moonlight,—but Tom was dashing along on the old horse that was a good swimmer, and was not long in doubling and returning.  Again and again was their swoop of the sea repeated, till their strength was well-nigh exhausted with toiling to carry on land their loads of fish.  A mighty harvest from the great waters it was, to be reaped by the energy and intrepidity of a boy of twelve years old.  The fish were concealed in a "crike" or small freshlet, a little removed from the beach, where it was easy to form a dam; and with one good load upon the old horse, fastened in the folded net, the lads set off on foot, long before day-light, from the beach, and speedily were at their father's cottage-door with this earnest of their booty.

    "Whoa-hoa!" cried Tom aloud to the old horse, almost before it was time to stop; and his mother, who was already in front of her cottage, lifted up her closed hand, and shook it, and cried, "Hush, bairn—whisht, whisht!—thy fayther will hear thee, and what's to be done then?"

    But Tom was neither to be hushed nor whished.  "Tell my fayther to get up, and take Dick and Will with him to fetch the rest o' the brits and rays, while Jack and I have some breakfast, for we are hungry above a bit," he said; and he tumbled the fish out of the net, and told his mother they had left ten times as many in the crike.  What cared Tom whether his father felt inclined to scold or not?  He knew that the booty would silently and overwhelmingly plead his pardon.  And oh, the trembling joy and pride of the poor mother,—her thoughts of large pecuniary relief and admiration of her child's noble act, combining, and causing her to prattle with so much elation that she scarcely knew what she said!

    Seven pounds, in sterling English money, Tom's poor father made of his child's night adventure: a sum he had never approached for one day's, no, nor one week's labour in his little boat, since he had possessed it.  Need it be said that Tom's father was proud of him?  He loved all his children: they and his wife were his jewels; his only idols in the world; and to picture truly his yearnings for their happiness, as he cast a thought towards his cottage, or counted his boys by their little red caps, toiling, meanwhile, afar off from the beach where the children straggled sometimes at great distances from each other, at their hardy employ,—to tell what truly exalted thinkings passed hourly through the mind of that poor fisherman, tossed upon the surge, often a whole day without a fragment of gain, and yet clinging with glowing love to his wife and children on land,—oh, it would form a theme to kindle the sweetest eloquence of the gentle yet godlike Shakspere himself!  But it was natural that Tom should become his father's peculiar pride, for he was, indeed, a child to be proud of.

    It was, therefore, a melancholy sound, the first request of that heroic boy, when he became fourteen—a sorrowful note in the ears of his doting parents—that he might become a sailor, and leave them!  The father and mother exchanged a dreary look, and said nought.  It was a request they might expect, one day or other, for the lad had always raved about the daring life of a sailor, and he was now becoming of an age when it was fit he should enter on such a profession as he intended to follow for life: but yet they had always put the thought aside, and clung to the enjoyment of possessing such a son, and beholding him as "the light of their eyes," daily.  Tom saw and felt what his parents endured when he presented his first request, and he did not renew it till another month had flown, and a Boston sloop was lying off the cockle-sands, laden with timber from Hull, when he again asked if he might go for a sailor.  This time, however, the question was put under circumstances which seemed to soften the dread of separation.  Boston was a Lincolnshire port, and a voyage thither and back, on trial, would soon be performed, so that they would soon see their darling again; and therefore his parents gave consent for Tom's departure.

    The boy became as much the darling of the little crew in the sloop, during their brief voyage, as he had been of his father and mother.  They gave him the name which stuck to him through life, as soon as they heard his history, to which, indeed, they were scarcely strangers, for it was not the first time he had been on board their shallop.  And "Cockle Tom" was proud to tell his new name when he saw his home again: it had been given him by sailors, and it was, therefore, more honourable in his estimation than knighthood or nobility given by a monarch would have been, had he known of either.

    There was now no putting off the complete separation from their noblest child for Tom's parents.  He had fully made up his mind to live on the sea, his darling element: and, besides, he had been to Hull, the port to which the Boston sloop traded, and had seen the Greenland whale-ships, and talked with the sailors till he was all excitement for the noble daring of joining an attack upon the vast sea monsters, and seeing the mountain icebergs, and hearing the roaring of the white bears.  His father therefore prepared clothing for the lad, and began to think of setting out with him to Hull, in order to see him safely-committed, as a sailor-apprentice, to the care of some kind and fatherly sort of Greenland captain.

    It was a dull week that young Cockle Tom passed at home; for, despite his enthusiasm, the complete separation from his parents was a thought that cut him to the quick.  Did, then, the fisherman's child, who had been led forth to endure the cold sea wind, and labour, and hunger, from infancy, love his parents!  Ay, that did he, and with such a love as you know nothing of, young spruce, who have been to a boarding-school, and have since become versed in all the hollownesses of "respectable life."  If there was a sacred corner in Tom's heart, it was that where the precious images of his father and mother were enshrined.  Toil, fatigue, hunger, pain, loss of sleep, nay, death itself, he would have encountered at any moment to benefit them; and, young as he was, he formed strong judgments on men's characters who failed in parental duty.  He never swore but once in his life, before leaving home, and that was when a young farmer in the parish married a flaunting wife, and gave up his aged father, blind, and palsy stricken, to be placed in an alms-house.  "D——n his eyes!" exclaimed young Tom, while his own eyes flashed fire, "I should like to grapple his weasand, as big as he is!"  That was a rude expression, and a strange one, too, for a boy of fourteen; but while his mother reproved it with such a look as she had never given him before,—and he blushed like scarlet, and promised, with tears in his eyes, never to swear again,—yet she read within Tom's heart, by the aid of those few syllables, the existence of a principle which, she felt, more truly ennobled her child than the highest earthly titles would have aggrandised him.

    It was some relief to young Tom to reflect that his parents were now in comparatively comfortable circumstances, and chiefly through his means.  The ice of timidity once broken, Jack had become more adventurous, and within one year, by the joint efforts of the two brothers, so great an increase took place in the fish the father had to offer for sale, that he was enabled to buy the little cottage in which he lived, with the garden adjoining, as well as to clothe his whole family.  The next year furnished a new and larger boat, and an extra horse, besides stocking the little purse of the father with a few spare guineas in gold—the noble old spade aces which "looked so much like real money," as our forefathers used to say, when they first saw the queer, "fly-away-blow-away" paper money.

    Did they cry—Tom, or his mother—when the separation came?  Ay, and brothers, and sisters, and father too, as he was about to depart with him—real tears, to be sure; for, as much like their native oaks as our genuine old English race were in their hardihood and endurance of storms, their hearts were of the tenderest—in the right place.  A still severer feeling of desolation was experienced by Tom and his father when they parted at Hull; but Tom "girt up the loins of his mind," and buried his sorrow in listening to the sailors' talk, and in thinking of his coming adventures.

    And now "the history of Cockle Tom" may end; for our purpose is not to write a long story, but to show how a simple and yet truly noble character may be formed: and that purpose is accomplished as well as we are able to reach it.  For the remainder of Cockle Tom's life,—it was that of the true English sailor,—full of generosity and noble daring, shaded, here and there, with a dash of passion, or a fit of insobriety at the end of a long voyage of suffering, but tinted to brilliancy with many an act of exalted sacrifice.  Five voyages Cockle Tom made to Greenland, or the Straits; three to the West Indies, and one to the East; six times he passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and visited Malta, or Corfu, or Constantinople; and four times he voyaged to the Guinea coast, ere he reached the age of thirty.  That was the limit of his life; but he had saved as many lives as he numbered years by that time.  As an expert swimmer,—as a soul that would venture even into the jaws of death to save a drowning man,—as a shipmate that would always take the severer share of toil and ease another,—as an agile and clever mariner that was unexcelled in the rapidity and perfection with which he could execute any manoeuvre in the management of his ship,—as the heart of fun and merriment,—and as the lad whose purse was ever at the command of a brother in need,—Cockle Tom was the glory and pride of every "true British tar" who knew him.

    And how fresh did his filial love remain amidst separation and newness of scene!  His father and mother kept that sacred corner in his heart, perfectly unrivalled, for many a long year; and when he admitted another fair image there it was not allowed to encroach upon the consecrated room occupied by the old ones.  He loved his wife, whom he married at five-and-twenty, and she deserved his love; but he did not love his parents the less for that.  They received many a solid proof of his affection, though they seldom saw him; and the news of his death, though it did not distract them with unseemly grief, dimmed the brightness of their declining days.

    Cockle Tom lay in harbour at Hull, after his return from the fourth Guinea voyage: his vessel was delivered of its cargo: a friend had written "home" for him,—for his father's cottage was "home" with him, even after he had married and had a little neat house in Hull.  On the morrow, his young wife and himself were to have set out to see his aged parents once more, when, in the fineness of the evening, while numerous pleasure boats were jostling each other in the narrow space of the harbour, thronged as it was with large and small craft, one boat upset, and five human lives were in danger.  In a moment, Tom had plunged from the deck where he stood, and the next moment had placed two in safety in one of the boats: a second struggle, and two more were rescued; but, in attempting to save the last, the dying struggler, or the cramp, overpowered him, and he sank to rise no more!  Such was the consistent end of the life of Cockle Tom,—the "true British sailor."

    "A bold peasantry, their country's pride," are fast fading: may our other twin jewel in English national character—the noble sailor—ever preserve its lustre!

_______________________________

 
THE LAST DAYS OF AN OLD SAILOR;
OR,
"BUTTER YOUR SHIRT! SING TANTARA-BOBUS,
MAKE SHIFT!"

_________


AMONG the few survivors of our "glorious" sea-fights which the Peace sent home to Gainsboro', a busy little port on the Trent, was old Matthew Hardcastle, a veteran of threescore and ten, and something more.  It was said that Matthew might have been discharged from ship-board some years earlier; but his attachment to the sea was extreme, and he was at length, to speak plainly, forced out of the navy.

    Gainsboro' was, at that particular period, somewhat fertile in the production of eccentric folk, for Joe Hornby was then to be seen in it, with his hat stuck full of field flowers, and sometimes, to the peril of its "crown," fixed on his head wrong side upwards, because "the world was turned upside down;" and the septuagenarian spinster, Nelly Fish, might be seen flaunting along the narrow causeway, her strange pile of five or six straw hats, which she wore one upon another, to show that "she knew all the fashions that had been, as well as those that were;"—and Martin Jackson would, ever and anon, sally forth in some odd guise that demonstrated his lunacy; for to-day he might be seen covered with papers on which were written all kinds of queer criticisms on the rulers of the day, and to-morrow he would go through the streets clad in his wife's chemise for an outer robe, and wearing an old horseman's helmet with a fox's tail for a plume, while half-a-dozen terriers yelped away at his heels, following thick and fast to the mad hunter's cries of "Yo-ho! yo-ho!  Hark forward!  Tantivy! Yo-ho! yoho!"

    Such were some of the strange relics of humanity which afforded grave problems for those who were able to moralise, or thought they were, at that time, in Gainsbro'; but, amidst all and sundry of its human catalogue, none of the curious articles thereof attracted more general attention, as they passed, to and fro in the streets of the little town, than the veteran warrior-seaman, Matthew Hardcastle.  Indeed, Matthew was beheld, by "gentle and simple," in a different light to the eccentrics, poor things! before mentioned.  The world, in spite of its conviction that it is wrong to laugh, laughs on at the antics and whims of the helpless beings it calls "insane"; and Gainsboro' followed the way of the world in laughing, too often, at poor Joe Hornby, and Nelly Fish, and Martin Jackson; but it was by no means a custom to laugh at Matthew Hardcastle.

    Matthew was a tall, well-built old fellow, and did not lose an inch of his height, notwithstanding his very advanced age.  His brave face resembled more the gnarled bark of an old oak than any other thing that ever existed; it was a real sea-faring face, was Matthew's, if ever a man wore one in this world.  And then his wig!  All the town talked of Matthew Hardcastle's wig.  It did not fall below his shoulders, like the princely-looking old wigs of the days of Marlborough; but it was a very grand, burly wig, for all that.  It reached below the ears of the fine old man, considerably; and it displayed five tiers of curls,—glorious curls they were!  Matthew's grand three-cocked hat, too,—for he and old George Laughton, the currier, with his soul of independence, and Charley Careless, the little high-spirited silversmith, were the three last men in Gainsboro' who refused to put away the splendid head-covering of their forefathers for the paltry upper-gear of modern times,—Matthew's three-cocked hat stood higher behind than it did before, and, conjoined with the grandeur of his wig, caused Matthew to look as bold and imposing as a brigadier major!  And whoever met Matthew on the causeway, rocking as he went with a regular naval kind of motion, and supporting his aged steps by a bamboo in either hand, was sure to say, "Good morning to you, Matthew!  I hope you are quite well this morning!" if they were considered to be his equals or superiors in rank; while all the little boys and girls were wont to stop and bow or curtsy to him, and say, "Your sarvant, Matthew!"  Such was the real honour paid to the aged sailor who had fought "the battles of his country," as they were called.

    The time came, however, when all this show of respect to the brave old sailor ceased, for he lived too long!  Twenty more years made his age hard upon one hundred.  That was a rare age to live; but it would have been better for Matthew if he had died ten years earlier, for he lived till the effects of the "glorious " battles in which he had been engaged began to be felt—and felt grievously, even in that district, which you would deem comparatively happy when viewed after your mind's eye had been viewing the miseries, at that time, of our dense hives of manufacture.  He lived till hungry and ragged labourers began to stand daily in melancholy groups, and with folded arms, in the streets, and till the parish authorities began to talk of pulling down the old workhouse, to build a new "bastile" on the lovely green spot where the children used to resort to play at sand-mills!

    Matthew felt the change in the "civilisation," as it was called, of the times, sensibly, as old as he was; but there was an inexhaustible spring of vivacity in the old seaman's noble nature, and in spite of age, infirmities, and bad times, Matthew Hardcastle was the merriest, as well as the oldest man in Gainsboro'.  "Butter your shirt, sing tantara-bobus make shift!"  Matthew would say, morning, noon, and night, when the poor would be uttering their plaints in his ears; and the whimsical saying, together with the jolly old fellow's way of uttering it, many a time turned the mourning of his neighbours into mirth.

    One day, a stranger heard this singular saying, as he was journeying through the town, and passing by the street end of the alley where Matthew was leaning on his two sticks to take the evening air, and chatting with his neighbours, according to his custom.  The traveller could not fail to be struck with the saying, for he had heard it before; and he had seen the veteran who uttered it before, though it was many a long year since.  The traveller stopped, and gazed on the old sailor for a moment or two, and then stretched out his aged hand—for he, too, was an old man—to grasp the hand of his ancient friend.

    "Matthew Hardcastle! what, old Matthew!" he exclaimed.

    Matthew stared, and seemed at a loss for a few seconds; but, at length, he let one stick fall, as it were mechanically, and, clasping his old friend's hand with the hearty gripe of a true sailor, cried aloud, while the fire of his youth seemed once more to gleam from his eyes,

    "What!  Paul Perkins!  God bless thy heart!  Why, I thought—but God bless thy heart and soul, how art thou?—I thought thou hadst gone to Davy's locker ten or fifteen years ago!"

    "And I little thought that ever these old eyes were again to look upon Matthew Hardcastle," replied Paul; "why, Lord save us, you must be an amazing age!  I am nearly threescore and ten, but you were a man in your prime when I was but little older than a child, you know."

    "Butter your shirt, sing tantara-bobus make shift!" answered jolly old Matthew; "what matters it how old one may be?  We shall live till we die—kill us that dare!"  And the pair of sound-hearted old tars burst into a merry laugh that came up so clearly from the well-spring of their hearts as to create a kindred merriment through the curious crowd, which had by this time begun to gather round them, in the narrow street.

    "Well, but come, shipmate, this must not be a dry meeting," said Paul; "suppose we step into the Red Lion, or the Black Horse, that I see on the signs here, hard by, and wet our whistles together, once more.  It may be for the last time, you know, in this world."

    "Avast, heaving!" replied Matthew; "I have no objection for Molly Crabtree, here, to fetch us a jack of rum or so, and we can have it in my little berth; but my old head won't bear the racket of a publichouse now, Paul."

    "Well, well, have it your own way, Mat," replied the other; and the two ancient men adjourned, as fast as their stiffened limbs would permit them, to Matthew's little dwelling in the alley.

    Matthew's hammock—for he could never be persuaded to sleep in a bed—was slung at one corner of the narrow room, and just under it was placed his arm-chair.  He would fain have given up his usual seat, on this occasion, to his friend; but Paul Perkins had too much real and untaught courtesy to accept of it.

    "No, no, keep on board your own ship, Matthew," he cried; "I won't do any such thing: sit ye down, sit ye down."

    And so Matthew sat down, with this entreaty, and reared his two sticks against the wall, and doffed his rare hat, and showed his wig in all its glory.  Paul looked round the room, and could not help indulging in the natural exultation of a sailor.  Nelson, and Howe, and Duncan, and Rodney, showed their gallant faces, according to the best skill of some humble limner, over the little mantelpiece: a fine model of a first-rate man-of-war—the work of Matthew's own fingers in his younger days—stood, in unapproachable pride, upon a little dresser on the opposite side of the dwelling; and, above it, a curious tobacco-pipe, from some foreign shore, curled its enormous length around three or four nails driven into the wall, and displayed the painted image of a black-a-moor's head, at its extremity.  Other odd fragments of a sailor's fondness, such as small carved "figure-heads" of vessels, wrought with the pocket-knife, to relieve hours of tedium, pouches of kangaroo-skin, the favourite repositories of the sailor's favourite weed, pipe-stoppers of bone, cut into grotesque shapes, and such-like nick-knackeries decorated the walls, till scarcely a bare patch of them could be seen.

    "Well, and I suppose you're at home here, Mat, eh?" said Paul, his face beaming with pleasure as he asked the question.

    A sudden and unwonted shade came over Matthew's countenance: "Hum!" said he, gloomily, "liked the old Dreadnought better; but she's now—God bless her!—only a hull, like me.  But butter your shirt!" cried the gallant-hearted old fellow, bursting into his prevailing gaiety,—"sing tantara-bobus make shift! we shall live till we die—kill us that dare!"  And, again the old lads set up a merry laugh in unison, and were as happy, for the nonce, as the proudest monarchs in christendom.

    Molly Crabtree now entered with the rum, and began to prepare the grog, that real nectar for the sailor.  The precious glass was mixed, and went round over and over again; nor would the old sailors be said "nay" when Molly looked modest about it: she was compelled to take a sip each time when it came to her turn.  Old shipmates were named, and the bravery and virtues of the dead were honoured; hearty and kind wishes for the welfare of the living were expressed; old stories were told, and the joys of old times were recorded with a sigh; but sighing usually was followed by a laugh amid the utterance of old Matthew's singular expletive, "Butter your shirt! sing tantara-bobus make shift!"

    "Upon my honour, Mat," at length said Paul, for, as it began to grow towards midnight, the phraseology of the ancient mariners began to grow more consequential,—more by token that the "jack" of rum had now been repeated, for the third time—"upon my honour, Mat, you and I were no skinkers in that hot action when you first wore the buttered shirt."

    "Why, Lord ha' marcy on us!" cried Molly Crabtree, who had been listening all along, and staring like an owl at twilight, during the successive strange recitals of the two old seafarers,—"did Matthew ever wear a real buttered shirt, then?  For Heaven's sake tell us the meaning on't!"

    "That I will, ma'am," said Paul, touching his hat as gallantly as an admiral; "you see, it was during a severe engagement with the Dutchmen that Mat and I were ordered to the maintop,—but hardly had we reached it, when a shot from the enemy cut our mainmast fairly in two, and hurled us both on to the enemy's deck, in the midst of more than a hundred heavy-bottomed Dutchmen!  To dream of fighting against such odds, ma'am, you'll understand was, of course, out of all question; so we quietly walked our bodies, to the tune of 'donner and blitzen,' down below, to become close prisoners under hatches.  Now it so happened, d'ye see, ma'am? that the only fellow-prisoners we found in the hole where they crammed us were cheeses and queer big tubs; and we felt a nat'ral sort of a curiosity to rummage about the hole, when left in the dark by ourselves.  Clambering up some o' these huge tubs at one end of the hole, we both lost footing together, and fell head over heels into the midst of something that was remarkably soft; and there we struggled, and struggled hard, too,—but 'twas all in vain, we could not flounder out,—and so were content to remain closed on all sides up to the neck, with just our heads bobbing out, and gasping for breath.  Shiver my timbers, if ever I was so pickled before or since!  At length the Dutchman was taken; and when some of our lads made their way into the dark hole where we were, we began to hail 'em.—'Dreadnought a-hoy!' said Mat: 'The Union jack a-hoy!' said I: 'Who's there, in the devil's name?' cried one: 'Why, that's old Mat Hardcastle's growl—where the devil is he?' said first one of our lads and then another.  And, as sure as you're there, ma'am," continued Paul, growing more polite and gallant as he proceeded, "what with one noise or another, it wasn't until the lads had driven their marling-spikes through almost every cask in the hole, that Mat and I were discovered up to the neck in one of the Dutchmen's big butter firkins.  We were a good deal ashamed, ma'am, o' course, being as how we were soaked to the skin in the grease, for it warmed, as we stuck in it; and no doubt by its melting, we should ha' been able to have got out of it without help, if we had had to stay much longer before we had been found.  The worst of it was, we could not get time to strip for some hours after, and this made us both mighty uneasy, for many was the joke that was passed upon us as to how we liked our buttered shirts.  But Mat's heart was always light, all his life long; and he answered all who asked that saucy question, just as he puts by all sorrow now, with 'Butter your shirt! sing tantara-bobus make shift!'—and ever since then Matthew has kept his saying; and it is not a bad one, either, let me tell you, ma'am! what think ye?" concluded Paul Perkins, and took a stiffer pull at the grog than he had ever done that night, thinking that he deserved it for his cleverness, and feeling himself entitled to a double pull because he had missed his turn by telling this yarn.

    Molly Crabtree only answered with a hearty laugh, and Paul laughed too, but Matthew laughed louder and longer than either of them, for he was 'a practised laugher, and lived by it,' as he used jokingly to say.  But now the fourth measure of grog was done, and it was too late to buy more; so the conversation began to grow less boisterous.  Molly rose to depart; and the two veterans were left by themselves.  Paul urged Matthew to get into his hammock, and Matthew urged Paul; but neither could prevail on the other, and so at last they fairly fell asleep in their chairs, and neither of them awoke,—though they each snored as loud as a rhinoceros,—until Molly Crabtree came and opened the shutters some hours after sunrise the ensuing morning.  Their limbs were tolerably stiff, and their heads ached beyond a joke, it may easily be guessed, for it was many a long day since either of them had gone to sleep groggy.  They made the best of their aches and pains, however, when they awoke, and, after a hearty renewed gripe of friendship, 'thrust each a lumping quid of tobacco into his mouth, and then quietly awaited the preparation of breakfast by Molly Crabtree.

    Now, as natural as our forefathers always reckoned it to be to get drunk, or, at least, tipsy, with an old friend, when you met him after a long absence or separation, yet it was always felt to be not less natural that the cosy companions of the preceding night talked like sober men the next morning.  So it was with Matthew Hardcastle and Paul Perkins.

    "Matthew,—I've been thinking," began Paul, very measuredly, as he was sipping the cocoa-sop out of a bright brown earthen porringer, with a spoon, in imitation of his host,—"I've been thinking,—we shall soon be in our last port."

    "True, very true," said Matthew, "and, d'ye know, Paul? I would not much care if we had the same voyage to go again, save and except a little at the end on't."

    "Then we don't think alike," said Paul, dropping his spoon into the porringer, and looking thoughtful: "I'm sure, Mat, you'll bear me witness that I'm no skinkerly coward; but, splice me, if I don't think that all this warring and fighting, and blowing up of poor men's limbs is, after all, a great piece of wickedness.  And, besides that, I've thought very much of late,—and particularly since I've seen the times change so much, that this setting of poor Englishmen on to fight poor foreigners, and poor foreigners to fight poor Englishmen, is only a deep scheme, on the part of the rich abroad and the rich at home, to keep the poor down."

    "Say you so, Paul?" exclaimed Matthew, also resting his spoon on the brim of the porringer, and looking very intently upon his friend; "why, you know, Paul, if we had not gone to fight the foreigners, they would have come to fight us."

    "But who amongst 'em was it that wanted to fight? just think of that, Matthew," rejoined Paul, very earnestly.  "You and I had no quarrel with the French, or the Dutch, or the Spaniard, you know.  And what poor foreigners, think you, had any quarrel with the people here?  No, no, depend on it, Matthew, the poor never made these wars, nor ever thought of fighting, or wished to fight, on either side: it was the rich 'our betters,' as they are called—who began the quarrel, and then pushed us, or dragged us, into it, to lose our limbs, or shed our blood, or escape if we could."

    "'Pon my word," said Matthew, shaking his wig very significantly, "I've had some such thoughts as these now and then,—and you're making a strong yarn on't, Paul, I confess,— but what's the use of muddling one's old brains with such things?  You know what I always say, Paul,—'Butter your shirt——"'

    "Nay, but avast a bit, Mat," said Paul, looking invincibly serious; "we are getting fast into our last port, as I said before; and, if we have been unthinking fools all our lives, I don't see why we should not open our eyes and look about us a bit, before we step on the last shore.  Times are harder now than ever you and I knew 'em; and, as much fuss as there used to be made about an old seaman, all that sort of thing is gone.  I question if you and I live a few years longer and grow cranky,- and, God knows, I begin to feel queer, night and morning,—but folks will grow weary of waiting on us, and the parish wolves will haul us away to the workhouse, and pocket our little pensions."

    "God Almighty forbid!" ejaculated Matthew, very fervently.

    "But 'tis very likely to come to pass, however, let me tell you," rejoined Paul; "you knew Jerry Simpson: he was berthsman with us, if you remember, and lost an arm at Trafalgar.  He wouldn't go into Greenwich college, but went and settled in Shoreditch, with his old sister.  She died two twelvemonths ago, and poor old Jerry soon grew helpless—so they took him into the parish poorhouse, pocketing his pension, and he died there, of sheer grief, about six months ago.  That was a rum reward for fighting for his country so bravely as Jerry did——"

    "By — it was!" exclaimed old Matthew, involuntarily—for the fine old fellow had not uttered an oath for years before: "the Lord ha' mercy upon me for swearing, poor old sinner that I am!" he continued:—"but you don't say that that's true about Jerry Simpson, do you, Paul? why, he used to rush into a gun-boat like a ravenous wolf!  Shiver my old timbers! but a braver sailor than Jerry never stepped upon deck!"

    "'Pon the word of a sailor, what I have said is true," replied Paul, "for I saw it with my own sorrowful eyes.  But now don't you perceive, Matthew," resumed Paul, eager to take advantage of the impression this fact had made, "that the change in the state of things is owing to the heavy taxes caused by the war, and——"

    "Why, you see, Paul, I don't understand these things," said Matthew, impatiently; "but I feel you are right about us poor dogs never wishing to bite the foreigners—for I never had such a thought till I got on board ship.  But why is it that great folks wish to shed blood at such a rate?  What do they want, and what would they have?  'Zounds! if I have but my bit o' 'bacco, and can rest at night, I'm as happy as any of 'em.  And then, again, Paul, why is it—excuse me, Paul, if I seem to talk foolish; I'm older than you, but you always had more book larning, I'm well aware—why is it that the poor don't let the rich fight their battles themselves, if they want any fighting?"

    "Why, there, now, you old billy-goat!" exclaimed Paul, laughing; "you know that both you and I were dragged off by the press-gang, just as we were about to step on shore at Wapping; and were not thousands hauled away in the same manner throughout the war?  'Why is it that we don't let 'em fight their own battles themselves' indeed! why, you know, Mat, the poor dogs are compelled to obey the rich ones in this world.  What I want you to see is that the rich dogs make these wars on purpose to keep the poor dogs under.  And yet I don't know, Matthew, that either you or I can alter things: it is past our time o' life; and, besides, I believe the whole consarn will before long tumble to pieces of itself, for the world's about tired of it."

    "Blow me!" exclaimed Matthew, completely wearied of the subject, and anxious to resume his usual careless and happy vein, "if I can see the use of all your palaver, Paul: you may be right, in the main, but then you make no sail, take as many tacks as you will.  You still end by saying the poor dogs are forced to bark and bite as the rich dogs bid 'em; and you own we are both too old to do aught towards bettering things; and, besides, you say the consarn's doomed' to fall to pieces by its own rottenness; and so, instead of bothering my old brains about it, I still say, as I did when we got out of the Dutchman's firkin, 'Butter your shirt! sing tantarara-bobus make shift!"'

    The argument was ended with a hearty laugh on both sides, for, as toughly as Paul had spun his yarn, it was clear, from his last observation, that he was beginning to esteem his work as "labour in vain."  That day and another passed in calling old times to mind; and, on the fourth day, the two ancient friends and fellows in many a storm and broil, parted, never to meet again on the lee-shore of Time.

    Old Matthew Hardcastle kept up his gaiety of heart till his last day, though that day was, to the full, as doleful as his trusty friend Paul Perkins had prognosticated it would be.  Reader, if ever it falls in your way to visit old Gainsboro', you will learn that, in the main, what I am about to relate is too true.  In proportion as Matthew became helpless, people were wearied with waiting upon him; and, disgraceful to relate! the old warrior-seaman was, at length, neglected till his aged body swarmed with filth.  Instead of respect, disgust was now expressed for him by an unreasonable world.  Paul Perkins' prophecy came true to the letter; the parish "worthies" came to "take care of him"; they took him to the poor-house; he was stripped stark-naked in the wash-house; and cold water was "swabbed," as he himself would have said, upon his aged body to cleanse him!  Even in that moment, the brave companion of Howe and Nelson strove to keep up the gaiety of his noble heart, and once essayed his old saying, "Butter your shirt! sing"——But his aged lips quivered, and his jaws chattered with the cold,—and his bold old heart broke with the barbarous treatment he was undergoing!

    Oh! this is a world of wrong; and it will take a great deal of effort to right it, if ever it be righted at all.  Reader! if you even think, with Paul Perkins, that the bad system of War, among nations, will, at length, fall to pieces by virtue, or rather by the vice, of its own imperfections,—is it not, still, sensible and philanthropic to be doing what little we can to hasten what we feel to be "a consummation devoutly to be wished"?

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DOROTHY PYECROFT'S PREACHING;
OR,
"CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME."
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ALL the world, in the village of Sturton-le-Steeple, had said so, before the time of old Dorothy Pyecroft; but Dorothy did not join all the world in saying so.  Sturton is a homely little place, situate in the pleasant shire of Nottingham, and lying within a couple of miles of the Trent, and old Lincolnshire; and its church steeple forms a pretty object in the landscape which you view from the hills above Gainsboro'.  Dorothy Pyecroft, from the time that she was a child but the height of a table, went to Gainsboro' market with butter, eggs, or poultry, as regularly as Tuesday returned in each week; for the hearty old dame used commonly to boast that she had never known what it was to have a day's illness in her life, although, at the season we are beginning to gossip about, she was full threescore and ten.  It was a bonny sight to see the dame go tripping o'er the charming lea which spreads its flowery riches from Sturton-le-Steeple to the banks of noble Trent, by four of the clock on a gay summer's morning, with the clean milking-pail under her arm, that was bare to the elbow.  You would have thought, at a distance, she had been some blithe maiden in her teens.  And then the cheerful and clear tone in which she summoned her cows, calling to them as kindly as if they were her children—"Come, my pratty creaturs!" a call that was the signal for a treat of pleasing pastoral music to the enthusiastic early angler on the Trent: the rich, varied "low" of the cows,—alto, tenor, and bass,—answered that call, in changeful echo across the stream; the angler's delighted ear caught a treble, heavenward, from the matin lark, to complete the "harmony"; and even the cackling of the geese, uttering their confused joy at the sound of the dame's voice, seemed to mingle no unpleasing "discord" with the natural chorus.  By the time that her morning's milking was over, the spoilt maidens of the village were only beginning to open their kitchen window-shutters; and she usually passed the whole train of them, loitering and chattering about their sweethearts, on their way to the lea, as she returned home, with the rich load upon her head, and her arms fixed as properly a-kimbo as could be shown by the sprightliest lass that ever carried a milking-pail.  Some little shame was commonly felt among the loiterers as they passed the exemplary old woman,—but it did not result in their reformation.  Old Farmer Muxloe, who was always abroad at daybreak, and usually chatted a few moments with the dame just at the point where the footpath crossed the bridle-way over the lea, often commented, in no very measured terms, on the decline of discipline among milkmaids since the days when he was a lad.

    "Ah, dame!" he used to say, "there have been sore changes since you and I used to take a turn around the maypole; I'm sure the world gets lazier and lazier every day."

    "Why, you see, neighbour, fashions change," the old dame would reply—for she ever loved to take the more charitable side of a question; "maybe, things may change again, and folk may take to getting up earlier, after a few more years are over."

    "I'faith, I've little hope on't," the old farmer would reply, and shake his head, and smile; "but there's nobody like thee, Dolly, for taking the kindest side."

    "Why, neighbour, I always think it the best," Dorothy would rejoin, with a benevolent smile; "I never saw things grow better by harsh words and harsh thinkings, in my time."

    And then the old farmer would smile again, and say, "Well well, that's just like thee!  God bless thee, Dolly, and good morning to thee!" and away he would turn Dobbin's head, and proceed on his usual morning's ride from field to field.

    The work of her little dairy, added to the care of an humble household, composed of an infirm and helpless husband, and an equally infirm maiden sister—with, all and sundry, a stout house-dog, two tabby cats, and a fruitful poultry-yard,—usually occupied Dorothy Pyecroft through the bustling forenoon of each day; and when there was no immediate call upon her skill and benevolence among sick neighbours,—for she was the cleverest herb-woman in the village, and exercised her knowledge of the healing art without fee, or willing acceptance even of thanks,—she would sit in her polished high-backed chair, and work through the livelong afternoon at her spinning-wheel, drowsing her two infirm companions into a salutary rest and forgetfulness with the humming monotony of her labour, but revolving within her own mind many a useful and solemn thought, meanwhile.

    Dorothy sat absorbed in this her favourite employ, one afternoon in autumn, when an itinerant pedlar made his customary call at the cottage-door.  The dame's mind was so deeply involved in the contrivance of one of her little plans of benevolence, that she did not recognize the face of the traveller until he had addressed her twice.

    "Any small wares for children? any needles, pins, or thimbles?" cried the pedlar, running through the list of his articles with the glibness of frequent repetition.

    "No, Jonah: I want none," replied the dame kindly; "but, maybe, you'll take a horn o' beer, and a crumb or two o' bread and cheese?"

    The pedlar assented, well pleased, and lowered the pack from his shoulders, and set down the basket from his hand, next seating himself in a chair without the ceremonial of asking, and in all the gladsome confidence of welcome.

    "Thank you, thank you, dame," he said, and smacked his lips with pleasurable anticipation, as he took the horn of smiling beer and the piece of bread and cheese from the dame's hand.

    "You're welcome, Jonah," replied the dame heartily.  "Have you walked far to-day? and what luck have you had?"

    "I've come twenty miles, and have never taken handsel yet, dame," answered Jonah, in a melancholy tone.

    "So, poor heart!" said Dorothy, very pitifully; "I must buy a few dozens of needles of thee, however, before thou goest.  I fear times are hard, Jonah: I hear many and grievous complaints."

    "Times are harder than ever I knew them to be, dame, I assure you," rejoined Jonah; "and they that have a little money seem most determined to hold it fast.  Sore murmurings are made about this by poor folk: but I don't wonder at it, myself," concluded the worldly pedlar, "for, in sore times like these, there's no knowing what a body may come to want; and, as the old saying goes, you know, dame, 'Charity begins at home!"'—and Jonah buried his nose in the ale-horn, thinking he had said something so wisely conclusive that it could not be contradicted.

    "They say it was a parson who first used that saying," observed Dorothy, glancing from her wheel, very keenly, towards the pedlar; "but, for my part, Jonah, I am very far from thinking it such a saying as a parson ought to use."

    "Say you, dame?" said Jonah, opening his eyes very wide.

    "Did charity begin at home with their Master?" said Dorothy, by way of explanation.

    "Ah, dame!" said the pedlar, quickly discerning Dorothy's meaning, "I fear but few parsons think of imitating their Master now-a-days!"

    "That's more than I like to say," observed the gentle Dorothy; "I think there are more good people in the world than some folks think for;—but I'm sure, Jonah, we all want a better understanding of our duty towards each other."

    "Right, Dame Dorothy, right!—that's the best sort of religion; but there's the least of it in this world," rejoined the pedlar.

    "Why, Jonah," continued the good dame, "I think there might easily be a great deal more good in the world than there is.  Everybody ought to remember how many little kindnesses it is in their power to perform for others, without any hurt to themselves."

    "Yes, a sight o' good might be done in that way, dame," observed the pedlar, beginning very much to admire Dorothy's remarks; "and how much more happy the world would be then!"

    "Just so!" exclaimed Dorothy, her aged face beaming with benevolence; "that is the true way of making the world happy,—for all to be trying to do their fellow-creatures some kindness.  And then, you see, Jonah, when once the pleasure of thus acting began to be felt, there would soon be a pretty general willingness to make greater efforts, and even sacrifices of self-interest, as it is wrongly called, in order to experience greater pleasure and likewise to increase the world's happiness."

    "Truly, dame," said the pedlar, "you do me good to hear you talk.  I'm but a poor scholar; yet I can tell, without book, that you must be right."

    "But then, you see, Jonah," continued the dame, half unconscious of Jonah's last observation, "if everybody were to say, 'Charity begins at home,' this general happiness would never begin.  I like best, Jonah, to think of the example of the Blessed Being who came into the world to do us all good.  He went about pitying the miserable and afflicted, and healing and blessing them.  Charity did not begin at home with Him, Jonah!"

    The tears were now hastening down Jonah's rough cheeks.  How forcible are lessons of goodness! how irresistibly the heart owns their power!  Jonah could not support the conversation further.  Dorothy's plain and unaffected remarks sank deep in his bosom: and when he rose up, and buckled on his pack once more, and the aged dame gave him "handsel," or first money for the day, by purchasing a few pins and needles, the poor pedlar bade her farewell in an accent that showed he felt more than common thankfulness for her kindness.

    Alas! this is a world where good impressions are, too often, speedily effaced by bad ones.  Jonah called next at the gate of a wealthy squire, and, with hat in hand, asked for leave to go up to the kitchen-door and expose his wares to the servants.  The squire refused; and when Jonah pleaded his poverty, and ventured to remonstrate, the squire frowningly threatened to set the dogs upon him, if he did not instantly decamp!  Jonah turned away, and bitterly cursed the unfeeling heart of the rich man,—avowing, internally, that Dorothy Pyecroft was only a doating old fool,—for, after all, "Charity begun at home!"

    Scarcely had the pedlar taken twenty steps from Dame Dorothy's cottage, ere the village clergyman knocked at her door.  The dame knew the young parson's "rap-rap-rap!"  It was quick and consequential, and unlike the way of knocking at a door used by any one else in Sturton who thought it necessary to be so ceremonious as to give notice before they entered their neighbour's dwelling.  Dame Dorothy ceased her spinning, and rose to open the door, curtseying with natural politeness, and inviting her visitor to be seated.

    "Thank ye!" said the parson, raising his brows superciliously, putting the hook-end of his hunting-whip to his mouth, and striding about the floor in his spurred boots; "sit you down, I beg, Dame Pyecroft! sit you down—I'll not sit, thank ye!"

    "I fear, sir, there is a great deal of suffering at present," said Dorothy, sitting down, and fixing her mild blue eyes upon the thoughtless young coxcomb, and feeling too earnestly in love with goodness to lose any opportunity of recommending its glorious lessons.

    "Oh!—suffering!—ay!" observed the young clergyman, in a tone that showed he did not know what it was to think seriously: "you know there always was a difference between the rich and the poor."

    "But do you not think, sir, that the rich might lessen the difference between themselves and the poor, without injuring themselves?" asked Dorothy, in a tone of mild but firm expostulation.

    "Why, as to that, I can't say exactly," replied the parson, apparently brought to a halt in his thoughtlessness, and unable to extricate himself from the difficulty in which his ignorance placed him; "I can't say exactly; but, you know, Dame Pyecroft, some people have nothing to give away though they may be better off than many of the poor: with such people, you know, Dame Pyecroft, the old proverb holds good, that 'Charity begins at home."'

    "I am grieved to hear you quote that proverb, sir," said Dorothy; "I had just been exerting my poor wits to show that that saying was not a right one, in the hearing of poor Jonah the pedlar, before your reverence came in."

    "Not a right saying, Dame Pyecroft?  Why, you know it is a very old-established saying; and I think it a very shrewd one," rejoined the clergyman.

    "But it is not so old as the New Testament, sir," replied Dorothy, with a winning smile; "and as shrewd as it is, do you think, sir, it was ever acted upon by your Great Master?"

    The young clergyman took his hook-whip from his mouth, laid it on the table, took out his pocket-handkerchief, and, blushing up to the eyes, sat down before he attempted an answer to the good old dame's meek but powerful question.

    "You will remember, Dame Dorothy," he said, at length, "that the Saviour was in very different circumstances to all other human beings that ever lived."

    "But you will remember, sir," rejoined Dorothy, in the same mildly pertinacious manner, "that that Blessed Being said to His disciples, 'I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you: if I have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another's feet."'

    "Yes: that is very beautiful," said the young clergyman, feeling the irresistible force of goodness, and speaking as if he had never read the passage in the book for himself: "the Saviour's example is very beautiful."

    "And does not your reverence perceive how easy and delightful it would be for every one to begin to follow it?" immediately rejoined Dorothy, taking advantage of the good impression which, she saw, was being made on the mind of the young parson; "how easily might all who have enough give even of their little superfluity; how easily might we all do each other kindnesses which would cost us nothing!  What solid pleasure this would bring back upon each of our hearts; and how surely it would lead us to make sacrifices, in order to experience the richer pleasure of doing greater good!  Oh, sir," concluded the good old creature, with a tear that an angel might envy gliding down her aged and benevolent cheek, "I cannot think that any one knows the secret of true happiness who practises the precept—'Charity begins at home!'"

    The young and inexperienced man gazed with a strange expression at his new and humble teacher.  This was better preaching than he had ever heard or practised.  His heart had been misled, but not thoroughly vitiated, by a selfish and falsely styled "respectable" education.  He was too much affected to prolong the conversation then; but he became, from that time, a pupil at the feet of the aged Dorothy.  His fine manners were laid aside.  He became a real pastor.  He was, from that day, more frequently in the cottages of the poor, twenty times over, than in the houses of the rich.  He distributed of his substance to relieve the wants of others, and lived himself upon little.  He forgot creeds to preach goodness, and pity, and mercy, and love.  He preached till he wept, and his audiences wept with him.  His life was an embodiment of the virtues he inculcated.  And when, in the course of five short years, he laid down his body in the grave, a victim to the earnest conviction of his mind, the poor crowded around his hallowed resting-place with streaming eyes, and loving, but afflicted hearts, wishing they might be where he was when they died, since they were sure his presence, they said, of itself would make heaven!

    The young clergyman interred Dorothy Pyecroft but half a year before his own departure; and her last words were words of thankfulness that ever she had shown the young man the fallacy of the proverb—"Charity begins at home."

_______________________________

 
THE MINISTER OF MERCY.
_________


LEICESTER has the appearance of a new town as you glance at it, in your rapid course on the Midland Counties Railway.  And, if the "locomotives" halt for a few minutes at a point on the line where you have a full view of the goodly borough, the momentary impression which numerous ancient church-towers give you of the real antiquity of the place is soon effaced by the extensive rows of newly-built houses that stretch away on every side till they appear to cover almost the entire populous area on which you are gazing.  Successive gusts of prosperity for the manufacturers, occurring at various periods, followed by a full breeze of thrift for the last twenty years,—have in fact swelled the town to more than treble its size at the close of the last century.

    Yet a few days' sojourn in the borough would afford a lover of antiquity no inferior treat.  The massive wall and arched vaults of a ruin, believed to have formed part of a temple of Janus during the ages that Britain was under Roman sway,—the ivied remains of the noble abbey where the imperious and vice-regal Wolsey "laid his bones,"—the sternly frowning "Newarke," or entrance-tower to the castle of the Grantmesnels, Bellomonts, Blanchmaines, De Montforts, Plantagenets, and other proud Earls of Leicester,—the solitary wooded mound on which the castle itself anciently stood,—the rich minute carving of the old churches,—the quaint interior of the old town-hall,—the grotesque exterior of much of the really ancient part of the town, composed of dwellings striped with timber and plaster, and decked with ornamented or overhanging gables,—dwellings wherein the soldiers of the fated kingly Crookt-back were billeted on the night before Bosworth-field,—these, and sundry other features of historic chronicle and change, could not fail to awaken eager interest in an antiquarian.  Our story, however, concerns itself less with the outward than the inward, and regards rather the misery of the living than the pride of the dead.

    Passing along the ancient line of highway from York to London, from the churchless burial-yard of St. Leonard, over the old North bridge, revealing the meandering Soar and the meadows of the old monks; by the curious Gothic west door of the very ancient church of All Saints, that almost compels you to stop and look at it; and then, by the transverse streets, where the venerable "high cross" was taken down but a few years ago, and reaching that part of the ancient principal line of street called "Southgate," where modern Goths so lately took down that most interesting historical relic, the house in which the last regal Plantagenet slept the night before his death, (a splendid gable filled with a world of old English associations; and breathing a wholesome lesson to Englishmen from every atom of its mouldering substance!) the traveller would come to a ruinous-looking entry of a street on his right, bearing the chivalrous designation of "Red Cross Street."  At the door of a low, crumbling house about half-way down this ancient by-street, a dissenting minister stopped one winter's evening some five-and-fifty years ago, to make his usual call of duty and benevolence.  His gentle knock, however, was not answered; and, before he could repeat it, he was saluted hastily by a rich manufacturer, a member of his congregation, who was passing by on some business errand.

    "You are the very man I wanted to see," said the minister in a very earnest tone, seizing the manufacturer by one arm, as if he feared the man of business might feel disposed to escape him, "I want half an hour's conversation with you, sir."

    "But I cannot stay now, sir," replied the manufacturer; will you join me in my morning ride in the gig to-morrow?  Do, sir; it will do you good."

    "I will, I will; thank you, sir," answered the minister, in a quick, nervous way that seemed to be unusual with him; and they shook hands with great apparent fervour, and bid each other "good night."

    The dissenting minister did not find entrance into the low, ruined-looking house, until a neighbour or two had forced open the door.  A light was then brought, and a figure of affecting interest was revealed.  A venerable, silver-haired man lay breathing his last; and by the side of his humble bed, with folded hands, knelt she who had been the partaker of his joys and sorrows for sixty years, lost to all consciousness except that of mental prayer for her departing husband.  The sound of the minister's voice seemed to arouse her for a moment; but she relapsed again into complete obliviousness of all things, save the one absorbing feeling created by the view of that gasping pallid form that lay before her.  So the minister knelt, likewise; and when the neighbours who had entered with him had followed his example he prayed audibly and earnestly, yet so reverently and pathetically, that, while he prayed and wept, the neighbours thought themselves in the presence of some superior being, with a soul of compass to embrace and bless the whole human race, rather than a mere mortal.  The face of the dying man kindled, too, with wondrous feeling, when he heard the sounds of that well-known and beloved voice, though he had seemed past consciousness but a few moments before.  And when the minister paused in his petition, and saw the aged man's look fixed upon him, he said, with unutterable sweetness and tenderness,—

    "William, my dear old friend, is all well within?—is your hope still blooming and full of immortality?"

    The aged man raised his withered right hand with a last effort—waved it thrice—smiled with an ineffable smile,—and expired!

    The minister was raising the aged and speechless woman from her kneeling posture, and placing her in an arm-chair, when her married daughter and several other neighbours entered the house of death.  The minister recognised the daughter, and, after committing the widow earnestly to her care, emptied his waistcoat pocket of the silver it contained, and gave it, without counting, into the hands of the astonished young woman, who stood staring, while the good man snatched up his hat, and, saying "God bless you all!  I'll call again tomorrow: God bless you all!"—hurried away in a moment.

    A tall, grave-looking man, in the habit of a gentleman, bowed courteously to the dissenting minister, as he was turning the corner of the High Street, and, addressing him by his name, uttered the customary observations on the severity of the weather.

    "Ah, my dear sir," spake the dissenting minister, unable, from the state of his feelings, to answer in the same strain, "I wish I had had you with me a quarter of an hour ago."

    "Why, sir?" asked the gentleman.

    "That you might have seen, for yourself, how a Christian can die," answered the minister.

    "Ah!" replied the gentleman, with a look of serious concern, "there you, and all truly Christian ministers, find a field of more exalted enterprise than the whole world of turmoil and strife, put together, can furnish.  I envy you, my dear sir—I envy you, more than I can express to you."

    "It is, indeed, a field of exalted, of truly glorious enterprise, the visiting of death-beds—the pouring of heavenly consolation into the spirit that is leaving its frail clay tabernacle, and the gladdening of the human wretchedness which is left to mourn and weep," burst forth the good minister, forgetting that he stood in the bleak, cold, open street, and not in his pulpit; "but, oh, my good friend, what a dark, disconsolate scene would your Free-thinking make of the chamber of death, were it as universally spread as you wish it to be!"

    "It is there where you always have the advantage of me, sir," rejoined the gentleman; "I have acknowledged it, again and again; and I feel the force of that reflection so powerfully, sometimes, that I half resolve to spend the remainder of my life in some scheme of philanthropy, and, meanwhile, join in persuading men to believe Christianity, although I do not believe its historical evidences are worth a straw—."

    "But that would be wrong, sir!" said the minister interrupting the other, very earnestly.

    "So I think, sir," continued the gentleman; "and yet I feel sometimes as if I should become guilty of a crime by striving to take away what I regard as a pleasant deceit from men,—their chance, by imbibing a full confidence in Christianity, of expiring not merely with calmness, but with rapturous joy and triumph.  Free-thinking will never enable even the largest intellect, the most highly cultivated man, to die thus; much less will it give such a death to an imperfectly educated or ignorant man.  But then, I reflect again, that it would be morally and veritably criminal in me to join in strengthening what I sincerely believe to be falsehood."

    "And so it would, sir," said the dissenting minister, taking the gentleman's arm, who offered it, that they might walk on to avoid some degree of the cold; "so it would, sir: it would render you a very contemptible creature.  Let me tell you, sir, that with all the delight I experience in fulfilling some little of my duty as a Christian minister, the remembrance of it would not move me one inch towards the bed of a dying man with the view of offering him the consolations of revealed religion—if I believed such consolations to be a mere farce.  I would scorn to mock him with false hopes.  You know how deeply I regret your scepticism, my dear sir; but I would not see you veil it through a spurious tenderness.  No, sir: truth and sincerity are the purest jewels in human character: even pity and benevolence, themselves, are gems of inferior water."

    "I wish all Christians were like yourself," said the gentleman, after a pause of admiration for the great and good being with whom he felt it a real privilege to walk; "but I see so little practice of goodness from the hundreds around me who profess a religion that enthrones it, that the sight tends much to confirm me in my old opinions."

    "Indeed, sir," observed the minister, in a very grave tone, "I must tell you that you will be guilty of great self-deceit, if you imagine that the wickedness of hypocrites, or the slackness of lukewarm professors, will form a valid excuse for your rejection of Christ's mission, should you, one day, prove it true."

    "I know it, my dear sir," replied the gentleman; "I know it well; though I thank you for your kind and well-meant zeal in reminding me of it.  I will tell you one thought of mine, however,—and it is one that fixes itself very forcibly before my judgment;—if callousness to the sufferings of their workmen continues to increase among the manufacturers as rapidly as it has increased for the last ten years, Christianity will be openly scoffed at by the poor of the next generation, in the very streets where we are now walking."

    "You have only expressed what I expressed last Sunday morning from my own pulpit, sir," returned the minister, seeming too deeply affected with his strong belief of the probability of such an event to be able to add more.

    "I hear that the wretched frame-work knitters suffer more and more from abatements of wages and other encroachments upon their means of subsistence, of the most unfeeling and unprincipled character," resumed the gentleman; "and although hundreds are without work at the present time, and the complaints of suffering from want of food, fuel, and clothing, are so loud and frequent, yet not a single rich manufacturer of the many that profess religion, in Leicester, proposes to open a public subscription for the poor, according to the humane custom of past times.  I heard a whisper that you had begun to stir up the languid charity of some of your friends towards the commencement of a subscription: was I rightly informed, sir?"

    "It is the very subject I intended to broach to Mr.— — to-morrow morning," replied the minister, with an enthusiastic glow suffusing his expressive face.

    "Please place your own name for that sum somewhere on the list," said the gentleman, taking a note for twenty pounds out of his pocket-book and giving it to the minister.

    The good preacher was trying to stifle his grateful tears, in order to thank the sceptic,—but the latter bowed and strode away; and the good preacher, as he walked towards his own house in deep reflective silence, had many thoughts of the true interpretation of such words as "infidel" and "Christian," that would have startled his audience, if he had uttered them before it on the following Sunday.

    In spite of an agonised bodily system, the minister was early abroad the next morning, and his glorious brow beamed with pleasure, when the maid-servant announced that the rich manufacturer's gig was at the door, and the conversation was near that he hoped would result in the effective commencement of a subscription to relieve the misery, and hunger, and cold, and disease, under which the depressed stockingers and their families were groaning that severe winter.  Yet the philanthropist, with all his guilelessness, knew the man he had to deal with, and proceeded in a circumlocutory way to his object.  In the end, he enforced the claims of man as a brother, the admirableness and divinity of charity, and the indefeasible rights of the working man as a substantial agent in the creation of wealth, with so much of the potentiality of his eloquence, that the manufacturer, in spite of the resistance his heart's avarice made to the godlike theme, assented to the proposal that he should begin the public subscription.  But how heart-stricken with shame did the golden-tongued pleader feel when, on producing the little book he had prepared for collecting the names of subscribers, the rich manufacturer hesitated as soon as he had written his name, bit the end of his cedar pencil, and then hastily put 'five pounds' at the end of his name!  The minister did not thank him, for his soul was too noble to permit his tongue to utter one word which his heart would not accompany: but he had, again, some peculiar thoughts about the true interpretation of the words "infidel" and "Christian."

    Neither was the good man to be damped by such an inauspicious beginning; but begging Mr. — — would not drive on again till he, the minister, had got safely out of the gig, bid the rich churl "good morning," posted away to the house of another "of whom the world was not worthy," but with whom Leicester was likewise blessed at that time: the Rev. Mr. Robinson, vicar of St. Mary's: stayed till that good man formed a little collecting book; and then they set out on the work of canvassing the town for names to form the subscription list.  Assisted occasionally by others, the dissenting minister persevered, till, in the lapse of several days, and at the cost to himself of excruciating visitations of increased pain in the night season, he completed such a list as gave effectual relief to the hundreds of his suffering fellow-creatures then inhabiting Leicester.

    That labour was no sooner ended than he commenced a close inquiry into the real state of the staple trade of the town; and, finding that the reports of oppression and extortion, the foul fruits of avaricious competition, were not exaggerated, he sat down and wrote an appeal in behalf of the suffering framework-knitters that might have jeopardized the favour and acceptance of a less able preacher with the wealthier members of his congregation.

    If a stranger to the old town of Leicester should ask whose is the portrait this faint limning is intended to call to memory, it is hoped it will not be deemed an act of desecration to introduce, in a volume of merely fugitive essays, a name too truly holy to be lightly mentioned,—a name inscribed, ineffaceably, in English literature, by the sunbeam of his peerless and hallowed eloquence to whom it belonged, the name of ROBERT HALL.



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