« PreviousContinue »
most extensive sense, exhibiting piety to God and love to man; while the varied and cultivated powers of her mind seemed to go hand in hand with her Christian graces. The intelligence between them was mutual, and cast a sympathetic lustre on each; for while the sterner virtues were relieved by the playfulness of a superior intellect, the exuberance of the latter was chastened by contact with the Christian principle. So happy a union left nothing to desire, and exemplified the poet's beautiful imaginings of domestic happiness, when he describes it as the
Having now brought my reader acquainted with so much of the previous history of the worthy owners of Derwent cottage as it appeared desirable for him to know, I now proceed to inform him of the younger branches of this interesting family.
A kind Providence had blessed them, at the period on which we are now entering, with four children, as the fruits of their union,--two sons and two daughters. Edmund was the name of the eldest of the former, a fine spirited boy of fourteen, and Jasper that of his brother, who was two years younger. They were at this period at one of the best classical schools in Yorkshire, and had only come home for a week to be present at their papa's birthday on their first introduction to the reader in the opening chapter. The eldest daughter, Laura, has already made her appearance, under circumstances, it is hoped, not of slight interest, as narrated in the first chapter ; where she is represented as assisting at the piano in the family devotion. The second daughter was named Maria, a child eight years old, who, on account of her tender age, was generally sent to bed two hours previous to the family worship. But though her parents thought her too young to remain up till ten o'clock, yet she was never allowed to retire to rest without first saying her prayers to her mamma, and commending herself to the gracious care of that merciful Being from whom both parent and child derive all their protection.
The dispositions of these children displayed that varied character which is often found among the members ef the same family; each requiring a distinct treatment from the other. While the stirring and exuberant spirits of Edmund demanded a strict attention to prevent their running into excess, the more placid and retiring qualities of Jasper called for a tone of encouragement, to counteract that want of self-confidence which his more timid nature exhibited. The abilities of both were good; but the greater assurance in his own powers, as well as the advantage of two years in age, gave a marked superiority to Edmund over his brother. It was quite delightful to witness the affectionate attachment that subsisted between them, and the self-devotion to each other's interest, on every occasion that might call forth the sympathy of either. Often has it been known at school, that when, from some trivial offence of which the best boys will occasionally be guilty, Edmund has been ordered to remain on his form and learn a task during play-hours, when the rest of his companions would be enjoying themselves at cricket, the timid but generous Jasper has done something that would bring upon him a similar punishment, in order to keep his brother company, and thus sympathize with him in his confinement. On the other hand, if any of the older boys ever attempted to molest Jasper, or take advantage of his gentler nature, the affectionate Edmund would instantly interpose as his champion, though his opponent might have the superiority of strength, nor would he resign the contest till he had redressed the injustice committed against him.
The quality, however, in which the two brothers still more excelled was filial piety; and in this dutiful and amiable trait they were joined in heart and voice by their interesting sister Laura. The fifth commandment seemed to be the monitor of their daily thoughts, as it was the inspirer of their conduct in the presence of their parents. Nor was it exceeded in degree by any other commandment of the Decalogue, except the first, which, in its enlarged spiritual sense, they were always taught to regard as entitled to their most fervent devotion ; and always to take in connexion with it that declaration of our blessed Saviour" He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me."* The germ, indeed, of Christian piety, in its most comprehensive acceptation, which includes love to God and good-will towards man, had been implanted in their hearts by the careful culture of their conscientious parents; and God, who alone can do it, was silently giving “ the increase” unto everlasting life.
With respect to Laura, she was growing up to be all that & father's or a mother's prayers could desire. Though so young,—only in her eleventh year,-her conscience was as susceptible and as watchful over the heart's tendencies, whenever inclining to an evil direction, as that of an experienced Christian. In tender and dutiful affection towards her beloved parents, as has been already intimated, she was a pattern to all daughters, whether old or young. She wanted not to be told what it might be desirable to accomplish, if by zealous foresight and reflection she could anticipate her parents' wishes. What an interesting example is here presented, in the person of this young disciple of Christ, of the truth of that gracious scripture—“I love them that love Me; and those that seek Me early shall find Me.”+ What an appeal is this ! What a motive to a young and confiding heart !
In the gentler and more retiring virtues, Laura resembled her brother Jasper; as the earlier history of Edmund's childhood reflected the present character of his little sister Maria ; * Matt. x. 37.
+ Prov. viii. 17.
and what a pious and judicious training had effected for him was now in a course of development towards herself.
The latter, like many other little girls, as well as boys, had been born with a will of her own; and had manifested, up to her present age of eight years, various wayward and intractable tempers, which had caused her tender parent much uneasi
Often when desired by her mamma to learn an assigned task, or render obedience to advice given, both of which were unpleasant to her, the little self-willed Maria would evince an irritability and obstinacy that surprised as well as distressed her mother's heart.
On these occasions, however, instead of acting as many injudicious guardians of children will do, at once administering personal chastisement, contrary to what a preliminary course of reformation should endeavour to effect; Mrs. Gracelovo would quietly lead her daughter into an adjoining room, if any other person were present, and then, in the most persuasive yet firm manner, represent to her the extreme impropriety of her conduct. She would point out to her, in simple but forcible admonition, the great sin she had committed against God; and as she daily taught her child to read the Bible, would direct her to those striking passages of scripture where disobedience to parents and superiors was visited with exemplary punishment. She would then make her kneel down, and pray to God to forgive the offence she had committed ; and require her to promise that she would endeavour diligently and conscientiously to amend those faults of unruly disposition, which would otherwise call down upon her the anger of her offended Maker.
This wise course of reformation was generally attended by beneficial results ; but, still, it was not always limited to verbal remonstrance ; for when a more prominent instance of perverse behaviour occurred, recourse was then had to the