Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

[ocr errors]

of disappointment, that he could not keep the tears from gushing over his face. The mother's heart was quite as full. Little Harry sat down in a corner to weep in silence, and Mrs. Walton took her sewing into her hands; but the tears so blinded her eyes, that she could not see where to direct the needle. Before she had recovered herself, there was a knock at the door, which was opened immediately afterwards by a lady who came into the room where the poor widow sat with her little family around her.

More than an hour had passed since the unpleasant interview with the poor widow, and Mrs. Lander had not yet recovered her equanimity of mind, nor lost the feeling of indignation which the attempt to impose upon her by an exorbitant charge had occasioned, when she was favoured with a visit from Mrs. Brandon, who said familiarly, and with a smile as she entered

* Ah, how do you do, Mrs. Lander? I have just corrected a mistake you made a little while ago.'

• Indeed! what is that?' asked Mrs. Lander, looking a little surprised.

• You only gave poor Mrs. Walton two shillings apiece for the half dozen of shirts she made for you, when the lowest price is three shillings. I always pay four shillings for Mr. Brandon's. The difference is a very important one to her-no less than six shillings. I found her in much trouble about it, and her little boy crying with disappointment at not getting a pair of shoes his mother had promised him as soon as she got the money for the shirts. He has been from school for want of shoes for more than a week. So I took out my purse and gave Mrs. Walton the six shillings to make up the sum she had earned, and told her I would see you about it. I acted right, did I not? Of course it was a mistake on your part?'

Mrs. Lander was never more completely out-generalled in her life. The lady who had corrected her error was one in whose good opinion she had every reason for desiring to stand high. She could grind the faces of the poor without pity or shame, but for the world she would not be thought mean by Mrs. Brandon.

'I am very much obliged to you, indeed,' she said with a bland smile. “It was altogether a mistake on my part, and I blame the woman exceedingly for not having mentioned it at the time. Heaven knows I am the last person in the world to grind the faces of the poor! Yes, the very

last

person. Here is the money you paid for me, and I must repeat my thanks for your prompt correction of the error. But I cannot help feeling vesed at the woman.'

• We must make many allowances for the poor, Mrs. Lander. They often bear a great deal of wrong without a word of complaint. Some people take advantage of their need, and because they are poor, make them work for the merest pittance in the world. I know some persons, and they well off in the world, who always employ the poorest class of people, and this under the pretence of favouring them, but, in reality, that they may get their work done at a cheaper rate than it can be made by people who expect to derive from their labour a comfortable support.'

any worth.'

Mrs. Lander was stung to the quick by these words; but she dared not show the least sign of feeling.

'Surely no one professing to be a Christian can do so,' said she.

• Yes, people professing to be Christians do these things,' was replied ; • but of course their profession needs a better practice to prove it of

When her visitor retired, after having expressed her opinion on the subject under consideration still more unequivocally, Mrs. Lander did not feel very comfortable, nor was her good opinion of herself quite so firm as it had been earlier in the day. But she took good care, in the future, not ta give any more work to Mrs. Walton, and was exceedingly particular afterwards, in employing poor people, to know whether they sewed for Mrs. Brandon. There are a good many people in the world who encourage the poor on Mrs. Lander's principle.

For the Yaung.

THE MAN IN EARNEST. In a little nook of the eastern county of Norfolk, a part over which no railway-train has ever yet passed, nor steam-engine nor factory chimney sent up its clouds of blackening smoke to taint the pure country air, there stands a village, or, more properly speaking, a cluster of villages, on which you come one after another as soon as you have left the old-fashioned town of North Walsham.

These villages, without possessing any striking features of beauty, have a general appearance of prettiness-a sweet old English scenery of their own, of which many who have travelled far and wide are sensible.

In bygone days these quiet hamlets, with their simple rural inhabitants, knew of few changes or excitements more remarkable than that of the Squire's family carriage, passing through on its way to or from town, or of the heavy rumbling old stage-coach, which twice a week performed the journey from Norwich to Cromer, now and then (but that was an event) dropping a country girl come home from service to visit her friends, or a brown paper parcel for the farmer's wife, curiously sealed, tied, and directed.

Cromer is a pretty little sea-bathing town, standing some nine or ten miles from North Walsham, on the edge of fine cliffs, which overlook the German Ocean. One gets so fastidious about travelling now-adays, that, except in a few cases, one is disposed to call all places remote, or out of the world, to which one cannot travel at the rate of forty or fifty miles an hour; but, indeed, Cromer is quite worth the durance of a twenty miles' coach-ride to see.

Yes, if any one wish to be quiet, healthy, and happy, for a month,

to walk on fine hard sands, smoother than rolled gravel, and pleasanter to the foot than green turf; if he have a taste for picking up agates, or corallines, or sea-weeds, and for breathing the purest air that blows over England, let him go to Cromer. Or if he be weary of the sea, and prefer a country walk, he may roam over the Lighthouse hills' (the Alps of my childhood), hills sprinkled o'er with the wild thyme and the delicate blue-bell, or he may saunter through bowery lanes, redolent with honey-suckle and sweet-brier perfume, and may lounge on banks where in early spring the pale primrose and the parple violet bloom. Or if he love to chase butterflies, and with a net be disposed to collect beetles and insects (there is no accounting for taste) in the open country, and have a mind for a breezy heath walk, why, there is Roughton or Felbrigg for him, and a free passage, too. There they lie, blessings on their fragrant memory! skirted by the fine pine wood; and the hares and rabbits, aye, and the pheasants and partridges, too, make a goodly show; if only one could forget the fact that they eat up yon poor farmer's corn, and that, notwithstanding, yon poor farmer may not shoot them through the head. Yes, Cromer is a lovely spot. Tell me not of Yarmouth or Lowestoft, why Londoners and Cambridgemen may well give Norfolk a bad name, as a 'poor, flat, doleful country,' if their travel stop at either of those places. Every desert has its oasis ; few spots in creation but have their little bit of garden-ground, and that garden of Norfolk is Cromer.

But I forget the children to whom, from babyhood, the mother has told tales of Cromer and of Norfolk, will understand and sympathize with all this. Well, and so perhaps will you, if ever you have the happiness to get into the mail-coach one June day, and jog along to Cromer. But I believe the route is altered now; the prettiest road is given up, and the mail travels daily through the town of Aylsham, not that of North Walsham, by which I should like to take you.

I spoke of June—we seldom waited until June for Northrepps. It may be all very well not to go to Cromer until that month, but Northrepps, the last of the cluster of villages, is sheltered from the east winds, for which poor Norfolk has such a bad name; and in its pleasant dells, and amongst its green hills, you would not find April a bad month for a visit. Yes, twice a week the old coach ran through Northrepps, and once a year, some twenty years ago, it bore little town-blanched children, and set them down at the light iron gate of a white residence with lattice windows, called most inappropriately the Hill-house. If they had called it the Hole-house, it would have been a truer, though not a prettier, name; and the Hill-house, and the Hall, and the Cottage, were the principal houses at that end of the long straggling village of Northrepps.

The Hall, as you may suppose, was the principal residence in the place, and a pleasant old hall it was. There was nothing grand about it. I don't recollect ever being impressed with grandeur in anything at Northrepps. There was always a feeling of the beautiful, of the calm and of the peaceful there, but none of the majestic nor imposing. No! Northrepps Hall was (for I am writing of bygone days) a quiet, old-fashioned, pleasant spot, standing in its own green woodland shade, where wood-pigeons cooed, and rooks cawed, and spring and summer birds sang with never-tiring melody. And to this old hall, on which many a proud rich man would scarcely deign to give a second look, which is never opened to the wondering public on show days,' to this hall I would rather go, ah, and I would rather take my children, and all the dear children who read this little sketch, than to Chatsworth, with all its glories of conservatory, park, and fountain.

I will tell you why. · Here lived and here died one of the best and greatest men of later times—the friend of liberty, the foe of slavery and oppression in every form ; the fond and loving husband and father, and the happy, humble Christian. Yes, Northrepps Hall has pleasant and beautiful associations; gentle, soothing memories. For is it not written, . The memory of the just is blessed ? It was to Northrepps that Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton,* to whom a baronetcy could add no real honour, used to love to retire from his labours in Parliament, and his steady, onward path of a useful public life. I can scarcely believe that you have never heard of this great man; but I think it very likely that the present generation of children scarcely know for what reason he was so illustrious; and I am sure of this, that many, both of children and grown people, do not rightly estimate the importance of the work in which the best years of his life were passed. I am not going to write you a literal biography of Buxton. There is in one good-sized volume all that you can desire to know of his public, and many pleasant incidents in his private, life; but there is also much there which young persons would not understand, and I will, therefore, briefly describe some points in his character, which I think it will be well for the young to imitate. For this purpose, let me just tell you what sort of a boy he was.

Buxton was a persevering, bold, and determined child. Now, these qualities, well directed, will make a useful, good man ; ill-used and ill-applied, a bad, mischievous, and unlovely character. His mother knew that, but she used to say—“He is self-willed now, but you will see it will turn out well in the end.'. So it did; but then he was well trained, or it would have turned out very badly. But don't you admire such a boy as this, who, when walking with his uncle in some dirty country lanes in Essex-his native county—and was sent to give a message to a pig-driver who had passed them on the road, ran off with such energy and determination, that although he lost a shoe in the mud, and lost sight of the pig-driver too, he pushed on, following the man, by the track his pigs had left, for nearly three miles of lonely and intricate lanes, nor stopped until he had overtaken the driver, and delivered the message. Mark this little lesson, it is full of instruction. Fowell Buxton might have run off with very good intentions, but after

Mr. Buxton was made a baronet in the year 1840, a spontaneous mark of Her majesty's appreciation of his services in the cause of freedom and philanthropy.

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a little while, especially when his shoe came off, he might very naturally have turned back, and said, “Oh! well, I can't overtake the man, he is out of sight, and the roads are so bad, and I am so tired.' But even as a child, I can't' was not a word in Buxton's vocabulary. If you would be as useful as he, when you are men and women, do not let it be in yours.

Then he was a truthful, honest boy. “I never found the boy tell a lie,' said his master, when he was once accused of a fault, and will not dis believe him now.'

Very early in life the mother of young Buxton implanted in his mind an abhorrence of slavery. It was a good seed to sow, and we little know when we tell the child at our knee such truths as Buxton's mother told him, but that the child may hide our sayings in his heart, and may one day bring forth rich and abundant fruits of active benevolence and goodness.

As a boy, Buxton did not love study. He left his exercises to other lads to prepare at school : and at home he liked better to ride on his pony, and to go through the lanes and fields with Abraham Plaistow, the gamekeeper, on his shooting expeditions, than to apply himself to the hard task of gaining useful knowledge. Now, in this he is not a pattern for you; but still I want you to mark, boys especially, how much we can do, even when conscious that our education has been deficient, by educating ourselves. “I am very sure,' writes Buxton, on this subject, to one of his own children, in after life, “a young man may be very much what he pleases. In my own case it was so. I left school, when I had learned little or nothing, at about the age of fourteen. I spent the next year at home, learning to hunt and shoot. Then it was that the prospect of going to College opened upon me, and such thoughts as I have expressed in this letter occurred to my mind. I made my resolutions, and acted up to them. I gave up all desultory reading ; I never looked into a novel nor a newspaper. I had been a boy fond of pleasure and idleness, reading only books of unprofitable entertainment; I became speedily a youth of steady habits of application and irresistible resolution. I soon gained the ground I had lost, and I found those things which were difficult, and almost impossible, to my idleness, easy enough to my industry.' *

Just at this important period of his life, he derived considerable benefit from his intercourse with the Gurney family, and the friendship he had formed with the eldest son of the house led him to visit there frequently, and for long periods. There was no idleness at Earlham. The family, of eleven children, from the oldest to the youngest, were all engaged, at the time of young Buxton's introduction, in self-education, full of energy and determination, whether in pursuit of amusement or knowledge.

Thus passed Buxton's early years. At the age of twenty-one he married one of the Misses Gurney, and disappointed in his expectation of large Irish property, it became necessary that he should do some

a

* Life, p. 15.

« PreviousContinue »