Abbildungen der Seite

poor are prominent enough and sure to receive attention, let not their virtues be forgotten or overlooked.

If the poor are so kind one towards another certainly the rich and the well-to-do in the world might bestow a little more of their substance and devote a little more of their time to their oppressed and unfortunate countrymen. If the poor can assist each other from their poverty, how much more can the affluent assist from their affluence.

If we wanted further evidence that the poor have been sadly neglected, by those above them in social position, we might particularly refer to the literature with which they have been supplied. And here again let Mr. Bishop speak. He says:-Much of the literature which now circulates to an immense extent amongst the people, in the shape of weekly serials, is of the most pestilent and debasing kind. I have taken some pains, during the past year, to ascertain the kind of reading prevalent amongst the poorer classes of Liverpool (and I presume the state of things in this respect is much the same in other large towns), and though the result has a bright and encouraging side, it is on the whole of a dark and deplorable character. It is true there is much more enterprise shown, and greater efforts made to stimulate a demand for a depraving literature, than for that of a wholesome and elevating character.'

He then gives an account of the number of cheap periodicals sold at one shop in Liverpool. He says:-'At the present time the average weekly sale at this establishment, of upwards of twenty different romances, all more or less poisonous in their tendency and character, which are in course of publication in weekly numbers, is about twenty-six dozen each. This fact will give some idea of the wide circulation enjoyed by this worth less class of productions. I sometimes look at these huge piles of intellectual garbage before their weekly distribution with amazement and sorrow. The sight is painfully suggestive of perverted and unprincipled talent on the one hand, and lamentable weakness and want of sense on the other. The sale of all

se works is not equally successful,

and those which 'take' the best are invariably spun out to the greatest length. In the wood-cuts which plentifully adorn their pages, and which form one important source of their attraction, the gallows, murder scenes, duels, suicides, escapes from prison, daggers, pistols and poison are very prominent.

This is not as it should be. It is not surprising that we should have crime and debauchery festering in our midst when there are not wantinga set of lowminded and unprincipled men who will cater to the most vitiated tastes of the poor, to make them more vicious still.. There is only one way of meeting the evil, and that is to displace bad periodicals by good ones, and so create more healthy feelings, tastes, and opinions in the minds of the masses. This can be done, and it must be done, and we are glad to see an awakening interest in this direction.


We have from time to time waded through a great many statistics showing the lamentably defective state of education in this country; but we were not prepared for such an appalling account as that given by Mr. Bishop. He says: 'I one day determined to ascertain the state of several courts in this respect, in which I had occasion to visit, to see sick persons, and for other purposes. I made no selection, but was merely guided by convenience. the first court, I found there were thirty-three children between the ages of four and fourteen, three only of whom, and those belonging to one family, went to a Day School, two to our Evening School, and the remaining twentyeight to no school whatever, either Day School, Evening School or Sunday School. In the next court, the state of things was not quite so dismal: of eight children between the ages named, two went to a Day School, two to our Ragged School, and four to no school at all. In the third court to which my duties led me, there were twenty-three children of the required ages, of whom nine went to a Day and Sunday School, and fourteen to no school whatever; and in another court, in the same street as this last, I found thirty-four children, four only of whom, belonging to one family, went to a Day


and Sunday School, and the remaining thirty to no school at all.

'Thus, of one hundred and twentysix children who ought all to have been going to school, I found the melancholy proportion of one hundred and four attending no school whatever.'

And this is in England-Christian England. We blush when we think that we are surrounded with such a state of things, and that we have not personally done more for the promotion of education and the elevation of our country



the schoolmaster, the minister, and all other agents of good, at every step, opposing their several efforts with gloomy and destructive power. Other obstacles there are, and other moral evils of no small magnitude; but this stands out in frightful prominency, dwarfing, by its huge dimensions, the whole troop besides. I am often amazed, and sorrowful to my heart's core, when, on looking back over a week's or a month's experiences, I bring up before me the various scenes of wretchedness I have witnessed, to see how overwhelming a proportion of the worst of them is owing to this one devouring and devastating sin. It is drunkenness that mainly fills our gaols with young transgressors; it is drunkenness which, more than aught elsc, sends vagrants into our streets, and calls for the establishment of our Ragged Schools; it is drunkenness which carries mourning, lamentation, and woe into innumerable homes; it is drunkenness that produces the sluttish mother and brutal father, and drives forth so many sons and daughters to eat the bread of sin and sorrow. Greatly, therefore, in my view, should I fail in the purpose of my mission were I not to labour might and main against this formidable evil.

Mr. Bishop also draws attention to a class who have been neglected, but who are, we are also glad to say, beginning to excite sympathy and call forth cooperation on their behalf-the poor hard-worked, ill-requited scmpstresses. He mentions the case of a young woman, of respectable parentage and good education, whose woe-worn looks, a woeful heart bespoke, though in her countenance might be descried "a thousand shattered gleams of merriment gone by." On one occasion this poor woman had to perform one part of an order which was given by a lady. The poor woman commenced by the middle of the day on Thursday. She worked almost all night, the whole of Friday, and as it had to be finished by The change I have often seen proSaturday morning, the whole of Friday duced in the homes and characters of night; and for all this stitching and persons by the renunciation of this one loss of rest she received sixteen-pence, vice is, in its suddenness and completeand she did all this for a lady! Wellness, gratifying and marvellous beyond may philanthropists stir themselves to mend this sad state of things.

Among other demoralizing agencies, Mr. Bishop gives an accouut of the concert-saloons, with which our large towns abound. He is right in attributing to them much of the evil of society. We might here suggest that one of the best ways of putting down such places is by calling into existence better ones, though equally cheap.

Among several other instrumentalities put in motion and watched over by Mr. Bishop, is that of a Temperance Society, which had been the means of effecting much good. He says:

'Drunkenness is, emphatically, the curse of the poor. It is the great obstacle that stands in the way of all pure and elevating influences. It meets


measure. It is, indeed, the desert blossoming as the rose."

Our space prevents us giving more of Mr. Bishop's admirable report. It reflects great credit on him as a man and a ininister. It shows what one man can do. We want more such labourers in the vineyard. Every man should become a missionary, and do his best for the regeneration of society. The work to be done is too much for a few to do. Every one who feels a desire to benefit his race should try to remove evil wherever he sees it. He should not wait for others to do it, but go at once, and do all within his power. England may be socially regenerated; let every Englishman assist in the regeneration.



"THAT bandage feels as cool and fresh as the dew amongst which I used to dip my brow on my boyhood's May mornings; and that hand of thine, Phebe, is as soft as my mother's was when I was a sick little child. Oh, what a long time it is since I had such a feeling of childhood!"

"Ah, I wish that I could bathe thy brow with the essence of roses, my husband, and chase away pain from thy pillow with kisses! I wish I could restore the fresh airs of thy childhood, and plait for thee the daisy and buttercup-wreaths which thou wert wont to wear," said the tender wife; but sleep, my own dear one-sleep if thou canst; and over thy sleeping brow shall pass the incense of my prayers."

[ocr errors]

The sun, which was sailing far up in the clear blue ocean sky, looked down at these words, and brushing aside the clouds that hung over his shining face, and darting through amongst dingy chimneys and crumbling gables, peeped in on the husband and wife. They were tenants of a little room-a dark, dingy, low-roofed, coomsiled little room-so high up that you could hear the sparrows and jays at their summer orisons on the church-steeples and on the house-tops, and where you heard and felt the winter winds loudest and sorest, when woollen clothes and coals were at the dearest. The swallows would not build their nests up there, because the winds and rains made their callow young uncomfortable and their habitations insecure; and the spiders, if they climbed that height, also paused and slung themselves down again to a less stormy elevation. Cats and chimney-sweeps might be seen at times upon the grim roofs, and on the vents that were tottering to decay; but nobody dwelt up there in those garret-flats, save deserted widow mothers who wished to starve quietly into the grave. The sunbeams peeped in at the little window, and the broken, chinky, crumbling, dingy walls blushed for shame at their own grimness, as they shone upon them; and the cold, black, cheerless grate seemed to sink into deeper shadow as they passed over its iron bars and felt no grateful return of warmth. It was a comfortless room

among tens of thousands of luxurious rooms. It was a home amongst ten thousand, where there were tens of thousands of more habitable wine-cellars.

The light became sombre and mellow after a few moments, and assimilated to the general aspect of the poor man's dwelling, and then it stole towards the low couch of the poor dying man. His head lay on a dingy pillow, and his grey hairs were scattered round his pale, thin, wrinkled cheeks; his brow was like a wreath of transparent snow, beneath which his veins were reflected like blue frozen streams. His eyes were closed, and when he did not wince with pain, a smile rose to his pale, thin lips.-What a blessed thing it is that there are two worlds for man-the world that we see with open eyes, and the one which we shut our eyes to see. There was very little of the outward world in the dwelling of Alick Bethune, but in the spirit world he was rich. He had never been able to accumulate gold, because he would not bend to gather it from foul and filthy places, nor would he consent to harden his heart by keeping it, like a heated crucible, constantly full of moneylove. The poor man had toiled, and hoped, and loved, and dreamed, and he had filled his memory with flowers, and his hope had established in heaven; but he had never grown rich, and, seeing that he had not been diligent in the persuit of wealth, it was not to be expected that he should.

A few old broken chairs, a table, some artificial flowers upon the chimney, a stucco bird, the image of a shepherd and lambs cast in iron, constituted almost all the furniture of Alick Bethune's house, if we except the portraits of two or three little children and angels that hung upon the dark walls, and were surrounded with pieces of black cloth that looked like ebony frames. When he opened his eyes, therefore, he only saw the present. The black roofs and gables met his gaze, and tried to hide the blue patches of the heavens from him. The dull walls of his home gathered darkly round him, and bounded his visible world even more darkly than they had done yesterday; and through the faint light, the sad face of his wife seemed grown sadder since he saw it last.


When he shut out this world, however, he was at home-he was back again to the meads and fields where he and his brothers used to play, and where his Phebe used to deck his brow with butter cups he was breathng fresh air again, and singing happy songs. We wonder whether his poverty or wealth were the most real; we wonder if he felt that it was a blessed thing that there were two worlds for man—the real and the ideal! "It seems strange to me, my dearest wife," said old Alick, faintly-it seems strange to me that I was ever a little, laughing, happy boy."

"I remember when you was only twelve years old," said his wife, with a pensive smile. "You had rosy cheeks, and yellow ringlets, and red lips, then;" and as she spoke she shut her eyes, and her smile became brighter. "The little girl called your handsome, and the dames a spirited boy, Alick," she continued, as if she were a child again; "and so you were handsome."

"I often think it strange that I, a country boy, should never hear the wind in the trees, nor the babbling of the streams, nor the cooing of the woodpigeons, nor the songs of the larks!" continued Alick, in a wavering voice. "I wonder if I ever saw and heard them, or if life has not all been a fancy." Phebe turned her eyes to the coloured paper, which she had cut into flowers and placed upon her chimney-piece, and she sighed but spoke not. "I do not hear the voices of my boys and girls," continued the querulous old man. "I toiled for them; I loved them; why are they not at home?" The woman turned her sad eyes to the little pictures of the angels that hung upon the walls, and wept.

The sunbeams would have departed now, but they lingered a moment longer, for strange shadows were passing over the face of the patient, and tears were streaming on his brow from the eyes of his wife. The passing rays kissed her tears, and they threw a halo round his white forehead; and then they stole away to heaven, and the soul of the released one went with them. A scream burst from the lonely heart of the watch ing weeping wife, for now her watching The eyes that had beamed

was over.


on her so kindly were closed for ever; the lips that had whispered soft words in her ear and kissed her cheek so fondly, were mute and cold now. She was alone in this great world, so full of hearts, and there was not one amongst them all to give a loving throb for her. The neighbours came into her little room when they heard her scream, with solemn faces and light steps, as if Alick slept, and might be awoke again to this cold world: and they composed the limbs of the dead man, and bound up his eyes with a bandage, and then they left the wife alone with his corpse.

The moon looked in upon the living and the dead; the dead was at rest, but the living was weeping over her uncoffined spouse. That moon had seen them, when lovers, walking by the gentle streams away in the country, where her pale beams and the fairies danced amongst the flowers around them; that moon had smiled at their bridal, and laughed in the face of their first-born; and now it looked coldly down upon a dead man's cold face and a widow with a broken heart, who knew not where to procure a coffin in which to enclose her husband.

[blocks in formation]

A beautiful young girl sat in a shady little bower, sketching some landscapes that her brother had brought from Italy. The sunbeams were streaming through the foliage on her lovely face, and her lips were wreathed in smiles. Ivy, and jessamine, and honeysuckle, and Chinaroses, and canarienthuses, were clustering round the chair of the lovely girl, and beside her, in a beautiful cage, sang a canary bird. She sat in quite a little garden, attached to a fine mansion, which was not quite half a mile away from the garret of the widow; but there were roses and carnations and pansies with their velvety petals, and blood-red ranunculuses growing there, and the butterflies came and danced amongst them in mid-day, and the tiny midges held their revels in the shades of its bushes when the sun was setting.

"Hillo! Mariana, why are you sitting moping there?" cried a young man, with dark eyes and dark curls, as he opened a glass door leading from splendid conservatory, and leaped from


a little classic parterre sprightly upon the ground.

"You are poring over those sunsets and ruins and grottoes, that charmed Tintoretto and Claude and Paul Veronese. You will spoil your eyes, my sister, if you continue working thus, like some poor girl who has to give the lustre of her eyes and the beauty of her cheeks for bread," and as he spoke, he scattered the drawings about on Mariana's little table, and laughed so heartily that little Dick, the canary, woke up more briskly than ever, and piped his loudest notes of sympathy.

"Is not he a beautiful bird?" said the maiden, as she hung on her brother's arm and looked up at her vocal favourite. "Little Kitty Evans calls him angel when she is here, and she says that she is sure there are such golden birds in heaven," continued Mariana, earnestly. "I bought him from a poor Italian for two scudi," said Jarrold, thoughtfully; he was the last property that the poor fellow had, and he wept when he gave him to me.

Come Dick," he cried, drawing his finger briskly across the wires, "sing on thy pretty song. Thy old master would not retain thee-come, my cherub, sing." As he spoke, the door of the cage flew open by the motion of his finger, and the bird, darting out, fluttered upwards on a sunbeam, singing his lively song. The brother and sister gazed at the bird for a few seconds with amazement, and then they looked at each other and wept.

Away flew little Dick up towards the blue heavens that bent over him, and through amongst the white clouds that lay lazily on the bosom of the sky, and he circled round the tall black chimneys and grim gables, and, flying into Phebe Bethune's open window, he lighted on the bosom of her dead husband, and sung his sweetest air. The weeping woman gazed at the little bird in mute amazement, and then she looked at the little pictures of the angels on her wall, and then at the liitle canary again. Its music was soft and sweet, and seemed attuned to raise up drooping spirits and sad hearts, and to teach mourners that there is a world and angels beyond the grave. The poor woman forgot that she could not find a coffin in which to enclose

the form of him she had loved best on earth; and she approached the little bird, which still sung on. "Art thou an angel, little bird ?" said Phebe in a whisper.

The bird seemed to say, "Yes;" for it leapt upon her hand, and kept on trilling its little song.

"I have found an angel, my neighbours," cried the poor woman, as she passed from house to house, and told the story of the bird. "God shall send me succour soon, and the means of purchasing a coffin for Alick. I was weeping and desponding, and faith and hope were dying in my bosom, when, lo! this angel came to chide me for my sin. God has sent me this winged angel to comfort me. I shall never more despair of the providence of God."

"You have found a bird, have you, Phebe Bethune?" said the cobbler's lame daughter, who had been out with her work to the warehouse." Ah! then I saw an advertisement about one, as. I came along. It is a lady's favourite, and she will handsomely reward whoever brings it to her."

Phebe Bethune carried the pretty bird to Mariana Milton, and she told her how it had come to her-how that she had wept beside a dead husband, for whom she could not purchase a last narrow bed; and how that hope and faith were going out from her soul, when the song of the bird filled her ear, and called her back to God.

"My little Dick is an angel," said the gentle Mariana, smiling through her tears; "and if a cage of gold could make him happier, he should have it."

"He has taught me two lessons," said the manly Jarrold, as he patted the cheek of his sister.

[ocr errors]

And what are these, my brother?" "Firstly, that your fine seeds and cage have not spoiled him-he still loves the poor who first cherished him; and, secondly, that it is my duty to accomplish what he has promised to this poor widow. He has promised her peace and comfort, and she shall not be disappointed."

Alick Bethune was buried, and Mariana Milton planted little flowers upon his grave. His widow, who was gentle and grateful, became a great favorite

« ZurückWeiter »