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cumstance, confined to certain states, dependent on rank and station; here to-day and gone to-morrow; in miserable dependence on the casualties of life? We are often asked the question by those by whom the world is yet untried, who, even in the springtime of their mirth, are used to hear the complaints of all around them; and well may wonder what they mean. We affect not to answer questions which never yet were answered; but we can tell a story of something that our ear has heard, and our eye has seen, and that many besides can testify to be the truth.
Distant something more than a mile from the village of Desford, in Leicestershire, at the lower extremity of a steep and rugged lane, was seen an obscure and melancholy hovel. The door stood not wide to invite observation; the cheerful fire gleamed not through the casement to excite attention from the passenger.
The low roof and outer wall were but just perceived among the branches of the hedgerow, uncultured and untrimmed, that ran between it and the road. As if there were nothing there that any one might seek, no way of access presented itself; and the step of curiosity that would persist in finding entrance, must pass over mud and briers to obtain it. Having reached the door with difficulty, a sight presented itself such as the eye of delicacy is not used to look upon. It was not the gay contentedness of peasant life, that poets tell of, and prosperity sometimes stoops to envy.
It was not the laborer resting from his toil, the ruddy child exulting in its hard, scant meal, the housewife singing blithely at her wheel, the repose of health and fearlessness — pictures that so often persuade us Happiness has her dwelling in the cabins
of the poor.
The room was dark and dirty ; there was nothing on the walls but the bare beams, too ill joined to exclude the weather, with crevices in vain attempted to be stopped by torn and moulded paper. A few broken utensils hung about the room : a table and some broken chairs were all the furniture, except what seemed intended for a bed, yet promised
The close and smoky atmosphere of the apartment gave to it the last coloring of discomfort and disease. Within there sat a figure such as the pencil well might choose for the portrait of wretchedness. Quite gray, and very old, and scarcely clothed, a woman was seen sitting by the fireplace, seemingly unconscious of all that passed around her. Her features were remarkably large, and in expression harsh : her white hair, turned back from the forehead, hung uncombed from her shoulders; her withered arm, stretched without emotion on her knee, in form and coloring seemed nothing that had lived ; her eye was fixed on the wall before her - an expression of suffering, and a faint movement of the lip, alone giving token of exist
Placed with her back towards the door, she per
ceived not the intrusion, and while I paused to listen and to gaze, I might have determined that here at least was a spot where happiness could not dwell; one being, at least, to whom enjoyment upon earth must be forbidden by external circumstance — with whom to live was of necessity to be wretched. Well might the listener in such a scene as this be startled by expressions of delight, strangely contrasted with the murmurs we are used to hear amidst the world's abundance. But it was even so. From the pale, shrivelled lips of this poor woman we heard a whispering expression of enjoyment, scarcely articulate, yet not so low but that we could distinguish the words “delightful,” “happy.”
As we advanced with the hesitation of disgust into the unsightly hovel, the old woman looked at us with kindness, but without emotion, bade us be seated, and, till questioned, showed very little inclination to speak. Being asked how she did, she at first replied, “Very ill;" then hastily added, “My body is ill -- but I am well, very well.” And then she laid her head upon a cold, black stone, projecting from the wall beside the fireplace, as if unable to support it longer. We remarked that it was bad weather. “ Yes,” she answered—then hastily correcting herself, “No, not bad — it is God Almighty's weather, and cannot be bad.” in pain ?” we asked — a question scarcely necessary, so plainly did her movements betray it. “Yes, always in pain — but not such pain as my Savior
66 Are you
suffered for me ; his pain was far worse than mine - mine is nothing to it." Some remark being made on the wretchedness of her dwelling, her stern features almost relaxed into a smile, and she said she did not think it so; and wished us all as happy as herself.
As she showed little disposition to talk, and never made any remark till asked for it, and then in words as few and simple as might express her meaning, it was slowly and by repeated questions that we could draw from her a simple tale. Being asked if that was all the bed she had on which to sleep, she said she seldom slept, and it was now a long time since she had been able to undress herself; but it was on that straw she passed the night. We asked her if the night seemed not very long. “No— not long," she answered — "never long. I think of God all night; and, when the cock crows, am surprised that the inorning has come so soon." " And the days — you sit here all day, in pain and unable to move are the days not long?” “How can they be long? Is not He with me? Is it not all up-up?” an expression she often made use of to describe the joyful elevation of her mind. On saying she passed much time in prayer, she was asked what she prayed for? To this she always answered, “O, to go, you know — to go — when He pleases; not till He pleases.” To express the facility she found in prayer, she once said, it seemed as if her prayers were all laid out ready for her in bed. But time
would fail us to repeat the words, brief as they were, in which this aged saint expressed her gratitude to the Savior who died for her; her enjoyment of the God who abode with her; her expectations of the heaven to which she was hasting, and perfect contentedness with her earthly portion. It proved, on inquiry, to be worse than it appeared. The outline of her history, as gathered at different times from her own lips, was this:
Her husband's name was Peg; her own, Mary: she had long been remembered in the village, as living in extreme poverty, going about to beg bacon at Christmas-time. Her youth had been passed in services of various kinds; and though she did not know her age, it appeared, from public events which she remembered to have passed when she was a girl, that she could not be less than eighty. Later in life she had kept sheep upon the forest hills, and, in the simplicity of her heart would speak of her days of prosperity, when she had two sheep of her
She could not read, but from attending divine service had become familiar with the language of Scripture. We know nothing of her previous character: that of her husband and family was very bad: but we are not informed that hers was so. The first earnest religious feeling she related of herself, was felt when walking alone in the fields ; she bethought herself of her hard fate - a youth of toil, an old age of want and misery — and if she must be miserable at last, how dreadful was her por