Page images

lower than my own; but of that solid worth and unpretending simplicity of character which cannot be looked down upon. These worthy women, with means the most restricted, contrived to do an immense deal of good, by personal exertion and the influence they had obtained in their neighbourhood. Everybody knew Miss Mary and Miss Jane—the rich, who always gave money when they asked, without much caring what they did with it—the poor, whose troubles found always a compassionate hearing at their door. They might be seen in the morning in grey cloaks and close bonnets, scudding about the streets with baskets in their hands, filling them with contributions at one door, and emptying them with donations at another. You might find them in the evening in their little parlour in the back street, cutting out baby linen, mixing medicines, or casting up accounts. In every corner was a collecting box; on every table piles of reports, cases of distress, and prospectuses of societies: there was not one, I believe, to which these active women did not send up their yearly pittance of collections. And Miss Mary and Miss Jane had always something to sell; something that their active hands had wrought, for the advancement of their charities; watch-ribbons, purses, and reticules: a hundred articles, which, if nobody wanted, everybody bought, out of respect to the manufacturers. These worthy women became the objects of my admiration: and with reason : for with little more for their whole income than I could command for pocketmoney, they administered to the wants of hundreds, had a blessing under every cottage roof for five miles round, and sent help to the heathen of the equator and the poles. My heart grew sick with sadness when I compared their labours with my own; but

there was a remedy: could I not go and do likewise? The resolution was soon taken. I begged my worthy friends to let me assist in all their undertakings, and collect for all their societies, being now a resident in the place, and having nothing to do. They were delighted with the proposal; they had scarcely any assistance; they believed they were not so young as they used to be; and the place increased every year; a great deal more might be done than they had strength for ; nothing could be so acceptable as my services. My name was inserted as collector in all their books, and the necessary credentials put into my hands. And now again my untaught heart beat high with joy at thought of the good that I should do. One morning, as I was packing into my handsome French reticule, pencil, books, reports, &c., my grandmother asked me what I was going about? I answered, that I was going to collect money for the societies. ·Collect money, dear child ! she said had you not better give them what money they want, and keep yourself at home? you have more than you know how to spend properly-God bless you

in the use of it,' “ I was now nearly twenty. With my profession of folly, I had put aside its garb, as to all affectation of fashion or useless expenditure in dress : but still there was a style in my appearance that is not easily put off, particularly where there are personal attractions, and the fresh vivacity of youth. Nothing misgiving of any observations I might excite, I sallied forth, morning after morning; knocked at people's doors—so I had been bidden-asked for the mistress, asked for the servants, asked for the money : quite unembarrassed at first, in the confidence of my good intentions. But, some way or another, I know not how it was, things by degrees

went ill. The servants laughed and looked impertinent when they opened the doors. The ladies within carried themselves haughtily, asked a great many questions I was not prepared to answer, and made objections and insinuations, which piqued my pride, and sometimes provoked my impertinence. On one or two occasions, where the hour of my coming was known, I perceived that preparation was made for satisfying curiosity, which, however, gratifying it might be to my vanity, was not at all so to my delicacy. In short, I was as well known in the streets as the two penny post-man: but by no means so well received. With the poor, alas ! I had but little success. I was not Miss Mary, nor yet Miss Jane. I gave, it is true, a shilling for every penny I solicited, and when this was discovered Í got subscribers plenty: but they paid no longer than I gave ; they had new wants every time lappeared ; and if these were not attended to, it was impossible to give money, they had not enough for themselves; and even if they were, I scarcely had a welcome. When I offered consolation, an eye was turned askance upon my dress— it was very well for people to talk who had plenty of every thing.' When I ventured admonition, · Young gentlefolks knew little of what the poor had to go through. I felt deeply at the time these seemingly hard returns for my intended kindness; but I know now that they were truths. I did not know—I had never suffered—I had never witnessed suffering—I had never even deeply reflected upon it. I knew nothing of its near affinity to vice, and consequently I knew not how to administer to either. I reproved in the wrong placeI offered consolations unsuitable to the mind that was to receive them. From want, not of feeling, but of knowledge of the human heart, I wounded

when I meant to soothe, and was imposed upon and misled perpetually. Besides all this, I know not how it happened, but it always rained or snowed when I went out: not more, I suppose, than it did upon Miss Mary and Miss Jane—they never stopt, neither would l: but I had been delicately brought up, and was always taking cold. My grandmother became seriously uneasy; my waiting-maid declared that Miss - had need collect a good deal of money to pay for the refreshing and trimming of all the bonnets and pelisses she spoiled with rain and mud. At length, it was not till her patience had lasted nearly a year, my grandmother asked me how much in the week I collected. I replied, “Why, dear grandmamma, as much as five shillings a-week, all in pennies.'--'Well, then, dear child," she said, • I do not know what you want with it ;-there were no such things in my days; but I'll pay the five shillings to keep you at home; and if you add to it all that it costs you, I warrant you will double the sum, and let every body dispose of their own Mortified as I was with this balance of account, I could not dispute its accuracy, and was not, I believe, altogether sorry to resign my task. But there was a feeling attending it of deep distress. Again my hope of usefulness had been defeated. Surely I should take my portion at last with the unprofitable servant, and God would not acknowledge me as his. I poured out my heart, in all its bitterness, to Miss Mary and Miss Jane : they did not understand me, either in my reasons for withdrawing, or my distress in doing so. With their asual tone of benevolence, they said, • Well, well, never mind, God would provide for his own work --young people are apt to get tired; but I should be older by and by.' In thus seeming to cast

the blame upon me, to which, in this moment of humiliation, I was myself sufficiently inclined, they added poignancy to my regret; one hint, that what was their calling might not be mine, would have relieved it.

“Soon after this I married, and again resided in the metropolis. The circumstances of my married life brought me into a different society from that I had been accustomed to; chiefly of pious and literary men, and women of superior and cultivated minds. Among these I first began to feel my own want of cultivation; my absolute ignorance of everything; my incapability of taking part in the conversation at my table, or even of profiting by it, when it passed beyond the gossip, religious or otherwise, of the day. For though on the subject of religion, I had been perpetually and incessantly hearing, I was truly in the condition of those of whom the apostle speaks Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. I had been hearing and teaching, but neither studying nor reflecting.

66 Of the discussions to which I was now so frequently a party, biblical criticism, and nice distinc. tions of doctrine, made a considerable part; even the ladies of my society were Hebrew scholars, as they were in all respects highly informed; and frequently and modestly betrayed, rather than exhibited, their knowledge of the original Scriptures. Embarrassed and in despair at being thus unlike to all about me, I recollected that I was not too old to learn, and furnished myself with grammars, lexicons, &c. One morning, as I sat down to my desk in great state, to wait for a master who undertook to give a perfect knowledge of Hebrew in six lessons, my grandmother-she still lived with me asked what VOL. II.


« PreviousContinue »