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dead-lights knocked in. Well, Tom Bolt ! you can't cruise your life over again, but must reef and lay-to. Avast! Betty! a little hot water, sugar, and nutmeg : I'll take a night-cap, and turn in.'
Dominie Mace was the rector of Saint Stephen's Church, a timehonored edifice of good churchmen, where Tom Bolt bent his head, and uttered his 'Good LORD deliver us, with unction. He was a good liver (the parson) and fell ill with the gout. For a time he clung to his surplice; but disease battled sorely with him, and finally vanquished the victim. It was a heavy affliction ; for with him were associated many baptisms of infants, now his parishioners, and many excellent sermons of easy penance.
Tom Bolt said, the grave covered a cargo of goodness; but it was shipped to be discharged in a better port, without duty.
It was a long time the parish looked for a successor. Many were tried, but found wanting; and the service was beginning to be thinly attended.
One Saturday night, the stage-coach rattled to the door of the village inn a well-dressed gentleman, who possessed the outlines of sanctity. To a comely form he added a fine face, touched with study paleness, a bright dark eye, a gentle voice, and quiet manners.
I said he had the appearance of sanctity. If professions can be known by style of dress, I would further remark, he was a clergy
And so it proved. In a small, sermon-like hand, he wrote his name, Rev. T. Bolton. As it happened, the landlord was of Saint Stephen's creed, and no sooner saw the entry upon his book, than he addressed himself for an acquaintance.
You will excuse me, Sir; but perceiving you a Reverend, will you
inform me if you are of the Episcopal order? 'I am, Sir.
• Then, Sir, if you could be induced to officiate for us to-morrow as we are without a rector, it would be thankfully received.'
Is the vacancy temporary “No, Sir: our good parson died some two months since, and we have no one in view.'
The intelligence was carried to the ears of the more ardent, and before nine o'clock Mr. Bolton was waited upon, and consented to discharge the duties of his profession on the morrow.
There was a full attendance, and the organ pealed a little louder and a little longer, in honor of the stranger. None read the service with more feeling and pathos than Mr. Bolton. With his soft and musical voice, a demeanor quiet, and a zeal sincere, he had made a deep and agreeable impression upon his audience before he pronounced his text, which was from the Sermon on the Mount :
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.' If his reading had been faultless, his style was in consonance with his manner. Ardent, meaning, sincere, and convincing, he poured out the feelings of a good heart to eager listeners. full of charity; teaching patience, endurance, and sympathy.
With mildness yet determination in his eye, his hand upraised, his head thrown forward, he gained one heart by this sentence:
Cry ye charity without its possession ? Show ye sympathy behind hypocrisy? Teach ye love without affection Exemplify patience and meekness without ownership ? Ah! my friends, ye cannot. Surrounded as ye may be by worldly cares and annoyances, it is well to remember they are transitory. A year, a month, a week, a day, nay, one short hour may extricate you from all these, and then, have you the gentle principle of mercy to actuate you? How pleasant, how soothing, how delightful!' Your feelings will be peaceful, and your actions CHRIST-like.
Have you a wayward son ? deal gently with him: a mother's tear has saved a soul from perdition. Is your counsel abandoned ? endure and pardon. It is merciful. This is mercy. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.'
Tom Bolt's lip quivered, his eye filled, and his head bowed to weakness. There was a subdued feeling sympathetic with all as the solemn benediction was pronounced; and while yet the
parson was bowed, and the multitude were dispersing silently and with whispers, the old sailor retained his seat. At length he went forward, and taking the hand of the preacher, earnestly invited him to accompany him home.
'I am alone, Sir, and your words have called up a memory. I would like a common chat with you, and I do not see why you cannot accommodate me.'
“With pleasure, Sir!'
The afternoon service compared well with that of the morning, and a vestry meeting was called to consider the propriety of action in endeavoring to secure the permanent services of Mr. Bolton.
It was Sabbath evening, and the old sailor was happy in administering comfort to his guest. Betty had retired, and they were alone.
Former life-scenes were called up, and the mariner had recounted many perils of the deep, which were listened to with interest.
But, Sir,' continued Bolt, “I have one scene in my life to place before you. It will do me good, and may be you can give me some cheer to uphold me in my
decision. 'I had a nevvy, Sir; he was a good sailor, for a boy; but he was troublesome, ay, mutinous. He would n't stow away any advice, and showed a clean pair of heels at all times. I know I should have had more patience, but then an old sailor, you know, has very little of this. I cut him adrift; I thought it would do him good; but I told him if he ever thought better of his course, to come back to me, and I would overhaul him for inspection. But, Sir, (a pause, in which the old Captain looked steadily into the fire)
he's past a return-voyage. I heard he fell from aloft in the English Channel, and was left (another pause, in which the relator went to the door to accommodate old Tabby from without.) 'Poor nevvy! Well, here I am alone. Now, how should you, divine as you are, feel in such water? Did I do right ? ' earnestly inquired the old sailor, turning to Mr. Bolton.
The answer was to be the turning-point. If in the affirmative, Tom Bolt had made up his mind to drop it if possible and consider the cruelty no more. On the other hand, if it should be a doubtful response, he had concluded to ask a separate petition in prayer from the parson, and endeavor to heal it in that way.
‘Beyond a doubt, Sir. You did not flog, perhaps you should have done it; yet the cat’ is crushing to humanity. You reproved him only by words. He was extremely unkind and ungrateful. To his disobedience he added disrespect, which tended to mutiny, and really had a bad influence over the forecastle. Your course was righteous. It did the youngster good, and although at the time it seemed to him cruel, yet it was just the discipline he needed. It was a salutary correction.'
Tom Bolt was staring with wonder. ' And he, the nephew, is here now to thank his kind uncle for just such a course; for it has been the means of his reformation; and all the good I can do in my profession is dated back to the time you cut me adrift at Havre.
The old sailor had jumped, dropping his pipe and spectacles, and throwing the chair to the farther end of the room, had the Nevvy in his embrace. Nevvy! my Nevvy! Yes it is!' at the same time patting him gently upon his back.
The scene was short, but boisterous and effectual. “I have returned, uncle, for inspection.'
And I will insure you to the port of heaven in a double-reefed topsail-gale,' shouted Tom Bolt.
Nevvy, you shall be Rector of St. Stephen's, and this is your home. Gad! I'm in port once more, in luck.'
There was just one bar of the sailor's hornpipe shuffled upon the floor to the detriment of Tabby's tail.
And so blew away Tom Bolt's skeleton.
Alas! that my whole soul I might outpour
Upon the tawny margin of the blue, exulting sea,
Where hoarse and caverned forests mock the sorrow of the shore, We watch the passion-freighted moon her silver anchors weigh,
And moor her golden keel above the crags of Appledore.
Through gulfs of brimming shadow, through leagues of dark repose,
How ghost-like flash and fade afar the sails of distant ships !
The sudden smile of surges with foam-white teeth and lips !
Her poise was like the spray just when the wave begins to curve;
Her eyes untroubled stars shone through the mid-night of her hair ; Her lips would tempt the coldest, sternest anchorite to swerve,
So passionately parted in fond, unconscious prayer.
Long hours I gathered kisses like clusters from the vine;
While somewhere, far or near, was one who thought he held the fee Of this fair tenement: he did not know what joys were mine,
Upon the tawny margin of the dark, mid-summer sea !
It had rained all day; and at night, with the same dull, monotonous sound, the rain still fell on the gravel-walk beneath the window; while through the dark old pines at the back of the house, went the continual mournful soughing of the east wind.
I was weary of all in-door occupations, and could not resort to invectives against the weather, for I had no listeners.
My uncle, Dr. Paul Eastman, had gone three miles, through the wind and the rain, to visit a patient in the alms-house, a little boy whose life was nearly ended; and Mrs. Eastman was visiting her friends in a distant State.
In an idle, half-dreaming mood, I lay on the sofa in the pleasant library, to await my uncle's coming.
The cheerful fire-light sending its warm, bright glow over the geraniums and roses in the deep bay-window, over the few pictures on the walls and the well-filled book-shelves, banished all thought of the wintry desolation without. Above the shaded lamp, on the little study-table, was a portrait. It had hung there for many years, the old house-keeper said. I cannot describe that pictured face, so nobly, so serenely beautiful. Would you try to describe the look which the one you love wears for you? Neither will I try to paint with words that face, which was the full realization of my thought of those messengers who come from the unseen world, to strengthen and bless the weak and suffering among mortals.
Was she Uncle Paul's first love — the fair young girl, whose loss had darkened all the years of his early manhood? I had heard something of the great sorrow which had clouded those years, and of one whose life of beauty had kept her memory fresh in the hearts of many. I had heard too, of the tenderness with which Uncle Paul took to his home, which should have been hers, her invalid mother and little brothers, and cared for them, till the mother went to join the daughter, and the boys were fitted for commercial or professional life. But there was a mystery in his life. If he had loved and lost the one whose face was pictured there on the canvas, how could he ever have given the place that would have been hers, to the respectable, common-place person whom I have known for five years as Mrs. Eastman ?
The longer I watched the sweet face looking down upon me, the greater seemed the mystery; and so thinking, I fell asleep.
A voice awakened me. Ah! Miriam, dreaming ?'
He walked across the room, and stood silently before it a long time. Then he came to me. 'It is very like her, Miriam; and she was pure and good as the angels.
you tell me of her, uncle ? What was her name?' Then, after a short silence, he told me of his early sorrow,
and revealed the secret of the mystery that perplexed me.