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Which soonest failed. The attachment was in him
A boyish sympathy with her excess
Of energy, and pity as she drooped.
But when from Wilydale, at fourteen years,
He sought a distant hamlet, there to learn
The wheelwright's craft, through an apprenticeship
Of seven long summers, though he dearly liked
The tender-hearted girl, his kinswoman,
Beloved as such, he carried not away
The warm affection which invisibly
Was glowing in the depths of Esther's heart.
From time to time was fuel, as it happ’d,
Cast on the flame, by tidings of his worth.
He was a dutiful son ; his mother's life
Had a bright sunset, through his virtuous pains
To cheer it. Apt and steady at his trade,
There needed not the master's eye to watch
His daily task-work. Yet no drudge was he,
To whom prospective gain is all in all;
When the time suited, foremost he in sports
And manly relaxations from his toil.
Few with this agile champion of the green
Might vie at cricket; few could toss the quoit
With such precision and well-governed strength.
The flute obeyed his breath; his practised touch
Drew forth the viol's tones; the angler's fly
Fell from his hand with such a natural flight,
’T was scarce illusion. His the lightest foot
At the blithe revel ; his, beyond compare,
The merriest voice of all at tale or song,
While in the ingle-nook the Christmas log .
Flashed bright on every face. Yet, over all
He had a reverence for holy things;
Nor that a Sunday-suit, merely put on
At sound of sermon-bell, and loosely worn
Through the long work-day week; it was his garb
On every day,—conspicuous more, perhaps,
When he was wending to the house of prayer,
But not forgotten in his secular hours
Of toil or merriment. Labour got from him
Its dues; and pastime knew its proper bounds.
Six months have passed since back to Wilydale The youth returned, entitled to profess Full mastery of his craft; and his small means Expended on the outfit, promise fair To yield a home and honest maintenance. And now beneath the cheerful morning sun The old church belfry trembles with the din Which hails a married pair. Few minutes since Did Stephen Berwick place the wedding ring On the dear hand of one who is to be Henceforth his bosom's charge, through weal, through woe, While life and breath are granted. This fair bride Was Esther's sister, and beloved by her With warm affection, more than sisterly.
But was not here the passion-smitten maid Wronged and supplanted ? Nay, she judged not so;She knew herself the victim of a wound All unsuspected by its innocent cause; And rather than reveal it, she would wrap Gladly her failing limbs within a shroud, And still her heart heneath the coffin lid.
When Stephen's term of pupilage was past,
And to his native place, on lightest foot
He had hastened back to root himself for life,
Warmly be greeted Esther with the kiss
Which early fondness, consanguinity,
And cherished recollections of old days
Well justified. He loved her still; still loved
To hear her artless songs, or sit by her
At nightfall, when the assembled household group
Resumed some quiet, sedentary task
Around the hearth. But his approach was frank,
Hearty and gladsome, void of all reserve,
And unembarrassed with the tremulous doubt
Which marks the lover. Yet while Esther saw
Only the cousin, warm of heart indeed
And ready at her 'hest, few weeks fled on
In that blithe cottage, ere the ardent youth
Felt that on Lucy Ashton all his thoughts
Were strangely centred ; that her every tone
Dwelt in his ear like music; that her step,
Her light familiar footstep, thrilled his heart;
And when with maiden modesty she turned
Her bright blue eyes on him, the current rushed
Faster beneath his breast. And so he passed
A time of troublous transport. Mutual soon
The innocent passion. He avowed himself,
And all approved. Poor Esther from her dream
Awakening, roused the virtuous spirit within,
And by a strong resolve controlled her grief
And disappointment,-- yea, even Esther gave
Cordial approval! But the effort was
Above the bodily strength; the mind, indeed,
The pure and modest mind, sustained itself,
Nor ever wandered from the plain straight path.
Little remains unsaid. Suns rose and set, And saw from Esther's cheek the bloom recede, While she was calm and happy. She pursued Her usual avocations, till the foe Who mined within, signalled that this world's work Was no more hers. Still no complaint evinced She thought hard measure had been dealt her,---no; The Book, the peerless Book whici guides to heaven, Had always been her manual, and she found Balm there for every ill. Chiefly she joyed To reperuse one glowing narrative, “The Gospel of Compassion,” that which John (Whom painters love to limn with angel face
And locks of sunshine) in his age composed,
His green old age, which kept his energies
And seraph's ardours bright and unimpaired
As when accompanied by Love Divine.
A piteous sight it would have been, to one Who knew not that her hopes had upward fled, And there had settled ere the spirit was freed, To see that lovely sufferer. Spring long since Had flushed each thicket, and the wilding rose Began to shew its streak, a tender hue, Like that which lingered yet on Esther’s lips, While the poor hectic patient, pillow-propt, Sat in the doorway to inhale the breeze. Calmly she looked on death, as on a cloud Behind whose folds the Sun of Righteousness Is hidden from terrestrials, and whose gloom We all must enter ; but once past, by those To whom the Scripture utters words of hope, Then comes the perfect Day. So she prepared In calmness for the grave,—she chose the spot Where she would lie; she named the friendly band Whose last sad office was to bear her forth ; Portioned her little store of worldly goods, That each beloved one might retain of her Some valued keepsake; evidenced her faith By joining in the sacred offices The church prescribes,- and then, in patient hope