« PreviousContinue »
"Yes, Miss Royce," I replied, in a low tone.
"You can go and learn your texts on the lawn, as it is so fine and hot," she said, rising to dismiss us, without pressing me any further on the subject.
So we were all out of doors very soon after, scattered about in various groups.
Some sat under the shadow of the great, spreading fir-tree, standing old and dark in one corner of the lawn.
Others took advantage of the table in the arbour to rest their books and elbows, whilst Miss Royce and Miss Baxter, spreading shawls upon the grass, sat where they could command a general oversight of their numerous charge from under their parasols.
Even those who had chosen the seclusion of the arbour— formed in the angle of a thick laurel hedge bounding the garden-seemed to find it oppressively warm, in spite of the deep shade which it afforded from the rays of the noonday
For a fine branching acacia twined its boughs overhead with those of a drooping laburnum, forming a kind of tent, with sides of evergreen shrubs, and a large Gueldres-rose tree standing sentry at the entrance.
For my part, I loved to lie baking in the heat of the sun, and accordingly placed myself, far away from any one else, right out in the centre of the lawn.
For some time I lay reading slowly, over and over again, the few simple words of my text, until they were implanted firmly in my memory.
Then, turning over on to my back, I yielded myself up to the keen enjoyment of lying perfectly still, and watching the grand face of nature, spread out so bountifully before me.
My task was accomplished, and my mind, consequently, free from all anxiety on that score ;-no slight incentive in itself to the complete enjoyment of perfect repose.
Stretched out before me, separated merely by a deep and narrow valley, lay vast hills, rolling away to the horizon in long undulations of wood or meadow-land.
Scattered here and there were tiny clusters of cottages, with a few houses of more or less pretensions, tacked on to their outskirts. Every now and then, a turreted tower, or a tapering steeple, peeping out from amongst a group of trees, proclaimed the various positions of the neighbouring villages.
Away to the right, a light filmy mist-the Sunday remnants of a week's busy work at the mills-hung over the blue-roofed, white-walled houses of "The Village," as it was always termed by us, who were dwellers in the most remote corner of this same parish of Brookford,—the most important of the many hamlets throughout the length of the valley, as its numerous tall chimneys abundantly testified.
Above, the sky was overcast with those grand summer clouds, so dazzlingly white, so marvellously shaped, that, as you lie gazing up at them in the bright sunshine, you can conceive nothing half lovely enough to vie with their exquisite beauty, unless it be the wondrous, snow-capped summits of the towering Alps.
Under their rolling shadows, the light green of the grass, and the sombre darkness of the far-off woods, merged into such delicate combinations of purple and rose colour, that the most consummate painter might well be baffled in his attempt to transfer the effect to his canvas, whilst preserving at the same time an appearance of truth and naturalness.
And then the glorious depth of the patches of blue sky; all the bluer from the contrast of the fleecy clouds encircling them. So blue that the eye, wearied with vain attempts to fathom its depth, finally became haunted by the appearance of an infinity of air bubbles, dancing gaily in the pure, ethereal atmosphere above.
A DREAM OF HEAVEN AND A FUNERAL.
"OH, how beautiful!" I thought, lazily closing my eyes to enjoy the uninterrupted sunshine full upon my upturned face.
Oh, how beautiful to be one of the 'children of God'! for if' and I thought it with all childish reverence,-" if God were like Father, and heaven far more beautiful than the loveliest spot upon earth, then indeed His children must be full of perfect bliss, with such a Father, and in such a home."
But alas! there was the condition standing in the way of my ever attaining to such happiness.
For the text said, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." And I? I was no peacemaker !
From the very first hour of my entering the school, I had caused a quarrel by my presence, and even at the present moment, I was not on good terms with my greatest friend. I had tried to gain Rogers' good-will all to no purpose, and now, as I pondered the matter over in my heart, fresh instances rose to my recollection, until the tears began to well up into my eyes at the thought of how vain it seemed for me to try to become one of God's little ones.
Gradually the sun and the air produced so soothing an
effect upon me that I fell asleep. As I slept, my fancy took up the thread of my waking thoughts, and wove it into my dream.
Only a few months ago, those three great pictures of Martin's the "Day of Judgment," the "Great White Throne," and the "Plains of Heaven,"-had been exhibited in Rockenham. My father had taken me with him to view them, and the latter picture had produced so lively an impression upon my infantine mind, that I shall probably retain the most vivid recollection of its beauties whilst life lasts.
In my slumber I saw the scene again, in grander and more brilliant colouring, and with that strange distinctness which comes to us so often in our dreams.
And I was walking under that shady avenue, where the great trees, meeting overhead, cast a chequered shadow across the sunlight upon the velvet sward beneath.
A beautiful angel with folded wings walked by my side, holding my hand firmly in her own. Turning to speak to me, I discovered that her features bore a strong resemblance to those of my mysterious lady-friend, Mrs. Hughes.
But I was not afraid of her any longer, for her face bore a new expression of perfect tranquillity, and in her eyes shone a light so tender and kind, that my heart went out towards her
Up the grassy slopes she led me, straying in among the shrubs now and again to cull some lovely blossom, hiding its modest head under the shelter of the rich undergrowth.
The air was fragrant with the perfume of a thousand rare and wondrous blossoms, the brilliant hues of which were alone surpassed by the gorgeous plumage of the long-tailed birds, crossing our path every now and again.
None of the usual timidity of bird or beast showed itself here. The deer went quietly on with their browsing as we passed, showing no sign of terror in their great calm eyes; the
birds sang sweetly on in their undisturbed freedom, and the squirrels merely peeped down upon us with a passing air of curiosity.
It is only where the presence of cruel man has been known and felt, that the animal race is found to be first terrified, and then goaded, into savage self-defence.
Then we came to the foot of the hillock, lying in the foreground of the picture which seemed to form the framework of my vision.
Taking me gently in her arms, the angel slowly spread her glistening white wings, and flew noiselessly through the air to the summit.
Oh, the glory of the view which met my startled sight!
At the foot lay a lake of the deepest azure, reflecting, like a burnished mirror, all that lay upon its placid waters, and the line of beautiful trees encircling its shores.
Beyond, shrouded in a faint, light mist, like a cloud of incense brooding over hallowed ground, rose the dim outlines of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Immediately at its rear, and completely bounding the horizon, towered the snow-capped peaks of a giant range of mountains.
But the sound of sweet music stole softly upon my ears, and looking down upon the lake below, I beheld a tiny fleet of golden gondolas floating calmly upon its bosom.
Their richly-carved prows were wreathed with flowers, and on the crimson or blue draped decks reclined groups of children, whilst others, sitting at the side, trailed their white hands through the crystal waves.
And the children's voices floated sweet and clear across the waters to the shore :
"Suffer the children to come unto Me,
For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”