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To the west a clump of firs covered a rug. ged rocky dell, where the rooks claimed a prescriptive seignory. Through this a dashing rivulet forced its way, which afterwards grew quiet in its progress; and gurgling gently through a piece of downy meadow-ground, crossed the bottom of the garden, where a little rustic paling enclosed a washinggreen, and a wicker seat, fronting the south, was placed for the accommodation of the old lady, whose lesser tour, when her fields did not require a visit, used to terminate in this spot. Here, too, were ranged the hives for her bees, whose hum, in a still warm sunshine, soothed the good old lady's indolence, while their proverbial industry was sometimes quoted for the instruction of her washers. The brook ran brawling through some underwood on the outside of the garden, and soon after formed a little cascade, which fell into the river that winded through a valley in front of the house. When hay-making or harvest was going on, my godmother took her long stick in her hand, and overlooked the labors of the mowers or reapers; though I believe there was little thrift in the superintendency, as the visit generally cost her a draught of beer or a dram, to encourage their diligence.
Within doors she had so able an assistant, that her labor was little. In that department an old man-servant was her minister, the father of my Peter, who serves me not the less faithfully that we have gathered nuts together in my godmother's hazel-bank. This old butler (I call him by his title of bonor, though in truth he had many subordinate offices) had originally enlisted with her husband, who went into the army a youth (though he afterwards married and became a country gentleman), had been his servant abroad, and attended him during his last illness at home. His best hat, which he wore on Sundays, with a scarlet waistcoat of his master's, had still a cockade in it.
Her husband's books were in a room at the top of a screw staircase, which had scarce been opened since his death ; but her own library, for Sabbath or rainy days, was ranged in a little book-press in the parlor. It consisted, so far as I can remember, of several volumes of sermons, a Concordance, Thomas à Kempis, Antoninus's Meditations, the works of the author of the Whole Duty of Man, and a translation of Boethius; the original editions of the Spectator and Guardian, Cowley's Poems (of which I had lost a volume soon after I first came about her house), Buker's Chronicle, Burnet's llistory of his own Times, Lamb's Royal Cookery, Abercromby's Scots Warriors, and Nisbet's Heraldry.
The subject of the last-mentioned book was my godmother's strong ground; and she could disentangle a point of genealogy beyond any one I ever knew. She had an excellent memory for anecdotes; and her stories, though sometimes long, were never tiresome; for she had been a woman of great beauty and accomplishment in her youth, and had kept such company as made the drama of her stories respectable and interesting. She spoke frequently of such of her own family as she remembered when a child, but scarcely ever of those she had lost, though one could see she thought of them often. She had buried a beloved husband and four children. Her youngest, Edward, “ her beautiful her brave," fell in Flanders, and was not entombed with his ancestors. His picture, done when a child, an artless red and white portrait, smelling at a nosegay, but very like withal, hung at her bed-side, and his sword and gorget were crossed under it. When she spoke of a soldier, it was in a style above her usual simplicity; there was a sort of swell in her language, which sometimes a tear (for her age had not lost the privilege of tears) made still more eloquent. She kept her sorrows, like her devotions that solaced them, sacred to herself. They
threw nothing of gloom over her deportment; a gentle shade only, like the fleckered clouds of summer, that increase, not diminish, the benignity of the season,
She had few neighbors, and still fewer visitors; but her reception of such as did visit her was cordial in the extreme. She pressed a little too much, perhaps; but there was so much heart and good-will in her importunity, as made her good things seem better than those of any other table. Nor was her attention confined only to the good fare of her guests, though it might have flattered her vanity more than that of most exhibitors of good dinners, because the cookery was generally directed by herself. Their servants lived as well in her hall, and their horses in her stable. She looked after the airing of their sheets, and saw their fires mended if the night was cold. Her old butler, who rose betimes, would never suffer anybody to mount his horse fasting.
The parson of the parish was her guest every Sunday, and said prayers in the evening. To say truth, he was no great genius, nor much a scholar. I believe my godmother knew rather more of divinity than he did; but she received from him information of another sort: he told her who were the poor, the sick, the dying of the parish, and she had some assistance, some comfort for them all.
I could draw the old lady at this moment! dressed in gray, with a clean white hood nicely plaited (for she was somewhat finical about the neatness of her person), sitting in her straight-backed elbow-chair, which stood in a large window, scooped out of the thickness of the ancient wall. The middle panes of the window were of painted glass—the story of Joseph and his brethren. On the outside waved a honeysuckle tree, which often threw its shade across her book or her work; but she would not allow it to be cut down. “It has stood there many a day,” said she, “and we old inhabi
tants should bear with one another.” Methinks I see her thus seated, her spectacles on, but raised a little on her brow for a pause of explanation, their shagreen case laid between the leaves of a silver-clasped family Bible. On one side, her bell and snuff-box; on the other, her knitting apparatus in a blue damask bag.—Between her and the fire an old Spanish pointer, that had formerly been her son Edward's, teased, but not teased out of his gravity, by a little terrier of mine.—All this is before me, and I am a hundred miles from town, its inhabitants, and its business. In town I may have seen such a figure: but the country scenery around, like the tasteful frame of an excellent pioture, gives it a heightening, a relief, which it would lose in any other situation.
Some of my readers, perhaps, will look with little relish on the portrait. I know it is an egotism in me to talk of its value; but over this dish of tea, and in such a temper of mind, one is given to egotism. It will be only adding another to say, that when I recall the rural scene of the good old lady's abode, her simple, her innocent, her useful employments, the afflictions she sustained in this world, the comforts she drew from another, I feel a serenity of soul, a benignity of affections, which I am sure confer happiness, and I think must promote virtue.
This delightful paper appears to have had its just effect on the readers of the Lounger. It produced some pleasant remarks from a correspondent who signed himself “ Urbanus;" and these remarks produced a letter from the Editor himself, under the signature of
Adrastus,” which contains a sort of character of an Old Gentleman to match that of the Old Lady, and has also a tone of reflection that will sensibly affect most readers, especially those at a similar time of life,
LOVE OF THE COUNTRY IN THE DECLINE
FROM THE SAME, NO. 93. VIR.-I, as well as your correspondent Urbanus, was very
much pleased with your late paper on the moral use of the country, and the portrait of the excellent lady it contained. I am an old man, sir, but thank God, with all my faculties and feelings entire and alive about me; and your description recalled to my memory some worthy characters with which my youth was acquainted, and which, I am inclined to believe, I should find it a little difficult, were I even disposed to look out for them, to supply now. At my time of life, friends are a treasure which the fortunate
preserve ed, but the most fortunate can hardly acquire; and if I am not mistaken in my opinion of the present race, there are not many friendships among them which I would be solicitous to acquire or they will be likely to preserve. It is not of their little irregularities or imprudencies I complain ; I know these must always be expected and pardoned in the young; and there are few of us old people who can recollect our youthful days without having some things of that sort to blush for. No, Mr. Lounger, it is their prudence, their wisdom, their foresight, their policy, I find fault with. They put on the livery of the world so early, and have so few of the weaknesses of feeling or of fancy! To this cause I impute the want of that rural sentiment which your correspondent Urbanus seems to suppose is banished only from the country retreats of town dissipation, from the abodes of fashionable and frivolous people, who carry all the follies and pleasures of a city into scenes destined for rural simplicity and rural enjoyment. But in truth, sir, the people of the country themselves, who