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than all beside," and theirs was indeed the dwelling of love, true, devoted, and self-sacrificing. The elder of these two sisters had been almost from her birth a miserable sickly being, whose life would seem but a burden which she still bore on quietly to her resting place, till at last she grew so much worse that it was sad to look at her: she had wasted away till the skin looked like shrivelled parchment wound round the bones, while the mind suffered grievously with the body. Every kind of superstitious horror crowded upon her; constantly she spoke of the fearful dreams that took the place of rest, when sleep came, and the sights she saw when the weary night was passed in watching, or even when for others the sun was shining brightly. It was sad to see her trembling almost convulsively as she passed her days, relating her fears and bitterly crying over them.
The devotion of the sister was most touching ; half-witted on almost all other subjects, her mind was in full life and vigour in anything where her sister was concerned. Nothing could equal her trouble and anxiety about her poor charge; nothing could equal her delight if she thought she perceived the slightest amendment either in mind and body; and most grateful was she to any one who endeavoured to drive some of the fanciful horrors from her sister's mind, or tried to give her comfort in her fits of dejection. None remembered poor Phæbe's ugliness, when they saw the tenderness with which she watched every movement of her suffering sister, anticipating all her wants, and heard her say while the tears did more than stand in her eyes, “she loved the very ground she trod upon.” Many a time passing through the village street, you would meet her hurrying along on some errand for the loved invalid, not for one moment resting till she was with her again, and again returning to her watchful care over that being in whom all her earthly love, her every thought and feeling were centred, but who, though truly to all beside an object of the deepest pity, was scarcely one that others could conceive the possibility of loving, still she was her world to Phæbe. Nothing, no one had an existence for her except as connected with her sister. How true it is that there is no one, however repulsive he may seem to others, who has not some one to love him, some one by whom all deficiencies are forgotten, and to whom he seems, if not perfect, at least all that could be wished, without whom the world would be a blank, whose place none other could fill “ to free the hollow heart from paining."
“No one is so accursed by fate,
But some heart, though unknown,
Responds unto his own." But here it was no unknown heart that responded to the poor sufferer's; it was one that showed itself in continued acts of love, in entire sacrifice of self, in a perfect devotion.
To her no toil was wearisome, no rest pleasant if it was gained by a momentary relaxation of her tasks in her sister's service. If care and watchfulness and love could save a life, hers would never have been lost. How great a blessing it is to the sick, when the misery and pain of the day can be forgotten in quiet sleep at night; but this comfort was denied to poor Phæbe's cherished charge. The night to her was a time of almost greater trial than the day. The long dreary hours were spent by both in wakeful misery, till in the grey early dawn of a winter's morning the cottagers opposite would see Phæbe kneeling on her miserable bed, praying with her sister, and by the dim light endeavouring to read as well as she could spell out the words; without fire and with but small store of clothing, yet patiently, as soon as day broke upon their sleepless night, renewing her labour of love.
Months and months passed away, and there was no change and no hope except in one heart which never failed ; there was one who never left the sufferer, who never relaxed in her efforts to comfort; one who ever tried to smooth the rugged pathway to the grave, and doubtless she succeeded; for where did true affection ever exist without comforting in all troubles, and quieting even the sharpness of pain ? Sir Henry Wotton says, “ Beauty, the eye's idol's but a damasked skin;" and those must look for something beneath it who would be interested in tales like these; they must be content not to look for beauty, although no one can deny when it does exist, the object has a far greater hold upon your sympathy. But with many whose stories are here it never did, and the truthfulness would be lost were they robed in borrowed graces.
There was another case of devoted affection that ended more sadly even than the last. A poor lame girl lived with her father and mother, and a little niece, a child about twelve years old, who was like her own child to her, having lived with them from her infancy. She had watched over her and taught her all she knew herself; had cherished her as the sunshine of her life : and little Ann well returned the love so freely lavished upon her. She looked up to her young aunt as something far above any one, at least in her own station, and with reason too; she had seen her as long as she could remember, a perfect pattern of everything: she was taught to look upon her as good and holy; her example was a living book to teach her how she ought to live, and such a book is always far most legible to childish eyes; they are great judges of character, and real truthful earnestness of purpose, quiet unobtrusive practising of what is taught, never wants its effect upon the mind of a child.
When the lame girl, (Ellen was her name,) was about twenty, she fell into a decline. She was a great sufferer, but as might have been expected from her former life, she bore all with a mind patient and resigned, and with a heart deeply imbued with religious feeling turned to the only true source of comfort, and pain was borne patiently, and death was undreaded; her “ talisman was faith.” She had early been taught to read, and having ever been unfit for active occupation, had given more of her time than most of her class are able to spend, to books—it might almost be said to the Book, by which her whole conduct was modelled. It was a beautiful thing to see her quiet resignation, her hope and trust, her cheerfulness in defiance of pain and weariness and watching. It is not all who
“Know how sublime a thing it is
To suffer and be strong." There are always those ready who will paint in glowing chronicles the triumphs of active life, while
Many a kindly generous deed is done,
Which yet shall consecrate our sinful earth.” The grave closes over the body, and their good deeds, like the weapons of the Indians, are buried with them, ready for the other world, where “humble worth ” and patient suffering are never forgotten. “ Yet it may be more lofty courage dwells,
In one meek heart which braves an adverse fate;
Warmed by the fight or cheered by high debate,
Alone to suffer, and alone to strive ?" The warrior who has slain his thousands will be well remembered, when the patient being who never failed beneath the troubles of earth, but with a high and holy mind trod her way among them,
“ As on the glowing coals and bars,
That were to prove her strength, and try
Her holiness and purity," will be forgotten; and few there are but will think it wasted time to tell of one whose life has been a light to those around her, and we may surely hope a blessing to herself. There are many who win the crown of martyrdom that do not perish at the stake.
As was the life of the lame girl Ellen, so was her death; quietly and hopefully she passed away. Her illness had been that most distressing of all diseases, consumption, and her little niece had lived so long between hope and fear, had so often mistaken the
bright colour on her cheek for the returning glow of health, so often been deceived, but so often hoped with a stronger hope from her young determination, that it could not and should not be as she feared ; that when at last the destroyer came, when all she had loved was
“a name and no more," when she beheld death, her heart broke. People talk scoffingly of broken hearts; to many they seem as dreams; yet there are such things, though we will hope but seldom, at least not to death, but with little Ann life was far weaker than her love : there is no love and no grief like a child's while it lasts, but fortunately it soon passes, or the little frame must soon fail under it. Immediately on her death the child fell sick, refused all nourishment, and a week after her loss died from grief—the bitter grief of a young heart that has borne its first loss, to whom the shock has been so great that the body fails beneath it, and from sickness of heart the body dies. Few think how intimate is the connection of soul and body, and in a child's mind every feeling has another light upon it than can rest there in later life; there is a power and freshness about its love, another colouring to it that can never be seen after children are later from paradise, and its light still clings round them.
" Each several life yet opens with the view,
The breath of being." The mind of a man that can fully understand that of a child, must be one of great beauty. How often will a young child's question by its originality and beauty bear witness of its former home, making those who hear it wonder, puzzling them many a time to find an answer, and those may be the wise in this world's knowledge. We have all heard instances of dying children having here glimpses of another world granted them before the pure spirit reaches it; children who can say,
" In a wild March morning,
I have heard the angels sing." and an instance of it happened here. The little one's mother was dying of a decline, very slowly, but too surely. She had been ill for months, sometimes hoping she might recover, but oftener seeing her danger and calmly awaiting her death. But one thing still troubled the dying moiher; she scarcely dared trust herself to think of what might become of her three little girls left motherless to the influence of evil example, among a large family of boys, and with a father who, although he had grown steadier since her illness, had formerly been far from what she could have wished him to be. Her
youngest was a beautiful little thing about four years old, with bright rosy cheeks and sunny hair, a very cherub, although most unlike those whose portraits flourish in our old churchyard; but whose spring-like face might make " the weary smile amid their tears,” whose bounding step and merry face as it nestled close to its worn-faded mother, made a sunshine in the sick chamber. This little thing was the great trouble to the mother; she dreaded to think of the change that might come upon the present “whiteness of its soul, its utterly helpless condition when left with no other guide or protector than its eldest sister, a child only a few years older than itself; and her wish was, a strange one it might seem for a mother, that the last work she might do on earth should be the making of her little one's shroud. Little would any one have guessed who looked at the pale sickly looking woman, heard her hard cough and low weak.voice, and then turned to the bright smiling child beside her, that the mother would have lived to see her wish fulfilled—to see the mourners start on their way to the old grey church,
“ That bright-eyed little one to leave
Safe in the saint's abode." Suddenly, however, it was taken ill; the colour deepened on its cheek, a few feverish days had passed, and the sweet little one lay in the shroud her mother had made, with a few spring flowers upon her breast, and a mother's tears upon her cheek. She it was who during her brief illness “ had heard the angels sing.” One early morning she turned suddenly, and asked, “ Do you hear, mother, the beautiful music? I can hear it so plainly.” There was a hush through the room, all listening eagerly, but no one heard a sound except the dying child; their ears had been too long tuned to the rude tones of earth to catch the voices of heaven; the ear that had later heard their melodies, and whose passage through the world had been too short to still their echoes in the heart could alone hear them; and in what was to those round her the awful stillness of the night in the room of death, the child heard the sound of many voices filling her sleepless night, and bearing her spirit with them to the home she had left.
THE GOOD SQUIRE.