« ZurückWeiter »
serve their Saviour best, following Him wherever He has led them; but great indeed was the peace which descended upon
ber soul,' when she heard the words of pardon pronounced by His own servant in His name, and received by faith that precious body and blood which were given for her. Then she felt that she was indeed one with Christ and Christ with her, and she gave humble and hearty thanks to Him Who had permitted her to partake of these holy mysteries, and would so soon make her a sharer of His glory.
The solemn service was ended, the words of blessing were spoken, the voice of the Priest bad ceased; not a sound was heard save the breathings of those two who watched the bed of death, as the weary body calmly sunk to rest, and the soul winged its way to mansions in its Father's home.
It was not in that awful hour of death that the Lady Mary felt the full loneliness of her situation. A deep thankful feeling stole into her breast that she whom she had so loved was now safely delivered from all miseries of this sinful world which had so sorely oppressed her, and of the full depth of which she only knew, and the hope cheered her that the time would be indeed short ere she should again behold her. It was when she felt that her care, the object of her wishes and thoughts was no longer bodily present with her, that she realized the full extent of her bereavement. Then indeed a sense of utter desolation would strike upon her heart, and fears would terrify her to which she could not give form or words, but she had means of regaining that calm cheerfulness which she felt in all trials should be the demeanour of a Christian, which had been denied to her sister. The successor of Manleon, though cruel and blood-thirsty, was not quite dead to all emotions of pity; and through the entreaties of the holy father Francis, the Lady Mary was permitted to receive the occasional visits of a spiritual guide; and after a time permission was also granted to walk on the ramparts at a certain hour when there was a strong guard to prevent any possibility of escape, which however she would have been far from attempting, for should she even succeed in leaving the fortress she had nowhere to fly to, and she knew not where the adherents and friends of her father were to be found. The joy to her to feel again the fresh air, to look upon the boundless sea, and the bright clouds with all the varied shadows which they throw on sea and land was such as they only can feel who have been long deprived of these blessings, and she felt her heart indeed overflow with gratitude as she looked on the beauties scattered around her. Those who daily enjoy the bright sun, the refreshing green, and the soft air of heaven are not perhaps aware of the influence these
upon their spirits and powers, and are seldom as thankful as they might be for the blessings vouchsafed to them. It is when for a season we have been deprived of these, when sickness or pain have prevented our enjoyment of them, that we learn to know that the beauties around us influence our minds in a manner unseen, and afford refreshment, strength and pleasure which should compensate for many many blessings when withdrawn. They speak so plainly of an ever-present God, Who cares for and loves His children, that did He even see fit to deprive us of every other mercy with which He has surrounded us, we should feel that we were not alone, while we had His sun to warm, and the air to breathe around us,
So felt the Lady Mary : the joy, the invigoration of spirit, were to her, indeed, great. She felt she could have stood for hours to gaze on those beauties which in other years she had suffered to pass unregarded by her. It seemed as if all nature was her friend. The trees, the birds on the wing, the insects that hovered in the air, the clouds that floated above, seemed companions sent to cheer her solitude. She did not feel alone, for it was then that she realized the thought that this world so beautiful could not be made only for the admiration of men, who pass it by almost unregarded; but must be visited at least by higher and þrighter spirits, who love and joy in watching and guarding those beauties so dear to the hearts of innocent children, and, doubtless, to all pure beings who, like them, are not stained with sin and care.
It was but at intervals that the Lady Mary was permitted thus to enjoy what gave such pure delight to her soul; but she was thankful for the privilege, and her prayers and praises ascended with double vigour to heaven, after her spirits had been thus renovated. She had, too, the comfort of visits from the good father Francis, who could counsel and advise her, and strengthen her in the holy course which she was pursuing. Nor was she now quite shut out from the active duties of benefiting her fellow-creatures; the knowledge of the healing art, which she had acquired under the tuition of the Lady Elfira, was put in requisition, and the good father would often procure ber the herbs and other things which she required, and take her medicines and salves, and distribute them among the poor whom he tended. Through his assistance she was also able to get materials to occupy her time in making garments for them, and these served to relieve the many lonely hours which she had to pass in that castle. Never did she neglect the solemn duties of prayer, intercession, and praise, which seemed the
liar privileges of one who was alone, and had few other ways of promoting God's glory upon earth ; but her sweet voice rose in frequent devotion at the hours when more favoured ones swelled the notes of praise, and though offered alone, hers, doubtless,
ascended with theirs, and were accepted. None on earth can tell what blessings those prayers might have procured, or what curses might have descended upon the earth, had not her voice with many others like her, unknown, by their supplications turned aside the judgment of an angry God. Thus some years passed on, in calmness and quietness, for content and thankfulness reigned in her breast. She was ripening daily, hourly, for a better state, silently shedding blessings by her prayers on all around, and when the task for which she was appointed on earth was ended, and she was fully nurtured for a better state, she was taken there where her treasures and her hopes had long been stored.
Her life was passed desolate and alone; few knew even that such a being existed, save those within the castle walls. Her resignation and patience were known only to that God Who seeth in secret, and His good angels. Her life was deeply hid with CHRIST in God, and, though like the distant stars, unseen on earth except by a gleam of light which numbers cast, such saints are not unnoticed or unknown to Him, Who looks upon them with greater love because they do all things to His honour and glory only.
THE ISLAND CROSS.
A BRIGHT cloudless evening in the summer month of June! The sun is looking red over the western banks of a broad river that flows into the Cornish seas. Three boys come slowly down the eastern hill, and pause for a minute to look upon the round sun and the shining water,
“Dear Percy,” said the youngest, “let us go on: I hardly like to look upon the sun now he has lost his bright beams that dazzle one so at noon."
The youth he addressed was by far the eldest of the three, and those who saw him would have thought him older than he really was: in his own village they called him an odd boy; strange fancies they said he had, and uncommon thoughts of his own. The merry party of his school-fellows who came in the summer evenings with their leaping poles to jump the little streams, or chase one another over the haycocks, or heap a hay-mountain over some little favourite, would often find him alone by the stream's side, and sometimes they caught him with a book, though this was difficult; for he would hide it quickly and blush when he saw them coming. And a hard atter it was for him to be alone. Those schoolfellows of his, who loved him so, and loved the way in which he led their games and started new ideas, or made old sports new by his fresh manner—they hunted him out everywhere. Play was no play without Percy. But they might have searched long this day, for he was up with the lark with his two little brothers, and far enough off beyond the river to see the ruined abbey and the holy well, and join in the service for S. Barnabas' day in the old abbey church which was yet standing. And his brothers, did they love him too? Well, look at them standing together now. He is half sitting upon, half leaning against a little rock that looked out of the pathway's side with an arm thrown lovingly round the waist of each, and they leaning lightly upon him are looking out upon the broad river. Certainly he loves them, and I have a great fancy that they love him as much.
“ Well, Phil,” he said, parting the boy's flaxen hair upon his forehead, I think 'tis time to be moving, for we have the river to ford, and four miles to trudge after that. Besides, I should like to spend a few minutes on that island there, shouldn't you ? Grandfather has often talked about an old Cross that stood there, he says, in his days, and we have never yet been to see it."
The river, which in other parts had a very strong and deep current, here widened itself into shallow bays on both sides of the island which Percy mentioned, and on the side into which they now plunged darted musically and laughingly on over some firm and shining gravel. Here and there, as the boys splashed across with shoes and socks in hand, a shoal of little shrimps and other small fry danced up against their ancles, looking like silver spangles in the sunshine. On the other side, however, of the island, the stream was both less broad and deeper, and needed the bare knees of any bold forders who attempted it.
“I wish,” said Herbert, the second boy, "that old fellow at the bridge hadn't been so dreadfully savage this morning when we passed. I don't half fancy this ford : few pass it now-a-days but with horses."
Oh, never mind,” Percy answered in a more gentle voice, “ it was partly our own faults after all; we should have thought of asking father for the money the night before; and it was rather cool to knock him up-an old man toomat five o'clock, and then have nothing to give him but a thank’ee.”
“ It's quite safe, isn't it, Percy ?” asked little Phil, who had no notion of danger when his brother was by.
“I hope so, Phil; we are doing our duty in coming this way instead of going to the bridge against the old man's will, and when we are doing right, you know in Whom to trust, my boy?”
It was a question that needed no spoken answer, especially as now, stepping from the stream, and hastily putting on their shoes, they with reverent steps approached the old weather-beaten and holy cross. The island itself rose some height out of the water, and was surrounded with a natural girdle of hard rocks, while
the old Cross stood in the centre planted firmly upon three broad stone steps at the very top of an artificial mound. It had met with a better fate than many holy things like it have found. Percy's grandfather still remembered the time wben it was the custom for all the country-folk round to go on one day in the year to visit this cross, and join in service in the old unused chapel on the bank beyond ; and still on that day would the cross be decked with fresh flowers, and fathers would tell their little ones the writing which ran up the stem (for though in Latin, and now worn out with age, the meaning of the words was still saved in this way) and bid them copy the life of the saint of whose death that cross told.
These three fond brothers knelt down each with his back to the setting sun upon one of the steps of the cross. They were well used to say their prayers together, and three holy hours before in this day,—the third, the sixth, and the ninth,-had seen them joining without any thought of shame in fitting prayers beneath the blue roof of heaven. And in words of some such meaning as this did their voices now send up a hymn together as they were wont.
The sun is set, the day is o'er ;
Thy light shall shine upon us yet.
" It was,” he said, “many hundred years ago, long before that old oak, which now stretches its withered arms above us, had sprung up from its seed, and ere yet England was Christian England, the Isle of Saints and Confessors, that an old man came down far away, as he thought, from the noise and bustle of the world and the fury of his persecutors, to this little island, and built himself a lowly hut, and dwelt here. In the day he would go to the shore on one side or the other, and preach to the people who lived around, eating such food as they could afford, tending the sick, and doing all such acts of mercy as his age allowed. And so at last his fame went far and wide, and every one told the praises of the good Christian. But when five summers had gone by, and the old man lived on, and his prayers by day and night went up to heaven, there came up into these parts a cruel enemy, wasting all the rich land with fire and sword.
“It is in times of danger that one feels the value and the power of a true Christian. Each of you, my dear brothers, may have