Abbildungen der Seite

soon as it was day, with an offering of dried flowers which he begged them to lay upon her breast. It was he who had come to the window overnight and spoken to the sexton, and they saw in the snow traces of small feet, where he had been lingering near the room in which she lay before he went to bed. He had a fancy, it seemed, that they had left her there alone; and could not bear the thought.

He told them of his dream again, and that it was of her being restored to them, just as she used to be. He begged hard to see her, saying that he would be very quiet, and that they need not fear his being alarmed, for he had sat alone by his young

brother all day long, when he was dead, and had felt glad to be so near him. They let him have his wish ; and indeed he kept his word, and was in his childish way a lesson to them all.

Up to that time, the old man had not spoken once-except to her-or stirred from the bedside. But when he saw her little favourite, he was moved as they had not seen him yet, and made as though he would have him come nearer. Then pointing to the bed, he burst into tears for the first time, and they who stood by, knowing that the sight of this child had done him good, left them alone together.

Soothing him with his artless talk of her, the child persuaded him to take some rest, to walk abroad, to do almost as he desired him. And when the day came on, which must remove her in her earthly shape from earthly eyes for ever, he led him away, that he might not know when she was taken from him. They were to gather fresh leaves and berries for her bed.

And now the bell—the bell she had so often heard by night and day, and listened to with solemn pleasure almost as a living voice -rung its remorseless toll for her, so young, so beautiful, so good. Decrepit age, and vigorous life, and blooming youth, and helpless infancy, poured forth—on crutches, in the pride of strength and health, in the full blush of promise, in the mere dawn of life-to gather round her tomb. Old men were there, whose eyes were dim and senses failing-grandmothers, who might have died ten years ago, and still been old—the deaf, the blind, the lame, the palsied, the living dead in many shapes and forms, to see the closing of that early grave.

Along the crowded path they bore her now; pure as the newlyfallen snow that covered it; whose day on earth had been as fleeting. Under that porch, where she had sat when Heaven in its mercy brought her to that peaceful spot, she passed again, and the old church received her in its quiet shade.

They carried her to one old nook, where she had many and many a time sat musing, and laid their burden softly on the pavement. The light streamed on it through the coloured window-a window, where the boughs of trees were ever rustling in the summer, and where the birds sang sweetly all day long. With every breath of air that stirred among those branches in the sunshine, some trembling, changing light, would fall upon


grave. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Many a young hand dropped in its little wreath, many a stifled sob was heard. Some—and they were not a few-knelt down. All were sincere and truthful in their sorrow.

The service done, the mourners stood apart, and the villagers closed round to look into the grave before the pavement stone should be replaced. One called to mind how he had seen her sitting on that very spot, and how her book had fallen on her lap, and she was gazing with a pensive face upon the sky. Another told how he had wondered much that one so delicate as she, should be so bold ; how she had never feared to enter the church alone at night, but had loved to linger there when all was quiet; and even to climb the tower stair, with no more light than that of the moon rays stealing through the loop-holes in the thick old wall. A whisper went about among the oldest there, that she had seen and talked with angels; and when they called to mind how she had looked, and spoken, and her early death, some thought it might be so, indeed. Thus, coming to the grave in little knots, and glancing down, and giving place to others, and falling off in whispering groups of three or four, the church was cleared in time of all but the sexton and the mourning friends.

They saw the vault covered and the stone fixed down. Then, when the dusk of evening had come on, and not a sound disturbed the sacred stillness of the place—when the bright moon poured in her light on tomb and monument, on pillar, wall, and arch, and most of all (it seemed to them) upon her quiet grave-in that calm time, when all outward things and inward thoughts teem with assurances of immortality, and worldly hopes and fears are humbled in the dust before them—then, with tranquil and submissive hearts they turned away, and left the child with God.

LORD MACAULAY: 1800-18 5 9.

Thomas Babington Macaulay, the most celebrated historian of the time,

after a brilliant career at Cambridge, was called to the bar in 1826. A few months before this he had become famous by an article on 'Milton' in The Edinburgh Review. In 1830 he entered the House of Commons, where he won considerable reputation as an orator. From 1834 to 1838 he served as a member of the Supreme Council in India. In 1840 he became Secretary at War, and while holding this office composed the magnificent martial ballads, The Lays of Ancient Rome. In 1843 he published a collection of his Essays contributed to the Edinburgh Review, a series unequalled in our literature. His great historical work, The History of England from the Accession of James II., appeared from 1848 to 1861. The work is unfinished, the history terminating with the death of William III. Macaulay was raised to the peerage in 1857.

THE REVOLUTION OF 1688–1689. From The History of England.

On the morning of Wednesday the 13th of February (1689] the court of Whitehall and all the neighbouring streets were filled with gazers. The magnificent Banqueting House, the master-piece of Inigo, embellished by master-pieces of Rubens, had been prepared for a great ceremony. The walls were lined by the yeomen of the guard. Near the northern door, on the right hand, a large number of Peers had assembled. On the left were the Commons with their Speaker, attended by the mace. The southern door opened ; and the Prince and Princess of Orange, side by side, entered, and took their place under the canopy of state.

Both Houses approached, bowing low. William and Mary advanced a few steps. Halifax on the right, and Powle on the left stood forth ; and Halifax spoke. The Convention, he said, had agreed to a resolution which he prayed Their Highnesses to hear. They signified their assent; and the clerk of the House of Lords read, in a loud voice, the Declaration of Right. When he had concluded, Halifax, in the name of all the Estates of the Realm, requested the Prince and Princess to accept the crown.

William, in his own name, and in that of his wife, answered that the crown was, in their estimation, the more valuable because it was presented to them as a token of the confidence of the nation. “We thankfully accept,' he said, what you have offered us!' Then, for himself, he assured them that the laws of England, which he had once already vindicated, should be the rules of his conduct; that it should be his study to promote the welfare of the kingdom; and that, as to the means of doing so, he should constantly recur to the advice of the Houses, and should be disposed to trust their judgment rather than his own. These words were received with a shout of joy which was heard in the streets below, and was instantly answered by huzzas from many thousands of voices. The Lords and Commons then reverently retired from the Banqueting House, and went in procession to the great gate of Whitehall, where the heralds and pursuivants were waiting in their gorgeous tabards. All the space as far as Charing Cross was one sea of heads. The kettle-drums struck up; the trumpets pealed: and Garter King-atArms, in a loud voice, proclaimed the Prince and Princess of Orange King and Queen of England, charged all Englishmen to pay, from that moment, faith and true allegiance to the new sovereigns, and besought God, who had already wrought so signal a deliverance for our Church and nation, to bless William and Mary with a long and happy reign.

Thus was consummated the English Revolution. When we compare it with those revolutions which have during the last sixty years overthrown so many ancient governments, we cannot but be struck by its peculiar character. Why that character was so peculiar is sufficiently obvious, and yet seems not to have been always underetood either by eulogists or by censors. The continental revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries took place in countries where all trace of the limited monarchy of the middle ages had long been effaced. The right of the prince to make laws and to levy money had, during many generations, been undisputed. His throne was guarded by a great regular army. His administration could not, without extreme peril, be blamed even in the mildest terms. His subjects held their personal liberty by no other tenure than his pleasure. Not a single institution was left which had, within the memory of the oldest man, afforded efficient protection to the subject against the utmost excess of tyranny. Those great councils which had once curbed the regal power had sunk into oblivion. Their composition and their privileges were known only to antiquaries. We cannot wonder, therefore, that, when men who had been thus ruled succeeded in wresting supreme power from a government which they had long in secret hated, they should have been impatient to demolish and unable to construct, that they should have been fascinated by every specious novelty, that they should have proscribed every title, ceremony, and phrase associated with the old system, and that, turning away with disgust from their own national precedents and traditions, they should have sought for principles of government in the writings of theorists, or aped, with ignorant and ungraceful affectation, the patriots of Athens and Rome. As little can we wonder that the violent action of the revolutionary spirit should have been followed by reaction equally violent, and that confusion should speedily have engendered despotism sterner than that from which it had sprung.

Had we been in the same situation; had Strafford succeeded in his favourite scheme of Thorough ; had he formed an army as numerous and as well disciplined as that which, a few years later, was formed by Cromwell; had a series of judicial decisions similar to that which was pronounced by the Exchequer Chamber in the case of ship-money, transferred to the crown the right of taxing the people ; had the Star Chamber and the High Commission continued to fine, mutilate, and imprison every man who dared to raise his voice against the government; had the press been as completely enslaved here as at Vienna or Naples ; had our Kings gradually drawn to themselves the whole legislative power ; had six generations of Englishmen passed away without a single session of Parliament; and had we then at length risen up in some moment of wild excitement against our masters, what an outbreak would that have been! With what a crash, heard and felt to the furthest ends of the world, would the whole vast fabric of society have fallen! How many thousands of exiles, once the most prosperous

and the most refined members of this great community, would have begged their bread in continental cities, or have sheltered their heads under huts of bark in the uncleared forests of America ! How often should we have seen the pavement of London piled up in barricades, the houses dinted with bullets, the gutters foaming with blood! How many times should we have rushed wildly from extreme to extreme, sought refuge from anarchy in despotism, and been again driven by despotism into anarchy! How many years of blood and confusion would it have cost us to learn the very rudiments of political science! How many childish theories would have duped us ! How many rude and ill-poised constitutions should we have set up, only to see them tum ble down! Happy would it have been for us if a sharp discipline of half a century had sufficed to educate us into a capacity of enjoying true freedom.

« ZurückWeiter »