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LOOK TO THE END.
In early childhood I was placed, as a boarder, in a lady's school near Edinburgh. I was treated kindly, and the rules were, for the most part, very judicious; but yet here was unhappily laid the foundation of that fault in my character which has borne in after life such bitter fruit.
Our governess often urged on us the duty of a strict economy; and most of us kept a money box, which was to receive every spare penny, and was on no account to be opened till a certain time. To many, this saving system did good, but with me it was far otherwise. I became very fond of money, and all my thoughts were directed to the hope of being some time very rich, of living in a splendid house, with carriages, fine horses, and jewels at my command.
When I was about thirteen, the distant relatives, with whom I generally spent my holidays, left Scotland to settle in Australia, and I received an intimation that I was to proceed to the South of England, on a visit to Mr. Rivers, an old friend of my father, who resided at Aspenfield, a beautiful little village in Somersetshire. I had heard that my old host was blind, and that my only female companion would be Mrs. Farnham, the widow of a former rector of Aspenfield; so I feared my visit would prove rather dull. I was, however, speedily convinced of my error, for I became very fond of my kind entertainers, and soon found plenty of employment in walking with, and reading to, Mr. Rivers, while Mrs. Farnham was busy with her domestic duties. After dinner we took long drives in the open pony carriage, while our evenings were spent in music and singing, both of my companions being performers of no mean order.
At the close of my holidays, Mrs. Farnham, seeing that Mr. Rivers had been more than usually cheerful since the arrival of a young person in his quiet abode, proposed my remaining altogether at Aspenfield, and taking regular lessons from masters in the different branches of education. My next three or four years were very happy, and I often, in far different scenes, looked back to my life at Aspenfield with peculiar feelings of tender, but, alas ! vain regrets. Sometimes I felt ashamed that I could not feel pleasure in giving to the poor when I visited them with Mrs. Farnham, but as yet I had never felt the truth of the text, “ It is more blessed to give than to receive; and
every shilling of
little income was spent on myself.
One beautiful autumn evening, while I was walking in a rather lonely road, I met a very handsome chariot coming full speed down a steep hill; the coachman had been thrown from his seat, and the horses were evidently running away. I saw only one means of stopping their dangerous career, and this I effected by flinging to, a heavy turnpike gate, which fortunately happened to be nearly close to the place where I first met the carriage. The old tollkeeper had at first been too stupefied with fear to offer any assistance; but she soon recovered, and said my presence of mind had been the means of saving the life of the occupant of the chariot, Sir Allen Grey.
This gentlemen, whom I never as yet had seen, resided at his beautiful estate, Waltham Grange. He seemed in delicate health, and full of a nervous tremor at the danger he had just escaped, but soon recovering, he offered me the warmest thanks, and said he would call at Aspenfield, and express to my guardian, Mr. Rivers, the deeply grateful feelings he should ever experience.
Mr. Rivers told me that night, that, though very glad I had been the means of benefiting Sir Allen, he did not wish the acquaintance thus formed to result in intimacy; Sir Allen was violently opposed to religion, and his only son, Mr. Clarence Grey, had incurred his heaviest displeasure by wishing to enter into the Church. Sir Allen had diminished his son's allowance at Cambridge till his remaining at college was attended with difficulty and privation.
I ought to have been guided by Mr. Rivers's opinion with regard to continuing my acquaintance with Sir Allen Grey; but I was filled with intense longings for worldly society and splendour, and frequently walked to the lodge gates at Waltham, to admire the noble park, fine herds of graceful deer, and the beautiful lake, adorned with the choicest wild fowl, and bordered by the blossoms of the white and yellow waterlily.
One day, while walking in that part of the park open to the public, Sir Allen met me, and begged me to look over the house, and so earnestly did he press his suit, that a refusal was, I fancied, impossible. After going the round of the garden and greenhouses, we sat down to an elegant luncheon, and in
the midst of our conversation Sir Allen spoke his opinion, in no gentle terms, of what he designated “Canting Methodists," and the absurd principles of his son, who would rather preach and pray to a rabble rout of ignorant country people, than be owner of so beautiful an estate as Waltham Grange; for," he continued, “I have said it, and I will keep to my first vow-No Methodist shall ever possess a farthing of my money. He will soon be here, finally to make choice between my favour and his senseless religion ; but, my dear Miss Melville, it will soon be too dusk for me to show you my picture gallery."
Thither we went, and before my admiring curiosity was half satisfied, the darkening twilight hastened me away. Sir Allen had ordered the carriage, and when we entered it, he pointed out a beautiful bouquet of exotics, and some fine fruit,—these were, he said, for Mrs. Farnham and my guardian. He then presented me with a case containing an elegant little watch and chain; and when I hesitated to accept such splendid gifts, he begged me so kindly to agree to his wishes, that at last I complied.
Sir Allen made several visits to Aspenfield, and won “golden opinions" from Mrs. Farnham, by liberal subscriptions to her various charities; and she said, that “as he had taken such a fancy to Amy's company, it would be rude and unkind to prevent our meetings." "My guardian, however, still seemed displeased with our increasing intimacy.
One evening I was with my uncle (so I called Mr. Rivers) at the study window. The whole lawn looked one silvery flood of moonlight, and the red and white roses could be plainly
I described the beautiful scene, and then said how sorry I felt that he could not see any of the exquisite beauties of creation.
“ Yes, Amy,” he replied ; “at first I felt it very hard to bear. The first part of my trial found me fearfully unresigned, but, by the blessing of God, I have learned to look to the end of life, and to feel that all things work together for good, for them that love God.' Oh, Amy, my child, in the first beginning of any event let us think what the end is likely to be. If we follow this precept, we should be far more circumspect than is usually the case, and thus spare ourselves much bitter remorse and many vain regrets. The excellent Alleine says, “Look upon the world from your graves.' It is a true saying, and one replete with meaning. I wish you, Amy, to ask yourself, whether the friendship of such a person as Sir Allen Grey will influence your character for good or evil, and to act accordingly? In a merely worldly point of view, it will probably
be of use to you ; but, my dear child, there will a time come when,—'what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?'"
We were both silent. I, with a view to change the conversation, asked, “whether his blindness had resulted from accident or disease ?”
“ It was brought on by lightning,” he replied. “I one day left a favourite sketch-book under a tree, and, on returning to fetch it, I was struck to the earth, and lay insensible for many hours. My father was a very poor curate, and to feel that I might be for life a burden to him, was a heavy grief to me. In my helpless depression I often wished to die. My dear father taught me to pray for resignation, to 'fear no evil,' and to trust in the Lord.' After a time I learnt basket making, and was so successful that my dear father's last illness was amply supplied with comforts by the proceeds of my industry. When my father died my faith was again sadly tried, but I stilled my troubled thoughts with reflecting on that gracious promise, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee;' and soon another friend was raised up to take charge of me. An uncle, who had been many years in India, returned unexpectedly to England. He took me home, left me his little property, and thus, at the close of a long life, I can look back with thankfulness, and forward with hope, and can say, with deepest gratitude, He doeth all things well.'
As winter advanced, the health of Mr. Rivers gradually became impaired. Sir Allen, also, was an invalid, and I went twice a week to visit him at Waltham. One day a tremendous snow storm rendered my venturing home quite impossible—the by-roads leading to Aspenfield became impassable. Sir Allen always retired early to his room, and I beguiled the time in reading. Suddenly I heard the sound of wheels, the loud barking of dogs, and all the bustle that denotes an arrival. I heard from the servant who attended me in my room that Mr. Clarence Grey had visited Waltham, in consequence of hearing of his father's illness, but Sir Allen refused to see him, and desired him either to recant his religious opinions, or to quit the house.
Next day Sir Allen begged me to attend him in his library. In a brief address, he said that I had been the means of saving his life, and he was determined to adopt me as his sole heiress, if I would leave Aspenfield, and in future make my residence at Waltham. His title, which had been bestowed on him as the reward of military services in India, would, he said, die with him, and he would leave every penny to public charities, rather than a canting methodist parson should live there. Alas! the love of worldly splendour had so hardened my heart, that instead of feeling respectful compassion for the young man, who thus nobly gave up his birthright for Christ, I felt only supreme delight at my own good fortune, and soon began to wonder how my friends at Aspenfield could be made to consent to my change of residence.
It was a day of brilliant winter sunshine when I set off that morning to visit my happy home. The snow lay thickly on the ground, but the house was so surrounded by evergreens and the scarlet berried holly, that it looked very pretty. I stood for a moment on the threshold of that hospitable home, and felt that bitter_pang, best described as “ leaving all we loved before;” but I soon recovered, and told of my good fortune with animated delight.
“This is a strange story, my dear Amy,” said Mr. Rivers. “Can you ask the blessing of God upon all the wealth thus devolving on you, because an excellent and only son refuses to sacrifice his own heart's principles to the requirements of an unbelieving and worldly father? Oh, Amy, this love of money is the root of all evil; pray to be made content with such things as ye have.'”
I could only pay a hasty visit to Aspenfield, as Sir Allen had begged me to return to dinner. Oh, why did not I know that that was the last time I should see my dear uncle in his favourite room; or that I had seen his kind smile beam on me for the last, last time ? He kissed and blessed me with his usual affection, but I was never to hear that blessing again ! Oh, never, never more!
Several times I heard that Mr. Rivers remained indisposed, but Sir Allen kept me with him all day; and on the next Sunday, as I sat alone in the velvet and gilded pew, I felt dreadfully shocked to hear the prayers of the congregation desired for Henry Rivers ! I could hardly sit out the period of public worship, and instantly ordered the coachman to drive rapidly to Aspenfield; but my hand trembled so that I could with difficulty alight, and make my way up stairs. Here Mrs. Farnham met me, and from this kind 'friend I learned that in the preceding night he had become suddenly worse. sage had been immediately despatched to Waltham, desiring my presence, but Sir Allen said he would not have me disturbed, and thus I set off for church in utter ignorance of the sad trial so soon to await me: