Page images


looking after them. There was no sign to mark whether the little poney-carriage, in which, since Sir Frederick's leaving home, they had amused themselves, according to his suggestion, by driving about the lanes, had appeared in the street that day or not.

Lewis slipped his packet through the slit made for the purpose in the window of the post-office, with a feeling of relief at having satisfactorily fulfilled his undertaking. All the independence he enjoyed arose from his writings; and he had also the hope that they were aiding in the great work which occupied the earnest spirits of the time; that of ameliorating the condition of the poor. Far from thinking that he was throwing a firebrand among those who were already ripe for any kind of mischief, Lewis knew that the only mode of pacifying them lay in the conviction which was beginning to spread, that the rights and claims of the lower orders had attracted the attention of their richer brethren; and that there were



great and good men, walking like the giants of old upon the earth, and taking note of their sufferings.

He, by his writings, was working for the same end towards which the labours of public orators and politicians tended ; and it was in his power to give data upon which others might reason and legislate.

Not in cold didactic phrases, but with a heart glowing with the warmest love to suffering humanity, this earnest-minded man penned the truthful record of what was daily and hourly passing around him. Without particularising people or places, Lewis stated facts; and the pictures he drew from the rural life of the peasantry of the west were recognised from end to end of the agricultural district, as bearing the stamp of truth in every line; while, in more distant parts of England, the practical men of the times, the studious philosopher, and the busy merchant, read in his stirring narratives a startling lesson, warning each in his

vocation to fulfil his share of duty, and avert
the evils which every day were drawing

[ocr errors]


Over the wide pastoral downs, white with flocks, Arcadian in their beauty; where the villages nestled in the hollows of the valleys ; and to the unobservant eye all seemed peaceful security, hung a heavy cloud of despondency. Gloomy views of religion, engendered by poverty and ignorance, and fed by neglect, embittered instead of softening the mood of the people. The sternest fanaticism was encouraged in opposition to the orthodox creed; and dissent and insubordination to the ruling powers in Church and State, went hand in hand together.

Lewis felt that while such abject poverty, hardened immorality, and heathenish ignorance as he constantly witnessed, debased the cottages of the peasantry; while, with regard to their rights and sufferings, there existed in the homes of the upper classes, carelessness like Sir Frederick’s,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

---selfish indifference like his brother's,-he could not be silent. Nor did he leave the mournful tale incomplete a mere vague catalogue of evil, without a moral to point it. It remained for him, a Minister of the Gospel-a Preacher of the law of Universal Love, to show that, while it was never promised that on this earth all should be equal, but on the contrary plainly said that the poor should never cease from the land it was also declared that the labourer was worthy of his hire, and that the meek and lowly should inherit blessings denied to the proud in spirit;-above all, that it was the highest and most glorious privilege of the rich to alleviate the woes of the poor ; the Great King's Messengers to this lower world.


MAYDWELL PLACE, during Sir Frederick’s absence, had been as tranquil a sojourn as Laura could desire. Even Mrs. Holcombe, after one or two unsuccessful attempts, had given up the idea of re-establishing the sociable intercourse formerly carried on between the Rectory and the Hall. The two girls amused themselves with rambling about the lanes on foot, or driving in the little poney-carriage; and spent the long afternoons principally in the open air.

They were enjoying the sea-breeze upon the sands, this evening, and congratulating themselves on having tired out the curiosity of the inmates of the watering-place. Even the bathing. woman, and the old man who took care of the horse and the machines, had ceased to look

« PreviousContinue »