Elizabeth Rundle Charles.

Tales and sketches of Christian life in different lands and ages online

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\ Fraiii (til Alt pfenci-lbiiii/ liiilcn for thf Governmfiit o/ the Slate Llhruii/,
S puHMil. March Sth. 1861.

Section 11. The Librarian s-hall cause td be kept a re;^ister of all

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by the Governor and the officers of the E.xecutive Department of this State -
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Talcs and Sketches.





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530 Broadway,



Hexrt Bsms, Stereotyper, 19 Chatham St., N. Y.


In v,-riting this little book, I have not felt as
if addressing strangers, much less that grave
tribunal conjured up by the phrase, " the pub-
lic; " but simply as if speaking to my friends,
and the meoibers of my own family, one by one,
of the things we love best. To them I now
offer it.

I have not sought to give an outline of (he
corruptions and controversies of the Churcli,
but of the Life which has at all times pierced
through the snows of un-Christian and anti-
Christian systems; — of those trees planted by
the Rivers of AVaters whose leaf has never
withered, and with which the hardest and
driest times were always "duo seasons" for
"bringing forth fruit."

^—V ■. "^ ^ K iii 'L,J

^4 f


Some of the Sketches are historical as to
persons and incidents, and some are not. In
the "Italian Reformers," only the conversa-
tions are imaginary ; in the first and third parts
of the "Sketches of the Moravians," only the
first conversation. The other Tales are mere-
ly founded on the facts of general history.

In looking over these pages, and thinking of
the exceeding grandeur of the realities on which
they so feebly touch, I almost shrink from
what I have attempted ; yet, are not these high
truths the very atmosphere of the renewed
life — the daily bread of God's " little chil-
dren ?" and is it not as unwise to forget that we
are each given a lamp to carry, as to imagine
that the light is in us ?

Should these Sketches be the means of point-
ing out to any the inexhaustible Treasure of
Truth contained in the Bible — of leading one
unsettled heart to the rest of the "single eye,"
the "straight path," and the "lowest place" —
of bringing one, still in bondage, into the peace
and freedom of the "child" — of arousing one
languid child to the blessed ministrations of


disciplesliip — of reminding any who are "cum-
bered about much serving," to seek the calm
strength given to those who sit at His feet,
and hear His words — my most earnest wishes
will be fulfilled.

We serve One who rewardeth the cup of cold
water, and "upbraideth not."

At His feet I lay the unworthy offering.
May that touch and that Holy Spirit who
dwelleth with us for ever paralyze every error
contained in it, and give life to every truth !
With Him I leave it. Let Him do with it Avhat
seemeth Him good.









It was summer, and mid-day. lu the swarm-
ing city of Alexandria, the rich were resting in
their inner chambers, the craftsmen were labor-
ing drowsily in the shade of their open work-
shops, and the hum of the great city came faint
in the quiet of noon to the villa of the old Ro-
man general, Caius Sertorius. The veteran lay
asleep on a couch in the portico after his mid-day
meal, while two children played in the garden
at his feet.

It was a stifl' old Roman garden, arranged
with a precision as military as the taste of a vet-
eran grown gray in the exercise of Roman dis-
cipline could make it ; ranks of cypresses, and
files of palms, and cohorts of flowering shrubs,
marshaled around a marble fountain, and flanked
at regular intervals by obelisks and statues
— the whole surrounded by a terraced wall, to
which one of the mouths of the Nile served as a
fosse. But nature did all she could to spoil the
plan ; not our plodding northern nature, ^x'lth
slow industry weaving out her designs from year
to year, but the impetuous nature of the south,


doing the Avork of a season in a day, working-
fairy wonders in a night, garlanding the stone
gods and lieroes Avith living wreaths of glory,
festooning the tall tnuiks with vine leaves, call-
ing forth, unbidden, sweet flowers to drink the
sparkling drops which fell from the fountain, and
making everywhere fantastic tracery of light and

The children were soon tired with play. The
boy leaned against the pedestal of a statue of
Diana ; the little girl sat on the ground to weave
a crown of flowers — her white dress, with its
wide purple border, shining in the shade of the
cypresses, and her sunny eyes sparkling, as from
time to time she flung the long hair back from
her forehead, and looked up in her companion's

They were not brother and sister : their forms
were cast in a dififerent mould. He was Greek,
and she was Italian. The first impression of his
foi'm, in rejDOse — the long, soft, dark eye, the
slight frame — might have been that of languoi* ;
but the firmly-set lips cou.tradicted the languid
calm of the eye ; the slight, muscular frame
when in action seemed merely a condensation
of strength ; and even in the eye itself, if you
watched its expression, there was more of the
slumber of power than of the lack of it — more of
the dreaming of imawakened energy than of the
indolence of v>^eaknoss. She was still a child, the
flower of the old Roman's heart — the music of


his life — bright and joyous — without a care for
to-morrow, or a tear for yesterday. The boy was
telling her. old Greek stories of the gods and
heroes — how in the old times the gods walked
amongst men — how they set their love on some,
and took them up into heaven to be stars.

"I hope they Avill never love you or me,
Cleon," said the little girl, in a low voice.

" Why, Maia ? " he asked.

" Because I would much rather be children
like we are, than stars, all alone in the cold sky,
away from every one."

"But they give light, Maia, and every one
sees and worships them, and they are amongst
the gods."

" I would like much better to hear you tell
stories," said ]\Laia, "and play with you, and
sit on my father's knee, than to be amongst
the strange great gods whom we have never

" That is because you are a woman, Maia, and
have no ambition."

Maia sat rebuked, and wondered what ambi-
tion meant.

Then Cleon told her of the wars of the gods
and the Titans— how the rebellious, vanquished
giants lay writhing under the mountains; some-
times, in still nights, people had heard their
groans echoing through the hollow hills, or quiver-
ing mournfully through the trees when no air was
stirring — and on summer noons, when everything


■was qiuet, had felt the ground heave with their
struggles to get free.

" Poor giants ! " sighed the soft-hearted Maia,
" I am so sorry for them, Cleon ; Avill they never
be let out of prison ?"

" I do not know," said Cleon.

" Wliat did they do," asked Maia, " to be so
punished ?"

" They rebeled against the gods, and wanted
to sit upon their thrones ; but the gods were the
stronger, and so they lost the battle."

" Were they very Avicked ?"

" I have heard that they were kind to men,
and that it is for trying to steal some gift from
" heaven for men, that one of them suffers so."

"Oh, Cleon! how could the gods do so!" ex-
claimed Maia, indignantly; "I love the poor
giants ! — can we not help them ?"

Cleon was silent. "There are men too, ]Maip,
that sutler unjustly," he said at length. "My
lather's family was great in Greece when your
people came one day to the city v>-here we lived.
I never heard of them before. "\^"c had done
them no wrons;. I remember that night now,
though I was a very little child. My mother had
just laid me to sleep. My father was resting in
the hall, for he had been hunting, and was tired.
My only sister, who was many years older than
I was, was singing sweet songs to liim — I never
heard any like theni since. A great noise awoke
me — screams, and threats, and cries: I hear them


now. My mother caught me up in her arms, but
rousfh hands seized me and tore me from her. I
was too frightened to see much more ; but I tliink
I heard my fatlier's voice, and saw my mother
bending over him ; I think his hands were bound,
and he was bleeding. And I remember my sister
Alce's look as they dragged her away — I remem-
ber it now, how she kissed me ! She did not cry
nor struggle, but let them quietly bind her hands,
and told me not to be afraid. Then I remember
no more until I came here Avith you."

Maia let her wreath fall, and her bright eyes
filled with tears. She rose and laid her little
coaxing hands in his —

" Cleon, dear Cleon, I am your little sister now."

He took her in his arms, and seated her on the
pedestal against which he was leaning.

" But have you heard of them since, Cleon ?"
she asked.

"Never, Maia."

" And you do not know at all vrhere they arc
— or what is become of them ?"

"Some people say there is a hajipy world for
the good when they die — but I do not know," he
said, gloomily.

" But I do, Cleon," interposed the little girl,
undoubtingly. "Nurse says there are green
fields and flowersrardens where my mother is,
whom I never saw."

" And every one glides about pale and cold and
restless, and talks of what has been, and can not


be brought back again. Oh, do not let us talk
of it, Maia ! It is not home — it is not life — they
can not love, and work, and fight as we do; what
joy can there be for the dead?"

Maia was silent for a moment ; then she said
— " No, do not let us talk of that. Tell me about
the sun-god, and the happy nymphs in the streams
and the woods, and under the sea — and the dear,
kind moon — those are the gods I love, Cleon ;
talk to me of them, and I will finish this crown
and give it to Apollo to-morrow. Perhaps, as a
reward, he will send a wai-m sunbeam down to
your mother iu the fields of the dead."

Cleon smiled incredulously, but he complied
with her request, until Caius Sertorius awoke
and came down to join his darling.

" O father !" she exclaimed, " Cleon has been
telling me such wonderful stories about the gods
and goddesses !"

" It is time Cleon should be doing something
better than telling stories to children," remarked
Sertorius gravely.

Cleon bit his lip, and Maia colored and pleaded
— " But he has been so busy all day at the school
in Alexandria — and the masters, you know, told
you the other day he might be a philosopher if
he liked."

The old Roman had no great respect for school-
masters, and no very clear distinction in his mind
between thinking and dreaming — intellectual la-
bor being to him little better than a kind of busy


idleness, very well for Greeks and slaves, but
totally beneath men who might rise to distinction
in the state.

"There is no philosophy worth having," he
said gruffly, " but the philosophy which Avill
make a man bear pain and meet death bravely ;
and that is soon learnt by a stout heart. Bear
nothing you can avoid, murmur at nothing you
can not — that is a soldier's philosophy. Cleon
must do something better than split hairs with
the Jews and Platonists of Alexandria."

Maia was silenced for the time ; but when her
father sat at his light meal of honey and bread
and fruit that evening, with his little girl beside
him, to amuse him with her prattle, she recurred
to the conversation of the afternoon, and pro-
pounded to him Clcon's theological difficulty
about the relative merits of the quarrel between
the gods and Titans.

The old Roman was no theologian, but he was
a devout believer in his country's gods — or, at
least, a devout believer in the expediency of up-
holding them — and he was proportionately horri-.
fied at the presumption of tlie inquiry.

" The gods of Rome are strong and wise," he
said, " and do what they think right. They are
the friends of the brave ; they help those who
help themselves." Then a pause ensued, after
Avhich Mala was despatched to bed, with an in-
junction to make on offering on the morrow in
the Temple of Jupitier.


But the question she had started hastened the
settlement of Cleon's fate. " Those Greeks can
never he quiet ; they can not even let the gods
alone. If care is not taken, that boy will be
turning Christian, like his sister Alee. But that
shall never be — by all the gods of the Capitol ! —
the lad is too noble for that. He shall go oiF to
the wars in the North to-morrow."

Cleon was summoned, and, in a laconic confe-
rence, told of his destination. The old man gave
the accustomed kiss to his child in her little bed
— for she had no mother ; and at an early hour
the family retired to rest.

• "Maia!" exclaimed Cleon the next morning,
bursting joyfully into the hall, where she sat
spinning her daily task — Xurse Julia having left
her for a few minutes alone — " Maia ! I am to be
a man next March ; I am going off to the army
to-morrow !"

Maia let her distaff fall on her knees, but she
said nothing.

" I am going to the army of the North," he
continued, " where the great Decius commands ;
they say he is the bravest general Rome has^: and
I am going to fight against the barbarians, whom
my i^eople hate as much as yours ; and, Maia, I
will bring you home such presents — bracelets of
gold, and necklaces such as we see the Gothic
captives wear; think of your Avearing my spoils,
dear Maia, when we meet again !"

Maia had resumed her distaff, and k.J been



Avorking with uniisunl diligence whilst he spoke,
but now she hid her face in her liands, and burst
into tears. He tried to comfort her — he talked
of liis great hopes and projects — the glory he
might gain — the trophies he would bring to her;
but ]\Iaia refused to be comforted, and at length
she dashed away her distaff, and ran from the

" What has made my pet cry ?" asked Nurse,
as she sat sobbing passionately on her little bed.

" Cleon, Cleon is <2,oin2: to be a soldier !"' she
murmured, hiding her lace in Nurse's shoulder.
Nurse applied her usual nursery medicines ; — he
would not be killed — he Avould come back on a
beautiful horse — a great lord, Avith sla^'es and
treasures, and she should be a great lady.

" It is not that !" said Maia, indignantly, sud-
denly stopping her tears ; " I do not Avant his
necklaces and bracelets ; I do not care for his
going aAA\'iy — if he only Avould not be so glad
about it !"

" Well, I Avould be glad about it too, if I Averc
you," said Nurse.

Maia thought she Avould try ; and, thiuiks to her
indignant heroism, and a game of plaA', the last
eA'euing Avith Cleon passed meri'ily.

But the next morning, Avhen she stole out alone
into the garden, and found the little ship Cleon
had made for her lying on the steps Avhere lie had
played Avith her, and her doll beside it, she felt
as if tho doll Avas tlio only friend she had left in


the world, and hugged it, and began to cry bit-
terly. Her flither found her there, and taking
her on his knee —

" Now, be a brave little Roman maiden," he
said : " the little girls of old Rome used to cheer
their brothers, and sing them war-songs when
they went to join the armies."

Maia felt rather angry Avith the little girls of
ancient Rome, and the sobs did not stop. Then
Sertorins spoke of the glory and greatness Cleon
was to achieve. The sobs only came f ister. The
old soldier was puzzled sorely what line of con-
solation to adoi)t. At length he said : " And you
shall make crowns of llowers and garlands, and
offer thetn to the gods for Cleon's safe return."

" Will that help Clcon ?" she asked.

" The old Romans did it," said the Stoic, eva-
sively, for his faith in the hearing of the gods
was not very strong.

"Then I will do it," said Maia, drying her
tears. And between tlie idea of being like an
old Roman matron, and the thought of helping
Cleon with the gods, and the lact of Cleon him-
self being rather cast down when the time of
parting came, the child contrived to take leave
of her old playfellow, in a way that might not
altogether have disgraced a playfellow of Brutus.



Had all the to-morrows which were to intervene
before they met again risen before Maia as she
parted from her phiyfellow, lier phiUosophy would
have sunk beneath the burden ; but happily, life
only presents us with a series of to-days; and to
Maia, with her healthy household occupations
and her happy household cares, the days tripped
lightly on, making music as they went ; each, as
it passed, opening for her some fresh flower.

So she sat in the shade of her quiet home,
ministering to her father and her household, and
looked out thence into the boundless, unknown
woi-ld, and listened and learned, pondering many
things in her heart — and grew silently into wom-

With Cleon, the training and the result had
been different. The world, which Avas such an
imexplored territory to Maia, had been his home
and his teacher. Northern climates, and the
rough discipline of the camp, had moulded his
frame to manly strength ; the battles, and toils,
and tumults, and sudden dangers, and perplexing
hazards of continued warfare, had braced his will


and nerved his mind to master them. Placed in
a sphere where command involved peril and re-
quired talent, his clear foresight and ready self-
possession had early earned for him the toils and
glories of military rank.

At length, however, a pause in the war set him
at liberty to return to Alexandria.

What the history of his soul had been mean-
while, the following fragments may show : —


I am once more in my old childish home ! I
write in the portico where old Caius Sertorius
used to rest in the summer evenings. Before me
is the garden where IMaia and I used to play to-

The trees are grown — Maia must he grown.
I am changed. I seem to have lived ages since
then. I wonder if she has changed as much ! She
will return from Italy in a month.

How strange it is to come back to old places,
and find nature still treading the same quiet round
as Avhen we left, still bringing back her old round
of seasons and liowers, and days and stars — and
never jretting tired of them — ever the same, and
ever new ; whilst we have passed through seasons
which never return; — we always advancing — she
always revolving; and yet we, vv'ith all our pro-
gress, never getting beyond her unvarying circle.
She is very great.

Is she, then, the mirror of the Infinite, or only


the veil hemming in our spirits from the Infinite
beyond ? What Infinite beyond ? If a veil — if
this outward world, and this mortal life, be but
a veil— are they a glittering ice-crust thrown in
pity over the abyss of darkness, or a shroud of
light hiding from us the eternal day of the stars
and the heavens ?

From us 1 And what are we ? Stars in the
night of eternity, or bubbles on tlie sea of time !
Are tfe, or is nature, nearest the Supreme ?

These guessing, doubting, trembling, daring
spirits of ours — we, who embrace the universe
like gods, and perish in the dust like beasts — we,
whose thoughts soar to infinity, and whose hands
can not make a flower ! — we, who can kill thou-
sands.of our fellow-men, yet can not restore a dead
insect to life — xdiat are xoe ? We are not the source
of life — it is elsewhere. Where ? In nature ? Life
is teeming, overflowing, flooding around us every-
where ; myriads of new living beings are born
every day ; where, then, is the spring of all this
life which flows around us everywhere, and which
we can nowhere touch '? to find it, and bathe
in it ! But what is life ? — what is death ? Are
they not forms of tlie same idea — phases of the
same existence — the clothincj and unclotlfing of
God? Life, death, sorrow, joy, love, pain, — are
they, then, all shows and phantoms, dreams of a
summer day or a winter night ? Are we ourselves
drops fallen at random from " the abyss of life,"

destined, after filtering a while through this lower


earth, one day to be absorbed into it again ? If
this be so, then why thus fall ? Is evei*ything thus
without aim and without meaning — a mere chaos
of confusion ? And what is the difference between
this chaos and the abyss of life ? I, loving, strug-
gling, fearing, hoping, shcdl die! and all my strug-
gles, love, joy, fear, and hope, die with me — then
I perish too : for what am I apart from them ?
Where is the distinction between being nothing,
and a fragment of something not myself? What
is such immortality better than annihilation ?

And ^•irtue, crime, the conflicts and victories
of noble hearts, the crimes of base natures, the
failures of weak ones — have they all no end, no
meaning? are they all the transitory phases of
some fragment of the Godhead ? The Godhead
subject to suffering and crime! how can tHis be?
— how can weakness flow from strength, and
death from life ?

Are there, then, as they say in the East, two
sources of being ? — two forces at work in the uni-
verse — good and evil ? If so, which is the stron-
ger ?

And if there are two sources, there must be
two ends. To which does nature belong? — to
which do v»'e tend ? Is this earth, and are our
hearts, the battle-field of the evil and the good ?
Are we, like nature, a mere battle-field — or ai'e
we ourselves combatants ? If so, we must take
our part in the conflict, in which there may bo
triumpli or defeat. Of the two ends, and the two


powers, we may choose one. But what is our
armor — what our plan of Avar ?

The Stoics say, " Renounce !" Renounce what?
— Joy, nature, all the heart delights in ! What is
that but death before the time ?

O for Vvj-ht ! O for some one whom to ask for
light ? I have sought school after school of phi-
losophy, but none of them can satisfy. Some say
the desire of satisfaction is childish ciuiosity, in:i-
patience, crime ; that the end of life is to endure.
I could endure much for an end ; but to live to
endure, and endure to live ! — is there no answer
to the soul's question but this ? — no employment
for all tlie quick and restless foculties of body

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Online LibraryElizabeth Rundle CharlesTales and sketches of Christian life in different lands and ages → online text (page 1 of 19)