Ellen Pickering.

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V. I

Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2009 with funding from

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign





r>jrset Street, Fleet Street.











It was a dull November afternoon. The
mist hung heavily on the distant hills and
above the intervening hollows. The sun, sink-
ing in the west, lent no glory to the closing
day, but seemed creeping to its rest in gloom
and heaviness, as if ashamed that its might
had not dispelled the fog — that its noon-day
splendour had been obscured. No wonder
that it hid its face I the vanquished do not
^like to be looked on ! and there cannot be even
^the semblance of glory in being conquered
. ^by a fog. The present defeat resembled genius
^overthrown by stupidity! — borne down by
•» the mere dull, animal weic^ht of wealth ! No
^wonder that the sun crept to its rest with a

•V VOL. I. B



Stealthy step and a shrouded face ! If it could
not conquer in the heyday of its might, its
only wisdom was to retire as speedily and
quietly as the laws of nature would admit.
That noxious vapours should have the power
to darken brightness ! It is sad, but very
true. Only Chinese pictures have no shade ;
and though they may be " selon lafantaisie^''
— that is, Chinese '' fantaisie^^'' — they are cer-
tainly not " selon la nature^'' — that is, English

Not that those who discriminate the weather
closely, and affect accuracy in the description
of its various varieties, would have pronounced
it to be a fog : they would only have declared
it to be a misty day, leaving it to the less
cautious or more impatient to add, dull, heavy,
chilling, and unbearable.

Dull, heavy, chilling, it certainly was, though
not unbearable ; such things have been borne
before — must be borne again; but, to my
judgment, (and I rather pique myself on its
correctness — who does not ?) it was more dull,
more heavy, more chilling, than would have


been a dense, unsightless fog. There is some-
thing partaking of the sublime in a real, in-
disputable fog. When nothing can be seen,
all things may be imagined : beauties and de-
fects — the grandeur of nature, the littleness of
art — the striking outlines of the uncultivated
mountain, the petty details of this work-a-day
world, are all hidden from our view ; the blind
and the seeing, the observing and the heed-
less, are brought nearly on a level : none
can distinguish more than ten yards in ad-
vance, and man sees (pardon the Irishism)
how narrow and bounded are his views. It
seems as though his mortal course was run,
and he had gained nothing by his toil and
trouble. He looks back : all is objectless, ob-
scure ; there is no vestige of his labours gleam-
ing through the mist — his very steps un-
traced upon the earth. The monument erect-
ed to his sorrows, and the triumphal arch to
his glories, are alike lost in the gloom. His
joys and his griefs have left no trace : he has
felt — he has laughed — he has mourned : per-
haps he had wealth — had genius — had do-

B 2


minion — and deemed himself a glorious being !
Where are the trophies of his glory ? They
are hidden from his view; his gaze cannot
pierce the gloom : there are no visible proofs
of his triumphs ; they are as nothing in the
eyes of others — even his own eye cannot mark
them. He learns a juster estimate of himself —
he forms a truer judgment of his deeds. —
He looks before : how bounded is his view !
He cannot pierce the gloom — he cannot see
into the future — he trembles at its unseen
perils. Woe to him who would trace its
obscurity without a safer guide than man's
unaided reason !

The history of his own past is traced on me-
mory's roll — the characters cannot be obliterat-
ed ; but the tale is lost to others — unknown to
multitudes, as the past history of those count-
less crowds is lost — unknown to him. The
grosser part of his nature receives a shock to
its pride, and he better understands his worth
in the universe — his comparative relation to
the Unseen and Infinite. Yet the veil of the


past shall be withdrawn — the deeds of each
stand clearly forth — man's most secret thoughts
be bared to the gaze of the countless hosts
marshalled before the eternal throne for
judgment ; he shall hear his doom, whilst ap-
plauding crowds proclaim the sentence just,
— the righteous award of One who has said
he will judge man by his acts, whether
they be good or whether they be evil, and
who has promised that none shall be lost but
those who will not come to him. The evil
of the hereafter rests justly on man's own head.
Let us think of this in the early dawn — at the
sunset hour — in the noon-day glow and the
midnight gloom — in joy and sorrow — in sick-
ness and in health — in low estate, and in lofty

The veil of the future, too, will be with-
drawn, though mortal eye cannot pierce it
now. Those splendours too dazzling for our
gaze, too glorious for our comprehension, will
then be revealed, — the mysteries of our hea-
venly Father's love be then made plain ; and


they who have, even here, seen something of
its beauty and its power, through faith and
hope, will then rejoice and adore.

Was ever fog so moralised upon before ? —
we imagine not. This is an age of wonders : the
dull may see nothing in a fog but a fog (for
the race of non-seers is numerous) ; the antici-
pative and impatient, only a very disagreeable
check to some pleasurable excursion. Now,
a fog is frequently disappointing, rarely agree-
able ; yet do we maintain that a real, sight-
less, bona fide fog — such as may be seen, per-
haps, once in a winter, (once is quite often
enough,) has some touch of the sublime.

But, we repeat, it was not a fog this sixth
day of November 111-. The murky sky,
the heavy mist, hanging about on hill and
valley, hinted that it might have been a fog
in the morning — that it might be a fog again
at night; but a fog — that is, a sublime fog—
at that moment it certainly was not. Objects
could be distinguished near, and even in the
distance, though not clearly : it was neither all
gloom nor all shine ; in fact, it had no affinity


with the latter ; and to say that it was neither
wet nor dark, was the utmost the most court-
eous could report in its. favour. If one was
neither afraid of being drenched nor benighted,
at least there was no beauty, no variety of
colouring, no changing and striking lights to
awaken admiration. There was no break in
the heavens — no lights on the earth ; the forms
that were visible were indistinct — traced, as
it seemed, with the timid and confused touch
of a beginner.

Had a landscape-painter (unable to depict
the human form) wished to image stupidity
and weariness in a representation of soulless
nature, here was the model to his hand. You
could not even hope that a ray from genius
might enlighten the uniform dulness : — you
might believe it had tried, and failed. The
heaviness seemed determined : there was no
room for speculation on the subject ; there it
was, and the conviction was forced upon you
that there it would be : — you might almost ima-
gine it eternal. Nature seemed out of humour,
— not in a rage, (that partakes of the sublime,)


— not even petulant, (that promises change,)
— but sullen.

The thermometer would not have justified a
very violent declamation against the cold, or a
smothering quantity of furs ; but the heart felt
it was cold, — very cold, — chilling, benumbing ;
not so absolutely freezing as to command a bold
effort to bear it, — that would have caused a
little excitement, (petty vexations, winning little
glory for their well-bearing, are rarely well
borne ;) but the air seemed chilling, paralyzing
the fancy with its torpid touch, painting the
future in gloom to the mental eye as the sur-
rounding landscape was already painted to the
bodily : in short, it was one of those days on
which one feels wretched — wretched without a
hope of relief, — without the power to avert the
doom, or lighten its cruelty. The best remedy
for such a tyranny is to sleep, if you can ; — at
least so seemed to think one of the occupants
of the travelling-chaise winding slowly up a
dreary hill in a thinly-inhabited part of an
inland county. Snugged up in one corner,
his hat laid aside that his head might rest


more comfortably against the cushioned back,
his fair, handsome, open countenance, occasion-
ally twitched into slight contortions with the
vagaries of sleep, and entirely heedless of his
young companion, cuddled up in the other
corner, reclined Phihp Conyers, called by the
villagers "The Squire;" by his friends, (enemies
he had none, or so he thought,) " Honest Phil
Conyers,'' — the kindest hearted and the most
hospitable host, the hardest drinker, the most
daring rider, the most generous and unsuspicious
of men, though withal a little quick at times: but
then the breeze was over on the instant, and
the bosom as unrufl3ed as before.

It was the very last sort of day to choose for
returning home, — all looking so dull and heavy
might induce a fancy of not being welcome;
but Philip Conyers had no fancy, and paid
little heed to the gloom : it had only made hira
sleepy. Not so his gentle companion : she
had seen little notable in reality, — her years
had been few. Life might be said to her to be
all fancy, and she felt as if sh^ were unwel-
come : unsympathised with, she undoubtedly

B 5


was. She bent forward, looked on the hand-
some and prepossessing features of the sleeper,
so indicative of his frank and generous temper,
then with a sigh shrank more closely into the
corner, and forgot the present whilst dwelling
on the past.

" Tally ho ! hark forward !" shouted the
squire, with a view-holla that must have awa-
kened the seven sleepers of the Eastern tale,
(if anything could,) starting from his uneasy
slumber, and dashing down the side glass to
look out, regardless of the cold raw air, or the
alarm and surprise of his timid daughter.

Ear and eye were exercised in vain ; he
heard only the creaking of the wheels as the
carriage was slowly dragged up the weary-
ing hill, — saw only the difficult ascent before

" Did not you hear the hounds, Mabel .?" he
inquired, turning to his gentle child, who had
not recovered from the effects of his sudden
burst and startling holla.

" No, sir," replied Mabel in a voice tremul-
ous from emotion.


Her father looked at her for an instant, and
out again on the dull hill ; then pulling up the
glass as hastily as he had dashed it down, mut-
tered something of his having dreamt, for it
was no hunting day, — adding, as some sort of
apology for his slumber, that he felt heavy,
not being used to a carriage, striving at the
same time to keep his eyes open, in which with
great difficulty he succeeded. His companion
made no reply, his words requiring none, and
there was silence till they gained the summit of
the hill. Here the squire again put down the
glass, but, with a more gentle action, again
thrust his head from the window, directing her
attention to some distant object, his counte-
nance brightening with the prospect of a speedy
deliverance from the confinement of the car-
riage, as well as with the kindly idea that he
could entertain his fellow-traveller.

" You say you forget your home, Mabel, —
there it stands in the distance ; and well does
the old grange look too, with its gable ends
and its tall chimneys. — Not there, child, — this
side. Can't you see ? Why you really have


forgotten your home !" he added impatiently,
as, forgetting that his outstretched head pre-
vented all view from one window, he marvelled
at his daughter's stupidity in looking from
the other.

She could not deny the charge of having
forgotten the situation of the Grange, or rather
of not knowing it, (she had not been there
since her third year;) but, without offering any
defence, she turned her gaze in the direction to
which he pointed. Unhappily her eyes were
dimmed with weeping, or she was not naturally
far-sighted, or her father, knowing the direction
in which the Grange was situated, fancied he
saw what might be, rather than what really was

" I believe the girl does not see it now," he
continued, more impatiently, on MabeFs making
no remark on the beauty of the Grange, as he
had expected, though she continued to look in
the right direction.

No wonder he was a little provoked. People
who will not see what they ought to see are the
most annoying of travelling- companions : the


iron cage would be too light a doom for their

" Do you see it, Mabel ?"

*' I think I see something in the distance,"
replied his daughter hesitatingly ; for Mabel
was the most sincere of human beings, and
would not even in the matter of sight-seeing
be guilty of a falsehood.

" Think you see something in the distance !
So do I, — two crows on a fallow field, and an
idiot boy driving a donkey. Have you quite
forgotten your home, Mabel Conyers ? My poor
sister should have taught you better. I never
forgot her at Christmas."

" I left it so very young, sir, — so long since.
My poor aunt ever taught me to love you and
the Grange."

" Ay, ay ; I forgot you were but a baby then,
and a sickly one too. I dare say, poor Eliza
did all that was right," replied her father kindly,
shamed from his impatience by her tremulous
tones, and eager to check the falling tears. " I
am quick of temper : never heed my impatience,
but dry your eyes. My sister was as kind a


creature as ever lived : she was too good for
this world, and she is gone to a better ; but
you have a fond father still left ! — Come, cheer
up, and I will show you the Grange, and every-
thing else worth seeing," drawing her towards
him and kissing her pale cheek as he spoke.

Mabel did try to cheer up and seem grateful
for his intended kindness, though that kindness
(the rude touching of a recent wound) pained
more than it soothed ; whilst she looked with a
shudder at the deeply-rutted and miry road,
and the dreary landscape round — forming so
great a contrast to the level ways and smiling
scenery encircling the abode she had so lately
quitted. By dint of pointing out a hill to the
left, a clump to the right, and directing the eye
exactly as the finger pointed over some in-
tervening objects, Mr. Conyers succeeded in
making his child at least believe that she saw
the Grange ; and her assurance of the fact
pleased and satisfied him. This accomplished,
his next task was to warn her against impa-
tience, as they were yet some miles distant
and the road was tedious. There was nothing


worth seeing at present, but he would point
out the village as soon as it came in sight.

Another glance at the execrable road, and some
unmannerly jolts as they descended the hill and
crept slowly round its base in the valley below,
proved the wisdora of his warning against im-
patience. After thanking him for his promise,
the daughter and her father again sank into
their respective corners and their former silence.
The one thought of the inspiring chase, the
sagacious hound, the swift hunter, and the
gay carouse; the other thought of the warm
heart, now cold, who had been as a mother
to her — the small but fairy-like abode she had
quitted, the one parent whom she had never
known, and the other whom, from long absence
and a contrast in every taste, she respected
rather than loved, and, notwithstanding all his
kindness, feared. The thoughts of the one were
cheering ; the thoughts of the other, saddening.

Mrs. Conyers (the most timid and gentle of
beings), long drooping, had died soon after the
birth of Mabel, who was supposed to inherit
the delicate constitution of her mother. What


could Mr. Conyers do with a sickly female
infant ? With the kindest of hearts, he was
certainly not the best qualified in the world to
rear a delicate child or form female manners,
and readily did he consent to his dying wife's
request of consigning Mabel to the charge of
his only sister, a maiden lady but one year
younger than himself — the only old maid, as he
declared, whom he could ever endure ; and he
almost considered her as a widow. Faithfully
had the aunt fulfilled the charge she had un-
dertaken, and justly did her pupil value her
love and care.

If her ideas were tinged with what the world
of that day and of this w^ould call romance ; — if
she still dreamt of gallant gentlemen and peer-
less dames, after the multitude had awakened
from the delusion ; if she still thought that
love, as they tell in the olden time, might live
unchanged, unchilled, through a long, long
life, amid the deprivations of poverty and the
luxuries of prosperity ; — still the same, or but
more pure, more holy, though the storm or the
pestilence swept the loved one from the earth ; —


surely the coldest, the most reasonable, will
pardon her when the tale of her early life shall
be told — the most ultra utilitarian will check
his sneer.

Few were more loved and lovely — more
courted and admired, or more worthy of all
this, than Elizabeth Conyers. The love sought
by many was early bestowed on one, and the
hand was promised where the heart had long
been given. Who might not have envied Eli-
zabeth Conyers at the age of twenty ! There
was no earthly blessing that was not hers in
possession, or in promise ! With birth, for-
tune, beauty, gentleness, and firmness joined ;
esteemed by all ; loving and beloved by one ;
who should think of dangers in her onward
path ? — who should predict of sorrow to her
future life? The bridal week was come; — two
more days, and the gentle Elizabeth would
plight her faith at the altar.

" Two more days, and you will be mine, —
wholly mine ! — mine only !" whispered the lover
to the blushing girl as he bade her farewell,
mounting his horse that had long been ready


to convey him to the nearest town for the pur-
pose of effecting some last arrangement.

The lover rode forth in the morning, rich in
every blessing, buoyant with health, exulting
in his high hopes, rejoicing in the love, the vir-
tues, and the beauty of his intended bride. Life,
hope, delight, in every look and movement,
each so vivid — what should check them ? Ere
night came, the active limbs were still — the
lightsome laugh was hushed — the happy smile
departed ! The bounding heart no longer
beat — the rounded cheek no longer glowed —
he lay on his bier cold, silent, pale ! He had
passed from life in the power of his youth and
beauty ! He had not faded by a slow decay —
the destroyer had touched him, and he had
fallen ! In the morning he had been full of
life ; — before evening came, he was the prey of
death ! He had been thrown from his horse,
and so seriously injured that within three
hours he was a corpse ! The hand of his Eli-
zabeth was held in his dying grasp ! — his only
articulate words were a hope of their future
reunion !


It was long before Miss Conyers recovered
from the shock ; — some thought she never did.
The gaiety of youth was gone for ever ; but a
gentle, holy sweetness had succeeded, a thou-
sand times more touching. She did not with-
draw from society, but entered rarely into its
gayer scenes. She was kind and gentle to all ;
but none again proffered hand and heart,
though some would gladly have done so, had
not her manner fully proved that her love still
lingered with the dead.

There was much in the character of Mrs.
Conyers and the circumstances attending her
marriage to engage the love and sympathy of
her gentle sister-in-law, who soothed the dying
mother, and loved the child, first for that mo-
ther'*s sake, but soon more for its own. Miss
Conyers took the little Mabel to her own quiet
and tasteful home, situated in a more polished
and beautiful county, lavishing on her the
care and fondness of her warm and noble heart.
She fancied a slight resemblance in the fair
child to her lost lover, to whom her mother was
very distantly related, and thus transferred to


her some portion of the affection which had
been bestowed on him.

For the two succeeding years she took the
little Mabel to her father ; and then, as if by
mutual consent, and to their mutual relief,
these annual visits were relinquished, though
brother and sister continued to assign plausible
reasons for the discontinuance ; and the former
frequently talked of running down to Ivy Cot-
tage when the hay was in, or the harvest done,
or the hunting over, or something else con-
cluded, which was always succeeded by some-
thing else to be completed, before he could
leave home. Though really attached, (an at-
tachment ever proved in essentials,) the tastes,
the habits, the ideas of the brother and sister
were so totally opposed, that each felt restraint
in the presence of the other. The ill-ordered
house of the widower — his jovial companions-r-
his kind, but rather rough and noisy manners,
little suited the gentle and retiring Elizabeth,
her natural gaiety sobered by early suffering,
her health never completely restored, her spirit
sublimed by her still cherished love for one lost
to her upon earth.


Philip Conjers was kind-hearted, generous,
and hospitable, incapable of a mean or disho-
nourable action, — a good specimen of the coun-
try squire of that day. He was an easy land-
lord and master, harsh only to poachers and
vagrants, always ready to assist the unfortu-
nate when it did not interfere with hunting,
shooting, or his more than due abhorrence of
foreign habits and innovations ; a bold rider,
a hearty eater, and a hard drinker, according
to the fashion of the times. Never was a more
stanch supporter of old customs. He always
voted for the blue member, because his family
had done so before him. To crown all, he was
a great cheerer at the toast of Church and
State, without clearly understanding its mean-
ing, and, unhappily, without thinking of, far
less practising, the duties required from a
member of that church he valued and toasted,
not for its beautiful liturgy or its apostolic doc-
trine, but because it had been the religion of
his fathers, was that of his neighbours and con-
nexions, and that he had been brought up in
its outward ordinances, and entertained some


confused idea that its downfall would be con-
nected with some temporal loss to himself, —
perhaps a deprivation of hunting, or a scarcity
of wine. To go to the village church, when
not very inconvenient, and make his servants
do the same, — to have mince pies at Christ-
mas, salt fish on Good Friday, pay his tithes
with only a low grumble, or a joke on the
parson, who was rarely seen in the parish
but on Sunday, — was sufficient, in his estima-
tion, to mark him as a worthy member of the

It was sad to think that one with so much na-
tural kindness of disposition should have passed
the age of fifty with scarcely a care for his eter-
nal welfare, assenting to the necessity of faith
in a Saviour as a mere dogma, instead of feel-
ing the immensity of that Saviour's love and
striving to acquire an interest in his sacrifice.
If an idea that he must render an account of
the talents committed to his charge ever came
across him, it was speedily dismissed as un-
pleasant — he never dwelt on unpleasant things.
He defrauded none, he employed and gave to


many. What more could be required ? Of
the corruption of the human heart — of the ne-
cessity of self-denial — of acts being judged by
their principles, whether proceeding from the
love of God, or the desire of the applause of
men, or the mere ridding oneself of importu-
nity and the sight of pain, he knew nothing —
he never inquired.

The constant companion of her aunt, Mabel
had imbibed most of her opinions, and strongly

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