Mary Martha Sherwood.

Brotherly Love Shewing That as Merely Human It May Not Always Be Depended Upon online

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or of his brother's self-conceit. Sobbing and roaring he was carried or
dragged up stairs, undressed, and put to bed, where the extreme violence
of his grief proved its own relief, for he fell asleep with the tear in
his eye, and long long after the cause of sorrow was forgotten, his sobs
might be heard proclaiming that the effect even now had not passed away.
By and bye, however, the calm of sleep restored him more to himself
again, and before the motherly woman who had taken pity on him left the
chamber, he was sleeping the refreshing sleep of childhood.

As the young people had gone to bed so late the evening before, for it
was quite twelve o'clock, and the next day was also to be a day of
indulgence, it was nearly half-past eight before Marten awoke, and what
with one thing and another it was quite nine before he had an
opportunity of asking any one after Reuben, or indeed of discovering
that no one knew anything of the little one farther than that he had
awoke at his usual hour, seven o'clock; that the kind woman who had
attended him the night before had helped to wash and dress him, and
having told him to be quiet, lest he should awake the children asleep in
his bed room, she left him as she thought safe in the young ladies'
sitting room, to amuse himself as best he might. Two hours nearly had
passed since then, and no further information could be obtained of the
little boy; but he was gone, that was certain for he was nowhere to be
found in any part of Mr. Jameson's large house. It so happened that
breakfast had commenced, and Marten and some of the bigger boys had
nearly finished the meal before all the young ladies came down, and as
Mary Roscoe chanced to be late, for this good natured girl had been
helping others as usual, Marten did not discover the absence of his
brother till she entered the room and seated herself at the table. Then
he stepped round to her and asked if Reuben would soon be down. "Oh!
dear little fellow," exclaimed Mary, starting up, "He did not sleep in
my room, so I know nothing about him; but now I will run to find him to
bring him to breakfast. I dare say he has overslept himself, or I should
have heard of him before now."

"If you are speaking of the little boy who cried so bitterly at
blindman's buff, Mary," said a Miss Lomax, "he was put to sleep in a
little bed by himself in our room. Maria and myself noticed how soundly
he slept through all the noise we made when we went to our rooms, but
when we got up this morning the little fellow was gone, and we wondered
who had drest him and taken him away so quietly as not to disturb us."

"Oh! then I'll find him in a minute," said Mary, "if he has been drest
so long he must be sadly in want of his breakfast, poor little darling,"
and Mary was half way up stairs before she had finished her speech.

And now how shall I describe what a fearful state the whole house was in
before ten minutes more had passed away: the child was lost, the fearful
question of where and how he might be found was on everybody's lips.
Poor Marten, it was dreadful to see his terror and grief, and Mary, oh!
how negligent Mary felt herself, for had she not assisted greatly to his
loss by taking him from his brother, and had she not promised that
brother the evening before to see him in his bed and look after him,
which she had forgotten to do. Jenkins, too, the motherly female who had
so kindly attended the little one the night before, how did she blame
herself for not taking the child with her after she had dressed him,
when she was obliged to go to her work, which was much increased that
morning by the state in which the young people had left the room, the
scene of the last night's revels.

And here I would make a remark, which I must beg no one to reject,
without well weighing the idea. The most amiable females of the party
assembled at Mrs. Jameson's, Mary Roscoe and Jenkins, who had put
themselves most out of their way, and had really acted the kindest by
the child, were those who felt the most in the affair, and most blamed
themselves for their own conduct, whereas if all had tried their best,
as they did, the little fellow would have ever had some kind heart
beside him to soothe and comfort him, and some one might have
anticipated his uneasiness at finding himself alone amongst strangers.
Anyhow they would not have been as strangers to him, for he afterwards
acknowledged, on being questioned, that had Miss Mary been sleeping in
the room, he should not have done as he did. But now to my remark, those
who strive to do best have the most tender consciences, and the more one
strives after right the more scrupulous and tender does the conscience
become, and the more does it aspire after noble feelings and honourable
thoughts and actions. This is a work of the Divine Spirit and of no
mortal power, and it is a training for glory, purifying our hearts for a
divine home, obtained for us through our Saviour's death and
righteousness, and in familiar language we will liken it after this
manner. Supposing two children stand side by side in the open street,
one is the child of a king, nicely drest and delicately clean, as would
be expected from his noble birth and expectation, the other is the
little hedge-side vagrant, to whose young face water or cleansing has
probably been unknown. Imagine, then, ought passing these two children,
which could pollute their persons, what would be their feelings? the one
might even laugh at the filth or mud that bespattered him, the other
would shrink with loathing or disgust, and would not be easy or
comfortable till every effort was taken to remove the stain. And we are
children of the King of kings, we are washed and clothed by Him, and
the more our garments are fitted for our future station, the fairer are
our inward persons; the more do we feel annoyed and grieved by any foul
spot, which could sully their purity and disfigure their beauty. My
young readers remember this, and smile no more at sin; aye, and shun
carefully its stains that would pollute you, and when they do alight
upon you, remember whose blood alone it is can purge away their
slightest trace.

Poor Mary had no breakfast that morning, nor no comfort nor rest either,
for after searching for the child all over the house, she must needs
look for him in the gardens, the pleasure grounds, the lawn, behind each
tree and shrub, and even in the stables and offices, but no Reuben was
to be met with, and the dear little girl, when wearied out with
searching sat down to weep and lament herself, starting up occasionally
when some fresh place came to her mind, and running to it, but to meet
with disappointment and increased alarm. But Mary was not alone in the
search, for both Mr. and Mrs. Jameson were full of anxiety respecting
the child, and trusty men were sent in all directions to look after the
lost one; and when Mr. Jameson spoke to his lady on the imprudence of
having invited so young a child, she replied, that having given
permission to their son to ask a certain number of young people, she had
not attended to him when he named the bidden guests, taking it for
granted that a boy of thirteen would prefer companions of his own size
to a child of Reuben's tender age. And now it came out from Edward how
Marten had refused to come without his brother, and that Mr. and Mrs.
Mortimer were from home, and this, as might be expected, added not a
little to the distress of Mr. and Mrs. Jameson, for hitherto they had
thought the child had visited them with the permission of his parents,
and now that they heard that those parents were at Portsmouth, they were
more and more uneasy, and they blamed themselves not a little for having
been so indulgent in their direction to Edward. "But, indeed," said Mrs.
Jameson, "one could not have foreseen these circumstances, and when I
saw little Reuben seated by Mary at the dinner table, though I wondered
at his presence, yet he seemed so happy I believed all was right with
him." But the lesson was not lost upon Mr. and Mrs. Jameson, nor on
Edward, and I am happy to say, in future the latter was more ready to
ask advice of his parents than before this affair, for he too was very
uneasy about Reuben. As to Marten, without thinking of his hat, on
learning that the child could not be found in the house nor in the
pleasure grounds, he told one of the men who was sent with him by Mr.
Jameson, that he should go home as fast as he could to see if his
brother might not have made his way there, or at least be met with upon
the road. The distance from one house to the other was, as I said
before, four miles, and though poor Marten had little expectation that
the tender child could find his way so far, even if he knew the right
road, yet he understood the little one so well, that he felt convinced
he would at least attempt to get to his home, so that he considered it
useless to look for him in any other direction. And now we must leave
the unhappy and alarmed brother to speak of little Reuben, who was left,
as we mentioned, by Jenkins in the sitting-room with a few toys near
him. Never had Reuben been so left to himself before, but still for a
short time, though it was for a very short time he was content, then
came a wish for his breakfast, and with it the remembrance that if his
mamma had been with him he would even then be in her dressing-room. She
would be listening to his prattle, or he would be occupied in doing
something for her which he considered was useful, but which in reality
she could herself have done with half the time that she was obliged to
give to her baby boy. The thoughts of his mamma made the forlorn one
cry, and call upon her name, but no one heard his sobs or saw his tears,
and with it came a recollection of the sorrows of yesterday, and he
suddenly thought "Where is Marten? Where can Marten be? Is he gone? Has
he left Reuben?" The idea was not to be borne by the poor child in a
state of quietness, he rose from his seat, dropped his toys from his
lap, and without looking back he went to the door, which being ajar he
opened wider and passed through into the gallery. His friends, he
believed, had left him; they were at home. His mamma, too, he thought,
might be there with his papa and Marten, and, anyhow, he was sure Nurse
was there, Nurse who loved him so, and whom he loved so dearly. So down
the stairs stepped the sorrowing baby, holding the banisters with both
small hands, for it was necessary for him in descending the steps to
have both feet at one time on each, and noiselessly almost did he
proceed, for his fairy tread made no sound, and his sobs were tried to
be suppressed, in the earnest determination to attempt to find his way
to his home. And now he reached the last step, and lightly did he run
across the hall to the great door, which was open, and with some
difficulty, for there were more steps; he arrived at the carriage drive
between the house and lawn, whereon he had seen the lamb the day
before.

And now would I could picture the little one, as he stood in his short
red frock, blown by the breeze which showed his dimpled knee, for his
white sock did not extend much above his shoe. His arms, neck, and head
were without covering, and his pretty curls played around his face in
graceful confusion. Calling on his mamma and upon Marten, he took the
carriage drive towards the gates, so far not having a doubt he was in
the direction of his home, and unseen by any one, he passed through a
small gate into the high road. Here he might have been puzzled which way
to take, if it had not been for a clump of eight elm trees on the left
hand road, and he had often heard John and Marten talk of those elm
trees, for they were called the "Nine Elms," and yet Marten had said
there were only eight now, and whenever he had gone to Mr. Jameson's
with his papa and mamma, and John who drove them, John had kept the
carriage waiting under the elms, and he used to put Reuben out of the
carriage amidst the trees, to run in and out amongst them, touching one
after the other, whilst John taught him to count them, saying one, two,
three, four, and so on. So Reuben knew he must pass the elm trees, and
as he was just awake, and the morning fresh and pleasant, his small feet
carried him along some way nicely, and even swiftly, and for a few
minutes, they were not many, all seemed promising, and the inexperienced
one believed he should soon be at his home. After the clump of trees,
the baby so confidently considered he was in the right way, that when he
came to a place where two roads joined the one up which he had ran, he
never looked about him, fancying they must both go to his home, and not
yet being weary, he took, as might be feared, the wrong turn, and soon
he heard distinctly the roaring of a cascade, much famed in those parts,
as it dashed over the rocks in the direction in which he was going Now
Reuben knew the sound of the cascade, for he had lived near it all his
young life, and he knew it was not far from his home; but he did not
consider that he never passed it on his way from his father's house to
Mr. Jameson's, but still, not mistrusting the road he was going, he ran
along till he suddenly found by a turn of the lane, that he was in full
front of the stream. The child however was not disconcerted by this, and
the fresh air meeting him, and for the moment raising his spirits, he
stepped on over the loose stones brought down at different times by the
waters, boldly, and even gaily, though his course was impeded by the
unevenness of the way. He must have stepped on some distance, when all
of a sudden he was unable to proceed farther along the path, by the
jutting out of a rock into the stream, for the water was pouring down
rapidly and more profusely than was general, for there had been heavy
rains in the mountains, and thus the bed of the torrent was fully
covered, its width being very inconsiderable beneath the rock. The spot
was one wholly unknown to the child, and surely it was a terrible sight
to meet the eye of a babe, who hitherto had not known what it was to be
left without a mother's or nurse's care. The place was in the heart of a
mountain gorge, famed for its rare beauty, and the cascade came dashing
from the rocks, which were very bold and picturesque in the little creek
or gully where the child stood. The water, as I said, was pouring down
white with foam, and majestically pursuing its course, shaking the
earth around with its terrible roarings.

Fancy our little forlorn one then standing under the shelter of the
rock, which, hanging over him in rough masses, threatened to fall an
crush his baby form, the stream rushing impetuously at his feet, and one
little place beneath the rock, in fact part of the rock itself being
somewhat elevated from the bed of the stream below, forming his only
secure and dry resting place. I have said before, he had no covering on
fit for walking attire, his arms, neck, and head being fully exposed to
the breezes which now blew cruelly on his young figure, so that he could
scarcely keep his feet, and glad was he to creep under the shelter of
the threatening rock. There he stood looking around him in wild despair,
for he had raised his voice to cry for pity, and its infant tones were
not heard amidst the roaring waters; again and again he looked round
him, but no help was there, and he trembled more from fear than cold. He
was frightened at the roaring waters, for they seemed to him to be
approaching, and wholly overcome with fear and wretchedness, and quite
incapable of contending against his unhappy situation, he crouched
beneath the threatening rock, too miserable to shed a tear. "Mamma,
mamma," he said, - "Mamma, mamma," and that weak cry was repeated again
and again, though no human ear could hear his sorrows or soothe his
cries. Poor baby, what availed it then? your earthly father was the
tenderest of parents - he could not have foreseen this trouble, and
therefore he could not have been armed against it, but your heavenly
Father's eye was on you, little one, and his eyes are ever on infants,
the loveliest beings of his creation, and he who spared Nineveh,
because there were in that wicked city more than six score thousand
souls, who knew not their right hands from their left, still watches
over his babies now, for has he not said of "Such is the kingdom of
heaven."

But observe the little one, what makes his cry of 'Mamma, Mamma,' cease?
the babe has heard a sound, a pleasant sound, and he forgets his
trouble. It is the sweet song of a bird upon a branch of a tree on the
rock above him, and the bird likes the morning air and the sound of the
waters, and he is singing his song of joy, and Reuben listened to him
and was pleased, and then the little bird hopped down from his high
perch and came lower and lower till he was quite close to the child, so
close that the little one held out his hand, which frightened away the
pretty bird, and Reuben was once more alone again, and commenced his cry
of "Mamma, Mamma, come to Reuben, Mamma." But the bird had come to the
rock because it had seen some bright berries on the bushes there, and
before it had began its song it had pecked off one or two with its bill,
or perhaps it might have been that other birds had pecked them off, and
then rejected them, or the wind might have blown them from the parent
bush; be that as it may, there were about as many as a dozen red berries
scattered on the ground, where the little bird had hopped, and Reuben
had seen them in looking at the bird, and now he began to collect them,
looking here and there to find some more, and he thought if he put them
into a nice heap together, their bright red colour would draw thither
another singing bird to visit him. So he collected his berries, and
tried to pile them together, and thus more time passed, for whilst doing
so, every little thing seemed to divert his attention - a skeleton leaf,
a small flower, a smooth pebble, a drop of water sparkling in the
sunshine, all attracted his infant eye, and thus, as we might say, his
heavenly Father watched over the boy and soothed him from the real
sorrows of his situation, till the time of his deliverance was at hand.
And are we not children of a large growth? are not our sorrows soothed
and relieved by our Creator's mercies? and are not innocent pleasures
and consolations put in the way of every child of God? and it is our own
fault, yes, our own fault, and very much are we to blame when we reject
the blessings of consolations offered us. "When our Saviour left us, he
promised to send us a comforter to abide with us for ever." John xiv.
16; and as the Divine Spirit never fails in his fulfilment of his
promises, be assured, you mourners, if you are not comforted, it is
because you will not accept the consolation offered to you; for he has
said, "I will not leave you comfortless, for he shall dwell with you,
and shall be in you." John xiv. 17 and 18.

But why does little Reuben suddenly move his curls from off his cheek?
why does he listen, as he never listened before? and why does a merry
little laugh escape his lips? and then he listens again, and now he does
not laugh, but springing to his feet, with arms extended, he calls out
"Nero, Nero." It is not that Nero hears that baby voice, it is not that
the noble dog responds to the call, for the soft sound is lost amidst
the roar of the waters; but he who fed Elijah by the means of ravens,
and taught the dove to bear the olive leaf to Noah, has guided hither to
the child a sure and safe conductor to his home. Look, look there!
across the stream stands Nero. Nero let out by Thomas for a wild run for
exercise as directed first by Mr. Mortimer, and then by Marten; there
he stood, his eyes red with eagerness, his tongue protruding, and
panting and impatient as not knowing where next to turn his agile
bounds. But not for another moment did this hesitation continue, for
Reuben ran to the edge of the rock, both arms extended, and scarcely
able for the breeze to keep his little feet firm upon the ground. "Nero,
Nero," he cried, and almost ere his lips had closed, after the appeal,
the noble dog, with a glorious bound sprang from stepping-stone to
stepping-stone across the stream, and had overwhelmed the boy with his
caresses. What mattered it to Reuben, that his kind friend in his joy at
their meeting had absolutely overturned the child upon the ground? What
cared he for that? It was Nero, his own Nero, his Nero from home, and
Reuben did so love him, and Nero returned his love so warmly, and
they were always so happy together, and there was no danger to be feared
for Reuben, whilst the faithful animal was by him, which he had power to
ward off. Reuben had recognised the dog's bark even amidst the waters
roar, and that had made him laugh, for he never doubted that Nero would
come to him shortly. And now I don't know how to tell how the rest
happened, for in truth Reuben never could explain how things went on,
particularly after the arrival of Nero, and there was no other living
thing in that solitude but the child and dog. All that Reuben could
recollect afterwards was, that he was cold and hungry, and that he
wished to get home, and that Nero, too, seemed even more anxious than
himself to get home, but Reuben dared not cross the stream, and Nero
seemed almost as unwilling as himself to take the child across, and yet
the faithful creature would not leave the boy for more able assistance.
Reuben was frightened at the threatening rock above his head, and yet he
knew not how to leave it, for he had run on far enough to lose the way
to the lane which led to Mr. Jameson's, and he was frightened at all
around, and shivering and hungry, for he had tasted no food that
morning.

[Illustration]

At last, finding all his efforts useless to tempt the little one across
the stream, a new idea seemed to strike the sensible dog, for Nero was
very sensible. He seemed all of a sudden to bethink himself that there
might be another road home; and taking hold of Reuben's dress in his
mouth, he attempted to draw him along the road the child had come. Now
to this the little one was rather inclined, for he believed it would
take him home, but on attempting to walk he found that he had hurt his
foot before he had reached the rock, and that the cold air had made it
stiff and painful. Poor Reuben was going to cry, and then I do not know
what would have happened if Nero, finding out that something was wrong,
had not seated himself beside the child on the ground to comfort him;
and in so doing, reminded Reuben that Marten always told Nero to sit on
the ground before he told his brother to get on the dog's back for a
ride, for Reuben often took a ride on Nero's back. And now, then, fancy
the child seated upon Nero, who rose at once gently from the ground, and
with great care and stateliness commenced his progress homewards. It is
said that a white elephant will not allow any one to ride upon him who
is not of royal descent, and then the king of beasts steps on with full
consciousness of the honour of his kingly burthen; but what could his
pride be, compared with that of Nero's, as the faithful creature
stepped on and on with his infant rider? It was not, after all, so slow
a progress as might have been imagined, and as it is believed the dog
followed the scent of the child's footsteps, he naturally went up the
lane the little one had trod that morning. On arriving where the road
divided, Nero was, however, no longer at a loss, for he knew which
direction his own home lay, and Nero was not likely to be tempted
elsewhere than home, for if he could have reasoned he would have said,
in as strong terms as nurse herself could have used, that Reuben had
better be at home than anywhere else whilst he was so young. Nero, as I
said, now knew the road, for he had often accompanied the different
members of Mr. Mortimer's family when they went to visit Mr. Jameson's,
and how carefully, on account of his young rider, did he step on his way
towards home.

And now I could say a great deal upon the fidelity of Nero, the
trustfulness of Reuben, and the useful lesson the little one was
learning; but I am anxious to speak of Marten and nurse, and all those
who loved the child and trembled for his loss. And yet I cannot talk of
their distress, the deep deep remorse of Marten, his full and complete
acknowledgment of his own carelessness and ignorance of himself, so that
nurse could not even say one word to him, though her tears and sobs were
a deep reproach. No, I cannot speak of this, I would rather tell of how


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Online LibraryMary Martha SherwoodBrotherly Love Shewing That as Merely Human It May Not Always Be Depended Upon → online text (page 4 of 5)