Page images
PDF
EPUB

work. The Sunday I was there he took no part in the Morning Service, but catechized in the afternoon—as great an exertion, one would have thought, as preaching. After luncheon, he had a class of big boys in bis study, and one could hear the kind voice questioning and explaining, The 'bit of sugar' with which he dismissed them was a true coal-pit adventure told in verse, which he read aloud.

On other days he went to the school and village, at least once a day; but on his return, often lay down on the sofa, with a look of great exhaustion ; he would then put on a little apparatus contrived for relieving head-ache by pressure against the temples and brow. He had grown fond of being read to, and expressed one morning a wish to hear The Story of Queen Isabel,' by M. S., which a friend had given me. We had gone half through it, when he remembered that his hour for going to the boys school was come: he looked sadly unfit for the walk, and the heat of the day was scorching; but for once, Mrs. Keble’s pleading look and shake of the head did not move him. So I mustered courage, and holding up Queen Isabel, asked whether he had the heart to leave her just at the crisis of her fate? This piece of audacity happily succeeded, and with an arch sweet smile he returned to the sofa and the poem. He afterwards dipped into the other poems in the volume, and pointed out the stanzas on Garibaldi, as containing some of the most spirited lines he remembered anywhere.

I found him one day exploring among his book-shelves, and he pointed out to me one of the standard Church histories—Mosheim's, I think. A lady had come to him, he said, some years ago, who was unsettled in her allegiance to our Church by the many schisms which rend it. He had taken down that work, and shewn her from it, that in the first three centuries of the Christian era, more sects and heresies had sprung up than in any succeeding ones—so that the unhappy divisions in our Church were not peculiar to her, nor any reason for leaving her. This argument had happily had its due weight with the lady.

The Idylls of the King had lately come out, and Mr. Keble spoke of them, originating the subject himself. He had not yet read them, he said, but he had seen enough evidently to create a strong interest in his mind in the character of Arthur; its grandeur and holiness, and great pity for the sinner, seemed like a sort of parable with a higher meaning than appeared. His reading was, of course, more desultory now, and he said he often took up 'Golden Deeds,' and refreshed himself with one or two. He said this, standing in the window that looked east, with the book in his hand, and he went on to speak affectionately of the writer, and to say, 'She has written many good things, but this is the best of all.' That window was an idling place for us all; the thick luxuriant mass of jessamine that framed it, was so covered with white stars this warm summer, that there was hardly any leaf or stalk to be seen. Its sweetness was almost cloying, especially at night; and so was the scent from the church-yard lime trees. There was a great buzzing of insects ; and that beautiful creature, the hawk's-head humming-bird moth, rarely seen in Cheshire, flitted in and out incessantly, darting its long tongue into the jessamine flowers, then dancing away into the sunshine, and flashing back again with the speed of light. It was a most distracting little creature, making all fixed attention to one's book or writing impossible; and well I remember how, when I tried to look away from the window, its graceful clear-cut shadow would lit before my eyes on the table, lost for a moment in the motionless shadows of the jessamine bush, then springing out into warm light again.

Some old writer says, “The last of everything is affecting;' so in those last days at the Vicarage, no incident with which the memory of those friends is connected appears to me trivial. In the evenings we had a rubber of whist, and a very salutary little change it made for the invalid. I was told he had been a very scientific player in his college days, but had discontinued playing till a few months since-after his seizure. He certainly remembered each card that each person played accurately, and he was full of playful retorts, and alarming threats if his partner should revoke-on the whole, however, he was more silent than heretofore, and much more feeble. When the Bishop of Fredericton came to Hursley for some hours, he was unable to accompany him to his church, and seemed indeed scarcely equal to any conversation.

On the Sunday, one of the Cathedral clergy of Chester happened to be in church, having walked over from Romsey. He was struck and pleased, he said, by hearing the Church in South Africa' prayed for specially in the Litany. “Persons in distress of mind' were also named for special intercession. After service, Mrs. Keble hospitably insisted on the stranger coming into the Vicarage for luncheon; and he did so, but kindly held back from conversation with the Vicar, observing with pain his pale and exhausted looks.

That Sunday evening coze (to borrow Mrs. Keble's favourite word) on the grass-plot, was a very sweet and happy one. I sat by the dear couple, not without a misgiving that it might be our last Sunday together —for you might read in their faces, unmistakeably, that both were • wearing awa to the Land o' the leal;' but the thought brought no bitterness with it. Who would not wish the golden grain to be boused when it is ripe? who that had witnessed Mr. Keble's deep delight in the promise, 'And sorrow and sighing shall flee away,' as sung by sweet treble voices in Winchester Cathedral, could wish to keep him back from the Presence in which alone that hope can be realized ? Selfish regret would have been out of place just then.

Before my return to my brother's home at Netley, Mrs. Keble bad devised a bright little plan, which happily came to pass. She and Mr. Keble, with their two young cousins, were to spend a day with us, and to visit the new Royal Victoria Hospital for soldiers.

Our trysting place was to be Netley Abbey. A few showers fell that morning, and cooled the air and brightened up the dusty ivy on the old arches, so they looked their best. Mrs. Keble had long wished to re-visit the ruins, for she and her husband had old associations with the spot. They had spent a day here before their marriage, and she related to me how she had wandered away from the rest of the party, and found a little brook flowing through the grass, but so choked with dead leaves at one point that its waters had no outlet. So she got a stick, and set to work to remove the obstacle. Mr. Keble had found her thus employed, and lent his help to set the captive water-nymph free. It was a pretty and characteristic act of hers. And here they were again, in the evening of life, together, and we left them to themselves, the young people climbing up the steeper parts of the ruin, and I resting below, and watching the bees going in and out of the great livid purple bells of the deadly-nightshade, extracting wholesome honey from a virulent poison. Mr. and Mrs. Keble presently joined me, and looked with interest at this remarkable shrub, which the former ascertained to be more than six feet high.

We went on to our destination, where Mr. and Mrs. Keble rested quietly after luncheon, while their young friends accompanied the commandant over the vast hospital. Their resting-place was on the lawn overlooking the Southampton water, which was divided from it only by a steep thicket of shrubs and dwarf oak. They much enjoyed the sight of the sparkling waves, and of the many vessels of all sizes, and whitewinged little yachts that dotted the river. Mr. Keble talked cheerfully with my brother for a time; then he took up, I recollect, a volume of Bonar's poems that lay there, and dipped into it, as his fashion was, specially singling out for approval the beautiful lines on ‘Divine Order.' He also read, with attention and enjoyment, that striking poem, "The City,' comparing town and country life to the advantage of the former.

• O'er the fields of earth lie scattered

Noble fruitage and blossoms rare;
Yon city the store has gathered,

And the garner of hearts is there.'

Mr. Keble put the book in my hand, with an arch incredulous smile. * The lines are good,' he said, “but they remind me a little of the dialogue between Johnson and Boswell in Greenwich Park. “ This is a fine view !” said Johnson. “Yes,” answered Boswell, “but not equal to Fleet Street !” “ You are right, Sir," rejoined Johnson.' So the pleasant summer afternoon glided away, and towards evening they left us, with many loving farewells.

It was a comfort to hear, two days later, from her. 'I don't think my husband was at all overtired by his day; indeed, he bas been doing a little more since. Yesterday, his old friend, Sir John Awdry, came to have a coze, about the all absorbing Gladstone election, first, then gradually floating into the less troubled stream of classics, as they used to do in Oxford Homer and Eschylus and others. This came naturally from comparing the two Chancellors, and you may imagine how pleasant it was to listen to, while I pretended to be writing. Then, in the evening, came Mr. Butterfield, full of interesting talk, as he always is ; but I could uot help fearing that even of this there might be a little too much.

Renewed illness soon clouded over this peaceful scene. Mrs. Keble's last letter from Hursley is written in a very trembling hand. “I am too weak for much—the attacks of spasm have come too often to give me time to get stronger ; but I think of you and your poor invalid, and like to know that you think of me and my dear husband, to whom this state of things is very trying, though, D. G., he is tolerably well. .... The days are so beautiful to look at, and our garden still bright with flowers, but I have only been out twice since we came from Bournemouth.'*

Thither they returned for good in October ; and in November she writes : ‘Dr. Gull's opinion that the heart is the chief cause of mischief is no surprise to me, and the rules he has laid down do not make much practical difference, as I have not had strength to walk up-stairs since the cold weather began. One must make up one's mind to be somewbat more dependent and troublesome; but even this has its bright side.' What a lesson of calm patience do these last words convey! 'Loving thanks,' she adds, for the odorator, which arrived safely, and has contributed to refresh our rooms. The letter concludes thus : 'I dare not begin writing of Dr. Pusey's “Letter;" but I may tell you that though the Ultramontanes are very wroth with it, the Gallican Bishops, some of them, have expressed most kind approval, and asked him to have it translated into French. It makes one's heart glow to think how the yearning for union seems at once to stir the three great portions of the Church. With kindest love, and asking for your prayers, believe me, very dear friend, your ever affectionate C. K.'

Thus close my recollections of Hursley Vicarage, and its dear inhabitants; and a few lines more will also close this feeble sketch, dear Helen, for though, through the great kindness of those who ministered in that sick-room, I had full and frequent details of what passed there—they are far too sacred to be written here.

In January, 1866, I had the great comfort, as well as surprise, of receiving a long letter from Mr. Keble. It related mainly to a matter of business connected with the spiritual welfare of his beloved Burton ; but it also dwelt fully and tenderly on the sufferings and patience of his sinking wife.

So did several others which followed it; and in the last, written only eleven days before his peaceful departure, and enclosing the Hursley offertory of more than £13 for our cattle-plague sufferers, are these most

* In the autumn before Mr. Keble's death, Dr. Pusey published his Commentary on the Prophet Daniel. My sister well remembers Mr. Keble's coming into the room with a newly-received copy of the work under his arm. He thanked God (he said) that he had lived long enough to see that work happily completed!

remarkable words: My very dear Friend, our darling is still permitted to remain with us, but her weakness, and I much fear her suffering, increases—so, if possible, do her calmness and sweetness : I sit and look at her till I wonder how it ever can be that some whom I know are allowed to entertain a hope of being with such an one in the same home for ever. But we are taught to believe greater things than that ; might we but be found worthy!'

F.M. W.

THE CAGED LION.

CHAPTER XII.

THE LAST PILGRIMAGE.

The summer morning came; the reveillée sounded, Mass was sung in the chapel tent, without which Henry never moved; and Malcolm tried to reassure his sinking heart by there pledging his vow to St. Andrew.

The English King was not present; but the troops were drawing up in complete array, that he might inspect them before the march. And a glorious array they were of steel-clad men-at-arms on horse-back, in bands around their leader's banner, and of ranks of sturdy archers, with their long-bows in leathern cases; the orderly multitude, stretching as far as the eye could reach, glittering in the early sun, and waiting with bold and glad hearts to greet the much loved King, who had always led them to victory.

The only unarmed knight was James of Scotland. He stood in the space around where the standard of England was planted, in his plain suit of chamois leather, his crimson cloak over his shoulder, but with no weapon about him, waiting with crossed arms for the morning's decision.

Close outside the royal tent waited Henry's horse, and those of his brother and other immediate attendants; and after a short interval he came forth in his brightest armour, with the coronal on his helmet, and the beaver up; and as he mounted, not without considerable aid, enthusiastic shouts of 'Long live King Harry!' broke forth, and came echoing back and back from troop to troop, gathering fervour as they rose.

The King rode forwards towards the standard ; but while yet the shouts were pealing from the army, he suddenly caught at his saddlebow, reeled visibly, and would have fallen before Bedford could bring his horse to his side, had not James sprung forward, and laid one arm round him, and a hand on his rein.

It is nothing,' said Henry. 'Let me alone.' Ere the words were finished, he put his hand to his side, dropped his bridle, and gasped, while a look of intense suffering passed over his

« PreviousContinue »