« VorigeDoorgaan »
SPIRIT AND MANNERS OF THE AGÉ.
THE MODERN MARTYR.
“ 'Tis my delight, alone in Summer shade,
Wordsworth. In the immediate vicinity of the village of stood the ruins of an old mansion, which had been for many generations tenanted by the descendants of one of the Norman barons, who accompanied King William when he came to to take possession of the British throne. When it was erected, there are no dates to decide; but it is generally supposed to have been built at a very early period in British history. It is situated on the slope of a hill, whose higher grounds are covered with woods; on the east and west sides, plantations of fir and beech trees are luxuriating in the rapidity of their growth; and the front, which lays open to the south, commands an extensive view of the surrounding country, through which a fine broad river flows in majestic silence. On the right, at the distance of three quarters of a mile, is the beautiful village of containing one hundred neat cottages, a few genteel villas, of modern origin, and a smaller number of antique farm-houses. I had not visited this sequestered spot for more than twenty years, but having an invitation from an old friend, who had left the bustle of commercial life, for the calm retreat of the country, I consented to spend a few weeks with him. As it was late in the evening when I arrived, I felt no disposition to rove abroad; but on the following morning I perambulated the place. I soon found that the spirit of improvement which has given a more tasty form to our cities and our towns, has penetrated into the interior of the empire, working its mighty changes, where no changes could have been anticipated. The first object that arrested my attention was the old mansion: but instead of ruins, it stood arrayed in the beauties of modern architecture. Its fallen turrets and parapets were rebuilt; its decayed stones were replaced by new ones; its dilapidated windows were re-glazed; its living and dead ivy had been stripped off to admit a stuccoed frontage; the lawn, which had bees used to fodder cattle, was restored to its original verdant state; the old cow-sheds and stables were pulled down, and on their scite stood more stately buildings; and every other appearance indicated that it was now occupied by a man of wealth, if not of noble birth. After gazing on this metamorphosis of the old ruins, I bent my steps towards the church, which reared its unassuming spire above the tops of the surrounding trees; and finde ing the doors open, curiosity induced me to enter. On the left of the pulpit I observed a full length stone figure laying on a marble slab, and which I was informed by the old clerk, was a correct likeness of the old Baron. “ [ presume," I remarked, 66 that the family has now become extinct.'
“ Not quite, Sir: there are some remote branches of it in Westmoreland; though, being females, the name is lost.”
“ Have any branches of the family resided in the mansion in your time?"
" Yes, Sir. I remember when Sir Thomas the last male branch of the family, was christened ; and I knew his father; and my father has told me, that I was once taken to the mansion, when I was about six months old, to see Sir Thomas grandfather; but I don't remember that."
“1 suppose not. Pray, how long has Sir Thomas been dead po
« About forty years; and he lies buried along with his lady and his infant son in this vault."
« I suppose the death of so great a man, which led to the extinction of his family amongst you, was a great loss to the neighbourhood ?”
“ Yes, Sir, the greatest calamity that ever happened. amongst us; for he was as good as he was great. He was every man's friend, and no man's enemy. He was very kind and generous to the poor; he never oppressed his tenants, nor did he ever turn them out of their farms. He was wonderfully beloved by us, and so was his lady. She was so condescending in her manners, that she would visit the poor at their own houses, and give them relief if they were in distress. He was just like his father, and his father was just like his grandfather, and all were just like the old Baron that you see there, Sir. Now, Sir, if you will just step this way, I will tell you a tale that I am sure will please
He took me to another part of the church, and pointed my attention to a monument which bore the following inscription :
Sacred to the Memory
job Torontoir Years.
“Sir, Thomas' father," continued the old clerk, was a great sportsman, and he used to rise early in the morning to take the field. One morning in the month of September, as he was riding through the wood at the top of the hill, he heard the cries of a child, and turning round, he saw a blanket with something in it. He got off his horse, and opened the blanket, and saw a fine boy about six months old. He took it up, gave it to his servant who was with him, and rode back to the mansion, and showed it to his lady, and told her where he found it. Enquiries were made after the unnatural parents, but they could not be heard of; so Sir Thomas took the child, and placed it under the care of my grandmother. When he grew up, he was sent to school at Winchester, and after that he went to Oxford, and being a learned man and a good reader, Sir Thomas gave him this living; and here he preached for twenty-six years; and as Goldsmith says,
Nor e'er had changed, nor wish'd to change his place." He was christened Edward Wood, after the name of the place where he was found, and the servant, who carried him in the blanket to the mansion, whose name was Edward."
“I suppose you are old enough to recollect the Vicar?" " Recollect him !
A man he was to all the country dear.' Yes, Sir, he was a good friend to me, for the old clerk dying soon after the Vicar came to reside amongst us, he gave me the situation; and as I was then young, and rather fond of books, in consequence of the kindness of my grandmother to him when he was an infant, he became my tutor,
instructed me in several branches of learning, and permitted me to have free access to his library. And when he died, Sir, he left me an annuity of twenty pounds a-year for my life.”
“ Has he left any family behind him?"
“ No, Sir: he used to say, when joked upon the subject, that he had taken his degree of Bachelor of Arts at Oxford, and he thought by retaining it, he should be a Master, without having to undergo the ceremony of preferment."
« Time," I remarked, “which works many changes in human affairs, has changed the aspect of your village; the mansion, I see, which was in ruins the last time I was here, is now resuming its ancient splendour, and villas are springing up in almost every
direction." 6 Yes, Sir, the estates which once belonged to Sir Thomas were sold about ten years since by an order in Chancery, and the old mansion, and about twenty acres of land, were bought by a Mr. Lester of —, who had acquired a property by trade. He has given a modern appearance to the mansion; but This is his pew, Sir. It looks finer than it did when the Baron sat in it, but I don't think it contains more godliness."
“ He inherits the house and the land after the old Baron, but you don't think, if I judge by your man. ner, that he inherits his spirit?”
Why, Sir, it is not my habit to speak ill of friend or foe, but I must say that there is as great a difference between the present occupier of the man sion, and the former occupier of it, as there is between its present fantastic appearance and its former stately granduer. Sir Thomas and his lady used to walk to church every Sunday, and were al