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The character of such a man would have in it little connexion even with innocent gayety. Yet among those of his own religious persuasion, he is reported to have been cheerful. The descendants of persecutors, or those whom he supposed guilty of entertaining similar tenets, and the scoffers at religion by whom he was sometimes assailed, he usually termed the generation of vipers. Conversing with others, he was grave and sententious, not without a cast of severity.
But he is said never to have been observed to give way to violent passion, excepting upon one occasion, when a mis'. chievous truant-boy defaced with a stone the nose of a cherub's face which the old man was engaged in retouching. I am, in general, a sparer of the rod, notwithstanding the maxim of Solomon, for which school-boys have little reason to thank his memory but on this occasion I deemed it proper to show that I did not hate the child.But I must return to the circumstances attending my first interview with this interesting enthusiast.
In accosting Old Mortality, I did not fail to pay respect to his years and his principles, beginning my address by a respectful apology for interrupting his labors. The old man intermitted the operation of the chisel, took off his spectacles and wiped them, then replacing them on his nose, aeknowledged my courtesy* by a suitable return. Encouraged by his affability, I intruded upon him some questions concerning the sufferers upon whose monument he was now employed.
To talk of the exploits of the Covenanters was the delight, as to repair their monuments was the business, of his life. He was profuse in the communication of all the minute information which he had collected concerning them, their wars, and their wanderings. One would almost have supposed he must have been their contemporary, and have actually beheld the passages which he related ; so much had he identified his feelings and opinions with theirs, and so much had his narratives the circumstantiality of an eye-witness.****
Soothing the old man by letting his peculiar opinions pass without contradiction, and anxious to prolong conversation with so singular a character, I prevailed upon him to accept that hospitality which my patron is always willing to extend to those who need it. In our way to the schoolmaster's house we called at the Wallace Inn, where I was pretty certain I should find my pātron about that hour of the evening
* Pron. kur'-te-se,
· After a courteous interchange of civilities, Old Mortality was prevailed upon to join his host in a single glass of liquor, and that on condition that he should be permitted to name the pledge, which he préfaced with a grace of about five minutes, and then, with bonnet doffed and eyes uplifted, drank to the memory of those heroes of the Kirk who had first uplifted her banner upon the mountains. As no persuasion could prevail on him to extend his conviviality to a second cup, my pātron accompanied him home, and accommodated him with the prophet's chamber, as it is his pleasure to call the closet which holds a spare bed, and which is frequently a place of retreat for the poor traveller.
The next day I took my leave of Old Mortality, who seemed affected by the unusual attention with which I had cultivated his acquaintance, and listened to his conversation. After he had mounted, not without difficulty, the old white pony, he took me by the hand, and said, “The blessing of our Master be with you, young man. My hours are like the ears of the latter harvest, and your days are yet in the spring; and yet, you may be gathered into the garner of mortality before me; for the sickle of death cuts down the green as oft as the ripe; and there is a color in your cheek, that, like the bud of the rose, serveth oft to hide the worm of corruption. Wherefore, labor as one who knoweth not when his master calleth. And if it be my lot to return to this village after you are gone home to your own place, these auld withered hands will frame a stone of memorial, that your name may not perish from among the people.” I thanked Old Mortality for his kind intentions in my
be half, and heaved a sigh, not, I think, of regret so much as of résignation, to think of the chance that I might soon require his good offices. But though, in all human probability, he did not err in supposing that my span of life may be abridged in youth, he had over-estimated the period of his own pilgrimage on earth. It is now some years since he has been missed in all his usual haunts, while moss, lichen, and deer-hair, are fast covering those stones, to cleanse which had been the business of his life.
About the beginning of this century, he closed his mortal toils, being found on the highway near Lockerby, in Dumfries-shire, exhausted and just expiring. The old white pony, the companion of all his wanderings, was standing by the side of his dying master. There was found upon
his person a sum of money sufficient for his decent interment, which
serves to show that his death was in no ways hastened by violence, or by want.
The common people still regard his memory with great respect; and many are of opinion that the stones which he repaired will not again require the assistance of the chisel. They even assert, that, on the tombs where the manner of the martyrs' murder is recorded, their names have remained indelibly legible since the death of Old Mortality; while those of the persecutors, sculptured on the same monuments, have been entirely defaced. It is hardly necessary to say that this is a fond imagination, and that, since the time of the pious pilgrim, the monuments, which were the objects of his care, are hastening, like all earthly memorials, into ruin and decay.
LESSON CXXXVII. The religious cottage. -D. HUNTINGTON. “Seest thou yon lonely cottage in the grove
With little garden neatly planned before Its roof, deep shaded by the elms above,
Moss-grown, and decked with velvet verdure o'er?
Go lift the willing latch-the scene explore-
For there religion dwells; whose sācred lore
Up springs the peasant from his calm repose;
And tastes the sweets of nature as he goes
But first, of Sharon's fairest, sweetest rose,
Looks to the source whence every blessing flows,
His faithful partner and their blooming train,
The heaven-directed path of life to gain.
The lay of love and joy together sing,
To Him whose bounty clothes the smiling plain, Who spreads the beauties of the blooming spring, And tunes the warbling throats that make the valleys ring."
ALMOST at the root
in loneliness of soul;
That from the floor of his paternal home
Nor deem that his mild presence was a weight
Thus soothed at home, thus busy in the field,
At length, when sixty years and five were told,
to as u.