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children, to the disparagement of all the rest; his avowed favourite being John, of course.
Why the poor thing wants a day's pleasure for once; and I am sure she deserves it, stewed up all day in the house, hard at work: she ought to enjoy her youth while she has it,-it won't last long. There, she is twenty to-morrow.”
Twenty to-morrow!” She had fairly arrested her husband's attention now; he turned quickly round. “ Fanny twenty years of age !-our youngest child, Margaret, our youngest
Ah, it does seem strange. And to think of the days when you came a courting of me,- I was just her age then. Well, well!"
Mrs. Elliston was waxing sentimental, but her husband's thoughts had taken another turn. “I
must be growing an old man,” he said, slowly. “Let me see; I was forty-six when Fanny was born. I remember, when we christened her, they took down my age, forty-six, and twenty -sixty-six-three-score years and ten."
It was almost involuntarily that Elliston quoted these words from the Psalms; but his brain, so accustomed to calculations that it worked at them like a machine, mechanically finished the calculation, and the figure 4 seemed to stand out with marvellous distinctness before him. He leant back in his chair, half closed his eyes, and fell into a reverie. His meditations lasted about five minutes, and they were the first for many years, when he had allowed his poor drudging soul to stand still, and breathe, for one brief space, its native air,—the air of eternity; for surely it was a breath from eternity which suddenly came up over him, sweeping away for one single instant the mists of worldly lusts, and human cares, and practical unbelief, which hid from it the light of God's own truth. Three-score years and ten: these words came to him like an echo from his child. hood's time; they brought with them the memory of the old parish Church, where he sat, Sunday after Sunday, by his mother's side, and heard them sounding with their note of warning in the ears of old and young. They spoke to him now as with his mother's voice, when she explained to him what they meant, as she led him by the hand down the churchyard path, and bid him mark the many graves that testified to their solemn truth,-seventy years, the allotted span of man's existence ! When she had told him this, what an eternity it seemed to his childish mind! how interminably long the vista through which he looked to the far-off, shadowy grave! And now four years alone stood between him and the appointed term, which, if he should, by unwonted prolongation, survive a little while, his strength would be but labour and sorrow, so soon would he pass away, and be gone for ever. At this thought a shiver passed over his limbs, as if a cold, damp breath from an opening grave had struck him with a sudden chill. For a single instant it made him sick with horror, to think that life-the busy, active life, the only palpable reality his spirit knew-could suddenly come to an end, and be quenched in the very midst of all his plans and hopes, in the height of enterprise and successful commerce. It seemed impossible! This life to bim was all; it was a tangible, living reality, into which he had thrown himself and his whole soul, without a thought or an aim beyond it.
There are some who look with the holy eyes of faith through this dim, shallow life, as through a veil ; and to them it is given to perceive behind it the immutable reality of that which is alone existence,-even the eternity filled to overflowing with the living Presence of the Triune God. But there are others who have so looked on it, and it alone, that it has grown, as it were, into a solid substance before their eyes, beyond which they can see and know nothing. And so it was with Elliston. His present tremor arose, not from any thought of a future to the grave, but from the possibility of this strong, steady life being brought to an end, filled as it was—ay, choked to the brim-with worldly projects and occupations. He felt as if he had so firm a hold of it,- his feet were so rooted to this earth,—so much was to be accomplished which he must live to do,-and, like all men who suffer not their mind to range beyond the narrow boundary of individual interest, he quite fancied the world could not go on without the fulfilment of his schemes.
But these thoughts were intolerable ; he made a quick and successful effort to shake them off. Bah! what nonsense it was to think of four years! There was not a stronger man of his age to be seen, far or near. How many men of eighty, and even ninety, he had known! And they were a particularly longlived family, the Ellistons were ; he remembered his grandfather, such a very old man, he must have been near a hundred; (Elliston forgot he had seen him with the eyes of ten years old.) Yes, there was life in him yet to cheat his rivals for many a long day, and the four-score years and ten to which he now looked on soon stretched before him, with as interminable a vista as the shorter period had done in earlier days.
The brief passing thought which next arose, of an undying life beyond the grave, was quite as speedily despatched. To the existence of an eternity, a God, a judgment, a heaven, and a hell, he had assented as to meaningless truths, which conveyed no impression to his spirit, each time that he mumbled over the creed in the corner of his family pew; while his fingers were busied in numbering the sums his brain was calculating : but that these were actual, living, swift-coming realities, in? which himself, with the very body which he pampered, and the very soul which he defiled, would soon be fearfully involved, were truths of which he was as ignorant as a blind man of the sun's light, which he yet knows does exist.
His knowledge of the truths of Revelation was precisely like our knowledge of the real nature of the stars. We know, as an abstract principle, that these little shining points are mighty worlds, filled, no doubt, with myriads of thinking beings; and yet to our mortal eyes, and most often to our thoughts, are they one whit the less but gleaming specks in the far-off inaccessible firmament, immeasurably distant from us, and wholly without influence on our present existence? Elliston's life was really not more affected by his theological than by his astronomical learning; nor did the glaring sunshine by day, and the thick walls of his home by night, more effectually shut out these same stars from his sight, than the glitter of gold in his business hours, and the heavy sleep of his needful repose, obscured the awful realities which he had put as far from his soul as the heavens from the earth.
He stood face to face with them now, however, for one instant; the veil which his own worldly thoughts and cares had woven over God's truth was drawn aside, and the thought of death, and after death the judgment, was before him. And how did he meet it? as thousands have met it before, and as thousands will meet it again, on whom Heaven have mercy -with self-delusion instead of penitence-with groundless security instead of salutary fear. He was an honest man, he thought to himself, as good as his neighbours, and better probably; he had never injured any one-not he; he was highly considered as a respectable man; he had always passed muster with the world; and why not at the bar of God's Judgment ? and if—if he had some little backslidings to answer for, there was the vision of the death-bed repentance, that darling spare of the Tempter's, to console himself withal. So by the time the somewhat angry tones of his favourite son aroused him from his unwonted meditations, the moment was past which might have been the turning point in his eternal destiny; the voice was stified that would have aroused him, to look into and beyond that grave, whither he was hastening with such busy feet, that would have bid him search his soul choked up with dust, and see whether he, who vaunted himself so complacently of adherence to an early taught creed, were not an infidel in practice—whether he bore the name of Christian, bore indeed the Christ within his heart, without Whom, joined in union, causing him to be very flesh of His Flesh, and bone of His Bone—that name, last melancholy fragment of the rights of
Baptism, would serve but to mock the bitterness of his future desolation. It was past. The moment on which his soul had hung suspended dropped down into eternity; the voice was hushed, it might be of his guardian angel, veiling now his sorrowful eyes with snow-white wings; the mists rose up out of the worldly heart once more, and spread themselves over the bright face of heaven; who can say when such an hour shall be granted bim again?
" Father, what on earth are you thinking of ? we shan't have those bales unpacked before midnight; and if you are disposed to let Whiting get the start of us with the new French stuffs, I am not, I can tell you.”
“Nor I indeed," exclaimed Elliston, starting to his feet; “I have been dreaming, I think; but I'll waste no more time now; come along, and let us go to work at once ; did you tell the lads to stay ?”
“Yes, Wilson and Tomkins, and Hervey; the rest were off before I knew we should want them.”
“To the theatre, no doubt, where the fools go to spend every penny they make; however, we shall manage with these for to-night if we look sharp after them ;” and he strode to the door with his usual frown of impatience ; John followed, and they were about to leave the room when Fanny, who knew she had not yet gained her point, threw herself before him, and seized her father by the arm; the fear of losing her anticipated pleasure made her bolder than usual.
Father, father, just say I may go out to-morrow for my birthday; I am going to a pic-nic with the Jacksons, and there's to be a dance in the evening.'
She fully expected that he would shake her off roughly, and tell her he could not afford to lose her day's work for any such nonsense : but the thoughts of decay and death which had worked in him so strangely, though they had passed completely from his mind, yet left a lingering softness of feeling towards the youngest born child, who still was in the summer time of life.
"Well, well,” he said, looking in her face with gentler eyes than his children were wont to see; " for once in a way I'll let you go, child; but, remember, I won't have it again; these are hard times, and we must all work well to get on; as it is, Maude must take your place to-morrow in the shop,” he added, turning sharply to his second daughter.
“ Maude !" 'exclaimed Fanny, dancing about with glee at having received her liberty. "O, yes, she shall go, and look sweet on the ladies as I do, and put on mantlets and scarfs, to show what elegant shapes they are ; charmingly she'll do it to be sure, such a beautiful figure she has to show them off upon." “ Be quiet, Fanny,” exclaimed Henry angrily; for he saw the colour mount to the pale cheek of his deformed sister as she heard these sarcastic words.
“And so,” said Charlotte coming forward with a look of extreme ill-temper, “I am to have all the work put off on me, am I ? for as to Maude she'll stand like a statue all day, I know, as if I weren't sick of the shop as it is, without having twice as much to do: but it is always the way, Fanny is indulged in whatever she chooses, and I am made to drudge like a slave; but I won't stand it any longer. My mind's made up; I will not stand it."
“ Won't and must are two different things, I can tell you, Miss Charlotte,” said her father sharply. * You may make up your mind to what you please, but you'll not alter my will, which is that every one in the house should lend a hand to the business ; say
won't' if you like, but I tell you you must work, and you shall.”
With this determined speech Mr. Elliston left the room, followed by John, who, as it would seem, from sympathy with his father's temper, slammed the door violently after him. Charlotte, no ways daunted, flung herself down in the chair.
Father may just save himself the trouble of talking so to me," she said ; “I am tired to death of the shop, and I'm not going to waste any more of my best years in it-that is certain."
“And pray how are you to help it, Charlotte ?" asked Henry, “I am sure I should be glad if you would teach me any way of escaping life's drudgery,
“ You may find it out for yourself, as I have done,” replied this amiable young lady; "every one for himself in this world. As to my plans, you will know them when I choose, and no sooner.
“What plans--what do you mean, Charlotte ?" asked Mrs. Elliston, in some consternation; but her dutiful daughter deigned no answer, and she was fain to hope it was mere bravado. Her thoughts were soon diverted into another channel by the entrance of the servant girl, to whom she immediately proceeded to deliver a lecture on the duties of her station, which served to deepen still further the conviction already duly impressed on the mind of that bewildered young woman, that to provide in the most economical, and withal comfortable manner, for the wants of the body, was the one sole object of existence.
Meanwhile there was another of the group, in whose mind unwonted thoughts had been awakened by the simple intimation that the youngest of the family had attained an age when girl