There is something in the season of Spring which peculiarly excites the feelings of devotion. The dreariness of winter has passed, and with it, the deadened affections of our nature. New life, new vigor, arises within us, as we walk abroad and feel the genial gales of April breathe upon us; and our hopes, our wishes, awaken with the revival of the vegetable world. It is then that the heart, which has been impressed with the goodness of the Creator, feels that goodness brought, as it were, into very contact with the senses. The eye loves to wander over the bountiful provisions nature is throwing forth in every direction for our comfort, and fixes its gaze on the clouds, which, having lost the chilling thinness of winter, roll in rich volumes, amidst the clear and softened fields of azure so peculiar to the season, leading the mind insensibly to dwell on the things of another and a better world. It was on such a day, that the inhabitants of B—— thronged toward the village church, for the double purpose of pouring out their thanksgivings, and of hearing the first efforts of their rector's son in the duties of his sacred calling.
Amongst the crowd whom curiosity or a better feeling had drawn forth, were to be seen the flaring equipage of the Jarvises, and the handsome carriages of Sir Edward Moseley and his sister. All the members of the latter family felt a lively anxiety for the success of the young divine. But knowing, as they well did, the strength of his native talents, the excellence of his education, and the fervor of his piety, it was an anxiety that partook more of hope than of fear. There was one heart, however, amongst them, that palpitated with an emotion that hardly admitted of control, as they approached the sacred edifice, for it had identified itself completely with the welfare of the rector's son. There never was a softer, truer heart, than that which now almost audibly beat within the bosom of Clara Moseley and she had given it to the young divine with all its purity and truth.
The entrance of a congregation into the sanctuary will at all times furnish, to an attentive observer, food for much useful speculation, if it be chastened with a proper charity for the weaknesses of others; and most people are ignorant of the insight they are giving into their characters and dispositions, by such an apparently trivial circumstance as their weekly approach to the tabernacles of the Lord. Christianity, while it chastens and amends the heart, leaves the natural powers unaltered; and it cannot be doubted, that its operation is, or ought to be, proportionate to the abilities and opportunities of the subject of its holy impression—"Unto whomsoever much is given, of him much will be required." While we acknowledge that the thoughts might be better employed in preparing for those humiliations of the spirit and thanksgiving of the heart which are required of all, and are so necessary to all, we must be indulged in a hasty view of some of the personages of our history, as they entered the church of B——.
On the countenance of the baronet, was the dignity and composure of a mind at peace with itself and mankind. His step was rather more deliberate that common; his eye rested on the pavement, and on turning into his pew, as he prepared to kneel, in the first humble petition of our beautiful service, he raised it towards the altar with an expression of benevolence and reverence that spoke contentment not unmixed with faith.
In the demeanor of Lady Moseley, all was graceful and decent, while nothing could be properly said to be studied. She followed her husband with a step of equal deliberation, though it was slightly varied by a manner which, while it appeared natural to herself, might have been artificial in another. A cambric handkerchief concealed her face as she sank composedly by the side of Sir Edward, in a style which showed, that while she remembered her Maker, she had not entirely forgotten herself.
The walk of Mrs. Wilson was quicker than that of her sister. Her eye, directed before her, was fixed, as if in settled gaze, on that eternity which she was approaching. The lines of her contemplative face were unaltered, unless there might be traced a deeper shade of humility than was ordinarily seen on her pale, but expressive countenance. Her petition was long; and on rising from her humble posture, the person was indeed to be seen, but the soul appeared absorbed in contemplations beyond the limits of this sphere.
There was a restlessness and varying of color, in the ordinarily placid Clara, which prevented a display of her usual manner; while Jane walked gracefully, and with a tincture of her mother's manner, by her side. She stole one hastily withdrawn glance to the deanery pew ere she kneeled, and then, on rising, handed her smelling-bottle affectionately to her elder sister.
Emily glided behind her companions with a face beaming with a look of innocence and love. As she sank in the act of supplication, the rich glow of her healthful check lost some of its brilliancy; but, on rising, it beamed with a renewed lustre, that plainly indicated a heart touched with the sanctity of its situation.
In the composed and sedate manner of Mr. Jarvis, as he steadily pursued his way to the pew of Sir William Harris, you might have been justified in expecting the entrance of another Sir Edward Moseley in substance, if not in externals. But the deliberate separation of the flaps of his coat, as he comfortably seated himself, when you thought him about to kneel, followed by a pinch of snuff, as he threw his eye around the building, led you at once to conjecture, that what at first had been mistaken for reverence, was the abstraction of some earthly calculation; and that his attendance was in compliance with custom, and not a little depended upon the thickness of his cushions, and the room he found for the disposition of two rather unwieldy legs.
The ladies of the family followed, in garments carefully selected for the advantageous display of their persons. As they sailed into their seats, where it would seem the improvidence of Sir William's steward had neglected some important accommodation (some time being spent in preparation to be seated), the old lady, whose size and flesh really put kneeling out of the question, bent forward for a moment at an angle of eighty with the horizon, while her daughters prettily bowed their heads, with all proper precaution for the safety of their superb millinery.
At length the rector, accompanied by his son, appeared from the vestry. There was a dignity and solemnity in the manner in which this pious divine entered on the duties of his profession, which disposed the heart to listen with reverence and humility to precepts that were accompanied with so impressive an exterior. The stillness of expectation pervaded the church, when the pew opener led the way to the same interesting father and son whose entrance had interrupted the guests the preceding day at the rectory. Every eye was turned on the emaciated parent, bending into the grave, and, as it were, kept from it by the supporting tenderness of his child. Hastily throwing open the door of her own pew, Mrs. Ives buried her face in her handkerchief; and her husband had proceeded far in the morning service, before she raised it again to the view of the congregation. In the voice of the rector, there was an unusual softness and tremor, that his people attributed to the feelings of a father about to witness the first efforts of an only child, but which in reality were owing to another and a deeper cause.
Prayers were ended, and the younger Ives ascended the pulpit. For a moment he paused; when, casting an anxious glance to the pew of the baronet, he commenced his sermon. He had chosen for his discourse the necessity of placing our dependence on divine grace. After having learnedly, but in the most unaffected manner, displayed the necessity of this dependence, as derived from revelation, he proceeded to paint the hope, the resignation, the felicity of a Christian's death-bed. Warmed by the subject, his animation soon lent a heightened interest to his language; and at a moment when all around him were entranced by the eloquence of the youthful divine, a sudden and deep-drawn sigh drew every eye to the rector's pew. The younger stranger sat motionless as a statue, holding in his arms the lifeless body of his parent, who had fallen that moment a corpse by his side. All was now confusion: the almost insensible young man was relieved from his burden; and, led by the rector, they left the church. The congregation dispersed in silence, or assembled in little groups, to converse on the awful event they had witnessed. None knew the deceased; he was the rector's friend, and to his residence the body was removed. The young man was evidently his child; but here all information ended. They had arrived in a private chaise, but with post horses, and without attendants. Their arrival at the parsonage was detailed by the Jarvis ladies with a few exaggerations that gave additional interest to the whole event, and which, by creating an impression with some whom gentler feelings would not have restrained, that there was something of mystery about them, prevented many distressing questions to the Ives's, that the baronet's family forbore putting, on the score of delicacy. The body left B—— at the close of the week, accompanied by Francis Ives and the unweariedly attentive and interesting son. The doctor and his wife went into deep mourning, and Clara received a short note from her lover, on the morning of their departure, acquainting her with his intended absence for a month, but throwing no light upon the affair. The London papers, however, contained the following obituary notice, and which, as it could refer to no other person, as a matter of course, was supposed to allude to the rector's friend.
"Died, suddenly, at B——, on the 20th instant, George Denbigh, Esq., aged sixty-three."