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through one of the dark alleys of the old town, he stumbled over what at first appeared to be a bundle of the sorriest rags, spread out upon the ground; but, on a nearer examination, he perceived that they covered a meagre, deformed woman, seemingly in the agonies of death; she scarcely retained the appearance of a human creature; and though compassion prompted him to raise her head, half immersed in the stream of the kennel, it required no trifling effort to conquer that natural repugnance with which we shrink from touching any object so squalid and nauseous. On inquiry, why she remained there, the miserable wretch, in a tone of voice which, to a virtuous ear, is more disgustful than the croaking of a toad, endeavoured to explain her calamity. In a state of helpless intoxication, she had fallen down one of those public stair-cases so common in the town of Edinburgh, and afterwards endeavouring to crawl home, had been unable to proceed farther than where she now lay. The doctor, with a charitable alacrity, summoning several persons to her aid, had her conveyed to the Infirmary, where her bruises, irritated by her corrupt habit of body, only suffered her for a very short time to linger. She died in great agonies, at the early age of twenty-three.
WHILE Dr. Shepherd, an established minister in the south of Scotland, was sitting one morning at breakfast, a servant entered the room, and informed him that the overseer was just dying, and that Mrs. Meadows wished to see him. The good Dr., ever attentive to the calls of duty, especially in cases like the present, where the calls of humanity were so powerful, hastened to the sick man's chamber. He arrived just in time to witness the last moments of his departing friend, and to administer the consolations of religion, which alone can soothe the pillow of the dying Christian, and refresh and solace his departing spirit. The most solemn scene that man can witness is that of a death bed. It addresses itself most powerfully to the feelings, and inspires a seriousness and melancholy which a virtuous mind will rather indulge in, than discard. The worthy minister, though accustomed to such scenes, felt these impressions in a high degree. Perhaps his thoughts
on this occasion received an additional degree of seriousness and solemnity, from the consideration of the person who was the object of them. James Meadows was a man of a thousand his virtues would have done honour to any station, and had their full effect in rendering him respectable in that station in which Providence had placed him. He had long been on an intimate footing with the family at the manse; and the master of it had frequent opportunities of observing the soundness of his judgment, and the goodness of his heart. His practice was conformable to his knowledge, and he had been of infinite advantage to the lower orders of the parish, by exhibiting in his life one continued lesson of industry, honesty, and sobriety.
On his return home, the Doctor found that his brother, a respectable farmer in the west country, had arrived with his wife and family, to pay him a visit they had long promised. The day was spent in that pleasing satisfaction, and cordial happiness, which the meeting of such near and dear friends might naturally be supposed to inspire. During the whole of the day, however, he had not been able entirely to banish from his mind the recollection of the awful scene he had witnessed in the morning Ac
cordingly, in the evening, conceiving that the subject might be of service to them all, but particularly to his young nephews and nieces, he mentioned his morning's employment. "The death," said he, "of my friend, James Meadows, strongly confirms the soundness of a maxim which I have often inculcated from the pulpit, that a good life is the best preparation for death. Indeed the whole history of this valuable countryman is a lesson which cannot be listened to without advantage; and did I not fear to tire you, I could make half an hour pass not unimproved, perhaps, in showing from the life of my departed friend, that a steady adherence to virtuous principles, and the exertion of honest industry, in any station of life whatever, generally bring their reward along with them."
His friends all expressing how much the recital would gratify them, the Doctor proceeded: James Meadows was the son of a cotter in this parish, who depended on his daily labour for his daily subsistence; but who, notwithstanding the scantiness of his means, contrived to give his son what, with the divine blessing, is the greatest benefit a father can bestow on his children, a good education. By a good education, I mean such a one as was suited to his
situation in life, comprehending a knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic, together with a thorough acquaintance with the principles of religion, which, owing to the excellent institution of parochial schools in this kingdom, is brought within the reach of the poorest daylabourer in the country. On the death of his only surviving parent, James, then only fourteen years old, was cast on the wide world, possessed of naturally good dispositions and sincerely desirous of cultivating them. An honest farmer of the name of Maxwell, in the neighbourhood, having often witnessed young Meadows' affectionate attention to his father, immediately took him into his service. "Ingratitude to parents," Farmer Maxwell would say, "is a crime which seldom escapes punishment, even in this world: whereas, true filial affec tion calls down the blessing of Heaven, and is the best recommendation among men."
The good countryman sealed the truth of the last part of his remark, by treating his new servant as if he had been his own child, giving him the best advice at all times, pointing out his faults, and encouraging his virtues as they appeared in his conduct. In particular, he often warned him to avoid a fault too common among farm servants, that of strolling out in the even