Obrázky na stránke
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Ben suddenly broke into speech. It was his habit, now and then, after musing some time in silence, to continue the soliloquy aloud. “Ah well,” said he, “this here life of ours is a funny thing! It appears to me that it's just like this 'ere. The first part of it we're doin' nothin' but rammin'our head agen a stone wall-a-chafin', an' a-frettin' for this an' that, an' never satisfied when we gets it. A few years later we are glad enough to sit contented and peaceful on the very stone wall agen which we rammed our heads. Every man has got to learn for himself. That's just where it is! It takes a long time for the sores and smarts to heal up, but, thank God ! they do heal up at last, an'a man can go on his way quiet and restful. Well, Trot, it's time for me to get ready!”

In his high-crowned Sunday hat of hard felt; in his well-brushed suit of black, in his stand-up collar and his dark-blue tie with the old-fashioned pin in it, Ben was half-an-hour later trudging along through the beech-wood on his way to the chapel. A walk of twenty minutes brought him out upon

the mountain top, from which stretched downwards on the other side a smiling expanse of corn and pasture-land, rising again with a great sweep to the far horizon. Before him was the small weather-beaten sanctuary that had stood there for a century, surrounded by its grass-grown graveyard, and beaten upon alternately by every wind that blew. The congregation was coming in twos and threes from every direction, small farmers from the country-side below, humble cottagers from the quiet valleys to the north, mountaineers, and woodmen, and shepherds, most of them with their wives and children, and all dressed neatly and quietly, as befitted the day.

Ben, after his usual chat with sundry people who were standing around the wicket-gate, went straight to the square, high-backed pew in which he had sat since boyhood. He never once turned round during the homely service, and thus he did not see what every one else had mentally noted. There was a stranger amongst the congregation. It was an occurrence rare and eventful, and everyone looked and wondered. Even the minister could not help speculating as he peered over his glasses. This unexpected member of the congregation sat back against the lobby in John Martin's pew, and John Martin's wife drew herself up with an air of gratified pride as she saw furtive glances shooting in her direction from every portion of the building. It was not every day that Mrs. Martin had the opportunity of showing off as her guest a lady friend in a “ Lunnon-made dress and bonnet. Meanwhile, under her veil the eyes of Mrs. Martin's guest were wet with tears. What memories, glad and sad, set a-ringing little bells of recollection as the old scenes and the old days were brought back to her afresh by this visit to the mountain chapel ! How altered were all the well-remembered friends, and yet how much the same! How many years older in face, and yet as steady-going and faithful and regular in their lives as they had ever been! It seemed to her that this return from the roar and turmoil of the fierce world to the rest and quiet of the old

home laid a sweet peace upon her heart that somehow had its pain as well as its pleasure, and caused the tears to well upwards and blind her. After eighteen years ! How cruel and selfish had she found the world! How cordial and kindly had been the welcome of the old friends, out of whose lives she had passed for eighteen years! And in a day or two she must return once more to the toil and moil and struggle of the selfish Babylon !

Thus she mused with swimming eyes as the simple service drew to a close, and it was with a start that she realised the announcement of the closing hymn.

“Don't you remember Mary Howard ?” Mrs. Martin said with proud excitement to half-a-dozen people at once, as they stood a few minutes later in the porch. Why, bless me, you can't have forgotten Mary of the Mountain View Farm ! That's right, I knew you'd remember her! Here, Mrs. Thomas, now who do you think this is ? Here, Ben Mallock, now I wonder can you bear in mind an old friend ?

She stopped, for Ben's face was white, and his lips trembled as he put out an unsteady hand towards Mary Howard. She too was pale, as she looked into his face. “Well, Mary!”

Well, Ben!” There was silence for a moment as they confronted each other. Then he said :

“It's many a long year since you paid us a visit, Mary.”

They were simple words, and they came from a simple heart, which had not a shadow of vindictiveness in the whole of its nature. But somehow, to her, there was an implied reproach in the mild tones which caused her to colour slightly as she replied :

Yes, eighteen years is a long time, Ben, but not long enough to make one forget old friends."

Then the minister came, and Ben passed on. His lips were still trembling as he walked rapidly, almost fiercely, down the mountain-road, hardly knowing where he was or what he was doing. His brain was in a whirl, and his heart seemed to be hursting. The old sore had been torn open and was bleeding afresh with an aching indescribable. We all know how a strong man can suffer when forced to look once more into the grave of a buried trouble. All the wild agony comes back, all the unutterable poignancy of grief, as keenly as though it were but yesterday that it all happened. A small thing may do it. A simple piece of ribbon or old lace has before now caused a sweet dead face to appear before the mental vision, and the hand to go quickly to the heart. Ben had suddenly, after many years, looked upon the face of the woman he had loved. So long had his faithful heart been locked with bolt and bar upon the old love and the old pain, and now, in one moment, it had burst its barriers with a passion uncontrollable. Oh, why had she come here to stab him as with daggers-she who eighteen years ago had thrown a blank desolation over his whole life !

All unwittingly he had turned off the path, and he came to himself to find that he was striding aimlessly among the thick undergrowth, four miles distant from his little farmstead. He came

[ocr errors]

to a standstill, and wiped great beads of perspiration from his forehead. The fit of agony was over. He smiled to himself with a pathetic little gesture of shame as he realised that he ought at that moment to be sitting at his dinner, with Trot at his side. Come, come, Ben Mallock !” he said.

" This is fine goings-on for a man o'thy age ! After talking so brave about it, too, all these years ! Thee's no better than a child !”

And so he turned and walked quietly home, and bravely set himself to eat his simple dinner, and read the volume of old sermons in the afterneon, just as it had been his wont to do on other Sundays. It was at best a hopeless and weary attempt. Strive as he would, the day refused to be as other Sundays had been. He could not

he dared not think. He went out instead,

all as plain an' simple as the day, an' what's the use o' frettin' about it. The day after to-morrow she'll be gone agen. I heerd Mrs. Martin a-sayin' it. What's the use o' us frettin' then, jes' 'cos she remembered to come here once agen after bein' so long away! We ought to be pleased at that, instead of vexin' about it like this 'ere. Anyhow we'll keep out of the way till she goes away agen-thee an' me, Trot. What's the use o' showin' ourselves an' a-forcin' ourselves on her sight! I s'pose she'd a-hardly remembered me, if Mrs. Martin hadn' a-called my name out. Yes, it's the best thing we can do, Trot, is to keep out o the way! I hope she's got a good home anyways. Well, the best thing thee and me can do is to go an’ give Bess and the others somethin' to eat, and then make ourselves some tea. Come along, old boy !”

read ;

[graphic][merged small]


The evening shadows stretched out long arms, and painted a frowning background beyond the distant mountain-tops. The day waned and quickened to its close, and night once more reigned, solemn and still, over the land. There was no evening service at the little chapel during autumn and winter, and so Ben sat in his armchair, with his great Bible on his knee, while at his feet Trot slept soundly.

and wandered disconsolately round the house, while the poplars sang and crooned to themselves in the freshening wind. Now he would come to a standstill and look sadly down the valley. Then suddenly he would pull himself up with :: “ Now then, Ben Mallock, now then ! Thee's going at it afresh !” And then he would start walking again.

What pathos there was in those forlorn little attempts at humour, in that never-ceasing walk round the house, in that little soliloquy of his when at last he went indoors and sat in his armchair before the fire !

“ One thing's certain," he said. Trot, old boy, one thing's pretty certain. Thee an' me's got to get over it somehow—thee an' me an' Bess. It's no good for us to vex.

If she went away an' left us—then she went away an' left us, that's all. I don't blame her for that. She ain't married, Trot, an' yet she's bin away all these years ! It's


[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]




Monday morning to commence a small carting contract for a farmer in the lowlands over to the west.

The day passed in slow jolting to and fro with sundry loads, and when he commenced his homeward way along one of the silent by-roads that led towards the hill it was already nightfall. Rattle and whirr went the old cart again over the stones. The same star shone in the north.

The fiery glow from the furnace breathed luridly in the western sky. Ben sat in the cart with head bent forward, lost to all around him, and Bess jogged on at her own pleasure. Her master did not even speak to her to-night. He sat, instead, ever lost in thought. Occasionally he would lift his face towards the dim gleam of the star, and thus meditate. Anon he would lean forward again in a fit of abstraction. So was his mood all the evening. He did not even speak to Trot, save to give him a friendly greeting as he passed through the gate of the paddock. He sat for an hour before the fire, forgetting even to light his pipe ; then he fell to walking to and fro across the floor of the kitchen; then he sat down again before the fire and shaded his eyes with his hand ; and all through the long night watches he tossed and turned and breathed uneasily in his little inner room.

Tuesday morning set in dull and cloudy. The wind had gone down to the south-west, and heavy rain-clouds were drifting slowly overhead. Ben went towards the window absently as he waited for the kettle to boil. There is no sight more desolate than to watch the dark presage of rain over a mountain landscape. The ghostly mists drift noiselessly over the woods, and wrap the far hill-tops in sombre gloom. The wind sighs disconsolately among the trees, and, now with louder note, gives a long moan down the trough of the valley. Towards the south the inky clouds gather with truculent frown, and slowly, silently, spread themselves over the still land. It is a dreary sight, and Ben looked drearier still as he stood at the window.

“She's gone this mornin',” he said aloud. I expec' Farmer Martin drove her over to the station. I hope she won't have rain, anyway, till she gets safe on the Lunnon line. It don' matter then so much. I s'pose there's plenty o'shelter as one can run to in a big place like Lunnon. Well Trot, old boy, it's no good for you or me to think on it any more.”

Nevertheless, he pushed his plate from him as he sat at breakfast. “I can't understand this,” he said, wearily. “It's jes' as bad as it was eighteen year ago. I'm worse nor a child if I have n' got no more strength of mind than this 'ere. What's the good of worryin' about it! She's gone, an' there's an end of it?”

Poor Ben! His attempts at philosophic reasoning were as brave as they were simple. He could never get any further than “ What's the good !” but it was a plucky effort for all that ; for if there was a lonely heart in the wide world on this dull September morning, that heart was Ben's.

Slowly he donned his rough work-a-day hat and jacket, and slowly he harnessed Bess for the five

miles' journey across the mountain. The landscape had looked glooiny enough in his own little valley. It was more desolate still in the lowlands where his work lay. The mist had crept over them, and was shrouding them in sullen melancholy. A drizzling rain had commenced to fall, and the steady drip, drip, of the trees and hedges fell with monotonous regularity as Ben filled his cart at each journey. The afternoon was closing in rapidly towards twilight, and Ben was on his .6 last trip” when-oh wonder of wonders !-as he turned to secure the tailboard of the cart, he saw Mary standing in the roadside near the horse's head. He staggered, and caught hold of the wheel as she came towards him.

Well, Ben !” she said, holding out her hand. There was a dead silence, while Ben, his head in a whirl, stood staring at her with one hand on the wheel, and the other pressed helplessly to his forehead.

*** You didn't expect to see me, Ben,” she said, coming nearer.

Ben hardly heard what she said. He only knew that her face was looking kindly and earnestly into his. It was the same face as of yore; pleasant, comely, tender, with sincere grey eyes, and sweet brown hair curling about the small

But how could it be Mary ? Surely he was dreaming. Mary had gone away that morning!

“You didn't expect to see me, Ben,” she said again. “You see, I have been staying here since last evening, and am going back to London tomorrow morning. I have watched you passing to and fro all day. I was obliged to come out at last, Ben! I thought I should like to say goodbye to you.”

Ben was only just beginning to collect his senses.

“You-you've-been-here all day, lass !” he stammered.

“ Yes, the Martins drove me over last night. But little did I think I should see you here, Ben ! I have been wanting ever since the morning to come out to you, but I didn't know whetherwhether--well, never mind that !"

There was another silence, broken only by the drip, drip, from the boughs and the voice of someone in the farm-yard. Ben was still hopelessly dumb. Mary was looking on the ground, and a rush of colour had suffused her face. Ben's silence stung her like so many needle-points. Did he think she had come out to-to

“Are you keeping well, Ben ?" she asked constrainedly. .“ Ay, lass, well, thank God,” said Ben.

Again she looked down, and again she blushed hotly.

“ It's many a year, Ben, since we've seen each other,” she said at last.

“Ay, ay, many a year-a’most a lifetime,” replied Ben, in an unsteady voice.

Many changes have taken place since then,” she went on.

Ay, ay," answered Ben, “ many changes." Yet again there was a silence ; for Ben's tongue clove to the roof of his mouth.

“Ben,” she said, with a sudden effort, as she looked into his face. “Ben, tell me, what do you

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

think of me? I didn't treat you well, I know; but I was young and foolish in those days. Ben, don't judge the Mary of to-day by the Mary of eighteen years ago !

I have found what the world is since then, and have learned how to set the proper value on old friends.

Don't let me go back to London to-morrow feeling that my oldest friend of all has not forgiven me!”

“Lass, lass, there's nowt I wouldn't forgive thee,” said Ben.

“We were both young,” she went on hurriedly, “ and we were both proud. I was a bit flippant in my ways—and you-you were always seriousminded, Ben. I knew you were right-I knew it as well as I could know anything—but my false pride would not permit me to acknowledge it until, at last, I wrote you that letter. And when you let it

pass without even a reply, it did sting me-oh, Ben, it did sting me, to think I had humbled myself, only to be _"

Letter !” exclaimed Ben; and again he caught hold of the wheel in a dazed way. 6 Letter ! What letter? I received no letter from thee, lass !” “You received --no-letter--from-me!" she

— 1echoed, putting her hand quickly on his arm.

Why, Ben, I wrote to you six months after I went away,--and I never got the letter returned either. You must allow a woman to have a little pride, Ben. I waited for six months, hoping and yearning to hear from you. I wrote to your mother in order that you might know my address.

I couldn't do more than that until, at last, my love for you broke all bounds, and I wrote to you direct. It was not a maidenly thing to do, but I couldn't help it. And when I received no reply, I was so stung that I took the chance of going away with the family to Italy ; and there I've been for seventeen years."

There was a long silence. The shadows of the evening were falling thick and fast, and the still country side was fading into dim nothingness. They stood looking at each other, silent and awestricken, as the terrible truth was slowly borne in upon

them. "God forgive her!" said Ben at length, solemnly lifting his hat. “ It was my poor mother as did it. She was allus jealous like in her ways, and set agen every girl as she thought might take her place. Lass, lass, this has bin a cruel thing for both of us !”




Whoa, mare, whoa-oa-oa ! Steady there, mare ! Plant thy legs out well afore thee, and pick thy way! Steady, lass, over the stones ! Supper's a-waitin' thee, lass; an' some one's awaitin' for me, with a bright fire a-burnin', and a word of lovin’ welcome ready! Oh, think on it! some one's a-waitin' for me! Eh, lass, but God is good--oh, God is good !”

And the northern star, gleaming over the hill, throbbed and burned in the bosom of dusky night, like a ray of sweet hope, shining at last upon the twilight of life.


1 Song of the Old and New Home


[Tue following lines are written by a Somersetshire farm-labourer over eighty years of age. A neighbour of his sends them to us with the following note: “ Perhaps they will not seem so touching to you, but if you could have seen the dear old man playing his own tune to them on the violin, and the dear old wife joining in with her feeble old gentle voice it would have touched you. Such a simple old cottage, with the flowers looking in at the window and the two quite contented, living on 2s. 6d. each, given by the parish. The old man's piety is so genuine, that he is delighted when he can to give expression to his great love and gratitude by singing his own words to his own melody which he accompanies upon the fiddle."]

EAR to me still is the old home

Where, above all, that smiling face
Though hairs be few and gray,

That loving gazed on me?
Yet since so far from it I roam

Those ready arms me to embrace,
But little will I say.

And that soft dandling knee?

Where have those golden days all fled ?

Where all that childish glee?
Happy old home! Sweet, sweet old home!

Till I am number'd with the dead,
Home of my childhood dear!

Old home, I'll think of thee!
Oft in my dreams to thee I come,
But waking find me here.

Soon shall I see dear ones again

In that far better land,
Often I out of door would peep

And join their Hallelujah strain
Something to see or hear,

With Heaven's glorious band.
Whilst mother's eye strict watch would keep
Lest danger should be near.

Chorus to last verse only.
Where is that pretty box of toys ?

Happy new home! Sweet, sweet new home!
Where, too, the bat and ball ?

Home of our Saviour dear!
Things that once gave such childish joys-

Glory to Him by whom we've come
Where, oh, where are they all ?

Parting no more to hear.







NOTHER interesting visit paid was to the The superintendent asked if either of the ladies

police at Kyoto. Here the chief director would like to address the men. We accepted the

received us with much civility, and after invitation, only first asking if they would object some conversation, finding that we could not re- to our speaking of Christianity. We were politely main for the annual police tournament, he invited assured that we might speak of any subject and us to attend a fencing match to be specially ar- as long as we liked, only remembering that they ranged for our benefit. Accordingly at the time would like to hear something about the police in appointed we arrived at the police station, ac- our own land. So the men came forward and companied by our friend Dr. Saiki, a Christian crowded into the arena, standing just beneath the physician, and were met by three superintendents platform and looking up with eager attention as and the stately old fencing-master, who kindly we spoke to them, first telling them something of gave us the usual "tea,” and then presented us our brave “ keepers of the peace” at home and with some photographs.

mentioning the greetings which many had asked There was a fearful noise proceeding from the us to bear to the police of foreign lands, and then arena in the police school, and when we reached speaking of Jesus, the Saviour and Friend, whom the platform above we found one hundred young we longed that all should know and trust. policemen fighting like cats and dogs, apparently Dr. Saiki interpreted, and there was no mistaking bent on slaying each other. This was the general the look of interest on the faces gazing up at him. scrimmage before the real work of the day. The We often hear of the downward glance, the combatants then came out in couples while the uninterested expression of the Japanese while remainder watched the scene from the galleries listening, bat in our short experience this has not around.

been the case. At the close of the address we Each couple wore the old samaurai dress with offered copies of the Gospels in their own tongue short skirts, breastplates over a vest with short to all who would care to have them, telling them sleeves, thick padded leather helmets with masks that as we knew how the Japanese were ready to of strong iron bars across the face, padded gloves, read all new books we would not apologize for with gauntlets, and they had bare feet. The asking them to accept the book we loved best, bamboo swords were tipped with white kid. The which told them of the Friend of whom two combatants began by sitting on the floor had been speaking. They responded eagerly, all opposite each other and bowing profoundly, then crowding round and begging for a copy, and, after kneeling on one knee and crossing swords, and some kind expressions of thanks from the superthen standing and literally squalling at intendent and the fencing master, we took our another like cats on a roof. Then with unearthly leave, and in due course continued our journey. yells they attacked each other with the utmost It is interesting to know that the Word has borne ferocity, springing like wild animals, growling, fruit in Kyoto and that a branch of the police shrieking, and raining blows, till it seemed as mission has been established there. though somebody must be killed.

So much has been written about the religious The point was to strike either the head, the life and the progress of missionary work in Japan w rist, or the heart. The victor must succeed three that it is not needful to say much about it here. times in this, two of the victories being consecutive. Two or three points however specially occurred If broken by a defeat they did not count. As to us as observers from the outside of the missoon as the third victory was accomplished the sionary circle. First, there is great encouragement enemy was considered slain. The two then bowed in the large and increasing amount of religious profoundly to each other and departed to take off liberty in Japan. All religions are tolerated, and their armour and give place to another couple. perhaps in no Eastern country is it so easy to

The master and his assistant acted as umpires, propagate Christian truth, by means of preaching took notes, gave advice (sitting on the floor against and teaching, “open front” meetings, tract and the wall), and one of the inspectors kept the book distribution, house to house visiting, and account and declared who had won. At length all other means—and especially by the example of the couples had fought, and then the two masters Christian lives. The Japanese are a reading and tried their strength and skill together: very thinking people. They are on the look out for stately they were, and they contended almost in reality-and wherever they find it they respect it. silence, while the pupils watched breathlessly and applauded loudly when the old master gained the For group of Kyoto police, see Sunday At IIOME, victory

January, p. 156.


[ocr errors]


« PredošláPokračovať »