Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

riot, a fire, and the county yeomanry. There is no need here to dwell upon such tales; the Englishman into whose soul they have not sunk deep, is not worthy the name: you English boys for whom this book is meant (God bless your bright faces and kind hearts !) will learn it all soon enough.

Into such a parish and state of society, Arthur's father had been thrown at the age of twenty-five, a young married parson, full of faith hope, and love. He had battled with it like : man, and had lots of fine Utopian ideas abou the perfectibility of mankind, glorious humanity and such like knocked out of his head; and real wholesome Christian love for the poor, strug, gling, sinning men, of whom he felt himself on and with and for whom he spent fortune, an strength, and life, driven into his heart. He ha battled like a man, and gotten a man's reward No silver teapots or salvers, with flowery inscri tions, setting forth his virtues and the appreciatio of a genteel parish; no fat living or stall, for which he never looked, and didn't care; no sighs ar prajses of comfortable dowagers and well gotyoung women, who worked him slippers, sugar his tea, and adored him as 'a devoted mai but a manly respect, wrung from the unwillii. souls of men who fancied his order their natur enemies; the fear and hatred of every one who w false or unjust in the district, were he master man; and the blessed sight of women and childre daily becoming more human and more home.

[blocks in formation]

a comfort to themselves and to their husbands and fathers.

These things of course took time, and had to be fought for with toil and sweat of brain and heart, and with the life-blood poured out.

out. All that, Arthur had laid his account to give, and took as a matter of course; neither pitying himself, or looking on himself as a martyr, when he felt the wear and tear making him feel old before his time, and the stilling air of fever dens telling on his health. His wife seconded him in everything. She had been rather fond of society,

and much admired and run after before her mar: riage; and the London world to which she had belonged pitied poor Fanny Evelyn when she marTried the young clergyman, and went to settle in that smoky hole Turley, a very nest of chartism and atheism, in a part of the county which all the decent families had had to leave for years.

However, somehow or other she didn't seem to care. If her husband's living had been amongst ! green fields and

near pleasant neighbours, she would have liked it better, that

she never prejended to deny. But there they were : the air wasn't bad after all; the people were very good urt of people, civil to you if you were civil to them, after the first brush; and they didn't ex., pect to work miracles, and convert them all offhand into model Christians. So he and she went quietly among the folk, talking to and treating them just as they would have done people of their own rank. They didn't feel that they were

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

none

doing any thing out of the common way, and so were perfectly natural, and had

of that condescension or consciousness of manner, which so outrages the independent poor. And thus they gradually won respect and confidence; and after sixteen years he was looked up to by the whole neighbourhood as the just man, the man to whom masters and men could go in their strikes, and all in their quarrels and difficulties, and by whom the right and true word would be said without fear or favour. And the women had come round to take her advice, and go to her as a friend in all their troubles; while the children all worshipped the very ground she trod on.

They had three children, two daughters and a son, little George, who came between his sisters. He had been a very delicate boy from his childhood; they thought he had a tendency to consumption, and so he had been kept at home and taught by his father, who had made a companion of him, and from whom he had gained good scholarship, and a knowledge of and interest in many subjects which boys in general never come across till they are many years older.

Just as he reached his thirteenth year, and his father had settled that he was strong enough to go to school, and, after much debating with himself, had resolved to send him there, a desperate typhusfever broke out in the town; most of the other clergy, and almost all the doctors, ran away; the work fell with tenfold weight on those who stood to their work. Arthur and his wife both caught the

[blocks in formation]

fever, of which he died in a few days, and she recovered, having been able to nurse him to the end, and store

up his last words. He was sensible to the last, and calm and happy, leaving his wife and children with fearless trust for a few years in the hands of the Lord and Friend who had lived and died for him, and for whom he, to the best of his power, had lived and died. His widow's mourning was deep and gentle ; she was more affected by the request of the Committee of a Freethinking club, established in the town by some of the factory hands (which he had striven against with might and main, and nearly suppressed), that some of their number might be allowed to help bear the coffin, than any thing else. Two of them were chosen, who, with six other labouring men, his own fellow-workmen and friends, bore him to the grave a man who had fought the Lord's fight, even unto the death. The shops were closed, and the factories shut that day in the parish, yet no master stopped the day's wages; but for many a year afterwards the townsfolk felt the want of that brave, hopeful, loving parson, and his wife, who had lived to teach them mutual forbearance and helpfulness, and had almost at last given them a glimpse of what this old world would be, if people would live for God and each other, instead of for themselves.

What has all this to do with our story? Well, my dear boys, let a fellow go on his own way, or you won't get any thing out of him worth having. I must show you what sort of a man it was who had begotten and trained little Arthur, or else you won't

[blocks in formation]

believe in him, which I am resolved you shall do, and you won't see how he, the timid, weak boy, had points in him from which the bravest and strongest recoiled, and made his presence and example felt from the first on all sides, unconsciously to himself, and without the least attempt at proselytizing. The spirit of his father was in him, and the Friend to whom bis father had left him did not neglect the trust.

After supper that night, and almost nightly for years afterwards, Tom and Arthur, and by degrees East occasionally, and sometimes one, sometimes another, of their friends, read a chapter of the Bible together, and talked it over afterwards. Tom was at first utterly astonished, and almost shocked, at the sort of way in which Arthur read the book, and talked about the men and women whose lives were there told. The first night they happened to fall on the chapters about the famine in Egypt, and Arthur began talking about Joseph as if he were a living statesman; just as he might have talked about Lord Grey and the Reform Bill; only that they were much more living realities to him. The book was to him, Tom saw, the most vivid and delightful history of real people, who might do right or wrong, just like any one who was walking about in Rugby – the Doctor, or the master, or the sixth-form boys. But the astonishment soon passed off, the scales seemed to drop from his eyes, and the book became at once and forever to him the great human and divine book, and the men and women, whom he had looked upon as something quite different from himself, became his friends and counsellors.

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »