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Title: Nestleton Magna - A Story of Yorkshire Methodism
Author: Wray, J. Jackson
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    NESTLETON MAGNA.

    [Illustration: NATHAN AT WORK.--_Page 294._]



    NESTLETON MAGNA.

    A STORY OF

    _YORKSHIRE METHODISM._

    BY

    J. JACKSON WRAY.


    Thirtieth Thousand.

    LONDON:

    JAMES NISBET & CO., 21 BERNERS STREET.


    _Printed by_ BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO
    _At the Ballantyne Press_


    TO THE

    METHODIST CHURCHES

    THROUGHOUT

    THE WORLD,

    NUMBERING SOME FIFTEEN MILLIONS OF ADHERENTS,

    This Book is respectfully Dedicated,

    IN HEARTY ADMIRATION OF THEIR NOBLE LABOURS IN

    THE HIGHEST INTERESTS OF HUMANITY,

    AND IN THE EXTENSION OF THE REDEEMER’S KINGDOM;

    WITH THE EARNEST HOPE THAT,

    UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE, THEY WILL

    SPEEDILY BE ABLE TO

    ADOPT SOME PRINCIPLE OF CONFEDERACY,

    BY MEANS OF WHICH THEY MAY PRESENT

    A UNITED AND RESISTLESS FRONT AGAINST EVERY FORM OF

    ANTI-CHRIST, AND

    IN LOVING CO-OPERATION WITH OTHER CHRISTIAN CHURCHES,

    MAY SOON

    “WIN THE WORLD FOR CHRIST.”



PREFACE.


In this book I have sought to present a faithful picture of village
Methodism--a picture which I do not hesitate to say is being
reproduced to-day, as far as Church work and beneficent piety is
concerned, in many a village in this country. I have had, for more
years than I care to count, an intimate knowledge of Methodist rural
life. Nathan Blyth, Old Adam Olliver and his wife Judith, and some
other characters in the book, not excepting Balaam, have,
unconsciously, stood for their portraits; and I dare to say that those
parts of the story which have to do with Methodist operations and
influences, will not be considered as overdrawn by those who are most
conversant with the inner life of the Methodist people. If it be asked
why I have presented my pictures in fictitious frames, my answer is,
that I was bound to follow my natural bent, and to allow my pen to
pursue the lines most congenial to the hand that wielded it; that, of
all kinds of literature, fiction is the most attractive, and as it is
utterly useless to try to prevent its perusal, wisdom and religion,
too, suggest that it should be provided of so pure a quality, and with
so definitely a moral and religious bias, that it may not only do no
harm but some good to the reader, who would otherwise go further and
fare worse. I have honestly endeavoured so to write as to be able to
quote dear Old Bunyan, and say,--

    “This book is writ in such a dialect
    As may the minds of listless men affect;
    It seems a novelty, and yet contains
    Nothing but sound and honest Gospel strains.”

The rapid sale of the former editions of “Nestleton Magna,” and the
numerous criticisms to which it has been subjected, have given me a
welcome and unexpectedly early opportunity of giving it a careful
revision, especially in the rendering of the East Yorkshire dialect.
It is now presented to the public in a new and much improved form, and
at a price which will bring it within the reach of all classes. The
liberal and spontaneous patronage, and the highly-favourable reviews
which this my first venture has received, merit my hearty thanks, and
encourage me to a new trial of skill in the same direction. According
to the unanimous and emphatic testimony of a large jury of reviewers,
“Aud Adam Olliver” is fully worthy of the esteem I have sought to win
for him; I cannot, therefore, do better than quote the words of the
godly old patriarch, in acknowledgment of their verdict and the
popular approval, “Ah’s varry mitch obliged te yo’.”

    J. JACKSON WRAY.



    CONTENTS.


                                                                PAGE
    CHAPTER I.
    Nestleton Magna                                                1

    CHAPTER II.
    “Blithe Natty,” the Harmonious Blacksmith                      5

    CHAPTER III.
    “Master Philip”                                               11

    CHAPTER IV.
    “Aud Adam Olliver”                                            16

    CHAPTER V.
    “Black Morris”                                                22

    CHAPTER VI.
    Philip’s Visit to the Forge; or, Love’s Young Dream           28

    CHAPTER VII.
    Kesterton Circuit and the “Rounders”                          33

    CHAPTER VIII.
    Adam Olliver Begins to Prophesy                               40

    CHAPTER IX.
    The Progress of Master Philip’s Wooing                        47

    CHAPTER X.
    Black Morris is More Free than Welcome                        53

    CHAPTER XI.
    Both Philip and Lucy Make a Clean Breast of it                59

    CHAPTER XII.
    Adam Olliver in the “Methodist Confessional”                  66

    CHAPTER XIII.
    Squire Fuller Pays a Visit to the Forge                       76

    CHAPTER XIV.
    Aud Adam Olliver “Sees About It”                              83

    CHAPTER XV.
    Nathan Blyth is the Victim of a Gunpowder Plot                89

    CHAPTER XVI.
    Squire Fuller Receives a Deputation                           98

    CHAPTER XVII.
    Dr. Jephson Gives an Unprofessional Opinion                  106

    CHAPTER XVIII.
    Philip Fuller Makes a Discovery                              112

    CHAPTER XIX.
    Black Morris is Taken by Surprise                            119

    CHAPTER XX.
    Kasper Crabtree Falls Among Thieves                          126

    CHAPTER XXI.
    Squire Fuller Hears Unwelcome News                           133

    CHAPTER XXII.
    Lucy Blyth Makes a Conquest                                  140

    CHAPTER XXIII.
    The Dark Deed In Thurston Wood                               150

    CHAPTER XXIV.
    “Balaam” is Taken into Consultation                          157

    CHAPTER XXV.
    Nathan Blyth is in a Quandary                                163

    CHAPTER XXVI.
    Dr. Jephson’s Prescription Works Wonders                     170

    CHAPTER XXVII.
    Hannah Olliver’s “Young Man”                                 177

    CHAPTER XXVIII.
    Bill Buckley Sees an Apparition                              183

    CHAPTER XXIX.
    The Story of the Dead-Alive                                  191

    CHAPTER XXX.
    Midden Harbour has a New Sensation                           198

    CHAPTER XXXI.
    “Balaam” Declares Himself a “Spiritualist”                   206

    CHAPTER XXXII.
    Piggy Morris Hears “A Knock at the Door”                     212

    CHAPTER XXXIII.
    Squire Fuller Introduces an Innovation                       221

    CHAPTER XXXIV.
    Lucy Blyth has an Eye on Landed Property                     230

    CHAPTER XXXV.
    Aud Adam Olliver to the Rescue                               239

    CHAPTER XXXVI.
    Sister Agatha’s Ghost                                        247

    CHAPTER XXXVII.
    Philip Fuller Boldly Meets his Fate                          257

    CHAPTER XXXVIII.
    Black Morris “Wants that Brickbat Again”                     267

    CHAPTER XXXIX.
    Nestleton Puts on Holiday Attire                             276

    CHAPTER XL.
    An Episode in a Methodist Love-feast                         285

    CHAPTER XLI.
    The Revolution in Midden Harbour                             292

    CHAPTER XLII.
    Aud Adam Olliver’s “Nunc Dimittis”                           299



NESTLETON MAGNA.



CHAPTER I.

NESTLETON MAGNA.

    “The cottage homes of England
      By thousands on her plains,
    They are smiling o’er the silvery brooks,
      And round the hamlet fanes.
    Through glowing orchards forth they peep,
      Each from its nook of leaves,
    And fearless there the lowly sleep,
      As the bird beneath their eaves.”

    _Mrs. Hemans._


Nestleton Magna is as “canny” a little village as can be found in any
portion of the Three Kingdoms; and that is saying a good deal, for
there are rural gems within British borders which are quite unequalled
for cosiness and beauty by anything you can find within the four
quarters of the globe, even if you take “all the isles of the ocean”
into the bargain. Situated in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and
nestling like a brooding bird in the fertile valley of Waverdale, at
the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds, it possesses rare and quiet charms,
which elicit the spontaneous admiration of those not numerous
tourists, who prefer to explore the rich resources of English inland
scenery, rather than fag through the hurry-skurry and unsatisfactory
whirl of Continental travel. There is many a jaded man of business,
many a brain-worn student, who foolishly squanders the precious hours
of his brief holiday in rushing insanely over weary miles, through hot
and dusty cities, among tiresome hills and rugged mountains--returning
home again weary and worn--who would have found real rest and health,
and equally varied and charming landscapes, within the borders of his
motherland.

Nestleton Magna is surrounded by emerald hills, which slope gently
down to the valley in which the hamlet lies, displaying a varied
surface of wood and glade, of cornland and pasture-ground, and
surmounted by a stretch of moorland, whereon the sheep crop the
scantier herbage, and the morning mists hang like silver curtains
until the “rosy fingers of the sun” draw them aside, and then purple
heath and golden gorse gleam and glitter on them like a royal crown.
Most of the cottages are thatched and white-washed, and not a few are
embowered in honeysuckle and jasmine. Here and there a more
pretentious dwelling lifts its head, and these with their red bricks
and tiles give piquant variety to the picture. Through the village
there flows a babbling brook, in whose clear, transparent waters the
speckled trout may be seen poising themselves with waving fin, or
darting like an arrow above the gravelly bed, while sticklebacks and
minnows disport themselves in their crystal paradise. Along its
borders are two rows of unshorn willows, and here and there a poplar
lifts its stately head. On either side, in and out among the cosy
cottages, are little patches of garden ground, small tree-shaded
paddocks, and orchards which in sunny spring-time are flush with the
manifold blossoms of apple, plum, pear, and cherry-trees, which add a
peculiar charm to the attractive scene.

                        “Far diffused around
    One boundless blush, one white impurpled shower
    Of mingled blossoms; where the raptured eye
    Hurries from joy to joy.”

The quaint old church stands on rising ground in the centre of the
village, and its short, square Norman tower, ivy-clad and pinnacled,
is almost overtopped by the gables of the ancient rectory which stands
close by. The church, the rectory grounds, and the pretty little
churchyard are enclosed and shadowed by a circle of fine old elms, in
which a colony of rooks have been established from time immemorial,
and their monotonous and familiar cawing gives a sylvan finish to the
scene. Near the little wych gate of the churchyard a spacious and open
green affords a pleasant playground for the chubby children, of whom
Nestleton Magna provides quite a notable supply, a gossipping place
for the village rustics in the evening hours, and pasturage for two or
three cows, a donkey or two, and, last not least, a flock of geese,
whose solemn-looking gander oft disputes possession of the field with
the aforesaid chubby children, who flee motherward before it in
undisguised alarm.

Neither is Nestleton Magna without its lions, and of these the
Nestletonians are justly proud. In Gregory Houston’s “Home-close,” on
the Abbey Farm, there are the veritable ruins of the ancient cloisters
wherein, in darker times, the Waverdale nuns led ignoble and wasted
lives. The crumbling walls and tottering archways, and grass-grown
heaps of stone, are all covered with ivy bush, bramble, and briar; but
if tradition is to be believed, there are underground passages to the
parish church on the one hand, and reaching even to Cowley Priory on
the other, where, in “the good old times,” a fraternity of Franciscan
friars ruled the roast and played queer pranks in Waverdale,
according to the manner of their tribe. Nestleton Abbey, for by that
name are the ruins known, is reputed to be haunted. It is said that
long, long ago, a certain nun called Agatha, having been placed under
penance, did in wicked revenge stab her offending Lady Superior to the
heart, and then, in bitter remorse, did plunge the fatal knife into
her own. From that day to this she has never rested quiet in her
unhallowed grave, but ever and anon “revisits the glimpses of the
moon,” attired in a white robe with a crimson stain upon the breast,
and flits among the ruins with uplifted hands, wailing out the
unavailing plaints of her unshriven soul. Surely it is given to few
villages to possess so veritable and renowned a wonder as “Sister
Agatha’s ghost.” Then there is St. Madge’s Well, in Widow Appleton’s
croft--once a far-famed shrine, to which devout pilgrimages were made
from far and near, and which is credited to this day with certain
healing virtues second only to those of Bethesda’s sacred pool. Pure,
bright, cold and crystalline, its waters strongly impregnated with
iron, it bubbles up unceasingly in the cool grot, overshadowed by
flowering hawthorn, fragrant elder, and purple beech, and no visitor
to Waverdale could ever think of neglecting to visit this charming
nook, or drinking from the iron cup chained to its stone brink, a
refreshing draught from its crystal spring. At least, if he did, Widow
Appleton’s money-box would be defrauded, and that brisk and cheery old
dame in neat black gown and frilled white cap, would wish to know the
reason why.

Time would fail to tell all the beauties of Nestleton Magna, and of
that lovely valley of Waverdale, of which it is the loveliest gem. For
the present, Waverdale Park, Thurston Wood, Cowley Priory, and a host
of minor marvels must be content with passing mention--content to wait
their several occasions in the development of this simple and
veracious story of Yorkshire village life.



CHAPTER II.

“BLITHE NATTY,” THE HARMONIOUS BLACKSMITH.

    “Under a spreading chestnut tree
      The village smithy stands;
    The smith, a mighty man is he,
      With large and sinewy hands;
    And the muscles of his brawny arms
      Are strong as iron bands.

    His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
      His face is like the tan;
    His brow is wet with honest sweat,
      He earns whate’er he can;
    And looks the whole world in the face.
      For he owes not any man.”

    _Longfellow._


Nearly at the eastern end of Nestleton stood the village forge, a
spacious low-roofed building, in which Nathan Blyth, the blacksmith,
and his father before him, had wielded the hammer by the ringing
anvil, fashioning horse-shoes, forging plough-shares, and otherwise
following the arts and mysteries of their grimy craft. Close to the
smithy stood Nathan’s cottage, though that is almost too humble a name
to give to the neat and roomy dwelling which owned the stalwart
blacksmith for its lord and master. True it was thatched and
white-washed like its humbler neighbours, but it boasted of two good
stories, and had a latticed porch, which, as well as the walls, was
covered with roses, jasmine, and other floral adornments. At the gable
end was a tall and fruitful jargonelle pear-tree, which not only
reached to the very peak of the gable, but like Joseph’s vine, its
branches ran over the wall, and were neatly tacked with loops of cloth
behind the house, and almost as far as the lowlier porch which
screened the kitchen entrance thereto. Both “fore and aft,” as the
sailors say, was a spacious and well-managed garden, whose fruits,
flowers, and vegetables, trim walks and tasteful beds, testified to
the fact that their owner was as skilful with the spade and the rake
as he was with the hammer, the chisel, and the file.

And that is saying much, for Nathan Blyth had a wonderful repute as
the deftest master of his handicraft within twenty miles of Waverdale.
You could not find his equal in the matter of coulters and
plough-shares. Farmer Houston used to say that his horses went faster
and showed better mettle for his magic fit in the way of shoes; and as
for millers’ chisels, with which the millstones are roughened to make
them “bite,” they were sent to him from thirty miles the other side of
Kesterton market town to be tempered and sharpened as only Nathan
Blyth could. Then, too, he was handy in all things belonging to the
whitesmith’s trade. He could doctor the smallest locks, and understood
the secrets of every kind of catch and latch; the farm-lads of the
village would even bring their big turnip watches to him, and the way
in which he could fix a mainspring or put to rights a balance-wheel
was wonderful to see.

Natty Blyth was a fine specimen of humanity from a physical point of
view. He stood five feet eleven in his stockings, and at
five-and-forty years of age had thews and sinews of Samsonian calibre
and power. A bright, honest, open face, had Nathan; a pair of thick
eye-brows, well arched, surmounted by a bold, high forehead, and
quite a wealth of dark brown hair. His happy temper, his merry face,
and his constant habit of singing at his toil, had got him the name of
“Blithe Natty,” and justly so, for a blither soul than he you could
not find from John-o’-Groats to Land’s End, with the Orkneys and the
Scilly Isles to increase your chances. Whenever he stood by his smithy
hearth, his clear tenor voice would roll out its mirthful minstrelsy,
while the hot iron flung out its sparks beneath his hammer, defying
the ring of the anvil either to drown his voice or spoil his tune.

One fine spring morning, Blithe Natty was busy at his work, and, as
usual, his voice and his anvil were keeping time, when old Kasper
Crabtree, a miserly old bachelor, who farmed Kesterton Grange, stole
on him unobserved. Natty was singing away--

                There never was a man.
                Since first the world began,
    If he only did his duty, and kept his conscience clear,
                But God was on his side;
                It cannot be denied,
                So, whatever may betide,
    We’ll do our honest duty, boys, and never, never fear.

                Then as you go along,
                Ring out a merry song;
    A good heart and a true is better far than gear.
                In every time and place,
                He wears a smiling face,
                Who goes to God for grace.
    Who does his honest duty, boys, need never, never fear.

“Aye, that’s right,” said Kasper Crabtree. “Honest duty, as you say,
is the right sort of thing. I only wish my lazy fellows did a little
more on ’t.”

“A little more” was Kasper Crabtree’s creed in a word.

“Why, you see,” said Blithe Natty, “its often ‘like master like man’;
pipe i’t parlour, dance i’t kitchen; an’ maybe if you were to do your
duty to them a little better they would do better by you. ‘Give a pint
an’ gain a peck; give a noggin’ an’ get nowt.’”

Kasper Crabtree did not relish this salutary home-thrust, and made
haste to change the subject.

“What a glorious morning it is!” said he, “it’s grand weather for t’
young corn.”

“Aye,” said Natty, “I passed by your forty-acre field yesterday, and
your wheat looked splendid. The rows of bright fresh green looked very
bonny, and the soil was as clean as a new pin.”

“Hey, hey,” said old Crabtree, for he was proud of his farming, and
boasted that his management was without equal in the Riding, “I’ll
warrant there isn’t much in the way of weeds, though it’s a parlous
job to keep ’em under. It beats me to know why weeds should grow so
much faster than corn, and so much more plentiful.”

“Why, you see, Farmer Crabtree, weeds are nat’ral. The soil is their
mother, an’ you know it’s only stepmother to the corn, or you wouldn’t
have to sow it; and stepmothers’ bairns don’t often thrive well.
However, I’m pretty sure that you are a match for all the weeds that
grow--in the fields, at any rate.”

“Hey, or anywhere else,” said the boastful farmer.

“Why, I don’t know so much about that,” said Natty. “There’s a pesky
lot o’ rubbish i’ the heart, Maister Crabtree, an’ like wicks an’
couch grass there’s no getting to the bottom on em. The love of money,
now, is the root of”----

But Kasper Crabtree was off like a shot, for Blithe Natty’s metaphor
was coming uncomfortably close to a personal application, and his
hearer knew of old that Nathan was in the habit of striking as hard
with his tongue as he did with his hammer, so he rapidly beat a
retreat. Natty’s face broadened into a smile as he pulled amain at
the handle of his bellows, and then drawing from the fire the red-hot
coulter he was shaping, he began thumping away amid a shower of fiery
spray, singing, as his wont was--

    Put in the ploughshare and turn up the soil;
    Harrow the seed in and sing at the toil,
    Hoe up the ketlocks and pull up the weeds;
    Toiling and hoping till harvest succeeds.

    Hearts are like fallow, and need to be tilled;
    Nothing but evil things else will they yield.
    Plough them well, sow them well; crops of good deeds
    Follow, if only we keep down the weeds.

      Keep down the weeds, brothers, keep down the weeds!
      God sends His sunshine, and harvest succeeds.

The coulter was again thrust into the fire, and once again the long
lever of the blacksmith’s bellows, with a cow’s horn by way of handle,
was gripped to raise another “heat,” when a second visitor crossed the
smithy threshold, as different from the grim, gaunt, wrinkled and
forbidding form and features of old Kasper Crabtree as a briar-rose
differs from a hedgestake, an icicle from a sunbeam, or a polar bear
from a summer fawn.

Gathering her skirts of neat-patterned printed calico around her to
keep them from the surrounding grime, the new-comer stole noiselessly
behind the unconscious smith, laid her dainty hands on his brawny
shoulders, and springing high enough to catch a kiss from his swarthy
cheek, landed again on _terra firma_, and, with a ripple of laughter
which sounded like a strain of music, stood with merry, upturned face
to greet Blithe Natty’s startled gaze.

“Give me that back again, you unconscionable thief!” said Nathan,
laying his big hand on her dainty little wrist. “It’s flat felony, and
I’ll prosecute you with the utmost rigour of the law.”

“Can’t do it, sir. You’ve no witnesses, and the offence isn’t
actionable;” and the doughty little damsel took another from the same
place with impunity.

There was a wondrous light in the eyes of Nathan Blyth, as he looked
in the fair face of the beautiful girl, the light of a love surpassing
the love of women, for was she not his only child, and the very image
of the wife and mother, now a saint in heaven, and still loved by him
with a tender fidelity that seemed to deepen and strengthen with the
lapse of time? No deeper, truer, more concentrated affection ever
glowed in the breast of man, than that which filled the heart of
Nathan Blyth for his peerless Lucy, and sure I am that none was ever
more richly merited.



CHAPTER III.

“MASTER PHILIP.”

    “A Knight there was, and that a worthy man,
    That from the tyme that he first bigan
    To ryden out, he loved chyvalrie,
    Truth and honour, freedom and curtesie.

           *       *       *       *       *

    With him ther was his sone, a yong Squyer,
    A lovyer and a lusty bachelor,
    With lockkes crulle, as they were laid in press.
    Of twenty year he was of age, I guess.”

    _Chaucer._


The brief spring day had faded into night. Nathan Blyth raked out his
smithy fire, laid aside his leather apron, locked up the forge, and
after an extensive and enjoyable ablution, was seated by the little
round table in the cosy kitchen, discussing the tea and muffins which
Lucy had prepared for their joint repast. That young lady presented a
very piquant and attractive picture. In what her winsomeness consisted
it would be difficult to say: certainly, she was possessed of unusual
charms of face and form, but it is equally certain that these
constituted only a minor element in the glamour of a beauty which
commanded unstinted admiration. With much wisdom and at much
self-sacrifice, Nathan Blyth had sent his daughter to a distant and
noted school for several years, and thanks to this and her own clear
intellect and singular diligence, she had obtained an education
altogether in advance of most girls of her age in a much higher rank
of social life. Her pleasant manners and maidenly behaviour made her
justly popular among the villagers, and many a farmer’s son in and
around Nestleton would have gone far and given much for a preferential
glance from her lustrous hazel eyes, and for the reward of a smile and
a word from lips which had no parallels amid the budding beauties of
Waverdale.

Lucy’s mother, a quiet, unpretentious woman, whose solid qualities and
amiable disposition her daughter had inherited, had died some five
years before the opening of my story; but the well-kept grave, the
perpetual succession of flowers planted there, and the fresh-cut
grave-stone at its head, gave proof enough that the widower and orphan
kept her memory green.

For a long time after his wife’s death Nathan Blyth had lived a lonely
and a shadowed life. His anvil rang as loudly, because his hammer was
wielded as lustily as before, but his grand, clear, tenor voice was
seldom lifted in cheerful song. Time, however, that merciful healer of
sore hearts, had gradually extracted the sting of his bereavement, and
loving memories, sweet and tender, took the place of the aching vacuum
which had been so hard to bear. In his blooming daughter, lately
returned from school in all the fair promise of beautiful womanhood,
Nathan saw the express image of his sainted wife. So now again his
home was lighted up with gladness, and from the hearthstone, long
gloomy in its solitude, the shadows flitted: for as Lucy tripped
around, performing her domestic duties with pleasant smile and cheery
song, Nathan waxed content and happy, and no words can describe the
joy the sweet girl felt as she heard the old anvil-music ringing at
the forge and saw the olden brightness beaming on his face. And so it
should ever be:--

    Be sure that those we mourn, whom God has taken,
      Have added joys, the more our sorrows die;
    They would not have us live of peace forsaken,
      While they are joysome in their home on high.

    Could we but hear again their loving voices,
      Comfort and cheer upon our hearts would fall;
    Be sure each sainted friend the more rejoices,
      The more we can the olden joy recall.

    Down look they on us from their regal glory,
      Or, by Divine permit, come hov’ring near;
    Fain would they tell us all the golden story
      Of their high bliss our mournful hearts to cheer.

    Nor are they voiceless--spiritual whispers
      In sweetly silent music thrill the breast;
    Then soul communes with soul, exchanges Mizpahs,
      And their soft saint-song bids us, “Be at rest!”

“Father,” said Lucy, as the pleasant meal proceeded, “What has become
of Master Philip? Before I went to school he used to come riding up to
the forge on his little white pony nearly every day. You and he were
great friends, I remember, and I have never seen him since I came
back.”

“Why, little lassie,” said Nathan, “you and he were quite as good
friends as we were. Indeed, I’m pretty sure that his visits were quite
as much for your sake as mine. At any rate, Master Philip would never
turn his pony’s head towards Waverdale Park until he had seen ‘his
little sweetheart,’ as he called you, and I’m bound to say, Miss Lucy,
that you were quite as well pleased to see his handsome face and to
hear the ring of his merry voice as ever I was--though I did not mean
to make you blush by saying so.”

The concluding words only served to deepen and prolong the ingenuous
blush which now dyed the face of Lucy with a rosy red.

“Well, father,” said Lucy, laughing, “I own I liked the bright
open-hearted boy, who brought me flowers from his papa’s conservatory,
and gave me many a ride on his long-maned pony, but I was only a
little girl then”----

“And now you are a big woman, and as old as Methusaleh, you withered
little witch,” said Blithe Natty, as he drew his heart’s idol to his
side, and planted a kiss upon her brow. “Well, Master Philip went to
college soon after you went to school, and his visits to Nestleton
have been few and far between. He has grown into a fine young man now,
and they tell me that he has borne off all the honours of the
university. The old squire is as proud of his son as a hen with one
chick, and small blame to him for that. He has just returned home for
good; but,” said he, in a tone so serious as to surprise the
unconscious maiden, “my little lassie must not expect any more pony
rides or accept hothouse flowers from his hands again.”

“Of course not,” said my lady, arching her neck and fixing her dark
eyes on her father in innocent amaze, “I don’t think Lucy Blyth is
likely to forget herself or bring a cloud on ‘daddy’s’ face.”

“Neither do I, my darling,” said Nathan, as another and still another
osculatory process proclaimed a perfect understanding between the
doting father and his motherless girl.

       *       *       *       *       *

Master Philip, the subject of the foregoing conversation, was the only
son and heir of Ainsley Fuller, Esq., of Waverdale Park, who owned
nearly all the village of Nestleton, many a farm round, and half the
town of Kesterton into the bargain. The squire, as he was called, was
rich in worldly wealth, but poor in human sympathies and the more
enduring treasures of the heart. In early life he had essayed to run
a political career; but his first constituency turned their backs upon
him, and on the second he turned his back, disgusted at the pressure
brought to bear upon him by a predominant radicalism. Unfortunate in
his wooing, his first and only true love was taken from him by death,
and a lady to whom he was subsequently betrothed was stolen from him
by a successful rival on the eve of the bridal day. After living to
middle age, and developing a disposition half cynical and accepting a
creed half sceptical, he had suddenly and unwisely married a youthful
wife, whose tastes and habits of life were altogether foreign to his
own. A brief span of unhappy married life was closed by the death of
that lady, leaving the new-born babe to the sole guardianship of the
seemingly cold and irascible father, whose whole affection, small in
store apparently, was fixed on the infant squire--the Master Philip of
this story.

Those, however, who depreciated the measure of Squire Fuller’s love
for his only son were much mistaken. His immobile features and
piercing eyes, peering from beneath the bushy brows of silver grey,
told nothing of the mighty love that lurked within. Nor did Philip
himself, for a long time, at all discern, beneath his father’s cold
exterior, how the old man really doted on his boy. That remained to a
great extent a secret, until a strangely potent key was inserted among
the hidden wards of the parental heart, and a rude wrench flung wide
the flood-gates, and set free the imprisoned stream.



CHAPTER IV.

“AUD ADAM OLLIVER.”

              “Though old, he still retain’d
    His manly sense and energy of mind,
    Virtuous and wise he was, but not severe;
    He still remembered that he once was young;
    His easy presence checked no decent joy,
    Him even the dissolute admired; for he
    A graceful looseness, when he pleased, put on,
    And, laughing, could instruct.”

    _Armstrong._


The nearest neighbour to Nathan Blyth was an old farm labourer called
Adam Olliver, who for forty years and more, as man and boy, had toiled
and moiled on Gregory Houston’s farm. He had now reached an age at
which he was unequal to prolonged and heavy labour, and so he spent
his time in cutting and trimming the farmer’s hedges--his thoughtful
master giving him to understand that though his wages were to be
continued as usual, he was at full liberty to work when it pleased
him, and to rest when he chose. The old man used to ride to and from
his labour on a meek and mild old donkey, which rejoiced in the name
of Balaam, and which was never known to travel at any other pace than
a slow jog-trot, or to carry any other rider than his master. No
sooner did old Balaam become conscious that he was bestridden by any
unfamiliar biped, than he curved his neck downwards, placed his head
between his knees, elevated his hinder quarters suddenly into mid-air,
and ejected the unwelcome tenant of the saddle, and with so brief a
notice to quit, that he had generally completed an involuntary
somersault, and was landed on Mother Earth, before he knew the nature
of the indignity to which he had been subjected.

Adam was somewhat short in stature, thick-set in form and frame; his
hair was short and grizzly, and his thick iron-grey eyebrows
overarched a pair of twinkling blue eyes, full of keen insight and
kindly humour. His fustian coat and battered “Jim Crow,” like his
wrinkled and sun-browned features, were “weather-tanned, a duffil
grey,” and, like his own bending frame, were a good deal worse for
wear. A pair of old corduroy nether garments, buttoned at the knees,
with gaiters of the same material, affording a peep at the warm,
coarse-ribbed, blue worsted stockings underneath, with hobnailed boots
armed with heel and toe-plates, all helped to make up a very quaint
and favourable picture of his class--a class common enough upon the
Yorkshire farms.

Adam Olliver’s talk was the very broadest Doric of the broadest
dialect to be found amid all the phonetic fantasies of England, and
his responses to the inquiries of tourists and others, not “to the
manner born,” who asked the old hedge-cutter the way, say to Kesterton
or Hazelby, were given in what was, to all intents and purposes, high
Dutch to the bewildered listeners. They would have been left in
glorious uncertainty as to his meaning, but that Old Adam’s energetic
and oratorical action generally sufficed to speed the querist in the
right direction. He was an honest, upright, intelligent Christian, was
Adam, and an old-standing member of the little Methodist society,
which had managed to hold its own in the village of Nestleton, and
which, for want of a chapel, held its meetings in Farmer Houston’s
kitchen. All the villagers held the old man in respect, and few there
were who did not enjoy “a crack o’ talk” with the old hedger. His odd
humour, sound piety, and practical common sense, were expressed in
short, sharp, nuggety sentences, which hit the nail on the head with a
thump that drove it home without the need of a second blow. But I hope
to give Adam Olliver abundant opportunity to speak for himself, and
will say no more than that his “Aud Woman,” as he called his good wife
Judith, or Judy in Yorkshire parlance, had been the partner of his
joys and sorrows for nearly forty years, and was still a buxom body
for her age; that of his three children, Jake the eldest, was Farmer
Houston’s foreman; Pete, the second, was seeking his fortune in
America; and Hannah, a strapping good-looking lass of nineteen, was
under-housemaid at Waverdale Hall, and that all of them will ever and
anon appear in the true and impartial village annals I am here
recording.

On the evening of a fine spring day, Old Adam, having made Balaam snug
and comfortable in a little thatched, half-tumble-down outhouse which
did duty for a stable, and having despatched his frugal evening meal,
was seated on a small wooden bench outside his cottage door, enjoying
the fragrance of some tobacco which Pete had sent him, using for that
purpose a short black pipe of small dimensions, strong flavour, and
indefinite age.

“Hallo! Adam; then you are burning your idol again,” said Blithe
Natty, who had sauntered round for a little gossip.

“Hey,” said Adam, “you see he’s like a good monny idols ov another
sooat. He tak’s a plaguey deal o’ manishin’. He’s a reg’lar
salimander. Ah’ve been at him off an’ on for weel nigh fotty year, an’
he’s a teeaf ’un; bud,” said he, with a twinkle in his eye, “Ah’ll
tak’ good care ’at he ends i’ smook.”

“Ha! ha! ha!” laughed Natty, as he leaned his arms on the little
garden gate, and swung it to and fro. “I can’t tell how it is you
enjoy it so. It would soon do my business for me.”

“Why, ‘there’s neea accoontin’ for teeast,’ as t’ aud woman said when
she kissed ’er coo, bud ah reckon you’ve tried it, if t’ truth wer’
knoan; an’ y’ see, it isn’t ivverybody,” with another twinkle, “’at ez
eeather talents or passevearance te mak’ a smooker. Like monny other
clever things, its nobbut sum ’at ez t’ gift te deea ’em. There’s Jim
Raspin, noo; he’s been scrapin’ away on a fiddle for a twelvemonth,
an’ when he’s deean ’is best, he can nobbut mak’ a grumplin’ noise
like a pig iv a fit. Ah can’t deea mitch, but ah can clip a hedge an’
smook a pipe, an’ that’s better then being a Jack ov all trayds an’
maister o’ neean.”

Here the old man blew out a long cloud of curling smoke, and laying
down his short pipe by the side of him, he gave a low chuckle of
satisfaction at having come out triumphant from an attack on the only
weakness of which he could be convicted.

“Ah see,” said he, “’at you’ve getten Lucy yam ageean, an’ a feyn
smart wench she is. They say ‘feyn feathers mak’s feyn bods,’ but
she’s a bonny bod i’ grey roosset, an’ depends for her prattiness mair
on ’er feeace an’ manners then on ’er cleease.”

“Yes,” said Natty, well pleased with this genuine compliment on his
darling; “Lucy is a fine lass and a good ’un, and makes the old house,
which has been gloomy enough, as bright as sunshine.”

“God bless ’er,” said the old man, warmly; “an’ if she gets t’ grace
o’ God she’ll be prattier still. There’s neea beauty like religion,
Natty, an’ t’ robe o’ righteousness sets off a cotton goon as mitch as
silk an’ velvet.”

“Hey, that’s true enough,” said Nathan Blyth; “an’ Lucy’s all right on
that point. She isn’t a stranger to religion. She loves her Bible and
her Saviour, and her conduct is all that heart can wish.”

“Ah’s waint an’ glad to hear it,” said Adam. “Meeast o’ d’ young
lasses noo-a-days seeam to me te mind nowt but falderals an’ ribbins.
They cover their backs wi’ tinsel an’ fill their brains wi’ caff till
they leeak like moontebanks, an’ their heeads is as soft as a feather
bed.

      ‘Mary i’ the dairy
      Wad fain be a fairy,
    Wi’ wings an’ a kirtle o’ green;
      Mary spoils ’er butter,
      Puts t’ good wife in a flutter,
    A lazy good-for-nothing quean.

      Silly, silly Mary!
      Bid good-bye te the fairy,
    Leeak te the butter an’ the cheese;
      Be quick an’ ’arn the siller.
      Marry Matt the Miller,
    Then live as happy as you pleease.’”

“Who’s going to marry Matt, the miller, I wonder, Adam Olliver?” said
Lucy Blyth, suddenly peeping over her father’s shoulder by the garden
gate.

“Odd’s bobs,” said the startled hedger; “‘you come all at yance,’ as
t’ man said when t’ sack o’ floor dropt on his nob. Why, Lucy, me’
lass, is it you? Ah’s waint an’ glad to see yer’ bonny feeace ageean.
Come in a minnit. Judy! Judy! Here’s somebody come ’at it’ll deea your
and een good te leeak at.”

Out came Judith Olliver, in her brown stuff gown and checked apron, a
small three-cornered plaid shawl across her shoulders, and with her
white hair neatly gathered beneath a cap of white muslin, double
frilled and tied beneath the dimpled chin--as comely and motherly an
old cottager as you could wish to see.

“Dear heart,” said Mrs. Olliver, as Lucy kissed her cheek, looking on
the bright girl in unconstrained admiration, “Can this be little Lucy
Blyth?”

At that moment a fine, tall, gentlemanly youth of some two-and-twenty
summers, paused as he passed the garden gate. Turning his open
handsome face toward the speaker, his eyes fell on the radiant beauty
of the blacksmith’s daughter; he recognised the features of his
childish “sweetheart” with a thrill of something more than wonder,
and, resuming his walk, “Master Philip” repeated again and again
Judith Olliver’s inquiry, “Can this be little Lucy Blyth?”



CHAPTER V.

“BLACK MORRIS.”

    “What dreadful havoc in the human breast
    The passions make, when, unconfined and mad,
    They burst, unguided by the mental eye,
    The light of reason, which, in various ways,
    Points them to good, or turns them back from ill.”

    _Thompson._


At the opposite end of the village to that where Nathan Blyth resided,
there was a cluster of small tumble-down cottages, whose ragged
thatch, patched windows, and generally forlorn appearance denoted the
unthrifty and “unchancy” character of their occupants. This
disreputable addendum to the charming village of Nestleton was known
as Midden Harbour, a very apt description in itself of the unsavoury
character of its surroundings, and the unpleasant manners and customs
of most of the denizens of that locality. Squire Fuller had often
tried to purchase this unpleasant blotch, which lay in the centre of
his own trim and well-managed estate. Its owner, however, old Kasper
Crabtree, a waspish dog-in-the-manger kind of fellow, could not be
induced to sell it. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that
“Crabby,” as the villagers fitly called him, found sincere
gratification in the fact that the property and its possessors were a
universal nuisance, for Crabby was one of that numerous family of
social Ishmaelites whose hand was against every man, and so every
man’s hand and tongue were against him.

Of the colony of Midden Harbour, one family was engaged in the sale of
crockery-ware, which was hawked around the country in a cart,
accompanied by both man and woman kind. The former were clad in
velveteen coat and waistcoat and corduroy breeches, all notable for
extent of pocket and an outbreak of white buttons, with which they
were almost as thickly studded as a May pasture is with daisies. The
latter were clad in cotton prints notable for brevity of skirt,
revealing substantial ankles, graced with high laced-up boots which
would have well served a ploughboy. A second family were besom-makers,
whose trade materials were surreptitiously gathered on Kesterton Moor
and from the woods of Waverdale; the “ling” of the one and the
“saplings” of the other sufficing to supply both heads and handles. A
third family was of the tinker persuasion, travelling about the
country with utensils of tin. They were great in the repair of such
pots and pans as required the use of solder, which was melted by the
aid of an itinerant fire carried in an iron grate. Midden Harbour also
boasted a rag-and-bone merchant on a small scale, a scissors-grinder,
who united umbrella-mending with his primal trade, and a pedlar also
had pitched his tent within its boundaries; altogether, its limited
population was about as queer a medley as could well be found. Most of
the Harbourites had the character of being more or less, chiefly more,
given to making nocturnal excursions in quest of game, and Squire
Fuller, Sir Harry Everett, and other large land-owners in the
neighbourhood were being perpetually “requisitioned” by clever and
successful poachers, who either defied or bribed all the gamekeeperdom
of the country side.

Just behind Midden Harbour was a much larger and somewhat more
respectable house, though discredited by being in such an
unrespectable locality. It stood in what might by courtesy be called a
garden, but, like that which dear old Isaac Watts stood to look at,
and which belonged to a neighbour of his who was late o’ mornings, you
might see “the wild briar, the thorn and the thistle grow higher and
higher.” The garden-gate was hung by one hinge, and was generally so
much aslant that one might imagine, that, like its owner, it was given
to beer. The garden wall, the house, the outbuildings were all first
cousins to Tennyson’s Moated Grange.

    “With blackest moss the flower-pots
      Were thickly crusted, one and all;
    The rusted nails fell from the knots
      That held the peach to the garden wall.
    The broken sheds looked sad and strange,
      Unlifted was the clinking latch;
      Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
    Upon the lonely moated grange.”

In this house lived a man, well known for many a mile round as “Piggy”
Morris, so called by reason of his pig-jobbing proclivities, though he
varied his calling in that direction by dealing in calves, sheep,
dogs, old horses--in fact, he was quite ready to buy or sell anything
by which he could gain a profit, or, as he put it, “finger the rhino.”

Piggy Morris was once a respectable farmer, a tenant of Squire
Fuller’s, but his drinking habits had been his ruin. His farm
deteriorated so much that his landlord gave him notice to quit, and
had threatened to prosecute him for damages into the bargain. From the
day he was expelled from Eastthorpe to the time of which I am writing
Piggy Morris had nursed and cherished a deadly hatred to Squire
Fuller, and though some years had now elapsed, he still thirsted for
vengeance on the man who had “been his ruin.”

The victims of intemperance are marvellously skilful in laying the
blame of their downfall on men and circumstances, and Piggy Morris
attributed all his melancholy change of fortune to a hard landlord and
bad times.

After the loss of his farm, Morris had taken his present house because
of a malt-kiln which was on the premises, and he hoped to gain a trade
and position as maltster, which would equal if not surpass the
opportunity he had lost. But alas! the ball was rolling down the hill,
and neither malt-kiln nor brewery could stop it; indeed, as was most
probable, they gave it an additional impetus, and poor Morris was fast
descending to the low level of Midden Harbour. He was a keen, clever,
long-headed fellow, and could always make money in his huckstering
fashion, but he was sullen, sour, ill-tempered; at war with his better
self, he seemed to be at war with everybody else, which is perhaps one
of the most miserable and worriting states of mind into which sane men
can fall. His wife, poor soul, an amiable and thoroughly respectable
woman, was cowed and broken-spirited, and lived an ailing and
depressed life, sighing in chronic sorrow over the happiness and
comfort of other days.

This misfitting pair had four children. The eldest, a fine stalwart
fellow of twenty-four, had made some proficiency in the art and
science of farriery. He had received no special training to equip him
as a veterinary surgeon, but in practical farriery he was accounted
very clever, and might have done well in that particular line. But the
sins of the fathers are often visited upon their children. Young
Morris was sadly too frequent a guest at the Red Lion, and in spite of
his education and native talents, was only a sort of ne’er-do-weel,
very popular in the taproom and similar centres of sociality;
“nobody’s enemy but his own,” but, withal, slowly and surely
gravitating towards ruin, “going to the dogs.” He had an intimate
acquaintance with dogs and guns, snares and springs, and was oft
suspected of carrying on a contraband trade in fish, flesh, and fowl,
captured in flood and field. His coal-black hair and beard, and his
swarthy though handsome features, had gained for him the soubriquet of
Black Morris; and though he did not much relish the cognomen, it
speedily became fixed, and there is no doubt that his wild and
reckless conduct made the name, in some degree at least, appropriate.
His two brothers, Bob and Dick, were in the employ of Kasper Crabtree,
and his sister Mary, a quick and amiable girl of eighteen, was the
loving helper, nurse, and companion of her ailing mother.

Since Lucy Blyth’s return home, Black Morris, who had seen her oft, on
his visits to her father’s forge and in other parts of the village,
had ventured at length to accost her, receiving, as her wont was, a
pleasant smile and a courteous reply. Black Morris was made of very
inflammable material, and speedily fell over head and ears in love
with the blacksmith’s daughter. With his usual impetuosity of
character, he swore that he and no other would capture the charming
village belle, and took his steps accordingly. To carry out his
purpose, his visits to the forge increased in number, his conduct was
thoroughly proper and obliging, and his manners at their best, which
is saying much, for when Black Morris chose he could be a gentleman.
He often wielded the big hammer for Blithe Natty with muscle and
skill, and that shrewd knight of the anvil was more than half inclined
to change his opinion of his voluntary helper, and come to the
conclusion that he was a “better fellow than he took him for.”

One evening, after Black Morris had been rendering useful and unbought
aid in this way, Nathan Blyth felt constrained to thank him with
unusual heartiness, and with his usual plainness of speech, he blurted
out,--

“Morris, there’s the makings of a good fellow i’ you. What a pity it
is that you don’t settle steadily down to some honest work, and give
up loafing about after other folks’ property! ‘A rolling stone
gathers no moss,’ and ‘a scone o’ your own baking is better than a
loaf begged, borrowed, or taken.’”

Black Morris’s swarthy features flushed up to the roots of his hair,
his old temper leaped at once to the tip of his tongue, and his hand
was involuntarily closed, for “a word and a blow” was his mode of
argument. The remembrance that the speaker was Lucy’s father
restrained him, and he replied,--

“Look here, Nathan Blyth, when you say I loaf about other folk’s
property, you say more than you know; an’ as for settling down, give
me your daughter Lucy for a wife, and I’ll be the steadiest fellow in
Nestleton, aye, and in all Waverdale besides!”

“Marry Lucy!” exclaimed Natty, shocked at the idea of entrusting his
darling to the keeping of such a reckless ne’er-do-weel, “I’d rather
see her dead and in her grave! and so, good-night!”

Turning on his heel, Nathan Blyth went indoors, and Black Morris stood
with lowering brow and flashing eyes. Shaking his fist at the closed
door, he thundered out an oath, and said,--

“Mine or nobody’s, you ----, if I swing for it;” and strode homeward
in a towering rage.

O Nathan Blyth! Nathan Blyth! Your hasty and ill-considered words have
sown dragon’s teeth to-night! The time is coming, coming on wings as
black as Erebus, when you will wish your tongue had cleaved to the
roof of your mouth before you uttered them. You have beaten a
ploughshare to-night which shall score as deep a furrow through your
soul as ever did coulter from the ringing anvil by your smithy
hearth.



CHAPTER VI.

PHILIP’S VISIT TO THE FORGE, OR LOVE’S YOUNG DREAM.

    “Love is a plant of holier birth
    Than any that takes root on earth;
    A flower from heaven, which ’tis a crime
    To number with the things of time.
    Hope in the bud is often blasted,
    And beauty on the desert wasted!
    And joy, a primrose, early gay,
    Care’s lightest footfall treads away.
    But love shall live, and live for ever,
    And chance and change shall reach it never.”

    _Henry Neele._


“Can this be little Lucy Blyth?” said Philip Fuller to himself, as he
wended his way to Waverdale Park. His memories were very pleasant, of
the bright and piquant child, whom as a boy he had known and romped
with in that freedom from restraint, which his youth, the lack of a
mother’s care, and the pre-occupied and studious habits of his father
rendered possible. The attractive little girl and the merry geniality
of Blithe Natty had induced him when he was barely in his teens to
take his rides almost constantly in the direction of the Forge, and
fruits and flowers and pony rides, as far as Lucy was concerned, were
the order of the day. Who can say that love’s subtle magic did not
weave its unseen but potent spell around those two young hearts in
those early days of mirthful childhood? At any rate, Philip’s heart
responded at once to the sound of Lucy’s name, and now her superadded
charms of face and feature fairly took him captive. Whether there be
any truth or not in the poet’s idea of

    “A first, full, sudden Pentecost of love,”

it cannot be denied that Philip there and then knew that he loved Lucy
Blyth, knew, moreover, that it was a love that would be all-absorbing,
a love that time would not lessen, that trial would not weaken, that
death would not destroy. No other idea could get in edgewise during
that memorable walk. The radiant vision floated before his eyes, and
thrilled him to the heart: the very trees seemed to whisper “Lucy” as
they trembled in the breeze, and Philip Fuller knew from that hour
that he had “found his fate.”

Difference of rank, social barriers, his father’s exaggerated family
pride, Nathan Blyth’s sturdy independence, Lucy’s possible denial, and
kindred prosy considerations, did not occur to the smitten youth; or
if they did they were wondrously minified by love’s inverted telescope
into microscopic proportions, and through them all he held the
juvenilian creed that “love can find out the way.” In his dreams that
night, he re-enacted all the scene at Adam Olliver’s garden gate; saw
again the sweetest face in the world or out of it to his
glamour-flooded eyes; heard again the question, “Can this be little
Lucy Blyth?” Men live rapidly in dreams, time flies like a flash.
Difficulties do not count in dreams, they are ignored, and so it was
that Philip answered the question in a _veni-vidi-vici_ kind of
spirit, and shouted in dreamland over the garden gate, “Yes it can,
and will be Lucy Fuller, by-and-bye!” Then, as John Bunyan says, he
“awoke, and behold it was a dream.” Ah! Master Philip, Jason did not
win the golden fleece without sore travail and fight; Hercules did not
win the golden apple of Hesperides without dire conflict with its
dragon guard, and if you imagine that this dainty prize is going to
fall into your lap for wishing for, you will find it is indeed a dream
from which a veritable thunderclap shall wake you. Will the lightning
scathe you? Who may lift the curtain of the future? I would not if I
could--better far, as honest Natty sings, to

    Do your honest duty, boys, and never, never fear.

The next morning Master Philip left the breakfast-table to go out on a
voyage of discovery. Bestriding a handsome bay horse, his father’s
latest gift, he rode down to Nestleton Forge, and arrived just in time
to hear the final strophes of Blithe Natty’s latest anvil song. That
vivacious son of Vulcan was engaged in sharpening and tempering
millers’ chisels, and as the labour was not hard, and the blows
required were light and rapid, Natty’s song dovetailed with the
accompaniment:--

    Every cloud has a lining of light,
    Morning is certain to follow the night;
    Eve may be sombre, the shadows shall flee,
    Sunny and smiling the morrow shall be.
      Cheerily, merrily, sing the refrain,
      Setting suns ever are rising again.

    Hearts may be heavy and hope may be low,
    Pluck up your spirits and sing as you go.
    Hope now, hope ever, though dark be the sky,
    Night brings the stars out to glitter on high.
      Cheerily, merrily, sing the refrain,
      Setting suns ever are rising again.

    Larks fold their wings when daylight is done,
    Spread them to-morrow again to the sun.
    Gloomiest shadows shall lift by-and-bye,
    Smiles of contentment shall follow the sigh.
      Cheerily, merrily, sing the refrain,
      Setting suns ever are rising again.

“Good morning, Mr. Blyth,” said Philip; “I’m glad to have the chance
of hearing your merry voice again. I’ve been intending to ride round
ever since my return from college, but my father has managed to keep
me pretty much by his side.”

“I’m heartily glad to see you, sir,” said Nathan, “and mighty pleased
to see that college honours and gay company have not led you to forget
your poorer neighbours. You know the old proverb, ‘When the sun’s in
the eyes people don’t see midges.’”

“Why, as for that,” said Philip, with a laugh, “I am not aware that
the sun _is_ in my eyes. At any rate I can see you, and you are no
midge by any means. ‘Should auld acquaintance be forgot?’ As for gay
company, that is not at all in my line. By-the-bye, what’s become of
your little daughter? I hope I may have the pleasure of seeing her,
too. I suppose she has grown altogether too womanly to accept a ride
on Harlequin, the pony, even if I brought him. Is she at home?”

Now, I am quite sure that Nathan Blyth would much rather have
preferred that Master Philip should not resume his acquaintance with
Lucy. On the other hand, he had the most unbounded confidence in her,
while he had no shadow of reason for suspecting Philip of any ulterior
motive; hence he could scarcely avoid calling his daughter to speak
with the young squire. That young lady soon appeared in graceful
morning garb, and the impressible heart of the youthful lover was
bound in chains for evermore. There was neither guile nor reserve in
his greeting. The light that beamed in his eye and the tone that rung
in his voice, could scarcely fail to betray to far less observant eyes
and ears the unmeasured satisfaction with which he renewed his
acquaintance with the charming girl. Lucy, however, seemed to have
retired into herself; her words were few, constrained, and
inconsequent, but the tell-tale blush was on her cheek, and there was
a singular flutter at her heart, as she saw the ardent admiration
which shone in the eyes of her quondam friend. It was with a profound
sense of relief that she was able to plead the pressure of domestic
duties as a reason for shortening the interview and retiring from the
scene. After a brief conversation with Nathan on trivial matters,
Philip mounted his horse and rode homewards, in that frame of mind so
admirably depicted by Otway:--

    “Where am I? Sure Paradise is round me;
    Sweets planted by the hand of heaven grow here,
    And every sense is full of thy perfection!
    To hear thee speak might calm a madman’s frenzy,
    Till by attention he forgot his sorrows;
    But to behold thy eyes, th’ amazing beauties
    Would make him rage again with love, as I do;
    Thou Nature’s whole perfection in one piece!
    Sure, framing thee, Heaven took unusual care;
    As its own beauty, it designed thee fair,
    And formed thee by the best loved angel there.”

Such were the emotions Philip Fuller felt as he turned away from the
Forge of Nathan Blyth. Rounding the corner in the direction of
Waverdale Hall, he was suddenly confronted by the scowling face and
suspicious eyes of Black Morris.



CHAPTER VII.

KESTERTON CIRCUIT AND THE “ROUNDERS.”

    “A good man there was of religioun,
    And he was a poor parsoun of a toune;
    But rich he was of holy thought and werk.
    He was, also, a learned man, a clerk
    That Christe’s gospel gladly wolde preche;
    His parischens devoutly wolde he teche.
    Benign he was and wondrous diligent,
    And in adversite full patient.”

    _Chaucer._


Methodism was introduced into Kesterton in the days of John Wesley
himself, and in the plain, square, old-fashioned chapel, with its
arched windows, brick walls, and hip roof, red tiled and high peaked,
you might see the very pulpit in which the grand old apostle of the
eighteenth century preached more than a hundred years ago. The chapel
stood back from the main street, and to get at it you had to go
through a narrow passage, for the fathers of the Methodist Church,
unlike their more self-assertive successors, seem to have courted a
very modest retirement for the Bethels which they built for God.
Behind the chapel there is a small burial-ground, in which are the
honoured graves of those to whom Kesterton Methodism owes its origin,
and who did its work and bore its fortunes in its earlier struggles
for existence. On the other side of an intervening wall, in the midst
of a little garden, capable of much improvement in the matter of
tidiness and cultivation, stands the “preacher’s house.” It is not by
any means an imposing structure, and taxes to the utmost the
contrivance of its itinerant tenants to find sleeping accommodation
for the “quiver full” of youngsters with which they are commonly
favoured in an unusual degree. In the matter of furniture the less
said the better; suffice it to say that it could not be regarded as
extravagant in quality or burdensome in quantity. Indeed, it was open
to serious imputations in both those directions; at least so thought
the Rev. Theophilus Clayton, who had latterly become located there,
and seemed likely to go through the maximum term of three years, to
the high satisfaction of the people, and with a moderate measure of
contentment to himself.

Kesterton rejoiced in the dignity of being a circuit town, and at the
time to which these annals refer, the circuit extended from Meriton in
the east to Amworth Marsh in the west; and from Chessleby on the north
to Bexton on the south, an area of nineteen miles by twenty-one. There
was a circuit horse and gig provided for the longer journeys, but as
the “better days” which both of them _had_ seen smacked of the
mediæval age, the gig was as little remarkable for polish or paint as
the horse was either for beauty or speed.

The Rev. Theophilus Clayton was an admirable specimen of an
old-fashioned Methodist preacher. He was of middle-height and somewhat
portly figure; had an intelligent and pleasant face, a broad forehead,
a pair of piercing black eyes surmounted by dark thick eyebrows and
hair fast whitening, but more with toil than age. His whole appearance
was calculated to win attention and respect, and his piety and force
of character were almost certain to retain them after they had been
won. He was “in labours more abundant,” and in addition to being an
effective preacher, he was a capital business man, one under whose
management a circuit is pretty sure to thrive.

His colleague, the Rev. Matthew Mitchell, was young in years, and not
yet out of his probation. Though he was not equal to his
superintendent in pulpit ability, he largely made up for it by his
diligent pastoral visitation, and the earnest and vigorous way in
which he went about his high and holy calling. It is not given to all
men to possess high intellectual abilities and oratoric strength, but
it is given to every man to be able, as the Americans say, “to do his
level best,” and that by the blessing of God may be mighty in pulling
down the strongholds of Satan and the lifting up of the Church to a
higher altitude of spirituality and a broader gauge of moral force. Of
an enthusiastic temperament and with strong revivalistic proclivities,
the Rev. Matthew Mitchell was remarkably successful, especially among
the village populations, in winning souls for Christ. He was a young
fellow, of somewhat prepossessing appearance, lithe, agile, and strong
as an athlete. As both these worthy men will have to play an important
part in this history, nothing further need to be said at present; I am
much mistaken, however, if the reader does not find that they were
both of them made of sterling stuff.

The small society of Methodists in Nestleton, numbering some
five-and-twenty members, owed its origin to the love and labours of
Old Adam Olliver. Many long years before, when the quaint old hedger
was foreman on old George Houston’s farm, Adam, with two or three
fellow-servants, used to walk to Kesterton to the Sunday preaching.
Through the ministry of a grand old Boanerges of the early age they
had found peace through believing, and for some time used to attend a
class-meeting held after the afternoon service for such outlying
members as could not attend during the busy week days. One Sunday,
after the quarterly tickets had been renewed by the superintendent
minister, Adam plucked up courage to address him,--

“Ah wop you’ll excuse ma, sor,” said he, “bud we’re desp’rate fain te
get ya’ te cum te Nestleton. Meeast o’ t’ fooaks is nowt bud a parcel
o’ heeathens. There’s neea spot for ’em te gan teea bud t’ chotch, an’
t’ parson drauns it oot like a bummle bee; summut at neeabody can mak’
neeather heead nor tayl on, an’ t’ Gospel nivver gets preeach’d frae
yah yeear end te d’ t’ other.

“Well, but have you a place to preach in, Adam?” quoth the minister;
“is there anybody who will take us in?”

“Why, there’s d’ green,” said Adam, “neeabody’ll molest uz there,
unless it be t’ oad gander, an’ ah wop yo’ weeant tohn tayl at him.
An’ i’ mucky weather yoo can hae mah hoose. Ah’ve axed Judy, an’ sha’
sez ’at you can hev it an’ welcome. It isn’t mitch ov a spot, but it’s
az good az a lahtle fishin’ booat, an’ oor Sayviour preeached upo’
that monny a tahme; ah reckon ’at best sarmon ’at ivver was preeached
was up ov a hill-sahd, an’ the Lord gay another te nobbut yah woman
fre’ t’ steean wall ov a well. It isn’t wheear yo’ stand, bud what yo’
say ’at ’ll wakken Nestleton up, and gi’d folks a teeaste o’ t’ Gospel
trumpet. When will yo’ cum?”

Adam Olliver gained the day, and services were held on Nestleton Green
and in Adam’s cottage. Eventually the village was placed upon the
plan, the local preachers were appointed on the Sunday evenings, Adam
Olliver was made a leader of the class, and from that day Methodism
had kept a foothold in Nestleton. Nay, more than that, for Adam’s
cottage grew too small for the congregation, and the large kitchen of
Gregory Houston was placed at their disposal. At the time of which we
write, that good farmer and his family were all in church communion,
and he, Adam Olliver, and Nathan Blyth, who was a popular and
successful local preacher, were the props and pillars of the Nestleton
Society.

It was a very inviting nest of rural piety. In their lowly services
there was felt full often the presence and the power of God, and their
mean and homely sanctuary was the palace of the King of Kings! Such
little patches of evangelic life are happily common in Methodism. Her
village triumphs have been amongst her greatest glories, and it is to
be hoped that this Church, so remarkably owned of God in the rural
districts, will never forget or neglect the rustic few, among whom its
brightest trophies have been won, and from whom its noblest agents
have been obtained.

One Sunday, Philip Fuller was walking from the Rectory, whither he had
been to dinner after the morning and only service at the parish
church. The evening was calm and fine, so he prolonged his walk by
making a detour round the highest part of the village, and was passing
Farmer Houston’s gate just at the time that the little Methodist
congregation had assembled for worship. Philip, who was not aware of
this arrangement, heard the hearty singing of a hundred voices, and in
pure curiosity drew near the open door, for the weather was of the
warmest, and listened to the strain,--

    “Behold Him, all ye that pass by,
      The bleeding Prince of Life and Peace!
    Come see, ye worms, your Maker die,
      And say, was ever grief like His?
    Come feel with me His blood applied;
    My Lord, my Love, is crucified.

    Is crucified for me and you,
      To bring us rebels back to God;
    Believe, believe the record true,
      Ye all are bought with Jesus’ blood,
    Pardon for all flows from His side;
    My Lord, my Love, is crucified.”

Philip was greatly struck, alike with the warmth and energy of the
singers and the directly evangelical character of the hymn. During his
residence at Oxford he had, at first, been half inclined to accept the
almost infidel views which at that time were tacitly held by not a few
of the tutors and even the clerics of that famous university. A candid
perusal of the Scriptures, however, for he was a genuine seeker after
truth, and an attendance on the ministry of a godly and effective
clergyman, who had rallied round him the evangelical element of the
various colleges, rendered Philip utterly dissatisfied with the loose
tenets he had been accustomed to hear. When he left college he was the
subject of unavowed but strong conviction as to the importance and
necessity of experimental religion, but as yet was very much at sea as
to the Gospel plan of salvation. Philip noiselessly entered the
kitchen, and took an unnoticed place among the rural worshippers.

Much to his surprise, he saw Nathan Blyth standing in the moveable
pulpit, and, in obedience to his solemn invitation, “Let us pray!”
Philip knelt with the rest, while Natty, who knew from happy and long
experience how to talk with God, led their devotions in an extempore
prayer, the like of which he had never heard before. Nathan’s sermon
that night was founded on the text that stirred the heart and baffled
the mind of the Ethiopian eunuch: “He was led as a sheep to the
slaughter: and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not
his mouth:” and included the sable nobleman’s inquiry, “Of whom
speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?”

Of that “Other Man” Natty spoke as one who knew Him. He placed the
atonement in a light so clear, and the love of the Atoner in a manner
so impressive, that Philip found himself listening with a beating
heart and a swimming eye. In plain, but powerful language, the speaker
urged his hearers to accept the proffered gift of God. The
congregation joined in singing that stirring hymn,--

            “All ye that pass by,
            To Jesus draw nigh;
    To you is it nothing that Jesus should die?
            Your ransom and peace,
            Your surety He is;
    Come see if there ever was sorrow like His.”

Nathan Blyth called on “Brother Olliver” to engage in prayer. At the
first Philip was inclined to be amused at the rude and rugged language
in which the old man poured out his soul to God, but as he proceeded,
bearing with him the subtle power and sympathy of a praying people,
the listener was moved to wonder and to awe, and felt with Jacob,
“Surely God is in this place and I knew it not.” “Thoo knoas, Lord,”
said Adam Olliver, “’at we’re all poor helpless sinners; but Thoo’s a
great Saviour, an’ sum on uz ez felt Thi’ pooer te seeave.

    ‘Oor Jesus te knoa, an’ te feel His blood floa
    It’s life ivverlastin’, it’s heaven beloa!’

Lord! There’s them here to-neet’ at’s strangers te d’ blood ’at bowt
ther pardon up o’ d’ tree. Thoo loves ’em. Thoo pities ’em. Thoo dee’d
for ’em. Oppen ther hearts, Lord. Melt their consciences an’ mak’ ’em
pray, ‘God be massiful te me a sinner.’ Seeave ’em, Lord! Rich or
poor, young or aud. Put d’ poor wand’ring sheep o’ Thi’ shoother an’
lead ’em inte d’ foad o’ Thi’ infannit luv.” No sooner was the
benediction pronounced than Philip stole silently away. As he trod the
shady lanes and crossed the park his mind was full of serious thought.
During the entire evening, he was silent and abstracted, and as he
laid his head upon his pillow the plaintive appeal still rung in his
ears,--

    “To you is it nothing that Jesus should die.”



CHAPTER VIII.

ADAM OLLIVER BEGINS TO PROPHESY.

    “If bliss had lien in art and strength,
      None but the wise and strong had gained it;
    Where now, by faith, all arms are of a length;
      One size doth all conditions fit.

    A peasant may believe as much
      As a great clerk, and reach the highest stature;
    Thus dost thou make proud knowledge crouch,
      While grace fills up uneven nature.

    Faith makes me anything, or all
      That I believe is in the sacred story;
    And when sin placeth me in Adam’s fall,
      Faith sets me higher in his glory.”

    _George Herbert._


Gregory Houston, Adam Olliver’s master, and, as far as means and
position were concerned, principal member of the little Methodist
society in Nestleton, was crossing his farmyard one summer’s day, when
his aged serving-man was engaged in getting together a few “toppers.”
These are long screeds of thinly-sawn larch fir, to be nailed on the
top of stakes driven into weak places in the hedgerows to strengthen
them, and to secure the continuity of the fence.

“Well, Adam,” said the genial farmer, “how are you getting on?”

“Why, ah’s getting en all reet. It’s rayther ower yat for wark; but
while it’s ower yat for me, it’s grand for t’ wheeat, an’ seea ah
moan’t grummle. It’s varry weel there isn’t mitch te deea at t’
hedges, or ah’s flaid ’at ah sud be deead beeat.”

“Oh, they’re all right, I’ve no doubt,” said Mr. Houston; “I didn’t
mean that. I was thinking of better matters.”

“Oh, as te that, bless the Lord, ah’ve niwer nowt te grummle at i’
that respect, but me aun want o’ faith an’ luv. T’ Maister’s allus
good, an’ ah’s meeastlin’s ’appy. Neeabody sarves the Lord for nowt,
an’ mah wayges is altegither oot of all measure wi’ me’ addlings,
beeath frae you an’ Him.”

“How did you like Nathan’s sermon last night, Adam?”

Adam picked up one of the larch strips, and handing it to his master,
he said, “It was just like that.”

“Like that?” said the farmer--“In what way?”

“Why,” quoth Adam, “Nathan Blyth’s sarmon was a reg’lar ‘topper.’ He’d
a good tahme, an’ seea ’ad ah. T’ way he browt oot hoo Jesus was t’
Lamb o’ God, ’armless an’ innocent, an’ willin’ te dee, was feyn, an’
ah felt i’ my sowl ’at if it was wanted ah wer’ willin’ te dee for
Him. Bud wasn’t t’ kitchen crammed! Ah deean’t knoa what we’r gannin
te deea wi’ t’ fooaks if they keep cummin’ i’ this oathers. Ah’ve
aboot meead up me’ mind ’at we mun hev a chapel i’ Nestleton.”

“A chapel!” said Mr. Houston; “no such luck. I should like to see it,
Adam; but there’s no chance of that, you may depend on’t.”

“Why, noo, maister, ah’s surprahsed at yo.’ What i’ the wolld are yo’
talkin’ aboot? ‘Luck’ and ‘chance’ hae neea mair te deea wiv it then
t’ ’osspond hez te deea wi’ t’ kitchen fire. ‘Them ’at trusts te luck
may tummle i’ t’ muck;’ an’ ‘him ’at waits upo’ chances gets less then
he fancies.’ For mah payt, ah’d rayther put mi’ trust i’ God, put mi’
shoother te d’ wheel, an’ wopp for t’ best.”

“Yes, that’s true,” said Mr. Houston, somewhat rebuked. “Still, you
know, it isn’t likely.”

“Noa, ah deean’t say ’at it is; bud what o’ that? It wahn’t varry
likely ’at watter sud brust oot ov a rock at t’ slap of a stick, or
’at t’ axe heead sud swim like a duck, or ’at a viper sud loss its
vemmun; bud they were all deean for all that, an’ fifty thoosand
wundherful things besahde. It altegither depends wheea undertak’s em.”

“But where is the money to come from? And if we had the money how are
we to get the land?”

“That’s nowt te deea wiv it,” said Adam. “T’ queshun is, de wa’ need
it? An’ is it right to ax God for it? T’ silver an’ gold’s all His,
an’ He can tonn it intiv oor hands as eeasy as Miller Moss can oppen
t’ sluice of his mill-dam. As for t’ land, it were God’s afoore it
were Squire Fuller’s, an’ it’ll be His when Squire Fuller’s deead, an’
He can deea as He likes wiv it while Squire Fuller’s livin’. Ah reckon
nowt aboot that. Next Sunday, t’ congregation ’ll hae te tonn oot inte
d’ foadgarth, an’ ah want te knoa whither that isn’t a sign that the
Lord speeaks tiv us te gan forrad.”

“Oh, there’s no doubt that a chapel is wanted, and if it was four
times as big as the kitchen it would soon be full. I would give
anything if we could manage it.”

“There you gooa, y’ see,” said Adam, laughing. “There’s payt o’ t’
silver an’ gowld riddy at yance. Ah sall set te wark an’ pray for ’t,
an’ seea mun wa’ all. It’ll be gran’ day for Nestleton,” said Adam,
rubbing his hands in fond anticipation, for he never dreamed of
questioning the “mighty power of faithful prayer.”

Farmer Houston shook his head as he turned away saying, “It’s too
good to be true, Adam. It’s too good to be true.”

“What’s too good to be true?” said Mrs. Houston, who now appeared on
the scene. A large and shady bonnet for “home service,” of printed
calico, protected her from the sun. In her hand was a milk-can,
containing the mid-day meal of certain calves she was rearing, for
Mrs. Houston was a thrifty, bustling body, who not only saw that all
the woman folk of the establishment did their duty, but was herself
the first to show the way. Crossing the farmyard just at that moment
she overheard the words, and hence her inquiry, “What’s too good to be
true?”

“Why,” said Adam Olliver, “t’ maister’s gotten it intiv ’is heead that
if the divvil an’ Squire Fuller says we aren’t te hev a Methodist
chapel i’ Nestleton, t’ Almighty’s gotten te knock under an’ leave His
bairns withoot a spot te put their heeads in.”

“Nay, nay,” said Farmer Houston, deprecatingly, “I was only saying
that there was small hope of our getting a chapel at all.”

“An’ ah was sayin’,” persisted Adam, “’at we mun pray for it, an’ ah
weean’t beleeave ’at prayer’s onny waiker then it was when Peter was
i’ prison, or when t’ heavens was brass for t’ speeace o’ three years
an’ six months. It oppen’d t’ iron yatt for Peter an’ t’ brass yatt
for t’ rain, an’ it’ll oppen d’ gold an’ silver yatt for uz. Missis,
we’re gannin’ te hev a Methodist chapel!”

“Well done, Adam! I think you’re in the right. I don’t see how it’s
going to be done, but if the way is open, you may depend on it I’ll do
_my_ best.”

A fourth party here appeared upon the scene. This was none other than
Mrs. Houston’s eldest daughter, Grace, a genteel and pleasant-looking
girl of twenty--one who could play the piano and milk a cow with equal
willingness and skill, could knit a wool cushion or darn a stocking,
and did both with deft fingers that knew their business. She, too,
sided with Adam Olliver, and, with the sanguine impulsiveness of
youth, began to discuss the ways and means, and even hinted at so
unheard-of a marvel as a Nestleton Methodist bazaar.

“Ha! ha! ha!” laughed Adam Olliver, as he shouldered his “toppers,”
and strolled away with them. “As seeaf as theease toppers is gannin’
to Beeachwood Pasther, there’ll be a Methodist chapel i’ Nestleton cum
Can’lemas twel’month. Seea we’d better leeak sharp an’ get things
riddy.”

                The divvil says, “You sahn’t,”
                An’ man says, “You can’t,
    It’s ower big a job for lahtle fooaks like you.
                But t’ Maister says, “You sall,”
                An’ seea say we all,
    For what t’ Maister says, you knoa, is sartain te be true!”

Old Adam went about his work full of the new idea, and we may depend
upon it that Balaam’s back was, as truly as the borders of Brook
Jabbok or the house-top at Joppa, the place of prayer, and that
Beechwood Pasture witnessed that day the pleadings of one whose name
was not only Adam Olliver, but “Israel, for as a prince had he power
with God to prevail.”

The sun was sinking in the West, flooding the evening landscape with a
mellow glory, reddening the foliage of the hoary beech-trees until
they seemed to be a-glow with mystic fire, concentrating its beams
upon, here and there, a window in distant Nestleton, which flashed
back like a mimic luminary, while Nestleton Mere, just above the
white-washed, odd-built water-mill, shone like burnished silver
flushed with crimson, beneath the cloudless sky. The feathered
choristers had not yet gone to their repose, and tree, copse, and
hedgerow were vocal with their vesper hymns, as Adam Olliver, having
disposed of his toppers and repaired the gaps, was jogging homeward
on his imperturbable donkey, after the labours of the day.

Jabez Hepton, the village carpenter, and two of his apprentices,
returning from their labours at a distant farmhouse, overtook him as
he was communing, according to his wont, with his four-footed
retainer.

“Balaam,” said he, “we sall hev a chapel at Nestleton”--though how
that fact should concern his uncomprehending companion it is difficult
to see. In all probability the promise of a few carrots or a quartern
of oats would have been far more acceptable information, for, like
many other donkeys we wot of, Balaam’s preferences were all in favour
of carnal pleasures.

“When?” said Jabez Hepton, suddenly.

“Consarn it!” said the startled hedger, “you gooa off like a popgun,
neighbour Hepton. You oppen yer mooth an’ bark, just like a shippard
dog. Then you’re toddlin’ yam.”

“Hey,” said the carpenter, “but what were you sayin’ about a Methodist
chapel at Nestleton?”

“Why, nobbut ’at we’re gannin’ te hae yan. Ah reckon you’ll be glad te
see it!”

“Hey, but ah shan’t see it, till two Sundays come i’ yah week, or till
crows begin to whistle ‘Bonnets o’ blue.’”

“Jabez Hepton,” said Adam, seriously, “deean’t joke aboot it; ah
beleeave it’s God’s will ’at we sud hev a chapel, an’ be t’ help o’
God ah meean te try. T’ wod o’ God’s _God’s Wod_, an’ He says ’ax an’
you sall hev.’ Ah meean te ax, an’ there’ll be a chapel i’ Nestleton a
twel’month cum Can’lemas-day. Ah’s an aud fowt, neea doot, an’ monny a
yan beside you’ll laugh at ma’. At deean’t care t’ snuff ov a can’le
for that. Wi’ God o’ me side, ah isn’t freetened hoo things ’ll turn
out. ‘Let God be true, an’ ivvery man a liar.’”

There was that in Adam’s tone and manner which conveyed a dignified
rebuke to the flippancy of Jabez Hepton, who not only lapsed into
silence, but was bound to confess to himself that he was a pigmy in
presence of a faith so beautiful and great.

“Good-neet, Adam,” said the carpenter, eventually, “Ah only wop your
wods ’ll cum true.”

“Good-neet, Jabez,” said the old man, “an’ deean’t fo’get te pray for
’t, an’ when yo’ begin, deean’t tire. T’ unjust judge had te give in
’cause t’ poor widow wadn’t let him be, an’ you may depend on’t,” said
Adam, reverently, “’at t’ Just Judge weean’t be sae hard te move.
We’re His bairns, His aun elect, an’ if we cry day an’ neet tiv Him,
He’ll help us speedily. Prayse the Lord! ah’s seear on’t.”

Adam Olliver’s beautiful simplicity of trust inoculated Hepton with
the same hopeful spirit shown by Mrs. Houston and her daughter, and
that worthy man went home to calculate, as he sat in his “ingle nook,”
the cost of the chapel, the idea of which he had just met with sarcasm
and scorn. Such is the commanding influence of a good example.

    “Example is a living law, whose sway
    Men more than all the written laws obey.”



CHAPTER IX.

THE PROGRESS OF MASTER PHILIP’S WOOING.

    “Although thou may never be mine,
      Although even hope is denied;
    ’Tis sweeter for thee despairing,
      Than aught in the world beside.”

    _Burns._


Lucy Blyth retired from her brief interview with Philip Fuller, glad,
as I have already said, to be relieved from an ordeal which taxed all
her powers of self-command. Philip’s love for her was clear to a
demonstration, and as she bravely and boldly took her own heart to
task upon the subject, she had to confess to herself that she felt a
sense of delight and satisfaction in his tacit declaration. “I love
him!” was the language of her own soul, written there in characters so
clear that she made no foolish attempt to cast the thought aside. Like
a clear-conscienced, high-principled girl, as she was, she looked the
whole matter fairly in the face, and soon came to the conclusion that
duty and propriety demanded a firm resistance to the dangerous
fascination. She resolved that never, by any word or deed of hers,
would she give encouragement to what she knew would be an impossible
affection, an unpardonable offence to the proud and stately squire,
and a grievous sorrow to her beloved and doting father.

When Natty came in to dinner she had regained full command over
herself, for Lucy had that secret supply of strength which is given to
all those who walk with God, and Blithe Natty’s suspicions, if he had
any, were, at any rate, temporarily laid to rest. Neither of them
mentioned the events of the morning, and wisely so, for stout
resistance in such a case is more easily accomplished under the silent
system. Opposition, interference, condemnation, are sadly apt to fan
such sparks into a more fervent flame, and to supply fuel to a fire
which might haply die away for want of it. Nathan Blyth was quite
right in placing implicit confidence in the religious principles and
firm character of his right-minded girl.

Philip Fuller, however, was subject to no such restraining influences;
at any rate, they remained as yet undeveloped. His all-engrossing love
led him to seek an opportunity to declare it, and to nurse the hope
that he should hear from her own lips the response he so much desired.
On two or three occasions he sought an interview with her, but Lucy’s
woman’s wit had seen his design and foiled it. Twice, when Adam
Olliver was returning from his daily toil, he had descried the
youthful squire following Lucy, and had seen that young lady start off
at a rapid run to avoid the meeting.

One evening, as Lucy was returning from a solitary cottage at some
distance from the village, whither she had been on a good Samaritan
kind of errand, Philip Fuller suddenly met her face to face. It was
impossible to elude him, or to evade the announcement which she knew
was trembling on his lips. With a lover’s impetuosity he entered at
once on the subject nearest to his heart.

“Miss Blyth,” he said, “for I suppose I must not call you ‘Lucy’
now;”--Here the cunning young gentleman paused, hoping to “score one”
by hearing the coveted permission. In vain, however, for though I
don’t pretend to deny that “Lucy” from his lips had a music of its
own, she remained tremblingly silent, waiting for what should follow,
in that odd mingling of hope and fear which baffles psychologists to
analyse or metaphysicians to explain.

“Do you remember,” continued he, “those pleasant hours of ‘auld lang
syne?’ I wish they could have lasted for ever.”

“Nothing does last for ever in this world,” said Lucy, with a
constrained smile, “and it would not do to be always children, you
know. When childhood’s over we have to put away childish things.”

“Lucy,--forgive me for calling you by the old familiar name--I cannot
get any other from my lips. I believe my love for you _was_ a childish
thing, for it was born in childhood’s days. But it has grown with my
growth and strengthened with my strength, and the one dearest wish of
my soul is that the ‘little sweetheart’ of old times would be my
sweetheart now! Lucy, my darling”----

“Mr. Fuller!” interposed Lucy, “I must not, will not hear you any
further. I will not appear to misunderstand you. I will not for a
moment wrong you with the thought that you mean anything but what is
true and honourable; but I must ask you, nay, command you, never again
to speak to me like this. What you hint at can never, never be. The
one thing for you to do is to leave me alone, now and ever, and let me
go my way while you go yours. All the old times are over now--and you
must forget that they have ever been.”

Poor Lucy found it hard work to get that last expression out, but she
was not given to half measures where duty was involved, and she meant
all she said.

“Don’t be cruel,” he pleaded. “I can never forget, and I will never,
never give up the hope”----

But Lucy had sprung from him, for, seeing Old Adam Olliver jogging
along on his lowly steed, she instantly resolved to instal him as her
escort to the village. The old man had seen the sudden departure, had
recognised the young squire, and, reading Lucy’s flushed cheek and
excited tone, came to his own conclusions, the nature of which we
shall understand by-and-bye. Very little was said on their homeward
way, and on arriving at the forge Lucy wished the old man “good
evening.”

“Good-neet, mah bairn,” said Adam. “Ah’s waint an’ glad ah met wi’
yo’. Ah wadn’t be oot varry leeat if ah were you. There’s them aboot
’at’s up te neea good.” With this enigmatical utterance he rode off,
leaving Lucy to wonder what he meant, and how much he knew.

No sooner had the old hedger stabled his steed and sat down to his
supper than he opened his mind to his dear “aud woman,” who was in
truth as well as name a helpmeet for him, his loving and trusted wife
for forty years.

“Judy, my lass, I isn’t ower an’ aboon satisfied aboot that young slip
ov a squire.”

“What, Master Philip, d’ye meean? What’s matter wiv ’im, Adam?”

“Why, ah’s freetened ’at he’s settin’ sheep’s e’en at Lucy Blyth. Thoo
knoas she’s parlous pratty. Ah’ve seen him efther ’er ’eels three or
fower tahmes latly. Te-neet my lord was talkin’ tiv her doon t’ park
looan, an’ as seean as sha’ saw me sha’ shot awa’ frev him like a
‘are, an’ comm wi’ ma’ all t’ way yam. He steead an’ leeak’d hard, a
goodish bit dumfoonder’d, an’ then wheel’d roond an’ went tow’rd t’
park.”

“Hey, but that’s a bad ’earin’, Adam,” said Judith. “Lucy Blyth’s a
gell ’at would tonn ony yung fellow’s head. But ah don’t believe that
she’ll do owt wrong, won’t Lucy.”

“_She_ deea owt wrang? Nut she,” said Adam; “bud ah’s vastly misteea’n
if _he_ weean’t; an’ ah deean’t think it’s right nut te let Nathan
knoa.”

“Nay, ah hoap there’s nowt in it, efther all, Adam. Lucy’s a lass ’at
’ll allus tak’ care of hersen, an’ ah’s sure t’ young squire’s as nice
and fine a young fellow as you can finnd atween here an’ York.”

Judy was a true woman, it will be seen, and the possible loves of two
young people found a certain favour in her eyes.

As for Lucy Blyth, she went home the subject of feelings very
difficult to describe, and for many days the struggle between love and
duty was very severe. She found herself utterly unable to “cast his
image from her heart,” and, like the fair maiden described by Dryden,
she might have said--

    “I am not what I was; since yesterday
    My strength forsakes me, and my needful rest;
    I pine, I languish, love to be alone:
    Think much, speak little, and in speaking sigh.

           *       *       *       *       *

    I went to bed, and to myself I thought
    That I would think on Torrismond no more;
    Then shut my eyes, but could not shut out him.”

Lucy, however, had “strength to worldly minds unknown,” and set
herself to “conquer in this strife.”

Matters continued thus for several days. Then Adam Olliver again
chanced to meet Master Philip, who was walking along with bended head,
and with his mind so pre-occupied that he did not hear the old man’s
courteous salutation, “It’s a feyn neet, sur,” and passed on without
response. Further on he came upon Lucy Blyth, who had just undergone
an ordeal similar to the last. Maintaining her usual firmness of
denial, she had sent her lover away in such evident sorrow and
distress that she was indulging in a quiet little cry of sympathy.
Adam surprised her with her ‘kerchief to her eyes, and waxed wroth
against the rude offender who had thus distressed his favourite.

“Why, Lucy, mi’ lass, what’s matter wi’ yo’? Ah can’t abide to see
yo’ like that. Hez onnybody been upsettin’ yo’? ’Cause if they hev, it
mun be putten a stop tae, an’ it sall, if ah hev te deea it mysen.”

Poor Lucy, dreadfully afraid that Philip’s persistent wooing should be
known, hastened to assure him that there was no need to trouble.

“I’ve been a little low-spirited,” she said, with a smile, “but it’s
all over now. A good cry, you know, does one good sometimes.”

So, making a vigorous effort, the charming maiden chatted merrily on
until Adam’s garden gate was reached, and so it was impossible for him
to refer to the matter any more.

“Judy,” said Adam to his aged spouse, “it weean’t deea. That young
Fuller’s worritin’ that poor lass te deead, an’ ah’s gannin’ te see
aboot it.”

Adam Olliver did “see about it,” in a very peculiar fashion indeed,
but how he set about it, how he fared, and how he proved his right to
be called “the old man eloquent,” must have a chapter to itself.



CHAPTER X.

BLACK MORRIS IS MORE FREE THAN WELCOME.

    “Ah me! for aught that ever I could read,
    Could ever hear of tale or history,
    The course of true love never did run smooth.”

    _Shakspeare._


The stern and ungenial way in which Blithe Natty had repulsed the
advances of Black Morris in the matter of his suit for Lucy had only
served to make that young “wastrel” more than ever eager and
determined in his pursuit of the fairest prize in Waverdale. He had
never known what it was to be fairly thwarted in anything upon which
he had set his heart, and in addition to an uncontrolled self-will
which threatened to be his ruin, he was possessed of a certain
bull-dog tenacity of purpose, which was only strengthened and
intensified by opposition. He was, undoubtedly, a tall and
good-looking fellow, well endowed by nature, both as regards physique
and brains; hence the village maidens of Nestleton were quite inclined
to show him favour, and in some cases to make a tacit bid for his
preference. All this tended to convince him that he was a sufficient
match for the blacksmith’s daughter, and I must do him the justice to
say that he was thoroughly fascinated with her beauty, and quite
honest in his wooing.

Black Morris watched his opportunities, and on several occasions
managed to hap on Lucy Blyth, both by night and day, pressing on her
his unwelcome suit in such a hot and inconsiderate fashion, that the
scared girl scarcely dared to cross the threshold of her home, for
fear of being subjected to his wild and passionate mode of wooing. She
was positively alarmed, for there was something so lawless and
desperate about his method of proceeding, and his headstrong character
was so well known, that she did not think he would scruple at any
excesses to gain his ends.

One evening, as Lucy was returning from Farmer Houston’s kitchen,
where the fortnightly preaching had been held, Black Morris met her in
a shady nook by the churchyard wall, and as usual pressed upon her his
undesired attention. She did her best to make her escape, but being
emboldened by certain copious libations at the “Red Lion,” he seized
her hand, put his arm around her, and strove to steal a kiss from the
indignant maiden.

“Never!” screamed the startled girl, and bursting from him with the
strength of a wild terror, she flew homeward like a hunted deer. Her
persecutor uttered an oath and started off in hot pursuit. On she flew
through the silent lane, but there was no possibility of escaping the
stalwart runner, who followed fast behind. Once more his hand was laid
upon her shoulder, once more Lucy gave a scream of fear, and at that
instant, Philip Fuller ran to the rescue, and confronting the excited
bully, bade him “Stand off!”

“Who to please?” said Black Morris, turning his attention to the
unwelcome intruder, and aiming a decisive blow.

“Oh! don’t!” said Lucy. “O Philip!” and her terror vanishing in
presence of her lover’s danger she threw herself between the hostile
two, affording to the quick-witted young squire a welcome insight into
her regard for him.

“Lucy, dear!” said Philip, “who is this fellow?” and his attitude
betokened such vengeance as his indignant soul and well-knit frame
made possible. Other voices were heard and other feet approaching.

“Ho, ho, Master Fuller! ‘Philip,’ and ‘Lucy, dear!’ eh? Sits the wind
in that quarter? Then look out for squalls!” said Black Morris, and so
saying he sped rapidly away.

“Who’s that?” said Philip, as he walked by the side of the panting
girl on the way to her father’s door.

“His name’s Morris, Black Morris,” said Lucy, “and for months past he
has followed me about in spite of all that I could say, but he never
behaved so rudely as he did to-night. The man terrifies me almost to
death.”

Philip bade her not to fear, and expressed his intention of having an
early interview with Black Morris, to put an end to his unwelcome and
distasteful advances.

“There will be war,” said he, “between him and me. The bully must be
taught to know his place.”

“Philip,” said Lucy, “do not quarrel with that man. I always feel when
I see him as though he is doomed to bring me misery and sorrow. Don’t
go near him! Promise me you won’t.”

What would he not promise her? He did his best to reassure the anxious
girl, and promised her he would not seek a quarrel; “but,” said he,
“you must be protected at all hazards. Lucy, give me the right to
protect you! Only say that you love me, and I’ll soon make it
impossible for Black Morris or anybody else to fling a shadow on your
path! Lucy, can’t you see that I cannot live without your love?”

Philip’s earnest tones, instinct with a yearning that could not be
mistaken, found an answering chord in Lucy’s heart; but, summoning her
self-command, she replied, “No! no! no! It is you that distress me
now. It cannot, cannot ever be. For your own sake as well as mine, I
beseech you, say no more; such a thing would rob you of your father’s
love for ever. I thank you with all my heart for coming to my
help--Good-night,” and straightway opening the garden gate she swiftly
ran along the path and entered the house without one backward look.

Philip’s ponderings were of a varied character as he entered the
narrow lane which led to Waverdale Hall, and slowly trod the light and
springy turf in silence. He felt half inclined to forgive Black Morris
for unwittingly securing him the delicious interview. “She loves me,”
thought he, “she loves me, I am sure; and if I can get my father’s
consent, my darling Lucy will yet be mine.”

Castles in the air began to rear their gleaming but deceptive turrets,
and in the delusive glamour of a lover’s Paradise, Philip approached
the lodge by the gate which led through Waverdale Park. The night was
dark and still, and his path was made more gloomy by the overarching
trees, which almost converted the lane into an avenue, and shut out
the glimmer of the watchful stars. He thought of Lucy and his
all-engrossing love; he thought of his father and of the interview he
must summon courage to seek, that he might reveal his tender secret as
in duty bound; he thought of Black Morris and his final threat; and
then his mind reverted to the interview he had had, that evening, with
the rector of the parish, the Rev. Bertram Elliott.

Philip’s visit to the Rectory had been connected with those mental
troubles which had more and more disturbed him since the Sunday
evening when he had heard Nathan Blyth discourse on “the Lamb of God,”
and joined with the rural worshippers in singing of the love of a
crucified Christ. From then till now no day had passed without
bringing to his mind the sweet and touching lines--

                “All ye that pass by,
                To Jesus draw nigh,
    To you is it nothing that Jesus should die?”

To the clergyman Philip had confided his spiritual anxieties, and
from him had sought the ghostly counsel which his troubled heart and
conscience did so greatly need. The worthy rector was a gentleman and
a scholar, and for the space of five-and-twenty years had christened,
married, and buried the villagers of Nestleton; had read the grand old
liturgy with some earnestness and irreproachable accent; had given a
fifteen minutes’ homily every Sunday morning of the most harmless
character; and, altogether, was a genial and worthy member of his
class. But to Philip, in his moody anxiety and distress of soul, he
was of no use whatever. He simply urged him to live a moral life,
attend the church and take the sacraments, to go into company and
engage in field sports as a sure way of dissipating the “vapours” and
getting rid of “the blues.” That sort of teaching, let us be thankful
to say, is by no means common in this year of grace, but there was
more than a sufficiency of it fifty years ago.

Philip reached the lodge and let himself gently through the gate, so
as not to disturb Giles Green, the lodge-keeper, who with his little
household had retired to rest. On his way through the park he heard
the sound of human voices from a coppice to the right, and, pausing a
moment, caught the mention of his own name. Almost immediately
afterwards, another voice said,--

“Nivver mind ’im, owd chum. Lucy Blyth’s ower poor a dish for ’im to
sit down tae. Why, Squire Fuller would shutt ’im if ’e was to tak’ up
wi’ a blacksmith’s dowter.”

Here another voice rapped out an ugly oath, “If’e dizzn’t I will, as
soon as look at ’im. Ah mean to hev that little wench myself, an’ I’ll
give an ounce of lead to anybody that gets into my road.”

Here the voices became more distant, and Philip lost the remainder of
the conversation. He had heard enough, however, to convince him that
mischief was brewing, and that Lucy Blyth was right in warning him
against the reckless revenge of Black Morris. Resuming his walk, and
burdened by this new complication, he entered the portals of Waverdale
Hall. His favourite Newfoundland dog, Oscar, rose from his mat, shook
his shaggy sides, and received a kindly pat and friendly word from
Philip, who straightway entered into his stately father’s presence.



CHAPTER XI.

BOTH PHILIP AND LUCY MAKE A CLEAN BREAST OF IT.

    “The voice of parents is the voice of gods,
    For to their children they are Heaven’s lieutenants;
    To steer the freight of youth through storms and dangers,
    Which with full sails they bear upon, and straighten
    The mortal line of life they bend so often.
    For these are we made fathers, and for these
    May challenge duty on our children’s part.
    Obedience is the sacrifice of angels,
    Whose form you carry.”

    _Shakespeare._


The squire was seated in his well-furnished and luxurious library, by
the side of a handsome reflector lamp, with a book written by a
popular free-thinker on his knees, for in works of a kindred sceptical
character the thoughtful but cynical student had latterly taken great
delight.

“Well, Master Philip,” said he, “you keep late hours, and return as
stealthily as if you had been keeping an assignation.” Here he lifted
his shaggy eyebrows, and peered into his son’s ingenuous face, into
which this chance home-thrust brought a rush of blood, and that “index
of the mind” grew as red as the crimson curtains which hung in heavy
folds behind him.

The squire’s suspicious nature was instantly aroused. Laying down his
book he rose from his seat, and stretching out his hand in solemn
earnest, he said,--

“Son Philip, you will not be other than a gentleman? You will not
sully your father’s name? You will not dim the honour of an ancestry
which has held its own with the noblest through a hundred generations?
You will not grieve your father by a base and unworthy deed? In the
day you do, you’ll”--here the firm lip quivered--“you’ll break his
heart!”

“Father, dear father,” said Philip, taking his father’s hand, “that
will I never, by the help of God.”

“Forgive my momentary doubt, my son. You have never given me cause to
fear. But what meant that tell-tale blush at the mere mention of the
word assignation? Phil, my boy, there are few things that I hate more
than the loose notions about morality and virtue which disgrace too
many of the wealthiest youth of modern times. I have small faith in
priests and in the cant of religion, but unsullied honour and true
manhood, _sans peur et sans reproche_, _that_ should be the motto and
the creed of all. Phil, are you worthy of that character to-night?”

There was no mistaking the honest “Yes, father!” which this question
elicited, and the old man returned to his book with a sigh of infinite
relief.

That sensation of relief, however, was by no means shared by poor
Philip, who, though perfectly innocent of anything in the direction
suspected by his father, felt his own peculiar secret weighing on his
honest heart all the more heavily, because of what had passed between
them. He longed to cast himself at his father’s feet and tell him all,
but he was restrained by the consciousness that the revelation would
be like gall and wormwood to one whose escutcheon was his _fetish_,
and whose blue blood was sure to boil in aristocratic wrath at the
bare idea of its commixture with the plebeian corpuscles of a village
blacksmith.

Had the moment been opportune, Philip would then and there have eased
his soul by a full confession; but the old man had lapsed into
pre-occupied silence, and, as if repentant of his unusual burst of
emotion, his face resumed its aspect of reserve to a more than usual
degree; so, after glancing through the pages of a book, but whether of
poetry or prose, of fiction or philosophy, he knew no more than the
man in the moon, Philip silently withdrew and retired to his bedroom,
torn with anxiety and fear.

I hope my readers are prepared to award their sympathy to my youthful
hero. His mind was harassed by religious convictions and distressed by
spiritual yearnings for a rest he could not find. His heart was filled
with the force of an impossible love, a love which had laid an abiding
hold upon his life, and these, with the dread, not so much of his
father’s anger as his father’s grief, all tended to distract and
sadden him. Seated in his bedroom he reviewed all the events of the
evening, and put the question to himself, “What shall I do?” That was
followed instantly with, “What ought I to do?”--always one of the
wisest questions in the world. The answer came clear and full, like a
revelation: “Go and tell your father.”

Yielding to the impulse of the moment, and resolved to rid himself of
the secrecy, which was so foreign to his nature, Philip straightway
retraced his steps, and once more stood before his father, and said,--

“I should like to speak with you a few minutes, father, if you
please.”

The old gentleman laid aside his book, slowly and deliberately placed
the ivory paper-knife in it to mark the page; taking off his
spectacles, he carefully folded them and put them in the case, then
lifting his keen eyes upon his son, as if he would look him through,
he said,--

“Hadn’t you better take a seat while you make your communication?”

Philip found that he was getting frozen up, and that if he did not
make a spurt, he should soon be unable to tell his story.

“Father,” said he, “I entreat you not to be angry with me. Hear me
through, and--and--help me if you can.”

Beginning at the beginning, Philip told him of his visits to the
forge; how he was captivated by his childish playmate; how since his
return from college she had returned from school, and how, having seen
her again and again, he felt that he loved her with all his soul, as
he could never love anybody else on earth. At this point, inspired by
the afflatus of a deep and true affection, Philip waxed eloquent.

“Father,” said he, “Lucy Blyth is, in worldly wealth and status, far
beneath me; but in wealth of mind and the riches of goodness and
piety, she is infinitely my superior. Of her beauty I say nothing, one
sight of her will show you that it is peerless. Father, dear father, I
love her with as deep and true a love as ever mastered man. You I feel
bound to obey, not in filial duty only, but because I love and
reverence my father; but I beseech you to pause before you forbid this
thing, for, in the day when this hope dies out into the dark, my life
will alter, and the Philip Fuller of to-day will be a different man.
How the difference will be felt or borne, God only knows!”

The depth of intensity, the mournful voice in which that last sentence
was uttered sent the blood back from the father’s heart. It told him
that this was no passing fancy, but the master-love of a life.

The squire sat silent for several moments. His features were fixed and
firm and immovable as usual, but there was a pallor on his face which
showed that he had received a blow--a blow from which he would not
soon recover.

“Have you anything more to say?” asked the squire, in a voice quiet
and low.

“No, father,” said Philip, “only this--that you must not doubt either
my love or my duty. But, oh remember, the happiness of my life is in
your hands,” and bidding him “good-night,” Philip once more retired to
his room. That night his sleep was troubled. He dreamed that he was
spurned by his father, pursued by Black Morris, while Lucy, bright as
an angel, stood before him with outstretched arms, and then,
struggling vainly with some invisible power, was borne for ever from
his view.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nor were matters much more promising in the house of Nathan Blyth.
After Lucy’s unpleasant experiences with Black Morris, and her
exciting interview with Philip Fuller, she was a good deal flustered
and disturbed, and when she entered the house, Nathan was constrained
to notice her flushed face and disarranged attire.

“Why Lucy, lass, you look as though you had been at work in a
hayfield, and as warm as a dairymaid at a butter churn. If it had been
any other girl I should have said that she’d been ‘gallivanting;’ but
that’s not in my Lucy’s line, is it?”

Lucy was not quite prepared for this sort of thing, but she never
stooped to an evasion, and her maidenly intuitions led her at once to
tell her father the events of the night.

“Black Morris seized hold of me,” said she, “as I passed the
churchyard. I think he was tipsy, and he ran after me. Philip heard me
scream, and he brought me safely home.”

Wrath against Black Morris rose high in the blacksmith’s heart, but
the unconscious familiarity with which she mentioned “Philip,” as if
there could be but one in the whole wide world, struck him so forcibly
that he said,--

“Philip? Philip who? Do you mean Master Philip, at the Hall?”

Poor Lucy saw in a moment all the force of her thoughtless slip of the
tongue, and she could not for the life of her prevent her fluttering
heart from imprinting its secret cipher on her cheek. The bashful,
“Yes, father,” tore away the flimsy veil that hid her heart’s idol
from her father’s view.

“And how comes Philip Fuller’s name to flow so glibly from my lassie’s
lips?” said Nathan, seriously. “My Lucy hasn’t learnt to listen to
words of love from one who can never be aught to her, and whose life
and hers must always be wide apart--has she?”

The tears were in Lucy’s eyes, and her sweet lips quivered as she
knelt by her father’s knee.

“Father,” said she, “I can have no secrets from you. I have never
seen, never met him, of my own accord; and since he told me of his
love to me, and he couldn’t help it--[That’s right, Lucy, defend him
to the last!]--I’ve done my best to avoid him. I have told him that it
can never be, and I would sooner die than grieve you, my dear, kind
father. But I do love him with all my heart, and he loves me--I know
he does--and I’m very miserable! Oh, tell me, tell me, what am I to
do?”--And the girl flung herself into his arms in a paroxysm of tears.

“My poor lass!” said Nathan Blyth, stroking her hair and kissing her
fair forehead. “It is as I feared. I am thankful that you have told me
all about it. I can help you to bear your trouble, and we must both
take it to God. Those who seek to do right and keep an honest
conscience are sure to find comfort from Him. But, Lucy, my dear, you
must not see him any more. It must be put a stop to, and if Master
Philip will not keep away, I must go and see Squire Fuller myself.
Cheer up, my darling! Let us do right, and God’s good Providence will
pull us through. Now it’s getting late, so bring the Bible and let us
hear what God the Lord doth say concerning us. I always find that He
has a word in season for a heart in trouble.”

The book was brought Nathan turned to the thirty-fourth Psalm, and
read, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are
open to their cry.... The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth and
delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto all
them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite
spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord
delivereth him out of them all.” Then, kneeling down, he made his God
their confidant, and “talked with Him face to face as a man talketh
with his friend.” Lucy’s trouble, and her need of strength and
guidance--her lack of a mother’s loving counsel and care--were all
laid before the Throne of Grace. They rose to their feet in the sweet
hush of a great calm. Lucy was comforted; her filial confidence had
quickly brought its reward.

Happy parents they, whose children count them their truest friends and
hold from them no secret reserves! Happy children, whose parents win
their confidence and make common cause with them in their joys and
sorrows! Happy both parents and children who are accustomed to take
their needs to a loving and gracious God!

So Lucy dried her tears, resolved to govern her heart like a
heroine--to do the duty that lay next her, and leave the rest to
heaven. True, she went to bed to dream of Philip, but communion with
her love had no embargo there. Thanks to her father’s love and her
Redeemer’s care, no shadow of Black Morris or of overhanging trouble
disturbed her repose.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here for the present we leave the youthful lovers, assured that high
principle, the love of Right and Truth, will hold them scathless; and,
should the course of events widen the gap and intensify the obstacles
between these two, we may rest content that both will bear their
burdens with a loyal spirit and in submissive strength, and will come
through the fire refined and purified, as it is the nature of sterling
gold to do.



CHAPTER XII.

ADAM OLLIVER IN THE “METHODIST CONFESSIONAL.”

    “When one who holds communion with the skies,
    Has filled his urn where the pure waters rise,
    And once more mingles with us meaner things,
    ’Tis even as if an angel shook his wings;
    Immortal fragrance fills the circuit wide,
    And tells us where his treasure is supplied.”

    _Cowper._


In addition to the Sunday services conducted by local preachers, and a
fortnightly Thursday meeting, when the Nestletonian Methodists were
favoured with a sermon from one of the “itinerants,” two weekly
class-meetings were held, the one in Adam Olliver’s cottage, the other
in the kitchen of Nathan Blyth. In each case the owner of the place of
rendezvous was the “leader” of the little band which gathered from
week to week to give and obtain mutual cheer and encouragement in the
Christian life. Old Adam’s class consisted chiefly of the older
members of society, and numbered a dozen or fourteen men and women who
were “asking their way to Zion with their faces thitherward.”

The lowly and tidy little room was always made as neat as a new pin by
the diligent Judith for the class-meetings, though that state of
things was by no means exceptional; for Judith, like most of the East
Yorkshire peasantry, prided herself on the cleanliness of her cosy
cottage. A strip or two of carpet was laid here and there upon the
well-washed brick floor. A hearthrug made of short strips of cloth,
knitted in many colours and neat of pattern, lay upon the white
hearthstone, on the borders of which, uncovered by the rug, a little
red sand was strewn, to facilitate future sweeping operations, and to
give a looser tenancy to dirt. The grate, hob, and oven were brightly
polished with black-lead, and the iron bar, and “reckon” over the
fire-place, used for suspending culinary pot and kettle, were as
bright as burnished steel. Half a dozen wooden chairs made of birch or
ashwood, a small old-fashioned “dresser” and platerack, a clock of
contemporary age, whose long case stood bolt upright against the wall,
and had had to suffer partial decapitation to make room for it
underneath the joists of the boarded chamber floor, an odd-looking
corner cupboard perched more than half-way up an angle of the room,
and a little round table covered with glazed American cloth, completed
the furniture. Not quite, though, for there were two old-fashioned
arm-chairs, with spindled backs, from which the green paint was
largely worn away by constant use, and two or three odd little
Scripture prints and an antique “sampler” adorned the whitewashed
walls. On class-meeting nights, the sitting accommodation was
increased by the introduction of two little wooden forms of Adam’s own
construction, which at other seasons were set up on end in the little
back kitchen to be out of the way. A well-worn Bible and the
ubiquitous Wesleyan hymn-book were laid upon the table, and Adam’s
spectacles, in a wooden case, were placed by their side, as regularly
as Wednesday night came round.

I have a great desire that my readers should peep into Adam’s cottage
on one of these occasions, and witness the proceedings at a genuine
Methodist class-meeting.

As the clock strikes seven, eight or nine members have arrived, and
each, having bent the knee in silent prayer, sits silent until the
patriarchal leader dons his glasses, opens at a favourite hymn, and
says,--

“Let us commence t’ worship ov God be’ singin’ t’ hym on t’ fottid
payge, common measure.”

    “Jesus the neeame ’igh ower all,
      I’ hell or ’arth or sky;
    Aingels an’ men befoore it fall,
      An’ divvils fear an’ fly.”

The first two lines are then given out again, and Jabez Hepton starts
the tune. A few verses are thus disposed of, two lines at a time, and
then the old man leads them at the Throne of Grace, in a quaintly
earnest prayer. Adam always had “a good time” on these occasions, and
two or three of the more enthusiastic members interpolate their
“amens” and “halleluias,” varying in number and vehemence according to
the current character of their own feelings and experiences. Adam
pulls off his glasses as the members resume their seats, and folding
his hands on the open book, says,--

“Ah’s still gannin’ on i’ t’ aud rooad, an’ ah bless the Lord ’at ah’s
nearer salvation noo then when fost ah beleeaved. Ah finnd ’at t’ way
dizn’t get ’arder bud eeasier as ah gan’ on. Ah used te hev monny a
tussle wi’ me’ neeamsake, t’ ‘Aud Adam,’ an’ he’s offens throan ma’,
but t’ Strangger then he’s aboot tonnd him oot, an’ ah feel ’at the
Lord’s will’s mah will mair then ivver it was afoore. Ah’s cummin’
fast te d’ end o’ my jonna, an’ ah’s just waitin’ at t’ Beautiful Gayt
o’ t’ temple, till the Lord cums an’ lifts ma’ up, then ah sall gan in
as t’ leeam man did, loupin’ an’ singin’ an’ praisin’ God.--Noo,
Brother Hepton, hoo is it wi’ your sowl te-neet?”

Jabez Hepton, as we have seen, is the village carpenter. He is rather
a reticent and thoughtful man, troubled now and then with mental
doubts--a kind of Nicodemus, who is given to asking “How can these
things be?”

“Well,” he says, “I’m not quite up to the mark, somehow. I have no
trust but in Jesus, an’ I don’t want to have. But I’ve a good many
doubts an’ fears,--why, not fears exactly, but questionings an’
uncertainties, an’ they disturb me at times a good bit. I pray for
grace to overcome ’em. May the Lord help me!”

“Help yo’,” said Adam, “te be seear He will. But you mun help yersen.
If a fellow cums inte my hoose o’ purpose te mak’ ma’ miserable, an’
begins te pull t’ winder cottain doon, an’ rake t’ fire oot, tellin’
ma’ ’at darkness an’ gloom ’s best fo’ ma’; ah sudn’t begin to arguy
wiv him. Ah sud say, ‘Cum, hod thee noise an’ bundle oot. Ah knoa
better then that, an’ ah’ll hev as mitch dayleet as ah can get.’ Noo,
theease doots o’ yours, they cum for neea good, and they shutt t’
sunleet o’ faith oot o’ yer heart. Noo, deean’t ax ’em te sit doon an’
hev a crack o’ talk aboot it, an’ lissen tiv ’em till you’re hoaf oot
o’ yer wits. Say ‘Get oot, ah deean’t want yo,’ an’ ah weean’t hae
yo’!’ an’ oppen t’ deear _an’ expect ’em te gan_. Meeastly you’ll
finnd ’at they’ll tak t’ hint an’ vanish like a dreeam. Brother
Hepton, doots is neea trubble, if yo’ weean’t giv ’em hooseroom.
Questionin’s weean’t bother yo’ if yo’ deeant give ’em a answer. An’
whativver yo’ deea, fill your heead wi’ t’ Wod ov God. ‘It’s written!’
‘It’s written!’ _that’s_ the way te settle ’em.--Sister Petch, hoo are
_you_ gettin’ on?”

Sister Petch is an aged widow, poor amongst the poorest, an infirm and
weakly woman, living a solitary life, but ever upborne by a cheerful
Christian content which is beautiful to see.

“Why, I’ve nothing but what’s good to say of my gracious Lord and
Saviour. Sometimes ah gets a bit low-spirited an’ dowly, especially
when my rheumatism keeps me from sleeping. But I go straight to the
cross, and when I cry, ‘Lord, help me!’ I get abundant strength. The
Lord won’t lay on me more than ah’m able to bear, an’ sometimes He
makes my peace to flow like a river. My Saviour’s love makes up for
all my sorrows.”

“Hey, mah deear sister, ah’ll warrant it diz. You an’ me’s gettin’ aud
an’ creaky, an’ the Lord’s lowsin’ t’ pins o’ wer tabernacle riddy for
t’ flittin.’ Bud if t’ hoose o’ this tabernacle be dissolved, we knoa
’at we’ve a buildin’ ov God. Till that day cums, ‘Lord, help me!’ is a
stoot crutch te walk wi’, an’ a sharp swoord te fight wi’, an’ a soft
pillo’ te lig wer heeads on, an’ a capital glass te get a leeak at
heaven through. The Lord knoas all aboot it, Peggy, an’ He says te
yo’, ‘ah knoa thi patience an’ thi povvaty,’ but thoo’s _rich_, an’
bless His neeame you’ll be a good deal richer yit.

    ‘On all the kings of ’arth,
      Wi’ pity we leeak doon;
    An’ clayme i’ vartue o’ wer berth,
      A nivver fadin’ croon.’

Halleluia! Peggy. You’re seear ov all yo’ want for tahme an’ for
etarnity.--Brother Laybourn, tell us o’ the Lord’s deealin’s wi’
_you_.”

Brother Laybourn is the village barber, and like many others of his
fraternity is much given to politics, an irrepressible talker, great
at gossip, and being of a mercurial temperament befitting his lithe
little frame, he is a little deficient in that stedfastness of
character which is requisite for spiritual health and progress. In
answer to Adam’s invitation, he runs down like a clock when the
pendulum’s off----

“Why, I hev to confess that I isn’t what I owt to be, an’ I isn’t
altegither what I might be, but I is what I is, an’ seein’ things is
no better, I’m thenkful that they’re no worse. I’ve a good monny ups
and doons, and inns and oots, but by the grace of God I continny to
this day, an’”----

“Ah’ll tell you what it is, Brother Laybourn,” said Adam, cutting him
short in his career, “Fooaks ’at ez sae monny ups and doons is varry
apt to gan doon altegither; an’ them ’at ez so monny ins an’ oots mun
take care they deean’t get clean oot, till they can’t get in na mair.
‘Unsteeable as watter thoo sall nut excel.’ It’s varry weel to be
thenkful, bud when wa’ hae te confine wer thenks te nut bein’ warse
than we are, it dizn’t seeam as though we were takkin’ mitch pains te
be better. ’T’ kingdom o’ heaven suffers violence, an’ t’ violent tak’
it be _foorce_,’ Leonard. Ah pre’ yo’ te give all diligence te mak’
your callin’ an’ election sure: an’ if yo’ll nobbut pray mair, yo’ll
hev a good deal mair te thenk God for then ye seem te hev
te-neet.--Lucy, mah deear, hoo’s the Lord leadin’ you te-neet?”

Lucy Blyth’s experience is generally fresh and healthy, and her
utterances are always listened to with gladness and profit, for Lucy
is a favourite here as everywhere else.

“I thank God,” says Lucy, “that the Lord _is_ leading me, though it is
often by a way that I know not. I often find that the path of duty is
very hard to climb, and the other path of inclination looks both easy
and pleasant. If it were not for the real and precious help I get by
prayer, I fear that I should choose it. I am trying to do right, and
desire above all things to keep the comfort of a good conscience, and
to walk in the light. I find that one of the best means of resisting
temptation and mastering self and sin is to work for God and to try to
benefit others. I pray every day of my life that I may be a lowly,
loving disciple of my Saviour, and His conscious love and favour are
the joy of my heart.

    ‘Blindfold I walk this life’s bewildering maze,
    Strong in His faith I tread the uneven ways,
    And so I stand unshrinking in the blast,
    Because my Father’s arm is round me cast;
    And if the way seems rough, I only clasp
    The Hand that leads me with a firmer grasp.’”

“Hey, mah bairn,” Adam makes reply, and there is a wealth of
tenderness in his tones, “t’ way o’ duty is t’ way o’ seeafty. It may
be rough sometahmes, an’ thorns an’ briars may pierce yer feet, but if
yo’ nobbut clim’ it patiently, you’ll finnd ’at t’ top on’t ’at God’s
gotten a blessin’ riddy fo’ yo’ ’at pays for all t’ trubble an’ pain.
Besahdes that, He’s wi’ yo’ all t’ way up, an’ He’s sayin’ te yo’ all
t’ while, ‘Leean hard upo’ Me!’ ‘Sorrow may endure for a neet,’ Lucy,
‘bud joy cums i’ t’ mornin’.’ A trubble-clood brings a cargo o’
blessin’, an’ t’ bigger the blessin’ the blacker it leeaks. Nestleton
Brig settles doon strannger for all t’ looads ’at gans ower it, an’
you’ll be better an’ purer for t’ boddens yo’ hae te carry. Ah’s glad
yo’ finnd a cumfot an’ a blessin’ i’ trying te deea good; for there’s
nowt oot ov heaven ’at’s sae like Jesus as wipin’ tears and soffenin’
trubbles, an’ takkin balm to bruis’d hearts. Besahdes, you can’t mak’
music for other fooaks withoot hearin’ it y’ursen. Them ’at gives
gets, an’ as seean as ivver we begin te watter other fooaks’ gardens,
ivvery leeaf i’ wer aun is drippin’ wi’ heavenly dew. May the Lord
bless yo’, mah bairn, ivvery hoor i’ t’ day!”----To this every member
of the class responds with a genuine and warm “Amen.”

“Judy, mah dear aud wife,” continues Adam, “tell us hoo yer gettin’ on
i’ t’ rooad te t’ New Jerusalem.”

Judith’s words were always few, but they were always fit. She sits by
the side of her grand old man, in her clean white cap, and smoothing
down the folds of her apron, answers,--

“Why, thoo knoas, Adam, ’at ah’s growin’ old, an’ feelin’ more an’
more the infirmities of age, but it doesn’t trubble ma.’ The Lord
fills me wi’ joy an’ peace through believin’. Ah’ve only one
unsatisfied desire, an’ that is te know that me three bairns hev giv’n
their hearts te God. Jake’s a good lad, an’ Hannah’s a steady lass,
but ah feels te fret a bit now and then aboot Pete. He’s in a forren
country away ower t’ sea, an’ I do long to see his face agen. But ah
could deny myself o’ that, if I knew that he loved his Saviour, and
was sure to meet me i’ heaven. This is my prayer ivvery day, ’at we
may meet an unbroken family at God’s right hand.”

There is a very perceptible tremor in Old Adam Olliver’s voice, and a
couple of tear-drops on his cheeks, as he takes Judith by the hand,
and says,--

“God bless tha’, mah dear aud wife. A muther’s luv hugs her bairns
varry near her heart; bud thoo knoas ’at God’s luv’s eaven bigger
still; an’ He’s promised thoo an’ me lang since ’at He’ll give us all
wa’ ax Him. Deean’t be frighten’d, Judy, my lass, all thi’ bairns hae
been gi’n te God, and nut a hoof on us’ll be left behint. The Lord’s
in America as weel as here, an’ t’ prayers o’ Pete’s muther mak’s t’
sea nae bigger then a fishpond, an’ ah’s expectin’ sum day te see wer
lad, sittin’ by wer hearthstun’. Bud whither or no, be seear o’ this,
’at thoo an’ me’ll stand i’ t’ prizence o’ wer Saviour we’ wer bairns
wiv ‘us, sayin’, ‘Here we are an’ t’ children Thoo ez given us.’ Here
Adam’s voice fails him, and Jabez Hepton strikes up,--

    “O what a joyful meeting there,
      In robes of white arrayed;
    Palms in our hands we all shall bear,
      And crowns upon our head!”

Then follows a universal chorus,--

    “And then we shall with Jesus reign
    And never, never part again.”

“Noo, Sister Houston,” says Adam, resuming his leader’s office, “hoo
is it wi’ you te-day?”

Mrs. Houston is, as I have previously noted, an energetic and bustling
woman, of strong will, naturally quick temper, and given to a good
deal of needless anxiety as to the management of her dairy and other
domestic affairs. A good woman is Sister Houston, candid as the day,
and often a good deal troubled over certain constitutional tendencies
in which nature is apt to triumph over grace.

“Well,” says she, “I find that the Christian life is a warfare, and I
often have hard work to stand my ground. Family anxieties and
household cares often put a heavy strain on me, and I get so busy and
so taken up with things, that religion seems to fall into the second
place; and then I get into trouble over faults and failings that I
ought to cure. I do mean to try, and I pray for grace to be more
faithful to the Saviour who has done so much for me.”

“Hey,” says Adam, with a sigh, “this wolld’s sadly apt to get inte d’
rooad o’ t’other, isn’t it? Like yer neeamseeak, Martha, yo’ get
trubbled aboot monny things. ‘Be careful for nowt,’ said Jesus; that
is, deean’t be anxious an’ worrit aboot ’em. Seek _fost_ the kingdom
ov heaven, and keep it _fost_. Iverything else’ll prosper an’ nowt’ll
suffer if yo’ deea that. As for t’ trials o’ temper an’ other faults
an’ failin’s, an’ lahtle frettin’s an’ bothers o’ life, tak’ ’em
bodily te t’ Cross, an’ ax _on t’ spot_ for grace te maister ’em.
Deean’t be dispirited wi’ yer failur’s; leeak back at t’ way God’s
offens helped yo’ through. When David killed Goliath, he said, ‘The
Lord ’at delivered ma’ frae t’ lion an’ t’ beear ’ll deliver thoo inte
me’ hands te-day.’ That’s it, arguy frae t’ lion te t’ giant an’ he’s
bun te fall. When ah was a lad an’ wanted to jump a beck, ah went
backwa’d a bit te get a good spring; an’ seea when yo’ want te loup
ower a difficulty, step back a bit te t’ last victory God gav yo’, an’
then i’ faith ’at He’ll deea it ageean, jump, an’ you’ll clear it, as
seear as mah neeam’s Adam Olliver.”

Then follows another hymn, a brief concluding prayer, and the secrets
of the “Methodist Confessional” are over. The names are called, each
one contributes weekly pence according to their means for the support
of the Kesterton Circuit funds, and the little company retires, all
the better for an hour’s intercourse with each other, and of
communion with God.

For nearly a century and a half the Methodist class-meeting has been
one of the most potent means of conserving and intensifying the
spiritual life of the Methodist people. It is earnestly to be hoped
that they will never be guilty of the suicidal policy of slighting
this admirable institution. In the day when it allows the
class-meeting to occupy any other than a foremost and vital place in
its Church organisation, Methodism will be largely shorn of its
strength, and “Ichabod” will be traced in fatal characters on its
crumbling walls. Adam Olliver’s class-meeting has been drawn in strict
consistency with facts, and many a thousand similar green oases amid
the arid sands of weekly toil and trial, are to-day refreshing and
encouraging thousands of humble pilgrims whose faces are set towards
the Celestial City.



CHAPTER XIII.

SQUIRE FULLER PAYS A VISIT TO THE FORGE.

    “I ask not for his lineage,
      I ask not for his name--
    If manliness be in his heart,
      He noble birth may claim.
    I care not though of world’s wealth
      But slender be his part,
    If _yes_ you answer when I ask,
      Hath he a true man’s heart?”

    _R. Nicholl._


After that memorable interview which Philip Fuller had with his father
when he revealed the dearest secret of his heart, the squire sat
motionless and immersed in thought, long after his household had
retired to rest.

The revelation made to him by his son had come upon him with all the
force of a thunderbolt, and for a while bereft him of the power either
to think or act. His clear perception had seen that Philip’s
attachment to Lucy was no child’s play--no fleeting fancy to be chased
away by the advent of some newer face of beauty. He knew that his son
and heir was the subject of a master passion--a love that no
diplomacy could lessen, that no counter policy could uproot, and that
direct opposition could only intensify and confirm. His deep and
mighty love for Philip, largely hid under a cold exterior, led him to
sympathise with and pity him to a degree altogether unwarranted by
external evidence; at the same time he felt that such an alliance as
the ardent youth contemplated was simply impossible and absurd, and
must be put an end to at all hazards, for his son’s sake, as well as
from regard to the traditions of his family tree. He was convinced
that the only method of preventing so glaring a mistake lay in an
appeal to Philip’s filial obedience and love, and he came to the
conclusion to use that potent engine without delay.

The next morning, as he and Philip were seated at the breakfast table,
the squire opened the conversation by saying,--

“My son! Does your evening declaration commend itself to your morning
reflections? I have gone through a sleepless night, trying to hope
that I should meet, this morning, your wiser self. Philip, my boy, I
would do much to please you, for you little know how great is my love
for you. But you ask me what I cannot grant, and what, if you do
without my permission, will go far to shorten my life and break my
heart. You are all I have in the world, and having you, I have all the
world has in it that I care for. My son! my son! will you give up this
impossible idea, and let me feel that you will not bring my grey head
to the grave with grief?”

The squire’s voice quivered, and the look of eager hope and dread upon
his haggard face was something pitiful to see. He had employed the one
arrow in his quiver that had, for this case, either feather or barb,
and his suspense amounted to positive agony until Philip’s answer
came. But he had judged aright. His son’s genuine love and loyalty
were his sheet anchor, and the anchor held. The colour left Philip’s
face, the struggle was intense, but his response was firm.

“My dear father! Your love is precious to me, and your will is law. I
cannot promise not to love Lucy. I have not the power to keep it if I
did. I cannot promise to give up the hope that one day you may look
upon my heart’s desire with favour. But, so long as you forbear to
urge any other alliance on me, I promise to your love, that I will not
grieve you by any further steps in this direction.”

“And you will not seek an interview with this young woman without my
full permission?”

Philip paused a moment while love and duty, or rather while two loves,
fought a hard battle in his soul, and then the love that was allied
with duty won the day, and he said, “Father, I will not.”

The father rose from his seat, bent forward, and kissed him on the
brow. “Philip,” said he, “I bless you. God will bless you for that
word.”

Squire Fuller’s next step was to despatch a note to Nathan Blyth, for
he felt that no stone must be left unturned to assure the victory he
had gained. A short time afterwards, therefore, the blacksmith
received the following epistle:--

    “SIR,--It has come to my knowledge that my son has been foolish
    enough to commit himself, by a stupid profession of love, to
    your daughter. Though this is doubtless a young man’s whim, and
    a mere passing fancy, I greatly object to it, and he has
    promised me that he will desist from what I am sure you will
    agree with me in describing as unseemly and improper. I write
    this _private_ communication in order to suggest to your
    daughter that she should not encourage such a wild dream, and
    that you will use your authority in keeping her out of his way.
    I trust I have said nothing herein to give you offence, and am,
    &c.,

     “AINSLEY FULLER.”

When Nathan Blyth had read the letter twice through, he bade the
messenger to wait, and speedily sent the following missive in
return:--

    “SIR,--You cannot be more glad than I am that Master Philip has
    made the promise to which you refer. Nothing is more contrary to
    my desire than that he should ever speak to her again. And
    permit me respectfully to assure you that my daughter has given
    him no encouragement; and, without the exertion of any authority
    of mine, will not only not seek, but will repel any advances on
    his part. Both she and I are agreed that nothing could be more
    lamentable than to suffer any such forgetfulness of the
    difference between his position and ours. You may rest assured
    that no encouragement, but the direct opposite, will always be
    given to such an act of folly.

    “I am, Sir, yours respectfully,

    “NATHAN BLYTH.”

Squire Fuller could hardly believe his own eyes as he read the letter,
couched in such fitting language, so eminently respectful, and
especially so gratifying in its contents. He had imagined that Nathan
and his daughter would have regarded Philip as a prize to be hooked,
if possible, and had written his note with a view to crush out the
faintest hope of success in their plot for Lucy’s aggrandisement. He
felt such a sense of satisfaction and relief that he resolved to ride
over to the forge and express his thanks and pleasure to the writer.

The next morning, therefore, the stately squire bestrode his favourite
grey mare, and took his morning ride in the direction of Blithe
Natty’s house. That cheerful knight of the hammer was busy at his
post, and the ringing anvil, as usual, was accompanied by his musical
and sonorous song.

    Wherever my fortune may lead me,
      Whate’er sort of hap it may bring,
    The blessing of God will still speed me,
      And this is the song I will sing--

    Away with all fear and repining,
      Away with all doubting and grief:
    On the bosom of Jesus reclining,
      He’ll never withhold me relief.

    Affliction will come, if He sends it,
      Or sorrow my portion may be;
    I’ll cheerfully bear till He ends it,
      Till I His salvation shall see.

    With loving and honest endeavour,
      Still striving my duty to do,
    I’ll love Him and trust Him for ever,
      For ever be honest and true.

    The sun in the heavens is shining,
      Though clouds may oft gather below,
    Each one has a silvery lining,
      And rains down a gift as I go.

    The streamlet runs clear o’er the gravel,
      The breezes blow pure o’er the lea;
    Just so in my course would I travel,
      With Jesus to journey with me.

    I want neither honour nor riches,
      I care not for rank or for gold;
    For this kind of fortune bewitches
      The soul--at least so I’ve been told.

    Contented and happy and healthy,
      Pray why should I covet or sigh,
    To be titled or famous or wealthy?
      Can any man answer me why?

    But one thing through life will I covet--
      To hate the whole compass of wrong;
    To do aye the right and to love it,
      To sing as I travel along.

    Wherever my fortune may lead me,
      Whate’er sort of hap it may bring,
    The blessing of God will aye speed me,
      And so as I travel I sing.

Such was the blithe and cheery ditty which Nathan Blyth was chanting
when Squire Fuller rode up to the smithy door.

“Good morning, Blyth,” said he; “it’s a good sign when people sing at
their work. One would conclude that it’s neither too hard nor ill
paid.”

“And yet, sir,” said Nathan, “I have known people who worked too hard
for low wages, and yet could sing all the same.”

“Indeed! I imagine they must have been endowed by nature with a
marvellous flow of spirits,” said the squire.

“No, sir, not specially, but they were endowed by God with a
marvellous flow of grace. You know the old proverb sir,--

    ‘Godly grace makes greatly glad,
    It makes him sing who once was sad.’”

“And you believe that this ‘grace of God,’ as you call it, helps you
to sing, do you, Blyth?”

“Yes, sir,” said Nathan, warmly; “I have a good conscience, a sense
and assurance of my Saviour’s love, and a bright hope of heaven. God’s
providence has filled my cup brimfull with blessings, and if I did not
sing His praises the very stones might well cry out.”

All this was beyond the belief or comprehension of Squire Fuller, and
Natty might have answered his dubious look by the words of the
Samaritan woman, “Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is
deep.”

“Well, well,” said he, “I am heartily glad, at any rate, that you can
take life so brightly. It certainly would be a thousand pities if that
grand voice of yours was to rust for want of practice.”

“Yes, there’s something in that, too,” said Nathan, with a smile.

    ‘To help the voice full clear to ring.
    Go out into the woods and sing.’

“I don’t go out into the woods to do it, but the pitch of my anvil-ring
keeps me up to tone, and the practice is quite as good.”

“Allow me to thank you, Blyth, for that very courteous and
satisfactory note you sent me yesterday. I own that it was
not altogether what I expected. I suspected--I imagined--I
thought--that--that”----and the squire felt that he was dealing
stupidly with a very delicate subject.

“Yes, I know,” said Nathan Blyth; “you imagined that the blacksmith
and his daughter were fishing for the heir of Waverdale Park, and you
hoped quietly to convince them that it was a losing game. I’m not
offended at that; I suppose it was natural that you should do so. But
be sure, sir, that I dread the idea, and hate it, too, quite as much
as you do. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe in my conscience that my
Lucy is in all respects a prize that any man might wish to win, and I
know none for whom I do not hold her to be too good. But I’d rather
she mated with somebody in her own rank of life. I should say ‘No’ to
Master Philip if he asked for her himself, and I should say ‘No’ to
you if you were to ask for him; and if he is a sensible young man,
he’ll turn his attention other where, for he may depend upon it he’ll
come on a useless errand, if he comes at all.”

Human nature is a queer article, and the squire’s feelings as he heard
this would have been difficult to analyse. His satisfaction was great
at the thought that there was no fear of counter-plotting, but,
strange to say, he felt more than half inclined to feel insulted. Here
was a grimy smith, with naked arms and leather apron, standing, hammer
in hand, by his smithy fire, coldly intimating that his daughter was
too dainty a prize for his own son, and scorning the bare idea of such
an alliance with as much independence as if he were a “belted earl.”
The blue blood surged a little in the veins of the stately squire,
but, restraining himself, he was fain to be content with facts, and,
mounting his horse, he bade the sturdy Vulcan a cold and distant
“Good-morrow,” and betook him to his ancestral park.



CHAPTER XIV.

AUD ADAM OLLIVER “SEES ABOUT IT.”

    “Age, by long experience well informed,
    Well read, well tempered, with religion warmed,
    That fire abated which impels rash youth,
    Proud of his speed to overshoot the truth,
    As time improves the grapes’ authentic juice,
    Mellows and makes the speech more fit for use,
    And claims a reverence in his shortening day,
    That ’tis an honour and a joy to pay.”

    _Cowper._


“Cum, Balaam! Stor yer pins, aud chap, or we sahn’t get te d’ Marlpit
Wood afoore dinner tahme.” Adam Olliver, astride his faithful but
laggard donkey, sought with small success to put that philosophic
quadruped to a quicker pace. Balaam was not to be flurried out of the
jog-trot which had become a part of his nature, and walking or
galloping was equally out of the question. This Adam well knew, but he
had got into the habit of talking to his four-footed retainer in his
lonely labours in valley and hill-side, and, doubtless, if all his
confidential talk with his long-eared but not particularly retentive
listener could be reported, a volume, considerable alike in size and
sense, might easily be forthcoming.

“Balaam, aud chap, ah think there’s mair donkeys wi’ two legs then
there is wi’ fower. Blithe Natty’s as good a fello’ as ivver put a
pair o’ shoes on, but he’s as blinnd as a bat, and as dull as a donkey
aboot that blessid lahtle lass ov his. She’s cryin’ her e’es oot, an’
spoilin’ her pratty feeace ower that yung sprig ov a squire; an’ her
dodderin’ fayther wunthers what’s matter wiv ’er, an’s freeten’d te
deead ’at he’s gannin’ te loss ’er like ’er mother. He dizn’t seeam te
see wheear t’ mischief ligs. Thoo mun tell ’im, Balaam. Thoo mun tell
’im”--for Old Adam had got into a way of identifying the old donkey
with himself, and in his monologues with his dumb companion, used to
give it the advice on which he himself intended to act--“it weean’t
deea for t’ sweetest lass i’ Waverdale to be meead a feeal on biv a
young whippersnapper like that. Ah’ve neea doot he thinks it’s good
fun te trifle wiv a pratty lass, an’ get ’er te wosship t’ grund he
walks on, an’ then leeave ’er te dee ov a brokken heart. Bud,” said
the old hedger, in a gush of indignation, “Ah’ll be hanged if he sall!
Balaam, thoo sall gan te-neet, an’ tell Natty Blyth a bit o’ thi’
mind.”

Here, in his excitement, Old Adam rose up in his stirrups and
unconsciously brought his stick down on the flanks of his Rosinante,
with a thwack that would have startled any other steed into at least a
momentary spurt. Balaam, however, only cocked his ears in mild
astonishment, as who should say, “What in the world is the matter with
the old man now?” or, rather, for it isn’t possible to think of him
cogitating in any other language than his master’s, “What i’ t’
wolld’s up wi’ t’ aud chap noo?”

Just at this point Adam had reached a narrow gate which opened into a
grassy lane, leading to Marlpit Wood, the scene of his labours for the
day. There, bestriding a handsome bay, and in the act of attempting to
open the gate with the handle of his riding whip, was a fine, handsome
young gentleman, whose dark eyes gleamed with good temper, and whose
general appearance was indicative of rank, high spirits, and
kindliness of heart. This was none other than Philip Fuller, and no
sooner did Adam Olliver set his eyes upon him than he resolved there
and then to fulfil his promise to Judith to “see about it,” and to
“have it out” with the delinquent himself.

“Ah’ll oppen t’ yat fo’ yo’ if y’ll wayte a minnit;” and, dismounting,
he fulfilled his promise, and stood with his limp and battered “Jim
Crow” hat in his hand, before the young gentleman had an opportunity
to reply.

“Thank you,” said Philip, with a bright, open smile, and, putting his
hand in his pocket, he pulled out a coin with the view of paying for
the favour he had received.

“Nay,” said Adam, “Ah deean’t want payin’ for it. Ah sud hae ’ad te
oppen it for mysen; an’ if ah hedn’t it wad hae been varry meean te
see yo’ bother’d, an’ gan on indifferent. Bud if yo’ll excuse ma’,
sor, ah sud like te say a wod or two te yo’, an’ ah wop yo’ weean’t be
offended. Mah neeam’s Adam Olliver, an’ ah lives next deear te Nathan
Blyth, an’ ah thinks as mitch aboot his lahtle Lucy as ah deea aboot
me’ aun bairns. Oh, sor!” and Adam lifted his honest sun-brown face in
strong appeal, “deean’t draw Natty’s yow’ lam’ away frev ’im, poor
fellow! He hez bud’ hor, an’ if onny ’arm sud ’appen tiv her, it’ll
breck his ’art an’ hor’s an’ all. She’s as good as she’s pratty, bless
’er! an’ it wad be twenty thoosand pities, as weel as an awful sin, te
bring disgrace on ’er heead, an’ sorrow tiv’ ’er ’art. Deean’t, ah
pre’ you, rob Natty of his darlin’. Yisterday, ah was clippin’ a hedge
yonder by Marlpit Wood, an’ ah saw a muther-bod teeachin’ ’er yung ’un
te flee. T’ aud bod flutter’d and chirrup’t up an’ doon, an’ roond
aboot, the varry picther o’ happiness, an’ t’ poor lahtle gollin’
cheep’d an’ hopp’d, an’ flew as happy as it’s mother. A sparro’-hawk
com’ doon, like a flash o’ leetnin’, an’ teeak’d lahtle thing away iv
his claws. Ah tell you, Maister Philip, t’ way that poor muther-bod
pleean’d an’ twitter’d, an’ hopp’d, frae bush te tree, an’ frae tree
te bush, wild wi’ grief, was aneeaf te melt a flint. Maister Philip!
deean’t be a hawk; bud let Natty’s pratty lahtle singin’-bod be, an’
God’ll bless yo’.”

Philip Fuller listened in amaze. A bright ingenuous blush tinged his
cheek at the mention of Lucy’s name, and as the old man proceeded, in
rude, homely eloquence, to plead, as he thought, the cause of injured
innocence, the colour deepened until it might easily have been misread
as an evidence of conscious guilt. Not the slightest shadow of anger,
however, rested on his features, as he looked into the gleaming eyes
of the “old man eloquent.” On the contrary, his clear perception
showed him in Old Adam the true and knightly sympathiser with
innocence and beauty; the chivalrous knight in corderoy and hodden
grey, who, if needs be, would peril life and limb to champion his
darling against all comers suspected of unrighteous intent.

“Deean’t be vexed, Maister Philip,” he proceeded. “Ah meean neea harm,
you knoa ah deean’t, but ah can’t abide te see lahtle Lucy pinin’ away
i’ sorro’, an’ ’er fayther gannin’ aboot like a man iv a dreeam. She’s
nut the lass for you, yo’ knoa. A lennet an’ a eeagle’s ill matched,
an’ ah want yo’ te promise mah ’at yo’ll let her alooan, weean’t yo’?”

“Vexed! No,” said Philip; “on the contrary, I esteem you for your love
to Lucy, and I respect you for your candour; but you are under a great
mistake. God is my witness, Adam Olliver; I mean no harm to Lucy
Blyth, and would rather suffer the loss of my right arm than bring a
tear to her eye, or sorrow to her father’s hearth.”

“God i’ heaven bless yo’ for that wod,” said Adam, with deep feeling;
“you lahtle knoa hoo it releeaves mi’ mind, an’ ah’s sorry ’at ah’ve
judg’d yo’ hardly, but ah’ve seen yo’ mair than yance or twice, when
ah thowt ’at there was room te fear.”

“Well, well,” said Philip, with a smile, “you need be under no concern
of that kind, for, on the honour of a gentleman, and the faith of a
Christian, I mean all that I have said.”

“Prayse the Lord!” said Adam. “As for t’ honour ov a gentleman, sum
gentlemen hae queer nooations aboot that, an’ ah wadn’t trust ’em as
far as ah could fling ’em on t’ strength on’t. Bud t’ faith ov a
Christian’s anuther thing, an’ if yo’ hae _that_ it’ll keep beeath you
an’ hor an’ ivveryboddy else oot o’ harm’s way. The blood ov Jesus
Christ cleansis frae all sin, an’ ah pray ’at yo’ may knoa it an’ feel
it all t’ days o’ yer life. Excuse mah for makkin’ sae free wi’ yo’,
sor,” said Adam, again touching his time-worn hat, “bud you’ve teean a
looad off my heart as big as Kesterton Hill.”

With mutual “Good-mornings” they separated; the one to ply his
slashing-knife on Farmer Houston’s quick-wood, the other to pursue his
homeward way to Waverdale Hall, with a new subject for study and new
material for thought.

Leaving Adam Olliver to jog along the grassy lane on the back of
patient and unwitting Balaam, let us accompany the handsome scion of
the house of Fuller, and listen to his communings, stirred as he was
by his interview with Lucy’s rustic friend and champion.

“She loves me,” was his first thought; “to me she would never own it.
But Adam Olliver knows it, and misreads my heart as much as one man
can misread another’s. Lucy, my darling, for love of you I would
barter Waverdale Hall without a sigh; I would harden my hands at the
anvil, and hammer and sing as merrily as Blithe Natty, if you might
brighten my cottage home! What shall I do? My proud and stately father
will never permit such an unequal match but, with all his pride, he
loves me dearly, and I cannot, will not, be disloyal to so great a
love, and disobey his will.”

He heaved a sigh from the depths of his perplexed and anxious spirit;
then his mind reverted to Adam Olliver’s words, “The blood of Jesus
Christ cleanseth from all sin.” And again the refrain heard in the
cottage service rung in his ears,--

    “To you is it nothing that Jesus should die?”

“What _does_ it mean? I would give the world to know and feel that
cleansing power, to know and feel that Jesus died for me.”

Slowly, but definitely and surely, the young patrician was being led
by Providence and Grace to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins
of the world.

Nor were the cogitations of the grand old hedger less interesting. His
shrewd, observant mind had noted the clear, transparent character of
the youthful squire, had been struck with the honest ring of his manly
disclaimer, and lapsing into his old habit of making Balaam his
confidant, he said,--

“Balaam, thoo an’ me’s a cupple ov aud feeals. What business hae we te
jump te conclusions aboot uther fooaks’ faults? We mun try te leeak at
yam a bit mair. Here ah’ve been at it fotty year an’ mair, talkin’
aboot an’ praisin’ t’ charity ’at thinks nae evil, an’ here ah’ve been
bleeamin’ that yung fello’ withoot judge or joory. Oh, Adam, Adam!
Thoo mun gan te skeeal ageean an’ larn t’ a-b ab’s o’ Christian
charaty! Them ’at’s fost te fling a steean had better keep their aun
winder-shutters in, or they’ll hae plenty o’ brokken glass, an’ ah
feel as meean as though I hadn’t a woll payne left i’ mahn. Ah’s
waintly misteean if that’s nut as feyn a young chap as ivver rayd a
hoss, an’ ah’ll pray ’at the Lord may mak’ him a bonnin’ an’ a shinin’
leet.”

Adam Olliver’s prayers were not wont to be in vain.



CHAPTER XV.

NATHAN BLYTH IS THE VICTIM OF A GUNPOWDER PLOT.

    “As woods, when shaken by the breeze,
      Take deeper, firmer root,
    As winter’s frosts but make the trees
      Abound in summer fruit;

    So every bitter pang and throe
      That Christian firmness tries,
    But nerves us for our work below,
      And forms us for the skies.”

    _Henry Francis Lyte._


A few days after the evening when Lucy Blyth was rescued from the
unpleasant attentions of Black Morris by her own true knight, the
scapegrace in question once again met Lucy in the twilight; and,
though sufficiently sober now, he was inclined to force his imaginary
and unappreciated claims upon her notice. This time, however, Lucy,
whose patience had been fully tried, held her ground, and summoned all
her courage for resolute resistance and a final dismissal of her
persistent wooer.

“John Morris,” said she, “why will you not let me alone? Surely you
can see clearly enough that I don’t want you, that I won’t have you,
and that your conduct is downright persecution. I shall be compelled
to seek means to protect myself, if you have not manliness enough to
desist and leave me alone.”

In vain the hot-headed victim of a fruitless passion pleaded for “a
trial.” In vain he promised instant and absolute reformation in
conduct and character. In vain he told her that he should be ruined,
body and soul, if she turned him totally adrift.

Lucy felt that an uncompromising firmness was her only chance of
escape from him, and that she must not even seem to yield one jot.

“Once for all,” said she, “I will not--I never will! and, if you
follow me till I die, you’ll get no answer but that. I shall soon hate
you if you harass and annoy me any more.”

Then Black Morris lost command of his temper, if, indeed, he could be
said ever to have control of it, and said, with an oath,--

“I see how it is: that cursed young squire has played his cards too
well for me. He’s a sly beggar; but I’ll be even with him. I hate him,
as I hate his father. One robbed us of our farm, and the other has
robbed me of you! Let him look out, for I’ll be revenged on him either
with bullet or knife!”

Turning on his heel, and leaving Lucy as white as a sheet, he set off
at a rapid pace towards Midden Harbour. By and bye he turned back, and
overtaking her, glared in her face with a passion simply diabolical,
and said,--

“That proud fool of a father of yours thinks a precious deal about
you. I asked him, like a man, to let me court you, and he said he’d
rather see you dead and in your grave. Tell him he may live to do it.
Let him look out,” said he, stamping with rage. “Curse him! I’ll have
my revenge;” and again he dashed away, this time in the direction of
the Red Lion.

Lucy, more dead than alive, sped homeward on the wings of fear, and
on reaching her threshold fell into a dead swoon in her father’s arms.

When she had recovered she told Nathan Blyth all the events of the
night. He vainly wished he could recall his needlessly angry words to
Black Morris, for he saw to what danger and trouble he had exposed his
darling, from the hands of one who threatened to be such a reckless
and implacable enemy.

That self-willed and headstrong young fellow found at the village
alehouse a number of suspicious characters, with whom he had already
had too great an intimacy. Just now he was ripe and ready for any
extreme of lawlessness to which they could tempt him; so, after plying
him with strong liquors, they promised to aid him in his revenge. The
last remnant of his self-control was gone. He became the repository of
criminal confidences from which in many a sober moment afterwards he
found no way of escape. His descent was now rapid; his harsh and
ungenial father often quarrelled with him; even his mother--the only
being who had any moral control over him--was unable to exert any
restraining influence, and Black Morris was fairly launched on that
sea of depravity which, except for God’s miracles of mercy, will
engulf all who embark on its treacherous flood.

By and bye his name began to figure often and definitely as one of a
lawless gang. It was soon rumoured abroad that certain local deeds of
outrage and wrong had Black Morris for an aider and abettor, and it is
to be feared that there was, in some cases at least, sufficient ground
for the report.

Soon afterwards Nathan Blyth began to find that he was being made the
victim of a series of annoying and harmful persecutions. His
flower-beds were crushed and trampled on; his fruit-trees were hacked
and hewed; his limited store of live stock were stolen or poisoned.
Roused to the utmost pitch of indignation, the stalwart blacksmith sat
up o’ nights to watch his premises and guard his property; but in
vain, as far as the discovery of the perpetrators was concerned,
though it broadened the intervals between the visits of his unknown
and malicious foes. Then he found that the most cruel rumours were
afloat affecting the character of his darling, coupling her name with
that of the young squire in a way that was utterly unwarrantable and
untrue; rumours which were innocuous as far as her friends were
concerned, but which were greedily seized on by a godless and
unprincipled few, who were glad to seize any occasion to bespatter the
“Methodies.”

Poor Lucy had to drink of the bitterest cup that can be lifted to the
lips of virtuous and sensitive modesty. The roses left her cheek and
the light forsook her eye, and Nathan sorrowed because he knew not how
to shield his girl from the poisoned arrows shot by an unseen hand.

At length, however, “the wicked that rose up against them” overshot
the mark, and an event transpired that opened the eyes of the
villagers to the fierce and vindictive plot which had gathered round
Nathan and his darling child, and turned the full flood-tide of their
sympathies toward those who had been so cruelly aspersed.

One morning, when Nathan went into his shop, he began to make the
smithy fire, but had scarcely applied the match when a loud explosion
followed, his face was scorched by the blinding flame, and his eyes
were filled with fine, sharp particles of dust from the smithy hearth.
Groping in darkness and pain, he found his way to the slake-trough and
plunged his head into the water. The sense of relief was brief, and
Natty, still unable to see, was compelled to feel his way indoors, and
present his scorched locks, blackened face, and fiery eyes, to his
distressed and startled daughter.

In a case like this, however, Lucy showed her remarkable tact and
skill--characteristics which made her presence and assistance
invaluable by every sick-bed in Nestleton. Calm, firm, and skilful,
she applied oil and flour and cotton wool to the burns, and then
dispatched her little maid to Farmer Houston’s. In a few moments a
messenger had ridden off post-haste to Kesterton to fetch Dr. Jephson,
the most noted medico in all the country-side. Lucy’s resources,
meanwhile, were tested to the utmost, for her father was suffering the
severest pain, especially in the eyes. At length the doctor arrived,
made careful examination of his injuries, and cheered them and Mrs.
Houston and Judith Olliver, who had come to render what help they
could, with the gratifying announcement that his eyesight was
uninjured, and that no permanent harm was done. A few days of
bandaging and darkness, of embrocation and patience, would put him to
rights, the doctor said, especially with such a nurse as Lucy by his
side. It was a narrow escape, however, and the wonder was that he had
not been blinded for life.

“Thank God,” said Blithe Natty, who was blind Natty too for a season,
“thank God for sparing us that sorrow. Things are never so bad but
they might be worse!” and even in his pain Blithe Natty could joke
about Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot, for we may depend upon it he
was not called Blithe Natty for nought.

Tenderly, lovingly, patiently, Lucy nursed her father night and day.
Tenderly, lovingly, patiently, Nathan bore his pain and enforced
blindness for her sake, and went so far as to say, though it must be
taken _cum grano salis_, that it would be worth while for Guy Fawkes
to come again, that he might have another course of nursing and
syllabubs from the same gentle hands.

When Nathan appeared again in public, with his scars not yet healed,
and a large green shade over both eyes, he was met with universal
congratulations on his escape, and universal anathemas on the
dastardly villains who had done the shameful deed.

Now, Nathan Blyth and his daughter were quite persuaded that the
rough and cruel treatment which they had received was the result of
the malice and jealousy of Black Morris. So far they were right; at
the same time it is fair to him to say that he was innocent of this
crowning outrage. The fact is, that in his first fierce and
unrestrained paroxysm of vexation he had enlisted his alehouse chums
in his wicked crusade of vengeance; and in the hope of more fully
winning him over to their bad confederacy, and partly out of sheer
love of mischief, they had espoused his cause with an energy that
surpassed all that in his cooler moments he desired to inflict. His
disreputable cronies enjoyed the surreptitious “fun” of “taking a
rise” out of “Parson Blyth,” as they called him; their horse-play grew
on what it fed on, and hence the shameful extremes I have had to
chronicle. The gunpowder was secreted by Bill Buckley, a beetle-browed
rascal, with whom we shall have to make a closer acquaintance by and
bye. He inserted it in the nozzle of the smithy bellows not only
without Black Morris’s permission, but utterly without his knowledge,
and so far, although it grew out of his conduct, he must be acquitted
of so vile and cowardly a deed. It is far easier to set the ball
rolling down hill than to stop it on its course; and spirits like
those which he had called from the vasty deep to serve his purpose,
were not to be laid again, without doing a little extra devilry on
their own account.

When Black Morris heard of Nathan Blyth’s misfortune he was not only
genuinely sorry, but, suspecting it was some of his set who had done
it, he went off straightway into a frenzy of rage against them,
altogether as hot as that which had been directed against Nathan Blyth
himself. This man was an oddity, and it took all the power and
subtlety of the devil to spoil him--whether he succeeded remains to be
seen.

After Nathan’s recovery he had returned to his old post at the anvil,
and had tuned up again as merrily as ever, for the gunpowder wasn’t
manufactured which could blow his “sing” out of him, without
dislodging either his tongue or his life. In fact he was one of the
Mark Tapley genius with a higher inspiration, and his spirits always
seemed to rise towards boiling point as his surroundings sank towards
zero. Nathan was fashioning harrow teeth, and the quick rap-tap of his
hammer on the heated iron bar kept capital time to his song:

    Oh, Love is a clever magician;
      His rod is a conjuror’s wand;
    And this is his heavenly mission--
      To bind in his magical band
    The hearts of all men to each other
      In amity, friendship, and peace,
    That each may to each be a brother,
      And hatred and envy may cease.

    This, this was the way of the Saviour,
      His enemies eager to bless:
    Repaying their evil behaviour
      With pardon and gift and caress.
    Like Him on all hate will I trample,
      And every foe I’ll forgive;
    And copy His holy example
      As long as on earth I may live.

    If my enemy hunger I’ll feed him,
      If he thirst I will give him to drink;
    With a smile and a blessing I’ll speed him,
      Nor leave him in trouble to sink.
    Here’s my hand and my heart for each comer,
      Be he stranger or foeman or friend;
    For love brings a genial summer,
      A summer that never shall end.

    Oh, Love is a clever magician,
      His rod is a conjuror’s wand;
    Good speed to his heavenly mission,
      Alike on the sea and the land.
    He binds human hearts to each other,
      That hatred and envy may cease,
    That each may to each be a brother,
      And the earth be an Eden of peace.

In this strain of high philanthropy, Blithe Natty was merrily singing
away, when who should darken the smithy door but Black Morris, whom
the honest blacksmith had rarely seen since the night when his hasty
and wrathful speech anent his daughter, sowed dragons’ teeth, whose
painful harvest he had already partly reaped.

“Good mornin’, Nathan Blyth; I reckon you are blamin’ me for that
gunpowder business?”

“Yes, I am,” said Nathan, candidly. “Can you look at my scarred face
and say you didn’t do it?”

“I did _not_” said Black Morris, with much emphasis; “I never knew of
it till my sister Mary told me. Nathan Blyth, believe me, I not only
could not do so beastly a thing, but I could and would fell to the
ground the man who did.”

Nathan had kept his eyes on him, “looking him through and through.”

“Morris!” said he, “give me your hand. I believe you didn’t. I am
sorry I spoke to you that day as I did. Let bygones be bygones”----

“Nay,” said Black Morris, as his head dropped to his bosom, “I don’t
say I haven’t brought you mischief, an’ if you knew all I’d said and
done against you, I don’t suppose you would be so free with your hand;
but I never was brute enough for that last business, an’ now that you
believe it, I’ll bid you good-morning.”

“Stop,” said Nathan, “stop a minute. I’ve been singing this morning
about love and forgiveness, and I mean to do as I sing. Whatever
you’ve done against me or mine, I forgive freely and fully, and now or
then, here or yonder, you’ll never hear any more of it from me--give
us your hand.”

Black Morris stood awhile looking hard at the man he had injured, then
holding out his hand, permitted Natty to shake it, and then suddenly
and without a word shot through the doorway and disappeared.

That’s right, Nathan Blyth! Sing your song over again as the anvil
rings, and the bright sparks fly, for though there is still a cloud on
the horizon whose sombre shadows shall gloom your hearthstone, your
kindly deed and Christly spirit done and evinced to-day, will largely
help to lift the shadow, and bring back the sunshine of abiding
peace!



CHAPTER XVI.

SQUIRE FULLER RECEIVES A DEPUTATION.

    “Scorn not the smallness of early endeavour,
    Let thy great purpose ennoble it ever;
    Droop not o’er efforts extended in vain;
    Work! work, with a will; thou shalt find it again.
    Fear not! for greater is God by thy side
    Than armies of Satan against thee allied.”

    _Anon._


The lovely spring had deepened into a warm, fruitful summer, the corn
was rapidly ripening for the scythe, and the orchards were beginning
to bend beneath a burden of expanding fruit, when the Rev. Theophilus
Clayton mounted his antique gig, and directed Jack, the circuit horse,
on the road that led to Nestleton Magna. That good man had but just
finished his dinner of plain and frugal fare--such lusts of the flesh
as expensive cates and costly luxuries were far beyond the reach of
all his tribe--and his intention was to drop into Farmer Houston’s for
a cup of tea, and then to talk over a scheme for a new chapel, which
was rendered necessary by the fact that the spacious kitchen was quite
unequal to the increasing congregation. Jack bore his master onward at
his usual slow and sober pace, and Mr. Clayton gave himself up to a
sort of waking dream, now thinking over his evening sermon, now
weighing the _pros_ and _cons_ of the proposal to “arise and build,”
when he was roused from his ponderings by means far more effective
than agreeable.

“Here’s a Methody parson, lads! Let’s have a shy at him!”

Scarcely had he time to turn his head towards the speaker, and scan
the group of lazy loafers congregated by the roadside at the corner of
Midden Harbour, before he was saluted with a shower of stones, which
fell on startled Jack, rattled on the ancient gig, and one of them, at
any rate, made an unnecessary indentation in his silk hat, whose long
term of faithful service demanded more respectful treatment. Waxing
indignant at this gratuitous and cowardly attack, he turned to
expostulate with the lawless batch of wastrels, when a well-aimed
brickbat from the hand of Black Morris struck him on the cheek, and,
after drawing a stream of blood, fell into the body of the gig. Mr.
Clayton, maintaining his presence of mind, brought down his whip upon
the withers of the startled pony, which broke into a gallop, and bore
him through the village with the crimson token of the outrage still
wet upon his face.

When he drove up to Farmer Houston’s gate, quite a knot of villagers
gathered around him, alarmed and indignant at the scurvy treatment he
had received. He lifted up the quarter brick which had dealt the ugly
wound, and said, with a smile, for he was a hero in his way, “That’s
the mischievous gentleman that did it, and you see, like a true
soldier, I carry my scars in front.”

“Oh, what a shame!” “Who did it?” “Who threw it?” were the
exclamations of the farmer and his household, as warm water and
sticking-plaster were being provided. The prudent preacher, however,
in the spirit of his Master, thought of the probable results to Black
Morris if he mentioned his name, and so he contented himself with a
general statement that he had been maltreated by a set of scoundrels
at Midden Harbour.

Well done, Mr. Clayton! Your kindly forbearance will bear richer fruit
than you imagine, and, like many another persecution meekly borne for
the Master’s sake, will in no wise lose its reward. After the needful
attention had been bestowed on his wounded cheek, and a few cups of
tea had refreshed his inner man, Theophilus was himself again: and
when Nathan Blyth, Old Adam Olliver, and Farmer Houston were closeted
with him in close committee on the new chapel, he was able to guide
their deliberations with his accustomed skill.

The first, and, indeed, the crucial point was the question of a site.
The entire village, with the exception of the undesirable locality of
Midden Harbour, was the property of Squire Fuller; and the very first
step was to ask that gentleman to sell or lease them a plot of ground
suitable to the requirements of the case. Their hopes of success were
by no means strong; but Mr. Clayton, who was never much given to
beating about the bush, proposed that they should form themselves into
a deputation, and see the squire on the subject.

“It’s no use going to the steward,” said Farmer Houston, “for he hates
the Methodists like poison, and would set his foot on us if he could.”

“I’m willing to try the squire,” said Natty Blyth, “if you think it’s
best; but I don’t expect he’ll be particularly glad to see me, seeing
that Master Phil’s unlucky fancy has angered his father with me and
mine.”

“Nivver mind that,” chimed in Old Adam; “t’ aud squire knoas it’s
neean o’ your deein’, and as for its bein’ unlikely, he’ll be fooast
te deea as God tells ’im, an’ if it’s His will ’at we sud hev a
chapel, it isn’t Squire Fuller nor t’ devil aback on ’im ’at can
hinder uz! Let’s pray aboot it. We’ll fost ax the Lord, ’at hez t’
hearts ov all men in His hands, an’ then ax t’ squire, an’ leeave t’
rest wi’ God.”

This admirable hint was at once acted on, and Mr. Clayton asked the
old hedger to engage in prayer. Adam went straight to the point at
once--a practice not too common, as many a heavy and listless
prayer-meeting can testify.

“Oh, Lord,” he prayed, “Thoo knoas ’at we want te build a sanctuary i’
Thy honour, an’ for t’ good o’ sowls. Thah good Spirit’s meead wer
borders ower strayt for uz. We beseeach Tha te give uz room te dwell
in. Thoo can oppen t’ way as eeasily as Thoo oppen’d t’ Rid Sea for t’
children o’ Isra’l, an’ Thoo can tonn t’ heart o’ Squire Fuller as
Thoo tonn’d t’ heart o’ King Pharaoh. We’re gannin’ te see ’im i’ Thah
neeam, an’ for t’ seeak o’ Thah cause. Gan wiv uz, Lord; wi’ Thoo wiv
us we’re bun’ te prosper. Thoo wadn’t hev crammed t’ kitchen wi’
precious souls te hear Thah Wod if Thoo didn’t meean te gether ’em all
inte t’ Gospel net. Lord, t’ ship’s full an’ beginnin’ te sink! Bud it
can’t sink while t’ prayers o’ Thah people hod it up. Lord help uz!
and gan wiv uz, for Jesus Christ’s seeak. Amen.”

O wondrous power of faithful prayer! The four men rose from their
knees, ready and eager for the interview, and as Farmer Houston was
able to affirm that the squire was at home, they resolved at once to
go forward in the name of the Lord.

Waverdale Hall, the seat of Ainsley Fuller, Esq., J.P., was a large
and imposing building, in which the Italian style of architecture was
exhibited to the best advantage, and which was said to have been
erected under the personal superintendence of that noted deviser of
aristocratic piles, Inigo Jones. Situated in the midst of a large and
well-wooded park, and partially surrounded by trim terraces and
well-kept ornamental grounds, it formed the centre of a landscape of
which the inhabitants of Waverdale were justly proud. Our brave
quarternion of Methodists made their way to a side entrance to the
stately mansion, and in answer to their call, a grave-looking,
white-headed butler, ushered them into the bounteously-furnished
library, whose multitudinous bookshelves laden with ancient and
modern literature, so excited the astonishment of Adam Olliver, that
he could not help exclaiming,--

“What a parlous lot o’ beeaks! Pack’d like herrin’s iv a barrel!
Thoosan’s upo’ thoosan’s. Mah wod, Natty! bud they must mak’ t’
squire’s heead wark te’ read ’em. They a’most tonn me dizzy te leeak
at ’em.”

Again the butler appeared, cutting short Old Adam’s wonderment, and
ushered them into the presence of the stern and stately squire, whose
reception of them was courteous enough but cold. Farmer Houston, as
the tenant of a farm which had been in the Houston family through many
generations, was personally known to Squire Fuller, who accosted him
by name.

“Good evening, Mr. Houston. Take a seat, but first introduce me to
your friends.”

Mr. Clayton received a cold and distant bow; Nathan Blyth a
scrutinising gaze, more piercing than pleasant; but that good man and
true, bore him as a true man should.

“And this,” said Farmer Houston, “is one of my labourers, who has been
an old and trusted servant to myself and my father for more than fifty
years. His name is Adam Olliver.”

The squire bowed in honest reverence to the time-worn veteran, who
bore such a certificate of character, and asked them to what he was
indebted for the honour of their visit.

Farmer Houston stated their case. He spoke of the lowly band of
Methodists who lived in the village and worshipped God as their taste
and conscience taught; of the services held in Adam’s cottage, and
then in his own kitchen; how even that was now too small for the
congregation; how they desired to build a little chapel for the more
decent and successful carrying out of their work, and how they had
come to ask him to sell or lease to them a scrap of land, on which to
build their house of prayer. “Mr. Clayton,” he said, “will answer any
questions as to our doctrines or proceedings, and we shall be deeply
grateful, sir, if you can see your way to grant us our request.”

“I do not think there is any need to ask questions,” said Mr. Fuller,
with an ominous shake of the head. “You have the parish church, which
is sufficiently large to hold all who choose to go. My friend the
rector is a most estimable man, and I do not see that anything is to
be gained by setting up an opposition establishment. I don’t
understand this newfangled religion you call Methodism, but I gather
that it is a kind of fanatical parody on the National Church; that its
adherents are remarkable for shouting and groaning, and for going to
great excesses of mere emotional excitement. I am not particularly in
love with the ideas that are taught in the parish church itself, but I
certainly prefer them to yours, and shall as certainly refuse to be
the means of introducing what is sure to be a source of sectarian
jealousy, into our quiet and peaceful little village. It has done
without such a thing from time immemorial, and shall not with my
permission be exposed to what I cannot but regard as the introduction
of a very pernicious element of mischief.”

“Bud,” said Adam Olliver, whose anxiety could not be restrained, “we
aren’t inthroducin’ owt ’at’s new. We’ve been hoddin’ meetin’s i’
Nestleton for five-an’-thotty year, an’ naebody’s na worse for it, an’
monny on us, sor, is a good deal better for ’t. Parson knoas ’at we
hae nae opposition tiv ’im, an’ some on us gans te t’ chotch i’ t’
mornin’s. Ah could tell yo’, sor, o’ monny a yan ’at’s been meeade
’appy there; o’ pooachers ’at’s sell’d their guns, an’ drunkards ’at’s
tonn’d sober, an’ monny a scooare o’ precious sowls ez dee’d rejoicin’
i’ Jesus Christ, through t’ meetin’s ’at’s been hodden i’ mah lathle
hoose an’ i’ t’ maister’s kitchin. As for t’ village bein’ peeaceful,
there’s plenty te deea at Midden Harbour, roond t’ publichoose an’
uther spots. We want all t’ village te fear God an’ seeave their
sowls. If yo’ pleease, sor, deean’t damp uz all at yance. Tak’ a bit
o’ tahme te consither on ’t. While you’re thinkin’, we sall be
prayin’, an’ ah wop you’ll excuse ma, sor, if ah say ’at if you’ll
pray aboot it yo’rself, it’ll help yo’ te cum tiv a right
detarmination.”

Here Farmer Houston slyly pulled the old man’s coat, afraid that he
should venture too far and do more harm than good. Mr. Clayton,
however, was delighted with the clear, concise way in which the old
man pleaded the cause of his Master. He knew that He who told His
disciples that when they were brought before rulers and magistrates He
would tell them what they ought to say, was speaking through the lips
of the godly hedger, who knew so well how to talk with God.

“Ah weean’t trubble yo’ no farther,” said the old man, in obedience to
the farmer’s hint; “bud if you’ll tonn te t’ fifth chapther ov Acts,
an’ t’ thotty-eight’ an’ thotty-nint’ vasses, you’ll me’bbe finnd a
bit o’ good advice.”

The squire smiled, partly in superior knowledge, and partly in
amusement at the unsophisticated Doric of the speaker, but he could
not ridicule such transparent honesty.

“Well, gentlemen,” said he, “I can give you no encouragement to-night,
but I’ll take time to weigh the matter, and will let you know my
decision.”

“Prayse the Lord for that,” said Adam Olliver, “an’ may God guide uz
all!”

Little did they think of the awful storm and tempest which should
burst over Waverdale Hall and its aristocratic inmates before that
final decision should be announced. The portly butler was summoned to
conduct them to the door, and when the little party was fairly out
into the park, they began to compare notes on the aspect of affairs.

“I don’t think we shall succeed,” said Farmer Houston, who was never
of a very sanguine temperament.

“No,” said Mr. Clayton, “Adam’s pleading won upon his courtesy, but it
will not change his mind.”

“No,” said Nathan Blyth, with a sigh, “we may put it out of court.
Nestleton’ll have to go without a Methodist chapel for this
generation, depend on’t.”

“Seea you think ’at squire’s bigger then God, di yo’? Yan wad think,
te hear yo’ talk, that it was a matter for him an’ uz te sattle. Is
ther’ onnything ower hard for the Lord? an’ it’s His business noo, an’
nut oors, an’ ah for yan’s gannin’ te trust Him te t’ end. Though it
tarry, wayt for it. T’ oad gentleman dizn’t like it, ah can see, bud
he’ll hae te lump it, for ah’s as sartan as ah’s livin’ ’at Nestleton
chapel ’ll be built afoore twelve munths is ower. He says he’ll tak
tahme te think on’t; that’s summat, an’ mind mah wods, Squire
Fuller’ll be willin’ aneeaf befoore the Lord’s deean wiv ’im.”

Adam’s faith was great, as all God’s people’s ought to be. The
mountain may be great, but when such faith as Adam’s says “Be thou
removed,” it rocks from base to summit and is cast into the sea.



CHAPTER XVII.

DOCTOR JEPHSON GIVES AN UNPROFESSIONAL OPINION.

    “Be thou clad in russet weed,
    Be thou decked in silken stole,
    Grave these counsels on thy soul;
    Say man’s true genuine estimate,
    The grand criterion of his fate,
    Is not, art thou high or low?
    Did thy fortune ebb or flow?
    Tell them, and press it on thy mind,
    As thou thyself must shortly find,
    The smile or frown of righteous heaven,
    To virtue or to vice is given.”

    _Burns._


At the turn of the road where Nathan Blyth’s forge and homestead stood
were three cottages, tenanted by farm labourers and their families. In
one of these lay sick unto death the mother of a household of small
children; and Lucy Blyth, whose heart was full of tenderness and all
kindly charities, used to go every day to succour the poor invalid,
and to tend and nurse the hapless babes who were soon to be left
motherless and alone. Not only as an angel of mercy did the fair girl
go on this loving errand, but as a Gospel messenger, and in winsome
ways she led the ailing woman to the Cross. Through her
instrumentality the sinner’s Friend had been revealed to her anxious
heart, and now, blest with the hope of a heavenly inheritance, and
enabled to confide her infants to the sure care of the orphan’s God,
she was waiting with a calm content and a peaceful joy the moment of
her crowning.

Doctor Jephson, who had ridden daily into Nestleton to attend the
dying woman, had been a wondering witness of Lucy’s gentle care and
her godly influence over her dying charge. He had come to entertain a
very high reverence and deep respect for such a combination of youth
and beauty with the clear intelligence, the elevated character, and
the nameless charm which won all hearts who came in contact with the
blacksmith’s daughter.

“She must be a changeling,” he would say, as he left the lowly roof.
“She is as perfect a gentlewoman as was ever born in ducal mansion,
and as handsome a woman as ever wore a coronet of pearls.” Nor was
this by any means the only place in which that excellent physician met
the object of his admiration. There was not a home in the village,
into which unwelcome sickness came, but Lucy’s welcome and willing
visits brought help and sympathy, balm and comfort of the rarest and
most useful kind.

Now, it so happened, that just at this time, Squire Fuller was
suffering severely from an attack of gout, and the patrician invalid
was daily visited professionally by Doctor Jephson. Being one of the
very few visitors to Waverdale Hall, whose breadth of intellect and
high attainments made his conversation interesting to the imprisoned
squire, the doctor spent as much time with him as his engagements
would permit, and many and hot were the discussions between the two,
as they sat in the cosy library. The doctor was an intelligent
believer in revelation, a Christian in faith and character, and so it
was never long before he came athwart the half-scoffing scepticism of
his patient. He fully knew the value of the patronage he received from
the Hall, but his manly independence of opinion was in no wise
restrained or compromised by selfish considerations--a feature in his
character for which in his heart the stately squire held him, despite
his seeming anger, in high and genuine esteem.

Latterly, the exploits of the poaching fraternity, and certain glaring
cases of immorality and rural crime had come before him, as a county
magistrate. Referring to these, in the course of a hot argument, the
squire expressed a doubt as to whether virtue, honour, and uprightness
were to be found amongst the poorer classes in rural districts.

“Aye, as often as they are to be found in the higher walks of life,”
said Dr. Jephson. “There are people in your own village, both men and
women, whose lives are as noble and whose characters are as pure and
excellent as any that you can find amid the homes of rank and wealth.”

“You can’t name them,” said Squire Fuller, with a sneer. “It’s merely
a sentimental notion of Arcadian innocence, the dream of an optimist,
the delusion of a poet, which vanish like mist when you come into
actual contact with them. You can’t produce a specimen of the peasant
class who is superior to the charms of skittles and beer.”

“Yes, I can,” said the doctor, emphatically. “A finer or more manly
character than Old Adam Olliver cannot be found. If you can picture to
yourself a Sir Philip Sydney in corduroy, or a Bayard on a donkey, you
can sketch Adam Olliver for yourself.”

“Why, that’s the old man who came the other day on some wild-goose
errand about a Methodist meeting-house. I confess I was greatly taken
with him, and when Gregory Houston told me that he had been a faithful
servant of his and of his father before him, for over fifty years, I
certainly felt as though I owed him some reverence and respect.”

“Aye, and well you might; for rough and uncouth as he is, he is one of
Nature’s nobles, and if the new Methodist chapel will give us a
village peasantry of that kind, it is a pity that there should not be
one in every village in the land.”

“But,” persisted the squire, “Adam Olliver is evidently a ‘character,’
and must therefore be regarded as an exception to the rule.”

“No, he isn’t,” said the doctor, “his good wife Judith is a fitting
match for him, and Nathan Blyth, the blacksmith, is as high principled
and as good a hater of meanness as anybody in the land. As for that
glorious girl of his, there is not her equal in Yorkshire. She is the
Lady Bountiful of the village, for though her resources may be small,
as far as money is concerned, that is more than compensated for by the
energy of her character, her untiring self-sacrifice, and the magic of
her sympathy is felt in every house in Nestleton where sickness or
sorrow has found a place. I tell you she is the good genius of the
village, which could far better spare Squire Fuller than Lucy Blyth.”

“I tell you what, Doctor Jephson,” said the squire, with a sardonic
smile, “I’ll make it worth your while to marry her. You are evidently
over head and ears in love with this village Venus, and if she is all
that you say, could you do better than take her for your own wife? I
should be much relieved if you did.”

“Take her I would with all my heart,” said the doctor, warmly, “with
the certainty that I had got a prize without a parallel; but I am
growing grizzly and old, and she would no more mate with me than the
fawn of a summer’s growth would accept the caresses of a polar bear. I
should propose with the certainty of being rejected; but were I twenty
years younger, I would make the venture, Squire Fuller. But, pray, how
would it relieve you?”

“Why, that foolish boy of mine has taken it into his head to entertain
a passion for this paragon of virtue and beauty, which has not only
turned his brain, but is undermining his health. He knows, of course,
that any such ill-omened union is out of the question, and I can see,”
quoth the squire, warmly, “how bravely he tries to resign himself to
the inevitable; but the struggle is stealing the light from his eye,
the colour from his cheek, and the nerve from his limbs. If some kind
fellow, fairy or fetch, would spirit her away, it would be an
unspeakable relief.” Here the squire heaved a sigh which told of the
perturbation of his soul.

Dr. Jephson received the information in silence, but with a
considerable amount of surprise.

“I imagine,” continued the squire, “that this peerless young lady is
spreading her net with a good deal of skill and perseverance, in the
hope of landing such a very desirable prize.”

“Nay, that she is not, I’ll warrant me,” said the doctor. “I have
never heard a word of it, but I dare swear that she has never lifted a
finger to win him, and that she will never marry him, at any rate
until she has received full permission from your own lips. She is made
of far finer material than that.”

“I’m glad to hear you say so,” replied Squire Fuller. “I wish I could
believe it, for that permission she will never get between now and the
day of judgment; but I confess that I am very sceptical as to her
adoption of any such policy. If my Phil were to be such a double-dyed
fool as to ask her, I’ve no doubt she would jump at him like a hen at
a gooseberry, and rejoice that she had played her cards so well. A
squire’s son is not to be hooked by a blacksmith’s daughter every
day.”

The plain-spoken doctor was inclined to get angry, as he listened to
these reflections on the high-toned character of his young friend and
favourite, but commanding his temper, he simply responded,--

“Well, I’m no advocate for young people marrying out of their rank and
station, and I’m not sure, even if Lucy returned his affection, that
the alliance would end happily, all things considered. At the same
time, I say again, and I never spoke more soberly in my life, the
youth that marries Lucy Blyth will get a wife that may compete in
every way with the noblest lady in the land.”

So saying he took his departure, and the hoofs of his high-bred horse
were soon heard ringing over the Kesterton road.



CHAPTER XVIII.

PHILIP FULLER MAKES A DISCOVERY.

    “Thus far did I come laden with my sin,
    Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
    Till I came hither. What a place is this!
    Must here be the beginning of my bliss?
    Must here the burden fall from off my back?
    Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?
    Blest Cross! Blest Sepulchre! Blest rather be
    The Man that there was put to shame for me.”

    _John Bunyan._


“Good morning, Adam Olliver. What a man you are for cutting and
slashing! I never see you but you are wielding either axe or knife!
What a destructive character you must be!”

“Good mornin’, Maister Philip,” said the hedger, with a smile of
satisfaction, for he had a great regard for the frank young gentleman
who had so kindly received his words of pleading by the gate which led
to Marlpit Wood. “Ah’s nut nearly as destructive as ah leeaks te be.
Ah’ve been choppin’ an’ slashin’ Farmer Houston’s hedges for nearly
fifteen years; an’ ah warrant ’at they’ve neean on ’im ivver been sae
thrivin’ an’ sae shaply as they are te-day.”

“Well, that looks odd,” said Philip. “I should have thought that they
would grow bigger and stronger, thicker and higher, if they were left
alone.”

“Hey,” said Adam, with the usual twinkle in his eye, “sae meeast on us
think, sor. We wad like te be let alooane an’ just hev wer aun way;
grow as wa’ like an’ deea as wa’ like, an’ we fancy ’at we sud gan
higher an’ grow bigger, an’ increease i’ strength, bud it’s a grand
mistak’, you may depend on ’t. If theease hedges warn’t lopped and
trimmed, an’ ivvery noo an’ then chopp’d doon an’ leeaced in, they wad
gan sprawlin’ ower t’ rooad o’ yah side, an’ ower t’ clooase on t’
uther, an’ grow thick i’ yah spot an’ thin iv anuther, an’ grow up two
or three yards high inte t’ bargan. A rood o’ good land wad be
weeasted; t’ sheep wad gan throo t’ gaps, an’t’ sun wad be kept off t’
corn, or t’ tonnops, or t’ rape, or whativver else was growin’, an’
they wad deea a parlous lot o’ mischief. Beeath t’ axe an’ t’
slashin’-knife is good for _them_, an’ they’re varry good for _uz_.”

“How do you make that out?” said Philip, amused and interested. He had
a glimpse of the old man’s philosophy, and for reasons of his own, was
anxious to get him into a free and talking vein.

“Why, you see,” said Adam, “human natur’s a poor, prood, wild thing,
an’ when it’s left tiv itself, it nat’rally gans in for hevin’ its aun
way, an’ gets warse an’ warse. Munny an’ pleasure an’ honour an’
pooer; onything at’ll minister te wer pleasure an’ profit, is seeazed
an’ meead t’ meeast on, an’ sae we sud gan te ruin an’ the devil like
a beggar o’ horseback. But t’ knife o’ sickness, an’ disappointment,
losses an’ trubbles of all sooarts, is used biv a gracious God te
bring uz te wer senses, an’ mak’ us think’ aboot summut better. Job
tells us that the Lord sticks His knife intiv uz, an’ mak’s uz suffer
an’ cry upo’ wer bed i’ strang payne; an’ he says, ‘Theease things
worketh God of ’entahmes wi’ man, that he may bring his sowl up oot o’
t’ pit, an’ leeten him wi’ t’ leet o’ the livin’.’ T’ slashin’ ’at
Joseph gat i’ t’ pit an’ i’ t’ prison trimm’d him for t’ second
chariot i’ Egypt, an’ meead ’im t’ greeatest man i’ t’ cuntry. Maister
Philip, leeak at that hedge,” pointing to a long low quickset hedge
that divided one field from another. “That hedge is cut loa, an’
slash’d thin, an’ t’ tall tooerin’ branches was chopt hoaf through an’
bent doon inte t’ thorn, an’ if ivvery hoss i’ Farmer Houston’s
steeable was te run ageean it, it wad tonn ’em back; for it’s as teeaf
as leather, an’ as cloase as a sheet ov iron; an’ it’s all because
it’s been kept doon an’ meead te bleed under t’ slashin’-knife.”

“Yes, you’re right, Adam,” said the young squire, thoughtfully, as his
mind reverted to his own bitter disappointment in regard to his
misplaced and baffled love, “only it’s hard to understand and very
difficult to bear.”

Old Adam, who shrewdly guessed the current of his thoughts, and
greatly sympathised with the youth in whose _bona-fides_ he had
perfect faith, replied, “Nay, deean’t trubble te ontherstand it.
God’ll explayn it when it’s right for uz te knoa; but as for bidin’
it, He says ‘Mah grace is sufficient fo’ thah.’ Prayer an’ faith can
mak’ uz bide whativver cross we may hae te carry; an’, Maister
Philip,” said he, tenderly, “He’ll help yo’ te bide yours, if you’ll
nobbut tak’ it te t’ Cross an’ ax Him ’at said, ‘Cum te me an’ ah’ll
gie yo’ rist.’”

“Adam Olliver!” said the young man, “I want that rest with all my
heart and soul, but I cannot find it; the last time I saw you, you
quoted the words of St. John, ‘He that is born of God sinneth not.’
Tell me, Adam, as you would tell your son, what is it to be born of
God?”

Struck by the eager tones of the speaker, Adam dropped his knife,
looked into the eyes of Philip, which flashed with a very fever of
desire, and saw therein the honest, penitent seeker after God.
Afterwards, when Adam was relating the circumstances to his friend and
neighbour, Nathan Blyth, he said,--

“Ah tell yo’, Nathan, ah was sae tee’an aback, yo’ mud ha’ knocked ma’
doon wiv a feather! Ah felt just like Nehemiah, when he was standin’
afoore t’ king wiv ’is ’eart sad an’ ’is feeace white wi’ trubble for
t’ seeak o’ Jerusalem, an’ t’ king ax’d him what was amiss wiv him;
an’ like him, ah ‘lifted me’ heart te the God ov heaven.’”

“Born of God,” said Adam, in reply to his anxious questioner, “Why,
it’s te be a new creeatur i’ Christ Jesus. T’ Holy Sperrit o’ God cums
inte t’ heart streight doon frev heaven, tak’s all wer sins away, an’
tells us ’at for Christ’s seeak they’re all pardon’d, an’ fills us wi’
joy an’ peeace thro’ beleeavin’.”

“And do you feel that you are born again, Adam? Does the Holy Spirit
tell you so? Are you _sure_ that your sins are all forgiven?”

“Sure!” said Adam, with a smile which was simply beautiful in its
joyous complacency, “ah’s as sartan on it as ah’s a livin’ man. Ah’ve
knoan it ivvery day o’ my life for mair then fotty years. ‘The Sperrit
o’ God beears witness wi’ mah sperrit ’at ah’s born o’ God.’” His eyes
filled with tears of gladness, as he said, “Glory be te God. I ha’nt a
doot nor a ghost o’ yan, that me’ neeam is written i’ heaven, Christ
is mi’ Saviour, an’ ah knoa ’at when this ’athly hoose o’ me’
tabernacle is dissolved, an’ it’s gettin’ varry shakky, ah’ve a hoose
abuv, a buildin’ nut meead bi’ hands, etarnal i’ the heavens!”

Philip heaved a sigh which came from the deepest recesses of his
heart. “I would give my life,” said he, “to be able to say that. Adam
Olliver, show me the way!”

“God bless the lad,” said the old Christian with deep feeling, and
such a prayer from his lips was indeed a benediction. “You feel
yourself to be a poor helpless sinner afoore God?”

“My sense of ingratitude and rebellion is greater than I can bear,”
was the earnest response.

“An’ wi’ all your ’eart you’re willin’ te give up ivverything for
Christ?”

“I tell you, I would give my life to feel in my heart that He is my
Saviour.”

“Then lissen,” said Adam, pulling out from his breast-pocket a
well-worn New Testament, the precious companion of his solitary
labours. Turning to a particular verse, “This,” said he, “is the Wod
o’ God, the testiment ov Jesus Christ You beleeave it, deean’t yo’?”

“Yes,” said the eager youth, “every word of it.”

“Then remember, what ah’s gannin’ te read, is what God says te you.
You weean’t doot Him, will yo’?” His large horn-framed spectacles were
drawn from their wooden sheath; having adjusted them to assist his
failing vision, he held the little volume with a loving reverence, and
took off his hat as if God Himself was about to speak. “Lissen!” said
he, and then he read slowly and deliberately, “He bare our sins in his
own body on the tree.” Turning over the pages, he read, “‘Whosoever
believeth on him the same shall be saved.’ You don’t doot it, de yo’?”

“No,” said Philip, eagerly, “go on!”

“You’re boddened wi’ your sins? Lissen! ‘He bare ’em _Hisself_! Philip
Fuller, if He hez borne your sins, why sud you beear t’ bodden as
weel? Whosoiver beleeaveth sal be saved. There it is. Cast ’em on ’im!
Leeave ’em tiv Him, for it’s _true_!”

Even while the old man spoke, the scales began to fall. Philip Fuller
saw men as trees walking. Silent and with parted lips, he looked upon
his humble teacher; his soul was listening to the words of truth. Then
he felt a wish to be alone.

“Thank you, Adam Olliver. I’ll come and see you again.” Then, turning
his horse towards Waverdale Park, he began to turn over in his mind
the words he had just heard--“The word of the Lord by the mouth of his
servant,” Adam Olliver.

Meanwhile, that good man stood looking after the retreating youth,
with a smile of triumph and a tear of joy mingling on his cheek. “He’s
thahne, Lord, seeave him!” he said aloud, and then, retiring to a
little clump of trees, where Balaam was listlessly cropping the grass,
more for occupation than through hunger, Adam knelt in prayer; there
were few spots on Farmer Houston’s farm which had not been consecrated
by his secret devotions. He pleaded fervently, as one who had but to
ask and have, for the struggling penitent whom he had just pointed to
the Lamb of God. Praises soon mingled with his prayers, and he rose
from his knees, assured and happy.

“Balaam!” said he, as he went back to his employment, “an heir ov
glory hez been born te-day!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Philip Fuller’s horse might just as well have had no rider for all the
control he felt. The bridle was hung loosely on his neck, his pace was
a slow and measured walk, and his rider, all the while, was thinking,
praying, and talking to himself.

“He bare our sins, _my sins_, in His own body on the tree. _Whosoever_
believeth--Lord, I believe! I come to the Cross! My sins, I cannot
bear them. Thou hast borne them--hast died for me! My Lord and my God!
Mine! What’s this?” he shouted. “I know it; I feel it. Jesus, Thou art
my Saviour, too!” He looked around--the very trees wore a brighter
robe, the sky a fairer blue, the very birds were singing of his
new-born peace! Seizing the bridle, he turned his startled steed and
galloped back to where the old hedger was at work.

“Adam Olliver!” he shouted, “Adam Olliver!”

“Halleluia!” shouted Adam. “Ah knoa all aboot it. Prayse the Lord!”

The young man leaped from his horse, seized the old man’s hands and
shook them, while the happy tears ran down his sunny face.

“Adam Olliver, my sins are gone!”

“Halleluia, ah saw ’em gannin’. Good-bye tiv ’em!”

“But Jesus is mine. My Saviour and my all.”

“Prayse the Lord. Ah saw He was comin’. Bless your heart; ah knoa’d it
were all right afoore yo’ went away. Ah saw it i’ your een, an’ the
Lord tell’d me you were His.”

Thus did Philip Fuller find rest to his soul. The mental doubts, the
troubled conscience, and the broken heart, which had so long
distressed him, had all died out beneath the lifted Cross; the new
life which was to be for ever was breathed into his soul on Nestleton
Wold, and the apostle who led the rich patrician youth to Jesus was
the humble hedger on a Yorkshire farm. Go thy way, happy youth!
Brighter sunshine than that which floods the autumn noon around thee
fills thy rejoicing soul. Go thy way, and be sure that in the thick
darkness which is soon to gather round thee, the Saviour in whom thy
trust is will be thy faithful strength and stay. Thou shalt walk
through the valley whose shadows are as dark as death; but upheld by
the strong arm of the loving Saviour, thou shalt pass on to greet the
dawn in God’s decisive hour when the sun shall chase the gloom, and
the hill-tops catch the glory of returning day!



CHAPTER XIX.

BLACK MORRIS IS TAKEN BY SURPRISE.

    “How hardly man this lesson learns,
    To smile, and bless the hand that spurns;
    To see the blow and feel the pain,
    And only render love again!
    ONE had it--but He came from heaven,
    Reviled, rejected, and betrayed;
    No curse He breathed, no plaint He made,
    But when in death’s dark pang He sighed,
    Prayed for His murderers, and died.”

    _Edmeston._


The good folks who dwelt in Waverdale and the regions round about,
were thrown into a good deal of consternation by reason of a series of
daring burglaries and highway robberies with violence, which had been
committed during the later autumn days. Isolated farmhouses and
solitary inns had been forced open and ransacked, inducing a general
feeling of alarm. Two or three men, with crape over their faces and
armed with knife and pistol, had been seen by sundry wayfarers.
Farmers and others, returning late from Kesterton Market, were
suddenly set upon, and not only robbed, but cruelly maltreated. Under
these circumstances it can scarcely be wondered at, that our good
friend, the Rev. Theophilus Clayton, was now and then a little
nervous during his late rides from those country appointments over
moor and wold where the mysterious footpads plied their cruel and
dishonest trade. On one occasion the worthy minister was returning
home from Bexton, a distance of nine miles from Kesterton. Just as he
reached the brow of a hill, a strong-looking fellow, with villainous
features, called out to him, “How far is it to Kesterton?” Neither
voice nor face was calculated to soothe the good pastor’s nerves, for,
though he was no coward, he could not help being influenced by the
current panic of the district. “A little over five miles,” he
answered. At that moment the fellow made a dash at the horse’s bridle,
but Mr. Clayton was on the alert, he gave Jack a smart stroke with his
whip, regardless of all equine proverbs about “down hill, bear me,”
and Jack dashed off at a sharp trot down the steep hill. The robber
was thrown upon his face, and then a volley of oaths and curses was
followed by the sharp crack of a pistol; but either through faulty aim
or distance gained, neither Jack nor the driver was any the worse for
that.

The hill was long and steep, and poor Jack was going at a dangerous
rate. The gig swung from side to side. In vain the occupant tightened
the reins. Circuit horses are not famous for being very sound at the
knees, thanks to bungling drivers, and just at the foot of the hill
Jack stumbled and fell. A shaft of the gig was broken, Mr. Clayton was
thrown out, landed in most uncomfortable fashion head foremost on the
grass-clad roadside, and lay for a brief moment half-stunned by his
fall.

“Hallo! what’s this?” said a voice. The minister thinking the angry
robber was at hand, freed himself from the bondage of the now
much-battered hat which had been forced over his face and had
doubtless done much to save him from serious injury. By his side knelt
no other than Black Morris, who helped him to sit upright on the bank,
and as the preacher complained of his head, examined his temple, and
found a sharp cut from which the blood was flowing pretty freely. Mr.
Clayton pulled out his handkerchief, and Black Morris proceeded to
bind it round his head. In doing so, however, the clear bright
moonlight fell on a still red and ugly-looking scar on the cheek
below.

“Hallo!” said Morris; “you have had a nasty cut before this.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Clayton, who found himself not seriously the worse for
his mishap. “I’ll tell you directly how it was done. But will you
kindly help me to put my gig to rights? I fancy I heard a smash.”

The damage was confined to the splintered shaft, if we except an
abrasion on each knee of poor old Jack, who having recovered his feet,
stood, as a circuit horse is pretty sure to do, with no thought of
running away. As for the rub on his knees, why he was used to that
sort of thing, as eels are to skinning, and doubtless he looked upon
it as the indispensable badge of his enlistment in the Church
militant. Black Morris drew from his capacious pockets, which were
often filled with the produce of midnight raid in copse and glen, a
supply of stout cord, and bound the lancewood limb so firmly as to
ensure its trustworthiness for the remainder of the journey.

“I’m sincerely obliged to you,” said Mr. Clayton, warmly; “I don’t
know what I should have done without your help. If you are going to
Kesterton I shall be glad to give you a ride.”

The proposal was timely, and so the Methodist preacher and the poacher
rode off in an honest Methodist gig, carrying, also, it is to be
feared, contraband game in the secret recesses of Black Morris’s
velveteen jacket.

“What made you drive so fast down hill?” said Black Morris, as they
bowled rapidly along the high road, for the mishap appeared to have
electrified Jack into a renewal of his youth.

“Why,” said Mr. Clayton, “I was attacked by a highwayman at the top of
the hill, and as he made a dash at the reins, I drove off as hard as
we could go. The fellow was knocked down, I think, at any rate he was
in a great rage, for he swore loudly, and sent a bullet after us, but
luckily without effect.”

“What sort of a fellow was he?” said Morris.

“Oh! a big, broad-shouldered man, with no whiskers and as villainous a
face as I have ever seen.”

“Hey, he’s a rum un is Bi---- I mean there are rum fellows about just
now.”

Mr. Clayton noticed the slip of the tongue, but prudently changed the
subject.

“You were noticing just now the nasty-looking scar on my cheek; I’ll
tell you how I got it.” Our business-like superintendent had a large
canvas pocket nailed under the seat of his gig, in which to put
parcels of books, reports, and other matters for safe keeping. Leaning
forward he brought out of that receptacle the smaller half of a red
brick. “You see that,” said he, handing it to his companion, “I was
riding to Nestleton a short time since to preach the Gospel of Jesus
in Farmer Houston’s kitchen,”--here Black Morris gave a sudden start
of surprise. “As I passed the corner of Midden Harbour, a number of
men and boys threw a shower of stones at me. None of them hit me, but
the gig suffered a bit, and Jack got a nasty blow or two. I turned
round to speak to them, but at that instant somebody threw that
brickbat, cutting my cheek, and leaving a scar which I shall carry to
my dying day. Black Morris, you gave me that brickbat,” said Mr.
Clayton, with a smile, “allow me to give it you back, you may want it
again.”

“The d----!” said Morris, in unmixed surprise, “then you are the
Methody parson.”

“Yes, I’m the Methodist parson, Morris, but not the devil, as your
words might imply. On the contrary, I hate him, and I am spending my
life in trying to get poor souls away from him, and to take them to
the Saviour.”

“But how do you know that it was me that threw it, when there were so
many of ’em.”

“Because it was thrown afterwards, and because I saw you do it.”

“Then if you could have sworn to it, why didn’t you tell who it was,
an’ get a summons? You seem to have ta’en it wonderfully quiet.”

There was half a tone of contempt in the question and remark, which
intimated that the Methodist parson was what he would have called “a
white-livered sort of a fellow.”

“Don’t think I was afraid,” said Mr. Clayton, who read his thoughts
clearly enough. “If I was given that way, I should scarcely have
chosen to tax Black Morris with it, out on a solitary road at ten
o’clock on a winter’s night, and give it him back with a hint that he
might perhaps want to use it again.”

To this Black Morris made no reply; but his respect for his Methody
companion began to rise, and he grew somewhat uncomfortable in his
seat.

“No, Morris, I have given my heart and life to that loving Saviour who
bids me return good for evil and to love them that hate me. He prayed
for His persecutors even on the Cross to which they nailed Him, as I
have prayed for you every time I’ve thought of the blow or seen the
scar in the looking-glass. When Farmer Houston asked me who did it, I
knew that one word of mine could have thrown you into jail; but I
loved and pitied you, and refused to tell either him or anybody else
who did the deed. Your sister Mary asked me to go and see your mother,
who is a suffering woman, Morris. Your mother asked, in sympathy, who
had hurt my cheek. Do you think that I was going to sadden her heart
by telling her that the man who had come to pray with her had been
ill-treated by the son whom she loves dearer than her life? Morris,
I’m a good deal troubled about you, and would do you good for my
Master’s sake, even if I knew that you would fling that brickbat at
the other cheek. Oh, Morris!” said he, earnestly, laying his hand upon
the young man’s arm; “for your patient mother’s sake, for your own
soul’s sake, for your loving Saviour’s sake, give up this bad and
wasted life of yours; turn your back on the evil companions that are
dragging you to ruin, and give your heart to Jesus, who died upon the
cross for you.”

Not one word did Black Morris utter in reply. Mr. Clayton’s
well-weighed words had gone to his heart like a shot, and the
reference to his mother had struck him dumb. By this time they had
reached the point where the Nestleton road branched off from the
Kesterton highway.

“I must get down here, and thank you for the ride,” said Black Morris.

“Thank _you_, Morris, for your kind assistance, and remember that if
ever I can serve you, if you’ll come and ask me, I’ll do it with all
my heart. Good-night.”

Having come almost within sight of his welcome stable, Jack trotted
along the Kesterton High-street, and in a little while both he and his
master were safe at home. The sight of his ‘kerchief-bound head would
have alarmed his waiting household, but his vigorous step and cheery
voice, both intensified as a protest against sympathy or fear,
re-assured them. He told his family the exciting story of his night’s
adventure, and in the family prayer that night the good man made
special intercession for the conversion of Black Morris.

After alighting from the gig at Kesterton town-end, that puzzled young
ne’er-do-weel stood stock still, following with his gaze the
retreating “Methody parson,” until a bend in the street hid him from
his view. Then, released from the spell, he turned homeward with a
long sigh of amazement.

“By Jove!” said he, “this bangs Banagher!” The brickbat was still in
his hand. All unconsciously his fingers had closed around it when Mr.
Clayton had placed it in his palm. He looked at it, and then turned
round again, and looked down Kesterton High-street, as if the donor
was still in view. There was an unwonted moisture in his eyes, as he
said to himself, “Hey, I shall want it again.” He dropped it into his
pouch-like pocket, and strode away in silence towards Midden Harbour.
Letting himself into the house, Black Morris stole to his room, and
passing his mother’s door, he paused, and said, “God bless her! an’
the Methody parson, too!”



CHAPTER XX.

KASPER CRABTREE FALLS AMONG THIEVES.

    “All vice in which man yields in greed to do it,
    Or soon or late, be sure he’ll sorely rue it.
    Experience deep, howe’er false seemings blind him,
    Surcharged with retribution, out will find him.
    The whole creation’s strange and endless dealing,
    In spite of shields and veils and arts concealing,
    Proclaims that whosoe’er is long a sinner,
    Can only be by it of woe a winner.”

    _Oriental._


Kesterton Fair was always held about the middle of November, and a
large number of cattle, bred and fed on the various farms in that
highly-cultivated district, were, as usual, gathered there for public
sale. On the afternoon of that day, a party of four suspicious-looking
fellows sat boozing on strong ale in the kitchen of a small
public-house, which stood by the roadside between Kesterton and
Nestleton Magna, and near a long tract of plantation known as Thurston
Wood. They were habited in velveteen, fustian, and corduroy, wore
hair-skin caps, and bore the usual marks of that class of leafing,
poaching, lawless vagabonds, who, fifty years ago, were sadly
plentiful in all rural districts, and are not by any means extinct
to-day. They were holding a secret confabulation, and judging by their
low tones and watchful glances it was evident that they were desirous
of avoiding observation. The principal spokesman was an ill-favoured
looking fellow, whose broad, whiskerless face betokened the bully and
the brute. His name was Bill Buckley, commonly known as “Fighting
Bill,” and the terror of the country side.

“There’s seeafe to be a good chance te-neet,” said the desperado; “the
worst on’t is ’at there’s ower monny chances at yance, an’ if we
tackle mair than we can manage, we may happen to get nowt. And Kasper
Crabtree, o’ Kesterton Grange, is at the fair, an’ he’s sellin’ a lot
o’ beeasts, an’ ’ll carry a looad o’ swag, you may depend on’t.”

“Ah sud like te throttle him,” said another, professedly a
besom-maker, named Dick Spink, a resident in the unsavoury regions of
Midden Harbour. “He set his big dog at me while ah was cuttin’ some
besom shafts in his wood; ah’ll hev it oot with ’im when ah’ve
chance.”

“That’s right, Dick,” said Buckley; “t’ chance is come, an’ thoo’ll
get booath revenge an’ a hundred gold guineas beside.”

After a little more conversation in the same strain, in which the
third and fourth showed themselves to be of the same murderous mind,
the rascals left the house, and made their way to the cover of
Thurston Wood, to lie in wait for the doomed victim of their cupidity
and malice. They knew that the old farmer rode on a grey pony, and
when the shadows of night gathered round, and the town clock of
Kesterton struck nine, they took their station by the roadside, under
the shade of a large hawthorn hedge, and waited for the chance of
carrying out their wicked intent.

By and bye, footsteps were heard approaching. Somebody was walking on
the high road, whose steps as they neared the shelter of the robbers
were suddenly silent, as if the new-comer had stood still. After a
few moments’ pause, Bill Buckley stepped from his hiding-place to
reconnoitre, and came suddenly in contact with Black Morris, who had
not stood still, as they imagined, but had merely transferred his walk
to the grassy border of the road, and hence had come upon them
unobserved.

“Hallo, Bill!” said Black Morris, “what in the world are you after?”

He would gladly have passed them without further parley, for, thanks
to Mr. Clayton, his thoughts and feelings had taken quite a new
direction. His collision with Bill Buckley, however, had made that
impossible.

“Stow thy clapper, old chum,” was the response of Buckley, and leading
him to his three comrades, he said, “here, lads, we’ve gotten a bit o’
help.” He proceeded to tell him their nefarious plans, and assumed
that he would willingly coincide.

“Not I,” said Black Morris; “Kasper Crabtree’s done me no harm, an’
I’ll bring no harm to him.”

Breaking from them he proceeded on his way, resolved to warn the
purposed victim of the fate in store for him. Swearing a dreadful
oath, his features black with rage, Buckley seized him.

“Stow that,” said he; “you shan’t stir ’til we’ve gotten what we
want.” Holding him in his giant grip, he said, “Thoo shall see it oot,
an’ then thoo can’t split on us.”

At that moment the little grey pony was seen ambling on the road, with
old Crabtree on his back. The three ruffians sprang out, seized the
pony, and dragged the old man down. He fell with a heavy thud on the
ground; his pockets were rifled, and as the victim shouted for help,
Spink struck him a cruel blow. Black Morris, roused to the utmost
pitch of indignation, broke from his muscular jailer, and ran to the
aid of the prostrate farmer. Leaning over him, his eyes met those of
the wounded man.

“Black Morris, I know you!” said Crabtree, and instantly fainted away.

“Ha! ha! thoo’s in for it, noo, wi’ t’ rest on us,” said Buckley.
“Here thou may hev t’ paper an’ we’ll hev t’ gold!” Thrusting a parcel
into Morris’s jacket, Buckley and his companions in villainy ran off
with speed. Poor Morris knelt by the still unconscious victim,
appalled at his position and staggered by the net with which he was
inclosed. He loosed Mr. Crabtree’s neckcloth and fetched water in his
hat from the ditch hard by. The old man revived under his treatment
and was able to sit up. He looked with dazed and wondering eyes at his
companion. Morris heard the sound of many voices, the tramp of many
feet, doubtless of those returning from the fair. In a sudden fit of
fear, and conscious how black the case looked against himself, he
foolishly sprang up, cleared the hedge, and sped like lightning
through Thurston Wood, and home to Midden Harbour. He went to his
room, but not to sleep. Every sound he heard he construed into the
steps of those who were coming to seize him for the murder of the
unfortunate farmer. When the light of early morning dawned, he was
able to bear the dread suspense no longer; letting himself out in
silence, he stole away to hide himself from what he deemed to be a
felon’s doom.

Poor Morris! he found it out now that the way of transgressors is
hard. His evil ways, his bad associates, had webbed him round; now
that he had within him the stirrings of desire for better things, he
found that the fetters which his own recklessness had rivetted around
him were too firm to be easily broken off. He repaired to the house of
an aunt who lived some few miles away, and taking the notes from his
pocket amounting to more than three hundred pounds, he enclosed them
in a letter in which he declared himself innocent of the outrage, and
despatched it by a boy to Kesterton Grange. At his wit’s end, he
strolled aimlessly through solitary places, and in the shades of the
succeeding evening made his way to Thurston Wood. In a secret place
therein was hidden his gun, a store of powder and shot, and certain
other matters connected with his poaching habits. Taking up the
weapon, he felt sorely tempted to lodge its contents in his own heart.
He paced backwards and forwards, discussing the awful question whether
to die or live--had all but decided to end his life and his misery
together, when he heard a footstep, and lifting up his eyes found
himself confronted by the scowling face and now hateful presence of
Bill Buckley!

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, the hapless farmer had been discovered by certain friends
and neighbours who were returning from the fair. Under their kindly
care he so far recovered that, lifted on his quiet steed and upheld by
a couple of stalwart men, he was enabled to reach his home. After a
little while, however, fever supervened, and Kasper Crabtree lay in
sore uncertainty as to whether the issue would be life or death. The
miserly and irascible old bachelor could not command that loving
attention and affectionate nursing which his age and weakness now
required. The mechanical offices of his hired housekeeper were but a
poor substitute for the tender sympathies and watchful care of wife or
daughter. Dr. Jephson had been called in, and seeing the gravity of
the case he assumed at once unquestioned authority; and at his urgent
request Lucy Blyth was speedily installed as sick nurse by the old
man’s bed. It must be owned that even her patient and gentle spirit
was tried to the utmost, by the peevish and testy invalid, whose
crabbish nature was developed by his constrained imprisonment to an
almost unbearable degree. But Lucy Blyth was doing her Saviour’s work,
doing it in His strength and for His glory. Her naturally loving and
sympathetic spirit was strengthened and purified by the helpful grace
of God; so she went through her merciful mission with a brave heart,
and in a little while, pierced the crust that surrounded the heart of
her unpromising charge. He melted beneath the sunshine of her
presence, and by slow degrees Kasper Crabtree was led to employ his
compulsory leisure in thinking and talking of “Jesus and His love.”
When first the invalid descried her by his bed, he bluntly said,--

“Who sent for you?”

“That doesn’t matter,” said Lucy, “I should have come of my own accord
as soon as I heard you were ill.”

“Why, what business is it of yours, whether I’m ill or well?”
persisted he.

“It’s my business to go wherever I can do anybody a service. Jesus
went about doing good, and I’m trying to follow in His steps. Here,”
said she, lifting a glass of cool, refreshing drink to his parched
lips, “You must drink this, then I shall smooth your pillow, and you
must try to go to sleep.”

“And what will you do?”

“I shall sit here and pray that you may soon get well, and watch till
you wake, and then give you another drink.”

“You’re a queer fish,” said the farmer, as he looked with wonder at
the beautiful face bending over him. By and bye he dropped off into
half a doze, and Lucy softly sang as she would a lullaby,--

    “Jesu, lover of my soul.”

After a little while he appeared to wake up.

“What was that you were singing?” he said; “sing it again.”

Again the sweet words, which have brought hope and balm to thousands
of sufferers, were trilled out in touching tones from Lucy’s lips. A
strange light shone through his eyes, as he sighed, and said,--

“How sweet it is! Now, I shall be very quiet, and you must go down
into the parlour and rest a bit.”

Lucy would have protested, but he showed such signs of determination
that she prudently obeyed. An hour after as she laid her hand on his
bedroom door, she heard him speaking aloud, and caught the words,--

    “Hide me, O my Saviour, hide.”

Tears of joy mingled with the smile on Lucy’s cheek as she knew that
her prayers were being answered, and that the old man was creeping
slowly and surely to the Cross. So the days passed by. At length the
fountain sprung, and even his poor, arid soul was quickened,
refreshed, and beautified by the streams of saving grace.

One day Lucy ventured to speak of the attack made upon him on the
Kesterton Road. He no longer flashed up with anger--no longer called
aloud for revenge.

“Bring me that letter that Black Morris sent.”

As he turned over the crisp notes, and read the words accompanying
them, he said,--

“Poor fellow! I don’t think he had a hand in it. I recollect his
sprinkling cold water on my face and fanning me with his cap. At any
rate he has sent back all he got, and if he’s guilty I forgive him, as
God hath forgiven me.”

Lucy, who knew of the sad fate which had befallen Black Morris, a
knowledge not yet imparted either to Kasper Crabtree or my readers,
knelt by his side, took his hand in hers, and said,--

“Mr. Crabtree, God bless you for that word!”

“Aye, little one! and God bless you for ever and ever, for I have been
entertaining an angel unawares!”



CHAPTER XXI.

SQUIRE FULLER HEARS UNWELCOME NEWS.

    “Behold the work of my unlawful hand,
    That by rude force the passions would command,
    That ruthless sought to root them from the breast;
    They may be ruled, but will not be oppressed.
    Taught hence, ye parents, who from nature stray,
    And the great ties of social life betray;
    Ne’er with your children act a tyrant’s part,
    ’Tis yours to guide, not violate the heart.”

    _Thompson._


The new-found blessing which Philip Fuller had obtained on Nestleton
Wold, laid abiding hold on his whole being and influenced all his
life. He attended the services in Farmer Houston’s kitchen, and having
expressed his desire to meet in class, Adam Olliver gave him a
characteristic invitation to join the little band of true believers
which gathered round his cottage hearth. It cropped out, however, that
Lucy Blyth was a regular and exemplary attendant there, and that the
only other class was held in Nathan Blyth’s own dwelling. So Philip,
who was conscientiously bent on fulfilling his compact with his
father, in spirit as well as letter, resolved to ride into Kesterton,
and attend the class conducted by the junior minister, so as to give
no ground for discrediting remark or sinister suspicion. His next
step was to tell his father of his conversion and announce his
intention of casting in his lot with the despised people called
Methodists. The old squire received the unwelcome information in a
towering rage, and incontinently ordered the scion of the house of
Fuller from his presence. On the following morning, after a
constrained and silent meal, the squire re-opened the conversation. A
cloud was on his brow; his face, usually cold and sphinx-like, gave
evident token of the strong commotion which stirred his soul to its
profoundest depths. One arm was laid upon the table, the other rested
on his knee. His head was bent forward, and from beneath his thick
grey brows his eyes looked out into the face of his only son in fixed
inquiry, anger and alarm. Philip stood by the table, his handsome face
full of strong resolve, every feature showing excitement, and his eyes
met his father’s with a steady gaze, betokening a soul which had no
secrets to conceal.

“What new folly is this?” said the squire. “Do you mean to tell me
that, not content with paying court to a blacksmith’s daughter, you
have lowered yourself by casting in your lot with the contemptible
sectaries, the howling fanatics, the dairy-maids and plough-boys who
rave like dancing dervishes, and groan and shriek like Tom o’ Bedlam
without sense or reason?”

“I’ve no knowledge, father, of any such people as you describe. The
Methodists are as orderly and as reverent in their religious services,
as they are who go to the parish church. Since I have found my
Saviour, and have felt the love of God in my heart, attendance on
their simple worship has been among the happiest hours of my life.
Through the Methodists I found the pardon of my sins, among them I
find spiritual food and comfort more precious than I can describe, and
with the Methodists I desire to live and die.”

Baffled, but resolved, the squire, who had little idea of the strength
of his son’s character, hastily resolved upon risking all on the
hazard of a throw.

“Philip Fuller, listen to me. These idiotic fools are hateful to me.
Their religion is a parody; their sickening cant is blasphemy; they
are all composed of the poorest scum of the community. As the bearer
of an ancient and historic name, I utterly decline in any way, however
slight, to be brought into contact with them. Whatever I can do to
drive them out of Waverdale, I will do; and as for you, if you refuse
to obey me, and dare to cross the threshold of their disgusting orgies
again, you are no longer a son of mine. Remember that the estate is
not entailed, and I’ll leave it to the hospitals before it shall fall
into the hands of hypocritical rogues like these.”

Philip’s face had waxed as pale as death. The cruel words had fallen
harder than the speaker intended, and even now he would gladly have
recalled them. Tears of manly and filial grief stood in Philip’s eyes,
as he replied,--

“My father, I love you dearer than life, and if the sacrifice of life
would minister to your real happiness, I would not grudge it. I have
never disobeyed you. I have consented to put one light of my life out
in deference to your desire, and were this anything short of a robbery
to my soul and treason to my God, I would obey you in this as in the
rest. But I cannot; my conscience speaks in a voice I dare not ignore.
I have given myself to my Saviour; I believe it to be His will that I
should bear the despised and humble name of Methodist, and therefore,
though I will go on my knees, and beseech you to withdraw your cruel
words, happen what will, and come what may, this people shall be my
people, and their God my God.”

“Get out of my sight, sir!” thundered out the wrathful parent, “and
don’t see me again till I send for you.”

Little thought the angry squire how sad and terrible would be his
next interview with his distressed and suffering son. Bowing
respectfully, Philip retired from his father’s presence, and went out
into the frosty morning air, distressed and grieved. He had engaged to
spend the day in the covers of Sir Harry Elliott, and though little
disposed for personal pleasure, he went to join the baronet and his
party in a raid upon the partridges, hoping to obtain a little
distraction from the troubles that oppressed him.

       *       *       *       *       *

The quarterly meeting of the Kesterton Circuit was held as usual.
After the ordinary business had been transacted, Mr. Clayton referred
to the steps which had been taken towards the erection of a new chapel
in Nestleton; he described the interview with Squire Fuller, “And
there,” said he, “the matter stands at present.”

“No,” said Adam Olliver, “since then t’ yung squire’s gi’en ’is ’art
te God, ’is neeame te t’ Chotch, an’ ’is hand’s gotten hod o’ t’
gospil ploo’, he’ll nivver leeak back, you may depend on’t. There
dizn’t seeam te be ony change i’ t’ squire hisself, bud the Lord’s
managin’ matters for uz. We hae neea need te stand an’ wait as though
we hae neea fayth i’ God, bud just gan on an’ raise t’ munny, an’ get
riddy for t’ tahme when the Lord says, ‘Arise an’ build.’ Tahmes an’
seeasons the Lord keeps iv ’is aun poo’er. Bud we’ve prayed i’ fayth,
an’ when He sees fit, t’ topstooane ’ll be browt on’ wi’ shootin’
‘Grace, grace be tiv it.’”

There was always something so infectious about Adam Olliver’s fixed
and fervent faith in God, that in spite of prudential policy and
worldly wisdom he managed to carry the day. Nor was Mr. Clayton at all
unwilling to be urged into energetic measures. That God was with them
he did not doubt. The gracious seasons of spiritual power and
refreshment which he himself had felt and seen, were proof enough that
the work was of God. Hence he encouraged and invited a free
conversation on the subject. The senior “circuit steward,” Mr.
Smallwood, was one of those wondrously cautious men who can only see
an inch before their nose, and who wish to make that much progress by
degrees.

“We must be very careful,” said he, “it is as much as ever we can do
now to pay our way, and this very quarter there is a deficiency of
more than ten pounds. Then there’s Bexton Chapel; they are trying to
reduce the debt on it by a hundred pounds, and if we begin another
scheme at the same time, we shall find ourselves in difficulties.”

“I confess, Mr. Chairman,” said Nathan Blyth, “that our good friend,
Adam Olliver, has more faith than I have. It’s true, the young squire
has cast in his lot with us, but that very thing has made his father
more bitter against us. He has even threatened to give Mr. Houston
notice to quit, if he does not close his kitchen against the Methodist
preachers.”

“Never mind about that,” said Farmer Houston, “threatened folks live
long, and threatened tenants may have long leases. I opened my doors
to the Methodist preachers, and God opened my heart to receive the
truth, and as long as I live, God helping me, those doors shall never
be closed again to those who brought me the news of a Saviour’s love.
My temporal affairs are in the hands of a kind Providence; and as a
token of gratitude for personal and family mercies, I gladly promise
for me and mine a hundred pounds towards Nestleton Chapel, to be paid
as soon as the Lord opens the way to build it.”

“Halleluia,” said the old hedger, “when God works whea can ’inder.
Ivverybody knoas ’at ah can’t deea mitch, eeaven if ah sell me
slashin’-knife an’ donkey, bud ah’ve seeaved a trifle oot o’ me
wayges, an’ be t’ tahme t’ chapel’s begun, ah sall hev five pund
riddy, seea you may put it doon.”

The old hedger’s grand self-sacrifice was greeted with a round of
hearty cheers.

“Brother Houston stopped me in what I was going to say,” said Nathan
Blyth, “but I’m not sorry, because of the capital finish he made. I
just wish to say that I’m half ashamed of my want of faith, and that
I’ll give fifty pounds when the day comes that we can make any use of
it.”

“Ha’k ye there, noo! O ye ov lahtle fayth! Maister Smallwood, you’ll
gan wi’ t’ tide, weean’t yo’? Bless the Lord! We’ll put Bexton te
rights, an’ build this chapil, an’ gi’e yo’ ten pund te sattle up wi’,
an’ then be riddy for summat else. Ah can hear t’ rappin’ o’ t’
’ammers, an’ t’ rasp o’ t’ saw, an’ t’ clink o’ t’ troowel alriddy.
Seea you can gan on an’ ‘get inte yo’r chariot an’ ride as fast as yo’
can, for there’s t’ sign ov abundance o’ rain?’ There’s t’ soond of a
gannin’, an’ t’ wind’s bloaing ower’d t’ tops o’ t’ mulberry trees,
an’ Nestleton’s gannin’ te hev a chapil as seeaf as taxes an’
quarter-day.”

Inoculated with the old patriarch’s faith and energy, the meeting took
up the matter with warmth, and before they separated, more than three
hundred pounds were promised to the new undertaking.

“Halleluia!” said Old Adam, when the result was announced, “whea is
sae greeat a God as oor’s? Mister Chairman! the Lord says, ‘Oppen yo’r
mooth wide, an’ ah’ll fill it!’ an’ mahne’s sae full, ’at ah’s nearly
chooaked wi’ luv an’ grattitude te God!”

“Mr. Chairman,” said Mr. Mitchell, just before the meeting broke up,
“I’ve been thinking that, as the matter has taken such a practical
turn, and as Mr. Houston’s kitchen won’t hold the people who come, it
will be well for us to try to get another place in which to hold a
second service, somewhere in or near Nestleton, so as to be ready not
only with the money, but the members necessary to keep the new chapel
going. I should like to get a foothold in Midden Harbour, and if you,
sir, and this meeting are agreeable, I’ll try what can be done.”

Here several members of the meeting shook their heads, and expressed a
doubt as to the possibility of getting the ploughshare into such a
very hard and flinty soil.

“There you are ageean,” said Adam Olliver, “dootin’ an’ fearin’, yo’
will hev it that the Lord is’nt a match for the devil. Let’s hod up t’
’ands of oor yung minister, God bless ’im. If t’ walls o’ Jericho fell
doon afoore t’ soond o’ t’ ram’s ’orns, it’s queer if Midden Harbour
can keep oot the hosts o’ God’s elect. If naebody else will, ah’ll
propooase it mysen; ’at a meetin’ be hodden i’ Midden Harbour, as
seean as we can finnd a spot te hod it in. My opinion is ’at it’s just
t’ right thing te deea. John Wesley said ’at we wer’ nut only te gan
te them ’at needed uz, but te gan te them ’at needs uz meeast. There
isn’t a warse spot i’ all t’ cuntry side then Midden Harbour, bud if
wa’ can nobbut get t’ Gospil fairly in amang ’em, we sall tonn the
devil clean oot ov his den, an’ mak’ t’ ugly spot as breet as a patch
o’ Paradise.”

The proposition of Father Olliver was seconded and carried, and the
meeting dispersed, strong in the determination to “go forward in the
name of the Lord.”



CHAPTER XXII.

LUCY BLYTH MAKES A CONQUEST.

    “What is tact? ’tis worth revealing--
    Tis delicacy’s finest feeling;
    It is to scan another’s breast,
    To know the thought ere half expressed;
    If word or tone should waken pain,
    To drop the subject or the strain;
    To twine around, with winning art,
    And gently steal away the heart.”

    _Anon._


The blacksmith’s daughter received her father’s description of the
proceedings at the quarterly meeting with much enjoyment, and true to
her taste for seeking out the neediest, emphatically endorsed the idea
of making evangelical war on Midden Harbour. Pondering how she could
help forward this worthy scheme, she made her way, one evening, to pay
a visit to the ailing wife of Piggy Morris. Lucy’s piety was a very
cheerful and attractive type. Those who think that religion must
necessarily tinge the life with melancholy, and wrap its possessor in
a veil of gloom, would have felt inclined to question the genuineness
of her profession, and to doubt as to whether she had “the root of the
matter” within her. Her bright eyes were seldom dim with other
tears than those of sympathy and joy; her smiles were never long
absent from her face; her full, free, musical ripple of laughter was
perfectly contagious, and her manifold charms of form and feature were
brightened and intensified by the Christian faith and joy that dwelt
within. No one could be long in Lucy’s company before any “megrims” of
their own began to pass away; and no sooner did she enter the home of
sickness and of sorrow, than the gloom began insensibly to lift, and
the inmates were led to look at matters from their brighter side. This
power of radiating happiness is of wondrous value, and ought to be
cultivated, as it may, by all who keep the heart-fires of grace
brightly burning, from whence the subtle and potent blessings are
evolved. This cheering quality made Lucy’s visits unspeakably precious
to such a despondent invalid as Mrs. Morris. To Mary Morris they were
as bright spots in a very cloudy sky, and even Piggy Morris himself,
glum and crusty as he was, was fain to declare his pleasure at her
visits, and to give her a welcome such as greeted no visitor besides.

[Illustration: LUCY BLYTH.--_Page 140._]

“Well, Mrs. Morris, how are you to-day?” said Lucy to the ailing
woman, who sat, propped up with pillows, in an old arm-chair by the
fireside. “Why, I declare, you look ever so much better and brighter
than when I was here last. Some of these fine days we shall be having
you out of doors again, and you and Mary will be having a cup of tea
with me at the Forge.”

Mrs. Morris’s thin and sallow face gleamed with satisfaction at the
sight of her welcome guest; but she shook her head as one who had made
up her mind to say “good-bye” to hope, and accept the inevitable.

“No, Miss Blyth, I don’t feel better; I’m not able to say just what
ails me, or where or what my complaint is. But I’m wearing away,
slowly and surely, and at times I feel such a sinking and a fainting,
that I sit waiting and waiting, thinking every moment will be my
last.”

“Yes, that’s just it. I don’t believe in ‘thinking and waiting’ of
that kind. When you feel a sinking and a fainting, you should tell
Mary to get you a little beef-tea, or a cup of tea, to give you a
rising; and make up your mind that you aren’t going to die yet,
because you’re wanted here.”

“Nay, I don’t know about that,” said the despondent soul, always
entertaining hard thoughts about herself. “I’m not wanted here. I’m
such a poor helpless invalid that I’m no use to anybody.”

“Oh, that’s it, is it? Mary Morris you just come here. Now, Mrs.
Morris, just tell her, will you, that she doesn’t want you, and that
you are no use to her!”

Mrs. Morris looked at the speaker, and then into her daughter’s loving
and gentle face, down which the tears were quietly descending, and
said, as she put her arms around her neck,--

“No. God bless her, I can’t say that, for I know she loves her
mother.”

Mary returned the embrace warmly, saying,--

“Love you? Aye, that I do, next to my God.”

“Why, bless my life, Mrs. Morris, there are folks in the world that
haven’t got so much as a cat or a dog to wag their tails when they see
’em; and you’ve got such a wealth of tenderness as there is in this
girl’s heart to call your own. When did Bob and Dick come to see you
last?”

“Oh, they were both here last Sunday. No, Bob was here on Monday, too,
and again last night.”

“What did he want?” said Miss Inquisitive.

“Oh, only to inquire how I was. Last night he brought me a few oranges
that he had bought.”

“Indeed! Where did he get _them_, I wonder?”

“He fetched them from Kesterton on Monday night after his day’s work
was over.”

“Oh, that’s it, is it? And so you have two good sons, who come and
spend their Sundays, the only day in the week they have at liberty.
One comes again on Monday, after toiling all the day, and the other
poor, tired lad goes all the way to Kesterton to buy some oranges to
refresh you, and yet you dare to tell me you are not wanted! God bless
them both! How dare you?”

At that moment Piggy Morris came in from a distant market.

“Good-night, Miss Blyth,” said he. “It’s as good as a golden guinea to
see your smiling face.”

“Is it?” said Lucy. “Then give me a golden guinea for our new chapel,
and you shall look at it again.”

A sudden thought struck her. She saw he was in a good humour. Probably
markets had been favourable and bargains good. It was a hazard, but
she risked it.

“Come here, Mr. Morris,” and taking him by the hand, she led him to
his wife. “Look at this dear soul. She says that she isn’t wanted, and
is of no use to anybody, because she’s weak and ill,” and Lucy looked
at him a whole volume of entreaty and desire.

Morris understood her purpose, and whether he was thinking, as he
gazed upon the fallen cheek, the sunken eye, and the dark hair so
thickly silvered--remnants of the beauty of the older and brighter
days before he brought sorrow over the threshold--or whether Lucy’s
influence acted on him like a spell, cannot be said, probably a little
of both; but he took his wife’s hand in his, and stroked it, saying,--

“Why, bless you, Sally, there’s nobody we could spare so ill as thee.”

Lucy’s eyes and smile repaid him for that unusual grace, and then
turning to his wife, she said,--

“There, you naughty soul. Mary loves you; Bob and Dick love you; your
husband loves you, and yet you dare to look me in the face and tell me
you’re not wanted!” And, kissing her cheek, “Jesus loves you, and I
love you, and if you call the cat it will jump upon your knee and tell
you the same thing. Yet you ‘feel a sinking and a fainting,’ and you
‘sit waiting and thinking that every moment is going to be the last!’
Mrs. Morris, I’m”----”

But by this time the work was done. The poor woman’s face was all
aglow.

“Yes, yes,” said she. “I am richer than I thought.”

“Richer! I should think you are; and you have all the love of God, all
the promises of the Bible, and all the hopes of heaven into the
bargain. Mrs. Morris, I’m going to sing, and if you don’t join in the
chorus I won’t stop and have a cup of tea.”

Lucy’s singing was an inspiration, and Piggy Morris stopped the
process of unlacing his boots to look and listen, as she sang,--

THE DARK AND THE DAWN.

    “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the
        morning.”--_Ps_. xxx, 5.

          To-night there are tears,
          To-night there are fears,
    To-night there is sighing and sorrow,
          My tears shall be dried,
          My fears shall subside,
    ’Twill be singing--not sighing--to-morrow!

                So this is my song,
                As I travel along!
          Come neighbours, and join in my chorus!
                The tears of the night,
                Become pearls in the light,
          The light of the morning before us.

          To-night I may sigh;
          But pray tell me why,
    From the future more tears I should borrow?
          No! strengthened by hope,
          With my cares I will cope,
    For they all will evanish to-morrow!
                So this is my song, &c.

          Though hard I may toil,
          And wearily moil,
    And with tears cast my seed in the furrow;
          Not long shall I weep;
          I am certain to reap
    A harvest of joy on the morrow!
              So this is my song, &c.

          I care not a jot
          For the crook in my lot,
    Though I grieve a few moments in sorrow;
          They soon will be past,
          And the “First and the Last”
    Will send me deliv’rance to-morrow.
              So this is my song, &c.

          Even now, as I weep,
          I see the dawn peep
    Through the shadowing curtains of sorrow!
          Hope widens the rift--
          Even now do they lift,
    And the rosy dawn smiles a “Good morrow!”

                So this is my song,
                As I travel along--
          Come neighbours and join in my chorus?
                Be sure by-and-bye
                We shall reign in the sky,
          When the glory gates open before us!

You might go far before you found a brighter atmosphere than that
which filled the house of Piggy Morris, and all owing to the presence
of that concentrated piece of sunshine, Lucy Blyth. After tea Dick
came in, and received such a warmth of greeting from her that he
almost lost his balance, and blushed like a peony, as hobbledehoys
will under such circumstances.

“Why, Mrs. Morris,” said Lucy, “here’s that troublesome fellow here
again. He was here last night, and on Monday night, and on Sunday,
too. Look here, young man; what do you come here so often for?”

“To see my mother,” said Dick, while Lucy flung a triumphant look at
the happy mother, who drew the lad fondly to her side.

When, at last, Lucy rose to take her leave, it was getting dark, and
Mary said she would put on her bonnet and go with her a little way.

“Not to-night, Mary. I’ve chattered so much and so long that your
mother ought to be in bed. I can manage very well by myself.”

“I’ll go with you, Miss Blyth,” said Dick, jumping to his feet.

“Oh! You think that after you’ve been working like a Briton all the
day in Farmer Crabtree’s field, and walked nearly three miles beside
to see your mother”--here there was another glance at Mrs.
Morris--“and three miles to go back, I’m going to let you walk an
extra mile with me! Why, bless the boy, you must think I’ve a heart as
hard as my father’s anvil.”

Meanwhile Piggy Morris had been silently re-lacing his boots, and now,
getting up from his chair, he reached down his hat from a nail, and
said, quietly,--

“Never mind, Dick, my lad, I’ll see Miss Blyth home.”

Piggy Morris, the surly and sour, could not have surprised them more
if they had seen a pair of wings sprouting from his shoulder-blades.

Lucy quietly said, “Oh, thank you, Mr. Morris, you are kind,” and
giving Ursa Major her arm, the oddly-matched pair turned their steps
towards Nestleton Forge.

“What’s cum to feyther?” said Dick, as one who waits for a reply.

“Goodness knows,” said Mary; “I never knew him do such a thing
before.”

“My dear,” said Mrs. Morris, “it’s Lucy Blyth’s magic. That girl’s an
angel if ever there was one. If your fayther would only go to meeting
nobody knows what might happen.” Here the good woman sighed at what
appeared to her a vista of delight too good to hope for.

Meanwhile Lucy Blyth and her boorish escort were making their way
through the wintry night towards Nestleton Forge. Happily for Morris,
with whom words were always few, and usually gruff, his companion
rushed into conversation--not that she was that social nuisance, a
wordy woman, but that she was a born politician, and meant to turn the
golden moments to good account.

“Mrs. Morris is much better and brighter to-night. Don’t you think
so?”

“Yes,” was the emphatic reply, “because she’s had you to cheer her up.
She does get desperate worritsome at times, though.”

“Why, you see, Mr. Morris, it is hard for her to be almost always a
prisoner in her chair, and as for her sick headaches, I don’t know how
she does to bear them.”

“Yes, I daresay it’s hard enough,” was the brief reply.

“Mary’s a great comfort to her,” said Lucy. “She is so quiet and
gentle, and nurses her so tenderly. I often wonder how she manages to
get through her work so well. I _do_ like Mary.”

“Yes, Poll’s a good lass,” said Morris, laconically.

“How kind and nice it is that those boys should come so often and so
far to see their mother! I _was_ pleased to hear about Bob.”

“What about Bob?” said Ursa Major.

“Why, on Tuesday, after his day’s work, he walked all the way to
Kesterton and bought his mother some oranges.”

“Did he?” quoth Bruin.

“Yes, he did, and Dick’s as kind and good as he is. I _do_ like those
lads.”

“It appears to me you like ’em all,” said Piggy Morris, and there was
a little querulousness in his tone, as though he felt himself to be a
natural exception.

“You never said a truer word,” said Lucy, laughing, “and I’m afraid I
shall keep coming to see you, till you turn me out.”

Here Morris gave a chuckle, odd in its character, a cross between a
grunt and a hiccup. “Then that’ll be for ever an’ ever, as long as
there’s a threshwood to the door, or a tile on the roof.”

“By the way, Mr. Morris, do you know that Squire Fuller has refused us
a piece of land for a Methodist chapel? He says he won’t have such a
thing in his village.”

“_His_ village! The old fool, it isn’t all his. Midden Harbour belongs
to old Crabtree. Squire Fuller’s a bad old”----

“Hush!” said Lucy, “don’t say anything naughty, for my sake.”

Ursa Major growled and finished his sentence, more expressive than
refined, in an unknown tongue.

“But it does seem a pity that we can’t have a chapel, doesn’t it?
Farmer Houston’s kitchen cannot hold all the people.”

“Humph! What’s the squire care about that?”

“No, more’s the pity, but our young minister, Mr. Mitchell, says that,
seeing we can’t get all the people who come into one room, we must try
to find another. He would like to get one in Midden Harbour.”

“Midden Harbour! Miss Blyth. Why that’s a rum spot to come into.”

“Why, you see; Squire Fuller couldn’t touch us there.” [O Lucy, you
inveterate plotter! you designing woman!] “And you see, Mr. Morris, if
your neighbours are a bad lot, it’s time somebody was trying to do
them good. But,” said she, heaving a sigh which was intended to search
the innermost recesses of his heart, “there’s nobody there that has
room enough to take us in.”

Piggy Morris smiled grimly, as he said, “Try Dick Spink, the
besom-maker.”

“Oh, don’t mention that wicked man. We must have a more respectable
place than that, or we can’t come at all, _and Squire Fuller will get
his way_.”

“Nay, I’ll be hanged if he shall. You shall have my house first,
though we have no room to spare.”

Piggy Morris stood still a moment. Lucy’s heart beat with hope. Then
Morris exclaimed,--

“Lucy Blyth! For your sake, you shall have my old malt house. I can do
without it, and the Methody parson shall come into Midden Harbour!”

“Oh, Mr. Morris! God bless you for saying that. Now I shall be able to
come and _see you every week_.” That clinched the nail, and as Adam
Olliver said at the quarterly meeting, “God was strangger than the
devil,” and Midden Harbour couldn’t “keep oot the hosts o’ God’s
elect.”

“Come in and tell my father,” said Lucy, as they reached the garden
gate, “you’ll be the most welcome guest he’s seen for many a day.”

“Good evening, Morris,” said Natty Blyth, who had come to the door;
“Come in a bit!”

“I can’t stop, thank ye,” blurted out Piggy Morris. “They tell me you
want to hold your meetings in Midden Harbour. You can have my
malt-kiln and welcome, and you may tell the Methody parson that he may
thank Lucy Blyth for that. Good night.”



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE DARK DEED IN THURSTON WOOD.

    “Oh, how will crime engender crime! Throw guilt
    Upon the soul, and, like a stone cast on
    The troubled waters of a lake,
    ’Twill form in circles, round succeeding round,
    Each wider than the first.”

    _Colman._


A cold December wind was blowing to and fro the dead brown leaves in
Thurston Wood, a large tract of plantation that bounded the northern
and higher side of Squire Fuller’s park. Gaunt and grim loomed the
naked trees through the foggy air, and the long grass was wet and dank
with the perpetual drip of the moisture-laden boughs. The brief dark
day was rapidly deepening into night, but a darker deed was about to
be perpetrated in that lonely and sombre place.

Through the woods there flowed a broad and deep stream, fringed with
willows, elder bushes, hemlocks, and reeds. This was known as Thurston
Beck. Its rapid waters poured themselves over a rocky ledge, just
within the borders of the park, and falling in the form of a cascade
into a deep pit, filled it to the brim, overflowed rapidly through a
smaller channel, fed the extensive fish-ponds on the southern side,
and then again meandering through the valley of Waverdale, rippled and
bickered through the village of Nestleton, and a little beyond
Kesterton joined its waters to the River Ouse. There was a foot-path
through the wood close by the borders of the beck, and here it was
that Black Morris, gun in hand, and half resolved on suicide, found
himself face to face with Bill Buckley. Unable to restrain his anger,
Morris strode up to his now hateful companion, and hissed through his
set teeth,--

“Bill Buckley, stand off! I feel like murder to my fingers’ ends. What
right had you to trap me into your brutal attack on Farmer Crabtree?
you black villain!”

“Ho, ho!” said Buckley, his scowling features white with rage. “Two
can play at that game. Take care what you’re aboot, or ah’ll gi’e you
an oonce o’ leead! Thoo’s intiv it, an’ thoo can’t get oot on’t!” he
continued, with a mocking laugh.

“You lie!” said Black Morris. “Let them that did it swing for it:” for
he had settled in his own mind that Crabtree had got his death-blow,
“and I’ll lend a hand to help ’em.”

“Will you?” said Fighting Bill, drawing a step nearer. “If thoo means
to split, ah’ll let dayleet through the’ ribs. Thoo shared i’ t’ swag,
an’ thoo mun share i’ t’ danger.”

“My share o’ t’ swag,” said Morris, “has gone back to Farmer Crabtree,
and I wrote and told”----

“You black d----!” shouted Buckley, livid with passion, and, pointing
his gun at his unwary victim, shot him down like a dog! The blood
gushed from his face and temples, sprinkling the raiment of his
murderer; he fell heavily on the plashy grass with a shrill scream
which echoed and re-echoed through the lonely wood, until a thousand
voices seemed to curse the doer of the awful deed! Unrepentant and
unpitying, the assassin kicked the prostrate body, and with an oath
upon his lips, he rolled his victim into the rapid beck; a dull splash
succeeded, and the silent waters closed over their hapless burden and
went on their heedless way. Seizing his gun, Bill Buckley made rapid
strides along the borders of the stream, away from the stains of
blood, away from the park, and speedily put many miles between him and
the place which he had rendered horrible for evermore.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour after the perpetration of the dreadful deed, Philip Fuller
trod the sodden path through Thurston Wood, returning from his visit
to Sir Harry Elliott’s, after a day spent in copse and covert, and
still oppressed and depressed by the remembrances of his morning’s
interview with his angry father. With his gun across his shoulder he
was rapidly making his way homeward, when his foot struck suddenly
against some object in the grass, and he fell at full length across
the very spot where, just before, the gun of Bill Buckley had sped its
dreadful messenger, and laid his hapless victim low. Wet and muddy,
and stained, though he knew it not, with human blood, he rose to his
feet, and looking for the obstacle which had tripped him up, he found
a gun, and a few yards off, an old black felt cap. Suspicion was now
thoroughly aroused. He examined the ground more carefully, detected
the hue of blood in the pale moonlight which now and then vanquished
the veil of intervening cloud, noticed how the grass and weeds were
pressed down to the edge of the stream, and felt that he was gazing on
the results of some sad accident or hideous crime. He remembered the
fearful scream which he had heard on the still night air. “Murder!”
said he, turning sick and trembling with horror at the fearful
thought. At that moment a gust of wind blew suddenly, stirring the
shrubs and reeds. To his excited mind this was the motion of some
living being, his gun dropped from his hand and his first impulse was
to turn and flee. Re-assured, he resolved to leave the gun and cap
where he had found them, then to hasten to the hall and give the
alarm, and bring the servants and a constable to search the spot.
Seizing the gun which lay at his feet, Philip ran with speed towards
Waverdale Hall.

Crossing the park he met Piggy Morris, who was returning from a sale
of live stock, and was taking a short cut across Squire Fuller’s park,
despite the warning to trespassers, for in that direction there was no
right of way.

“Don’t go through Thurston Wood!” said Philip, running up to him in
hot haste.

The ex-farmer, slightly muddled by too long a halt at “The Plough,”
did not catch the drift of his expression, but understood him to
oppose his passage through the park. Under the influence of a little
Dutch courage, he laid hold on Philip to repel what he imagined was a
personal attack. A short scuffle succeeded, during which the gun fell
to the ground and was seized by Piggy Morris. Philip succeeded in
removing his apprehension, and the gun was being handed back, when
Morris suddenly exclaimed,--

“This is our Jack’s gun, as sure as eggs is eggs! How have you come by
that?”

Philip hastily told him what he had seen. Morris listened, thoroughly
sobered now, and laying his hand on the young man’s shoulder, he
hissed between his set teeth,--

“My son Jack is murdered! The son of the man who turned me off my
farm, the Philip Fuller that robbed my lad of his sweetheart, and that
threatened him before witnesses, is the man that did the deed!”

Shocked, stunned, paralysed at the awful imputation, and at the
damning circumstantial evidence forthcoming, at that moment Philip
looked guilty, and Piggy Morris’s suspicions were confirmed.

“I’m not going to lose sight of you, young man,” said Morris, and
despite the solemn denial of the distressed and confounded youth,
Piggy Morris insisted on accompanying his “prisoner,” as he called
him, to Waverdale Hall. There the young man told his story to his
father. With a heart oppressed by forbodings of calamity, the squire
and a posse of servants accompanied them to Thurston Wood. While
Philip had been telling his story, Morris had noted the mire on his
shooting jacket and the blood upon his cuffs, and pointed them out to
the squire with more exultation than was befitting a bereaved father.
Piggy Morris, however, had not any great amount of affection for his
son. They found the cap, which Morris identified at once, and one of
the servants, picking up a gun, exclaimed, “Why, this is Master
Philip’s gun!” A hush as of death fell upon the party, broken first by
a groan from the agonised squire, then Piggy Morris seized Philip by
the arm, and dragging him to his father’s presence, cried, “Behold the
murderer of my son!”

“Hands off!” shouted Philip, stung beyond endurance, “It’s a hideous
lie!”

“Peace! my son,” said the squire, in accents which thrilled every
listener, by their concentrated grief and resolute dignity. “Mr.
Morris, you know where to find my son when he is wanted, and now,
good-night!”

A heavy cloud rested on all who dwelt within the mansion of Waverdale.
The servants of the establishment, from butler to stable-boy, from
housekeeper to scullery-maid, entertained a true affection and regard
for their kind-hearted and open-handed young master, and one and all
were in genuine distress. Squire Fuller, in a long and anxious
conference with his son, in which his own first agonising doubts were
removed and Philip’s innocence of the dreadful charge made clear to
himself, sat by his waning lamp far into the night. He was in sad
straits. The events of the morning, when he had threatened to
disinherit his boy, and now this new and grievous trouble, bowed his
spirit to the ground. His son’s erratic and mortifying connection with
the Methodists, the awfully damning evidence against him as to the
dark deed of Thurston Wood, the humiliating publicity which would
drag his honoured name through the mire of disgrace: these things,
coupled with the deep, strong love he had for Philip, stung his soul
to the quick. He had discarded religion, had imbibed a strong unbelief
in and contempt for prayer, and yet such is the native instinct of the
soul to cry unto the Lord in distress, that he could not refrain from
groaning aloud, “Lord, save my boy!” Thus the hours passed, until,
worn-out and weary, he slumbered in his chair. Waking as the grey
light of morning peeped through the heavy window curtains, he rose
with a bitter sigh and sought his chamber. Passing Philip’s bedroom
door, he paused as he heard a voice within, “Don’t! father, don’t!
Dear father! Lucy, my darling! Farewell! Adam Olliver, you have given
me a Saviour! Give me a father! What’s this? Blood! Morris! I didn’t
do it! Oh! oh! oh!”

The squire opened the door, sprang to the bed, and saw his son,
sitting up, with bloodshot eye-balls, scarlet face and hands lifted in
an imploring attitude. Squire Fuller perceived at a glance that his
son was raving in the madness of brain fever! To rouse the
housekeeper, call the servants, and to send the groom at a hard gallop
to fetch Dr. Jephson was the work of a moment, and then the wretched
father went back to keep anxious vigil by the bedside of his stricken
boy. Mrs. Bruce, the housekeeper, well-skilled in all the experiences
of a sick-room, applied ice and wet cloths to the sufferer’s burning
brow, and by and bye the paroxysm seemed partially to subside. Thus
they waited, waited in the darkened chamber, waited in silence, for
not one word did the squire utter, but sat with his eyes fixed on the
moaning youth, listening through hours that seemed ages, until he
heard the hoofs of a horse at a rapid gallop ringing on the road, and
knew that Dr. Jephson had arrived. Standing by his bed, with his hand
upon his patient’s wrist, and looking at the distended pupils of his
eyes, the doctor turned at last to speak to the statuesque father by
his side. The words, sad words, died upon his tongue. Anything but
hope spoken to that shrinking form would have killed him where he
stood!

       *       *       *       *       *

There was sorrow also in the house of Piggy Morris. The weakly and
ailing mother mourned the loss of her first-born as only a mother may.
Could she have only known that he was prepared for his sudden and
terrible exit from the world she could have better borne the blow. To
her, Black Morris had not been a bad or cruel son. His love for his
mother was great and abiding, and had it not been for the evil set
into which their unhappy choice of a locality had thrown him, she
believed with reason, that he would have led a nobler and more
reputable life. Her gentle daughter, Mary, though sore crushed by this
bereavement, was sustained by the religious principles and experiences
obtained by means of the Methodist services in the village, and was
enabled to succour her weeping mother in this trying hour. Piggy
Morris himself, cannot be credited with any great amount of grief for
the loss of his son. His own harsh and repellant nature had loosened
his hold upon the wayward youth, and led to an open rebellion which
threatened an irreparable breach. His vindictive nature, however, was
quick to seize the opportunity, now offered, of revenging himself on
those who, according to his crooked notions of right and wrong, had
“ruined him,” by dismissing him from his ill-managed and wasted farm.
He would not hesitate to gird a halter beneath the grey locks of the
squire if he had the chance, and revelled in the prospect of dragging
the scion of the hated house of Fuller to the gallows, and
extinguishing the race for evermore. For Piggy Morris, to do him
justice, never doubted for a moment that Philip Fuller was guilty of
the dreadful tragedy which had flung a nameless horror over Thurston
Wood.



CHAPTER XXIV.

“BALAAM” IS TAKEN INTO CONSULTATION.

    “The ass learnt metaphors and tropes,
    But most on music fixed his hopes.”

    _Gay._

    “Methought I heard a voice, and yet I doubted,
    Now roaring like the ocean, when the winds
    Fight with the waves, now in a still small tone.”

    _Dryden._


As may be imagined, the next day or two was occupied by the
Nestletonians in discussing matters pertaining to the startling event
which had taken place in Thurston Wood. Thurston Beck was dragged and
re-dragged, even the deep pool into which the “cascade” poured its
waters was explored as far as the limited means at the disposal of
rural justice would permit, but all in vain; the body of Black Morris
could not be found. There were some, indeed, who ventured to express
an opinion that the marks in the woods and the discovered gun were
capable of some other explanation. Meanwhile Philip Fuller lay
helplessly in the grip of strong disease, and willy-nilly, examination
and arrest must be suspended for awhile, Squire Fuller, himself a
J.P. for the county, undertaking surveillance of his son until such
times as he could answer for himself. Here for the present we must
leave the painful story, and turn our attention in a widely different
direction.

       *       *       *       *       *

Blithe Natty was up at his work betimes, as his custom was. The cheery
sound of his ringing anvil, and the cheerier sound of his grand tenor
voice, mingled musically in the morning air. The glittering sparks
from the red-hot iron, out of which he was developing a horse-shoe,
glanced at his leather apron, and sprinkled the floor with dull dark
flakes. The fire on the hearth flamed and flickered, casting its
reflection on the wall, on which hung rows of shoes ready to be nailed
on the hoofs of whatever horses had cast or worn out their metal
armour. Screwkeys, patterns, boring-braces, and other implements of
the grimy craft were suspended in similar fashion; and leaning in the
corners, and laid upon the rough beams overhead were numerous long
bars and rods and sheets of iron, the raw material, out of which his
deft and skilful handicraft evolved all sorts of articles for farming
or domestic use.

Blithe Natty was evidently in good spirits this morning, judging from
the cheery nature of his song:--

    When troubles and trials are gathering round,
      The best thing to do, never doubt it,
    Is to tell them to Jesus; He’ll help, I’ll be bound;
      Then go, tell the Lord all about it.

    His people need never, no never despair--
      And I for one never will doubt it;
    But I’ll go to the feet of my Saviour in prayer--
      I’ll go tell my Lord all about it.

    The sceptic may sneer, and the world may deride,
      And laugh at my folly and scout it;
    Every need of my life to my God I’ll confide--
      I’ll go tell my Lord all about it.

    Though as strong as Goliath my sorrow may be,
      A word from my Saviour can rout it;
    My eyes His salvation shall speedily see--
      I’ll go tell my Lord all about it.

    Men may smile at my faith in His word if they will;
      No matter how much they may flout it,
    I’ll hold to His covenant promises still,
      And go tell my Lord all about it.

    The love of my Saviour’s my strength and my stay--
      I could never be happy without it;
    So I’ll trust in His faithfulness; happen what may,
      I’ll go tell my Lord all about it.

    And when I am landed on Canaan’s bright shore,
      Before angels and saints will I shout it;
    Give glory and praise to my King evermore,
      The King that I told all about it.

“Halleluia! Nathan Blyth. That’ll be a glorious teeal te tell, an’ a
glorious crood te lissen tiv it,” said Adam Olliver, who had ridden up
to the Forge to get a new supply of shoes for Balaam, whom he speedily
tethered by his bridle to the iron hook driven into the wall for that
purpose.

“Good mornin’, Adam. What, is Balaam going barefoot?”

“Why, no, he is’nt exactly as bad as that, bud he’s gettin’ sae near
t’ grund ’at ah thowt it was better to tak’ it i’ tahme. Can yo’ spare
tahme te shoe ’im?”

“Hey, hey, old friend. I’ll put him to rights for you. I have his
size,” said Natty, glancing along the rows of ready made shoes, “and
I’ll fit him in a twinkling. But what will you give me for my news
this morning?”

“Why, ah deean’t knoa. It mebbe isn’t worth mitch.”

“Hey, but it is. It’s news ’at ’ll warm your heart, or I’m a
Dutchman.”

“What, hez Black Morris turned up? Or is t’ young squire better?”

Nathan Blyth’s face clouded a moment, as he said, “I’m sorry to say
I’ve nought so good to say of either. Still it’s good news.”

“Oot wiv it, then. ‘Bad news’ll keep, let good news peep.’ Why, you
deean’t meean te say t’ squire’s gi’en us a bit o’ land?”

“No,” said Natty, “you’ll have to wait a bit longer for that miracle
to come to pass. But I’ve a miracle to tell you that’s almost as big.
We’ve gotten another place to hold service in, an’ it’s best place in
all the neighbourhood.”

“Prayse the Lord. He nivver was woss then His wod yit. Wheer is it?”

“Why, it’s in Midden Harbour!” said Nathan, whose eyes were twinkling
with delight.

“You deean’t say sae? Ah didn’t doot ’at God wad oppen’ t’ way, bud ah
didn’t expect it quite sae seean. Wheease hoose is it?”

“It’s nobody’s house; it’s”----

“What! Is it t’ mautkill?”

“Hey!” shouted Blithe Natty, and he gave the haunch of the old donkey
such a slap with his big, open hand, as who should say, “There,
Balaam, what do you think to that?”

Balaam, for once in his life, was thoroughly astounded. He erected his
ears, turned his wondering gaze on the triumphant blacksmith, and gave
vent to a loud “Hee-ho” of most magnificent volume and a _crescendo_
force that was quite startling.

“That’s right, Balaam,” said Old Adam, laughing heartily. “It’ll mak’
uthers cock their ears an’ oppen their mooth besides thoo. Halleluia!
Halleluia!”

Either startled still more by the old man’s enthusiasm or else
entering into the spirit of their triumph, Balaam gave tongue a second
time, in a style that sent the two bystanders into such a fit of
laughter that it threatened to endanger a blood-vessel.

“What in the world’s up now?” said Farmer Houston, who suddenly
appeared upon the scene.

“Oop?” said Adam. “Why, ivverything’s oop! Methodism’s oop! Piggy
Morris is oop! an’ oor sperrits is oop: mahne, an’ Nathan’s, an’
Balaam’s, an’ all!”

Mr. Houston’s delight at the taking of Fort Midden Harbour was
extreme, and it was agreed that information should be sent at once to
Mr. Mitchell, that the good work might be forthwith begun.

“We mun strike while t’ iron’s yat,” said Adam. “Mah wod, bud weean’t
there be sum sparks! Bud we mun mind what we’re aboot. We sall hae te
be as wise as sarpents; we’re gannin’ te put wer heeads intiv a wasp’s
nest, an’ if we deean’t mind we sall get teng’d [stung] as seear as
dayleet. Bud what’s ah talkin’ aboot? The Lord’ll draw their tengs
frev ’em, an’ mak’ ’em as ’armless as bluebottles.”

“I cannot understand,” said Farmer Houston, “how such a surly fellow
as Piggy Morris, who never had a good word to say for us, has been won
so completely over.”

“Why,” said Blithe Natty, “I believe its all owing to my daughter.
She’s managed to get round him somehow. He gave me to understand that
much at my own door.”

“God bless ’er!” said Adam Olliver, “an’ He will. Ah’s as sartain ’at
there’s a breet futur’ befoore that bairn as ah is ’at we sall seean
hev a chapil. The Lord’s fashionin’ on ’er for a great wark, an’ sae
you’ll see.”

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when the stately form of
Squire Fuller was seen riding up to the Forge on his favourite and
beautiful chestnut mare. With a nod of recognition to Farmer Houston,
and a kindly smile on Adam Olliver, he said,--

“Nathan Blyth, can I have a word with you in private?”

Nathan touched his forelock, as in duty bound, and led the squire
through a door which opened on a narrow passage leading to the house.

Farmer Houston and Adam Olliver exchanged glances of interest and
wonder.

“The Lord’s workin’,” said the latter, simply. “Yance Natty Blyth had
te gan tiv ’im. Noo, he ’ez te cum te Natty Blyth. What’s oop ah
deean’t knoa, but ah knoa ’at t’ prayers o’ God’s people ’s at yah
end, an’ ’at Nestleton chapil’s at t’uther, an’ the Lord’s linkin’ on
’em tegither.”

“The old squire’s looking very grey and haggard,” said Farmer Houston,
“and how bent and bowed he is!”

“Ah’s freeten’d he dizn’t knoa where te tak’ his trubbles. If he wad
nobbut tak’ ’em te t’ Cross, that’s the spot te get rid on ’em. At ony
rate he wad get strength te bide ’em.”

Nathan Blyth re-appeared for a moment to excuse his absence, and Adam
Olliver, having led his donkey to the door, and mounted it, rode off
in company with Farmer Houston. His last words to the silent and
thoughtful blacksmith were,--

“Good mornin’, aud friend! Remember what you were singin’,--

    Ah’ll trust tiv His faithfulness, happen what may,
      Ah’ll gooa tell the Lord all aboot it.”



CHAPTER XXV.

NATHAN BLYTH IS IN A QUANDARY.

    “Parental love, my friend, hath power o’er wisdom,
    And is the charm, which, like the falconer’s lure,
    Can bring from heaven the highest soaring spirits.”

    _Anon._

    “Almighty love! what wonders are not thine!
    Soon as thy influence breathes upon the soul,
    By thee, the haughty bend the suppliant knee.”

    _Paterson._


Nathan conducted his unexpected, and, in truth, unwelcome visitor into
his neat and tastefully furnished parlour, and the observant squire
was much surprised to see so many evidences of refinement and artistic
skill. On the walls, which were papered with a soft-hued pattern, hung
a few first-class engravings in broad maple frames; and here and there
an original crayon sketch or water-colour painting, betokening
considerable talent, was suspended between them. A dark rosewood piano
stood on one side, open and with one of Beethoven’s sonatas placed
upon the music-holder. On the opposite side stood a couch, on which
were placed antimacassars, cushions, &c., in Berlin woolwork. The
remainder of the furniture was all in keeping, and all were more or
less adorned with the handiwork of female fingers, while books of a
high-class character were plentifully strewed on the table and gleamed
in the book-case, through whose glass doors, the squire saw literary
treasures which he had never associated with the anvil and the forge.
Nathan handed his guest a chair, and stood waiting for an explanation
of his visit. The squire asked him to be seated, and then said,--

“Nathan Blyth, I can well believe that my visit here is as unwelcome
as it is unexpected. Our last interview, however necessary, was as
unpleasant for you as it was distasteful to me, and I am willing to
own that I had no desire that it should be repeated. I cannot charge
myself with having said anything on that occasion that was not as
courteous and conciliating as the circumstances would allow, and you
must permit me to say that your own attitude and deportment was all
that could be desired. You spoke and have acted as a man of honour,
and I was compelled to acknowledge to myself that I had to do with a
gentleman where I did not expect to find one.”

Nathan bowed, but made no reply.

“To-day,” continued the squire, “though my visit has to do with the
same circumstances, I should not wish you to think or hope that my
views on the former matter have undergone any change.”

“Pardon me,” said Nathan, “I neither hope so nor think so, and have no
wish--indeed I must ask you not to refer to that subject again. My
daughter knows her duty as I know mine, and you need be under no
apprehension that”----

“Don’t be angry, if you please,” said the squire, in a strangely
humble and deprecating voice, for Nathan had spoken with some degree
of spirit. “I have no such suspicion. Let me come to the point, Nathan
Blyth. My only son is dangerously ill,”--here his voice faltered, and
his face assumed a deathly pallor--“and I have a thousand fears for
his life. He has had a malignant attack of brain fever, and though,
thanks to the skill of Dr. Jephson, the fever has subsided, it has
left him at the very door of death.” Again the agonising truth was too
much for the speaker, and he laid his white head in his hands in
silent grief.

Nathan’s heart was always near his lips; with a swimming in his eyes
he said with deep feeling, “From my heart, I’m sorry.”

“Dr. Jephson,” said the squire, recovering his self-command, “declares
that medical skill is powerless to do more for him, and he commands me
to ask that your daughter, who, he says, is the most effective
sick-nurse in the district, will come and help to bring him back to
life.”

“My daughter, Squire Fuller? You must know that that is impossible.
How can she, how can he, be subjected to a test and trial like this,
after all that they have done to show their filial obedience--after
all that we have done to keep them apart? It cannot be. Besides, think
what would be said by those who are only too ready to impute motives
and suspect evil. The fair fame of my girl is dearer to me than life.
Mr. Fuller, nobody esteems Master Philip more than I; nobody can pray
for his recovery more earnestly than will I. But the thing you ask is
quite impossible, and can’t be done.”

“I know it all, Nathan Blyth. I feel the force of all that you have
said. On the other hand, my boy is dying. Like a drowning man I am
catching at a straw; and I beseech you, I who never asked a favour of
a living man, I beseech you do not deny me my request. If you can
trust your daughter, I can trust my son, and as for the gossip of
little minds, that will die away as soon as it is born. Nathan Blyth,
for the sake of a life more precious than my own, grant me my
request.”

Nathan Blyth was in a quandary, he was grievously perplexed, and could
not see his way out of the difficulty. Then the thought suddenly
struck him that, after all, this was a case in which Lucy herself
ought to be consulted.

“If you will excuse me a few moments,” said he, “I will consult my
daughter.”

“Let me see her, Nathan Blyth!” said the squire, eagerly, and
stretching out his hands in strong entreaty.

Nathan went and told Lucy all that had transpired, and if that honest
man had nursed the delusion that his darling had succeeded in, even
partially, dislodging Philip Fuller from her heart, the pitiful
yearning, the longing look that flashed from her bright hazel eye, the
blood-forsaken cheek and lip, as he told of her lover’s danger, drove
the fond delusion away for ever.

“The squire asks to see you, Lucy. But you can decline it, if you
like, my darling.”

Lucy thought for a moment, and then, with a woman’s quick intuition as
to what is best, said, “I’ll see him.”

Casting aside her apron, in which she had been attending to household
duties and standing a little--was there ever a woman that did
not?--before the kitchen looking-glass to assure herself that she was
not a perfect fright, Lucy entered the parlour, and for the first time
Squire Fuller saw the fairy who had so bewitched his son that the
effect of her glamour was his only hope of life. He rose to his feet,
stepped back a pace or two, and bowed as respectfully as he had ever
done in royal drawing-room to lady of high degree. Habited in a light
morning dress of printed calico, with collar and cuffs of purest
white, and a small crimson bow beneath her throat, her piquant beauty
and grace were quite sufficient to excuse either Philip Fuller, or
anybody else, for plunging head over ears in love so deeply that
emerging again was an impossibility.

“Good-morning, Miss Blyth,” said the squire. “Your father has informed
you of my errand.”

“Is Master Philip _very_ ill, sir?” and tone and eye and cheek
betrayed how much the question meant.

“Unto death, I fear!” The words were a wail. The proud lips quivered,
and a couple of tears forced their way, in spite of him, and both
Nathan Blyth and his daughter saw something of the all-absorbing love
he bore for his only son.

“Did he--does he know that you have come?”

“He knows nothing of it, and scarce of any other thing,” said the
troubled father. “He lies almost unconscious, and as though he had
already done with time. Dr. Jephson says there is but one hope. My
dear young lady, his father asks you with a breaking heart, ‘Come and
help to save my boy!’”

A consent was about to leap from her sympathetic heart, but still,
mindful of honour, truth and duty to the last, she only said, “Send
Dr. Jephson here.”

Both the squire and her father read decision in her face; the former
bowed and took his departure. He owned to himself that he had been in
presence of a grace and beauty such as he had never seen since those
days long gone by, when his own first and only love, to whom he saw a
strong resemblance in the radiant form before him, was yet untorn from
his young heart by the unpitying hand of Death.

In a little while, for there was no time to be lost, Dr. Jephson drove
up to the Forge in a little low phaeton belonging to the Hall, and in
which, with his usual promptitude and energy, he intended to spirit
off Lucy, bag and baggage, to the side of the helpless invalid who lay
in the last degree of weakness, moaning out the name of Lucy so
constantly that all could see how strong a hold she had upon his life
and love.

“Well, Miss Lucy,” said the genial doctor, “are you ready? My horse
will not stand long, and,” said he, with great seriousness, “every
hour is a dead loss to us in a hand-to-hand fight between life and
death.”

Lucy was about to repeat the self-evident objections before mentioned,
but the doctor interposed,--

“Look here, my dear. You did quite right, and acted with your usual
wit and wisdom in sending for me. I have two things to say that, if I
know you aright, will help you to decision in a moment. First, Philip
Fuller, without your presence and aid, will die. I say it solemnly and
truly. Second, _with_ your presence and aid there is another chance, a
hope that he may recover. Is that chance to be denied him?”

“I must go, father. Here is a plain duty to do,” said she, as she
kissed his anxious and dubious face, and clasped her arms lovingly
around his neck, “and duty must be done. Consequences must be left
with God, and you and I are used to leaving them there, aren’t we?”

“Go, my darling, and God be with you,” said Nathan Blyth.

Hastily gathering together such needful articles of personal attire as
were requisite for a brief visit, Lucy took her seat beside her good
friend, the doctor, and in a few minutes was far on her way to
Waverdale Hall.

“I do not know,” said the doctor, as they rode through the frosty air,
“whether you are aware that the squire told me of Master Philip’s
attachment to yourself. If I had not known of it I should many days
ago have sent for you, simply as a most skilful and all-effective
nurse for despondent invalids. The awkward revelation made me defer it
for your sake; but my deliberate conclusion is that he is pining away
under the influence of a hopeless passion or some bitter grief. I do
not think the matter of Black Morris has much to do with it; he never
mentions it, neither do I apprehend much difficulty in proving him
innocent of that charge. Hence, though it is a sad strain to put upon
you, Miss Lucy, I am bound to bring the only physician that
understands the patient’s case.”

“Thank you, Dr. Jephson, for your thought for me,” said Lucy. “God
knows I would rather have been spared this new and cruel test; but I
know where to go for help, and my father’s God and mine will help me
through.”

There was a sweet resignation, coupled with a brave resolve to fight
the trouble of the moment, which went straight to the doctor’s heart.
The phaeton was pulled up at the principal entrance to the mansion.
The old squire was at the door to bid her welcome, and Lucy Blyth, the
blacksmith’s daughter, crossed the threshold of Waverdale Hall.



CHAPTER XXVI.

DR. JEPHSON’S PRESCRIPTION WORKS WONDERS.

    “She is coming, my own, my sweet!
      Were it ever so airy a tread,
    My heart would hear her and beat,
      Were it earth in an earthly bed:
    My dust would hear her and beat,
      Had I lain for a century dead,
    Would start and tremble under her feet,
      And blossom in purple and red.”

    _Tennyson._


Lucy Blyth was conducted with softened footfall and bated breath into
the darkened chamber of the helpless invalid. She bent over him and
heard the monotonous and untiring moan. She was more shocked than
words can express to see how the fine stalwart youth had been laid
low. His hair was close shaven, and his lacklustre eyes were sunk far
into his head, while the cheekbones stood prominent as those of a
skeleton, and the poor thin hands, that were clutching nervously at
the coverlet, were bloodless as a stone. Lucy’s heart sank within her;
the doctor, the nurse, and the squire softly turned away; sinking on a
chair by the bedside she burst into a flood of silent tears. The
precious relief to her pent-up soul was of infinite value to her.
After her grief had spent its force, she rose, bathed her face and
hands in cold water, and turning to the bed, took the poor listless
fingers of her lover in her own.

“Philip! dear Philip!” she said, softly. The fingers closed
convulsively; a sigh, which sounded like a gasp, broke from his lips.
Fixing wondering eyes on her, he whispered, “Lucy! dear Lucy!” and
this with a smile of rapturous content. What cared she in that moment
who were lookers-on? What cared she that the stately squire was
standing on tiptoe by the door, looking with the eyes of his soul for
the crisis? What would she have cared had all Waverdale been standing
by? Love, imperial love, asserted its unequalled rights. That ebbing
life was flowing back beneath her royal power! That soul upon the wing
was re-folding its pinions at her command! Stooping down she signed
his reprieve upon his parched lips. If any of my readers object to
this, they have my full permission to close these pages and go their
way. I write not for those behind whose vest and beneath whose bodice
there beats no human heart, but only the tick of a machine; but for
those who hold that pure and true affection has rights which may not
be invaded, and that in a case like this “Love is lord of all.”

In the course of another day or two, Dr. Jephson reported a stronger
pulse and a brighter eye, and bade the grateful father hope for the
best. The old man listened in silence, scarcely daring to believe.

“What is your opinion, Miss Blyth?” said the doctor.

“By God’s blessing he will recover,” Lucy said; and strange to say,
Squire Fuller felt her verdict to be more assuring than the dictum of
the experienced man of skill.

Nor did her judgment prove without warrant. Slowly, O how slowly! inch
by inch, point by point, the fell destroyer Death was beaten back,
and Philip Fuller obtained an even stronger lease of life. When he had
so far recovered as to be able to converse, his father would sit for
hours by his side, holding his boy’s hand in his own, and drinking in
his words as though they were some pleasant music falling on his ear.
True, the principal topic was one for which he had never any favour.
On the contrary, he had scoffed at and hated it with all the energy of
his intellectual pride. But from the lips of his boy, his handsome,
manly, high-principled boy--given back to him from an open grave--he
heard it with patience, nay, for the speaker’s sake, with unspeakable
delight. There was no longer any cloud between these two, and it did
not need that the father should unsay the rash words which had
half-broken his son’s true and faithful heart. All had vanished like
the morning dew, and sire and son were one again in heart and soul.

“Father,” said Philip, on one occasion, as he was propped up with
pillows, while the squire occupied his seldom vacant seat by his side,
“do you know that when I was so weak and ill that I could not speak to
you, I knew all that was going on around me; and when I saw your
sorrow and your love I did so want to tell you of the sweet peace that
filled my soul. My Saviour was so inexpressibly precious to me that I
longed to be with Him, and heaven was so near, that I saw its glories,
the gleam of angels’ wings, and heard the sound of harpers harping
with their harps. I really thought that I was dying, but death had no
terrors for me. The one thing that seemed to pull me back to life was
my great love to you and Lucy, and the yearning wish, dear father, to
tell you of my Saviour’s boundless love. Father, I know that you have
learned to look upon religion with doubt, and even with dislike. But
now that I have come back--for I feel like one who has taken a long
journey--come back from the very borders of the eternal world--come
back, after sensibly breathing the very atmosphere of heaven--I tell
you that of all the things in this vain shadowy world, Jesus and His
love are the only realities; and dreadful as the struggle for life has
been, I would gladly go through it all again to see you, my father,
bending at the Saviour’s feet.”

Nor was this the only way in which the reserved and thoughtful squire
was brought face to face with simple Christian experience. Lucy Blyth,
who had gained all her usual self-command, was able to comply with Mr.
Fuller’s genuine request, that she should in all things act without
restraint. Now that the tide had turned, and Philip’s life no longer
hung on such a slender thread, she was able to accept the
housekeeper’s invitation to join her in her private room. Here, seated
at the piano, she would sing the songs of Zion in such a fashion that
the squire, all unaccustomed to such innovations on his solitude,
would pass and re-pass, often for this only purpose, and listen to the
strains so sweetly winning. It may well be doubted whether the modern
idea of “singing the Gospel” was not, under existing circumstances,
the most effective way of bringing him under the influences of those
blessed truths which were the joy and comfort of his son.

On one occasion, when thus occupied, she sang a glorious hymn of
Charles Wesley’s. Her unknown listener heard the words--

    “I rest beneath the Almighty’s shade,
      My griefs expire, my troubles cease;
    Thou, Lord, on whom my soul is stayed,
      Will keep me still in perfect peace.”

He listened till the trustful strain died out in silence, and retired
to his library. Opening an accustomed volume by a favourite writer,
whose no-faith had chimed in with his own phase of unbelief, he
read--“I look upon human life as being bounded by an impenetrable
curtain, which defies the gaze of man to pierce its texture, the hand
of man to lift its awful folds. Thousands of inquiring minds have
brought their torches and sought to unravel the mystery in vain. A
thousand voices of those without have loudly called to those within,
and asked their questions as to the eternal ‘Where?’ But they have
received no answer, only the hollow echo of their own question, as if
they had shouted into an empty vault.”

He laid down the book, and sat in thoughtful silence. He thought of
the clear, bright hope of the youth upstairs who had been half within
the curtain. “I saw the glories of heaven, the gleam of angels’ wings,
and heard the sound of harpers harping with their harps.” How widely
differed this from that! The first was a sad, low wail of despair; the
second was the waving of Hope’s golden wing. Rising to his feet, he
opened the door to rejoin his son. Hush! He hears Lucy’s voice,
sweetly singing--

    “While I draw this fleeting breath,
    When my eyes shall close in death,
    When I rise to worlds unknown,
    And behold Thee on Thy throne,
    Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
    Let me hide myself in Thee!”

He listened till the verse was concluded, then turning to the stairs,
he ascended to Philip’s room, repeating to himself,--

    “Rock of Ages, cleft for me!
    Let me hide myself in Thee!”

Stepping softly to the bedside, he found his boy sleeping sweetly,
with a smile upon his face that told of perfect peace. His hand was
laid upon the open Bible. Led by an impulse of curiosity, as we
purblind mortals say, he stooped down and read, where Philip’s fingers
lay, “There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift
thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.... I will both lay me
down in peace and sleep, for thou only, O Lord, makest me to dwell in
safety.”

“In peace,” said the squire, and looking at the restful countenance of
his son, he read a commentary there that he could neither
misunderstand nor dispute. He sat and pondered as the minutes passed,
the subject of thoughts and emotions new and strange. Nor could he
break the spell until Philip, waking refreshed and happy, turned to
him with a gleam of glad surprise, and said,--

“My father!”

“What is it, my son?”

“Nay, nothing; nothing but the joy of having you by my side.”

The glad old man, melted as his stedfast nature had never been, longed
to do something in his great love.

“Can I do anything for you?” said he.

“Yes. Read to me a little,” pointing to his Bible. “Read the third
chapter in St. John’s Gospel.”

In this way the sceptical parent was brought into potent contact with
the Great Teacher’s answer to another doubter, who asked, “How can
these things be?” So the days passed by, the overhanging cloud caused
by the dark deed in Thurston Wood had not density enough to shadow
them very greatly. Both father and son believed that God would bring
forth Philip’s righteousness as the light, and His judgment as the
noonday. Philip silently and continuously prayed that the Spirit would
take of the things of God and show them to his father’s mind and
heart. Who shall doubt the answer to those pleadings of filial love?
God’s providence and grace are both pledged to the fulfilment of
believing prayer. The citadel so long impregnable to the assaults of
Gospel truth was trembling under the combined influences at work. Will
it yield to these? If not, the Lord hath yet other arrows in His
quiver. “He hath bent his bow and made it ready, and ordained his
arrows at the heart of” those who resist him. But if those hearts lay
down their weapons and submit to Him, though the arrow may be sped, it
shall wound to heal, and “dividing asunder between the joints and the
marrow,” the sword of the Spirit shall open a way for the life-giving
balsam of His own precious blood!



CHAPTER XXVII.

HANNAH OLLIVER’S “YOUNG MAN.”

    “The branch is stooping to the hand,
      And pleasant to behold;
    Yet gather not, although its fruit
      Be streaked with hues of gold.

    For bitter ashes lurk concealed
      Beneath that golden skin;
    And though the coat be smooth, there lies
      But rottenness within.”

    _Smedley._


Adam Olliver, as our readers may remember, had a daughter, Hannah by
name, who was a servantmaid at Waverdale Hall. She was a bright,
good-looking lass, with no graver faults than those which often attach
to an unrestrained vivacity and a considerable weakness for “ribbins,
frills, an’ fal-de-rals,” as her plain-spoken father called them,
which, though purchased by her own money, were scarcely in keeping
with her position. Even if they had been, they were sorely at enmity
with good taste. Greens and violets, blues and buffs, orange and red,
and other hues equally self-assertive, were worn in combinations
which would have alarmed a _modiste_ and driven an artist into
hysterics. Hannah was a dressy girl, and being remarkably chatty, not
to say loquacious, she was not the unlikeliest girl in the world to
pick up a sweetheart--_a_ sweetheart, did we say? It would be
venturesome to fix on any number of briefly happy swains on whom she
had conferred that honour, and had then peremptorily dismissed. Hannah
was evidently a coquette. At the time when Philip Fuller was hovering
between life and death, and soon after Lucy Blyth had been installed
by his bedside, Hannah Olliver’s evanescent and volatile affections
were placed for the nonce on a fine Adonis-looking young fellow, with
whom she had become acquainted through her intimacy with a housemaid
at Cowley Priory. His name was Aubrey Bevan, and his somewhat
aristocratic cognomen did not seem to Hannah’s admiring eyes to be at
all inappropriate to the dark curly locks, neatly-trimmed moustache,
semi-Bond-street attire, and jauntily-set hat of her favoured lover.

Aubrey Bevan had been a kind of valet--a sort of gentleman’s gentleman
to Sir Harry Elliott’s eldest son, a fast young gent of horsey tastes
and gaming proclivities, who cut a considerable dash amongst the young
bloods, who, during the season, mustered in great force at Almack’s,
Tattersall’s, and Rotten-row. With him, however, we have scant
business, but from his quondam valet, discharged for some occult
reason, we cannot at present part company. The discipline as regarded
servants and their followers was somewhat strict at Waverdale Hall,
and so Hannah’s interviews with her “intended” had to take place
either when she was off the premises, or in stealthy meetings in the
park or gardens under cover of the night.

Mr. Bevan, at the outset of his wooing, was exceedingly assiduous and
demonstrative, but as all this only served to develop his young lady’s
ingrained propensity to coquetry, he changed his tactics, and with a
cleverness which brought its own reward, he feigned indifference, as
though his loveflame was considerably dwindling down. This had the
desired effect, and may afford a hint to ardent swains whose chosen
ones are given to fluctuations and indecision. Latterly Hannah had
shown a steady loyalty to her lover, as though at last she had found
her fate. One evening, as she and the courtly Bevan were holding a
stolen interview beneath a spreading beech-tree in the park, some evil
spirit entered into Hannah, and led her to throw out vague hints and
insinuations that he was not so certainly the “man in possession” as
he seemed to think. She intimated that there was another “Richmond in
the field,” and, true to Sir Walter Scott’s description of woman, who
is,

                  “In our hours of ease,
    Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,”

she succeeded in annoying and perhaps alarming her lover with the idea
that his mittimus was looming in the distance. Aubrey Bevan brought
out his final weapon for repelling the attack, and coolly informed her
that he was about to leave for London, the elysium of valets, the
paradise of love and beauty. This startling information was more than
Hannah bargained for. There was a perceptible change in her voice,
speedily noted by Mr. Bevan, as she said,--

“You are not really going, are you, Aubrey?” which only brought the
unrelenting answer,--

“Yes, my prairie flower. I am really going. ‘My bark is on the sea,
and the wind blows fair.’” Rather an awkward position, surely, if he
was an intending voyager; but Mr. Bevan was nothing if not poetic.

“Oh dear, Aubrey! How can you?”

“Does my impending departure flutter the heart of my little gazelle?”
said the poet, with a tremulous intonation which would have melted a
colder heart than Hannah’s.

“Don’t go, Aubrey; you mustn’t go. I cannot spare you.”

“Fair syren of my soul! I thank thee for that word! ‘Had I a heart for
falsehood framed.’” There were those who had the honour of Mr. Bevan’s
acquaintance who would have said, in answer, “Yes, most decidedly!”
“My charming angel! ‘Where duty calls I must away. Hark! hark! the
drum.’”

A little more of this gay troubadour line of business, and Hannah was
fairly subdued.

“Cheer up! my sunflower!” said the gallant Bevan. “My visit to the
great metropolis will be but temporary. A few weeks, and on the wings
of the wind I shall again ‘fly to the Bower by Bendemeer’s stream,’
and ‘talk of love and Hannah.’ But I cannot leave without another
look, a sweet adieu. I’ll come again to-morrow night. I will be at the
garden-gate by twelve o’clock; I cannot come earlier; and as your
orderly household will then be in the arms of Morpheus, you can come
down to the door leading out to the stable-yard, and then I shall
carry with me in my exile the sweet memory of that last good-bye!”

In vain the foolish girl objected, and referred to difficulties as to
time and place. Mr. Bevan showed her, with a marvellous knowledge,
gained unwittingly from her own chatty tongue, of all the
topographical peculiarities of the place, how it could be done; and
having extorted a definite consent, he swore eternal fealty to his
fair companion, and turning away, was speedily lost in the darkness of
the night.

O foolish Hannah Olliver! Did no qualms of conscience follow that
ill-advised consent? Did no good angel whisper in your ear to disobey
the voice of the charmer? Go to your chamber, unsuspecting simpleton,
and dream of the dreadful plot, to the train of which your own
unconscious hand will lay the spark!

Mr. Aubrey Bevan had special business on hand that night. After having
kept one assignation, he made all haste to keep another. The second
one, however, was of an altogether different nature, and if Hannah
Olliver could have seen with whom he whispered and consorted during
the hours of that night, it would have broken the spell which he had
cast around her far more effectively than the discovery of some rival
recipient of his gay blandishments and poetic flights.

       *       *       *       *       *

While these events were transpiring at the Hall, joy and gladness
reigned in the cottage of Adam Olliver, for at length the
long-expected letter, with a pleasing monetary inclosure, had been
received from Pete, who had been long struggling with adverse fortunes
in the Western States of North America. At length his circumstances
had taken a definite and effective turn for the better, and now his
hope was that in a little while, having obtained a competency, he
should be able to retrace his steps to dear Old England, and be able
to supply his failing parents with the comforts which they needed in
their old age. When Nathan Blyth called at their little cottage, he
found old Adam, sitting in his arm-chair, with spectacles on nose and
the precious letter in his hand, slowly spelling out his son’s
somewhat difficult caligraphy, while dear old Judith sat on the
opposite side of the fire, listening, and smiling through her tears.
The old hedger had every now and again to wrestle with his feelings,
and to gulp down a choking in the throat as Pete’s warm, loving
sentences unfolded themselves to his delighted gaze.

“Judy, my lass,” he said, when the whole epistle had been deciphered.
“Thoo sees the Lord is as good as His wod. Thoo an’ me’s been prayin’
fo’ wer lad an’ commendin’ ’im te God. We begun te think ’at t’ answer
was a lang while o’ cumin’. It tarried, bud we wayted fo’ ’t, an’ noo
it’s cum, an’ booath thoo an’ me’s livin’ an’ hearty te hear it. The
Lord keeps us waytin’ at tahmes, bud He nivver cums ower leeat. His
hand’s allus riddy for a deead lift, an’ noo I hae faith te beleeave
’at we sall see wer lad feeace te feeace.”

“The Lord’s varry good tiv us,” said Judith, looking lovingly at her
dear old husband, through her tears of joy. “Ah’ve done wi’ dootin’,
an’ if He’ll only let me see my bairn ah sall go te my grave in
peace.”

“Natty!” said Adam. “You’ve just cum i’ tahme te hear t’ good news,
an’ ah’s seear you’ll be glad te join us i’ givin’ thenks at t’ Throne
o’ Grace.”

Then the old Christian poured out his soul to God in fervent prayer.
The little room was radiant with the presence of the Abiding Friend,
and when they rose from their knees, Adam shook Blithe Natty by the
hand, and said, with a smile,--

“Pete ’ll be i’ Nestleton be’ Can’lemas, an’ ’im an’ t’ Methodist
chapil ’ll cum tegither!”

At the Sunday service in Farmer Houston’s kitchen, Adam returned
public thanks for the light which had come to him and Judith from
across the sea. There, too, old Kasper Crabtree, somewhat feeble and
pale yet, and scarce recovered from the severe treatment he had
received on his way home from Kesterton Fair, was present to join in
earnest worship with the faithful few whom he had long persecuted and
despised. As he bowed his head in prayer, we may be sure that,
mingling with his requests for personal grace and help, there rose an
earnest petition that God’s best blessing might rest for ever on the
fair evangelist who had led him, while on the bed of sickness, to seek
the Crucified; and through whose gentle instrumentality the moral
darkness of a lifetime had been dispersed, and light and love divine
had streamed in upon his melted soul.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

BILL BUCKLEY SEES AN APPARITION.

    “No; ’tis the tale that angry conscience tells,
    When she with more than tragic horror swells
    Each circumstance of guilt; when stern, but true,
    She brings bad actions forth into review,
    And, like the dread handwriting on the wall,
    Bids late remorse awake at reason’s call.”

    _Churchill._


At a late hour one evening the butler at Waverdale Hall appeared
before his master with the information that a stranger wished to see
him on business of the first importance. In vain the faithful servant
had represented to him the lateness of the hour and the unusual nature
of his request; in vain he asked even for the stranger’s name. To all
objections and inquiries the stranger, standing by the door closely
shrouded in a large muffler, had simply said, “I must see the squire.
I have walked many a weary mile for that purpose, and I know that if
he will grant me a few minutes’ interview, he will be deeply grateful
that ever the interview took place.” There was a time, and that not
many weeks since, when the stately squire would have peremptorily
refused such an unseasonable application; but now, after the strange
and mollifying experiences to which he had been subjected, he
considered but a moment, and then said,--

“Show the man into the library, Thompson. I will go and see what his
errand is.”

The interview was long, and the worthy butler was devoured by
curiosity to ascertain who the stranger was, and what he wanted.
Eventually the squire re-appeared, and gave the housekeeper orders to
prepare a room for the unknown new-comer, who in a little while
silently and secretly retired to rest.

Not one word did the squire say to the wondering lady or the puzzled
butler as to the who, or what, or why of the untimely visitor; but
they noticed that he walked with a firmer step, and a bearing more
erect, and spoke in tones more quick and pleasant than they had heard
from him for many a day. In a little while the inmates of Waverdale
Hall were wrapped in slumber, with one exception; for Hannah Olliver,
though she had retired to her little room over the laundry, re-trimmed
her lamp, and sat, still dressed, watching and waiting for the
midnight hour. Not without much trepidation, for she was conscious of
wrong-doing, and would gladly have foregone the pleasure of meeting
her effusive lover; but still her undoubted affection for Aubrey Bevan
made her long for the promised interview, that she might bid him a
warm and affectionate good-bye. The clock in the servants’ hall had no
sooner struck the hour of twelve than the errant damsel stole softly
down the servants’ staircase in the silence of that lonesome hour. It
was dark, for no solitary beam of moon or star relieved the gloom of
the cloudy sky, and for safety’s sake she dared not carry forth her
lighted lamp. Groping slowly along, and so carefully that not a single
creaking stair should imperil the secresy of her nocturnal walk, she
stood at last beside the outer door of the servants’ kitchen, which
opened into the stable yard and the kitchen garden which lay beyond.
Slowly and silently she unbarred it; the massive bolts were each in
turn noiselessly drawn back into their sockets. The key, which she had
abstracted from the usual nail whereon the butler had suspended it,
was gently turned, and then gradually opening the door, she peered out
into the thick darkness of the night. Three short coughs were to be
the signal of her presence. No sooner were those given than the
amorous valet, at whose instance the assignation had been made, was by
her side, and had clasped her to his heart.

“O Aubrey!” said the trembling girl, “I am so frightened! I feel sure
that I am doing wrong. I wish I had not consented to this meeting. Bid
me good-bye, and let me shut the door again.”

But the light and airy gentleman to whom her words were addressed had
no intention of letting her off so cheaply, and of risking so much for
so small an issue. He soothed her fears, and expressed undying
gratitude for this proof of the genuineness of her regard.

“‘Cold blows the wind, and in the chilly night’ it is not pleasant to
be exposed to the rage of rude Boreas,” said the glib deceiver. “But
for the ‘bliss of meeting her my soul adores’ I should have taken the
coach from Kesterton to-day, and gone direct to London. I’ll just step
within the door a moment, ’twill be warmer there,” and before his
sweetheart could utter an objecting word, Aubrey Bevan was inside,
with his arm around her waist. In another instant a handkerchief was
placed upon her face, and Hannah Olliver was seated unconscious in a
chair. To bind her hand and foot and to gag her was the work of a few
minutes, and then, in answer to the soft hooting of a night owl, three
brawny men, with crape-covered faces, slid through the open doorway,
and Waverdale Hall was at the mercy of four of the most skilful and
daring burglars that ever broke into house and home!

“Well,” said Bill Buckley, whose acquaintance the reader has already
made, “this crib is cracked as easily as a nut. Bevan, which is the
way?”

That worthy, by means of skilful questions cunningly put, had obtained
from his unconscious dupe, the housemaid, full particulars of the
interior of the house. He had its arrangements clearly mapped out in
his clever, but sadly-prostituted brain, and was at no loss as to the
evil work they had in hand.

“Follow me,” said he, and led the way to the front division of the
house. He coolly locked behind them the doors which connected it with
the servants’ quarters, so as to secure them from that source of
danger. The library and drawing-room received the careful attention of
Mr. Bevan and two of his colleagues. The butler’s pantry was left to
the skilful and efficient manipulation of an experienced “magsman,”
who fully understood what metal spoil was worth carrying away. The
whole place was ransacked, and so far without suspicion or alarm. One
great object of this very unceremonious visit, however, was as yet
ungained. This was nothing less than the capture of certain
jewel-cases, whose contents were of great and notable value, and which
were, as Bevan well knew, placed for safe keeping in a certain room on
the second floor. Ascending the stairs, Buckley stumbled and fell, and
Squire Fuller, who in wakeful unrest had imagined that he heard noises
about, leaped from his bed, and hastened to Philip’s bedroom, in fear
lest something was the matter with his son. As soon as he had opened
the door, out bounded “Oscar,” Philip’s canine companion and friend,
who leaped to the first landing, and pinned one crape-veiled villain
to the floor. Just then Lucy Blyth, who had been awakened by the
stumbling of Bill Buckley, lighted her lamp, put on her dressing-gown,
and appeared upon the scene in real alarm. The squire, with uplifted
candle in his hand, was peering down the stairs. Lucy’s young and
keener vision saw Bill Buckley point a loaded pistol. A moment more,
and the bullet would have sped on its fatal errand; but Lucy, on the
impulse of the moment, screamed aloud, and throwing her lighted lamp
with all her force at the villain’s extended arm, his aim was
diverted, and the shot was lodged in the wall. From the next flight of
stairs had come a third witness on the scene--none other than the
squire’s mysterious guest. Standing in his shirt, leaning over the
balustrade, with peering eyes, unkempt hair, and extended hands, he
caught the attention of Bill Buckley. That worthy turned livid as
death, staggered back a few paces with lifted hands, and gasping out,
“The ghost of Black Morris!” fell backward down the stair! At this
turn of events, Aubrey Bevan, ever quick to realise results, darted
down the stairs, and retreated by the way he had come. He gave no
passing thought to the wretched girl he had entrapped, but bearing
with him a small tin box and other booty which he had stolen from the
library, he took his flight through park and garden, and left his
companions in guilt to the tender mercies of those they had sought to
harm. The stranger speedily bound Bill Buckley, whose heavy fall and
guilty conscience had for a while almost stopped the beating of his
heart. The second villain, who lay at the mercy of the noble beast,
which would have strangled him had he struggled, was then bound hand
and foot by the servants, whom the squire had aroused. Mr. Fuller
hastened to his son’s apartment to calm his agitation, as he lay weak
and helpless on his bed. The thief in the pantry had made good his
escape, and in a little while poor Hannah Olliver, who had learnt a
lesson which had sobered her gay spirits for life, was liberated and
permitted to retire to her little chamber, where she spent the rest of
the night in bitter and unavailing tears. Bill Buckley and his comrade
were placed in safe keeping previous to their transfer to the county
gaol. Black Morris--for the mysterious stranger whose appearance had
filled the heart of Buckley with an awful terror, was really Black
Morris in the flesh, and not his ghost--was again closeted with the
squire, and informed him that the captured burglar was none other than
the man who shot him down in Thurston Wood.

       *       *       *       *       *

The circumstances of the burglary formed the subject of much
conversation and speculation among the inmates of Waverdale Hall; but
the interest of these events gave way before the now clear and
undoubted fact that Master Philip was, in the completest fashion,
demonstrated to be utterly innocent of the attack upon Black Morris
which was supposed to have resulted in that errant youth’s untimely
death. Calmly and gratefully did Philip receive the information of his
perfect freedom from the terrible cloud which had overshadowed him,
and simply replied to his glad father’s communication of the fact,--

“Thank God, my father! Thank God! but in my consciousness of a
Saviour’s love and yours, that trouble had already lost its sting.”

Early on the following morning, Black Morris made his way to
Kesterton, and greatly astounded the Rev. Theophilus Clayton by this
personal token of his resurrection from the dead. Black Morris
requested that the good man would go with him to Midden Harbour, and
break the news to his weak and ailing mother, as he feared the
consequences of his own sudden appearance before those who believed
him to be numbered with the dead.

The household of Piggy Morris had just finished breakfast when Mr.
Clayton made his appearance and surprised them by a pastoral call at
such an unconscionably early hour. Piggy Morris was just lacing his
boots previous to going on a huckstering expedition round the
neighbouring farms. In the course of conversation, Mr. Clayton made
what he thought, a moment after, was an unfortunate reference to
Waverdale Hall. It was as a spark upon gunpowder, and Piggy Morris
began to denounce Philip as the murderer of his son.

“Are you quite sure that he did receive his death-wound in Thurston
Wood?” said Mr. Clayton.

Mrs. Morris looked into the speaker’s face, as if she wondered and
half hoped that something lay behind his words.

“Parson,” said Piggy Morris, “you should have some good reason for
asking that question. Have you any ground for doubting it?”

“Mr. Clayton!” said Mary eagerly, “Is he, can he be alive?”

“Courage! Mrs. Morris,” said the minister, “God is often better than
our fears. I have reason to believe that, though he was wounded, he
escaped with his life!”

“O Mr. Clayton!” said the mother, rising to her feet and laying her
hand on his arm, “Where’s my lad?”

Mr. Clayton coughed loudly, which was a preconcerted signal, and in a
moment Black Morris walked in, and was clasped to his mother’s heart
in a long embrace. Strange to say, that weakly and despondent woman
seemed to be endowed with an access of strength and vigour. Her
re-awakened hopes had accepted the apparently impossible; there were
no tears, no hysterics; she ran her thin fingers through the dark
locks of her recovered boy, as she said, with a happy smile, “Rejoice
with me, for this my son was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and
is found.” Mary received her brother’s embrace with tearful joy. Piggy
Morris stood with open mouth in wondering silence. Here was a sudden
end to his notions of revenge; the father in him, however, won the
day, and, holding out his hand, he said, “Jack, my lad, thy feyther
bids thee welcome back. I’m glad to see thee safe and sound.”

“Yes,” said Black Morris, in faltering and broken tones, “I thank God
for a saved life and a saved soul. I have a strange story to tell, and
it will relieve my heart and do me good to tell it.” Black Morris and
his eager auditors gathered round the cheerful fire, which was all the
more cheerful for the angry and nipping wind that blew in noisy gusts
outside, and there and then he told them the thrilling story of his
miraculous escape.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE STORY OF THE DEAD-ALIVE.

    “Mark, mark, Ulysses! how the gods preserve
    The men they love, even in their own despite!
    They guide us, and we travel in the dark!
    But when we most despair to hit the way
    And least expect, we find ourselves arrived!”

    _Lansdowne._


Black Morris drew his chair to his mother’s side, took her hand
lovingly in his own, and proceeded to tell his story:--

“When I met Bill Buckley,” said he, “in Thurston Wood, I was
struggling with a terrible temptation to take my own life, and so put
an end to my remorse for a wasted life and my fear of justice
together. Since that strange meeting with Mr. Clayton on the Bexton
highway I had lost all taste for the evil courses and companionships
which had so long disgraced my life. The idea of going back to them
filled me with a loathing that I can’t express, and I resolved to
break with them for ever. The thought of Jesus dying for His enemies,
of Mr. Clayton’s gentle kindness and forgiving love, with that ugly
scar upon his cheek, of my mother’s weakness and the minister’s visit
to her, upset me entirely, and I felt that I was too bad to live. I
went about from one place to another like a man in a dream. I kept
meeting with the fellows whose company I hated, and I could not get
away from them without appearing, at any rate, to be the same as
usual, though I believe they were led to suspect that I was not
altogether to be depended on. Things were like that up to the evening
of Kesterton Fair. I had been away to Gowthorp, to my Aunt Emma’s, to
get out of the road of a lot of fellows that I knew would want me to
go to the revels; but I felt so wretched that I could not stop
anywhere, and so it was that I was on the Kesterton Road, when Bill
Buckley, Dick Spink, and another chap, were on the look-out for Old
Crabtree. I refused to join them, when Bill Buckley seized me like a
vice, and with murder in his eyes declared that I should not leave
them till they had ‘settled with Old Crabtree.’ Mother!” said Black
Morris, “I had nothing to do with it, but the whole thing was done in
a few minutes, and when Spink hit the old man a blow on the head which
might have killed an ox, I managed to break away from Buckley, and ran
to the poor old fellow’s help. He fixed his eyes on me, with a look
such as I shall never forget, and said, ‘Black Morris! I know you!’ He
fell senseless directly after, and I felt that I should be charged
with highway robbery, and perhaps with murder. What happened after I
hardly know. I roamed about from place to place, expecting every
moment to be seized and punished for the crime. I said to myself it’s
no use; you’ve sold yourself to the devil, and must submit to the
bargain.” Here his voice faltered, and his hearers could not repress a
murmur of sympathy. “I felt myself to be the most forlorn and hopeless
wretch in the world. I found myself at last in Crib Corner, a dark,
low, sheltered spot in Thurston Wood, where I used to hide my gun and
other things. I heard a voice as plainly as I hear my own this
minute, ‘It’s all up with you, Black Morris! You can’t repent, and
you’re sure to be hanged. You had better shoot yourself like a man and
balk them all.’ I believe I should have done it, but for God’s mercy.
I went out with the gun in my hand, and walked rapidly up and down,
saying, I will; I will! Then I heard the cracking of the brushwood,
and I stood face to face with Bill Buckley! All the hate of a thousand
devils seized me at once. I clutched my gun, and my hands shook with
excitement as I heard the voice, as plain as ever, ‘Shoot him, Black
Morris; it’s the man who has put the halter round your neck!’ He
sneered at me and chuckled at the scrape he had brought me into. I
answered him in a passion; one word led to another; at last I told him
that the paper money had gone back to Old Crabtree. I was about to
tell him that I had told him of my innocence. Before I could finish
the sentence he yelled out, ‘Thoo black d----!’ and lifting his gun,
he fired at me. I seemed to feel an awful blow on my head, sharp pains
shot through my neck and face, everything reeled round me, and I fell
senseless on the ground. When I came to my senses I found myself
swimming, for you know I was always a good hand at that, swimming, as
naturally as though I had had my reason all the time. I heard the roar
and rush of water, and in a moment was floated along the cascade, and
plunged fathoms down into the deep pit below. I remember its being
awfully dark and cold. I had risen to the surface again on the further
side of the pit, and having recovered my breath, found myself at the
mouth of the shallow stream which feeds the fish-ponds. The rush of
water helped me through the opening, and seizing the grass and bushes
on the bank I managed to scramble out, to find myself laid on the
grass in Waverdale Park. For a long time I lay motionless and
helpless, though fully sensible, and I fancied I heard my father’s
voice at some distance having high words with somebody.”

“Bless my soul!” said Piggy Morris, strangely stirred; “that must have
been when I met with the young squire!”

“A severe and smarting pain in my head roused me,” said Black Morris,
continuing his startling story, “and then I recollected all about it.
I found that the skin, flesh, and hair had gone from near one temple,
that part of my ear was shot away, and I could feel some grains of
shot beneath the skin of my neck. My plunge into the cold and rapid
waters of the beck had stopped the bleeding. I felt that Bill Buckley
had missed his aim by an inch, and that, for good or evil, my life was
spared. I do not know whether you believe me, but there and then,
wounded and weak as I was, I fell upon my knees and thanked God. I
prayed as I had never prayed since I was a child. ‘Lord have mercy on
my poor soul!’ I said, ’and the life Thou hast spared shall be Thine
for ever!’ Mr. Clayton’s words about Jesus praying for His enemies
came into my mind, and I said, ‘Jesus! I have been Thy enemy, pray for
me.’ Mother mine! there and then I felt and knew that I was forgiven;
I seemed to hear a voice from the skies saying to me, ‘Go in peace and
sin no more!’ I got up with a strange peace in my heart, such as I had
never felt before.” Here Black Morris’s voice failed him, and he burst
into tears. Mother and sister wept in tender and thankful joy. Mr.
Clayton looked at Piggy Morris through his own tears, and saw two
pearly drops falling unhindered down the father’s bearded and sunburnt
face.

“New strength was given me,” continued Black Morris, “I bound my head
with my handkerchief, and was preparing to move away, when I heard
voices in the park. The remembrance of Old Crabtree’s murder, for as
such my fears had painted it, came back upon me like a thunderbolt. I
knew that I should now be in danger of a more successful attack from
Buckley, so silently stealing off under the shadow of the hedge, I
gained the shelter of Thurston Wood.”

“What a pity,” said Mr. Clayton, “that you did not follow the voices,
or go straight home to Midden Harbour!”

“I know it now,” said Morris, “but I could not get rid of my horror of
the gallows and of Bill Buckley’s hate. I had a new and passionate
love for life, and longed to get to some distant place, where,
unknown, unnoted, I could begin a new and better career. I struck
across the country, and found myself at last by a little solitary inn
on the turnpike road to Hull. The landlady regarded me with a good
deal of suspicion, but as I paid for some refreshment, and told her I
had fallen into some water, and should pass on after I had dried my
clothes, she did not further interfere. At last I found myself in
Hull, and got a job at some oil mills, and both there and at my
lodgings, in a quiet street, I felt that I was comparatively safe from
observation and pursuit; but, somehow or other, my peace of mind was
gone; all my new hatred of self and sin was as great as ever, but
still I had lost the joy and comfort which came to me in Waverdale
Park. Then I thought about my mother, and I began to feel that I had
done wrong to go away. Somebody seemed to say, ‘What doest thou here?’
I tried to pray, but could not, until one night after I had got to
bed, I tossed and sighed and grew so wretched that I got out of bed,
and falling on my knees, I said, ‘Oh! my God! tell me what to do?’ ‘Go
home!’ was the instant and powerful impression on my mind. ‘That’s
God’s orders,’ I said, and went to bed again with the settled resolve
to start for Nestleton as soon as Saturday came. As I was returning to
work after the dinner hour next day, I was walking along Silver-street
when I heard a well-known voice shout, ‘Black Morris!’ and I saw Old
Adam Olliver standing with his hands uplifted and both eyes and mouth
open, in unmistakable surprise. He stared and looked so thoroughly
thunderstricken as to attract the attention of the passers-by. When I
advanced to meet him, the old man drew back a few paces, but said
never a word.

“‘Hallo! Adam Olliver!’ said I. ’Is that you?’

“‘The Lord hae massy on us! Black Morris! are ye alive?’ and again the
old man started back in undisguised astonishment. ‘Why, all Nestleton
thinks ’at you’er layd at t’ bottom o’ Thurston Beck!’

“I felt half inclined to be thankful that this was so, because it put
any search for me on Old Crabtree’s account out of the question, and
with that feeling came one of sorrow that he had found me out. The
thought of my mother’s bitter grief, however, soon dissipated that
idea, and I felt how wrong it had been of me to go away. All this
passed through my mind in a moment. I said, ‘How is my mother, Adam?’

“The old man smiled, as he answered,--

“‘Just middlin’. Ah’s glad ’at you’ve ax’d efther hor. Ye’r heart’s
somewhere’s i’ t’ right spot; an’ t’ best thing yo can deea is te gan
streyt away yam an’ see ’er. Bud, bless my sowl, Black Morris! are yo’
alive?’

“He told me he had come to Hull, a greater journey than he had ever
taken in his life, to see an aged and dying sister; that he had closed
her eyes in peace, and was returning the next day.

“‘An’ you’ll gan wi’ ma’, weean’t yo’?’ said he.

“I replied, ‘I will. But tell me where you are staying, and I’ll come
and see you.’

“From him I learnt the pleasing news that Old Crabtree had survived
his injuries; that he was in all respects an altered man; and that he
had expressed his opinion that I was innocent of the outrage that
nearly took his life.

“‘Bud,’ said Adam, ‘there’s a pratty peck o’ trubble aboot you. They
say ’at t’ yung squire was fun’ i’ t’ spot wheer yo’ were kill’d, wi’
your gun iv his hand, an’ your blood on his clooas; an’ ’at he
murder’d yo’ iv a quarrel aboot Lucy Blyth. Ah nivver beleeaved it,
though ah did think ’at somebody ’ad shutten yo’. Maister Philip’s a
good lad, an’ wadn’t ho’t a worm. It’s throan ’im intiv a brain
feeaver, an’ t’ poor aud squire’s varry near fit for Bedlam wi’
sorro’. Gan yer ways yam, Morris, as fast as ye’r legs’ll carry yo’,
an’ put t’ poor aud man oot ov ’is misery.’

“I reached Waverdale Hall late at night, and told the squire all about
it. He insisted, in his gratitude, that I should stay all night, and
so it happened that when Bill Buckley, the housebreaker, saw me, he
fell on the stairs like a dead man, shrieking, ‘Black Morris’s ghost!’
And now, mother,” said he, as he concluded his stirring recital, “I’m
back again to be a comfort and a help to you; and never again, by
God’s help, to cause you a sigh or a tear.”

The proud and happy mother, like the parent of the prodigal in the
unmatched Gospel story, “fell upon his neck and kissed him.”

“Father,” said Black Morris, “I’ve been a bad and reckless son;
forgive _me_, once for all.”

Piggy Morris rose from his chair, took the two hands of his son in
his, and said,--

“Son Jack, a greater brute of a feyther never made a lad go wrong.
Forgive _me_, once for all.”

Mary was utterly overcome at this, and flinging her arms around her
father’s neck, kissed him on either cheek, which was in itself a deed
unknown from childhood until now.

“Let us pray,” said Mr. Clayton. That good man lifted up his voice in
praise and prayer; and no happier, holier scene took place on that
cold December day, and no more sweetly solemn spot was looked upon by
angels than that which was sheltered by the roof-tree of Piggy
Morris.



CHAPTER XXX.

MIDDEN HARBOUR HAS A NEW SENSATION.

    “I saw one man, armed simply with God’s Word,
      Enter the souls of many fellow men,
    And pierce them sharply as a two-edged sword,
      While conscience echoed back his words again;
    Till, even as showers of fertilising rain
      Sink through the bosom of the valley clod,
    So their hearts opened to the wholesome pain,--
      One good man’s prayers, the link ’twixt them and God.”

    _Caroline E. Norton._


The two burglars who had made their escape from Waverdale Hall on the
eventful night before referred to, had managed to carry with them
considerable booty in the shape of plate and other valuables, but none
of these things, nor all of them put together, were so important as
their theft of a certain tin box from the library, which contained
several precious parchments concerning land about which the squire was
engaged at that moment in troublesome litigation with a rival
claimant. Squire Fuller was convinced that the abstraction of these
deeds was the first and principal errand of the housebreakers, and
that they had been induced to make their entry into Waverdale Hall by
the promptings of unprincipled opponents who had held out to the
burglars the hope of a liberal reward. Hence he caused a very close
and constant watch to be placed, in the post-office, and around the
doors of the opposing solicitors in London, and in every other way he
could think of, strove to re-capture the deeds which were of the first
importance to himself and son.

The removal of the last vestige of doubt, the last shadow of
suspicion, from Philip Fuller as the author of the dark deed in
Thurston Wood, materially hastened his recovery, and as Lucy Blyth now
felt that her mission was accomplished, she made arrangements for her
immediate return to the Forge. The squire was called away on county
business, and on the evening of his departure she suddenly appeared
before him, and announced that her father had come to see her home.
The squire was dumbfoundered at what seemed to him to be the
suddenness of her resolve, and before he knew exactly what to say or
do, she bade him “Good evening,” and departed. Under the peculiar
circumstances of the case, Lucy must again be complimented on the wit
and wisdom that marked the “order of her going.” For the present,
therefore, now that Lucy is safely housed in her own pleasant and
happy home; now that Philip is gaining strength every day; and now
that the squire is absent at the assizes; we may turn away from
Waverdale Hall awhile, and pay a little special attention to the
“short and simple annals of the poor.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening, when the weather was unusually fine and open for the
winter season of the year, the Rev. Matthew Mitchell mounted the
circuit gig, and drove the staid and sober Jack to Nestleton. Putting
up his antique conveyance, and not much younger steed, at Farmer
Houston’s, he joined the family to an early tea, and then took his way
to Midden Harbour. Piggy Morris, true to his promise to Lucy Blyth,
had emptied the old malt-kiln, and had swept and garnished it into the
bargain. Jabez Hepton, the carpenter, had made a number of rough
benches for the prospective congregation; he and Nathan Blyth had
rigged up a sort of pulpit platform; and all things were ready for
opening a campaign among the heathen and semi-savage denizens of that
queer locality. As an introduction to his mission there, our young
evangelist made a house-to-house visitation, including every dwelling
within its borders, and announced that he was going to preach in the
open air, at the corner of the cottage of Dick Spink, the besom-maker.
At the appointed hour he took his stand on a heap of stones, with
half-a-dozen Nestletonian Methodists by his side to keep him in
countenance, and to help to sing. Mr. Mitchell gave out a hymn, and
during the singing, the small fry of the place, unwashen, unkempt, and
almost unclad, gathered round in wonder. By-and-bye, a few slatternly
women, with ragged print dresses, tattered stockings, shoes down at
the heel, and heads like mops, approached with curious gaze. As the
service advanced, two or three queer customers of the male gender came
lounging out, each with a short black pipe in his mouth and his hands
in his pockets; a motley group as ever you could find either in
Whitechapel or the Seven Dials. During the prayer, no hat was removed,
no pipe was extracted, no head was bent in prayer amongst all the
natives of the Harbour there assembled.

“This is a rum go!” said one unshaven fellow to his neighbour.

“What a precious feeal he is,” said another.

“Let’s heeave hoaf-a-brick at him!” said a third.

Sal Sykes, a tall, raw-boned woman, with a baby in her arms, called
out,--

“We’re all gannin’ te tonn Methody, noo!”

“Nut for the likes of ’im!” said an equally uncanny member of the
Midden Harbour sisterhood. “Ah’ve a good mind te duck the lahtle
beggar i’ t’ ’osspond.”

Mr. Mitchell calmly and quietly opened his commission. “Come unto me,
all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” was
the text from which he preached a short and simple sermon. As one who
felt the rest which he offered to his hearers, his heart was on his
lips, and his tearful earnestness won them, at any rate, into quietude
of behaviour. He thanked them for listening, and invited them to the
malt-kiln, whither they were about to adjourn. The little
home-missionary band was now strengthened by the arrival of Nathan
Blyth, Farmer Houston, Adam Olliver, and some others, and the first
service in the odd conventicle was fairly well attended, but almost
solely by those who did not need the special efforts they were making.
The inhabitants of the locality held themselves almost entirely aloof,
and seemed to ignore the matter altogether, except by an occasional
stone flung into the place, or a loud shout at the door, by some young
Harbourite, “just for fun.” Nevertheless, the worshippers felt their
Master’s presence, and left the old malt-kiln confirmed in their
determination to keep their torch alight in the midst of a moral
darkness which might be felt.

Services were now held in quick succession, and first one and then
another of the people of the place found their way within the sound of
the Gospel message, and in cases not a few the preached Word became
the power of God unto salvation to them that believed. Mary Morris
found a congenial mission in beating up recruits for the malt-kiln
meetings. Her quiet and gentle manners won upon the rough and rude
inhabitants of the unattractive colony, and many, both men and women,
were persuaded to “come and see.” So matters went on for some time,
until at length Mr. Mitchell, hopeful and determined, arranged for a
series of special services. Mr. Clayton himself and a few local
preachers took turn about on the little platform pulpit, and on the
third night of the series the power of God came mightily down upon the
worshippers; many were constrained to utter the cry of the Philippian
jailor and the prayer of the publican, and a revival of religion took
place such as had not been seen or known in the Kesterton Circuit
since the olden days, when the “early Methodist preachers,” Boanerges
by name and nature, every man of them, first awoke the echoes of the
moral wilderness, crying, “Repent ye! for the kingdom of God is at
hand!” Nor was the cry of penitence and the shout of joy heard only
among the young and female portion of the population, neither were
they confined to those who dwelt in Midden Harbour. Big men, bearded
and burly, wept like children, and groaning aloud in distress of soul,
were led by the eager toilers to the Lifted Cross, and rejoiced in
conscious peace and pardon through the blood of Christ. The wife and
sons of Dick Spink, an entire household of the name of Myers,
itinerant pot-sellers, were all converted in most unmistakable
fashion, and many others, until at last there was not a house in
Midden Harbour in which there was not at least one happy witness of
the Gospel grace. The fire spread to Farmer Houston’s kitchen, to
Kesterton, to Chessleby and Bexton, and eventually the whole circuit
was thrilled and blest by the potent power of “the great revival,” as
it is called to this day, and which had its origin in the unlikely
locality of Midden Harbour.

Amongst other willing and tireless labourers in this unpromising, but
most productive field, was Old Kasper Crabtree, whose regeneration was
to the full as wonderful as that of Zaccheus, when he exchanged the
grasping rapacity of the publican for the ungrudging benevolence which
halved its possessions with the poor and needy. He could not help
seeing how much the wretched tenements, the open ditches, the
disgraceful condition of his property had to do with the squalor,
wretchedness, intemperance, and general bestiality which had long held
sway in Midden Harbour, and he mentally resolved to introduce at any
cost a new and better state of things. Two classes were formed, which
assembled weekly in the malt-kiln, the one conducted by Farmer Houston
and the other by Old Adam Olliver, whose deep and fervent piety, whose
plain and honest manner of speech and thought, won the sympathy and
love of his rude and ignorant flock in the most surprising manner.

“Bless the Lord,” Adam would say; “there’s nowt ower hard for the
Lord! He’s tee’an us up oot of a doonghill, an’ setten us amang t’
princes ov ’is people! Mrs. Spink! you’ve helped te mak’ monny a
beesom, bud t’ beesom o’ t’ Lord’s swept yer heart clean o’ sin an’
misery; hezn’t it? Keep on prayin’, mah deear sister--‘Porge mah wi’
hyssop an’ ah sall be clean, wesh mah, an’ ah sall be whiter then
snoa!’”

Passing on to another, he would say--“Tinker Joe! the Lord’s meead a
grand job o’ you. There’s neea tinkerin’ when He begins. He clean
mak’s ower ageean, seea that wer’ souls can hod t’ watter o’ life.”

Nor was the experience, crudely and rudely expressed, of the new
converts much less vigorous and quaint, and even those who looked
askance at this sort of sensational religion, and even those who
opposed religion altogether, were constrained to acknowledge that a
marvellous change for the better had come over the denizens of Midden
Harbour.

Amid all these startling experiences and developments, nothing was
more noteworthy than the conduct and characteristic energy which
distinguished Black Morris. He gathered together the poor little dirty
and ragged children, and formed them into a class, the nucleus
of a Sunday-school, and Sunday after Sunday taught them the
gracious lessons of Jesus and His love, with an aptitude and a
self-sacrificing zeal which were attended with results of the most
pleasing kind. In this work he was assisted by Hannah Olliver.
Dismissed from Waverdale Hall for her gross imprudence anent Aubrey
Bevan and the burglary, she had returned home, and under the wise
influences of her worthy old parents, her eyes were opened to a clear
conception of her foolishness and sin. She had commenced business for
herself as a milliner and dressmaker, for in the mysteries of these
arts she was a skilled adept. She had been brought to God in “the
great revival,” and found a congenial employment in teaching the
little children their letters, and in pointing them to Jesus. In this
fashion the good work continued, prospered, and extended, until the
need of a chapel was simply vital, and it was felt that the
all-essential sanctuary must be provided.

At a leaders’ meeting, held at Farmer Houston’s, that good man and
true said,--

“Well; it seems to me that we cannot possibly get on any further
without a chapel. We are so pressed with prosperity that we don’t know
which way to turn.”

“Yes,” said Nathan Blyth, “We are fairly driven into a corner. There’s
no mistake about it; the time is ripe for it, if we could only get a
piece of ground.”

“Don’t you think,” said Mr. Clayton, “that Mr. Crabtree would now give
us a ‘place to dwell in?’ It’s true his property is rather out of the
way, but I think he would listen to us.”

Adam Olliver, who had been listening with sparkling eyes to this
conversation, rubbing his hands together with delight, here broke
in,--

“You all seeam te be o’ yah mind, ’at t’ tahme’s ripe for a chapil,
an’ ’at we can’t deea withoot it nae langer. Ah’s just o’ that opinion
mysen; and seea we may expect te get it. The Lord nivver works till t’
tahme _is_ ripe; an’ He allus comes an’ mak’s bare His airm te meet a
heavy need. His ’and’s allus riddy for a deead lift. He didn’t splet
t’ Rid Sea till Pharaoh’s souldiers was treeading on t’ ’eels ov His
people. He didn’t cum te Abr’m till t’ knife was lifted te slay his
son. He didn’t cum tiv His disciples upo’ t’ sea when their lahtle
booat was toss’d aboot i’ t’ storm like a cockle-shell, till t’ fowert
watch i’ t’ mornin’. He didn’t cum te Peter till Herod was just
gannin’ te bring him oot te dee. But He comm i’ tahme te ivvery yan on
’em, an’ he nivver cums ower leeat. Let things be a bit. Stand still,
an’ see t’ salvaytion o’ God.”

As usual Old Adam Olliver’s philosophy was unanswerable. They gave
themselves to the Word of God and to prayer, and separated, to “wait
for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning.”



CHAPTER XXXI.

“BALAAM” DECLARES HIMSELF A “SPIRITUALIST.”

                “What may this mean,
    That thou, dread corse,
    Revisitest thus the glimpses of the moon,
    Making night hideous?”

    _Shakespeare._


Although two of the burglars engaged in the nocturnal attack on
Waverdale Hall had been safely lodged in gaol, the whole region round
about seemed to be infested with desperadoes, whose depredations where
continually being heard of, and whose outrages, alike on travellers
and dwellings, kept that portion of East Yorkshire in a state of
perpetual fear. Squire Fuller had not been able to obtain tidings of
the missing box, nor had the few and inefficient officers of justice
been able to lay hands on any other of these dangerous disturbers of
the public peace. To add to the general feeling of insecurity and
alarm, the villagers of Nestleton were much exercised by reports to
the effect that “Sister Agatha’s ghost,” to which my readers were
introduced in the first chapter of these veracious chronicles, had
latterly been seen by more than one belated villager who had passed
the ruins of the old Priory at the witching hour of night. Jake
Olliver, old Adam’s son and foreman on Gregory Houston’s farm,
declared that he himself, on his return from certain amatory visits to
Cowley Priory, had seen in the silvery moonlight the spirit of the
erratic nun, arrayed in flowing robes of white, and with a broad
crimson stain upon her breast. He saw her pace with outstretched arms
around the ruined walls, and then at a certain crumbling archway,
nearly overgrown with thorns and briars, a blue flame enveloped her,
and with a wild, weird shriek, she vanished from his sight. He did not
hesitate to confess that at the sight of that last phenomenon he took
to his heels and ran.

The burly landlord of the Green Dragon, too, had seen the awful
apparition. He deposed to two uncanny tenants of the haunted pile; but
as he was rather partial to the spirit of malt, it is more than likely
that he had an alcoholic gift of second sight, a faculty for “seeing
double.” Probably, even out of the mouth of two witnesses, the truth
would hardly have been established; but their story was confirmed in
its chief particulars by a pillar of the Church, no less a dignitary,
indeed, than the parish clerk.

It is not to be wondered at that the resurrection of Sister Agatha,
who had for some years forgotten to revisit the glimpses of the moon,
became the subject of subdued and anxious conversation at the Green
Dragon. There was none of its _habitues_ who dared to cast a doubt
upon the story except Piggy Morris. That saturnine ex-farmer had not
given up his visits to the bar-room as the result of his late
experiences, though it must be acknowledged that they had lately
become few and far between. He did not hesitate to call the witnesses
a parcel of cowards, and to insinuate with a sneer that the moonlight
visitor was nothing more dreadful than Farmer Houston’s white bullock,
which he himself had sold to its present owner some few weeks before.

“It’s all nonsense and gammon,” said Piggy Morris, as he pulled away
at his pipe in the chimney corner, “I don’t believe in ghosts, an’
them ’at does has got a maggot in their brains, in _my_ opinion.”

At this audacious utterance, the burly Boniface waxed exceeding wroth,
and being upheld by several beery supporters, who went in for the
ghost, blood-spot, blue-fire, scream and all, he replied,--

“I’ll tell you what it is, Piggy Morris. I don’t mind standing a quart
o’ Plymouth gin, if you’ll go at twelve o’clock to-night, and bring a
stone from the old Abbey with a bit of carving on it to show that
you’ve been there; an’ what’s more, I’ll draw beer enough to keep the
company together till you come back again.”

This challenge, and the prospect of a good supply of foaming ale, won
the emphatic approval of the assembled topers, who loudly dared Piggy
Morris to show the courage of his opinions.

“That’s easily done,” said Morris, bravely. “It’ll be twelve by I get
there; I’m off.”

He rapidly made his way along the back lane of the village until he
arrived at the gate leading into the field, at the further corner of
which stood the dark secluded ruins, from whose crumbling walls he
meant to take the witness of his deed of daring.

He did not feel exactly comfortable, but would not give himself time
to hesitate. He opened the gate, and noiselessly strode along the
paddock, towards the haunt of Sister Agatha’s restless ghost. Lifting
his eyes towards the hoary gables, standing gaunt and grim in the
sombre night, he saw a sight which drove the blood from his beating
heart. There, right before him, he saw the identical ghost of the
suicidal nun! A tall figure draped in white, with cadaverous face,
looking all the more deathly for the conventual linen bound tightly
round the brow, and the dark blood-stain on her breast. She stretched
her arm in silent menace to the astonished Morris, who stood
transfixed with fear. Slowly advancing to the centre of the broken
arch, she stood a moment in statuesque stillness, a low murmur rose
from her bloodless lips, a lurid light shone round her and through
her, culminating in a bluish vapour, out of which shriek after shriek
echoed through the ruins. Then the darkness gathered as before, and
the stillness was unbroken, save for the screech of the night owls and
the twitter of birds which had been disturbed by the dread nocturnal
scream! Piggy Morris, in a perfect ecstasy of terror, turned and fled,
nor paused, till pallid and panting, he flung himself upon the oaken
settle, saying,--

“It’s as true as Gospel! I’ve seen the ghost!”

The next day Piggy Morris was driving his light cart over Nestleton
Wold, with half-a-dozen porkers, covered by a net, in the body of his
ramshackle vehicle. These he was about to dispose of at Kesterton
Market. Half-way up a steepish hill, he stopped to give his not too
flourishing steed a rest, just where Old Adam Olliver was “laying
down” a quick-set hedge.

“Good mornin’,” said that cheery rustic. “Good mornin’, Maister
Morris. Then you’re off te Kesterton. Ah wop you’re tackin’ yer pigs
tiv a feyn markit, as t’ sayin’ is; an’ ’at you’ll cum back wiv a
empty cart an’ a full poss.”

“Nay, I haven’t much hope as far as t’ purse goes, but the pigs ’ll
hev to stop, whether they fetch little or much. But I’m fair bothered
out of my wits this mornin’, an’ not in good trim for making
bargains.”

“Why, bless uz,” said Adam, “Ah’s sorry for that. What’s matter wi’
yo’? Noo ah cum te leeak at yo’, you deea leeak a bit seedy like. Ah
wop all’s right at yam. Hoo’s t’ missis?”

“Oh, she’s all right, for anything I know. But I’ll tell you what it
is, Adam. I’ve seen Sister Agatha’s ghost!”

“Why, bless me soul, Piggy Morris! You’re t’ last man i’ t’ wolld ’at
ah sud expect te say that. Ah didn’t think ’at you’d neea mair sense
then te lissen te sitch an aud wife’s teeale as that.”

“Why, I thought so myself,” said Morris, in a tone of discontent at
having to succumb to the general belief. “But it isn’t ‘listenin’,’ as
you say. It’s _seein’_; and ’seein’s believin’,’ all the world round.
I tell you that I saw it last night about twelve o’clock, and I’ve not
got over it yet, and never shall, I doubt, for I was frightened out of
my seven senses.”

“Ha, ha! Ah fancy you must ha’e left all seven on ’em at yam. Ah’s of
opinion ’at it’s only fooaks ’at’s letten their wits gan
wool-getherin’ ’at sees that sooart o’ cattle. Ah’ve been up an’ doon
this neighbourhood for weel-nigh seventy year, an’ aud Balaam there’s
been wi’ ma’ meeast o’ t’ tahme; an’ ah’ve niwer seen nowt na warse
then him, an’ he’s niwer seen nowt mair awful then me. Balaam! hez
thoo ivver seen a boggle?”

Whatever may have been the cause of the coincidence, it is true that,
at that moment, Balaam was taken with one of those odd cantrips
peculiar to his tribe. He cocked his ears, set his tail on end, and
giving vent to a loud and continuous hee-ho that made the welkin ring,
he galloped round and round, as if in vigorous protest against the
sweeping scepticism of his matter-of-fact proprietor.

“There,” said Piggy Morris, with a sarcastic grin, “even your donkey
rebukes your unreasonable want of faith, and looks for all the world
as though he saw a ghost this minute.”

“Why,” said Adam laughing, “he _diz_ seeam te differ fre’ ma’ in his
judgment; but what can yo’ expect frev a donkey? Mebbe,” and this with
a humorous twinkle in his eye, “it’s gi’en te hasses te see ghausts
an’ te donkeys te beleeave in ’em; but I isn’t gannin’ te pin mah
faith te what they can testify, you may depend on’t.”

Piggy Morris was very irate at the uncomplimentary imputation.
“Donkeys here or donkeys there,” said he, “I tell you that I went o’
purpose to see for myself, because I would not believe what folks
said.”

“Why, if yo went te leeak for it, it isn’t mitch wunder ’at yo’ fun’
it. It was i’ ye’r fancy an’ ye’r een afoore yo’ went. An’ as yo’
teeak it wi’ yo’, it wad ha’e been a wunder if yo’ hadn’t catch’d a
glint on’t. Maister Morris! if yo’ wad nobbut gi’e ye’r heart te God,
that’ll lay all t’ ghausts i’ t’ wolld i’ t’ Rid Sea!”

“Nonsense,” said Piggy Morris, who did not mind the practical turn the
conversation was taking. Mounting his cart, he drove off to Kesterton
Market to dispose of his porkers, and to tell his nocturnal adventures
to more credulous hearers in the infragrant bar-room of the Cowley
Arms.

Adam Olliver picked up his slashing-knife and hedging-gloves, and
mounting that disciple of spiritualism, his four-footed retainer, he
cantered homeward, saying,--

“Balaam! If there is a ghaust, as thoo seeams te think, thoo an’ me
mun see it, an’ ah promise tha’ ’at if thoo dizn’t run away, ah
weean’t, an’ we’ll hev a crack o’ talk wi’ Sister Agatha’s ghaust.”

O, Adam Olliver! are you not aware that there are things between
heaven and earth not dreamt of in your philosophy? Both you and Balaam
will see the “sight horrific,” before many days are over, and when
that great event transpires, then, as the immortaliser of John Gilpin
says, “May I be there to see!”



CHAPTER XXXII

PIGGY MORRIS HEARS A “KNOCK AT THE DOOR.”

    “The specious sermons of a learned man
    Are little else but flashes in the pan;
    The mere haranguing upon (what they call)
    Morality is powder without ball;
    But he who preaches with a Christian grace,
    Fires at our vices, and the shot takes place.”

    _John Byrom._


The service at the malt-kiln in Midden Harbour continued to be
attended with results most gratifying to the little band who had made
so bold a raid on territory long held by the devil in undisputed
peace. One Sunday evening the rude platform-pulpit was occupied by
Nathan Blyth, who, as my readers know, was a very effective local
preacher. The place was well filled by an eager but decorous crowd.
Few of the residents in Midden Harbour were absent from the service,
and a goodly number of people from the higher part of the village, and
even from other places, had assembled to hear “the word of the Lord.”
There were many there who, a little while ago, were little better,
either in habits or appearance, than the Gadarene demoniac, who were
now, thanks to the Great Miracle-worker, “sitting clothed, and in
their right mind.” Nathan Blyth, as a preacher, was in great request
at Midden Harbour, and it is no disparagement of the itinerant
preachers to say that Nathan was, on the whole, and before that
audience, even more popular than they. On the present occasion, Nathan
was speaking to a “people prepared of the Lord,” to expect in simple
trust and confidence the manifestations of the saving power of God. At
the further end of the malt-kiln sat Piggy Morris, who had hitherto
apparently withstood the gracious influences around him. He was not,
however, by any means contented or at ease. The combined influence of
his great favourite, Lucy Blyth, his son John’s remarkable conversion
and deliverance, the wise and well-timed visits of Mr. Clayton, the
earnest and honest activity of Mr. Mitchell, as well as the quiet
influence of his own godly daughter, had all conspired to make Piggy
Morris out of love with himself. The wonderful revival, too, though it
had not as yet seemed to lay much hold on him, had nevertheless
brought messages and impressions that rendered him unhappy and
discontented with himself, and at this stage, with everybody else; not
at all an uncommon state of things this, in those who are not far from
the kingdom of God.

Nathan Blyth preached a most touching and effective sermon from the
words, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock!” “You see,” he said,
“that the Lord is outside the sinner’s heart! He dwells in the bosom
of the Father, and is His glory and delight. He dwells in the angels,
and fills them with His glory! He dwells in the happy saints in
heaven, and their bliss is complete. He dwells in the heart of every
Christian believer here, and they are happy in His love. Everybody is
happy who has Jesus in his heart. He doesn’t dwell in the hearts of
devils, and their misery is complete. Sinner! He does not dwell in
your heart, and you are ripening for the same ruin. You are hastening
to that dark place where the doors can never be opened inward to admit
Him, or outward to release you from the terrors of the second death.

“But, my dear friends, though Christ is outside, He dearly wants to
come in. And what for, think you? Because He loves you! His love for
you brought Him from heaven to earth, led Him to Calvary, and brings
Him to your heart’s door, where He stands to-night! He wants to come
in! He knows how bad and sad, how poor and helpless you are, and so He
‘knocks’ and says, ‘Let Me in! Thy soul is perishing; I can save it!
Thy enemies are legion; I can conquer them! Thy needs are great; I can
supply them! Thy sorrows are many; I can lift them! Thy tears fall
fast; I can dry them! Thy sins are red like crimson; I can make thee
white as snow! Poor, lost, helpless, dying sinner, I can save thee! I
am thy Friend. I love thee! I died for thee! Now I plead with thee.
Sinner, poor sinner, let Me in!’

“But there’s somebody in already that keeps Him out. Satan is in the
heart. He has no right to it; but he has got it, and has become king
of it. His commands are wicked, but they are obeyed. His counsels are
deadly, but they are followed. That strong man armed holds his
ill-gotten goods, and the world and the flesh help him to keep the
house which he has stolen from the Lord Jesus. The devil fills it with
bad company, with selfishness, with wicked thoughts and lusts, with
worldliness and pleasure. It is like a great warehouse, or an
overcrowded inn, and _there’s no room_ for Jesus. He stands knocking
and asking, that loving Saviour! and He gets no answer except the
laughter or the scorn of the unrighteous guests inside. The door is
shut! the bars and bolts are all shot into their sockets; Prejudice
and Pride double-lock the door; a big dead-weight of stone called
‘don’t care’ is rolled against it, and the porter cries gruffly
through the keyhole, ‘Go Thy way; when it’s convenient I’ll let Thee
know!’ Oh, what a wonder that Jesus does not come with the hammer of
judgment, and nail the door to, and leave him to perish, with his own
heart for his coffin, and his sins for his grave! But no, no! Although
there’s a deaf ear and a closed door, Jesus stands, with bowed head
and folded hands, waiting, praying for thee, and crying, ‘The time is
short, poor sinner; let Me in!’

“Sinner, don’t you hear how He knocks? He knocks at your common sense,
and says, ‘Come, and let us reason together!’ He knocks at your
feelings, tells you of His sufferings, agony, and death, and says, ‘I
suffered this for you!’ He knocks at your hopes; He tells you of peace
and victory, of immortality and life. ‘There’s a heaven for you, only
let Me in!’ He knocks at your fears, and tells you, weeping as He
speaks, of the undying worm and the unquenchable fire. And all the
while He pleads, and calls, and prays, and entreats, ‘Poor sinner, let
Me in!’

“Sinner, don’t you hear His voice? Listen to your own _conscience_.
That’s His voice; what does it say? Listen! It says, ‘Open the door!’
Hark to His ministers; they’re His voice. They give knock after knock,
message after message, with a ‘thus saith the Lord’ Can anybody knock
louder or call more tenderly than the good men who come here to say,
as they do say with tears, for their Master’s sake, ‘Poor sinner, let
Him in?’ Listen to your mercies; they’re His voice. If you count them
they are more in number than the hairs of your head. Listen to your
troubles; they’re His voice, and bid you ask Jesus in to cure them. I
tell you the knockings and the voices are always at it; and Jesus is
speaking through them all, as He sees your sad and desperate
condition--‘Poor sinner, open the door and let Me in!’

“The wonder of it is that He waits so patient and so long. He won’t
break in. It’s your house, and you can do as you like. You have liked
for years to keep the devil and the world in, and you’ve had your way.
If you want them turned out, it can soon be done, only give Him
liberty. No, He won’t break in, but He will wait. Why, He has been
waiting for some of you for twenty, thirty, or forty years, and more.
It seems as though His love can’t be tired. Sometimes you nearly gave
way, and put your hand on the latch; but the good impression passed
away. You turned from the door, took your seat again to warm yourself
by your besetting sin; and Jesus, what did He do? He listened, sighed,
and wept, and waited still. Oh, how long He stands! You would not wait
long if you had come to offer anybody a favour. No; you would say, ‘If
they don’t want it, let them go without it.’ Oh, thank God, that Jesus
doesn’t! Sinner, He has been waiting through your merry youth, waiting
all along your mis-spent manhood, and now, when your back is bending,
and your hair is turning grey, and you are going graveward into the
shadow of death, the loving Saviour is waiting still. Hark to Him: ‘O,
Ephraim, how shall I give thee up! Open to me, my beloved, for my head
is filled with dew, and my locks are wet with the drops of the night!
The time is very short. Sinner! poor sinner, let Me in!’

“If you’ll only admit Him, He will be a glorious and welcome guest. He
says, ‘I will come into him, and sup with him, and he with me.’ It is
true the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him, yet He will dwell in a
humble and contrite heart, aye, and bring heaven with Him, too. Is
there a poor sinner here who says, ‘No, that cannot be; I wish He were
in my heart, but there’s no room; my heart is full of guests, and,
alas! they have become my masters, and I’m their slave?’ Still Christ
says, ‘Never mind their numbers or their power. Open the door; I will
first bind the strong man, and then expel him to make joyful room for
thee and Me.’

“But maybe the poor sinner is saying, ‘It can’t be, Lord, for even if
Thy enemies were gone, the chamber is so dirty, and the place so
filthy and unclean, that there is no place for Thy pure presence.’
‘Never mind,’ says Jesus; ‘open the door! I will not only thrust out
the tyrants, but I will wash thy heart in the fountain of My precious
blood. I will purge thee with hyssop, and thou shalt be clean. I will
wash thee, and thou shalt be whiter than snow.’

“Here again the poor sorrowing sinner says, ‘Yes, Lord; come in, but
not to sup with me, not to sit at my table. I have nothing to set
before Thee. I myself am hungry, but I have no bread.’ Still the
Saviour says, ‘Never mind; open the door! I will bring the bread; I
will spread the feast; I will do everything for thee; only open the
door and let Me in!’ O, my brothers, my sisters, all He wants is a
willing heart; an open door; an honest invitation! Give it Him now,
just now. Say, ‘Come in, my Lord, come in!’ Hark! ‘I will come in,
never more to leave thee, alike when skies are shining and clouds are
frowning. I’ll fill thee for ever with peace and joy. Thou shalt go to
the grave rejoicing, through the river of death with a song, into the
home of glory, the mansions of the blest.’ Then He will say, ‘Thou
didst open thy heart to Me; I will open My house to thee. Thou didst
take Me for thy guest, now thou shalt sit at My table.’ The Guest of
earth becomes the Host in heaven, and all who give the Saviour welcome
here are sure of a glorious welcome yonder.

“But if you persist in your refusal to open the door, He will one day
go away. ‘I stand,’ He says; He does not sit. Maybe from some of you
He is already turning away. If He goes, you are lost. Oh, stop Him;
open the door! Remember, Death is waiting as well as Jesus. Waiting,
not for your hand to open, but for the bidding of the Saviour to
_break in_. Then, Jesus has gone; then you will knock, but all in
vain. You will pass through another door. It shall be shut upon you by
the hand of Him who so long tried the latch of yours, and when He
shuts no man can open. But, thank God, sinner,--

    ‘He _now_ stands knocking at the door
      Of every sinner’s heart;
    The worst need keep Him out no more’”----

“That’s me!” shouted Piggy Morris, in a surging agony of deep
conviction. He sprang out from his seat just within the door, and
rushing forward to a form placed in front of the pulpit, the usual
praying-place for penitents, and falling upon his knees, cried aloud
for mercy like the publican of old. Nathan Blyth instantly gave out
the verse,--

    “Jesus, the name that charms our fears,
      And bids our sorrows cease,
    ’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
      ’Tis life, and health, and peace.”

Kneeling by the side of Morris, who was soon joined by many others who
had been pierced by the two-edged sword, Nathan simply and wisely
directed the seeking sinner to the Cross. The meeting was held far on
into the night, and of course the denouncers of religious excitement,
then, as now, had much to say in condemnation of such fanatical and
unreasonable doings. Piggy Morris struggled hard and long. When such a
nature as his is grappled with by the spirit of conviction, there is
sure to be a sore fight. At length Lucy Blyth came forward, and
kneeling by his side, took his hand in hers, and whispered in his
ear,--

“The door’s open, Mr. Morris. Isn’t it?”

“It is! it is!” was the energetic answer.

“Jesus is on the threshold. Isn’t He? Hark! ‘I _will_ come in!’ Isn’t
it true?”

“Yes, Lord! come in!”

Leaping to his feet, and almost throwing Lucy down in his excitement,
he exclaimed,--

“He _is_ in! Glory be to God! Jesus is my Saviour! Mine!” and so, like
the lame man, he, too, went in through the Beautiful gate of the
temple “walking and leaping and praising God!”

“Let me go and tell Sally!” he shouted, and running out of the
malt-kiln, he went to tell his wife the sweetest news she had heard
from him, poor woman, since, more than thirty years ago, she had stood
by his side at the marriage altar in Nestleton Church. The good woman
could but weep and sob in voiceless gratitude, as he cast himself at
her feet and said,--

“Sally, my lass, the Lord has forgiven me, and so must you!”

Can we doubt that all the weary trials of the years were blotted out
in that delightful moment, and that Sarah Morris knew she held again
to her heart the loving husband of her youth!

No grander and more triumphant issue ever attended the preached Word
than that which, that day, crowned the labours of Nathan Blyth, the
local preacher. No prelatic hands had ever been laid upon his head; no
solemn ordination vows had ever set him apart for the high and holy
calling; no clerical training or episcopal degree had ever given him
conventional status as a minister of Christ; but God had sent him, his
Church had called him, the love of Christ sustained him, and neither
Paul nor Peter had a higher warrant for the message they proclaimed.

There is a lamentable tendency in these days among the Methodist
people to look askance at the local preachers. In many places they are
unacceptable in town and city pulpits; they are relegated to small and
unimportant spheres of labour. The natural consequence is a marked
indisposition on the part of young and capable men to enter the local
ranks, and an outcry on the part of superintendent ministers that
appointments are difficult to supply. Let Methodism beware! Let her be
careful how she trifles with this agency, so rife with power and
blessing. The enrolment of this glorious army was one of Wesley’s
grandest inspirations, and in the day when her local preachers fail
her, Methodism will be as weak as Samson was when his locks were
shorn.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

SQUIRE FULLER INTRODUCES AN INNOVATION.

    “List to the Saviour’s words: ‘Where two or three
      Meet in My name, there in the midst am I.’
    Believe, and welcome to thy family
      The gracious Guest; and by His blessing try
    How much domestic bliss and amity
      Hang on domestic worship’s hallowing tie.”

    _Bishop Mant._


After Squire Fuller had returned home from the county business which
demanded his presence in the ancient town of York, he found himself
much exercised in mind, as to certain important matters which pressed
upon his notice. Lucy Blyth’s sudden departure was a surprise, and he
was bound to acknowledge to himself that it was an unwelcome one. The
fair girl had cast around him the magic spell which had taken captive
all who came within its influence. Her presence in his lonely mansion,
long unbrightened by the sweet subtleties of woman, had thrown more
than a gleam of sunshine through its stiff and stately grandeur; her
wondrous magic had given back to him the son of his right hand; her
cheerful and attractive piety had excited something more in him than
admiration; and her sweet songs of Zion and her clear witness for her
Saviour had touched his heart. These things, together with his own
son’s beautiful and consistent religious profession, and his
convincing testimony of the power of Christianity, had left his harsh
and narrow scepticism without a leg to stand on. Besides all this,
Lucy had undoubtedly saved his own life by her well-aimed blow on the
extended arm of the villain, Buckley. He felt that he must make some
return to her, commensurate with the weighty and unspeakable service
she had rendered, but how to set about it, under the peculiar
circumstances of the case, he did not know. Then, again, he felt in
his conscience that both she and Philip had possession of some secret
inborn talisman which brought them peace, happiness, and hope, to
which he was an utter and a miserable stranger. Intelligence of “the
great revival” had reached him through the medium of his son, who was
as yet unable to endure excitement and exposure, but who was kept well
posted up as to the course of Methodist events, by his much-loved
class-leader and minister, the Rev. Matthew Mitchell. The marvellous
change which had come over Midden Harbour, and the other delightful
results of that great movement, were all told to the wondering squire
by his son, whose pale face was lit up the while, with a heaven-born
joy, as he related the triumphs of the Gospel; and the poor old
squire, drawn more and more by the unseen hand of Him who was “lifted
up” for this very purpose, had a chronic heartache for the possession
of the heaven-sent secret which was such a treasure to his son. Other
witness, too, was now forthcoming, which still more clearly evidenced
the mighty power of Methodism, hitherto despised, to work the highest
moral wonders, and to produce in the hardest hearts and most unlikely
cases, the sterling results of that Gospel which its ministers and
people so vigorously proclaimed.

Immediately after that notable Sunday, on which Piggy Morris found
peace with God, Squire Fuller received the following letter:--

    “HONOURED SIR,--Years ago you turned me off the farm on which I
    was born, and which was rented by my father before me. You did
    justly, and only what I deserved. From that day until now I have
    hated you and yours, and would have gone far and done much to
    work you harm. There was a triumphant vengeance in my heart when
    circumstances led me to believe that I could strike at you
    through your son. I deeply repent, and would hereby express my
    bitter sorrow for the trouble my wicked hate has caused. God has
    shown me the greatness of my sin; He has shown me the greatness
    of His mercy; He has forgiven my sin. I pray you, forgive me
    also. I desire to subscribe myself, with great respect,

    “Yours humbly and repentingly,

    “GEORGE MORRIS.”

“Well! that’s a miracle, at any rate,” said the squire, as he handed
the letter to his son; “that’s casting out a devil of no ordinary
strength and size. I am bound to say it is a most satisfactory letter,
and I shall write and express my pleasure at the receipt of it.”

“And your hearty compliance with his request?” said Philip.

“Certainly, my boy; George Morris’s conduct shall be forgotten and
forgiven.”

“Father!” said Philip, softly and half timidly; “Is not that a
miracle, too?”

The old gentleman, once stiff, stately, proud and unyielding to a
degree, was compelled to feel that he himself had marvellously
changed. He knew that that change had been largely wrought by the son
he had received from the dead, and by the fair girl who had gotten so
strong a hold upon his heart.

“Yes, Philip,” and the father’s eyes reddened with suffusing tears,
“I’m bound to own that I too am something other, and I think, better
than I was.”

Philip wisely and prudently said no more, but his soul was full of a
yearning love to his mollified and chastened parent and of gratitude
to God, who was so evidently leading him by a way he knew not, to a
hitherto undiscovered resting-place for intellect and heart.

In the course of the day the squire met his head gamekeeper.

“Well, Hatfield,” said he, “how are you getting on?”

“Why, sir,” said Hatfield, touching his hat, “we don’t seem to have
very much to do now. A fortnight or two since, me and my mates were in
peril of our lives, and Waverdale Woods were as flush of poachers as
they were of game; but they seem to be pretty nearly all gone.”

“Gone? What’s gone? The game?”

“No, sir; the poachers. I haven’t seen a snare set, or heard a gun for
three weeks, and the hares that were snared at the beginning of that
time we had the pleasure of taking ourselves.”

“I’m very glad to hear it, Hatfield. But how do you account for it?”

“Why, sir, it’s all owing to the Methodist preaching in Midden
Harbour. I met Potter Bill the other day, and I said, ‘Why, Bill,
you’ve given us no trouble lately.’ He said, ‘No, I ha’nt, an’ what’s
mair, ah nivver sall nae mair. God’s been givin’ me trubble i’steead.
Methody preeachers ez been pooachin’ i’ Midden Harbour, an’ they’ve
aboot bagged all t’ game i’ t’ spot. You can tell Squire Fuller ’at he
may knock off hoaf-a-dozen watchers, for we shan’t worrit him nae
mair.’”

“Capital!” said the squire. “I’m sure I ought to be heartily obliged
to them, and to the Methodist parsons, too. By the way, do you know
anything about them yourself?”

“Yes, sir. I go to their preachings sometimes on a Sunday night;
indeed I may say every Sunday.”

“Why, I thought you went to church, Hatfield, like the rest of my
servants,” said the squire, with half a frown.

“Yes, so I do, sir: but that’s in the morning, you know; and as I go
to church because you wish it, I felt myself free to go to chapel as
well.”

“Because I wish it?” said the squire. “Wouldn’t you go if I had no
wish on the subject? Surely the parish church is the proper place for
the people of the parish to go to.”

“Why, sir, I’m quite sure that nearly all the servants at the hall
_do_ go because you wish it, and for nothing else. Parson Elliott
would have very few else. Among the Methodists things is plainer and
more hearty like. I own I like it best myself.”

“But the Liturgy of the Church of England, Hatfield, is one of the
most beautiful compositions in the English language, and nothing can
be better for public worship.”

“Yes, sir, I dare say it is; but it doesn’t seem to come from the
heart like the Methodist preacher’s does. He prays without any book at
all, and the things he asks for comes so pat that you can’t help
joining in them. At the church it only seems to send us to sleep, and
as for the sermons, Parson Elliott reads something for ten minutes,
and it’s all over. But Mr. Clayton, and Mr. Mitchell, and Nathan
Blyth, they preach right out of their heads and hearts, for
half-an-hour or more, and one can’t help thinking about what they
say.”

It would be well if certain degenerate Methodist preachers of modern
times, who read their sermons without a blush, would take to heart
this witness of the honest gamekeeper, and mend their evil and utterly
unacceptable ways. The strength of Methodism has been chiefly in the
pulpit, and the introduction of manuscript sermons into that place of
power sadly mars its effect, and leaves the congregation, like
Gideon’s fleece, “unwatered still and dry.”

The squire turned away from the loquacious gamekeeper to ponder on the
results of Methodist “poaching” and Methodist preaching, and he felt
half inclined to go himself and hear what the thing was like. Nor did
his day’s experiences end here, for as he retraced his steps, walking
as his wont was with his head bent down and his hands behind him, he
suddenly came upon Adam Olliver, who was returning homewards from his
daily labour, on the back of Balaam. The squire was walking on the
grassy path by the roadside, and the short winter’s day was fast
deepening into night, so that neither form nor foot betrayed his
presence to the happy old hedger, who was, as usual, opening his mind
to his dumb companion, without any reserve. Conversation with bipedal
donkeys needs a strong infusion of the latter article; with Balaam,
however, the case was different.

“Balaam, aud boy,” the old man was saying, “a warse crew then them i’
Midden Harbour couldn’t be fun’ atween York and Lunnun, an’ ivvery yan
on ’em ’ll be browt te God. His seeaving grace is cum te Potter Bill
an’ Nanny Spink, just as it com te t’ yung squire, for the Lord mak’s
nae difference. May the Lord seeave t’ aud squire. He nobbut wants t’
luv o’ Jesus iv ’is ’eart te be a blessin’ te all Waverdale, an’ then
t’ new chapil wad be built iv a twinklin’.”

“Hem!” coughed the squire loudly, still keeping in the shade, deepened
now by overhanging trees.

“Massy on uz! Ah did’nt knoa there was onnybody there!”

“Good evening!” said the squire. “You are just coming from work, I
suppose.”

“Hey! Ah’ve been deeain’ a lahtle bit, but ah isn’t up te mitch
noo-a-days. Ah can nobbut faddle aboot a bit wi’ me slashin’-knife,
an’ if t’ maister nobbut payd me what ah addled, there wad be a good
monny mair pennies then shillin’s te draw o’ Setterda’ neets. Are yo’
gannin’ te Nestleton?”

“Yes, I’m going in that direction for a little way.”

“That’s right. Ah’s fond ov a bit o’ cumpany, tho’ ah mak’s a shift te
get on withoot. Ah was talkin’ te Balaam, when ah heeard yo’ cough.”

“That’s the name of your donkey, I suppose?” said the squire, with a
smile.

“Yes. He hezn’t mitch te say te ma’ i’ answer, tho’ noo an’ then he’s
noisy aneeaf, bud he’s a varry good lissener, at onny rate he’s better
then nowt. Ah reckon you’ve heeard what’s bin gannin’ o’ in Midden
Harbour latly. The Lord’s been gettin’ tiv Hissen a glorious victh’ry,
an’ scoores o’ poor sowls hez been tonned frae darkness te leet, an’
frae t’ poo’er o’ Satan te God. De yo’ knoa owt aboot that, ah
wunder?”

“Not much, I’m afraid,” said the squire, who was getting more than he
bargained for.

“Why then, bless yo’, why nut? Jesus dee’d fo’ yo’, bare your sins iv
His aun body upo’ t’ tree. Try Him! Beleeave iv Him, an’ ah’ll lay me
life He’ll mak’ yo’ as ’appy as yo’ can live.”

“Then you are happy, are you?”

“’Appy! Prayse the Lord. Ah sud think I is, an’ hae been for mair then
fifty year; an’ this minnit ah knoa nowt sae sartain as that Jesus is
my Saviour, an’ ’at me’ neeame’s written i’ t’ Lamb’s Book ov Life.”

“What were you saying about a new chapel, when I overtook you? Is
there likely to be one in Nestleton?”

“Hey, mair then likely, it’s sartain. Meeast o’ t’ monney’s riddy, and
noo the Lord’s gi’en us a congregation an’ a society riddy, we’re
nobbut waitin’ for t’ squire te be riddy, an’ then we sall ’rise an’
build.’”

“But have you any hope that the squire is likely to be ready? I
thought he had refused you a piece of ground long since.”

“Why, seea he did--nay, nut exactly refused oot an’ oot; bud he said
he wad tak’ tahme te think aboot it, an’ we’ve been prayin’ and
beleeavin’ an’ waitin’ ivver since; an’ bless yo’, ah’ve neea mair
doot aboot it, then I hev ’at t’ squire hisself ’ll cum te Jesus, an’
be meead as ’appy as Maister Philip is, God bless ’im. Ah tell yo’,
that yung man’s a glorious and noble fello’ ’at ’ll sum day be yan o’
t’ greeatest blessin’s Waverdale’s ivver knoan.”

“And you really hope that the squire himself will become a Methodist,
do you?”

“Why, ah didn’t say that. A man ’at’s a Methodist an’ nowt else is
like a nut withoot a kennil, or a tree withoot sap, bud ah said ’at t’
squire ’ll becum a Christian. Why, his sun’s prayin’ for it, an’ ah
nivver lets a day pass withoot prayin’ for it mysen--an’ mah lahtle
class ’at meets i’ my hoose ivvery Thosday, prays for ’im as reg’lar
as t’ neet cums. He’s bun’ te be seeaved, God bless ’im! an’ he’s bun’
te give us a bit o’ land for a chapil!”

“Well, good evening. I hope you will succeed,” said the squire, for
here his road diverged.

“Good neet te yo’, an’ ah wop ’at you’ll finnd yer way te t’ Cross.
That’s the spot for all on uz! Good neet.”

Old Adam Olliver went on his way, utterly unconscious as to the
identity of his companion, and when seated by his humble fireside, he
told Judy that he had just had the chance of “sayin’ a wod for Jesus.”
Meanwhile Squire Fuller bent his steps to the gate of Waverdale Park,
saying to himself, “Praying for me, are they? Thank God for it.” As he
passed through the park gate, he saw the household of Gaffer Green,
the lodge-keeper, kneeling round their little room at family prayer.
The lighted candle on the round table shone through the diamond panes
of the cottage window, and Squire Fuller saw the open Bible, the
spectacles laid upon them, the kneeling forms of wife, and son, and
daughter, and the uplifted face of the white-haired old man, as he
commended his household to God. “God forgive me!” sighed he to
himself, and then, with a firm step, as though some new resolve was
born in him, he hastened home. That earnest prayer was heard in
heaven, and its answer was recorded in his own submissive and
believing heart!

For a little while neither Philip nor his father spoke. The former
thought he saw a change in his father’s countenance, a new light in
his eye; the latter was lost in solemn but not unpleasant thought.

“Philip!” said he, at last, “ask the butler to call all the servants
in for family prayer.”

Philip threw one quick and joyful glance, which fell with an ineffable
benediction on the father’s heart, and hastened to give the welcome
message. Without one prefatory word, the squire read the fifty-third
chapter of Isaiah to the amazed and wondering household. Then as they
knelt around, he opened the unfamiliar prayer-book, and began to read.
The printed form was too strait for him; he broke away on the
flood-tide of the new life which had come to him. He pleaded, praised,
and prayed, until the most indifferent was melted into tears. After
commending them all to the watchful care of Heaven, they rose from
their knees, and the two were left alone. Philip could contain himself
no longer; he flung himself upon the old man’s neck, and wept with
joy. The stars that night looked down upon no holier spot than that
stately home in which the Ark of God had found an honoured place.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

LUCY BLYTH HAS AN EYE ON “LANDED PROPERTY.”

    “Avaunt all specious pliancy of mind
    In men of low degree, all smooth pretence!
    I better like a blunt indifference
    And self-respecting slowness, disinclined
    To win me at first sight:--and be there joined
    Patience and temperance with this high reserve,--
    Honour that knows the path and will not swerve;
    Affections which if put to the proof are kind;
    And piety towards God.”

    _Wordsworth._


It will be necessary to retrace our steps a little, and turn our
attention to Lucy Blyth and the heir of the House of Waverdale. Lucy’s
hasty and unexpected departure from Waverdale Hall and Squire Fuller’s
compulsory absence on county business, had prevented that grateful
recipient of her services and hearty admirer of her character from
rendering her at once the thanks to which she was entitled, and from
bestowing on her such reward as was in any sense commensurate with the
exceeding value of the good work she had wrought. Eventually he wrote
her a letter full of unstinted gratitude, and stated therein that he
should count it an honour and a privilege to oblige her in any way
that was in his power. He avowed that she had saved his son’s life
from the fever, and his own from the burglar; that she had been the
means of bringing to him thoughts and feelings concerning religion to
which he had long been a stranger; and that, though he felt such
services were priceless and beyond compensation, he entreated her to
test his sincerity and regard in any way she chose. The answer he
received was couched as follows:--

    “DEAR SIR,--God has enabled me to do my duty under very trying
    circumstances. That duty would have been more willingly
    performed for the poorest family in Nestleton. Your thanks, and
    the sense of having done what was right, fully repay me. I am
    thankful to God that Master Philip is spared to you, and if my
    short stay at Waverdale Hall has enabled me in any way to alter
    your views and feelings about religion, I am thankful all the
    more. As you so earnestly press me to receive some
    acknowledgment at your hands, I will not refuse so generous an
    offer. If you will give a plot of ground on which to build a
    Methodist chapel so that the Methodists of Nestleton may be able
    to worship God in comfort under their own vine and fig-tree, you
    will not only confer the greatest favour upon me, but will win
    the lasting gratitude of a poor and worthy people, who will
    richly repay you in their prayers for your happiness and
    prosperity.

    “I remain,

    “Yours most respectfully,

    “LUCY BLYTH.”

This missive was placed by the butler in the hands of the squire as he
sat in his customary chair by the library fire; his son and heir, now
quite recovered from the trying ordeal through which he had passed,
though still somewhat pale of countenance, sitting opposite. Mr.
Fuller could not help smiling with satisfaction at Lucy’s unselfish
response to his letter of inquiry, and at the admirable persistency
with which she pleaded the cause of her people.

“Your correspondence amuses you, father,” said Philip, as he noted the
smile on the old man’s face.

“Amuses me, you think, do you?” said the squire, assuming a serious
air. “I wonder whether it will amuse you. Here’s a pretty effusion
from your model young lady!”

“What, Lucy?” said Philip, with an honest blush and such a manifest
interest, that it was not hard to see that our youthful lover was
quite as much enchained to that young lady’s chariot wheels as ever;
“May I ask what it is?”

“Why, I wrote to convey to her our hearty thanks for the
unquestionably important services she has rendered, and I foolishly
promised to account myself her debtor for any reward she might name,
and this is the advantage she takes of my unguarded offer!”

“No unfair advantage, I’ll be bound,” quoth Philip, stoutly; “she is
altogether too good for that.”

“Oh, you think so? Well, then, let me tell you; the covetous little
minx has had the audacity to ask for a portion of my estate.”

“Estate!” said Philip, in blank amaze. “I’ll never believe it. Never;
no, not if I saw it in her own handwriting.”

“Well,” said the squire, inwardly amused and strongly impressed with
his son’s unswerving loyalty to the village maiden, but looking at the
same time sufficiently serious, “Then it’s no use showing you the
letter; but I tell you, here it is, in black and white, and signed
with her own name.” The squire here placed the precious little
signature beneath his eyes. “Won’t you believe it now?”

“No,” said Philip, stoutly; “nothing in the world will make me believe
anything other than that Lucy Blyth is as free from self-seeking and
greed as the sunlight that flows out of heaven; and, what is more, I
believe my father is of the same opinion.”

“Well, then, take and read it for yourself, you sceptic, and you will
see that the charge I bring against her is absolutely true; so you
may prepare your mind for a definite diminishing of your own
inheritance, thanks to my thoughtless promise, which, on the honour of
a Fuller, may never be withdrawn.”

Philip read the letter, and lifting a bright and hopeful glance at his
father, said,--

“And you will grant this request?”

“Certainly, Master Philip; when did your father ever break his promise
or shirk his word?”

Quick to perceive the underlying willingness of his father’s somewhat
ostentatious reverence for a promise, Philip rose from his seat,
exclaiming, “Father, you are doing this for Lucy’s sake!”

“Master Philip, don’t under-estimate my fidelity to a pledge,” said
the father, with a happy smile; “and now that you are fairly given
back to me, I feel bound to offer you the same privilege. ‘What is thy
request, and I will give it to thee, even to the half of my kingdom?’”

“Give me Lucy,” said Philip, with his heart upon his lips.

“That’s beyond my power, and rests with the excellent blacksmith and
his glorious girl. But I’ll give you permission to make the
application, and from my heart, my boy, I hope your request will not
be made in vain.”

Overpowered with love, gratitude, and joy, Philip stood silent, with
his heart too full for speech; but nothing could be more eloquent than
the look which sent an exquisite thrill of gladness through his
father’s heart.

“Philip, my son,” said the squire, “My eyes are open at last, thank
God! God’s dealings with us have been wonderful, and I am bound to say
that His providential guidance has all the while been answering Adam
Olliver’s prayers. Your own and Lucy’s conduct, under circumstances of
the most trying kind, had furnished proof which there is no
gainsaying, of the great and holy power of real religion. The
beautiful loyalty to duty, the ungrudging self-sacrifice, the
elevated motives which actuate Lucy Blyth, led me to study
Christianity from a new stand-point; and your own clear, triumphant
testimony of the saving grace of God, compared so grandly with the
cold and heartless scepticism I had largely imbibed, that my
prejudices were compelled to give way, and at length beneath the
shadow of the Cross I found ‘rest to my soul.’ As for Lucy Blyth, good
and pure and beautiful in every relation of life, I will not, do not
wish, to place a straw in the way of her becoming your wife, and I
believe her to be singularly fitted for the high station she will be
called upon to fill. Strange to say, I have now doubts which tend to
sadden me, that she will not be induced to accept the alliance which
once I opposed with all the bitterness of prejudice and pride. This
one thing I know, that if you can but win her consent, I will welcome
her to my house and heart, as a daughter, with as warm a love as I
give my son.”

We draw the curtain on the scene, and leave the two, now one in a
higher, holier, happier sense than they had ever been before.

       *       *       *       *       *

As may be imagined, Philip did not permit the grass to grow under his
feet, but speedily made his way to the village Forge.

Nathan Blyth had regained his old cheerfulness. The light of his
hearth had been re-lit by Lucy’s return, and so, as of old, he was
singing the songs of Zion, as his hammer rang on the anvil, making
merry music because his heart was glad. The red forge fire sent its
inviting glow in long ribbons of rosy light athwart the December
gloom, crimsoning the light snow-flakes which besprinkled the frosty
ground, tinging the hedgerow and the tall poplar boles with its
radiant hue, and gilding the implements of husbandry which were
gathered for repairs outside the door. When Philip approached the
smithy door, Blithe Natty’s voice was heard above the ringing anvil,
and this was the harmonious blacksmith’s song,--

THE RIVER OF THE WATER OF LIFE.

_Ezekiel_ xlvii, 9.

            O glad proclamation!
            The stream of salvation
    Is flowing from Calvary’s Cross-crownèd hill;
            Is flowing for ever,
            And faltereth never,
    And every sinner may drink to his fill.

            From Satan’s enslaving,
            These waters are saving--
    From sin and corruption it washeth us free;
            Peace, pardon, and blessing,
            And joys without ceasing,
    It bears on its bosom for thee and for me.

            Temptations which harass,
            And doubts which embarrass,
    The soul as it travels this region below;
            These waters shall banish;
            All sorrow shall vanish--
    Borne away on its bosom, as onward they flow.

            All sorrow it chaseth,
            All pain it eraseth,
    The soul of the drinker it filleth with good;
            For trouble and sadness
            It bringeth us gladness,
    And comfort and soothing roll in like a flood.

            When the body is dying,
            When the spirit is flying,
    And the night cometh in at the close of the day;
            Then on Jesus believing--
            These waters receiving--
    The soul of the Christian passeth away.

            This river so precious,
            So healing and gracious,
    Is flowing for ever, unbounded and free;
            Then come and possess it,
            And drink it and bless it,
    For none are more needy, more welcome than we.

            O earth’s sons and daughters!
            Come, drink of the waters--
    With healing and blessing and joy they are rife;
            Then come to the river,
            And, thanking the Giver,
    Drink! Drink, weary sinner, the Water of Life!

“Good morning, Mr. Blyth,” said Philip. “I am glad to hear you sing so
merrily. It promises well for the errand on which I come.”

“Good morning, Master Philip. I’m heartily glad to see you strong and
well again. That would be quite enough to set me singing. There’s many
a heart in Nestleton that thanks God for that.”

“I’m very much obliged to them,” said Philip heartily. “There are few
things in the world better worth winning and holding than the
affection and esteem of honest neighbours. This morning, however, I
own that there is something nearer my heart than that; and as nobody
can help me in it as well as you can, I say again, I am glad you are
in so pleasant a mood. Will you help me?”

“Anything in the world that I can do for you, Master Philip, I shall
be glad to do--at least anything but one,” and this with a meaning
look that his hearer clearly understood.

“And that one, Mr. Blyth?”

“Nay, I need say no more, sir. ‘That one’ is an impossibility, and
need not be mentioned.”

Philip stepped forward, and, taking Nathan by the hand, said,
seriously enough,--

“And why impossible? My dear friend--for friend you have always
been--that _is_ the errand on which I come.”

Nathan lifted an astonished eye to the eager and anxious youth, who at
that moment, at any rate, wore his heart upon his sleeve.

“Because my word is given to your father, and because that promise
coincides fully with my own judgment. I will never encourage any
special attention of yours to Lucy, nor favour any such tendency in
Lucy herself.”

“But, Nathan Blyth,” said Philip, “my father’s views are changed, as,
thank God, he himself is changed, and it is with his permission and by
his wish that I am here this morning, and that I ask you, beseech you,
to give me Lucy for my wife.”

It is not too much to say that Nathan Blyth was surprised almost out
of his senses. He had never in any remote degree expected this. His
own manly sense and sturdy independence were fully opposed to the idea
of such a thing. Lucy’s confession of her love for Philip was an
unmixed source of sorrow to him, and all his wise and gentle policy
had been directed towards weaning his darling from a love so hopeless
and unwise. Her brief stay at the Hall had been a trouble of no
ordinary kind. But when Lucy returned promptly and at her own request,
and had shown in unmeasured terms her joy at being once more under her
father’s roof; when he heard her merry voice singing by his hearth
stone, as though she had left no hopeless love behind, he had gladly
argued that the spell was broken, and that Lucy, heart-whole and
happy, had cast aside the dangerous dream for ever. Though he was
wrong in thinking that Lucy’s love for Philip was any the less, he was
also wrong in thinking that union with him had ever been any dream of
her’s. With Lucy duty was paramount, and the grace of God was
omnipotent, and so she had been able to accept the inevitable, and not
to pine or sigh for what was as utterly unreachable, to her thinking,
as the moon. Nathan saw in Squire Fuller’s consent the result of a
grateful impulse, or an unwilling consent for his son’s sake, certain
to be followed by an ultimate though distant repentance. The idea of
such an event ever dawning to distress his darling, stirred his soul
to the depths.

“No, Mr. Philip; it cannot be. My mind was one with your father’s on
this point, and though his may change, mine has not changed, and I
say, now and ever, Keep away from Lucy. Your path and her’s lie wide
apart.”

Thrusting a bar of iron into the smithy fire, Blithe Natty laid hold
of the bellows-handle, and worked it as one who has uttered a fiat
against which there is no appeal. In vain did Philip urge his suit; in
vain he sought permission to come again.

“Mr. Philip, I love and esteem you as much as any living man,” said he
at last, “and I cannot bear your entreaties. I know I’m right, and I
shall stand to it. Yes; though your father himself should come, my
answer will still be ‘No,’ and if nothing else will do, I’ll sell my
business, and go away with my girl to some distant place.”

Philip was roused and somewhat angry. “Nathan Blyth,” said he, “I’ll
follow her to the world’s end,” and like a man at his wits’ end, he
turned round and left the Forge.



CHAPTER XXXV.

OLD ADAM OLLIVER TO THE RESCUE.

              “Who is it that will doubt
    The care of Heaven, or think immortal
    Powers are slow, ’cause they take privilege
    To choose their own time, when they will send
    Their blessings down?”

    _Davenant._


Not one word did Nathan Blyth breathe to Lucy of his unsatisfactory
interview with Philip Fuller. He was more affected than he cared to
own, and went about his work with an absent and a heavy heart. Quick
to read all the changes in her father’s moods, Lucy soon missed his
cheery anvil song, and wondered what dark cloud had come to cast its
shadow over him. In vain she sought his confidence. Seeing her
anxiety, Nathan sought to deceive her by a constrained pleasantry and
a heartless song. But Nathan was a poor hand at playing the hypocrite,
and Lucy’s loving eyes were not to be deceived.

When Philip returned home, his father’s first glance at the sad and
excited face told him that his errand, as he feared, had been in vain.
This, instead of giving him pleasure, as it would once have done,
increased alike his admiration of the character of the village
blacksmith, and his desire to secure his peerless daughter as a
life-mate for his son.

“I’ll go myself,” said the old man, when Philip had described his
unsatisfactory and disheartening interview.

“That will be of no use,” said Philip; “he told me that even if you
came, his mind would not alter, and Nathan Blyth always means what he
says.”

The next morning the squire wrote a note to Lucy, to inform her that a
piece of land, admirably situated in the centre of the village, was at
the disposal of the Methodists, and that he had given orders for its
transfer to Farmer Houston, free of cost. Great was Lucy’s rejoicing
at this glorious victory, and Nathan Blyth was compelled to admire the
tone of the letter which announced the grateful and timely gift. It
breathed such love and esteem for Lucy, and what struck the blacksmith
still more forcibly, it displayed such a spirit of Christian piety,
and was marked by such a genuine religious feeling, that Natty
wondered more and more.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening Farmer Houston, Nathan Blyth, and Adam Olliver were
seated in the dining-room of the former, when Mr. Houston read the
note which he had himself received, and which ran as follows:--

    “MY DEAR HOUSTON,--When you last made a request to me for a
    piece of land on which to build a Methodist chapel, I imagined
    that I had sufficient reasons for refusing, and I did refuse
    accordingly. Subsequent events and a careful study of the whole
    matter have convinced me that I was in the wrong. I have now
    given orders for the transfer to you of a plot of ground on
    Nestleton Green, believing as I do, that the erection of the
    desired sanctuary will be of great moral and spiritual advantage
    to the village, and will be to the praise and glory of God. I
    shall be glad when your scheme is ripe to render further aid to
    your godly undertaking.

    “Yours faithfully,

    “AINSLEY FULLER.”

“Wonderful!” said Mr. Houston. “Isn’t it?”

“Marvellous!” said Nathan Blyth.

“Joost as ah expected!” said Adam Olliver. “The Lord’s nut only
answered ’wer prayers, bud He’s gannin’ te giv uz t’ squire inte t’
bargain. God be thenk’d! Maister, let uz pray!”

The three good men and true knelt to offer heartfelt gratitude to God,
and Adam Olliver, with tearful eyes and a heart gushing with love and
praise, poured out his soul in prayer and thanksgiving, pleading for
the old squire, for Philip, for God’s cause in Nestleton, until the
very atmosphere seemed to be charged with the presence and power of a
loving and gracious God. As soon as they had risen from their knees,
Adam said,--

“Halleluia! Mah poor aud een ’ll see a Methodist chapil i’ Nestleton,
an’ then ah’ll say, ‘Noo, Lord, lettest thoo thi’ sarvant depayt i’
peeace, for mi’ ees hez seen Thy salvation.’ Prayse the Lord! T’
moontain was varry greeat an’ varry high, bud afoore oor Zerubbabel
it’s becum a playn! O Maister Houston! O Nathan Blyth! Nivver doot Him
nae mair!”

“Well,” said Nathan, “it is the Lord’s doing, and it _is_ marvellous.”
Bringing forth the letter which the old squire had written to Lucy on
the same subject, he said, “Now, then, what do you think to this?”

    “MY DEAR MISS BLYTH,--Your request, offered in response to my
    sincere desire to show my gratitude and esteem, at first
    surprised me; but the more I thought of it, the more clearly I
    saw in it another illustration of your own self-forgetting and
    self-sacrificing character. I should cordially have given the
    plot of land for your sake; I believe, however, that it will be
    more pleasing to you to know that I make this gift to the
    Methodist people in genuine admiration of the high and holy work
    they have done in this village, as well as in other places, and
    as a personal thank-offering for mercies, providential and
    spiritual, lately received at the hands of a forgiving and
    gracious God. As far as you are concerned, I would fain hope
    that I may have other and _constant_ opportunities of showing
    the affectionate regard in which you are held by

    “Yours very sincerely,

    “AINSLEY FULLER.”

“God bless ’im,” said Adam Olliver, “’is ’art’s i’ t’ right spot noo,
hooivver, whativver it was fower munths since. An’ as for what he says
aboot Lucy, it’s true, ivvery wod on’t. She’s t’ sweetest, goodest
lass i’ Waverdale, an’ t’ squire hez t’ feynest lad. Lucy Blyth an’
Philip Fuller! Mah wod, Natty, what a pair they wad mak’! Ah ain’t
mitch fayth i’ rich fooaks marryin’ poor fooaks. I offens finnds ’at
they beeath on ’em marry mair then they reckon on. But Lucy’s a laydy,
if ivver there was yan, if Philip’s a gentleman; they beeath luv the
Lord, an’ they beeath luv tee-an t’ other, an’ if they wer’ joined
tegither, all Waverdale wad be the better fo’t. Natty Blyth!” said
Adam, noticing Nathan’s troubled countenance, and suddenly alive to
probabilities, “Natty Blyth, aud friend! deean’t you gan an’ fight
ageean God. Maister Houston, we’ve been an’ prayed te God for a
twelve-munth ’at He wad tonn’d ’art o’ t’ aud squire an’ owerrule
things seea as te get a chapil for uz. Noo, the Lord’s gi’en us what
we wanted, an’ He’s getten things mixed up i’ deein’ it. Are we te
leeav Him, an’ say, ‘There, Lord, Thoo mun brayk t’ threeads off noo;
we’ve getten all we care aboot, an’ t’ rest may drop?’ Ah weean’t be
sae meean an’ sae wicked; we mun still be co-workers wiv Him accordin’
tiv His will. If t’ web ov His providence hez a Methodist chapil i’ t’
pattern, it’s gotten Lucy Blyth an’ Philip Fuller in it as weel. Then,
God helpin’ uz, we moan’t hinder t’ shuttle, but gan on till t’
weeavin’s deean. Sud we hae gotten this land if Philip Fuller hadn’t
been sick? Sud we hae gotten this land if Lucy Blyth hadn’t gone te t’
Hall? Isn’t t’ aud squire ower heead an’ ears i’ luv wi’ beeath Philip
an’ Lucy? Deean’t the two young fooaks luv t’ grund t’ eean t’ uther
walks on? Aren’t they meead for yan anuther like two hoaves ov a pair
o’ sithers? An’ isn’t t’ Methodist chapil gannin’ te be built te wed
’em in? Oppen thi’ een, Natty, an’ see what the Lord’s deein’. Ah
fancy there’s a good bit o’ pride i’ yo’; for it may be just as strang
under a blacksmith’s leather appron as under a squire’s white
weeastcooat. You want te be independent, an’ it’s all varry weel up
tiv a sartain point, bud you can’t be independent o’ God, an’ you’d
better nut try. Natty, aud friend, ha’e you ivver axed Him what He hez
te say aboot it?”

This last inquiry struck Nathan Blyth very forcibly, and he was
compelled to own that to Philip Fuller’s appeal, he had given a final
answer on the strength of previous convictions. The marvellous change
in the squire’s attitude to Lucy and Methodism had not presented
itself to him as the result of Divine interposition, and as requiring
new guidance from the Throne of Grace. He made no answer. Adam Olliver
rose to his feet, and with great solemnity said, “Natty, you an’ me’ll
mak’ this a matter o’ prayer.”

Bidding Farmer Houston good-night, Adam and his companion wended their
way homeward, and on arriving at his cottage the old hedger pressed
Nathan Blyth to go in with him. Judy was over at the Forge, chatting
with Lucy, and the two men drew up to the fire and resumed the
conversation on the subject of Philip Fuller’s request.

“Ah feel ’at there’s nowt for it this tahme bud te ax the Lord te mak’
yer duty plain, Natty. You mun deea right, an’ if you’re bent o’ that
an’ ax Him, He’ll mak’ t’ way as playn as dayleet. Ah’s fair bothered
aboot it. Ah’s sartain that God hez His ’and iv it. Let’s ax Him!”
With wondrous power and unction did Adam plead at the Throne of Grace:
“If it’s for their good an’ Thah glory, an’ t’ good o’ t’ Chotch,
bring ’em tegither, Lord, an’ let nut man payt ’em asunder. Guide
beeath Natty an’ ’is lahtle lass i’ t’ right way. Show all consarned
what’s best. Guide ’em all wi’ Thah coonsel, an’ efterwards bring ’em
te glory. We ax it all for Christ’s seeak. Amen.”

“_Amen_,” said another voice, and rising from their knees they saw
within the door the white and bended head of Squire Fuller.

“Forgive my intrusion,” said he; “I tapped twice at the door, but
could not make you hear. When I opened it and heard your petitions, I
could not help joining in them with all my heart, for I felt their
need as much as you.”

“Cum in, sir, an’ sit yo’ doon,” said Adam, freshening up the cushion
of his old arm-chair for his unusual guest.

“I did not expect to find you here, Mr. Blyth, but my errand has to do
with you and yours. The prayer I heard just now shows that you have
trusted our aged friend, and as I have come on purpose to do the same,
I hope you will give me a few minutes in his presence.”

Nathan bowed, blushed, felt very uncomfortable, stood half a second
irresolute, and then resumed his seat.

“That’s right, Natty,” said Adam; “the Lord’s showin’ yo’ t’ way. Gan
on, sir!”

“I came to you, Adam Olliver, because I know that you are a good man,
that your influence with God and with good men is great, that you are
Mr. Blyth’s trusted friend, and because I want you to be a trusted
friend of mine.”

“God bless yo’, sir. I isn’t mitch use, but ah’ll deea t’ best ah can
fo’ yo’, wi’ all mi’ ’art.”

“Thank you! The case is just here. My son Philip--(“God bless ’im,”
said Adam)--loves Lucy Blyth--(“God bless ’er,” said Adam)--with all
the strength of his nature. I believe that his love and his life are
bound up together. As you know, I strongly opposed it, as also did her
father. Both the young people, with a filial devotion beyond all
praise--(“God bless ’em,” said Adam)--submitted to our decision. Since
then, I and mine have been in the furnace. My son has been at the door
of death, and my life has been shadowed by the heaviest cloud that
ever darkened a human heart. My life was saved from the hand of a
ruffian, my boy was brought from the brink of the grave, and I was
brought back to my Bible and my Saviour--(“Halleluia!” said Adam)--by
the instrumentality of Lucy Blyth. All I have to-day of trust in
Christ, and peace of mind and hope of heaven, I owe to these two young
people--(“Glory be te God!” said Adam, while sympathetic tears were
coursing down his cheeks). Do you wonder, Adam Olliver, that all my
opposition died away? Do you wonder that the great desire of my heart
is to see these two man and wife? I gave my son permission to ask for
her at her father’s hands. He refused, and my son came back to me with
no light in his eye, and I cannot bear to see my boy breaking his
heart over an impossible love. Be my friend, and gain from him the
consent he will not give to me. Tell him that before God and man it is
right that these two, so strangely and mysteriously brought together,
should be one in life and death, one to labour for Jesus and His
cause; one to be a blessing to Waverdale, and good stewards for God
when I am dead and gone!”

“Nathan Blyth!” said Adam, “noo’s the tahme ’at we’ve been axin’ for.
Yah wod frae you will mak’ three ’arts ’appy, will pleease God, an’
fill all Nestleton wi’ joy! Ah deean’t think ’at you’ve mitch doot
ye’rsen, bud if yo’ hev, just let ma’ remind yo’ ’at Lucy owt te hev a
mind ov ’er aun, an’ ’at yo’ owt te lissen te what _she_ hez te say.”

In all his life Nathan Blyth had never been so moved. His independent
spirit, his conviction of duty wrestled with his tenderness of heart,
while the question forced itself upon him as to whether his
convictions were of God. His cool judgment was at war with the
impulses of his soul. But Adam’s last idea had laid abiding hold upon
him. What will Lucy say? After all, her’s was the weightiest voice;
beyond a certain point, he had no right to force her obedience, or be
the arbiter of her destiny, or bind an adamantine chain around her
life. He had done his duty with an honest conscience; now he was
compelled to own that he himself was wavering, that Providence seemed
to be on the other side, and so standing up before the anxious
squire, whose humility was something wonderful to see, he said,--

“Squire Fuller, I yield. I’ve done all I can to hinder it, but I dare
not further withhold my consent. My judgment does not approve, but it
may be misguided and unsound, and I have never known Adam Olliver at
fault; he lives too near to God for that. The matter rests with Lucy,
and no influence of mine shall be exerted to hinder her from deciding
according to the dictates of her conscience and the wishes of her
heart.”

“Thank you for that, Nathan Blyth. I have as much confidence in her as
you have,” said Squire Fuller. “I cannot ask you for more, and may God
guide us all aright.”

“He will,” said Adam Olliver, “an’ as seear as ah’s a livin’ man, Lucy
Blyth’s ‘Yis’ or ‘No’ ’ll be gi’en be’ t’ grace o’ God. Squire Fuller,
ah’ve neea desire te see fooaks get oot o’ their station i’ life, bud
t’ truth is, Lucy Blyth isn’t in hors, an’s called be’ t’ Providence
o’ God te cum up higher.”

“I believe you are right, good old man,” said Mr. Fuller, half beside
himself with joy, “and if ever ‘marriages were made in heaven,’ it
will be the case when that charming girl becomes the bride of my
noble-hearted son!”



CHAPTER XXXVI.

SISTER AGATHA’S GHOST.

    “True as the knights of story,
      Sir Lancelot and his peers,
    Brave in his calm endurance,
      As they in tilt of spears.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Knight of a better era,
      Without reproach or fear!
    Said I not well that Bayards
      And Sidneys still are here?”

    _Whittier._


It was customary to hold missionary meetings in the various villages
of the Kesterton Circuit during the months of winter; and these
occasions were almost always characterised by an outcome of
hospitality on the part of the sympathising villagers, an enthusiasm
in the great mission cause, and a liberality in its support which was
very beautiful to see. The speakers usually consisted of, at least,
one of the circuit ministers, a minister from a neighbouring circuit
as “the deputation,” and a local preacher or two, with some
neighbouring man of influence and means to take the chair. The reading
of the “report,” containing an abstract of the general doings of the
society, was not usually a popular part of the programme, but the
statement of local subscriptions and donations always made up for
that. Probably the names of one or two neighbouring farmers appeared
with the time-honoured “guinea” appended as their annual donation.
There was sure to be a missionary box or two, containing the result of
much patient painstaking on the part of the collector during the
preceding year. Not seldom, a missionary lamb, or goose, or pear-tree,
or other cash-producing entity, figured in the report, and told of
contrivance and self-sacrifice on the part of some who desired to have
an honourable “share in the concern.”

About the period of which I am writing, the annual meeting was
appointed to be held at Bexton, a considerable village situated a few
miles from the circuit town. As usual, the day was regarded by the
generality of Bextonians as being quite as fit an occasion for a
holiday as the village feast. The farmyards of the Methodist farmers,
as well as the open space beside the “King’s Head,” was filled with
gigs, traps, spring-carts, and other vehicles, which had brought a
large number of invited visitors; for the good folks of Bexton were
resolved that the proceeds of the anniversary should go “beyond last
year.” They accounted themselves peculiarly fortunate in having
secured the young squire of Waverdale as the chairman on this
auspicious occasion, and on having captured a “great gun from York as
the deputation.” Both Mr. Clayton and his colleague were present, as
well as Mr. Harrison, a local preacher from Kesterton; and last, not
least, Old Adam Olliver had accepted the warm invitation of a sister
of Mrs. Houston’s who resided in the village, and as the quaint old
man was a prime favourite all round the neighbourhood, nothing would
do but he must take a seat on the platform and say a few words to the
people.

Philip Fuller opened the proceedings with a brief and simple address,
and did his work in such a transparently earnest and unassuming
fashion that he was heartily cheered; and Mr. Mitchell was led
subsequently to make the original remark that “the chairman had struck
the keynote, and given a good tone to the meeting.” Philip described
himself as only a “raw recruit” in the great army, but, “thanks to his
old friend, Adam Olliver,” he had no doubt of his enlistment in the
Church militant, and, said he, “by God’s help, I will not only never
desert or betray my Captain, but will spend my life in the interests
of His cause.”

In the course of the meeting, the Chairman, having called upon Mr.
Mitchell, Mr. Clayton, and Mr. Harrison, said that “Mr. Olliver” would
now address the meeting. Loud and long-continued cheers greeted the
announcement, amid which Adam retained his seat, looking all round the
platform and the congregation, and finally at the door, to see the man
who was having so warm a welcome. When the cheering had subsided, the
Chairman looked at Adam, and Adam looked at him. All at once a light
broke in on the old man, and jumping to his feet, he said,--

“Lawk-a-massy! Maister Philip! Ah didn’t knoa ’at yo’ meant me. Ah
nivver was called ‘Mr. Olliver’ i’ all mi’ life afoore, an’ me an’ it
dizn’t seeam te agree. It’s like blo’in’ t’ cooachman’s ’orn iv a
wheelbarro’, or puttin’ a gilt knocker on a barn deear. Ah’ve been
ax’d te say a few wods, bud ah isn’t mitch ov a speeaker, an’ yo’
needn’t be freeten’d ’at ah sall tak’ up mitch o’ yer tahme. Ah knoa
’at yo’ want te hear t’ greeat man ’at’s cum all t’ way frae York te
help i’ this good cause. God bless ’im! an’ give him mooth, matter,
an’ wisdom, an’ tak’ ’im seeafe yam ageean, nae warse i’ body an’
better i’ sowl. Maister Philip, ah’ve cum frae Kesterton mainly te see
you i’ that chair. You’re t’ right man i’ t’ right spot. Ah sall
nivver forget that ’appy day upo’ Nestleton Woad, when the Lord
‘listed yo’, as you say, an’ gav’ yo’ the boonty munny o’ pardonin’
peeace. Ah’s quite sartain ’at t’ greeat Captain ov oor salvaytion
meeans yo’ te be, nut a private souldier, bud a general i’ t’ hosts o’
God’s elect; an’ ah pray ivvery day o’ my life ’at God ’ll bless yo’,
an’ mak’ yo’ a blessin’: that yo’ may fight the good fight o’ fayth
an’ lay hod ov etarnal life. Ah luv t’ mission cause, because it
brings perishin’ sowls te Jesus, an’ tak’s t’ blood-stayned banner o’
t’ Cross inte heeathen lands. Ah prays for it all’us, an’ ah gives all
t’ brass ah can spare, efter buyin’ breead an’ cheese for me an’ Judy,
te the Lord’s cause beeath at worn an’ abroad. Ah’s glad te see sae
monny labourin’ men here te-neet. Mah deear frens, you an’ me can’t
gie mitch munny, but we can pray as hard as onybody; an’ it isn’t hoo
mitch we gie, bud hoo mitch we luv, an’ hoo ’artily we deea wer best.
Angels can deea nae mair then that, an’ God ’ll bless it. T’ poor
wido’ ’at nobbut put two mites inte t’ box, did what was pleeasing te
Jesus, an’ her munny fell thro’ t’ nick wiv a sweeter chink then t’
golden sovereigns o’ t’ rich fooaks meead, because she put ’er heart
atween t’ bits o’ brass, an’ sae gay’ mair then ’em all. May the Lord
bless uz, an’ cause His feeace te shine on uz, an may His way be knoan
upo’ t’ ’arth an’ His seeavin’ health te all naytions.”

Adam’s speech elicited a round of applause, and then the deputation
had full swing. A collection succeeded, and Mr. Mitchell was able to
announce that the financial results were more than five pounds ahead
of last year’s. The “Doxology” was sung with much enthusiasm, and the
village missionary meeting was brought to a close. It was a little
meeting, it is true, but there are thousands of such meetings held in
Methodism, and in the aggregate they wield an influence which reaches
to the uttermost parts of the earth, carries saving health to
thousands who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, and helps
to overspread the world with the “glory of the Lord.”

After partaking of the bounteous and really sumptuous supper provided
by his hosts, Adam Olliver was prevailed upon to smoke his pipe in the
chimney-corner in company with other guests who indulged in that
regalement. It was getting late when the old man mounted his faithful
steed, and started on his homeward way. For a while he was favoured
with the companionship of fellow guests, but as he proceeded, first
one and then another turned down highway or byeway, until, at length,
Balaam and his master were left to jog along, beneath the stars,
alone.

As usual, the old hedger made a confidant of his dumb companion. It
was a bright moonlight night; the clear blue sky was studded with
stars, and Balaam’s hoofs were pattering along the frosty road, when
the big bell at Cowley Priory boomed out the hour of eleven.

“Balaam, aud friend, this is a bonny tahme o’ neet for thoo an’ me te
be wanderin’ throo’ t’ coontry, when a’most ivvery honest body’s gone
te bed. Besides, thoo knoas it’s dangerous travellin’ noo-a-days, for
there’s robbers, an’ hoosebrekkers, an’ ’ighwaymen aboot. They’ll hae
sum trubble te rob me, hooivver, for that man frae York ’ticed ivvery
copper oot o’ my pocket, an’s left ma’ as poor as a chotch moose.
What’ll Judy think on us, gallivantin’ aboot at midneet i’ this
oathers? She’ll think thoo’s run away wi’ ma’, Balaam.” The idea of
Balaam being guilty of any such absurd indiscretion, tickled the old
man’s risible faculties so finely, that he broke out into a hearty fit
of laughter, loud and long. Scarcely had the sound subsided than there
rose upon the air a scream so wild and piercing, that for a moment
both Balaam and his rider were astonished. Rising up in his stirrups,
Adam Olliver looked across the adjoining hedge. The hoary gables of
the old Abbey stood out bold and clear, and the crumbling walls and
shapeless heaps of stone, and the all-pervading ivy were to be seen
almost as clearly as by day. But there was one sight that never could
be seen by day which now displayed itself to Adam’s wondering gaze.
This was nothing less than the veritable apparition of the ancient
nun. Robed in flowing white, with white folds across the brow, and
that awful crimson stain upon the breast, there it stood, or slowly
walked with measured pace around the ruined pile. One death-white hand
was laid upon the bosom, the other one was lifted heavenward, as if in
deprecation or in prayer.

“Balaam,” said Adam, as he settled himself again in his saddle, “there
_is_ a boggle, hooivver!”

This startling information was received by that philosophic quadruped
with no symptoms of surprise. The fact is that Balaam had, for reasons
which will shortly appear, made up his mind in favour of the
genuineness of the ghost in which even his sceptical master had now
confessed a tardy, but definite belief. Balaam simply laid one ear
backwards, and cocked the other upright, as who should say as plain as
signs could speak,--

“There, I told you so, but you didn’t believe me. You see I’m right,
after all.”

“All right, Balaam,” said Adam Olliver. “Ah telled tha’ ’at if thoo
didn’t tonn tayl if we sud see it, ah wadn’t. What diz tho’ say? will
tho’ feeace it?”

By this time they had arrived at the gate of the paddock in which the
haunted ruins stood. Balaam had for many years enjoyed the free run of
that pasturage whenever he was off duty, and this with the hearty
good-will of Farmer Houston, for his owner’s sake. This familiarity
with the haunts of Sister Agatha doubtless accounted for Balaam’s
belief in spiritualism, as he had in this way repeated opportunities
of studying the remarkable phenomena connected with this particular
illustration of that occult and mysterious science. As Piggy Morris
said, “Seein’s believin’, all the world over,” and as “familiarity
breeds contempt,” according to the well-known proverb, there is little
cause of surprise that the sagacious animal did not display any fear
of the dread nocturnal visitor that filled all Nestleton with alarm.

Be this as it may, Balaam, altogether unaccustomed to such
unconscionably late hours, promptly came to the conclusion that his
master would now turn him into the paddock for the night, and so he
trotted boldly up to the gate, and inserting his nose between the
bars, looked with wistful eye, though not much like the poet’s
“disconsolate Peri,” into the green and restful Paradise within.

“Well dun, Balaam! That’s a challenge, at ony rayte,” said Adam, “an’
ah weean’t refuse it. Ah nivver was freetened o’ nowt bud the divvil,
an’ noo, thenk the Lord, ah deean’t care a button for ’im. Nut ’at ah
think it is ’im. It’s sum Tom Feeal, ah fancy, at’s deein’ it for a
joak; bud he hez neea business te flay fooaks oot o’ the’r wits, an’
ah’ll see whea it is.”

He opened the gate, and, nothing loth, Balaam boldly trotted over the
grass, and again the apparition showed itself, just as it had appeared
to Jake Olliver several nights ago.

“Woy,” said Adam to his reckless steed, and the ghost, observing the
daring intruder, stretched out its hands in menace, and advanced until
it stood beneath the arch, on the spot it usually selected for its
subterranean evanishment. Here another woeful, wailing shriek arose;
Adam for the first time felt an odd tingling sensation, and a sort of
creepy-crawly feeling that would be difficult to analyse. The ass,
however, showed not the least surprise, so Adam stood up again in his
stirrups, though he was “a goodish bit dumfoonder’d,” as he afterwards
confessed, and said in a loud voice,--

    “Jesus the neeame ’igh ower all,
      I’ hell or ’arth or sky;
    Aingels an’ men afoore it fall,
      An’ divvils fear an’ fly!”

Hereupon the ghost itself was “a goodish bit dumfoonder’d” too;
however, the last act of the drama was accomplished as usual, for
instantly a pale blue flash surrounded the figure, which sank, at once
among the briars and brambles that grew in unchecked profusion on that
uncanny ground.

“Cum oop! Balaam,” said the daring knight of the slashing-knife, and
that unflinching steed, worthy to rank henceforth with Rosinante,
Bucephalus, the war-horse of the Roman Curtius, and other equine
heroes, trotted under the broken arch! Adam’s observant eye had
noticed that as the figure sank the brambles bent and waved to and
fro, as if set in motion by some living thing. He was not greatly
learned in ghost lore, still he had the idea that a real, genuine
ghost, with no nonsense about it, ought to have gone through the
briars with no more commotion than the moonbeams made.

“That’ll deea for te-neet, Balaam,” said Adam; “t’ ghaust’s run te
’arth like a fox, an’ we mun dig ’im oot.”

Balaam obeyed the bridle, turned his steps homeward, and in a few
minutes the anxiety of Judy was allayed by the appearance of her good
man, all safe and sound.

“Adam!” said she, “Wherivver hae yo’ been, te be so late?”

“Why, me an’ Balaam’s been te see t’ boggle!”

“What, Sister Agatha’s ghost?” said Judy, who was not by any means a
sceptic with regard to spirits from the vasty deep in general, and
this one in particular.

“Sister Agatha’s gran’mother,” said Adam, contemptuously. “It’s my
opinion ’at it isn’t a sister at all, but a brother, an’ a precious
rascal at that, wiv ’is white smock, an’ ’is bloody breest, an’ ’is
blue bleeazes. If he dizn’t mind, he’ll get mair o’ them last sooat o’
things then he’ll care for; bud we’ll dig ’im oot.”

The next day Adam related his midnight encounter to Farmer Houston
and Nathan Blyth, and they resolved to go and explore the haunted
spot. They were ultimately rewarded by the discovery of an underground
cave, probably the handiwork of the monkish denizens of Cowley Priory,
with whose monastery it was said Nestleton Abbey had been connected by
a subterranean passage in those “auld-warld” times, when Rome ruled
the roast in England, and when its anchorites led not only an ignoble
and wasted life, but were guilty of evil doings and malpractices that
were infinitely worse. The spacious hollow which the explorers
discovered, penetrated far into the earth. Candles were provided to
prosecute the search, and there they found much thievish booty,
including the tin box which had been abstracted from Waverdale Hall.
The astonished discoverers kept their secret, and quickly arranged to
set a secret watch on the bramble-covered entrance to the burglar’s
den. Two or three nights afterwards they were successful in capturing
a man just as he was in the act of descending to his secret lair. He
was seized by strong hands and carried to Farmer Houston’s kitchen. As
may be imagined, the entrance of the redoubtable ghost caused no
little stir among that peaceful household, each of whom in turn came
to “have a look” at him. Among the rest came Hannah Olliver, who was
plying her needle for the good of the household wardrobe, and as soon
as she set her eyes upon the prisoner she screamed out, “Aubrey
Bevan!” and fell fainting on the floor. The quondam valet was safely
lodged in York Castle. Eventually that crafty, clever, but
craven-hearted rascal turned king’s evidence; the entire gang, which
had long been a terror to the country side, was captured, and speedily
“left their country for their country’s good.” It is gratifying to be
able to say that both poetical and practical justice was at length
able to lay its hands on Master Bevan himself, and he, too, was sent
to join his former comrades in the distant and uncomfortable
settlements of Botany Bay. Hannah Olliver, who had been instrumental
in his identification, was permitted to be the bearer of the tin box
to its rightful owner, and on giving up the precious article to Squire
Fuller, she received a kind and full forgiveness for the unwary folly
of which she had been guilty in introducing the burglars into
Waverdale Hall.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

PHILIP FULLER BOLDLY MEETS HIS FATE.

    “He says he loves my daughter;
    I think so too; for never gazed the moon
    Upon the water, as he’ll stand, and read,
    As ’twere, my daughter’s eyes; and, to be plain,
    I think there is not half a kiss to choose
    Who loves the other best.”

    _Shakespeare_.


The short winter’s day was over, and night had closed around Waverdale
Hall, when Squire Fuller joined his son by the cosy fire in the
library, after his affecting and successful interview with Nathan
Blyth and Adam Olliver.

“Well, Master Philip,” said the squire; “what will you give me for my
news to-night?”

“My best attention and my warmest thanks,” said that young gentleman,
who divined that the intelligence hinted at was of a pleasant nature
by reason of the glow on his father’s countenance, and the tell-tale
tone in which he spoke.

“Hadn’t you better reserve your thanks until you know whether or not
my information will be welcome?” said the squire, evidently enjoying
the parley, and willing to prolong it.

“I’ll risk it, father mine, for from that happy face of yours I augur
something pleasant, and you couldn’t, if you tried, introduce bad news
by asking for a reward for bringing it.”

“Well, then,” said the squire, with mock seriousness, “prepare
yourself for a dread calamity. Nathan Blyth has withdrawn his
opposition, and if you can gain Lucy’s consent, you and I may obtain
our heart’s desire.”

True prophet as he was, Philip was hardly prepared for news so good
and so direct as this. He was touched to the quick with the way in
which his father spoke of their interests in this all-engrossing
subject, as being one and indivisible. His face lighted up with hope
as he said,--

“Thank God for that. I’ll soon ask for her verdict. But how have you
managed to overcome an opposition so determined as Nathan Blyth’s?”

“Why, to tell the truth, it is not so much my doing as it is Adam
Olliver’s. That fine old Christian wields a marvellous influence both
with God and man.”

The squire then told of his visit to the old hedger: how he found him
and Nathan Blyth upon their knees, how he opened his heart to both of
them, how Adam Olliver had said the very wisest words in the most
impressive way, and finally how Nathan Blyth was unable any longer to
withstand the strong appeal, and had promised not to put a straw in
the way, but to leave Lucy to decide the matter for herself.

“Dear old Adam,” said Philip, earnestly, “my debt to him is such as I
never can repay. Lucy’s decision I shall get to-morrow, and I will not
for a moment doubt that she will be true to the pleadings of her own
heart, and those, I know, are in my favour.”

“Go, my boy, and God prosper your errand, and I believe He will. And
now, if you can stoop to anything more prosy and less interesting,
what about this new chapel? I am inclined to build it myself, and
present it to the Methodist society as a token of my admiration of
their work, and a thank-offering to God. What do you think of it?”

Philip sat thinking for a little while, and then said, “No, I wouldn’t
do that. They have already obtained a considerable sum, and many will
be eager to give and to work now that the land is secured, and it
would be a pity to deprive them of what will be a pleasure and
delight. Besides, it will do the people good to receive their
offerings, and so to let them feel that it is the outcome of their own
zeal. You can give a contribution such as the case may need, and what
will be much better, you can offer something handsome towards the
maintenance of a third minister to reside in Nestleton, and so to
secure the more effective working of this side the Kesterton Circuit.”

With this advice the squire heartily coincided, and ere long the two
retired to rest, the one to plan and contrive for a preacher’s house
at Nestleton, the other to dream of Lucy and the morrow, which should,
as he dared hope, seal her his own for ever.

       *       *       *       *       *

Though the little sitting-room of Nathan Blyth was neither so large
nor so imposing as the spacious library of Squire Fuller, the fireside
was just as cosy, and the two who sat beside it were just as loving
and true-hearted as the pair we have just left. Lucy was seated by her
father’s side; with one hand he was stroking her dark hair, the other
was cast lovingly round her waist.

“Lucy, darling, can you guess who has been to see me and Adam Olliver
to-night?”

If Lucy had uttered the name that was uppermost in her heart, and the
first on her tongue, she would undoubtedly have said “Philip,” and
nothing else; for still, as when she mentioned his name as her rescuer
from the unwelcome attentions of Black Morris, there was no other
Philip in the world to her, but unwilling to hint at what she regarded
as a forbidden and unwelcome subject, she heaved a sigh, and said,--

“I can’t tell, daddy; perhaps the squire has been about the plot of
land.”

“No, my dear, but you need not sigh about it; sighing doesn’t suit
those sweet lips of yours. Squire Fuller it was, but he came about
another ‘plot,’ by which he means to steal my daughter from her
father’s heart and home.”

Lucy’s fair head drooped upon his bosom, as she blushed a rosy red,
and softly said,--

“Never from his heart, my father, whatever else might happen, and,
without his permission, never from his home.”

“Aye,” said Nathan, with a tearful smile, “but _with_ his permission,
light of my life, what then?”

Closely nestled the head upon the manly bosom in which the heart of as
true and good a father as ever bore the name was loudly beating, and
then she looked, with all her soul in her eyes, and said,--

“What is it, father? Do not try me more than I can bear.”

“My glorious girl,” said Natty; “it is that, at last, Philip Fuller’s
welcome here on whatsoever errand he may come. I’ve had no thought,
felt no emotion, entertained no wish, but for my darling’s happiness.
I believe that happiness is in Philip Fuller’s keeping, and I believe
with all my heart that now and ever he will loyally and lovingly
fulfil the precious trust. Kiss me, sweet, and be sure that your
decision will willingly be mine.”

For all answer, Lucy kissed him again and again, then flung her arms
around his neck and burst into tears--tears which had no sorrow in
them, only a wealth of happiness and love.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whoever overslept themselves next morning, be sure that Philip Fuller
was up betimes. Old Father Time, whose fingers force the hands around
the dial at such relentless speed, appeared to our eager lover to be
smitten with paralysis, or to have forgotten the awful cunning of his
usual despatch. But no sooner did the laggard timepiece point to a
reasonable hour for paying a morning call, than Philip turned his
steps toward Nestleton Forge. It was a glorious winter’s morning; the
clear, bracing air was quite in harmony with Philip’s buoyant spirit,
as he rapidly sped along the frost-bound road. Long before he could
see the home where dwelt the “damsel sweet and fair,” whose “soft
consent he meant to woo and win,” he heard the musical ring of
Nathan’s anvil; but this time he did not pause even to look through
the open door, much less to listen to Nathan’s song. Had he done so,
however, he would have heard strains of good omen, for Blithe Natty
was in good feather and chanted a hopeful strain, which might well
have inspired the listener with even a more gladly expectant spirit
than that which he undoubtedly possessed. Stop a moment, Master
Philip, and hear the oracle:--

    Came Love one day across my way,
      And with inviting finger,
    Enticing smile, and subtle wile,
      Said, “Follow me, nor linger.

    “I offer joy without alloy,
      A ceaseless round of pleasure--
    A vision bright of sweet delight,
      And bliss that knows no measure.

    “Within my bowers the fleeting hours
      Are always bright and sunny;
    From rosy lip come thou and sip
      The nectar and the honey.”

    “O Love!” I cried, and swiftly hied
      To follow, as she bade me;
    Across my path, in sturdy wrath,
      Stood Duty, and he stayed me.

    Quoth Duty, “Stay! That’s not the way;
      Rash youth, beware her wooing!
    Her magic spell, O mark it well,
      May be thy soul’s undoing.

    “Her beauteous things have hidden stings,
      And though she proffers nectar,
    The poisoned cup will conjure up
      A dread, life-haunting spectre.

    “Whom she leads on, they find anon
      Her beauty swiftly dying;
    Like bird on wing, the gleaming thing
      From singing takes to flying.

    “Turn, gentle youth, and mark this truth--
      True love is linked with duty;
    Come then with me and thou shalt see
      A richer, rarer beauty.”

    “Lead on,” I cried, and by the side
      Of Duty forth I sped me;
    Resolved to go, for weal or woe,
      Wherever Duty led me.

    I followed still, for good or ill,
      Through thorny brake and briar;
    Or up the steep, or down the deep,
      Through water or through fire.

    And now at last, the testing’s past,
      And Duty sits beside me;
    Quoth Duty, “Once, and for the nonce,
      Thy Love was quite denied thee.

    “That tempting elf was ‘Love of Self,’
      And ’neath her smile lay lurking
    An aspish sting--a deadly thing--
      Dire, deathless evils working.

    “Now Love once more stands thee before,
      To fill thine eyes with glamour;
    This gift of mine is love divine,
      And shall thy soul enamour.”

    He waved his wand, gave his command,--
      “True Love, come forth,” said Duty;
    Before my eyes she did arise,
      _My_ love, of rarest beauty.

    My youth’s ideal! Now mine and real;
      O Love, how long I sought thee!
    Cries Love, “I come; Thy heart’s my home!
      ’Twas Duty, love, that brought me.”

    Thrice happy I to testify
      Whate’er the wind and weather,
    ’Tis mine to prove that truest Love
      And Duty dwell together.

    No more I roam, for here at home,
      My love and I, united,
    Blessing and blest, know perfect rest,
      And Duty is delighted.

    And when at last our lives are past,
      And we become immortals;
    Through heaven’s door we two shall soar
      When Duty opes the portals.

Had Natty Blyth known of Philip’s morning call, he could not have been
more wise in his choice of a song, and I have every reason to believe
that Lucy had heard the rehearsal, for Nathan Blyth knew how to make
his muse the channel alike of counsel and of cheer. Philip Fuller,
however, as I have said, had no time or will this morning to listen to
Blithe Natty’s song. Love is royal, and the king’s business requireth
haste. Now I might stay to descant on the music of Philip’s “tap, tap,
tapping at the” blacksmith’s door, for, depend upon it, there was a
tremor of excitement in the hand that did it, and another tremor of
excitement in the ear that heard it, that put it altogether beyond
comparison with ordinary tappings, even the postman’s knock, though
probably the mystic tappings of a table-haunting spirit may have
something of the same expectancy in it, but certainly not the same
delight. Lucy Blyth was never above opening the door herself, either
to visitor or shop-boy, but on this occasion she sent her little
serving-maid to the door, as the damsel Rhoda was sent to answer
Peter’s knock; and so it came to pass that Philip was ushered into the
little sitting-room to wait, and perhaps to whistle to keep his
courage up, while our little bird flew upstairs to preen her feathers
for a minute or two, and hush down the flutterings of her heart.
By-and-bye comes in Miss Lucy, and sure I am no fairer vision ever
fell on mortal sight. The tell-tale blush that mantled on her cheek,
did only lend a new and witching grace, and as Byron has it,--

                          “To his eye
    There was but one beloved face on earth
    And that was shining on him,”

and Byron is, of course, the apostle of love, though Moore perhaps
successfully disputes his primacy. The Irish bard, with true Hibernian
fire, sings,--

    “Oh, there are looks and tones that dart
    An instant sunshine through the heart;
    As if the soul that minute caught
    Some treasure it through life had sought.

    As if the very lips and eyes,
    Predestined to have all our sighs,
    And never be forgot again,
    Sparkled and spoke before us then!”

So Philip’s eyes “sparkled and spoke” as he advanced to meet the
idol of his heart, and as for Lucy, why, as dear old Dan Chaucer puts
it,--

[Illustration: NATHAN AT DINNER.--_Page 265._]

    “No lesse was she in secret heart affected,
    But that she maskèd it in modestie.”

“Lucy!”

“Philip!”

His arms were open, her blushing face was buried on his shoulder, and
at last, long last, the two loving hearts were one. I am very sorry
that I am not able to enlarge upon this tender scene. The two words of
conversation which I have here recorded, contain really the core and
marrow of the whole interview. Doubtless, many of my readers
understand it thoroughly, and the rest of them will do so, if they be
good and patient. _Multum in parvo_ is very true in declarations of
mutual love, and as I am in a quoting vein, I’ll e’en quote from
Tupper, so oft the butt of “witlings with a maggot in their brain;”
his writings will at any rate bear favourable comparison with those of
the sibilant geese who hiss at him. Quoth he,--

    “Love! What a volume in a word! An ocean in a tear!
    A seventh heaven in a glance! A whirlwind in a sigh!
    The lightning in a touch!--A millenium in a moment!”

Well, the “millenium” had dawned on Philip and Lucy; they remained
long in close and peculiarly interesting conversation, but the door
was shut, and all I know about it is, that Nathan Blyth thought Lucy
unconscionably late with dinner. All things, however, have an end, and
at length Master Philip was ruthlessly expelled from Paradise, and
betook himself to the blacksmith’s shop. The gallant and noble knight
of the anvil laid down his hammer to greet his visitor, but Philip was
beforehand with him,--

“Nathan Blyth! Lucy has consented to be my wife.”

“Philip Fuller, you’ve loved her long, you’ve wooed her honourably,
you’ve won her heart, and in my soul, I believe you deserve her, and
that’s more than I could say of any other man on earth.”

A warm and hearty hand-grasp sealed the covenant. Philip Fuller hasted
to his ancestral Hall to gladden the heart of his father with the
welcome news that Lucy Blyth was his affianced wife. So Lucy Blyth’s
filial love and duty were at length rewarded, and Philip Fuller’s
loyalty to God, his father, and his love, obtained their well-won
prize.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

BLACK MORRIS “WANTS THAT BRICKBAT AGAIN.”

    “O I have often seen the tear
    From Pity’s eye flow bright and clear,
    When Sympathy hath bid it stay,
    And tremble on its timid way;
    But there’s a tear more pure and bright,
    And moulded with as soft a light,--
    The tear that gushes from the eye,
    Fresh from the founts of memory.”

    _Anon._


The Rev. Theophilus Clayton and the earnest Methodist band of which he
was the head, did not let the grass grow under their feet anent the
scheme for the erection of the new chapel in Nestleton. After the
securing of the land, a public meeting had been called, plans were
presented, additional subscriptions promised, and finally a day was
fixed upon for the all-important ceremony of laying the foundation
stone. Philip Fuller, who was an active member of the Building
Committee, being quite aware that his father would help to any amount
that a free expenditure might require, succeeded in getting such a
scheme adopted as would secure an elegant and attractive sanctuary,
sufficiently spacious for aggression, and so effective in its
architecture as to be an ornament to the lovely village in which it
was to be erected. Again the famous minister from York was secured.
Squire Fuller himself had promised to lay the stone, and every
preparation was made for the grand occasion when the corner-stone
should be laid, and the long-hoped-for undertaking should be
inaugurated with enthusiasm and success.

A large and capacious tent was improvised by the aid of farmers’
stack-cloths, builders’ scaffold-poles, and other materials, on
Nestleton Green. Jabez Hepton and his apprentices were very busy in
rigging up temporary tables and rude forms, a platform for the
speakers, and other essentials for the great tea-meeting, and for the
public gathering which was to follow. An enormous boiler had been
borrowed from the Hall, urns and tea-pots, whose name was legion, were
requisitioned from all and sundry, and all things were ready for the
grand emprise. A glorious spring day, beautifully soft and balmy, was
providentially accorded them. Banners and bunting, evergreens and
flowers, adorned the scaffold-poles around the brick foundations which
had been already laid, waved from the summit of the tent, and were
lavishly scattered in its bright interior; while just before the
canvass doorway, John Morris and his brothers, with the help of Jake
Olliver, had erected a triumphal arch, which was quite a marvellous
triumph of village art.

The “trays” for the public tea had all been given and provided in that
bounteous and luxurious fashion for which the Yorkshire farm
mistresses are proverbial. Hams, tongues and fowls, tarts and pies,
cheese-cakes, tea-cakes, plum-cakes, rice-cakes, and other toothsome
triumphs of confectionery, mingled with a profusion of plainer fare,
and exhibited such a sum total of appetising edibilities, that Jabez
Hepton’s tables curved and creaked beneath their weight. As for the
people who gathered there on that auspicious day, it really seemed as
though the whole Kesterton Circuit had immigrated to Nestleton Green.
Kesterton was represented by scores of sympathisers, and every village
in Messrs. Clayton and Mitchell’s pastorate sent a detachment to swell
the crowd. As for Nestleton itself, why it was there bodily. On that
day, at any rate, the plough might stand in the furrow, and the horses
experienced two Sundays in the week. The central ceremony passed
smoothly off: Squire Fuller did his unfamiliar duty in a deft and
skilful way, and finished his short address of warm congratulation, by
placing a hundred pounds upon the stone he had just “well and truly
laid.” Two or three speeches were delivered, the indispensable
collection was made, the “Doxology” and “God save the King” were sung
with a perfect furore of enthusiasm, and then a general adjournment
was made to the “tented field.” A battle royal succeeded; such an
overwhelming charge was made upon urn and teapot, loaf and pastry,
flesh and fowl, that in a very little while the boards were swept of
their supplies, and the trampled ground was strewed with shattered
fragments, the only surviving token of the fierceness of the fray. At
the evening meeting the squire of Waverdale again took the place of
honour, and delighted all his hearers with the simple relation of his
religious experience, and his grateful references to the Methodist
influences which had been brought to bear on himself and son. “As for
good old Adam Olliver,” quoth the squire, “he is one of Nature’s
noblemen. No, that won’t do either, for our grand old friend is in the
highest sense a patriarch in holiness and grace. My debt to him is
greater than he knows; greater than he will ever know until the light
of eternity flashes on the doings of time. I desire in his name to
contribute a further sum of fifty pounds, and I heartily pray that
the chapel about to be built may be the means of perpetuating and
multiplying such genuine specimens of piety, integrity, and goodness
among the villagers of Nestleton.”

Mr. Houston read a statement of a financial kind, which set forth a
very hopeful state of things, and then the squire called on Philip
Fuller to address the meeting. The young and handsome heir of the
Waverdale estates received an unmistakable ovation which said much for
his hold upon the general esteem, and promised much for his future
influence over those among whom he would one day occupy so powerful a
position for evil or for good. When Philip rose to his feet there was
a certain young lady who felt a sudden flutter at her heart as to how
he would acquit himself. He was quite as effective, however, in his
work as she had been in hers, and that is saying much, for in the
dreadful fight among the crockery and its contents, Lucy Blyth had
handled her weapons like a heroine, as many a sated tea-bibber and
muffin-eater could testify.

“My dear father and Mr. Chairman,” quoth Philip--and here the
unconscionable tipplers of the not inebriating stimulus cheered
again--“among the many causes of gratitude and joy that fill my heart
to-day, one of the very greatest is the joy of seeing you in that
position. How good God has been to me you know full well. I stand here
happy in the consciousness of a Saviour’s love, as one raised by a
miracle from the bed of death, rich in the possession of your sympathy
and love, both intensified by the power of a common faith in Jesus,
and as the prospective possessor of the fairest prize in Waverdale.”
Here the applause was almost deafening; hats and handkerchiefs were
waved in frantic excitement, and if any purblind idiot was ignorant of
Lucy’s hold upon the people’s hearts, he was there and then
enlightened fully and for evermore. “I, too, sir, must render my
acknowledgments to Adam Olliver, my spiritual father, my trusted
friend, my counsellor and guide. My heart is far too full for fitting
speech. To honest, humble, hearty Methodist people, under God, I owe
all that is worth having in this world; and I propose by God’s help to
live among them and to labour with them as long as He shall please to
spare my life. I, too, sir, with your permission, would give £100 in
token of my gratitude to the Great Giver of all my good.”

In the same high strain of gratitude, speaker followed speaker, and
the interest of the meeting was not only sustained but heightened. The
minister from York gave a full, clear exposition of the distinctive
doctrines of Methodism and the chief peculiarities of its discipline,
to which, it was noted, the squire gave earnest, studious, and
approving heed; Mr. Clayton talked wisely and well of Methodism’s
special mission to Nestleton, and sketched in glowing colours a
prophetic history of the new chapel, and the good work that should
there be done for God. Mr. Mitchell found a thrilling and congenial
theme in the Midden Harbour mission, and the triumphs of grace among
its vicious and degraded inhabitants. Then the meeting was thrown open
for the reception of gifts and promises, and it soon appeared as if,
like Moses with the Israelites, Mr. Clayton would have to ask them to
“stay their hand.” Jabez Hepton would make and give the pulpit; Kasper
Crabtree would build the wall around the chapel grounds and surmount
it with iron palisades; George Cliffe the carrier, and other owners of
horses would “lead” the bricks, lime, sand, stone, slates, and timber
free of cost. Widow Appleton promised the proceeds of her jargonelle
pear-tree, and Piggy Morris would give a litter of porkers to increase
the swelling funds. At length, up rose Black Morris, but so widely
different was his aspect as compared with the sad, bad times of
old--clean shaven, and with shortened locks, the old scowl conspicuous
by its absence, and the entire countenance so illuminated with the
gleam of grace, that all present felt that Black Morris was as dead
as Queen Anne, that the _soubriquet_ was a libel, and that the “John
Morris” of his innocent youth-hood had risen from the dead. Latterly
the ex-poacher had sought with much success to gather employment as a
farrier, and there seemed to be a reasonable prospect of prosperity in
that particular line. John Morris asked permission to address the
meeting; in feeling strains that held his hearers spell-bound, he
recounted his strange and startling experience. He told the story of
the brickbat, and pointed, with tears in his eyes, to the scar on Mr.
Clayton’s face; ofttimes half-choked with sobs, he struggled through
the narrative of his never-to-be-forgotten ride in the circuit gig. He
told how he watched Mr. Clayton at Kesterton town-end with the
brickbat in his hand. “I said as I put it in my pocket,” said he, “and
turned down the Nestleton-road, ‘Hey, I shall want it again.’ And now
I _do_ want it again. Here it is! (and he held the missile up before
them), I want to give it to the new chapel. I’ve saved five pounds,
and will save, by God’s help fifteen more, which I rejoice to give in
gratitude to God; but I want to ask you to build the brickbat into the
building, for it has been bathed many a time in tears of penitence,
and I thank God, it has also been bathed in tears of joy.” The scene
which followed baffles description. Mr. Clayton hid his face in his
hands and wept like a child, the sobs of Piggy Morris and his gentle
Mary were heard above the deep but suppressed murmurs of sympathy
which ran through the tearful crowd. By-and-bye, “Aud Adam Olliver”
arose and said,--

“Mr. Chairman! If ivver there was a man upo’ t’ ’arth ’at was a’most
ower ’appy te live, it’s me. Halleluia! Halleluia! Prayse the Lord!
an’ let all the people say, Amen.” And they _did_ say it, as if they
meant it. Adam proceeded, “Neet an’ day for mair then fotty year,
ah’ve bin prayin’ an’ waitin’ te see this day. An’ noo its cum, an’
cum iv a shap’ ’at fair tonns me’ heead wi’ joy. When me an’ mah dear
aud Judy com’ here te-day, and ah saw this greeat big tent afoore uz,
an’ t’ flags flappin’ on t’ top on it, ah could’nt help sayin’, ‘Judy,
mi’ lass! There’s t’ tabernacle there alriddy, an’ t’ temple ’ll be up
and oppened afoare Can’lemas-day. Prayse the Lord!’ We’ve had monny a
blessed tahme i’ mah lahtle hoose, an’ Maister Houston’s kitchen’s
been filled wi’ t’ glory o’ the Lord. Beeath on ’em’s been a Bochim
wi’ t’ tears o’ penitent sowls, an’ thenk the Lord beeath on em’s been
a Bethel, wheer poor wanderin’ sinners like Jacob hez fun’ the Lord.
Ah’ve been thinkin’ o’ t’ good aud sowls ’at’s gone te heaven oot o’
mah lahtle class, since fost it wer’ started, playmaytes an’
cumpanions o’ mahne an’ Judy’s. Why scoores on ’em hez crossed ower
Jordan, dry-shod, an’ gone te be for ivver wi’ the Lord. Me an’ Judy’s
aboot all there’s left o’ t’ real aud standers. We are like a coople
o’ poor, dry trimmlin’ leeaves, still shackin’ upo’ t’ tree i’ winter;
when wa’ fall we sall fall as leet as they deea, an’ t’ wind ’at bloas
us doon ’ll bloa us up ageean an’ carry us inte Paradise,--

    ‘Te flourish in endurin’ bloom
    Seeaf frae diseeases an’ decline.’

Then there’s that grand victh’ry ’at the Lord’s gi’en us i’ Midden
Harbour. Scoores o’ poor sowls ’at’s been liggin’ amang t’ pots hez
gotten ‘wings o’ silver an’ feathers o’ yallow gold.’ Prayse the Lord!
An’ noo, Mr. Chairman, let’s remember what the Lord said te t’
Israelites when they camped bi’ t’ side o’ Jordan, ’at owerfload its
banks i’ harvest-tahme. It seeamed as though they could nivver cross
it, it was sae rough an’ sae deep. He said, be’ t’ mooth ov ’is
sarvan, Joshua, ‘Sanctify ye’rsens, an’ i’ t’ mornin’ the Lord ’ll
work wunders fo’ yo’ l’ an’ sae He will for uz. Noo, Mr. Chairman,
ah’ll say nae mair, bud nobbut propooase ’at John Morris’s hoaf-brick
be built i’ t’ frunt o’ t’ chapil, i’ sitch a spot ’at ’is bairns an’
their bairns efter ’em may nivver forget hoo the Lord mak’s t’ wrath
ov man te prayse Him, an’ hoo He browt John Morris te t’ Sayviour’s
feet.”

The meeting was at length brought to a conclusion, and the people trod
their homeward way, filled with precious experiences of a day which
still lives in the memories of some who are yet spared by the sweeping
scythe of Time, to tell the story of the glorious meeting on Nestleton
Green, and the episode of Black Morris’s singular contribution. In due
time the front gable reared its graceful head, and midway in the wall
was placed a slab of stone, with a square orifice cut in the middle,
in which the brickbat was inserted, and round about it an inscription
to the following effect:--

[Illustration: WESLEYAN METHODIST CHAPEL, BUILT 1835.]

One day, when Mr. Clayton was sauntering round the new erection,
noticing with much satisfaction how nearly it approached completion,
he was joined by John Morris, who paid a daily visit of inspection to
the building in which he had so deep and strong an interest. They
stood together, reading the inscription on the tablet and looking at
the suggestive square within.

“Morris,” said Mr. Clayton with a smile, “that cut in the stone will
outlast the scar on my cheek! I count that seam one of the most
precious things that I possess.”

“And I,” said Morris, “count it one of the most shameful things that
even I ever did in my reckless wickedness. But, see, there is a B
directly below it and an M immediately above it, and so it will
perpetuate Black Morris’s repentance so long as the walls endure; or,
if you read it downwards, Morris’s Brickbat is intimated quite as
clearly.”

“Well, that’s one way of looking at it,” said Mr. Clayton, laughing,
“but I have already read it downwards, and in my own mind have
translated it into Methodist Booty; and I declare to you that I would
willingly bear the brunt of another attack if I could capture another
brickbat and another warm-hearted Christian like John Morris;” so
saying he shook his companion warmly by the hand. That worthy fellow’s
answer was a grateful look, through glistening eyes, as he silently
turned away.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

NESTLETON PUTS ON HOLIDAY ATTIRE.

    “Now all is done; bring home the bride again,
    Bring home the triumph of our victory;
    Bring home with you the glory of her gain,
    With joyaunce bring her and with jollitie.
    Never had man more joyful day than this,
    Whom heaven would heap with bliss.
    Make feast, therefore, now all this livelong day,
    This day for ever to me holy is.”

    _Spenser._


The spring buds had expanded into summer flowers, May blossoms had
developed into autumn fruits, and the corn-fields were nearly white
unto the harvest, when the finishing touch was given to Nestleton
Chapel, and the day came round when that much-admired sanctuary was to
be publicly opened and solemnly consecrated to God. Great as was the
stir and the enthusiasm when the corner-stone was laid, that event had
to hide its diminished head in presence of this crowning ceremony. The
top-stone was emphatically brought on with shouting, and on that day
Nestleton, with the whole Kesterton Circuit as a boon companion, gave
itself up to an ecstacy of godly dissipation. Nor will this be
wondered at, when it is remembered that the programme of the opening
ceremonies included so joyous and important an episode as the marriage
of Philip Fuller and Lucy Blyth. The fact that this ceremony was to
take place in a “Methodist conventicle,” as the new building was
contemptuously called, an act which was just made legally possible,
thinned the number of invited guests considerably, as well as did the
fact of Philip’s plebeian choice of a bride from a blacksmith’s
hearth-stone. Both he and his father could well afford to excuse the
absence of all such pitiful slaves to an unreasonable conventionalism,
which cared more for caste than character, and paid a grovelling
homage at the shrine of Mrs. Grundy. Philip knew that he was about to
gain a first-class prize in what, as things go, is too truly a
“matrimonial lottery.” His father knew that he was about to welcome to
Waverdale Hall a member of the higher aristocracy of goodness and
virtue, compared with which, blue blood and a pedigree dating from the
Norman Conquest were trivialities too insignificant for mention; as
for a mere Plutocracy, whose merit consists in money and acres, the
old squire, even before his moral change had come, would have looked
down on it with disdain. Now, both his own and his son’s convictions
chimed in with Tennyson’s sentiment,--

    “Trust me, Clara Vere de Vere;
      From yon blue heavens above us bent,
    The grand old gardener and his wife,
      Smile at your claims of long descent.
    Howe’er it be, it seems to me,
      ’Tis only noble to be good;
    Kind hearts are more than coronets,
      And simple faith than Norman blood.”

And so it was, that no shadow of regret or drawback mingled with the
glad events of that auspicious day, which crowned the happiness of two
loyal hearts, filled the old squire’s cup with blessing, dispersed the
last vestige of fear from Blithe Natty’s mind, drove Nestleton into
hysterical delight, and filled all Waverdale with joy.

At Old Adam Olliver’s suggestion, the first service on the opening day
was held at eight o’clock in the morning, and consisted solely of
prayer and praise, with a brief address from Mr. Clayton, to whom they
were so greatly indebted, alike for the initiation of the scheme and
its triumphant completion. Herein, the wise and thoughtful villagers
happed exactly on what was indisputably the fitting thing to do, both
as to the nature of the primal service and the choice of the
individual who should line out the first hymn of praise and offer the
consecrating prayer. The custom which prevails of asking some popular
minister from a distance to perform this honourable task, and to make
a sermon the chief feature of the dedication, is one which would be
much more honoured in the breach than the observance. _He_ has had no
sleep-depriving cares, no tireless labours, no anxious heartaches,
during the harassing history of the work, and probably never heard of
it, until he receives the invitation to be the high priest of the day.
Let those who present the gift lay it upon the altar, and then it may
be wise to summon whatever oratorical harp, sackbut, and psaltery may
add effect and interest to the holy festival. During that early
morning meeting the crowd of worshippers had evidence prompt and
potent that their gift had “come up acceptable before God.”

“Cum an’ fill the hoose in which we sit!” pleaded Adam Olliver;
“suddenly cum te Thi’ temple. It’s Thahne! It’s nobbut a poor thing
cumpared wi’ what Thoo’s gi’en te uz, bud it’s best we can deea! Mair
sud Thoo hev, if we had mair! An’ we gi’ Thoo oorsens wiv it. Tak’ it
an’ tak’ uz, O Lord. Cum an’ live in it, an’ iv oor ’arts. Let t’
cloven tungues o’ fire sit on uz while we kneel! Greeat grace be noo
upon uz all!”

And “great grace” did come, “and the glory of the Lord filled the
temple,” for we may be assured that such a gift offered in such a
spirit, by those inspired by such motives, shall now and ever be
graciously acknowledged by Him whose name is recorded there. It will
be seen that the building was now fitly prepared for the second
ceremonial, which was nothing less than the joining together of Philip
and Lucy in the holy bands of matrimony. I am sorry to disappoint
those of my readers who are eagerly looking for “a true and particular
description of that interesting transaction.” Were I to make the
attempt my pen would be like Pharaoh’s chariots in the Red Sea’s
vacated bed, which “drave heavily,” and would lag in tedious
despondency, conscious that the feat was beyond its power. Suffice it
to say that there were all the usual accessories common to such a rare
occasion: orange flowers and veils and coaches, horses with white
rosettes and tasseled ear-caps, wedding guests in white gloves, white
waistcoats, or white robes, according as their sex demanded. This I
may note, that the Rev. Matthew Mitchell was promoted to the high
position of “best man,” adding my own opinion that a much better man
would have been difficult to discover. Mr. Mitchell was kept in
countenance by a couple of Philip’s college chums, who loved him in
his student days, and whose esteem was of that true metal which did
not lose its ring at the sight of a Methodist chapel or a cottage-born
bride. Amongst the bridesmaids was one of Lucy’s school companions,
who rejoiced in being the daughter of “a private gentleman of
competent means,” which may probably be accepted by Mrs. Grundy as a
passable certificate, giving right of entry within the magic circle of
“people of position.” It may be depended on, however, that this was
not our Lucy’s reason for selecting her. That was because she was as
good as gold, had been for years a correspondent given to writing
crossed letters, and was a true and bosom friend. I should not like to
forget that bonny Grace Houston was also an attractive feature of the
bridal train, and more than one or two observant spectators of the
day’s proceedings were led to suspect, from certain numerous, but
undefinable phenomena, that Mr. Mitchell “had an eye in that
direction.” As for the two chief actors in this exciting and brilliant
business, I can only say that Philip bore himself as nobly as a
conqueror should, and led his captive with so proud a mien that you
might have thought she was a De Montmorency or a Fitzroy at the very
least. Lucy was simply Lucy, for I declare that yards and yards of
white tulle, yards and yards of silvery drapery, a marvellous wreath
of orange blossoms, satin shoes, and all the rest of her bridal
adornments, could not add one iota to the magical charm which dwelt in
and around the plain unvarnished “Lucy” whom we know.

“Isn’t she an angel,” said little Alice Vokes, one of the white-kilted
fairies who strewed the carpet pathway from gate to altar with
flowers.

“Isn’t she a stunner,” said Tom Raspin, a chubby youth of ten who
formed one of a Sunday-school detachment “on guard.”

My own opinion is that she was both, even with the addition of the
adjectives “perfect” and “regular” which were tacked on by the
respondents in their emphatic replies.

There! I beg to decline further penny-a-lining on this subject. Let my
readers paint the picture themselves, and then get an artist in colour
to touch it off, with special orders “not to spare the paint,” and
thus they may arrive at a satisfactory idea of Lucy’s wedding. Mr.
Clayton tied the “hymeneal knot,” and I am in a position to affirm
that he was “assisted by”--nobody; that nonsensical innovation was
then happily unknown. When the wedding party drove off to Waverdale
Hall, amid the enthusiastic applause of no end of uninvited
spectators, Adam Olliver turned to Farmer Houston, and said with a
smile,--

“There, Maister! T’ pattern’s finished. God set t’ shuttle te wark i’
answer te wer’ prayers. Nestleton Chapil was in it, Squire Fuller was
in it, Philip and Lucy’s weddin’ was in it. Noo it’s finished, bless
the Lord, an’ a pratty pattern it is.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The wedding breakfast was a grand business. The great dining-hall was
“furnished with guests;” stately lackies with powdered hair and
abnormal calves, got as usual into each other’s way, and looked
innocently unconscious of all that was going on. The most rigid
justice was measured out to the sumptuous viands waiting sepulture,
and then, that time of test and trial, that running of the gauntlet,
that shivering plunge amid broken ice, the speechifying time, came
round. Lucy pierced the Brobdignagian Greco-Gothic edifice of a
bride-cake gallantly and resolutely, as though she had a spite against
it, an article she never possessed against anything or anybody; then
Philip gripped the weapon and speedily put it to the sword, sending
round its ice-and-sugar mailed morsels to the expectant guests. Then
followed the various toasts customary on such occasions, connected
with speeches which need not be reported: their gist and character may
be well imagined. Mr. Mitchell was the last speaker. He could not
begin with, “unaccustomed as I am to public speaking,” as is often the
case, but he displayed a nervousness which nobody who had heard him
hold forth in Piggy Morris’s malt-kiln would ever have given him
credit for. For a minute or two he floundered, and no wonder, the
surroundings were somewhat different from those in the Midden Harbour
Chapel of Ease; but he happened to catch a suspicious smile on the
face of one of Philip’s college friends, and at once he felt the
gravity of the occasion. The honour of Methodism, of Lucy Blyth’s--I
beg her pardon, Lucy Fuller’s--clerical connections, of Philip’s
choice of a Church were at stake, so he pulled himself together, and
planted his feet firmly en the ground, as though he was about to quote
Sir Walter Scott,--

    “Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
    From its firm base as soon as I!”

“Mr. Chairman!” A roar of laughter and rappings that made the glasses
dance a fandango, greeted this _lapsus linguæ_, but he was now equal
to the occasion,--

“That is the word I should have used if ‘my foot had been on my native
heath,’ as it is I must forego the familiar formula, and at once
address myself to the attractive task before me. There can be but one
opinion as to the peculiar charm which the bridesmaids have lent to
the happy proceedings of the day. Their winning beauty, the magic
influence, shall I say, the grace,----”

“Yes, Grace Houston!” said a waggish guest, who had noted the
speaker’s marked devotion to that more than comely damsel: whereupon
our tyro blushed like a boy, and almost lost his equilibrium, while
Grace herself found something amiss with the rose on her bosom, which
required close attention to secure its proper re-adjustment.

“I recommend the young gentlemen here present,” continued he, “to ‘use
well the present moment,’ for not only may they go further and fare
worse, but they may go anywhere and not fare so well. I hope that this
bevy of fair damsels may speedily follow in the steps of the bride,
and have the promise of as fair a future.”

Of course, “all went merry as a marriage bell,” until at last the
carriage rolled up to the door, and the bridal pair departed amid
cheers, and tears, and blessings, to spend the honeymoon at
Scarborough, in which delightful resort of health and pleasure I will
leave them awhile, and proceed to chronicle the subsequent doings of
Nestleton in its holiday attire.

The entire village, together with its numerous visitors, had
immigrated bodily to Waverdale Park. A bountiful feast was spread for
all comers, an ox had been roasted whole for their delectation, and a
boundless supply of other comestibles had been provided by the squire
and his son, to an extent that defied the heavy run upon them to
exhaust. I am bound to say that there was also a sufficient supply of
foaming ale, for beneficent teetotalism had not yet penetrated those
rural regions, and Good Templary had not been even dreamed of by the
most determined and sanguine votary of anti-Bacchus. Of course, there
were more speeches, in the course of which the squire himself proposed
the health of Old Adam Olliver. The old hedger received an ovation
such as might well have turned the heads of less humble men. For a
moment or two the old man was in danger of being mounted, chair and
all, upon the shoulders of his fellow-villagers, and carried in
triumph round the park. They contented themselves, however, by calling
for a speech.

“Ah’s varry mitch obliged te yo’,” quoth Adam, “bud speeach-mackin’ at
tahmes like theease is altegither oot o’ mah line. Ah will say this,
hooivver, ’at Nestleton nivver saw sitch a day as this afoore, an’ ah
deean’t think ’at it’s ivver likely te see sitch anuther. Mah poor aud
een’s run a’most dry wi’ tears o’ grattitude an’ joy. Nestleton’s
getten a chapil, an’t’ yung squire’s getten Lucy, an’ t’ aud squire’s
getten a dowter withoot a marro’, an’ Nathan Blyth’s getten a son ’at
owt te mak’ ’im stand three inches bigger iv his shoon; an’ what
Nestleton’s getten i’ hevin’ ’em all ’ll be a blessin’ tiv it for
ivver an’ ivver. As for me an’ Judy, we’ve nobbut gotten yah wish
left, an’ that’s te see Pete ageean. But that’s as the Lord will. Ah’s
an aud man, an’ me’ wark’s deean. Ah’ve hed te hing up me
slashin’-knife an’ hedgin’-gluvs, an’ ah’s just waitin’ quietly te gan
when t’ Maister calls ma’. Ah pray ’at t’ yung cupple may be varry
happy, an’ ah’s seear they will, for--

    ‘’Tis religion ’at can give
    Reeal pleasure while we live;’

an’, prayse the Lord, they hev it, beeath on ’em. Ah wop they’ll hae
their quiver full ov bonny bairns, an’ bring ’em up i’ t’ fear o’ God:
an’ efter a lang an’ ’appy an’ useful life, ’at they’ll end their days
i’ peeace, an’ gan te be for ivver wi’ the Lord; for--

    ‘’Tis religion can supply
    Solid cumfort when we die.’

May God bless ’em, an’ bless t’ aud squire, an’ bless uz all. Amen!”

Old Adam’s words were felt to be a benediction, and a deep and earnest
“Amen!” arose to float the old man’s prayer to heaven.

The day was fitly wound up with another service in the new chapel,
when a sermon was preached by a minister of mighty name and fame from
London, who had come to aid them in the dedication of their holy and
beautiful house of prayer. So ended a day, which will long be
remembered in the annals of Waverdale, as the day of “Nestleton Chapel
opening and Lucy Blyth’s wedding!”



CHAPTER XL.

AN EPISODE IN A METHODIST LOVE-FEAST.

                      “While listening to the tale
    Her spirits faltered and her cheeks turned pale;
    While her clasped hands descended to her knee,
    She, sinking, whispered forth, ‘O God! ’tis he!’

           *       *       *       *       *

    The long-lost found, the mystery cleared,
    What mingled transports on her face appeared!
    The gazing veteran stood with hands upraised--
    ’Art thou indeed my son? then God be praised!’”

    _Blomfield._


The opening services were continued for three successive Sundays, and
one noteworthy feature in the course was the holding of a love-feast;
that peculiarly Methodistic institution which was so rich a blessing
to the Church in the earlier days, and is yet, in the places which
have maintained their primitive simplicity, and into which the cold
criticisms of lethargic respectability and the frosty influences of a
stately formality, have not found their mischievous and unwelcome way.
In those old times the love-feast was not relegated to a brief
half-hour after the evening service, when the jaded congregation is
glad to get out of a spent and oppressive atmosphere, and when a
careful examination of the tickets of membership, once a precious
certificate of union with the Church, and a passport to peculiar
privileges of spiritual intercourse, is rendered all but
impracticable. Then, the love-feast was held in the afternoon, each
member showed his ticket at the door, and those who came without that
token had to go to the minister for a written “permit.” A few kindly
and serious words spoken to the applicants often resulted in their
decision for Christ, and their connection with His people.

At the Nestleton love-feast there was a full gathering of members, not
only from the village, but the region round about. After singing and
prayer, “Grace before Meat” was sung, and then the time-honoured
custom of eating bread and drinking water together was observed. There
are those, even among Methodists, who speak jocosely and slightingly
of this usage, as one which “might be very well spared.” They are
degenerate children, who sadly underrate and misunderstand its
meaning, and are recreant and disloyal to the spiritual mother that
bore them. They forget that Methodism has for one of its main elements
of strength, one of its most effective equipments for moral service, a
principle and bond of brotherhood, a family relationship such as
belongs to no other Christian Church on earth. The breaking of bread
together is the sign and token of that moral freemasonry, and has done
much to make the Methodists at home with each other, wherever their
lot is cast. In an Australian hut or Indian bungalow, an American
shanty or a Canadian log-house, on a South Sea Island or a Western
prairie, as well as in an English rural homestead or an urban villa,
two Methodist hearts, hitherto strangers, will beat in unison, and the
hand-grasp that follows betokens a welding power in the Methodist
polity which it will be stark, staring madness either to weaken or
destroy. Besides this, the cultivation of the family bond by such
means as the love-feast is an effective means of checking feuds,
jealousies, coolnesses, and of re-twisting the brotherly bonds that
friction with the outside world tends to loosen, to the serious loss
of spiritual power. He is the most loyal Methodist who will heartily
conserve all those rules and usages which tend to bind its world-wide
constituency into one homogeneous, harmonious, and resistless whole.

[Illustration: ADAM OLLIVER ADDRESSING A MEETING.--_Page 287._]

“Grace after Meat” was sung, and then Mr. Clayton, who conducted the
service, related his own experience of the saving and sustaining grace
of God. Then the meeting was thrown open, and one after another stood
up to tell “what God had done for their souls.” There was no
unwillingness to bear this godly witness. Young men and maidens, old
men and children--youthful Samuels and aged Simeons--all spoke briefly
and feelingly of their new-found or time-tested faith in Jesus. The
old wept tears of joy to hear the lispings of the young, the young
listened with interest to the “wisdom spoken by years.” Once only was
the current of grateful love and joy broken in upon by another kind of
testimony. A good brother, who was sadly given to doubts and fears,
and generally to an unsatisfactory and discontented view of things,
spoke in such a sighing, doubting fashion as to cause quite a
depressing influence to fall upon the meeting. He was instantly
followed by Adam Olliver, who seemed to regard that sort of thing as a
libel on the goodness and grace of God.

“Ah think,” said he, “’at Brother Webster, ’at’s just sitten doon,
lives i’ Grumblin’-street. Ah lived there mysen yance; but ah nivver
had good ’ealth. T’ air was bad, an’ t’ watter was bad, an’ t’ sun
nivver shined frae Sunday mornin’ te Setterday neet. Sae ah teeak a
hoose i’ Thenksgivin’-street, an’ ivver since then things ez been
quite different; t’ air’s feyn an’ bracin’, an’ t’ watter’s pure and
refreshin’, an’ t’ sun shines like summer, an’ t’ bods sing, an’ ah
can’t help bud sing mysen. Ah recommend Brother Webster te flit. It’ll
deea him a wolld o’ good, an’ ah sall be varry glad te get a new
neighbour. Te-day ah thenk the Lord ’at me’ peeace floas like a river;
an’ though ah’s nobbut a poor aud sheep ’at can’t forage for mysen,
an’ isn’t worth tentin’, ‘the Lord is mi’ Shippard, an’ ah sall nut
want. He mak’s me te lig doon i’ green pasthers beside still watters,
an’ leads ma’ i’ t’ paths ov righteousness for His neeame’s seeak.’”

He was followed by Judith, who spoke in clear and joyous language of
her calm repose on the bosom of infinite love, and of her hope of
heaven, which she said was brighter than ever.

“I sall soon be there,” said the ripe old saint. “I can’t say as Jacob
did to Pharaoh, ‘few and evil have the days of the years of my life
been,’ for I seems to hev had nothing but mercies all t’ way through.
As Adam says, we’ve lived i’ Thanksgiving-street, an’ though there’s
been trials and cares, they’ve all been swallowed up in a multitude of
blessings. Now I feel that I’s getten to be a poor totterin’, old
woman, but I’m going home to Jesus.

    ‘There all the ship’s company meet
     Who sailed with the Saviour beneath.’

I had a hope ’at I should see my lad again, that’s been ower t’ sea
for monny a year. I fair pines sometimes to hev another look at his
dear face. But he’s in the Lord’s hands. He’s found t’ pearl of great
price, thank God, an’ if I don’t see him on earth, I shall meet him i’
heaven.”

By-and-bye there rose up just behind her a tall, fine-looking man,
about thirty years of age, whose brown and weather-beaten face was
“bearded like the pard.” To him Mr. Clayton had given a “permit” on
the strength of a “note of removal,” which, unlike many careless
Methodists of nomadic habits, who neglect this duty and so slip out of
Church fellowship, he had taken care to bring along with him.

“I’m glad to be here to-day,” said he; “I have only just arrived in
your beautiful little village, but as I know something of this
religion, and have the love of God shed abroad in my heart, I cannot
resist the opportunity of telling you what God has done for my soul. I
was a wild, harum-scarum lad when I left my home to seek my fortunes
in a foreign land. My parents were two as godly Christians as were to
be found out of heaven; but the restraints of a Christian home, and
the hum-drum life of a country village were more than my wilful spirit
and roaming tendencies could bear, so I left home somewhat suddenly
and much against my parents’ will. A long, rough, and tedious voyage
across the sea partly cured me of my roving desires, and I felt half
inclined to come home again, especially as I had left my mother in
tears and my father sad at heart. When I landed, however, I made up my
mind not to go home until I had earned what it was worth my while to
carry back. For a long time I led a wandering life, not bettering my
condition, and I’m sorry to say not much better myself. At last the
tide turned; I settled down and made money very fast. I could never
forget, however, that the dear old folks at home were praying for me.
One night I was away on business, and found my way to a Methodist
chapel, for there’s plenty of them yonder as well as here. It was only
a prayer-meeting, but I heard them sing the old hymns to the old
tunes, so familiar to my boyhood, and when a plain-spoken old man
began to pray it reminded me so much of my father’s voice that I burst
into tears. My wild and careless life condemned me all at once, and I
could not help crying out, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ They
gathered round me and prayed with me. I was in an agony of trouble,
and cried loudly for mercy, and at last the Lord spoke peace to my
soul.”

During the last two sentences the speaker’s voice had faltered, and
under the influence of deep feeling he spoke in tones such as can
never be mistaken by a mother’s ear. They fell like a revelation on
Judith Olliver; rising from her seat she turned fully round, looked
the speaker in the face, and crying, “It’s mah Pete! mah bairn!” flung
her arms around her boy, and buried her grey head upon his shoulder,
murmuring the endearing words she used long years ago when she held
him on her knee. The congregation rose upon their feet in strong
excitement; Mr. Clayton, who was in the secret, brushed aside his
tears, and Old Adam Olliver, pale and silent with excess of joy,
walked across the chapel floor to greet his long absent son.

“Adam!” said the mother, smiling through her tears, “thoo said he
would come, an’ here he is!”

The old hedger took the hand of his stalwart son, and shook it a long
while in an eloquent silence, his face working, his lips quivering in
his earnest efforts to keep back the gush of feeling, but all in vain,
it would come; throwing himself up on his boy’s brawny breast, he
burst into tears of joy. Recovering himself, he said,--

“God bless tha’, mah lad! God bless tha’!” Then lifting up his hands,
he said, amid the hush which waited on his words, “‘Noo, Lord, lettest
Thoo Thi’ sarvant depayt i’ peeace, for me ees hae seen Thi’
salvaytion!”

Mr. Clayton gave out the “Doxology,” which was sung as only they can
sing who feel every word of it. He offered an earnest thanksgiving for
the wanderer’s safe return, and commended the people to the Divine
keeping, and so ended the memorable love-feast which is remembered and
spoken of in Nestleton to this day.

Farmer Houston was standing by the door to welcome Pete, and to
congratulate his parents on their boy’s return.

“Maister,” said Old Adam, “you see Pete was i’ t’ ‘pattern’ all t’
tahme, an’ we didn’t knoa; ‘This is the Lord’s deein’, an’ it’s
marvillous i’ wer ees.’”



CHAPTER XLI.

THE REVOLUTION IN MIDDEN HARBOUR.

    “O happy home! where man and wife in heart,
      In faith and hope are one,
    That neither life nor death can part
      The holy union here begun.

    O happy home! where little voices
      Their glad hosannas love to raise;
    And childhood’s lisping tongue rejoices
      To bring new songs of love and praise.”

    _Spitta._


Amongst all the good people of Nestleton and its environs there was
none who entertained a more grateful love to the fair young mistress
of Waverdale Hall than Old Kasper Crabtree, to whom she had been so
gentle a nurse, and by whom he had been brought into possession of the
Gospel hope. Soon after the return of Philip and Lucy from their
wedding trip, and when they had fairly settled down among the
villagers, in the midst of whom their lives were to be spent “in
giving and receiving good,” they received a message from the old man
requesting an early visit. He was seriously ill, and desired, with
their permission, to put into their hands a solemn and important
trust. His request was promptly responded to. The old man’s face
lighted up with pleasure at the sight of Lucy, and it was with equal
pleasure that she heard his testimony of peace with God and hope of
heaven.

“And now,” said he, “my end is near, and I wish to unburden myself of
a trouble which has lately distressed me a good deal. You know that
I’m a solitary old man, without relatives, near or distant. I am
anxious to put what little fortune I have inherited and accumulated,
in trust for the thorough renovation of Midden Harbour. The miserable
houses, the want of drainage, and the generally dilapidated and
uncleanly condition of my property there, makes it all but impossible
for the poor tenants to improve much in morality and decency. I want
to ask you if you will kindly take charge of this work, and expend
such monies as I shall devote to that purpose in carrying out a
radical improvement of the place.”

To this his hearers willingly consented, heartily approving of his
design.

“Now,” said he, “I can die in peace. The result of my shameful neglect
you will undo, and repair the consequences of my selfish
indifference.”

Philip prayed with him; he and Lucy bade him good-bye, and in a few
days the old man passed away, rejoicing in the sure and certain hope
of eternal life. When his will came to be read it was discovered that
Kasper Crabtree had left all he possessed, absolutely and without
condition, to Lucy Fuller, “in grateful acknowledgment,” said the
will, “of my eternal debt of gratitude to her, and in full confidence
that it will be well employed for the good of those I have too much
neglected, and for the glory of God.”

The reformation of Midden Harbour was a congenial task to Philip and
his wife. One after the other the old ricketty cottages were pulled
down and others built, healthy, comfortable, and commodious. The place
was effectively drained, gardens were laid out, an abundance of trees
and shrubs were planted, the pathways were paved, and the whole
appearance of the place was so thoroughly revolutionised as to have
lost its identity. The inhabitants, most of whom were members of the
Methodist society, drew up a round robin, and presented it to their
new landlord, with a unanimous request that the old name, once
sufficiently descriptive of its unsavoury condition, should be changed
for some other which should be more in harmony with the new and happy
condition of things. It was some time before its youthful owners could
hit upon a satisfactory title; at last they decided to call it Kasper
Grove, and so to hand down to posterity the name of the old man to
whom it was indebted for its transformation. Midden Harbour was
defunct, swept out of existence, but Kasper Grove continues to this
day, and holds a place among the lions of Nestleton quite as
attractive as the ancient abbey or Saint Madge’s Well.

       *       *       *       *       *

My story now draws nigh to a conclusion, but I must give my readers
just a final glimpse at the principal actors in the village history I
have tried to chronicle.

Nathan Blyth transferred his business to a son of Jabez Hepton, who
had been taught his handicraft by Nathan himself, and was said to
possess much of the skill and cunning for which his master had long
been famous, and which had brought so much of profit, that in Nathan’s
prudent hands, it had made him independent of the anvil. That good man
was able to retire on a comfortable competency and to devote his time
to tending the olive plants that soon began to grow round Lucy’s
table, to active evangelic service in the Kesterton Circuit, for as a
preacher he was in great request, and to give pleasure and delight to
the old squire, who found in him an intelligent and congenial
companion, well read in that sacred lore which was now Squire Fuller’s
favourite study. Nathan retained his old house, in which also Harry
Hepton and his young wife resided and cared for his creature comforts.
He didn’t spend much time there, as may be well imagined, but still,
like a wise man, he kept his household goods around him, and lived as
happily as most mortals may. Though he had forsaken the anvil’s
musical clink, he did not, by any means, give up singing. His grand
tenor voice, mingling with Lucy’s musical treble and the tones of the
piano, out of which her magic fingers evolved sweetest harmonies,
formed an unfailing attraction to the happy inmates of Waverdale Hall.

The old squire continued hale and hearty and it may be safely said
that he never enjoyed life as much as now. His lonely habits were all
broken in upon under the new _regime_. The library was still a
favourite resort, but Lucy was there with her wool-work or other
dainty task, and Philip or his father read for their mutual
delectation. By-and-bye, the squire developed quite a romping
tendency, and the youthful scions of the house of Fuller were in a
fair way of being spoiled by “Grandy,” who in their society renewed
his youth. His lines were cast in pleasant places, and his gratitude
to God found increasing expression in his kindly visits to the
villagers and his unflagging interest in everything that pertained to
the cause of Christ.

Philip himself was speedily elevated to the dignity of a county
magistrate, and, to what he regarded as even a higher honour, the
position of a local preacher on the Kesterton plan. He was beloved and
esteemed by all whose lot was cast within the circle of his
wide-spread influence, and was universally respected throughout the
Riding. As for Lucy, I need scarcely say that she dove-tailed into her
new position like one to the manner born, and all that this life can
give of peace and happiness was enjoyed in connection with a piety and
a Christian service, which will give mellow memories to Waverdale as
long as its sylvan glories shall unfold their beauties beneath the
breath of returning spring.

Old Adam Olliver and Judith, blest and happy, lived with Pete, whose
Transatlantic gains sufficed for more than all their wants. He
embarked in the corn trade, and soon gained for himself a connection
that promised to be even more lucrative than the employment he had
left beyond the sea, when he was drawn homeward by the magic of his
mother’s prayers. He soon gave a convincing proof of his good sense by
selecting for a wife the fair and gentle Mary Morris, who was as good
a daughter to Judith and Old Adam as she had been to her ailing
mother, and so the declining years of the dear old couple were spent
in comfort and in peace.

Piggy Morris, under the influence of the new life which had dawned on
him in Midden Harbour, forsook for ever the bar of the Green Dragon
and the drinking habits which had been the bane of his life. His was a
thorough regeneration, and his hearty activities in connection with
the Methodist Church were only equalled by the vigour with which he
turned his keen business abilities to the best account as a cattle
dealer. He became known in this character through all East Yorkshire,
and by his rapidly-increasing gains speedily surrounded his
long-suffering but now happy “Sally,” with a home atmosphere which
wrought a wondrous change in her health and made her quite a bustling
body, a happy and contented wife.

John Morris, to be known as Black Morris no more for ever, pursued his
chosen occupation with much diligence. He studied hard, gaining wisdom
and experience in his profession, until his services as a veterinary
surgeon were in continual request. He found a fitting partner in
Hannah Olliver. As fellow-labourers in the Sunday-school, their
friendship had ripened into love, and that once dressy, but always
good-looking, damsel made him a wife of whom he was justly proud.

Bob and Dick Morris, aided by Pete Olliver and Philip Fuller, were
enabled to regain their father’s farm at Eastthorpe. Here Mrs. Morris,
senior, found unfailing pleasure in the oversight of the familiar
dairy of her younger years. Jake Olliver mated with the maiden whom,
despite the ghost of Nestleton Abbey, he had paid many a late visit to
Cowley Priory to see. As the hind on Mr. Houston’s wold farm, he began
his married life under sunny auspices, and had no more of cloudy
weather than usually falls to mortal lot.

Of the Houston family, I have little to say. That good man and his
estimable wife lived to old age, and were succeeded by still another
Houston; there is indeed every probability of the farm being handed
down in connection with the Houston name for ever. It will interest my
readers to know that the Rev. Matthew Mitchell secured the lovely
Grace in bonds which only death could loosen. Impelled by a spirit of
zeal for his Master’s cause, Mr. Mitchell became a missionary, with
the hearty good-will of his devoted wife. Should these village annals
find acceptance, I may venture to tell the story of these two brave
souls, and of the mission which they established beneath the mango and
the palm.

The Rev. Theophilus Clayton, after a few more years spent in active
work, became a supernumerary. He settled down at Nestleton in response
to Philip Fuller’s earnest invitation. That open-handed friend of the
Lord’s servants rendered his declining years exceptionally pleasant.
Methodism has yet much to learn in the way of just or generous
treatment of those who have spent their lives and exhausted their
strength in her service. The pitiful pittance she doles out to them
often amounts to semi-starvation. This grudging policy reacts
mischievously on the Church, in forcing feeble men to occupy the posts
of onerous duty, and also in depriving the time-worn toiler of the
quiet repose which would lengthen life and perpetuate, at least, a
portion of their Church activities.

It would never do to forget so important a character as honest Balaam,
who was now permitted, not only to taste, but positively to banquet on
the sweets of leisure. He revelled on the sweet grass of Farmer
Houston’s paddock, and was fast getting demoralised under the
influence of unmixed prosperity. Many a feed of corn, many a luscious
cabbage or succulent carrot was given him by the younger branches of
the Houston family, until like Jeshurun, he waxed fat and kicked,
affording another sad example of the mischievous effects of the
continuous smiles of fortune. At length, however, Adam Olliver, who
rode him almost daily to Waverdale Park, was induced to lend him to
the youngest squire of all, aged three years and a-half; and to his
little brother who had attained the mature age of five years. A pair
of panniers was provided, of superior basket work, cushioned and
lined, and, under the charge of a youthful groom, the precious two
were paraded round the park for a daily “constitutional.” Balaam,
feeling the responsibility of his position, behaved himself as soberly
and sedately as his office demanded. No sooner, however, was duty done
than he felt at liberty to enjoy himself as his high spirits dictated.
He would then, as in former times, erect his tail, throw back his
ears, give voice in such a fashion as to wake all the echoes of
Thurston Wood, and gallop to and fro and round about in so comical a
manner as to delight the youthful hope of Waverdale. If Adam Olliver
happened to be present during one of these singular escapades, he
would say,--

“Balaam! Balaam! diz tho’ see a boggle?” Whereupon the excitable
quadruped would lapse again into a quietude of deportment more in
keeping with his years.

So the years went on; Time dealt gently with all and sundry, and
Nestleton Magna and its villagers held on their way in rural
simplicity, harmony, and peace.



CHAPTER XLII.

AUD ADAM OLLIVER’S “NUNC DIMITTIS.”

    “The wise man, said the Bible, walks with God;
    Surveys, far on, the endless line of life;
    Values his soul; thinks of eternity;
    Both worlds considers, and provides for both;
    With reason’s eye his passions guards; abstains
    From evil; lives on hope--on hope, the fruit
    Of faith; looks upward; purifies his soul;
    Expands his wings, and mounts into the sky;
    Passes the sun, and gains his Father’s house;
    And drinks with angels from the fount of bliss.”

    _Pollok._


For several years after the stirring events previously narrated,
Nestleton Magna had largely reverted to the even tenor of its way. Not
that it could ever again be as it was in the olden time. The erection
of the chapel proved a very permanent and abiding source of good. The
society continued to increase in numbers; Kasper Grove was always the
very antipodes of Midden Harbour; the Sunday-school had grown in
numbers and in efficiency, until it occupied a position of the highest
value and importance, and all the younger generation of Nestletonians
were happily subjected to the godly influences there at work.

Waverdale Hall was a centre of blessing, a fountain whose continuous
outflow refreshed and purified the region through which it coursed in
wise beneficence and Christly love. Still, there was an absence of
startling or exciting events, and the quiet peacefulness which
generally characterises rural districts brooded over the village
undisturbed. At the Hall there was a growing family of attractive
little squirelings and more attractive little ladies. Master Ainsley
Olliver Fuller, the eldest son and heir of my favourite friends,
Philip and Lucy, had two brothers, to wit, Philip Blyth and
Theophilus, one little sister, who could be called nothing else than
Lucy, and another sister, who was called Beatrice, after the old
squire’s first and only love, long since gone to heaven.

Old Adam Olliver was even more rich in grandchildren, for around the
tables alike of Jake and Pete and Hannah, the olive-branches increased
at a surprising rate. Very happily and peacefully did the old man’s
last years ebb away. Judith was the first to receive the call from
that solemn messenger who brings his summons to every door. As she
lived, so she died; her departure was more a translation than a death.
She had not been well for some days, and one evening, while loving
Hannah was in the act of stroking her silver hair and speaking words
of cheer, she said, “Call your father.” When the old man appeared, she
said, with a radiant smile, “Adam, I’m going home. Jesus calls. I’m
going on before, a little while, and the way is very light. A little
while, dear, true, good husband, and we shall meet again.” And so she
slid quietly out of her clay tabernacle, and “took the nearest way to
her Father’s house.”

Old Adam did not long survive her. He had grown very feeble; age and a
life of hard labour had bent his frame, and for the last few months of
his life he had to be guided across the floor. Mary was a gentle,
loving, and unwearying nurse, and fifty times a day did he ask God’s
blessing on her for her kindly care. A bed had been set up for him on
the ground floor, as he was incapable of mounting the stairs, and
because he liked to have her near him, while she attended to her
household duties. But though the outward man was perishing, was
becoming a small, thin, filmy prison-house indeed, the inward man was
being renewed, beautified, and ripened day by day.

“Mary,” he would say, when he had sat still and silent for a long
time, and she had asked him how he felt, “Mary, ah’ve been i’ good
cumpany. Judy’s been wi’ ma’ i’ spirit, an’ ah’ve seen aingels wi’
breet an’ wavin’ wings, an’ Jesus is allus wi’ ma’. He says, ‘Ah’ll
cum ageean an’ receeave tha’ te myself,’ an’ ah says, ’Eaven seea,
Lord Jesus, cum quickly.’ Ah sall be gannin’ sum neet, an’ when t’
sun’s settin’ wi’ you, it’ll be risin’ wi’ me, an’ it’ll be mornin’
an’ nivver a neet nae mair.”

“Oh, Pete, mah lad,” he would say, “bud religion _is_ sweet. Thoo’s
crossed yah sea, an’ ah’s just aboot te cross anuther, bud it’s a
varry narro’ un’, an’ there isn’t as mitch ov a ripple as wad toss a
chip, an’ as seean as ivver ah tutch it, it’ll splet, an’ ah sall gan
through dryshod. An’ t’ other side, Pete! Ah gets a leeak at it noo
an’ then, an’ ah feels as though ah can hear t’ music, an’ see t’
saints o’ God i’ their glory, an’ hear t’ waff o’ their wings. Prayse
the Lord, deein’s nobbut like gannin’ oot o’ t’ kitchen inte t’
parlour, an’ ‘ah sall dwell i’ t’ hoose o’ the Lord for ivver.’”

The old squire of Waverdale came to see him, during those last failing
months, nearly every day. He was a capital listener. Seated by Adam’s
side, he would hold the old man’s hand in his, and listen, with an
occasional smile, exclamation or nod, by the hour, while the veteran
talked of his religious history, gave his opinion on Scripture
passages, or bore witness of the love and grace of God.

“Oh, Maister Fuller,” said he one day, “I hev a peeace ’at’s aboot
parfect. Ah’ve been thinkin’ o’ that text wheere the Lord says if His
people wad nobbut hae hearkened tiv His commandments, their peeace sud
hae floa’d like a river. Why, when fost ah gav’ me ’art te God, me
peeace floa’d wiv a rush for a while, an’ then gat inte t’ shallo’s.
Then it met fost a temptation, an’ then a trubble, an’ then a bit o’
neglect o’ prayer, an’ t’ streeam was owt bud eeather smooth or full;
it went like a shallo’ beck, wiv a lot o’ steeanes, an’ twists, an’
bendin’s in it, cheeafin’, an’ splutterin’, an’ bickerin’; frothin’ up
ageean this corner, an’ bubblin’ ower that, bud noo that it gets nigh
te t’ sea, it gans deeper an’ stiddier, an’ floas sae smooth ’at ah
can scaycely tell it’s movin’ at all. That’s just hoo ah feel te-day.
Ah’s near t’ sea; t’ aushun ov infanite luv an’ glory oppens oot
afoore ma’, and ah’s slitherin’ on an’ slippin’ away, still, an’
quiet, an’ ’appy; an’ ah sall seean gan inte t’ sea.” Here the old man
waved his arms as “one who spreadeth forth his hands to swim.” “Oh,
what a sea! t’ luv o’ Jesus, all on it. Prayse the Lord, ah’ve knoan
summut aboot it; ah’ve drunken it, an’ ah’ve dipped in it, an’ it’s
shed abroad i’ me ’art. Bud ah’s gannin te swim iv it, an’ te knoa Him
as ah is knoan. T’ Revalation talks aboot a sea o’ glass mingled wi’
fire. What it meeans ah deean’t knoa, bud ah think it meeans parfect
peeace glowin’ wi’ t’ glory o’ parfect luv. Halleluia! ah sall--

    ‘Plunge inte t’ Godheead’s deepest sea,
      Lost i’ luv’s immensaty.’”

Is there anything on earth more beautiful than a scene like this? The
hoary head is indeed a crown of glory if it be found in the way of
righteousness. Age invests many things with a certain attractiveness.
An aged oak for instance, gnarled, widespread, stalwart and stately;
an ancient castle, weather-worn, storm-swept and furrowed with the
tooth of Time; an old church, moss-clad and ivy-covered; but of all
attractive pictures that Old Time can draw, nothing is more beautiful
than the silver locks and radiant features of a godly and joyous old
age. See this grand old saint, seated in “the old arm-chair,” looking
placidly back upon the line of trodden years, looking hopefully
forward across the borders of the Beulah land, while the light of
heaven gilds his hoary hair. “The beauty,” says Solomon, “of old men
is the grey head.” That is a glorious picture which John Bunyan
paints, of the last stage of the Christian pilgrimage--the land of
Beulah, a land of glorious beauty, a place of broad rivers and
streams, spanned with heaven’s undimmed blue, swept by breezes from
the hills of God, which bear on their fragrant wing the echoes of the
heavenly chimes, the foretaste of immortal joys. The Methodist
societies have ever been rich in a wealth of such experiences. A
careful perusal of the obituaries in the Methodist and Arminian
Magazines is quite sufficient evidence of the power of godliness over
pain, weakness and death to thrill the heart of the despiser, and
strike the sceptic dumb.

At length, it became evident that Old Adam Quiver’s hours were
numbered. As he felt his end approaching, he sent for friend and
neighbour, and bade them, one by one, a loving good-bye, mingling ever
a blessing with his parting words. His sons and daughters and his
grandchildren gathered round his bed, and, like Jacob, he blessed them
all by name.

When Nathan Blyth came to take a last farewell, the old man said, with
a smile, as he noted Nathan’s tears,--

“Nay, nay, and friend! That’ll nivver deea. You owt to be Blithe Natty
noo, if ivver yo’ wer’ i’ yer life. Ah’s Blithe Adam, hooiver. It’s
all sunshine, Natty,--

                ‘Nut a clood doth arise,
                Te darken mi’ skies,
    Or te hide for a moment my Lord fre’ mi’ eyes.’

‘Roond aboot an’ underneeath ma’ are the ivverlastin’ airms,’ an’ iv
’em ah sail swing inte heaven, as Mary tosses ’er bairn till it fair
screeams wi’ joy. God bless yo’, dear and friend. Ah sail seean sing
as weel as you, an’ when you’ve waited a lahtle bit langer, we’ll sing
tegither the prayses o’ wer Greeat Redeemer. Deean’t yo’ remember yer
aun sang,--

    An’ when ah’m landed on Canaan’s breet shore,
      Befoore aingels an’ saints will ah shoot it!
    Give Glory te Jesus the King ivvermair
      The King ’at ah tell’d all aboot it!”

On the day of his death, Squire Fuller, Philip, Lucy and the little
children, gathered round his bed to receive his parting blessing.
Philip had rightly said, “Old Adam’s benediction on the children will
prove a richer heritage than houses or land.”

On one and all the patriarch placed his feeble hands, the while he
breathed a silent prayer, and said aloud, “O Lord, mah God an’
Sayviour! bless the bairn!” The children were dismissed, the elders
remained, and were joined by Adam’s sons and daughters, who gathered
round to see a golden sunset such as was never equalled by any
gorgeous glory of the western sky. The old man lay propped with
pillows, his scant white hair smoothed from his brow, and his thin
brown hands laid on the spotlessly white coverlet of his bed. The
shadows of evening had not yet fallen, but the sun was fast declining,
and its slanting beams fell upon his pillow, and lit up his features
with their glow Mary partially drew down the blind to shade his eyes.

“Nay, nay, mah lassie,” said Adam, “draw t’ cottain up; ‘It’s a
pleeasant thing for t’ ees te behold the sun.’ It weean’t ho’t ma’;
mah poor and ees iz gettin’ a cottain drawn ower them, bud that only
’elps ’em te see t’ leet o’ t’ glory ’at’s jost dawnin’ upo’ ma’. Will
yan o’ ye read t’ ninety-fost Psalm?”

Lucy read it, and as soon as she began, he said, with infinite
tenderness,--

“God bless yo’, mah dear; ah’ve heeard yer pratty voice ivver sin yo’
had yan, an’ it’s sweeter noo then ivver. Oh, Maister Philip! bud you
_are_ rich! Some fooaks get a treasure _wiv_ a wife, bud you’ve gotten
a treasure _iv_ a wife. Bless ’em, Lord, ten thoosandfoad wi’ Thi’ luv
an’ fayvour.”

When the Psalm was ended he turned to the old squire.

“Gi’e ma’ hod o’ yer ’and,” said he; “the Lord’s dealt boontifully wi’
yo’, Maister Fuller, an’ noo, prayse the Lord! that psalm belangs te
you as weel as me. ‘He that dwells i’ t’ seeacret pleeace o’ the
Meeast High,’ that’s iv His luv i’ Jesus Christ, ‘sall abide under t’
shado’ ov t’ Almighty.’ _Abide!_ hey, for ivver an’ ivver an’ ivver!
‘He sall cuver thee wiv ’is feathers.’ Halleluia! Warm ageean His
’art, an’ oot o’ t’ reeach o’ ’arm. Ah’s there! nestlin’ an’ cuddlin’
an’ seeafe. ‘Thoo sall nut be aflaid for t’ terror be neet.’ Flaid!
No: what is there te be freetened on? Jesus ez killed all that,
because He’s slayn t’ enmaty, an’ God an’ uz iz yan. He sall give His
aingels chayge ower tha’. Glory be te God! they’re here! Ah can ’ear
t’ rustlin’ o’ th’ir wings. They’re waitin’ fo’ ma’!

    ‘Aingels beckons ma’ away,
      An’ Jesus bids ma’ cum.’

Bud that last vess caps ivverything! ‘Ah’ll show ’im me’ salvaytion!’
Ah’ve seen a good deal, an’ felt a good deal mair, bud it’s nowt
cumpared te what’s cumin’. Ah’ve seen it through a glass darkly, an’
ah’ve felt it through a gluv. Noo ah sail see Him feeace te feeace,
an’ tutch Him as Thomas did, till me’ sowl is ravished wi’ glory an’
delight Moses saw t’ Promised Land, bud he was a lang way oft, and t’
river rowlled atween. Ah sall be on t’ spot, an’ be a citizen o’ that
cuntry. St. John saw it i’ Patmos, bud it was a vision an’ a dreeam.
Ah sail see t’ real thing an’ be payt on it, an’ hev it for t’ lot o’
me’ inheritance. St. Paul saw it, bud he ’ad te cum doon ageean te be
pricked wi’ thorns an’ buffeted wi’ trubbles. Ah sall gan oot nae mair
for ivver! Maister Fuller! Ah’ll be riddy fo’ yo’ when yo’ cum, an’
we’ll gan tegither te t’ King, an’ as Nathan Blyth says, we’ll shoot
and sing till we mak’ heaven ring wi’ prayse!”

It is not to be supposed that this and much other joyous and
triumphant speech was said without break and pause. Now and again he
was utterly spent with excess of joy, and the feeble tongue refused to
follow the spirit’s eager flight, and failed to syllable the rapture
of his exulting soul. About eight o’clock in the evening the messenger
came. The old man seemed to be asleep, but he suddenly opened his
eyes, and, looking upward, lifted his hand towards heaven; a strange
soft light and a beaming smile broke upon his face. “Heaven’s oppen!”
said he; “Ah see Jesus Christ standin’ at t’ right ’and o’ God. He hez
a star in His ’and. Beautiful! Beautiful!” The light upon his face
deepened; it seemed to be haloed with a glory. “He’s cumin’,” said he,
“cumin’ for me. No, it isn’t a star; it’s a croon. Oh, mah Sayviour,
cum quickly. A croon o’ glory!” Lifting up both hands, he half sprang
from the bed, crying, “It’s mahne, prayse the Lord, it’s mahne!” He
fell back upon his pillow, with a triumphant smile upon his face, and
Adam Olliver’s glorified spirit went to heaven to wear it--that crown
of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, had laid up for
him against that day.

So died Adam Olliver, and thus a life of singularly winning and
beautiful piety was fitly crowned by a singularly beautiful and
exultant end.

The old man was buried in the grounds around the chapel which his
faith and prayer had chiefly reared. The whole of the societies in the
Kesterton Circuit were represented at his burial, and the large
concourse which assembled to pay this final tribute of respect agreed
in this, that though he was but an old and illiterate hedger, his
holiness, his integrity, his wondrous power with God, had made him
royal, and that “a prince and a great man had fallen in Israel.”
Squire Fuller asked and received permission to erect a marble tablet
to his memory in Nestleton Chapel. There it continues to this day, and
every tourist passing through Waverdale, may turn aside and read for
himself the inscription thereon engraven. Beneath the record of his
name, age, and death, and a brief reference to his noble life are
inscribed the following texts of Scripture. Those who have read these
brief chronicles of village life will justify their choice.

    “THE EFFECTUAL, FERVENT PRAYER OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN
    AVAILETH MUCH.”

    “A MAN FULL OF FAITH AND OF THE HOLY GHOST.”

    “MARK THE PERFECT MAN, AND BEHOLD THE UPRIGHT,
    FOR THE END OF THAT MAN IS PEACE.”

    “LET ME DIE THE DEATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS, AND LET
    MY LAST END BE LIKE HIS.”


_Printed by_ BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO. _Edinburgh and London_


       *       *       *       *       *


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