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A NEGLECTED TKEASUBE rju
There was one cottage in the village in which my grandfather met with more discouragement than perhaps in all the rest.
My grandfather, an elderly gentleman, retired from business, had a good deal of leisure time on his hands, which he wisely improved and used to the best purpose in con stant visits of usefulness. The country parish in which he lived was a large one, and contained a considerable but
widely scattered population of labouring men and their families. On these families my grandfather had long made a habit of calling, at some convenient time, leaving at one place a tract, at another a word or two of homely advice, at another a spice of comfort, and so on; but always and everywhere in the good-natured, benevolent, kindly, and unpretentious manner which, sooner or later, finds its way to the hearts of the poor, and to almost all hearts besides. And as my grandfather did not content himself with giving good and Christian counsel only, where real substantial help was needed, you may be sure that when his rat-tattat was heard at the cottagers' doors, those doors were generally opened with much cheerful alacrity.
There was, however, at least one exception to this rule. There was one cottage from which my grandfather always walked away sorrowful. The name of the cottager was John Adams, and he had a wife and five or six children.
John Adams was an unlucky man—so he said of himself; or, as his neighbours said for him, he was, somehow or other, "always in the wrong box." He was not altogether a lazy man, nor a dissipated man, nor an unkind man in his family. He was not a bad, quarrelsome, or spiteful neighbour; nor was he an inveterate law-breaker, as some countrymen are—in one particular respect, at least. But
Well, to tell the truth, John Adams was indolent, slow, and indecisive; therefore no one cared to employ hirn while other hands were to be obtained. He was also, as his wife said of him, "sometimes fond of a drop;" so when he had earned a little money, it wasted away all the sooner. Then, though John Adams steered tolerably clear of the shoals and quicksands of dishonesty, he did not think it dishonest now and then to snare a hare; and, whatever he thought of it, the landowner on whose grounds the hares were caught had very strong feelings on the subject. More than once or twice, indeed, John Adams had been detected in the act of poaching, and had thus obtained anything but a good name. But even here his bad luck (I am still using his own expression)—his bad luck attended him; for while others in neighbouring parishes were far more notorious and constant poachers than John Adams, whom, they had, in fact, drawn into their schemes, he had been found out while they escaped.
My grandfather's greatest disappointment, however, had more to do with Sarah Adams than with her husband. la years gone by, before her marriage, Sarah was a well-behaved, intelligent, and, as was hoped, a pious young woman. As such my grandfather had known her, or believed her to be, when first a scholar, and afterwards a teacher in the village Sunday school, in which he took great interest. But she married rashly and foolishly, according to everybody's opinion but her own; and the results were soon seen in her gradual but decided falling away, first from the public services of the house of God, and then from all apparent regard for her spiritual interests. This was evidently the case; for my grandfather and other Christian friends who endeavoured to awaken in the young wife a sense of her danger, were met, after a time, by cold indifference, and even by more manifest signs of dislike to the subject of personal religion.
As months and years passed away, and the cares of a family increased upon her, Sarah Adams lost all her former buoyancy and regard for appearances. She became a slatternly, scolding, fretful, and discontented wife—discontented with her poor comfortless home, her children, her husband, and most of all, perhaps, with herself. She endured my grandfather's calls because sometimes, when she was in distress, which was not seldom, he gave her relief in money; but she would never listen with patience to his remonstrances and reproofs. As she had made her bed, so she must lie upon it, she used to say to him, quoting a common proverb; and often added that it was uncommonly easy for those who knew nothing of trouble and poverty to preach to those who did; but it was not so easy to listen.
On more than one occasion when my grandfather kindly but determinedly introduced the subject of religion, Mrs. Adams as determinedly, but with no feelings of kindness —resentfully, indeed—requested him to forbear. Her thoughts were her own, she said; and she did not choose to be questioned like a child. It might be that she thought as much about religion as some other people who made such a fuss; nobody had a right to say that she didn't. Ah! Mr. Gr— might look round on her comfortless home and her dirty children if he liked—a parcel of squalling brats! She knew very well what that look meant; but let anybody that liked—the most religious person in the land —lead the life she led, with her husband's want of luck (she had caught up this word from him), and their poverty, and with six bahies, as they might be called for any use they were, to look after, and it would soon be seen whether there was much difference between one woman and another, after all.
"Well, Sarah," said my patient grandfather, after the last outburst of this kind, " I will not speak to you on this subject again till you ask me. Until then I will be silent; the words 'religion,''gospel,''salvation,' or 'prayer' shall never intentionally escape my lips in speaking to you. You know something of these matters, as you say; and probably you do not like to be spoken to as though you were ignorant of them, So let it be, then." Saying this, the aged man sorrowfully left the cottage.
Nor did he repeat his visits for many weeks, and even months. He was not weary in well-doing; no one could have thought that of him. But to what good purpose could he call at Sarah Adams' cottage after the engagements he had made? Whether it was wise in him to make such an engagement, it is not for me to say. He thought it right, however; and he had generally some good reason for all he said and did.
"Poor Mrs. Adams is in great trouble, sir," said a compassionate neighbour one day to my grandfather.
"Ah, indeed! What is her trouble now T he asked.
"Her husband has been caught poaching again, and is locked up in jail; and she, poor woman, hasn't a bit of bread, nor sixpence to buy a loaf, to feed her hungry children with. She has been to the parish officer for relief, but he tells her he can do nothing for her without an order, and he doesn't know whether or not he can get that."
"Poor Sarah!" sighed my grandfather. "And you are sure she is in want, are you?'
"Quite sure, sir."
My grandfather put his hand in his pocket. "No bread, did you say, Mrs. Stevenson?"
"Yes, sir, I said so. Perhaps I shouldn't have said that, either; for when I saw how things were, I took in all the bread I had in my cupboard, and glad enough she was of it. But it wasn't much, and it is all gone long before now, I'll be bound."
"It was kind of you, and neighbourly," said my grandfather. "Will you do a little commission for me?" .
Mrs. Stevenson was quite willing, and said so.
"Will you oblige me, then, by making a few purchases as you go home, and leaving what you buy with Sarah Adams?" My grandfather took his hand out of his pocket now and transferred what it held to the neighbourly advocate, giving at the same time some directions.
Mrs. Stevenson was pleased with her commission, and promised to execute it faithfully, and at once.
"But will you not go yourself and see the poor woman, sir?" she pleaded.
"I am not sure that it would be of any use. 1 am not a very welcome visitor at her cottage," said my grandfather.
"Oh, but do go, sir. There's no telling what good you might do the poor body now she is in such trouble."
"The question is whether or not I can do good to her soul," said my grandfather, musingly. "Well, I'll see."
My grandfather did not call on Mrs. Adams that day, nor the next. He was not unmindful of her, however; for he waited on the guardian of the parish and obtained his promise that the poor woman's wants should be attended to while her husband was in prison. On the following day he took his way to the cottage.
It was by no means an inviting place to visit; this my grandfather knew beforehand. Emptiness, rags, untidiness and noise were its principal features. When I say "emptiness," I mean that there was hardly any furniture in the room, for in the ten or twelve years of Sarah's married life the few household comforts with which she began it had disappeared, and left but the barest necessities.
The poor woman received her visitor gratefully, however, for she knew to whom she was indebted for the meals she and her children had eaten the last two days; and this knowledge had a little softened her.
"I am sorry to see you in such distress, Sarah," said my grandfather, when he had cautiously taken a seat—cautiously, for the chair which was offered him looked suspiciously frail.
"It is a long time since you called last, sir," said Mrs. Adams, evasively.
"Yes; you remember what passed then, I dare say: but, not to remind you of that, what is it that I hear about your husband? Is it true?"
Yes, John had been taken up again for poaching, if that was what my grandfather had heard. A stupid, foolish