Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

had lost the Christian faithfulness of my grandfather; hut this consideration added poignancy to her grief. "If it hadn't been my own fault, I could bear it better," she said within herself.

She had no time to waste in sorrow, however; for the most grief-stricken woman, if she have six children to tend, must sometimes put her private troubles on the background, as Mrs. Adams did.

The morrow brought with it other thoughts and cares. Her husband was taken a second time before the magistrates, and was sent back by them to jail, to be tried at the next quarter sessions for his breach of the law. This was only what the wife had expected; but the knowledge of its certainty, and of the heavier punishment he would probably have to endure, softened her heart towards him. "He is not without his faults," she pondered, as she sat down and wept copiously, when she heard what had been done by the mag'trates; "and I wonder who is: but there are many worse liusbands than John has been to me, and'worse fathers than he has been to the children. And if he has gone wrong at times, as he has, what have I ever done to keep him right? Have I made his home happy? Have I made it even as comfortable for him as I might have done?"

These iwere painful musings, doubtless; but the selfreproach was deserved, and therefore they were wholesome. Their effect was good too; for she was reminded by them of her present duty.

"I'll clean up the house a bit, and make things as straight as I can; and then I will go out and see if I can get anything to do, to earn a penny or two. Better do this than starve, or trust to charity, or go to the union," she said.

In truth, Sarah's house wanted cleaning up more than a bit; and she set to work. Her first proceeding was to send her children to play in a neighbouring meadow, under the charge of the eldest, who was a girl of nine or ten years old. Alice was a good girl to look after the little ones, the mother often said, and they would be safe under her charge. Having done this, she began her house cleaning.

As 1 have said, Mrs. Adams was not encumbered with much furniture, nor did her cottage contain many rooms; but for all this, she found her cleaning to be rather uncomfortable work, for there was so much dirt and dust to he got rid of. The poor woman sighed as she thought of her earlier life, when she would not have believed, if anyone had told her, that she would have been contented to live, even a single day, in such discomfort as had gradually gathered around her. Nevertheless, she went on bravely enough; for the hard work, while it lasted, kept despairing thoughts at hay.

While she was thus engaged, the relieving officer of the district called upon her, to say that the board of guardians had agreed to allow her a small sum every week for the support of her family. If she could make that do, well and good; if not, she and her children must go to the unionhouse till her husband was out of his trouble. Mrs. Adams accepted the offer; received the first week's payment, and, when the man was gone, once more set to work.

At last, all was done,—or rather, the worst of the dirt and dust was got rid of; and all that remained was to put back her goods and chattels. In doing this, she came to a small box which, for many years had reposed undisturbed under the bedstead.

"I may as well see what's in it," said she: "though I know pretty well that it is only rubbish."

The box was locked; but Sarah had the key somewhere, she knew; and after some search she found it, and used it.

It was, as she remembered, pretty much all rubbish that the box contained:—worn-out children's shoes; rags which from time to time, in her earlier married life, she had rolled up and put away, thinking that they might some day come in for mending, but never had; old gloves without fingers (she had long left off wearing gloves), and old socks without toes. There were a few relics too of her girlish days, in unuseable pincushions and faded ribbons — the ribbons which once trimmed her wedding bonnet. It did the poor desolate woman good to set her eyes on these relics of happier times; for it brought back to her mind remembrances of what she then was; and yet every scrap of this kind which she found, made her feel more and more sorrowful.

At last, she came to the bottom of the box; and among the last trifles she took out was a little bag made of printed cotton. It was the ticket bag of Sarah's Sunday school days.

Another sigh rose as she held the bag in her hand. Those Sunday school days of hers were comparatively happy days. The world was fresh and young to her then; her heart was tender, and her hopes were high. The bag was not empty; and the poor woman would examine its contents. Old school tickets, she supposed. Yes, old school tickets. Nothing more,—some half dozen or more small tickets with a Scripture text printed on them, surrounded by a red border; and two or three larger picture cards, with verses of hymns under the picture. Sarah remembered them now. They were the tickets she had in her possession when she ceased to he a scholar. And here they were now, to stare her in the face, and to reproach her silently for her neglect of religion and the Bible.

What were the texts on the Scripture cards? Mrs. Adams read one or two of them without much interest. She looked at another, —

"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." The little card fell from the woman's hand. "Come ye to the waters! Every one that thirsteth!" The words had strange meaning, surely.

Mrs. Adams was not dull. Her mind was not so active as it once was, perhaps: but it had not lost its power; and this power was roused.

"T see now what he meant," she said to herself, as she thought of my grandfather's visit. "He told me that story about the sailors, to put me in mind of this. He would not talk to me about religion till I asked him, he said; and he has kept his word: but this is what he meant when he asked me if I had ever known anybody to act so foolishly as those sailors acted,—almost dying of thirst when good fresh water was around them."

Her thoughts wandered a little now; or, rather, they came unbidden into her mind. At school, Sarah had been remarkably quick in committing hymns to memory; and though time had rubbed out many of these recollections, there were traces of them remaining. Here are one or two of these traces;—I will put them in the order in which they presented themselves to the disturbed woman.

"He said something, too, about a neglected treasure. What did he mean by that?—Treasure !—Let me see :—that hymn—how does it begin?—Precious Bible, what a—no, that is not just it. Stay,—I remember it now :— ■ Holy Bible, book Divine, Precious treasuro,'—

yes, that is it,—' Precious treasure, thou art mine.' Mine, indeed! Yes, it is mine; for the Bible I used to read from at school is on the shelf now. But of what use is it to me, or to anyone else? Mine, indeed! It might as well have heen anybody else's jor any use I have made of it of late years. I used to read it; and I used to say that jhymn I learnt at school,—

'The praises of my tongue
I offer to the Lord,
That I was taught, and learnt so young,
To read his holy word.'

But what good learning to read the Bible has done me since, it would be hard to tell. There was another hymn, too, that I learnt then,—something about water in it.— 'Water flows,'—I remember that,—' water flows, to quench our thirst of sin.' Yes, this must be what he meant, when he asked me if I knew any one who were like those foolish sailors."

I shall not follow out these reflections. They are only a few of those which forced themselves upon the unwilling mind of Mrs. Adams, as she sat, deeply immersed in thought, with these relics of former times in her lap.

But presently she was aroused. Her children came home, clamorous for food; and remembering her present duties, the mother hastily returned the " rubbish" into the old box.

But the thoughts that had been awakened in her mind did not slumber again. Great mental agony laid hold of her,—the was so troubled that she could not rest. She had neglected salvation. Her former -emotions and convictions had given place to callous indifference: and now it seemed as though God were taking vengeance upon her for her wilful and determined sinfulness. Her troubles were, indeed, hard to bear. Her poverty and destitution and present loneliness ;—the cold looks or the almost colder attempts of her neighbours to comfort her, under her misfortune, as they termed it;—the ignorance and wilfulness of her children;—even the yet uncertain doom which hung over her husband, and her sympathy for hira;—all these things were sufficient to weigh down her spirits, as with a heavy burden. But in addition to these was the burden upon her soul. "The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?"*

Many days passed away, and my grandfather did not repeat his visit to Sarah Adams. He had done what he could for her in temporal matters,—had supplied her most * Piot. xviii. 14.

urgent wants, had pleaded for her with the guardians of the union, and so procured her the help she had received,— had used his interest with some neighbours, and ohtained the promise of plain needle work for the poor woman who, at one time, had been quick and clever with her needle. But he did not go near her. Why should be go? He must not talk to her ahout Jesus; and he did not care to gossip. So he said, or thought, that Mrs. Adams had no desire to receive his visits and counsels.

He was surprised therefore, one evening, after hearing a gentle knock at his door, to be told that Mrs. Adams wished to speak to him. She had put her children to bed and asked her good-natured neighbour, Mrs. Stevenson, to look in and take heed to them; and then had hastened to my grandfather's house.

"Hey! and what is the matter now?" said he, adjusting his spectacles, when he saw the poor woman's' look of genuine agitation and appeal.

"Everything sir," said she. "Oh, I am very unhappy, and I don't know where to look for help. Will you help me?"

"How can I help you, Sarah?" my grandfather asked, encouragingly.

"Will you please to say something to me about my soul? sir," she cried; "you told me once that you would never talk to me again about such things till I asked you. I am come now to ask you, humbly, to forgive all the wrong things I have ever said in my temper, and to tell me what I must do to be saved."

There was no need to go heyond this—no need for the aged Christian to ask if his poor petitioner were in earnest. The expression of agony on her countenance would have put scepticism to flight. lie did not even stay to ask how, or by what means, her concern had been awakened. It was enough that the appeal had been made; and his response was ready.

"You know what the Bible answer to your question is, Sarah," he said,—" 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt he saved.'"

Yes, she knew this; but,—

"There are no 'huts' in God's gospel, Sarah. The invitations are to all who will come."

"You told me about the poor sailors, sir, who wore near perishing for want of water when they had plenty around

« AnteriorContinuar »