« AnteriorContinuar »
be found fault with about the work, but that sarcastic way of his is unbearable. He and I will have a row some day."
"And a great deal of good that will do, Peter. Now, just think a bit. There's no use quarrelling with one's bread and butter. He's queer enough; but it's his nature, and we must just make the best of him. One will find something to try one's patience any where. You had some odd tempers at Murdoch's, in Liverpool, had not you?"
After a good deal of talk, Spoor succeeded in obtaining a promise from Kendall that he would do his best to keep his temper with Eobinson. Perhaps it helped him to do so that when the foreman came to look at the work, he had the frankness to confess that after all it it was an improvement on the plan laid down. "Only," he said, rather gruffly, "let us know beforehand when you're going to make any change ; they may not always be improvements."
Hail! sacred day of holy thought,
The peaceful strains that fill the grove,
And now more pure the dew-drop seems,
Fair emblem of eternal rest!
There was a sabbath once below,
And such a sabbath, bright and pure,
In all its beauty shall return—
In all its glory to endure:
Who would not greet that sabbath morn?
A NEGLECTED TREASURE.
One cold winter's day, about two years after the visit of Sarah Adams to my grandfather, a poor-looking, rather sickly, and thinly-clad labouring man was wearily trudging along the high road towards our village. A small bundle was in one hand, and a stout stick in the other, which stick did him some service in helping on his dragging footsteps. The man was evidently very tired. He had not walked far—not very far for one accustomed to such exer
cise—only about a dozen or fourteen miles. But then he was not accustomed to it, and this made all the difference.
Presently the man halted, and sat down by the roadside to rest. Cold as the day was, and thinly as the traveller was clad, he was so warm with the unwonted exercise that he was glad to remove his hat and wipe the perspiration from his head and brow and face. And now might have been seen, had an experienced and sharp observer been standing by, that the man had lately been in prison. There would have been no mistaking the peculiarly cut hair which scantily covered his head. No one but a prison haircutter could have produced such an effect.
Yes, the man was a "jail-bird," just released from his cage. His name was John Adams. He had been imprisoned nearly two years, on an aggravated charge of poaching, in which a gamekeeper was severely injured. He had served out his time; and having that morning been dismissed from jail, with a few shillings in his pocket to help him home, he was travelling thither. No wonder he was fatigued, for during the two years past his «ole exercise in the open air had been confined to monotonous marchings to and fro in the prison yard.
Everything around seemed new and strange to the liberated prisoner. His freedom seemed strange to him; so did the bare hedgerows, and the sheep, and cows, and horses in the fields; the houses by the roadside, and the people he met with on the road. These last produced in him a sort of conscious shame, as though he feared that all who saw him piss would read in his gait, and manner, and countenance some betraying marks of his recent disgrace. He was not sorry, therefore, when the short day began to draw to a close, although he had yet another hour's walk before him.
Although at liberty, and on his way to his home, Adams was depressed in spirits. This might partly have been the consequence of bodily fatigue, but not entirely so. When he reached home, what could he do? The chances were that he would not be able to get work; he would be scorned and flouted by employers of labour, and his old neighbours would look shy upon him. As to his home itself—what would he find there? Poverty and wretchedness, no doubt. He should like to see his wife and children; but to see them suffering, and he the cause of their troubles, would be almost worse than not seeing them at all. These were some of the thoughts which naturally enough had been harassing John Adams all through his day's journey; and they had become heavier and more depressing as he became more and more weary. He was hungry, too; for though he had a little money in his pocket, he had no food, nor had he eaten any since taking his last meal in prison. Why had he not bought food on his journey? it may be asked. Simply because he had been ashamed to show his face; for the fear haunted him that every one who saw him would instinctively know who and what he was; and he oould not bear to be pointed at as a recent convict. He would rather be hungry than run the risk of this reproach.
He was not expected at home that day. Indeed, he had had a month's punishment remitted for some reason or other, and he had not known till that same- morning that his imprisonment was at an end. Consequently his wife knew nothing of it.
And how would she receive him? To be sure, she had written some nice pleasant letters to him while he was in prison, and had been several times to see him. Indeed, he could not understand all she had written and said in these letters and short interviews, only that she seemed to be putting the best face she could upon things at home. But may be she would be in a different mood now. And if she should be, it would only serve him right. For he had been a queer sort of a husband to her, and a queer sort of father to the children; and that was the truth of it. And where it was to end he couldn't tell, and it was no use thinking. And thus, throwing off his morbid thoughts and fancies as well as he could, John Adams hastily rose from the bank on which he had been seated, and renewed his homeward course.
It was almost dark when he reached the village. Here and there a light glimmered through cottage casements, but they did not glimmer for the weary sojourner. A brighter, ruddier light shone out upon the road from the window of the Ked Lion tap-room. It had been a snare to John Adams, in bygone years, that Eed Lion; for he had there spent many shillings, many pounds, probably, on self-indulgenoe, which might have shed comfort on his home; and he had passed many an evening hour there which ought to have been passed with his family. H^ knew this, and had had some reproachful thoughts about it during his imprisonment, and had even made a sort of vow to himself that when he got home again he would avoid the Red Lion at all events. But he did not know how it would be. He reckoned that if his home were as uncomfortable as it had sometimes, and often, been in old times (and why should it be different?), he should be driven out of his good resolutions. Thus, tormenting himself with these doleful anticipations, poor Adams went on more slowly now that he was so near home, for he more and more dreaded the scene of want and distress which would meet him there.
He met no one in the village, for the evening was dark, and the roadway deserted. This was a comfort, at any rate. Presently he reached his cottage. There he stood for a moment or two, with a palpitating heart, almost afraid to venture a step nearer to the closed door.
There was a light in the room below—a rather cheerful, glowing light, the poor man thought—a flickering light, like that of a blazing fire. He tried to see what was going on inside; but a rather thick window-curtain intervened, and he was thwarted in this attempt. But he heard voices.
John Adams could bear the suspense no longer. "I may as well know the worst or the best," he said to himself, and he gently opened the unbolted door.
There was no time for him to see what was going on; no time to note the various items of the scene of misery which he had been picturing to himself in his dreary walk. He had not advanced three steps when he was encircled with his wife's arms.
"John—John—dear John!" was all she could utter in her first outbreak of surprise and gladness.
"I am come back, you see, Sarah," said he, huskily. And then followed more exclamations, and a general rush of the little ones to their father's arms, and some explanations of how it was that he was home a month sooner than was expected. And all this time John Adams almost forgot that he was a returned and liberated prisoner—quite forgot his weariness as a traveller.
In a few minutes he was seated by his fireside (it was a cheerful fire that was burning on the hearth), with a child on each knee, and the others clustered around him. His wife was busily engaged in preparing the meal he so much needed, and John Adams had time to look round.
It was a strange contrast to that which he remembered