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"No, no; I was thinking of -what the Bible says about the dark places of the earth, and darkness covering the people. I beg your pardon, though; it was not a right question to ask, seeing that you come from there."
"A very proper question, sir, and one that I wish I could answer entirely to your satisfaction, and keep to the truth as well. As it is, I must confess that there is much ignorance and vice among us, and comparatively little regard for the things which are not seen, and are eternal. And yet I have reason to bless God that I ever saw that country; for it was there, in the solitude of a very dreary wilderness, that He met with me in mercy, and led me to a knowledge of himself by his dear Son."
"Ah !" exclaimed the farmer, with a brightened countenance; "you love the Lord Jesus Christ, then?"
"I hope I do; nay, I am sure I do. I should be a most ungrateful wretch if I did not."
"Yes, sir, we may all say that. And—but, Mary, dear," added he, interrupting himself, "have you nothing better than bread and cheese to set before a fellow-disciple? Get the best there is in the house."
The guest, however, positively and peremptorily refused to have Mary's arrangements altered; and for one moment a look of embarrassment was visible on his countenance. It speedily cleared away, and, after a short interval of silent devotion, he betook himself to the hospitable meal. Meanwhile Mary was puzzling herself in vain to recall to mind all whom she had previously known, in the vain attempt to give a local habitation and a name to the guest, I whose 'features and voice were so Btrange, and yet so familiar to her fancy, if not to her eye and ear. Presently the guest spoke again:
"You have a pleasant spot here, sir," said he, turning to the aged farmer.
"Yes, sir. I bless the Lord the lines are fallen to us in pleasant places."
"But somewhat lonely, it seems."
"We don't feel it so, sir. To be sure we have not many neighbours very near to us, but then we don't see so much of the wickedness of the world; and so what we lose one way, we have made up to us in another."
"True. But do you not sometimes fear being disturbed? I mean, is there no danger—from thieves and robbers, for instance?"
"We don't see it so, sir. The Lord being our keeper, we have no right to be afraid: and we are not afraid."
"Truo again," rejoined the guest. "And you, my kind friend," he added, looking at Mary, with a peculiar expression in his glance, and a softened, lowered tone—" and you, I have no doubt you remember that hymn,—
"The hosts of God encamp around
Mary started with wild amazement. She knew now when and under what circumstances she had seen the stranger before, more than twenty years ago. She could scarcely restrain the cry of astonishment which rose to her lips, but she did restrain it.
"I see you remember me now," said the guest; "but your memory is not so perfect as mine; for had I met you anywhere, 1 should have known you. Did I not tell you I should never forget you?"
The old farmer looked up with an inquisitive glance. He did not yet understand the turn the conversation had taken. By this time, however, Mary had recovered her presence of mind and equanimity: she frankly extended her hand to the stranger. "I am glad to see you looking so much better off than you were then," she said; "and I am glad to feel sure that you did not mean any harm, though we thought afterwards that you did."*
"And you thought rightly," said the stranger. "Listen —and you, my good Christian brother, for I have a confession which I have travelled long and far to make. I did mean harm. I and my companion were desperate men: we were bound together, too, in bonds of guilt and crime. We had learned—no matter how—that you were lonely and unprotected in this solitary dwelling, and especially on the Lord's day; and we knew that you had taken home
from W market a considerable sum of money, of
which we should have robbed you on the road, and perhaps added murder to robbery, if you had delayed your return till a later hour. We were disappointed in that, but we determined to have the booty; and it was to rob the house that we came on the following day. Our first step was to poison your faithful dog, and then every thing else seemed easy to us.
"But," continued the speaker, with deep emotion, "the Lord was your keeper, as you just now said, and he was as a wall of fire around your habitation. I cannot, even to this day, account for it, except by referring it to his immediate interposition; but I could no more have harmed you, Mary, or permitted harm to have been done, than I could at that time have understood the nature and foundation of your strong faith and confidence. Well, you may perhaps remember how my companion and I almost quarrelled, though you did not appear conscious that you were the cause and subject of our dispute. At last, however, I compelled him to give up the design, and we went away.
"No, I never forgot you," the speaker went on, "and I never have forgotten your childlike dependence on your heavenly Father's care; but I did not alter my course. I was still a hardened criminal; and shortly afterwards I and my companion were apprehended for a burglary, tried at the assizes, and sentenced to transportation. He died on the passage out, impenitent, I fear; but I was spared."
"The ways of the Lord are wonderful!" ejaculated tho pious farmer, who had listened with grave astonishment to the revelations of his strange guest.
"They are indeed wonderful," rejoined the other; "and the greatest wonder of all is, that I can now say with the apostle, * But I obtained mercy,' so hardened as I was." And then he told how that the Lord had met with him, and first stirred up in his soul, by the simple repetition of a hymn, those feelings which afterwards, by the irresistible power of the Divine Spirit, through the reading of his word, were ripened into deep abhorrence of himself, and an unreserved surrender of his soul to Christ.
Here the confessions of the stranger ended. The sequel to the history need not be narrated now.
HOME IN HUMBLE LIFE.
"Is it well with the child? It is well."—2 Kings iv. 26.
If in otir country rambles we have happened to become familiar with the operations of some humble husbandman on his little patch of land; if we have passed by when ho was sowing seed, and watering, and weeding, and pruning, and propping, we shall scarcely be uninterested in the success of his work, the product of the seed, or the fruit of the tree. So it may happen that some reader who has rambled
with us among these humble scenes in humble life, may like to know whether the parental care of William and Susan Taylor derived its happy reward in the after conduct and characters of their children. A few years over, and a glance or two may show whether the seed of the kingdom sown in prayer, or native tares of the original soil, had the upper hand.
Let it not be supposed that Eobert and Milly, and the little flock that followed them, grew up to be ladies and gentlemen, because of the improved circumstances that resulted from their father's advancement. The chief foreman over working men was still a working man, and there was neither prospect nor intention that any of his children should be independent of the labour of their own hands. They were educated to fill with respectability and honour the station in which they were born, and not to aim at an elevation beyond it, as a position of greater happiness or usefulness.
It happened one Monday morning that a "new hand" appeared among the workmen of a superior and extensive establishment, whence issued some of the finest specimens of British manufacture to all parts of the world.
"Well, who are you, and where do you come from?" asked a bold, reckless-looking young man, on behalf of himself and others, who liked to know, but did not at once like to ask.
"My name is Eobert Taylor, and I come from the D— works to learn what you can teach me here," frankly replied the tall, strong, cheerful-looking stranger.
"Oh!" and "oh I" and "oh!" passed round in varied tones of voice. "Served your time then, and want to be polished up a bit. All right; we can teach you a thing or two, never fear."
"Thank you," said Eobert, with such hearty simplicity that several laughed; but one older man remarked, " He'll be like to learn more than he needs if he lets you take him in tow, Joe Staples. You're quite too 'complished for a young fellow like him."
"Don't be ill-natured, Sam," retorted Staples. "See if we arn't first-rate mates in no time."
Sam looked kindly at Eobert, and Eobert felt that a warning was conveyed at once which claimed his gratitude, and reminded him of his father's words, that good and evil would offer hiin a choice everywhere; and tests of principle well met at first would clear many a snare from his future path.
At six o'clock, as the men were leaving work, Staples and two or three more joined Robert, and inquired where he was living.
"Why, that's quite an uppish sort of a street; what made you go there? Who fixed your lodging for you?"
"My mother," said Eobert, firmly. "She knows something of the person who keeps the house; and though she has superior lodgers in the best rooms, I am very comfortably provided for."
"Hum! Well, you're your own master I suppose. Now look here. Ton go home, get your tea, and dress yourself pretty well, and I'll give you a treat this evening. I'll introduce you to a friend of mine, where you can go when you like and enjoy yoiirself. Capital entertainment. Such music as I dare say you never heard, and all sorts of pleasant things to pass away the time. See, here's the place, and 111 meet you in an hour."
Eobert looked up at the handsome building, already lighted brilliantly, and that look was enough. "The big spider," the horror of his early days, was instantly before his mind.
"Stop," said he, as Staples was turning along another street; "I shall not go into this place."
"Pooh! you will, man—at anyrate to see what it's like. It's no harm; and now you've got no home you'll want some amusement, you know. You'd like to do as we do, of course."
"We'll just understand one another at once," said Eobert, quietly. "I thank you for intending me kindly; but I shall never go into this place, nor keep company with any one who does."
"Oh, oh! is that it? Well, thank you for a piece of your mind. Good-night. We shan't be mates then, I suppose."
Robert looked at" the young man. He seemed but a few years older than himself, but there was a dissipated, reckless look about his good-humoured face, and Eobert pitied him. Had he parents? had he ever been taught any good? Oh! mother, father, perhaps but for you your son had been like him.
"Stop one minute," said Eobert, quickly. "Can't "you