Taking Tales, Instructive and Entertaining Reading, by W.H.G. Kingston.
This book is a collection of six tales. Originally each of these was published as a separate book, at a low price. Each story was full of interest, and the intention was that the families of England would sit down as a family to read and discuss the story.
In this collection we have a story about an English country miller; a boy who goes to sea; a family who settle in Canada; a boy who joins the army and serves in the Crimea and in the Indian Mutiny; an Australian shepherd; and lastly, but far from least, a little boy who has to work down a coal mine.
If you read any of these stories you too will find yourself with plenty of new thoughts. Perhaps you are glad that life nowadays does not make such demands on very young boys.
TAKING TALES, INSTRUCTIVE AND ENTERTAINING READING, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 1.
THE MILLER OF HILLBROOK.
There are all sorts of mills: some go by water, undershot or overshot; but if the millpond is dry, or the stream runs low, they come to a standstill. They want help, they must have water, to go on. Next there are steam-mills, which make a great noise and do a great deal of work; but they want coals and water too: if both are not brought to them, they stop and can do nothing. And then there are wind-mills; but everybody knows that wind-mills, though they do stand on the tops of hills, in spite of their great long arms stuck out, are of no use if the wind does not blow. So a man may try to do a great deal of work; but if he tries to get on without the help of his neighbours, and without being willing to help them in return, he will soon find that he too has to come to a standstill. Yes, young or old, rich or poor, must all help each other. Once there came on earth a great Person, great though poor, a carpenter's son. He only stayed a short time, but all that time He went about doing good to men, helping His fellows; and He died that He might help all men still more, and in a way no other person could have helped them. He came to die, because all men have sinned. He came also to show men how to live—how to act one towards another.
Mark Page, the Miller of Hillbrook, owned a wind-mill on the top of a knoll just above the village. His house and sheds for his carts and horses stood below it, and round it were some fields which were his; so it will be seen that he was well to do in the world. He had a wife and a son and a daughter, and he ought to have been a happy man; but he was not. Things seemed never to go quite right with Mark. Either there was too much wind, or too little wind. If there was little wind he was sure to cry out for more, but once; and then he would have given his mill and his house and fields to have got the wind not to blow. About that I will tell by-and-by.
Sometimes the miller sang—
"When the wind blows, Then the mill goes: When the wind drops, Then the mill stops."
But he was wont to growl out, "The wind is sure to drop when I have most grist to grind—just to spite me."
Hillbrook was a nice spot. There was the brook which ran out of the hill, fresh and pure, right through the village. There was not water enough to turn a mill, but enough to give the people right good water to drink and to cook with. It is a sad thing not to have good water. Bad water, from ponds, or ditches, or wells near drains, makes many people ill, and kills not a few. The people of Hillbrook prized their good water. They said, "we have good water and pure air, and now what we have to do is to keep our cottages clean and we shall be well." They did keep the floors and the walls of their cottages clean, but somehow fevers still came. At times, when the sun was hot, many people were ill: no one could tell how it was.
There was a farm to let, called Hillside farm. No one would take it, for it was said that the land was cold and wet, and too open. At last one Farmer Grey came to see it. The rent was low, the terms fair; "I'll take it on a long lease," he said; "and if God wills it, ere many years go by, it will yield good crops." Farmer Grey soon gave work to many hands, he paid good wages too, and was always among his men to see that each man did his proper work. He put deep down in the ground miles and miles of drain pipes, it was said.
Hillside was next to the Mill farm. When Mark Page saw the tons and tons of dung of all sorts, chalk, and guano, which comes from over the sea, put on the land, he said that Farmer Grey had put more gold on it than he would ever get out of it. Farmer Grey said, "Bide a bit, neighbour, and we shall see."
Farmer Grey heard some people one day talk about their good water and fine air and clean cottages, and yet that fevers came to the place. So he went into the village, and walked from cottage to cottage: "Look here, what is this hole for?" he asked one; "I must hold my nose while I stand near it. Why it's just under the room where some of you sleep!"
"Oh, that's just a hole where we empty slops, and throw in cabbage stalks and dirt of all sorts," said the good woman; "we take it out sometimes to spread on the garden."
"Now hear me, dame," said Farmer Grey, "that hole is just a nest sure to hatch a fever some day; drain it off, fill it up, and dig a new one at the end of the garden, and take care that none of the drainings run into your brook."
"Why is this green ditch close under your window, dame?" he asked of another.
"Why you see, farmer, it is there, it has always been there, and it's so handy just to empty the slops and such-like dirt," said the dame; "to be sure it does smell bad sometimes, but that can't be helped."
"Hear me, dame," said Farmer Grey, "I have a notion that God lets bad smells come out of such muck just to show us that if we breathe them they will do us harm; the bad air which comes out of the muck mixes with the air we are always taking into our insides, and that makes us ill. You had one child die last summer of fever, and one is now ill. Now just do you get your good man to drain that off when he comes home, and tell him that he need not come to work till after breakfast to-morrow, or noon, if he has not done it."
In another cottage a drain full of filth ran right under the floor. A cesspool was close to a fourth cottage. In several the floors were clean; but all sorts of filth had dropped through and stayed there, and when it rained the water ran under the floor. "Just lift up a plank," said Farmer Grey; it was done, and he stuck his stick into a foot or more of black mud.
"Bad air—gas it is called—comes out of that stuff. That's what brings fevers and kills the children," he said. "Oh, my friends, you must get rid of all these things if you wish to have health." The people in Hillbrook liked Farmer Grey; they knew that he wished them well, and the wise ones did what he told them. The cholera at last came to England. No one was ill in those cottages near which the cesspools and green ditches and dirt holes had been filled up; but five or six died in the cottages where they were left, and the stuff from them mixed with the water they drank. Then people saw that Farmer Grey was right.
Somehow Mark Page did not like him, nor did Mistress Page, his wife, nor his son, young Ben Page; they all spoke an ill word of him when they could. Only Mary Page, of all in the house, would never do so. Mary was not like the rest in the miller's house, she was sweet and kind. She had been to a school where she had learned what was good and right, and what God loved her to do. Mark Page said that the water which ran off Farmer Grey's land came on to his and did it harm. "I can prove it," he said. "Once my crops were as good as any which grew on that land. Now look you here, his crops are as fine as you would wish to see, and mine are not half as good. I'll see if I can't turn the water back again." Farmer Grey wished to make a road through his farm, and over some wild land, where, in winter, the carts often stuck fast. There was no lack of gravel, but he had of course to drain the ground, and then by just making the road round—that is, the middle higher than the sides—the water ran off on both sides, and the road was as hard as stone.
"Ah! ah! see, Farmer Grey has sent the water which used to remain quiet on the top of the hill right down over my land, just to make his own road, as if a road was of use up there," said Mark Page. "I'll be revenged on him some day, that I will." These words were told to Farmer Grey. "Will he?" he said; "Then I will heap coals of fire on his head, and try which will win the day."
"What can he mean?" asked one or two of those who heard him: "That's not like how Farmer Grey is wont to speak. Does he mean that he will burn his house over his head?"
No, no; Farmer Grey did not mean that. He meant that he would do so many kind acts to Mark Page that he would soften his heart. These words are in the Bible. In the land where the Bible was written by God's order, when people want to soften any hard meat, they put it into a pot with a top and put the pot into a hole full of hot coals, and then they pile more hot coals over the top, so that all parts of the pot are hot; so that to heap coals of fire on a man's head has come to mean, to soften his heart by many kind deeds—heaping them upon his head.
Mark Page did not know what a kind man Farmer Grey was. The miller had a man to help in the mill, Sam Green by name. There is a saying, "Like master, like man." Sam was very like the miller—may be worse. Sam was a man of few words, the miller did not speak much—young Ben was like his father. One night the talk was about the new road. "Why not go and dig it up?" asked young Ben Page. "Best thing to do," growled out Sam Green. It was moonlight, so they all three went out with spades and picks to the road. "Where shall we dig, father?" asked Ben. The miller looked about; his farm was on the left of the road. "Stop these two or three drains here," he said, as he struck his spade on the left side. "But it seems to me that most of the water runs to the right, off into the brook; still I don't see what cause Farmer Grey had to go and make this road." The next day, Farmer Grey rode by and saw where the drains had been stopped. He might have known who did it. He said not a word, but sent a man to put them to rights.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 2.
The more harm the miller tried to do to James Grey, the more he wished to do. When he could, he or Ben or Sam let his cows into the farmer's fields; and much mischief they did. Ben, too, who might often be met with a gun in his hands, shot the farmer's game, and his rabbits and pigeons.
One day, a fine dog the farmer was very fond of, came into one of Mark Page's fields. Mark had a gun in his hand, and shot the dog. Farmer Grey met Mark soon after this.
"You shot my dog, Trust, I am told," said the farmer.
"Your dog came after my rabbits," said Mark.
"Friend, did I say one word to man or boy when your son not only came to my fields, but shot well-nigh half a score of my rabbits and my hares?" asked the farmer. "You know he came."
"I shoot all dogs that come to my fields," said Mark, walking on, with his eyes on the ground, and a frown on his brow. He did not speak much that day when he got home. In the evening there was a breeze, and the mill went round and round quite rapidly. "I'll not give in," he said to Sam Green, as they sat on the steps of the mill, while the grist they had just put in was grinding. "Hold on to the last; that's what I say. Farmer Grey wants to come it strong over me; but I'll not let him."
"All right, master; stick to that," said Sam Green.
"So I will. He shan't come it over me; that he shan't," growled the miller.
"'When the wind blows Then the mill goes; When the wind drops, Then the mill stops.'
"'I care for nobody—no, not I, If nobody cares for me.'"
"That's it, master; that's what I call the right thing; just proper pride," said Sam, the miller's man.
Poor Ben Page had a poor chance of being well brought up by such a man as Mark Page, with such a friend as Sam Green. Mrs Page, too, his mother, did not know how to teach him what was right, for she did not care to do what was right herself. She just did what she liked best, not what was right. She ought to have known, for she had her Bible, and time to read it; but she did not read it, neither Sundays nor week-days.
If we read the Bible only on Sunday, we pass more than three hundred days each year, on which days we do not learn what we ought to do in this life, or how we are to go to heaven.
Mary read her Bible every day, and she used to tell Ben what she had read, and to try very hard to get him to give up his bad ways. But though he loved her, yet he went on just the same. Now and then he would stay at home, and not go to the ale-house, or out with his gun at night, and sit and talk to Mary, or hear her read; but next day it was just as bad as ever. Off he would go, and, may be, come home drunk, or with some hares or other game, which showed what he had been about. The miller only said, "Ben, Ben, take care." And Ben laughed, and said, "Don't fear; I'll not be found out." And he packed up the game, and sent it off to London.
It seemed sure that Ben would come to a bad end, if he was to go on in this way. Mark Page did not know what the Bible says: "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs chapter 22, verse 6). But Mark trained up his child in the way he should not go; and what could he think but that, when he was old, he would not depart from it? that is to say, from the way he should not go. Ben Page's mother let him do just, what he liked; she beat him, to be sure, when she was angry, but that was not for his good, and that Ben soon found out. If he was quiet, and did not break any of her things, she did not scold him.
Ben was a bad boy, but a worse man. His friends were wild and bad, and he soon broke all the laws of God and man. He was sure to bring grief to the heart of his father and his mother; yet what could they hope for else?
Farmer Grey had no wife nor child, but a brother of his died and left his only son to the farmer's care. Young James Grey was quite a young man when he came to Hillside. He was a fine, tall lad, with a kind, good face, and people who saw him said that they were sure they should like him. There was no pride in him, it seemed, for he went about the village and talked to those he met in a pleasant way, which won all hearts. He was to help his uncle on the farm, it was said, though he did not look much like a farmer. His hands were fair, and his cheeks and brow showed that he had not been out much in the sun.
James Grey had not been long at Hillside, when one day, as he passed the mill, he saw Mary Page at the door of her house, on her way to hang up some clothes to dry on the green. He passed more than once that day, and each day that he could, and he felt quite sad if he did not see Mary Page.
Mary Page soon found out who he was; and one day he stopped and spoke to her, and soon they were great friends. Mistress Page was glad to see him come to the house, for she thought that his uncle was rich, and that he would make a good husband for Mary. The miller, too, thought that he would make a good son-in-law. So James Grey was asked in, and soon found himself quite at home. Ben Page was glad to see James, for he said, "he may some day be a friend in need to me." Ben also found him a good-natured, good-tempered young man, who would not say No to what he was asked to do. The very thing for which Ben liked James was one of James' great faults; he could not say No to what he was asked to do; if it was wrong or if it was right he did not stop to think, it seemed the same to him. If he was asked to do wrong, he did wrong; if he was asked to do right, and it was what he liked, he did right. Still it could not be said that James Grey was a bad young man—not at all—he was what was called a good young man. He was well-behaved, and joined in public worship, and seldom got drunk; he might have been so once or twice, but then he was quiet, it was not known. He did not swear, and was civil to all people. There was one thing James wanted. It was religion. He did not care to please God, though he read the Bible and said his prayers. James knew that his uncle. Farmer Grey, did not think well of Mark Page. So James did not tell the farmer that he went to Mark Page's house, and that he loved Mary Page, and thought that he would ask her to be his wife some day. If he had told his uncle what he wished, the farmer would have said, "If Mary Page is a good girl, though I cannot think well of her father and her mother, she shall be your wife if you wish it and she wishes it."
But James did not say a word of Mary to his uncle, and the farmer did not think that James even knew her. Mary thought very well of James. He seemed to her a good young man, and much more steady than Ben. So she was very glad to see him when he could come to the mill, and by-and-by she gave him her whole heart; James, too, gave her his heart. Yes, he loved her, he thought, very much; but, in truth, he did not love her by half so much as she loved him. Mary might have done James much good at this time if she had had him to herself; but he and Ben became great friends, and Ben undid all the good she had done James, and did him much harm. Ben took good care not to show James at first what bad things he did. He talked of others getting drunk, and said there was no great harm in it, and then he said how fine it was to go out with a gun at night and kill game, and what bold chaps did that sort of thing; and then he went on to boast of all sorts of bad things which he did.
Now if James had been wise he would not have stopped to hear all this, but would have said, "I am sure that is bad, and harm must come of it," and would have kept out of Ben's way. When a bad person tries to make another do ill, the only safe plan for the other is to keep out of the bad person's way. James did not do that, and more than once he went with Ben to the ale-house and got drunk. From the first day James did this, Ben made him do just what he liked. James went out shooting at night with Ben—that is, poaching; he was often at the ale-house with him, and in bad company, and many other evil things they did together.
Poor Mary did not know this, but thought rather that James would do good to Ben, and lead him right. She had to learn the sad truth that all men are prone to do ill, and that the bad are more apt to lead than to be led.
Still it must not be said that James was quite lost to all sense of what was right. He often wished that he had not been led to do some of the things that he did do. More than once he said to Ben, "Ben, I know that is bad; I will not go with you."
Then Ben would laugh at him and say, "You know that is bad! That's very fine; but you know that there are other things much worse by a long way. Come on; don't go and say No when I ask you."
James would stand and think, and say to himself, "Where's the harm, just for this once? I don't like not to please Ben, and when I marry Mary I'll give it up, and all will be right."
So James went on from bad to worse, for he had not got in his heart faith in God or love to Christ.
Mark Page did not mind James doing the bad things he did with Ben, for he said, "If the two get into a scrape, Farmer Grey must get Ben out of it for the sake of his nephew. Young men must sow their wild oats, and may be he won't make the worse husband to Mary for it."
All this time Mark Page did not love Farmer Grey more than at first. Not a day passed that he did not say something against him, or do something to do him harm.
Farmer Grey knew this, but did not say an ill word to Mark. If he met him it was always in a kind voice he said, "Good day, Mark Page. Good day, miller. Fine breeze for the mill. No lack of grist, I hope; I shall soon have some for you. Shall be glad to send my corn to your mill."
"What can he want of me? I can do him no good;" growled the miller as he walked on.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 3.
It would have been a good thing for Mark Page if Sam Green had left him. When Mark thought of doing anything bad, there was Sam at hand to say, "Go on; no harm; you have a right to do what you like. No man should tell me what I ought to do; that I know."
Sam was a stupid fellow too, as are many bad people, and it seemed strange that he did not get into more scrapes than he did. He hated Farmer Grey even more than did Mark Page. Why, it would have been hard to say, except just for this cause, that Sam was a bad man and the farmer was a good one.
The sails of the mill had been going round and round for many a day, and hundreds of sacks of grist had been ground, when one night Mark was roused from his sleep by the sound of the wind howling round the house.
"I made all right and snug at the mill," he thought; "there is no use to get up and look to it." Still the wind went on howling through the windows and doors, and the window-panes shook and rattled, and the doors creaked, and it seemed at times as if the house would come down.
"Will the mill stand it?" asked Mark of himself. He tried to go to sleep again, but he could not. He thought and he thought of all sorts of things which he could not drive out of his head.
When a good man thinks at night, his thoughts may often be pleasant; but when a bad man thinks, and thinks, as did Mark Page, in spite of himself, his thoughts are very sad and full of pain.
Mark thought of the many bad things he had done. There was not one good deed he could think of. "If I was to die where should I go to?" he asked himself. "If my mill was to be blown down, who would pity me? What friends have I? What have I done to gain friends? Not one thing. I am not kind to the poor; I do not give anything to help them. No one loves me; no one cares for me. My son does not; he never does what I ask him. My wife does not, she never cares to please me. Mary does, may be; but then she looks at me as if she wished that I was different to what I am. Oh I do wish the day would come, that I might get up and go about my work and not think of all these things."
Still the wind howled and moaned and whistled, and the doors and windows rattled, and the rain came down, pat, pat, pat, on the roof, and the water rushed by the house in torrents, and the walls shook as if they would come down.
"Oh if the roof was to fall in and kill me!" thought the miller: "where shall I be to-morrow?" At last the noises ceased, and sleep shut the miller's eyes. When he awoke the storm was over. He looked out to see if any harm had come to his mill. There it stood, the long arms stuck out just as usual. He was soon dressed. On his way to the mill he called Sam Green. When they got near they found that the wind had done harm to some of the sails of the mill, which were stretched on the long arms.
"Sam, before the mill can go we must mend these sails," said the miller. "Go to the house and get the tools; you and I can do it."
"Yes, master," said Sam. "It would be a rum mill-sail I couldn't tackle."
Sam brought the tools, and he and Mark Page went into the mill. They found that the storm had done some harm to the inside of the mill, and that two or three things were out of place. They soon put them right though, as they thought, and then they set to work to mend the sails. They had much grist to grind, and they were in a hurry; so the miller climbed along one of the arms with the tools he wanted, and Sam went along another. There was a nice breeze—not much—but it seemed as if it would get stronger and stronger. So they worked on as fast as they could, that they might soon get the sails mended and the mill going.
There they were, the miller and his man, out at the end of those long arms high up in the air. Few people would have wished to have changed places with them.
"Make haste, Sam," cried the miller from his perch. "It's a tough job I have got here. I shall want your help."
"All right, master, I shall soon be done," said Sam, and he worked on.
"Hallo, Sam, what are you about, man?" cried the miller on a sudden.
"Nothing, master," said Sam, hammering away.
"Nothing! nothing?" cried out the miller, at the top of his voice. "Why the mill is moving. Stop it, man; stop it."
"I can't stop it, master, nor any man either," shrieked out Sam, as the long arms of the mill began to move round and round.
"Hold on to the last, then," cried the miller; "it is your only chance."
"I can't, master; I can't," cried Sam, near dead with fright.
The miller clutched round the arm with all his might. Sam went round once. It was more than he could bear; as the arm to which he clung neared the ground, he let go. Of course he was dashed with great force to the ground. Had his head struck it, he would have been killed; but his legs came first. One leg was broken, and there he lay not able to get up and help his master, and almost dead with fear as the long arms swept round and round above his head.
Still the miller held on. He shut his eyes, for he dared not look at the ground, which he seemed to be leaving for ever; and he felt that the mill was going faster and faster each moment. He knew too that he was growing weaker and weaker, and that the time would soon come when he could hold on no longer, and that he must be dashed with force on the ground and killed. What could save him? Sam lay helpless on the ground.
"Oh, I shall be killed; I shall be killed," he thought. "Help! help!"
From whom was help to come? He could not pray; he never prayed when he lay down at night, when he got up in the morning. He could not pray to God now. Who else could help him! No human being was likely to see him, for his wife and son and daughter were still in bed, and few people passed that way. His breath grew short, his heart seemed as if it did not beat.
"Oh! oh! my last moment is come, and I must soon stand before that God I have seldom thought of, never prayed to in this life. Where must I go? where must I go? I will lead a better life if I am saved. I will! I will!"
Just then he heard a cheerful voice cry out, "Well done, Mark: hold on, hold on; we'll stop the mill soon for you."
The words were spoken by the man whom Mark Page said he hated more than any other man on earth,—his neighbour, Farmer Grey. Farmer Grey had been riding round his farm in the cool of the morning, when, looking up towards the mill, he saw Mark Page and his man Sam Green at work on the arms. Then, as he looked, the arms began to go round and round with Mark on them.
Farmer Grey, on this, dashed up the hill at a gallop, jumped from his horse and rushed up the steps into the mill to try and stop the arms. He had been a few times in a wind-mill, and knew something about the works. At great risk though of hurting himself, he seized what he thought was the right crank to make the mill stop. His wish was to stop the mill just as the arm to which the miller clung rose above the ground. His heart beat as he watched for the proper moment. It was life or death to the miller. If he stopped it too soon Mark might be dashed to the ground; if he waited till it rose too far he would be thrown up in the air and have a heavy fall. Farmer Grey watched; the right moment came, he stopped the mill, then fast as he could move he ran down the steps, and was in time to receive Mark Page in his arms as he fell without sense from the arm to which he had till that moment clung. Had the miller gone but one round more, he must have dropped, and would surely have been killed.
Farmer Grey undid his neckcloth, and got some water and bathed his face; but it was some time before the miller came to himself. When he did, the first words he said, when he opened his eyes, were, "Well; I did not think, Farmer Grey, that you would have done this for me."
"Why not, neighbour Page?" asked the farmer, with a smile. "I saw a fellow-man in danger, and of course I ran to help him. I am very glad that God has let me save your life. Give God the praise. Raise your voice to Him for that and all His other mercies."
"Yes, farmer, I will try," said Mark Page; "I have been a bad man all my life, and I don't like to think where I should have been by this time if you had not come to save me."
"It is the way to amend; the first step I may say, to find out and own that we are bad; so, neighbour, I am truly glad to hear you own that you are bad," said Farmer Grey. "But I must not let you talk now. Come, we must help your man there. He seems to be badly hurt."
"He wouldn't hold on to the last, as I told him," said Mark.
"Well, Sam; what harm has come to you?"
"Broken a leg, to my belief;" growled out Sam.
Farmer Grey found that Sam had indeed, as he said, broken a leg. Mark was now able to get up and walk, and he went to the house to call his son. Ben had been out till late, and had come home wet, and did not like to be called up.
"Sam Green has broken his leg. Come down quickly I say," cried out Mark.
"Let him sit still and mend it, while I put on my clothes," said Ben from the window.
Farmer Grey heard him. "That young man will, I fear, not come to a good end," he thought. "When I hear a man laugh at the pain or grief of others, I am sure that his heart is not right towards God or towards his fellow-man."
Ben at last came out and got a hurdle, and he and his father, with Farmer Grey, put Sam Green on it, and bore him to the house. Sam cried out that they were killing him; so when Farmer Grey heard this he put his hand under Sam's leg, and spoke to him just as kind and soft as if he had been a little child. Sam did not say anything, but he ceased to growl, or to cry out that he was hurt. Mary had heard her father call out, and she was at the door when they got there. Farmer Grey had not before this spoken to her. He now watched her as she went about the house, making ready the bed in the spare room for poor Sam, and heard her speak so gently and so kind to him.
"That is a good girl," he thought. "Can she be the miller's daughter? If so, she seems very unlike Mark and his son. I must see more of her."
As soon as Sam was placed on the bed, Ben was sent off to fetch the surgeon to set his leg.
"Tell him that I beg he will make haste, for the poor man is in great pain," said Farmer Grey, as Ben got on his horse.
"I will just break my fast with you, miller, that I may help poor Sam," said Farmer Grey. "We must get his trousers cut open, and his boots off; and it may be we shall have to cut them off also. It does not do to pull at a broken leg."
Sam did not at all like to have his trousers cut open or his boot cut off: "Hold, hold!" he cried out. "Why I gave twelve and sixpence for those boots only the week before last, and I will not have them spoilt."
"Which is best, friend Sam, to lose your leg or perhaps your life, or to lose a boot, for it is not a pair? What is a boot compared to a man's leg? A boot will wear out in a few months; his leg is to last him for his life. And let me ask you, what is a man's sin, his favourite sin, which he can retain at best but for his life, compared to his soul, which will last for ever? No man can get rid of his soul. He cannot put it out as he can a light. Do what he can, it will last for ever."
"O sir, don't go and talk in that way," cried out Sam; "I don't like it—I can't bear it."
"Well, well, friend, I will not talk more to you now on the matter," said Farmer Grey. "Some day you may like to hear more."
"May be, may be—oh! oh! oh!" Sam Green groaned with pain.
At last the surgeon came, and set Sam's leg. He shook hands with Farmer Grey. "I wish that we had more like you," he said to the farmer. "I knew when it was you sent for me, that some one was really hurt. The man will get well, I hope, and his leg will be of good use to him if he keeps quiet and does not fret." The surgeon said he would call again in the evening, and went away.
"Now, Sam, we will let your wife and family know, that they may come and see you," said Farmer Grey.
"Much obliged, sir; but I have no wife, and no family, except one daughter; and she is married, and lives with her husband, and has her children to look after, and does not care for me," said Sam.
"We won't think that of her," said the farmer. "I will let her know what has happened to you. May be, you would like to have one of her children with you."
Sam looked pleased for the first time, and said, "Well, sir, there is a little chap—my grandchild—I should like to have him now and then with me. They call him Paul, Tiny Paul. He is a merry little fellow, and he'd keep me from getting low."
"Well, we'll try and send Tiny Paul to you," said the farmer. "What is your daughter's name?"
"Susan Dixon, sir," answered Sam. "Dixon is her husband's name. He is a decent, hard-working man, and she's a good wife; but I never cared much for any of them, except Tiny Paul. You'll send Tiny Paul to me then, sir?"
"Yes, Sam, yes; I have promised that I will," said Farmer Grey, thinking to himself, "I may win over Sam Green yet. He has a soft part in his heart, and I have found it."
Farmer Grey had a good deal of talk with Mary before he went home. He liked all she said, and all he saw her do. "That is a good young woman, I am sure," he said to himself. She, too, was very grateful to him for having saved her father's life by his courage and presence of mind. Then, too, he was the uncle of James Grey, and she was glad that he seemed pleased with her.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 4.
It would have seemed that James Grey and Mary Page had now every chance of being made happy. So they might, if James had not got into evil ways. He had not spoken of Mary to his uncle, and he did not know that Farmer Grey had seen her, and was much pleased with her. By this his folly was shown. Had he been frank with his uncle, and told him all the truth, how much better it would have been for him!
A few days after the accident at the mill, James came, as usual, to see Mary. He had a long talk with her, and said that he was so glad his uncle now knew her, and that he was sure the farmer would let him marry her. Still he did not say that he had told his uncle he wished to do so. When he at last got up to go away, Ben followed him.
"James," said Ben, "I have some work for tonight. You must come. You will never have seen such sport in your life. There are six other chaps will join us, all true as steel."
"No, no, Ben; I must go home," said James. "My uncle does not like me to be out late at night, and he has heard of one or two of the things I have done with you."
"That is good," said Ben, with a sneer. "Why, I would not let my father order me about as he likes; much less an uncle, I should think. Dear me, 'my uncle won't let me do this,' 'my uncle won't let me do that'; a nice state of things. Come, James, be a man, and come along with me."
James never could stand Ben's sneers; so the next time Ben said, "Come along," he answered, "Very well; but only for this time."
"Oh, of course, I know," said Ben. "I don't want you to get into any scrape, of course, lad. Come back into my room. Those clothes won't suit you: you must put on some of mine. We can slip out again, and my sister won't see you."
In a short time, Ben and James stole out with their guns and shot-belts and powder-flasks.
"It is not near home," whispered Ben.
"That's a good thing," answered James; but they spoke very little.
They had walked two miles when they fell in with three men, who seemed to know Ben well; and soon after that they met three more. All went on together. James found that they were going into the park of a gentleman who very strictly preserved his game and had several gamekeepers.
"Even if they meet us, they won't dare to attack us; and if they do, we can take very good care of ourselves," said Ben.
The party of poachers were in search of pheasants, of which there were a great many in the park. They knocked over one after the other, till each man was well loaded. James soon began to take a pleasure in the sport, and killed as many as the rest.
They had begun to talk of going home, all well pleased with their night's work, when, as they were within fifty yards of the place where they were to leave the park, they found themselves face to face with four keepers.
"Stand back, and let us pass!" cried Ben Page. "We don't want to say anything to you, and you shall not say anything to us."
"That won't do, young man," said the principal keeper; "you must give up all the game you have shot, and let us know your names."
"That we won't do. Push on, Ben Page," shouted one of the men.
The click as of guns being cocked was heard.
"If you fire, so do we; and we have three shots to your one," cried Ben. "On, lads, on."
"I know you by your voice, Master Page," said one of the keepers. "I see you too, now I am nearer to you."
"If you do, take that for your pains," exclaimed Ben, scarcely thinking, in his rage, of what he was about. The report of a gun was heard. One of the gamekeepers fell. The poachers dashed forward. Another keeper was knocked over. The rest ran off to hide in the wood, thinking that they would all be murdered; while the poachers, without stopping to see what harm had been done to the fallen men, hurried out of the wood, leaving them on the ground. Bad men are often cowards; and cowards are careless of what others suffer.
The poachers talked very big, but their hearts sunk within them. The most unhappy was James Grey. The others dreaded being found out and punished. With him it was not the fear of being found out and punished, so much as the thought that he had been with those who had caused the death of a fellow-creature; for he made sure, from the groan the keeper uttered when he fell, that he had been killed. His conscience, never quite at rest, even when he went with Ben Page into his worst haunts, was awakened.
"I am just as guilty as if I had killed the man with my own hand," he said to himself. "And may be the other man will die too; for the butt end of Turner's gun came down with a fearful blow on his head, and he dropped as if shot. What shall I do? What shall I do? I will go and deliver myself up, and confess all. I shall be hung very likely: but I would sooner be hung than feel that I had killed a fellow-man."
Such were James's thoughts as he and his companions hurried towards Hillbrook. Here and there on their way the rest of the men went off to their homes, till Ben and James were left alone. James then told Ben of his sorrow at what had happened, and how he thought he would give himself up.
"Nonsense; that will never do," said Ben. "No one knows who fired the shot, or who knocked the other keeper down; you don't, I am sure."
Ben knew that James did know well enough that he, Ben himself, had shot the keeper.
"I wish from my heart, Ben, that I did not," said James.
"If that is it, the only thing is to keep out of the way," said Ben. "Now listen, James, a faint-hearted fellow is sure to peach, and out of the way you must keep. I say must—understand me."
"I will keep out of the way, Ben, whether I must or not," said James, in a tone of great sorrow. "You have been the ruin of me, Ben; but it was my own fault, I ought to have known better."
"Nonsense, James: things are not so bad as you think," said Ben. "Just come in and change your clothes and go home to bed. You can get in as you have done before, and who is to know that you were out of the house all night? I say that you shouldn't be in too great a fright; still you must go away for a time, till the matter has blown over. I'll think of some plan for you before long."
James Grey, who had far more education than Ben Page, felt himself completely in his power.
James hurried home unseen, and got to bed. He could not sleep. He thought over all sorts of plans. Two or three days before he had been at the market town five miles off. He had there observed a soldier, a sergeant with a number of gay coloured ribbons in his hat, beating up for recruits, for service in India. James had stopped to listen to him as he was speaking to a group of young men who stood round with open mouths, hearing of the wonders of that distant country—the money to be got—the pleasures to be enjoyed. "Every cavalry soldier out there is a gentleman," said the sergeant. "He has at least three servants to attend on him; one to forage, one to groom his horse, and one to attend on him."
James at the moment had thought that if it was not for Mary and his uncle he should like to try his fortune in that far-off wonderful country. The idea came back to him, if the sergeant was still there he would enlist at once. No time was to be lost. He must be out of the country before he was suspected of having been one of the party who killed the gamekeeper. He rose and dressed quickly. He put up some shirts and socks and a few other articles, and all the money he had got, and left the house before any one was up. He would much have liked to have seen his kind uncle again, but he dared not wait till he was on foot. There was one other person, however, whom he must see before he went away, Mary Page. She was always an early riser he knew. He ran rather than walked to the mill-house. She opened the door as he reached it, and came out into the garden.
"Mary, I am going away," he said in a hurried voice; "something has happened, it can't be helped now though; only, Mary, I want to tell you that I love you now, and shall love you always. Don't think ill of me, don't think me guilty; not more guilty than I am, if you hear anything about me. I cannot tell you more. I must not tell you."
Mary turned pale with terror, as much from his looks as from what he said. He took her in his arms and kissed her, and added, "You will think of me, I know you will. I won't ask you not to love any one else; that would be hard on you, for I don't know how long I may be away; but, if I ever do come back, Mary, and I have changed, greatly changed from what I now am, I hope to ask you to be my wife. For your sake, Mary, I will try to grow better, to be firm, to learn to say No when tempted to do ill. That has been my ruin now, may cause my ruin for ever."
Before Mary could answer him,—for he was not a minute with her, and she was too much astonished at first to speak,—he had torn himself from her, and was hurrying along the road.
"Oh stay, oh stay, and tell me all," she cried out; but he either did not hear her, or would not venture to turn back. As he got out of sight of the mill he ran on as fast as his legs could carry him, though he stopped, and had to walk slowly when he saw any one coming. He had got halfway to the town, when as he was running on he heard the sound of horses' hoofs behind him galloping quickly over the road.
"Some one coming after me," he thought. For the first time in his life he felt what abject fear was. His knees trembled under him, and to save his life he could not have run farther. Still James Grey was no coward. In a good cause he could have fought as well as any man. Soon he heard a voice behind him cry out, "Jump up, James; I guessed what you were after. It was my idea you were going to enlist; so will I. Jump up, I say; no time to lose."
It was Ben Page who spoke. For some moments James scarcely understood him. Ben had a led horse. He threw himself into the saddle, and they were quickly in the town, where the horses were left at a stable; Ben having told a carter to come for them.
The two young men then went out to look for the recruiting-sergeant. He was soon found. He cast his eye up and down over James, asked him a few questions, told him to let him see his handwriting, and at once enlisted him.
"If you are steady, as you look, you will be a corporal before many more months are over, and a sergeant soon after," he said, with a nod of approval.
A body of recruits were starting that very morning for the depot, whence they were to embark. James was ordered to go with them.
The sergeant was uncertain as to what regiment Ben would suit. He was scarcely of sufficient height, and a very different looking sort of man. He promised, however, to give him an answer in the course of a few days.
James was very thankful when he found that Ben was not to go with him. He thought, "He has already led me into evil; if he comes now, how shall I be able to withstand him better than I have done?"
James's heart was heavy, yet he tried to keep his spirits up among his new comrades. He was anxious, too: every stranger he saw looking about he thought might be a sheriff's officer, come to take him prisoner. Most of the men were hoping that the day they were to go on board the ship might be put off: his great wish was that they might sail sooner than had been expected. He had written a letter to his kind uncle, asking his forgiveness for what he had done, and expressing his love and gratitude to him.
He had heard nothing from Ben. This was so far well. He could have gained nothing, if Ben had come.
At length the day arrived for the troops to embark. The ship sailed, and bore James Grey far away from the shores of Old England.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 5.
When Farmer Grey got up in the morning, and found that his nephew had left the house without saying where he was going, he was somewhat surprised; but, as he thought that he would soon return, he did not give himself much concern about the matter.
The farmer went out among his labourers in the fields, and came back to breakfast; but James had not returned. The farmer made inquiries among all his people; no one had seen James. Dinner-time arrived, still he did not appear. It was late in the day that a friend, Farmer Mason, called on Farmer Grey. "Have you heard of the murders in Sir John Carlton's park, last night?" asked Farmer Mason. "Two of his keepers killed, and another wounded, I am told. Daring outrage! The murderers are known, I hear. It will go hard with them if they are taken; for the magistrates are determined to put a stop to poaching, and will show no mercy to poachers. They will do their best to prove them guilty."
Farmer Grey's mind was greatly troubled when he heard this. He could not help connecting it, somehow or other, with the disappearance of James.
"That wild lad, Ben Page, has had something to do with it; of that I am sure," he said to himself.
As soon as his guest was gone, he walked down to the mill. The miller and his wife were out. Mary was alone. He found her crying bitterly. She at once confessed that she had seen James early in the morning, and that he told her he was going away, not to return; but that where he was going to, and what he was going to do she could not tell. She was also anxious about her brother, who had gone away without leaving any message. This was the utmost information she could give. It was enough to confirm Farmer Grey's fears. He did not tell Mary what they were. He thought it would break her heart if he did so. He could give her very little comfort, for there was nothing he could think of to bring comfort to his own heart, as far as his nephew was concerned. He had long seen that he wanted what alone can keep a man right under temptation, that is, good principles.
James, when he came to him, had been always respectable and decent in his conduct; but then he had never been tempted. The farmer had been very anxious about him when he first found that he was so often in the company of Ben Page, and he now blamed himself for not having taken pains to separate the two, and still more that he had not tried harder to give James those good principles which he so much wanted. He did not think that he had done any good to James by all he had said, but in truth the words had sunk farther into the young man's heart than he supposed; and often and often, as James walked the deck of the ship at night, or camped out with his comrades on many a hard-fought battle-field in India, those words came to his mind, and helped to keep him on a right course,—not that the words alone did so; for James, who had been taught to pray when he was young, became a man of prayer. Yes; the dark, sun-burnt, fierce-looking soldier prayed every day, morning and night, lying down or marching, and often in the midst of battle, while bullets were flying about, shells were bursting, and round-shot were whistling through the air. He read the Bible, too, and spoke of it to others, and guided his own steps by what it taught. Was he less thought of because he did these things? Was he looked on as a coward? No; there was no man in the regiment more liked, and there were few soldiers braver than he was.
Had his uncle and Mary known how changed a man he had become, their hearts would have been saved many a pang. We should not think that because our words do not seem to be listened to, that therefore they are doing no good; more particularly if they are spoken in a prayerful spirit and with an earnest desire to do good.
"Well, Mary, I must try and find out what has become of this poor nephew of mine," said Farmer Grey, kindly getting up and taking her hand. "We will hope that he will come back some day. Do not let it be known that he came here to see you this morning; indeed, it will be better if you say nothing about his being absent from home. Only my old housekeeper, Dame Dobbs, knows that he left home this morning, and she is able to say that he slept in his bed last night."
These words made poor Mary more unhappy still, for she began to think that James must have done some act which had made him fly for his life, and that he might, perhaps, be taken and punished—she dared not think how. Oh, how much sorrow and pain do those who act ill, cause their friends and those they love best on earth! Nothing that day was heard of James or Ben. On the next day, rumours of the affray between a body of poachers and the gamekeepers reached the mill, but neither Ben's nor James Grey's name was mentioned. Still Mary could not but feel sure that they had had something to do with the matter, though she hoped that they might escape.
The miller, on hearing of the fray, and that Ben had disappeared the next morning, sat by himself more gloomy and silent than ever. Perhaps he might have thought, "This comes of my teaching, or rather of my want of teaching, of my bringing up." In the evening, three stout, strong, comfortably clothed men came to the door: Mary let them in, not knowing who they could be; Mark turned pale when he saw them.
"Your servant, Mister Page," said one. "Your son, Ben Page, is wanted— he knows what for."
"My son, Ben Page, isn't at home," answered Mark, in a much more quiet tone than he used to speak in.
"Where is he, then?" asked the man.
Mark could not tell, nor when he would return.
"You know then what he is wanted for, Mister Page?"
Mark bent his head, and put his fingers to his lips, that the man might not speak before Mary. He then told her to go out of the room and look after Sam Green, whom she had not visited for some time.
"Yes; it's about the matter at Snaresborough, with the keepers, I suppose," said the miller. "But I don't know that he had anything to do with it."
"Hope not, for his sake; he'll be sooner out of limbo," said the constable. "But you'll excuse me, Mister Page, we must search the house for your son; we have a couple of hands to look out outside, so he'll not escape if he attempts it."
Of course Mark could offer no objection to this. The constable and his companions searched the house from top to bottom, looking into and under the beds, and into every cupboard and corner to be found. Then they searched the mill and all the outhouses, but no Ben was to be found. Mistress Page went nearly into fits when she saw them. Mary cried bitterly, her worst fears were become real. When Sam Green saw them, a look not often seen on his face came over it, as he lay on his bed of pain—for his leg hurt him much.
"Ah! if the lad had been better taught he wouldn't have been in this trouble," he said to himself. "I might have done him some good, and I never did but harm."
These words showed that Sam Green was changing, if not changed. The constables were still in the house, when a horse was heard coming along the road. Mary, looking out, saw that it was Ben. She waved to him to go back, but he did not see her. She tried to cry out, but her voice failed her, and he had entered the court-yard and thrown himself from his saddle before he heard her warning. Then he understood that something was wrong. His horse was dusty, hot, and trembling. He was about to leap into his saddle when one of the constables who had been watching outside and had seen him enter the yard, ran into it and seized his bridle, shouting out to his comrades in the house.
Ben struck right and left with a heavy whip, and tried to break away; but the man held him fast. The other constables then coming out, he was secured. Poor Mary felt as if she should die when she saw Ben seized, but she could do nothing to help him. He was brought into the house, and handcuffs were put on his wrists.
"Now we have caged our bird we must be off," said the chief constable.
"Oh, treat him kindly," said poor Mary, with the tears in her eyes. "He is not as bad as you may think—indeed, indeed he is not."
"Never knew one on 'em as was," said the man. "But for your sake, miss, I'll do my best to make my young master comfortable, May be it's the first time he has been had up; and, if he gets off, may be it will be the last."
Mary could say nothing to this remark. Her mother, who had come in, wrung her hands, and cried, and then called the constables all sorts of hard names, while the miller looked as if he would have struck them. More than once he glanced up at his gun, which hung over the mantelpiece. The constable looked at him, and observed—
"Say what you like with your tongue, Mistress Page; I'm accustomed to much worse than that; but don't you, Mister Page, touch me—that's all. I'm in the execution of my duty—mind that."
The miller had to curb his temper, and to say no thing, while his only son was carried off a prisoner. Mrs Page wrung her hands, and bewailed her hard lot. Whilst out, she had heard of the murder of the gamekeepers, and with good reason feared that Ben was guilty of the crime. Ben did not speak. He could not say, "Rouse up, father; I am not guilty of the crime laid to my charge."
With handcuffs on his wrists, as a felon, he was carried off by the officers of justice. When he was gone, the miller sat with his head bowed down, and his hands clasped between his knees. All he could say was, "Has it come to this? has it come to this?" The miller seemed to be really humbled and broken in spirit.
The next day Farmer Grey called to tell Mary that he had heard from James, and that he was safe. More he could not tell her. She begged him to see her father.
"Rouse up, neighbour," he said in a kind voice; "you have still much to do for your son. Secure a good lawyer to defend him. The use of a lawyer is not to get him off, if he is guilty, but to take care that he is not condemned unless his guilt is clearly proved. The expense will be great. I will share it with you."
"You are too good; I don't deserve it, Farmer Grey," answered Mark. "And yet I would not have my son condemned, if he can be got off."
"And I would not have him condemned, if he is not guilty," said the farmer.
Farmer Grey went into the town to secure legal advice. His satisfaction was very great to find that the gamekeeper who had been shot was not dead, and that the one who had been knocked down was in a fair way of recovery. Still the magistrates had committed Ben and three other men to prison; and even if the man who was shot recovered, if Ben was found guilty, he could not expect less than a sentence of transportation for fourteen years. Still the news he had to take back to Mary was better than he expected.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 6.
Neither Mark Page nor his man, Sam Green, had been in the habit of attending public worship. Many years, indeed, had passed since Sam had last attended. Now Mark was ashamed to go, and Sam could not. They had not either had prayers in their families, nor did they pray privately. It seems strange that any men should think that they can get on without prayer. They find out their sad mistake when the day of trial comes. These two men did so; had it not been for Farmer Grey and for Mary, they would have been badly off indeed.
Mark Page went about the mill, as usual, and got a man to do Sam's work; but he never went outside the gates; and when he was in his own house, he sat with his head bowed down and his hands between his knees, not speaking a word. Sam Green lay on his bed, and growled and groaned with pain, except when Tiny Paul, his grandchild, was with him; then he cheered up and spoke pleasantly, and even laughed at what the little fellow said or did.
Tiny Paul was a bright, merry little chap, with light curling hair and blue eyes. He would sing, and talk, and play, all day, and tell grandfather stories, which no one but Sam himself could understand. Sam smiled when he saw Tiny Paul, but at no other time. "If I had always had Tiny Paul with me, I don't think that I should have been so bad as I am," said Sam to himself; but Sam was wrong. Neither Tiny Paul, nor any other human being, would have made Sam a better man than he was. It was his own evil heart was to blame; that wasn't right with God.
The miller was one evening looking out from the window of his mill, when he saw in the distance a bright light in the sky. It grew brighter and brighter, and now flames could be seen darting up out of the dark ground, as it were. "It is a house on fire," said the miller; "whose can it be?" He thought over all the houses in that direction. In the day he would not have gone out, but at night no one would know him. He was curious to learn whose house was burning. It was not his way to think how he might best assist the sufferers. So, saddling his horse, he rode out towards where he saw the fire burning. The flames lessened as he got nearer. It was clearly only a cottage. He thought of turning back; still he went on. He soon after reached a cottage, the walls only of which were standing. A number of people were gathered round it. He heard cries and exclamations of sorrow. A man had been burnt to death, and another had been much hurt. Then he heard his own name mentioned. He went a little nearer.
"It was all that wild young Page's fault," said some one. "If he hadn't wounded poor Thomas Harvey, so that he could not help himself, Thomas would have fled from the cottage and not have been burnt to death. And his poor wife, too; they say she'll not recover." The miller durst ask nothing further, but, turning his horse's head, rode back to his home.
The day of Ben's trial came at last. He was well defended, but one of those who were with him turned king's evidence, and swore to his having fired the shot which struck Thomas Harvey. It was proved, however, that Thomas Harvey did not die of his wound, as the surgeon was of opinion that he was getting well when the cottage in which he lived had caught fire and he was burned to death. Did he then die of his wound, or was his death caused by the fire? Had he been well, it was argued, he might have escaped, as did the rest of those living in the cottage; but as it was, his wife and a friend nearly lost their lives in trying to save him.
The trial took up the whole day. Some were of opinion that Ben Page was guilty, and that he would be condemned to be hung. Still, as it was not quite certain that Thomas Harvey died by his hand, he gained the benefit of the doubt, and was condemned to be transported for fourteen years. Some thought his punishment light, but they little knew what his sentence meant in those days. The miller and his wife were thankful that their son was not to be hung. They were allowed to see Ben before he was sent off. They would not have known him in his yellow dress, and with his hair cropped short, and chains on his arms and legs. This sight caused them more grief than even the thought that he was to be sent away from them for so many years. Poor Mary also went to see him. He shocked her by the way he spoke of those who had tried him, and at James Grey for leaving him in the lurch. Mary was thankful to find that James's name had not once been mentioned during the trial, and that he was not suspected of having been mixed up in the matter. In vain she spoke of religion to her brother. He turned a deaf ear to all she said. With grief at her heart she bade him good-bye, and her grief was greater because he seemed so hardened and indifferent to his fate.
So Ben Page was carried on board a convict ship, with nearly three hundred other men convicted of all sorts of crimes. They were placed under strict discipline on board ship. Soldiers with loaded arms stood over them, and if any one broke the rules, he was severely punished. Only a few were allowed to come on deck at a time to enjoy the fresh air and the sight of the sea. They had books, however; and the surgeon, who was a Christian man, taught those who wished to learn to read and write. He also begged them to repent, and to turn to Jesus Christ that their sins might be forgiven.
Thus day after day the convict ship sailed on. Once they were in a fearful storm, and the convicts were all kept shut up below. The big ship was tossed about, and lightning struck one of her masts and set her on fire, and the water washed over her and carried away her boats, and a leak was sprung, and all thought that they were going to the bottom. Some got into their beds and shut their eyes, as if they could shut out the death they thought was coming. Others tried to break on deck; a few broke out into loud, wild songs; and some, but very, very few, strove to pray; and even fewer still could pray. Those who put off prayer till death comes close to them, find, when too late, that they cannot pray. Those who had talked the loudest, and boasted of their ill deeds, now showed themselves the greatest cowards.
In a short time the fire was got under, and the wind and sea went down, and there was a chance that their lives might be saved. When they were once more safe, most of those who had tried to pray forgot their fears and again hardened their hearts.
At last the ship reached the distant land to which she was bound— Australia. The convicts were put into barracks, and then formed into road-gangs to make new roads through the country. They had first to build their huts, and then to work all day in the hot sun with pick-axes, and spades, and wheelbarrows. They were watched by overlookers, of whom many had themselves been convicts, and were very harsh and savage. When the day's work was done, the men were marched back to the huts, where they had to fetch water and firewood, and to cook their food. Day after day they led the same life; there was no change, no amusement; the sun rose, and the sun set, and the convicts rose to toil, but not for themselves; and lay down again at night, weary with their labour. Often and often Ben Page wished himself dead.
"Is this to last for thirteen more long years—all the best of my days?" he asked himself.
Another convict asked Ben if he would try to escape. They might be shot, but that was better than living on where they were. Ben agreed. They got off, and took to the woods—the bush it is called. They could only live by robbing. They watched a hut when the hut-keepers were out, stole some guns and powder and shot, and set up as bush-rangers—that is robbers. They lived on for some months in the bush, now in one place, now in another. They stole horses and food and clothes. It was a very hard life though. Every man's hand was against them, and a price was set on their heads. They were afraid of the natives also, and suffered much from hunger and thirst. Ben sometimes wished himself back with the road-gang. They at last did so much mischief that parties were sent out against them. Ben's comrade was taken, and Ben was wounded, but escaped by the speed of his horse.
On—on he went. He dared not turn back, for his foes were behind him. Night came on, and he was obliged to stop, for his horse could go no farther. There was no water near; he had no food. He lay down and fell asleep, holding the bridle in his hand. When he awoke his horse was gone. He felt weary and stiff, and his wound pained him. The sun rose, scorching down on his head. In his flight he had lost his hat. His thirst was great. "Water, water," he cried for. Not a drop could he find. He walked on, and on, and on. No water; no signs of water. He sat down under a tree to rest, but he could not rest till he had found water. Again he sat down. He could walk no farther. A mist came over his eyes. He could not think—he could not pray. His throat was dry, his lips parched. He fell back with his arms stretched out, never again to rise.
Some months afterwards some travellers, in search of a new sheep run, came in the bush on the bones of a man. A bullet near the side made them guess that he had died of a wound he had just before received. In a pocket-book in his jacket was found the name of Benjamin Page; and a brace of pistols, a gun and powder-flask, were recognised as having been stolen from a hut by two bush-rangers, one of whom had been taken and hung.
Not till years afterwards did the Miller of Hillbrook learn how his unhappy son died—Mary never knew.
"Oh that I had brought him up to fear God! how different might have been his lot," said the miller. "It was I—I, that let my son be a castaway."
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 7.
The miller was a changed man in some points after his son had been transported. He seemed to be more morose than ever, but it was observed that he seldom said or did anything to hurt his neighbours, as once was the case. Sam Green, as he began to recover from his broken leg, was much the same man as before, sour and grumpy. He was able to move to his own cottage, but matters did not improve there. Only when Tiny Paul was with him was he seen to smile. He was never tired of watching the little chap, who would get hold of one of his sticks and call it his horse, and ride round and round the room on it. "Grandfather must give Tiny Paul a real horse, and then he will ride like a man," said the child.
"Tiny Paul shall have a ride the first day grandfather can find a pony," said Sam.
Not long after this Sam hobbled out with the aid of his sticks to a field near his cottage. At the other end of it was a large and deep pond. Sam sat himself down on a bank, and Tiny Paul played about near him. There were several horses and ponies feeding in the field. "Grandfather, let Tiny Paul have his ride," said the child, pointing to an old, blind pony, grazing near. Just then a farmer's boy came by, with a halter in his hand, on his way to catch a horse for his master. "Tom Smith, catch a pony for Tiny Paul to have a ride; do now!" cried the child.
Tom Smith was a good-natured lad, and was in no hurry; so he said, "Yes, I'll catch thee a pony, and thou shalt have a ride, little one, that thou shalt." The blind pony was very soon caught, and the halter put over his head. "There, Tiny Paul, jump up now, and thee shalt have a fine ride," said Tom Smith. Tiny Paul caught hold of the long mane, and Tom Smith helped him up by the leg, till he had a firm seat.
"Now let Tiny Paul go,—he ride alone," said the child. Tom Smith, thinking no harm could come to the little fellow, let go the halter.
"I say, Tom, keep near the pony's head; the child has no notion of guiding him," cried Sam.
"Oh yes, grandfather, Tiny Paul ride like huntsman in red coat," cried the child, kicking at the pony's sides, and making him trot by the old man.
"Now Tiny Paul make pony gallop," said the child, hitting the animal with its halter, and urging it on by his voice and heels. Off set the pony; Tiny Paul laughed, and waved his hand to his grandfather.
Tom Smith, instead of following the pony, stopped to speak to the old man.
For an instant Sam's eyes were off the child.
"Why where is the pony going?" exclaimed Sam, looking up.
The pony was making directly for the big pond.
"Stop him, Paul; stop him, tiny Paul. Pull at the halter, child," shrieked the old man. "Run after him, Tom; run for your life. Oh mercy! Oh mercy! he'll be into the water!"
Tom ran as fast as his legs could carry him.
Tiny Paul, though he did not see his danger, pulled at the halter as he was bid; but the old pony's mouth was too tough to feel the rope in it, and on he went, pleased to have somebody on his back again. It made him think of the days when he had corn to eat, and hay without the trouble of picking it up.
Tom Smith ran, and ran, and shouted to the pony to stop; but his foot went into a drain, and down he came. He jumped up, though he had hurt his leg, and ran on. The pony was close to the pond, which was full of weeds. He was ten yards still behind.
"Stop! stop!" cried Tom.
"Oh stop, stop! mercy! mercy! mercy!" shrieked old Sam, who was hobbling on as fast as his sticks would let him move.
The pony reached the edge. In he plunged. Tiny Paul clung to his mane, but cried out with fear.
The blind pony waded on, for the water was not at first deep. Tom jumped in, but soon got his legs caught by the weeds; and then the pony began to swim. Tom could not swim, so he dared not follow.
"Stick on, Tiny Paul, stick on," he shouted.
But Tiny Paul was crying too much to hear him. Just then a stout weed caught the child's foot. Tiny Paul let go the mane. The pony swam on; the weed dragged Tiny Paul off, and the next moment Tom saw only one little hand clutching at the air above the water.
Sam Green was still some way off at that sad moment. He hobbled on till he reached the edge of the pond, where he found Tom, who crawled out, sighing and crying bitterly.
"Where's the child; where is Tiny Paul?" shrieked out the old man.
Tom said nothing, but pointed to the middle of the pond.
Sam did not seem to know what Tom meant, but looked to the other side, where the pony was standing shaking his shaggy sides.
"Where is Tiny Paul? where is Tiny Paul?" again asked the old man.
"Down in there," said Tom, pointing to the middle of the pond.
Sam Green fell back as if shot. Tom thought that he was dead, and jumping up, ran off to call for help. He told everybody he met till he reached his master's house.
People made out that some one was drowned; but whether it was Sam Green or Tiny Paul, they could not tell.
Among those Tom met was Farmer Grey. He at once rode to the pond, where he found poor Sam lying where he had fallen. Sam was carried back to his own cottage by order of the farmer, who sent at once for a doctor. The doctor came and said he would recover if treated with care.
"Then I will stay by him till I can find some one to take my place," said Farmer Grey.
Meantime the pond was dragged, and Tiny Paul's body was found: not Tiny Paul though; he had gone far away, to the bosom of One who loves little children, and because of that love often takes them to Himself.
Tiny Paul's body was taken to the cottage of his father and mother. John Dixon could not speak for sorrow; and Mrs Dixon, bursting into tears, threw herself on the body, and would not be comforted.
Some hours passed, and Sam Green awoke, as if out of a deep sleep. The first words he spoke were about Tiny Paul.
"Tiny Paul is in the hands of One gentle and kind, who will care for him far more than you or his father and mother can," said the farmer. "Do not grieve for Tiny Paul."
"What's that you say, Master Grey?" asked Sam quickly.
"That Tiny Paul is better off now than he might have been had you or his father or mother brought him up," said the farmer. "What is the eldest boy doing?"
"No good—no good, I fear. He is in prison," growled Sam in his old tone.
"And the second?" said the farmer.
"An idle dog. He's a great trouble to my poor daughter."
"And if I were to ask you, ten or a dozen years hence, what your youngest grandchild was about, might you not have had to say the same of him?"
"That's true," said Sam, looking up. "I might—yes, I might."
"Now God often takes to Himself those He loves; He loved Tiny Paul, so He took him."
"Yes; I see God can take better care of him than I can."
"Ay, sure, Sam, that He can and will, and maybe God had another reason for taking Tiny Paul."
"What can that be?" asked Sam.
"That He might draw you to Himself," said Farmer Grey. "Would you wish to go where Paul is?"
"Ay, that I would, sir," said Sam, in an eager tone.
"Then, my friend, you must try to become like a little child, as Tiny Paul was, and be like him," said the farmer.
"I'll try, I'll try," answered Sam. "But how am I to do it, sir? I feel very weak and foolish and bad; I don't know even how I can try."
"Pray that God will send His Holy Spirit to help you. Trust to Him, and He will not fail you."
Much more Farmer Grey said in the same style. He came day after day to see Sam. Sam, in the course of time, became a changed man. He not only no longer grumbled and growled, and spoke ill of his neighbours, but he was cheerful and contented, and seemed ready to be kind and do good to all he met. When he got his leg strong, he went back to his work at the mill, and Mark used to say that Sam was twice the man he used to be, and that much more grist was brought to the mill than when he was, as once, crabbed and sour to all who came near him.
Still Sam was often sad; but it was not about Tiny Paul. It was when he thought of Ben Page, the miller's son. "Ah," he thought, "how often and often, when he was a boy, I said things to him, and in his hearing, which must have done him harm. I might have led him right, and I led him wrong. Truly my brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground."
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 8.
The Miller of Hillbrook had a tough spirit and a hard heart, like many other people in the world. It galled him to think that his son was a felon, and that people could point at him as the felon's father. His business went on as usual, or rather better than usual, as he was always at home to attend to it. People knew that if they brought grist to his mill, they would be sure to have it ready ground at the day and hour they had named, if the wind blew to turn the sails. They found also that old Sam Green was always ready to oblige them if he could. "Great change has come over Sam,—can't understand it," said some of those who came to the mill. "Does he think that he is going to die? Can that make him so gentle and willing to oblige?"
The miller seemed to be much as he was before. He was even rude to Farmer Grey, when once or twice he came to his house. At last, one day, when the farmer was speaking in a serious tone to Mark, the miller told him plainly that he did not want to hear him or see him. The farmer said nothing, and was just as civil and kind to Mark as before. One day, Mark had gone into the neighbouring town on business; Mary had walked up to see Mrs Dobbs, Farmer Grey's housekeeper; and Mrs Page was the only person in the house. Sam was at the mill, but all the other men were away with the carts. Mrs Page had left a pile of wood to dry near the fire, before which some clothes were hung up to air; some fagots, besides, were placed against the wall, and some wood with which Mark was going to repair some work in the mill. Mistress Page was sitting in her room sewing, when she smelt a smell of fire, and then smoke made its way into the room, for the door was ajar. She began to fear that the house was on fire; and soon she was certain of it, for thick curls of smoke came out from the kitchen. Instead of shutting the door, and going up to the mill to call Sam, she threw open all the windows and doors she could reach, and ran out of the house, screaming "Fire! fire! fire!"
After some time Sam heard the poor woman's cries, and looking out of a window in the mill, saw the flames bursting forth from every part of the house. He hurried out of the mill as fast as his lameness would allow; but he soon saw that alone he could do nothing in putting out the fire.
In a few minutes, however, several men were seen coming from Farmer Grey's, with buckets in their hands, followed by the farmer on horseback. By the time, however, they reached the spot, the house was in flames, from one end to the other. Still there was work for them to do, to try and save the out-buildings. Even the mill itself was threatened, as the wind blew towards it. The men pulled down the sheds nearest the house, and damped the straw thatch of two or three outhouses, the farmer not only showing them what to do, but working away with his own hands as hard as any one. At last the fire was got under, and the mill was saved; but the house was burnt to the ground.
Just then the miller came back. He began to storm and rage, and asked who had burned down his house. "That we have to learn, neighbour," answered Farmer Grey. "It may be found that no one burned it down, and let us be thankful that things are not worse. However, come up to my house; there are rooms and a sup for you till your own house is rebuilt; your wife and daughter are already there."
"I wonder you can think of asking me, Farmer Grey," said Mark. "I have not given you much thanks for the good deeds you have already done me."
"Don't think of that, just now, neighbour," answered Farmer Grey. "We are bound to do good—or right, call it—and not to think of the return we are to get. If God was only to give His blessings to those who were sure to be grateful for them, He would give us far less than He does. We should get little or nothing, I suspect."
So the miller went to Farmer Grey's house with his wife and daughter. It seemed strange to him to find himself there, and stranger still to feel the kind way in which the farmer treated him. Even now he could not understand it.
At last his house was finished, and he and his family went into it.
Mark had spent a good deal of money in rebuilding his house; and though the mill itself wanted repairing, he said that he must put that off till another year; he and Sam Green would patch it up to last till that time. That year passed by, and another came, and had nearly gone, and still nothing was done to the mill. One evening in autumn, the wind was blowing strong, and making even the new house shake, while it whistled and howled through doors and windows. The arms of the mill had been secured, Sam Green had gone home, and the miller himself, thinking that all was right, went to bed. The wind increased, the house shook more and more; there was a fearful gale blowing. On a sudden he woke with a start. There was a crash,—then another,—and at last another, louder than either of the first. The weather, however, was so rough that he could not get up. Again he went to sleep. As soon as it was daylight he looked out. "Where was the mill?" Instead of seeing it, as he expected, against the cold grey sky of the autumn morning, he saw nothing at all. He rubbed his eyes again and again. At last he cast them towards the ground, and there lay scattered about and broken into small pieces, all that remained of his mill. The wheels and grindstone lay near the base; the roof and sides had been carried almost a hundred yards away, and the long arms still farther.
The miller's spirit was fairly broken when he saw the wreck of his mill.
He was aroused by Sam's voice. "This is a bad business, master," said Sam. "When I heard it blow so hard last night, I was afraid of something, though I did not think to find it as bad as this; but I said 'God's will be done, whatever happens.'"
"Well, He has done His will with me at all events," answered the miller sullenly. "I don't think He could do much worse either."
"If we got our deserts, He could do very much worse to us," said Sam firmly. "But, master, He is a God of love, and He sends these sort of misfortunes, not because He hates us, but because He loves us, and wishes us to think of Him, and trust to Him."
"Such talk as that won't rebuild the mill," exclaimed the miller almost savagely.
"May be it won't, master; but it may help to make you turn to God and trust to His mercy, as I try to do," said Sam.
"You, Sam! you, a wicked old sinner. How dare you talk of trusting to God?"
"Because, master, He asks me to do so, He promises to forgive me my sins," said Sam. "I should be declaring that God is a liar if I wouldn't trust Him."
"Then you think that I am a sinner, Sam," said the miller.
"I know that you are one, master," answered Sam boldly.
The miller made no answer, but walked about the ruins, as if thinking what part would do to go up again. The rotten state of the mill, perhaps, made him think of his own state. Suddenly he stopped and said—
"You are right, Sam; I've been a wicked, hardhearted man all my life, all rotten and bad, and it's a wonder God hasn't struck me down long ago, as the mill was struck down last night."
"Master, I say to you what was said a short time ago to me, 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,' (Mark chapter 2, verse 17). It's a great thing to feel that we are sinners."
"Sam, you speak like a parson, and I'm near sure you speak what is true," said the miller.
"I speak what is in the Bible, master, and so I am sure that it is what is true," answered Sam.
Just then the miller saw Farmer Grey riding up the hill.
"I do not come to condole with you, neighbour Page," he said in his usual kind tone. "What means have you of putting up the mill again, and setting it going?"
"Not a shilling, farmer," answered Mark. "I'm a ruined man."
"Don't be cast down, neighbour," said Farmer Grey. "People, however, may take their grist to other mills to be ground, if yours is not working; so I want you to send at once for carpenters and mill-wrights, and to let them know that they are to look to me for payment. No words, neighbour, about thanks. Let it be done at once; don't lose time. You'll repay me, some day, I am very sure." Then Mark Page knew the true meaning of having coals of fire heaped on his head.
In a short time the mill, rebuilt with sound timbers and strong machinery, was going round as merrily as ever, and grinding as much if not more grist than it did in former days. People had wondered at the change in Sam Green; they wondered still more at the change in his master,—once so sullen and ill-tempered,—now so gentle and kind and obliging. The change in him was even greater than in the mill itself.
It is easy enough to rebuild a house: no human power can change a man's heart, as Mark Page's had been changed.
STORY ONE, CHAPTER 9.
Farmer Grey, as he sat in his large house by himself, often felt sad and lonely. He had lost his wife when young; she had had no children, and he had not married again. His nephew, James, was his only near relative; and he found, whenever he thought of the young man, that, in spite of his faults, he loved him more than he had supposed. For a long time he had not heard from him; and, as several bloody battles had of late been fought in India, he began to fear that he might have been among the killed, and that no one had known his address to write and tell him. Still, Farmer Grey was not a man to sit by himself and brood over his sorrow. He went about as usual, doing all the good he could, not only in his own village but in the neighbourhood; and he never heard of a poor person falling sick or getting into trouble, whom he did not visit and relieve as far as he was able. He thought, too, more of poor Mary Page than of himself. He knew how much she loved James, and that she would spend the best days of her youth waiting for him to come back, as he was sure that she would never marry anybody else. Meantime, though Mary was often sad, still she believed that James was alive, and that he would some day come back to her. She often blamed herself for thinking so much of him, while the fate of her unhappy brother was so uncertain. It was surely through God's kindness that she never learned what his fate had been.