The Torn Bible Part 1/
The Torn Bible Part 1
The Torn Bible.
by Alice Somerton.
TO GLANVILLE AND HIS EIGHT SCHOOLFELLOWS.
Perhaps, dear boys, you wonder why I should have dedicated this little book to you: it is that you may feel a deeper interest in it, and imbibe, from reading it, an earnest love and reverence for your Bible, which, like a good angel, can guide you safely through the world as long as you live. Like Hubert's mother, I ask you to read a portion every day; and, whatever be the battle of life you may have to fight, may G.o.d's blessing attend you, making you humble towards Him, dutiful to your parents, and a blessing to mankind.
Believe me, Yours affectionately, ALICE SOMERTON.
THE TORN BIBLE.
HUBERT'S DEPARTURE FROM HOME.
May thy goodness Share with thy birthright! * * * *
* * * What heaven more will That these may furnish and my prayers pluck down, Fall on thy head! Farewell.--SHAKESPEARE.
The rural and picturesque village of Hulney, in the north of England, is a charming place; it is almost surrounded with well-wooded hills, and the little rivulets, which ever murmur down their sides, run into the limpid stream along the banks of which most of the cottages are built.
At the north end of the village, on the slope of a hill, is the church, so thickly covered with ivy that the only portions of the stonework visible are part of the ancient tower and the chancel window.
Legend and historic fact hang their mantle round this old church.
History tells us that the brave, yet often cruel, Margaret, wife of Henry VI., fled there after a defeat in one of her battles; and it is also recorded that one hundred of the heroes of Flodden Field rested there on their return from the victory. Modern times have added to the interest which clings to this old place, and one thing especially which draws attention will form the subject of this story.
In that old churchyard, where the children of many generations lie side by side, there is many a touching or interesting record; but the stranger ever lingers the longest near seven white grave-stones, all bearing the name of Goodwin. Upon the one which has the most recent date is the following inscription:--"Sacred to the Memory of Hubert Goodwin, aged seventy years;" and below this a book, partly destroyed, with several of the loose leaves, is carved upon the stone: and though, perhaps, this description of it may not be striking, the exquisite carving of that destroyed book is such that people ask its meaning, and they are told that it is a "torn Bible."
Hubert Goodwin, the tenant of that grave, was the eldest of six children, blessed with pious and affectionate parents, well to do in the world, and descended from a family of some distinction.
Great pains were bestowed upon Hubert's education, as he grew up to youth; but from his birth he was of such a pa.s.sionate turn, and at times so ungovernable, that he was the source of all the sorrow that for many years fell to the lot of his parents: he was different to their other children, and many a time when reproof had been necessary, and the little wayward one, after a troubled day, had retired to rest, his mother's heart, still heavy, led her softly to the bed where he lay sleeping, and there, kneeling down, she would commend him again, with perhaps a deeper earnestness, to that One who knew all her trouble, and whom she knew could alone help her. Once the boy awoke as his mother knelt beside him, and, as though in answer to her prayer that his heart might be changed, he burst into tears, and, throwing his arms round her neck, expressed deep sorrow at having grieved her, and promised to try and do better. Poor mother! her joy was brief; in a very short time he was as undutiful and rebellious as ever, and so he continued until he reached the age of twelve years, when, as he had determined upon being a soldier, his parents, much against their wish, sent him to a military school, to be educated for the army.
A year rolled away, and all the accounts that came from the master of Hubert's school informed his parents that he was a bold, unruly boy--a great deal of trouble to his teachers--but he would probably tame down a little in time, and do very well for the profession he had chosen.
Many and many a time these parents wept over the letters which spoke thus of their son: they wished him to be a good soldier--one fearing and serving G.o.d--and they oftentimes repeated their tale of sorrow to their good pastor, in whom they were wont to confide; but his meed of comfort was ever the same. What other could he offer? Good man, he knelt with them, directed them to the source of true comfort, the Lord Jesus Christ, and tried to lighten their hearts' burden by drawing them nearer to the hand that afflicted them.
When Hubert had been three years at school, he obtained, through the influence of friends, a cadetship in one of the regiments belonging to the East India Company; he was still only a boy, and his parents had rather he had not gone entirely away from them so soon, for they felt, and with some truth, that while he was at school he was at least under their protection, if not their guidance. Hubert, however, came home to them a fine n.o.ble-looking youth, delighted at the prospect before him, and as proud and vain as possible at being at last really a soldier. How much his parents loved him, and how they tried to persuade themselves that the vivacity and recklessness he showed arose more from the hilarity of a heart buoyant with youthful spirits, than from an evil nature! but when, on the first Sabbath after his return home, he scoffed at the manner in which they observed that holy day, another arrow pierced their bosoms, another bitter drop fell into their cup of sorrow.
During the three years Hubert had been at school, his parents had gradually observed that, though he did perhaps attend to most of their wishes, there was a careless sort of indifference about him; and though they were always glad to see him in his vacations, they were as glad to see him go back to school, because their home was more peaceful, and every one was happier when he was not there. Think of this, boys, whoever you may be, that are reading this story, and when you spend a short time with those kind parents who love you so much, let them see, by your kindness and willing obedience, that you wish to love them as much as they love you; and never let them have to say that their home is happier when you are not there: no, rather let them rejoice at your coming home, welcome you, and think of you as the bright light that cheers every one in their dwelling; and if they can do that, be a.s.sured that G.o.d will bless you.
Only a fortnight's leave of absence had been granted to Hubert, and one week had gone. The way in which he had spoken of sacred things, and of the manner in which they had observed the Sabbath, roused his mother; and though her reproof was gentle, she was earnest, and tried all she could to influence him to better thoughts. She told him of the many snares and dangers he would have to encounter, and the many temptations that ever lurk along the path of youth; of the strange country to which he was going; and of the doubly incurred danger of going forth in his own strength. He listened as she talked to him; but along that way which she so dreaded, all his hope and young imagination were centred, and he grew restless and impatient to be gone.
They were busy in Hubert's home; brothers and sisters all helped to forward the things necessary for their eldest brother's future comfort, and they sat later than usual round the fire the last night of his stay with them; for everything was ready, and the mail-coach would take him from them early on the morrow. The ship which was to convey Hubert to India was to sail from Portsmouth, and as his father was in ill-health, there was some concern in the family circle about his having to take the journey alone; he promised, however, to write immediately he reached the vessel, and so, with many a kiss and many a prayer, the family separated for the night.
It was a lovely autumn morning in the year 1792; everything round Hubert's home looked beautiful, and his brothers and sisters, as they cl.u.s.tered around him, and gave him their last kisses, each extorted a promise that he would write a long letter to them very soon. Excitement had driven off every regret at parting with him, and one young brother ran off long before the time, to keep watch at the gate for the coach coming.
The time for Hubert to go drew near, and his father, infirm from recent sickness, took his hand as he bade him farewell, and laying the other upon his head, reminded him once more of lessons long ago taught, and long ago forgotten; gave him again good counsel concerning his future life; then pressed him earnestly to his heart, and prayed G.o.d to keep him. Then came his mother; she had already poured out the deep sorrow she felt at his leaving her, and had endeavoured to school herself to the parting; without a word she threw her arms round his neck, and bent her head for some minutes over him. "Oh, Hubert," she at length said, "when sickness or trouble comes upon you, you will be far from home, and there will be none of us, who love you so dearly, near to comfort you, and no one to try and guide you right; but see here, I have a Bible; take it, treasure it as my last gift, and promise me that you will read it every day. I care not how little you read, but promise that you will read some: you will never regret it, and may it teach you the way to heaven."
"I _will_ read it, mother; I wish I were as good as you are; I know I am not like the others. Mother dear, don't cry; I will try and do as you wish; good-bye!" and after kissing her affectionately he hurried from the house.
The coach was at the gate, round which the children gathered, and for a few minutes every one seemed busy. The servant-man was there with Hubert's trunk and a small leather bag; the nurse had come round from the back garden with the baby; cook followed, and stood a little way behind the gate with her arms half wrapped up in her ap.r.o.n; and the housemaid stood at one of the open bed-room windows; while on the steps of the door were his parents, joining in the farewell to the first-born.
Pilot, the house-dog, seemed to have some notion of the pa.s.sing event, for he had come to the gate too, and did not, as was his usual custom, race and gambol with the children, but sat down amongst them all, apparently in a thoughtful mood. Hubert kissed his brothers and sisters, and then took his seat amongst the pa.s.sengers; then came many a good-bye, and waving of handkerchiefs, and the coach rolled away.
"He's gone," said his father, as the coach wended its way round the hill. "Never mind, Mary; it was not for this we trained him, but we've done our duty, I hope, in letting him go, for he was determined, and would perhaps soon have taken his own way; poor lad! Perhaps amongst strangers he will do better than with us; but I would sooner have buried him--sooner, by far, have laid him in the churchyard--than he should have taken this course. What is the use of trying to make children good?
Tears, prayers, self-denials, what is the use of them all, if the result is like this?" So he murmured, and then bowed his head and wept, and his wife, instead of receiving comfort from him, became the comforter; for, putting her arm round his neck, she replied,
"Oh, yes, dear, our prayers and tears have brought us many blessings; see the other children, how good they are; don't murmur. G.o.d may yet bless us in Hubert; it is terrible to part with him in this way; but it may yet be a blessing to us all: G.o.d knows." Then she sat down and wept with her husband over this first great sorrow; and they _did_ weep; they and G.o.d alone knew the depth of the woe that had come upon them; the first-born pride of their home and hearts going from them, perhaps for ever, without one religious impression, or care for the future, was a sorrow that none around could lighten, and they knelt down and prayed fervently for that reckless son, and tried to feel a deeper trust in Him who, though depriving them of one blessing, gave them many.
TOO LATE FOR THE POST-BAG.
Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer; Next day the fatal precedent will plead; Thus on, till wisdom is pushed out of life.
Meantime, Hubert went on his way, and a feeling of sadness came over him after he lost sight of his home amongst the trees; for the thought had come into his mind that perhaps he might never see it again. For a moment his heart beat quickly, and he gave a deep sigh; then, putting his hand into the leather bag, he was just going to take out his mother's present to him, when a man, who sat opposite, said, "I suppose, young soldier, you are off to join your regiment?"
"Yes," replied Hubert, with a smile; and as he drew his hand from the bag, he continued, "we are ordered to the East Indies."
"East Indies, eh? you'll soon see a little life, then; they tell me there's plenty of fighting going on out yonder, though we don't get much of it in the newspaper. But you are very young?"
"Yes, I'm the youngest cadet in the regiment; I'm just turned fifteen; but I shall be as brave as any of the others, I dare say: and I mean to make as good a soldier."
"No doubt of it," replied more than one of the pa.s.sengers, and the coachman, who had heard the conversation, cracked his whip, as he chimed in, "Hear! hear! well done!" Then, as the coach rolled along over many a mile, they talked of nothing but Hubert and the sphere of his future existence. It feasted the boy's pride; and every other thought fled away, and he forgot all about his home and his Bible.
It was the morning of the third day since Hubert started, when, after many changes and delays, the journey was almost ended, and in less than an hour they would be in London.
"Do you go to your ship at once?" inquired a gentleman who was seated beside the coachman, and who had not only come all the journey with Hubert, but who appeared particularly interested in him.
"I should like to go very much," replied the boy, "because I know no one in London, though my leave of absence is not up till to-morrow."
"My brother is captain of your vessel," said the stranger; "so, if you like, we can go together, for I am on the way to say good-bye to him."
Nothing could have suited Hubert better; so, upon leaving the coach, which reached London as the clocks were striking five, they hurried off to the street where the mail started for Portsmouth, and after travelling all day they reached the vessel. How happy was Hubert that night! what a joyous glow was on his cheek! Several of his old companions were there, and not one of them appeared to have any sorrow at leaving friends and home; they greeted each other with light hearts and buoyant spirits, talked of the varied enjoyments of the past holiday, and laughed loud and long, as they sat together in the mess-room.