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said he, "I've been in the lettering trade all my life;" though what this especial trade had to do with regular meals and punctual hours no one could tell, except that perhaps he had been under a strict master, who expected his men to go to and come from their dinners like clock-work. Well, he answered Matty's stare by saying
"I've a bit of an errand out o' doors, and can't go without summat first."
More mystified than ever, Matty simply said
"To once, maister, if you like it; the kettle boils." "Knowed I wanted her, belike!" said Dick, trying to be facetious to his pleasant young handmaiden; but when she closed the door he said to himself, seriously
"Old grey-headed lads like me! Sure enough, next we shall expect the youngsters to turn into cripples! But his (meaning Mr. Grey's) words were sore telling, and worth looking in the face. One thing, folks won't know me of a night, for 'twill be dark by then, and-"
Matty's entrance here stopped Dick's private talk to himself; but when the little maiden left he began again. I cannot help thinking he did so to keep up his courage, for I daresay you know, dear reader, that we often break silence with our own voices when our thoughts are not over pleasant to meet alone. Tea over, Dick again sounded his clapper for Matty. His clapper was a bell without a tongue, that he knocked against the fire-shovel or poker.
"Matty, child, you goes upstairs; in my cubbard, agin the wall, there'm a great-coat, bring en down; wait, lassie— in the box agin my other door, there'm a comfortable and a hat and a pair of hand-covers without thumbs; bring 'em down, every child of his mother, bring 'em all to me, d'ye hear, Mat?"
Sure, I do; but 'twill be dark presently, and you'll be getting of "'chitis' again if you goes out in the fog, maister." But Dick gave a nod that Matty read into "go," so, as she was an obedient girl, she ran up the rickety stairs with
out another word, except one of explanation to herself. "Comfortable! That means what mother calls comforter, I 'spose; a red thing to go round the neck." She returned quickly with the articles, and as Dick commenced putting them on, she could not help exclaiming
"Why, maister, whatever be after ?"
This was soon made known, for "maister" said
"Now then, lass, out for your bonnet and shawl, and quick back." "Out" meant home, for she lived next door. No sooner said than done. Matty presently stood before him, dressed fit for a walk on a cold winter's night.
"Now, then, for my stick and crutch." His stick was a stout oaken one, and his crutch was Matty's shoulder, and the "crutch" considered she had the place of honour, for was she not on his "weak side?" And so, dear readers, should we always think it an honour to help the weak, and support them step by step as they pass through the dangers of this life. It is what our blessed Lord did; He came to save and help us when we were too weak to do anything for ourselves; it is what the Holy Spirit said by the mouth of the Apostle Paul, in these words, "Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed." If our hearts condemn us on this point, and tell us we have not kept this commandment nor followed the example of the Lord Jesus Christ in helpfulness and kindness, let us remember, in regard to the past, that God is greater than our hearts,2 and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin;3 and for the future strive to show sincere repentance on this point by prayerfully endeavouring to "Bear one another's burdens."
When Dick reached Mitre Lane and turned Matty's shoulder towards the entrance, she said, supposing he had taken the wrong turning,
1 Hebrews xii. 12, 13.
I John iii. 20.
I John i. 7.
"Please, maister, there ain't nothing down here except St. Michael's Night Schools."
'Night Schools! Who be they for then?"
"For them who didn't learn when they might have done it easy."
"And when was that, child?" asked Dick, wincing under this unintended and unexpected rebuke.
"Why, when they was little, be sure. Our lesson to-day was all about it; and when our teacher had made us all learn this text, he said that we ought to be very thankful if we was taught proper whilst we was young."
"What were the texses?" asked Dick, with more eagerness than he cared to show, and yet could not quite hide.
"Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it.'1 But then, though, teacher said this didn't mean only book training, but good training; and he hoped we'd all have it. I s'pose you had it plentiful, maister?" added Matty, innocently, sharing the notion of most children that their elders must be "all right."
In reply, Dick coughed and complained of the fog, then he suddenly said
"But what o' the book training, my lass? If a fellow an't had that when a youngster, what's he to do when he's old ?"
"Go to yon Night Schools," promptly replied Matty; "minister builded 'em on purpose for old folks to learn in by nights, when we're done with.
Please, maister, there ain't nothing down here, really, but them Night Schools," repeated Matty.
'Nothing but! Be that the way them as goes there talks of them schools?"
"No, sure!" Matty flushed at the idea. "No, sure, what should us be without them? And I know that big Bill Carter, who goes to the 'Night,' says he blesses God first, then Mr. Grey, for them schools. And we love 'em dearly, for there, and there"
1 Prov. xxii. 6.
Matty hesitated, and got redder and redder.
"There what, lassie? Speak out."
"There we learns the Bible, and all about those good things that tells us how we should love the Lord. But the Bible learning mother likes best for us, because she says 'twill stay in our hearts, whilst book-learning will be shoved out of heads when we leaves school."
HE bay of Weston-super-Mare is a beautiful one, covering a wide expanse of sea and sand. Afar in the distance can be discerned the Welsh hills, looking like blue mist; while nearer are the picturesque outlines of the Flat, and steep Holmes. Bounding the bay on the one side are cliffs and rocks, rugged, sea-washed, and bare, varied here and there by openings, where children and visitors go down to play or to lounge on the shingle. On the other side is the grass-clad, bleak, exposed Brean Down, stretching like some grim headland far out beyond the beach. Up and down out in the Channel pass ships all day long, of all sizes and builds, from the fairy-like yacht to the lumbering brig and stately merchantman, sailing away to the farthest ends of the earth, bent upon errands of trade and commerce.
Among the rock of which I have spoken bounding one side of the bay, are some little coves and nooks, inviting to all fond of solitude and quiet study. Here, when the tide is out, the visitor can recline at ease, sheltered from winds and dust, and alone with the sea and with God.
A few summers ago a young lad, accustomed to study alone, went to one of these sheltered rocky nooks to study and to read. He was known to be a diligent student and of high moral character among his schoolfellows; generally
first in his class, bending his whole energies to the tasks which awaited him.
The sunny afternoon passed, and the sun began to sink low in the heavens, but still the lad was absorbed in his studies. Probably he was unacquainted with the time of the returning tide, or if he was, he allowed the matter to slip from his memory. At any rate the first thing which drew off his attention from his beloved books was the dashing of the spray in his face. Then he rose and looked around. What could it mean? Was he hemmed in? Yes! Before him lay a vast seething, roaring, rushing mass of waters rolling restlessly here and there, guided towards every nook and corner of the coast by some mighty invisible force. The nook in which he was studying was surrounded on three sides, and part of the fourth, by high and precipitous cliffs, up which it would be as impossible to climb as up a high straight wall, while shutting him in and slowly rising around him, were the cold, cruel waters. He rushed to the little opening in front, but here he found that the waters had risen high, while all around they were pouring in with relentless fury.
Willie was only seventeen, and at seventeen the wish for life is strong. Shrieking for help, he ran hither and thither, looking if perchance some outlet or some boat could furnish a chance of escape. Unfortunately he could not swim, or it would have been short work to cast off his clothes, leap into the water and swim to the open shore. We may
easily imagine how again and again he strove to climb up the precipitous sides of the rocks, striving to obtain a foothold, and failed. The spray of the water dashed up over him, and with swiftly beating heart and hands cut by the rocks, he must have fallen back to face death.
Still the waters were rising. Now the water was up past his knees, now up to his breast, although he retreated to the highest standing-place he could find. But was Willie really afraid to die?
No! He had received good, careful Christian training.