Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the smith there and worked in the factory, boy and man, thirty-two years. He was brought down from London and was bound apprentice to your father and Mr. Colbeck, I think it was in 1807." So there we sat, the sons of the master and apprentice, after eighty years, with a good warm grip of the hands.

I have said my mother was also an orphan in the ancient city of Norwich where the agents found her and brought her north to work as an apprentice in the same factory, and I think in the same year. So the lassie and laddie grew up together, each in their own 'prentice house, to manhood and womanhood. They were of about the same age, and it came to pass in due time that they fell in love with each other and were married by the good parson of the town at his church two miles away. And many a time my mother told us in a gust of glee how they had to walk there and back again through the January snow-drifts which were so high in spots that they were obliged to walk on the top of the stone walls.

I was their first-born. My father was working at the anvil in Keighley through the year after the wedding, so I was born there; but they offered him higher wages to return to the

in

old place. So they would tell me how they carried me in their arms over the moors when I was a month old and went at once to keeping house. And there I find myself when I begin to learn the use of I and me

a cottage of two rooms and an attic, the windows looking right into the sun's eye over the valley and westward to the moors, and before the cottage a bit of greensward with a rose bush in the centre which bears a great wealth of roses (I held one to my face the other Sunday, and the perfume spanned the chasm for me of more than seventy years) and a plum-tree that gave me a good deal of trouble in those days because the fruit in the summer never began to make good the promise of the blossom in the spring.

Sir David Brewster brought a crystal to a meeting of savans which held in its substance a landscape taken æons ago by the sun. The picture was clear while you kept it in the dark, but began to fade exposed to the light. So the picture of my first home is a photograph and steals out sharp and clear through the mystery of remembrance. For now I go indoors where there are three and then five children sitting about a bright open fire. The walls of the living-room seem to be white as snow; and there

is a bureau of mahogany that shines like a dim mirror through much polishing with what my mother called “elbow grease” over beeswax and turpentine, and chairs for the company,

but we sit on stools,- a tall clock which was always too fast for me at bedtime and too slow at meal-times, some pottery of the fine old willow pattern in a rack over the bureau (held sacred for Christmas and the village feast which fell in summer), and pictures Rubens could not have painted to save him. There was also clean linen and soft calico to wear next the body and to sleep in, and once a week — when we were old enough - - a good, sound scrubbing in a tub with yellow soap that got into your eyes and a rough harden towel to dry us down. The wise man says in the Bible: “ Who hath red eyes? Who hath contention? Who hath strife?” I can answer truly we had all these on the Saturday night when we were turned into that tub.

My dear good father's wages were about $4.50 a week in our American tenor, and this was the whole income until we were old enough to help earn the living in the factory; but my mother made this income stand good for plenty to eat and drink, two suits of clothes (one for week

[6]

days and one for Sundays), house-rent, and fire-elding, and whatever we needed besides. And for food we had oatmeal porridge and skim-milk morning and night, with oat cake to fill in; a bit of meat usually for dinner, soup and potatoes, dumplings now and then of a fine staying power, and for a treat

Stick-jaw pudding that tires your chin With — whatever it was - spread ever so thin;

no

more,

white bread always, with a film of butter on Sunday afternoon, and tea of the brand we call cambric. There were variations of course, but this was the rule. And I touch these memories because I believe in that fair sweet linen and the tub, the white purity of fresh lime laid on the walls every year with my mother's own hands, and in the food she gave us lies one momentous reason,

if

for the verity that we children grew up healthy and strong, living to a good old age; while I myself have never been one day sick in my bed in these fourscore years or so far as I can remember had my breakfast there. We went to Sunday-school twice every Sunday, with no rewards and no picnics ; and I really know of nothing in my boyhood outside my good home train

I say:

ing which can compare in pure worth to my teaching through seven years in that good orthodox Sunday-school. Or when I ask how it has come to pass that I have “ wagged my pow in a poopit ” in some sort these fifty-five years, and through forty-four years in the churches of our faith, my good home training,

For my father and mother made no “profession” of religion, but they held our home so sacred that I cannot remember one profane word passing their lips or ours; while the instinct lay so deep in my own nature that, when I became a preacher and might make them “ tell ” in a sermon, I still shrink from the words “ devil," "hell,” and “ damnation."

Our birthright lay in the old parish church where my father and mother were married, and the children were all baptized by our good parson Ramshaw; but we only went there at Easter and Whitsuntide. The rest of the year we went to the small dissenting chapel on the hill. But the great holiday and festival in our home was Christmas, when we held a very carnival of good cheer.

It is true that as the festival drew near fear was not seldom blended with hope for us. We were never well-to-do, there were so many of us

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »