« ZurückWeiter »
girl, whom she brought up to walk in her own footsteps. Nelly Jones was liked by all who knew her. She was active, lively, sweet tempered, and industrious, and very kind to her mother's poor blind lodger, Ned Willis, who generally went by the name of i. Blind Ned.”
He occupied a room at the back of the house, with a door which opened into the yard behind it, where stood a wooden kennel in which his faithful dog slept. Mrs. Jones took in blind Ned, more from charity than from anything she could gain by biro, for he was not always able to pay his rent, although he had a little trade of his own, and sold stay-laces, threads, tapes, buttons, garters, and other trifling articles, which he carried about to the neighbouring villages, led by his sagacious dog. Poor Ned was so much respected, and so great a favourite, that he seldom came away from the farm-houses, which he sometimes supplied with the little things he sold, without a good dinner for himself and also for his dog Fido. Ned had known better days; his blindness had been occasioned by an accident, which happened many years ago. Whilst he had his eyesight he had read a great deal, and having a
ive memory, he cou make good use of the information thus acquired. He could repeat whole chapters of the Old and New Testament, and improved Nelly very much by hearing her read every evening, when he returned from his walks. He had travelled into many parts of the world, and his conversation was both amusing and instructive; he had a good voice, and could very sweetly chant some psalms, which he also taught Nelly, and, although blind, he was able to teach her to make very pretty baskets, and cabbage and other useful nets, which were sold in the shop; so that Mrs. Jones often said she gained a great deal more by the blind lodger, than she lost by his paying such a small sum for his board and lodging, especially as she could not spare Nell to go to school.
Ned was in the habit of attending the market at the town of M— With the help of his dog he could accomplish the walk very well, as the distance was only two miles from the village of Winton, and the road was familiar to them both. He was generally tolerably successful on that day, and often returned with an empty basket, having sold all his little stock of goods. One fine morning, about a week before the 5th of November, Ned and Fido set out to M- market. Nelly had made the blind man quite neat, had brushed his coat and hat, and darned a hole or two in his waistcoat, sewn a button on his gaiters, cleaned his shoes, and well stocked his basket. When he arrived at the town, he found the market crowded, and a great many idle boys about; he kept as much as he could out of their way, but did not escape the effects of their violence and wickedness. With the assistance of his poor dog, he had made his way carefully through the throng, and was just arrived at the further extremity of the town where one of his kindest customers lived, when he overheard a party of boys behind him talking of himself, and saying, “ Come, let us have a lark with that old blind hypocrite."
Hardly were these vulgar and cruel words uttered, when his hat was snatched off his head, and thrown into the road, most of the articles in his basket scattered to the right and left, handfuls being pulled out by these cruel boys; and finally, they threw him down in the midst of a pool of water which lay across the road. They succeeded in wrapping the dog's head in an old ragged pockethandkerchief, though it tried to bite and resisted with all its might; and then the boys ran shouting and laughing away, calling out, “We wish you well out of it, you old psalm-singing hypocrite."
The ringleader was Will Nash, or Wild Will, as he was generally called, on account of his lawless and good-for-nothing character,
This accident to the blind man had not taken place more than a minute or two, and he was with great difficulty attempting to rise out of the water, when Mr. Bennett, the Clergyman of the parish of Winton, came up.
He had witnessed the whole transaction, and readily gave the poor man all the assistance in his power, picked up his hat, released the poor dog, collected as many of the scattered articles as he could find, replaced them in his basket which, with the string of the dog, he gave into his hand, and offered to lead him home that he might change his wet clothes as soon as possible. Ned gratefully accepted the good gentleman's kind proposal, and they were not long in reaching Mrs. Jones's house, where every attention was paid the ill-used man by her and little Nelly, who was particularly grieved to see her kind friend in such a state of wet, dirt, and suffering. He was made so ill from cold and bruises, occasioned by the fall in the water, that he kept his bed several days. Mr. Bennett's benevolent feelings were satisfied at leaving poor Ned in such good hands; therefore, after giving him half-a-crown, he pursued his walk, resolving to call as soon as he could, on Wild Will's mother, and tell her of the circumstance which had just happened.
Mrs. Nash, the mother of Wild Will, was a widow woman who supported herself and her idle son, chiefly by taking in washing, and going out charing, when she could spare the time. She was a very industrious, well-meaning woman, and it grieved her very much that her boy, who had now reached the age of fourteen, should have turned out so badly. She was sure she had always talked a great deal to Will, to try and make him a good boy, but ever since her husband's death he had been nothing but a trouble to her—he never would mind her. She had with great difficulty obtained work for him at a large farmer's in the neighbourhood, but he was so idle and inattentive that he was discharged, and he
seldom earned anything to assist in paying rent, or keeping himself; and often she was obliged to give her neighbours some trifle for fetching and carrying home the linen she washed; Will not being in the way when he was wanted. He would, contrary to his mother's wishes and orders, associate with all the idle boys of the village, and pass a great deal of his time throwing stones, and breaking windows, which she, poor woman, had to pay for, and in laying snares for game in the squire's grounds at night, in which last occupation he had nearly been caught and sent to prison. The day Will Nash had tormented the poor blind man, he had been buying gunpowder for the 5th of November. He had got a few shillings for a job of work, and instead of taking them home to his mother be resolved to spend the money in purchasing materials for this dangerous and unprofitable employment. He came home and was glad to find his mother out; so the house was ready for his scheme, for he was certain she would not have approved of it. There was a great deal of clean linen about, half a dozen shirts beautifully washed and ironed, that belonged to a very particular gentleman, hung on a horse to air. A whole row of ties for the neck lay in a basket ready to be taken home; ladies' caps, capes, and collars which were being ironed, for Mrs. Nash had not gone out for long, were spread on an ironing table in the middle of the
“I must be quick," thought Will, “ or I shall have mother fussing back in no time.” The fire was low, he put on some sticks, which he found in the chimney corner, and made a blaze. He then got a plate, and put a quantity of gunpowder into it, and set it on a stool close to the fire to dry, for he discovered that when he was pushing poor blind Ned into the water, the gunpowder had got wetted. He was leaning over, impatiently watching the drying of it, when a stick all alight fell into the plate, and set fire to its contents, which exploded in Will's face and eyes. He roared out with the agony of the pain, and fell on the bricks. The violence of the explosion shook down a quantity of soot out of the wide old-fashioned chimney, and extinguished the fire, and smothered with blacks most of the linen which hung about the room. Will remained where he fell, groaning in great agony, and calling out that he should go blind and lose his senses. The cottage was the last in the village and stood apart from any other, so that no neighbour came to inquire the cause of the report and give assistance. It was some minutes before Mrs. Nash returned, having been detained longer than she expected. The sight that met her eyes, caused the poor woman almost to faint; however, she had presence of mind enough to enable her to run to a neighbour's to beg her to fetch the doctor as soon as she possibly could. In the meantime she put her mischievous and unfortunate son to bed, who was exhausted with the pain he was enduring. After she had done
this, she cast her eyes around, and beheld with dismay all her clean linen more or less dirtied or soiled by the soot falling upon it. This was a trial and would be much money out of pocket to her, but she soon forgot it in the distress of mind occasioned by her son's accident. After the doctor had seen Will's burn, he said he could not promise for the safety of either of his eyes. One, he thought, might be preserved to him, with great care; but it would much depend on his patience and attention to his orders, and then it would be many weeks before he could leave his bed. The doctor was a gentleman of much feeling, and told his mother that he would give her son, for her sake, as much attention as he possibly could. The first week or two was a terrible trial to both, and Will's impatient, uncontrolled disposition, made him a constant source of trouble and discomfort to his mother. His helpless situation employed so much of her time and fatigued her so greatly, that had not Mrs. Jones sent. Nelly to her assistance, she must have fallen ill herself.
One day, about a fortnight after Will's accident, Mrs. Nash was sitting before a heap of linen, which she was going to fold, her face looking nearly as white, when a gentle tap sounded at the door, which was afterwards opened by Mr. Bennett. He had not bad time to call before to inform Mrs. Nash of her son's improper conduct to the blind man.
“ You look ill,” said Mr. Bennett,“ what is the matter?”
She then informed him of the misfortune which had fallen upon her and her boy.
“I feel for you very much," said the good Clergyman, “ for I have always considered you an industrious, hard-working woman, but at the same time I fear you may trace a great deal, if not all this affliction, to your own want of firmness in bringing up your child. If mothers would insist upon being obeyed when their children are yet infants, a great deal of after misery might be spared themselves and their offspring."
The tears ran fast down Mrs. Nash's pale cheeks, she sighed, and said,
“I have been a great deal too indulgent to that ungrateful boy, I know, sir, and am suffering now for my weakness.”
“ Your indulgence has been hitherto injudicious, but we will hope that this affliction may be the means of bringing your son into the right path, and that he may yet prove a comfort to you."
Mrs. Jones dried her eyes, and said she wished it might be so.
“It has been every way a bad job for me," she observed, "for I have lost one of my best people that I washed for. The smother of soot that came down our old chimney spread so many blacks about, that it soiled almost all Mr. Strickland's shirts and neck ties. I washed several over again, but in my hurry and trouble I missed one, and he found the collar and wrists of it rather soiled. He was
so angry that he sent it back by his footman, desiring me to do it over again, and to say he should employ somebody else. I have never had his washing since,” and as the poor woman said this, her eyes again filled with tears.
Mr. Bennett expressed his sorrow, and for a moment was silent; he then told her that he was acquainted with Mr. Strickland, and would represent her case to him.
“ He is a very particular man in his dress," he added, “but I think he is inclined to be charitable if his feelings are moved, and if the fact was really made known to him of your present distress.”.
Mrs. Nash thanked him very much for his kindness, and felt relieved in her spirits by his presence. He then asked to see her son, to whom he spoke very seriously and impressively, but he felt it would be a work of time before any deep impression could be made on a mind which had been so long unrestrained, and ungoverned by any religious feeling. He represented to him his bad conduct to his mother, his selfishness and neglect, his complete defiance of her orders, and lastly his cruel treatment of the poor
“ I do not say,” observed Mr. Bennett, that our sins are always punished in this world, but the Almighty in His wisdom sometimes afflicts His creatures in order to turn their stubborn hearts to Himself, and before it is too late to awaken a feeling of religion in their souls. It appears like a judgment upon you
for conduct to the blind man, and that his melancholy state may be the more felt, you are reduced to somewhat the same situation, though God in His goodness has preserved to you the sight of one eye.”
Mr. Bennett was not one of those people who think everything is to be accomplished by talking without acting ; he therefore kindly administered to the bodily wants of this suffering boy, and frequently sent him nourishing things to support his strength.
It was cold weather, and as Mrs. Nash could not afford two fires, she moved Will's bed into the room down stairs. Nelly was a great comfort and assistance to her, and often remained with Will when she went out to wash. Will was now able to sit up in an old arm chair, that had been his father's; but he was restless and impatient.
One day that Nelly was sitting with him she got the Bible and proposed reading to him. He was not willing to listen to her.
Tis so dull that reading, Nell,” said he; “ can't you talk and tell me a bit of gossip out of the village ?"
“I am a bad person to tell gossip,” replied Nelly, “mother don't like I should go out in the street except I go to the pump, or of an errand; besides I have no time for useless talking."
“No time !” exclaimed Will; “why your mother can't want you all day in the shop ?”
“ No; but I have the beds to make and the breakfast to get, and