Chapter II. Thirty-fold.
Keep thou, dear child, thine early word
Give Him thy best: Who knows but He
For His eternal board
May take some gift from thee. "LYRA INNOCENTIUM."
EARLY hours were kept at Birkfarm, but Mrs. Bryant was waiting for her boy when he came to the back door at nine o'clock.
"Well, Eddy, I hope you have been entertained."
"Mother, I never heard anything like it, and I saw it too! There were poor widows being burned, and the horrid tall car running over the poor creatures, and a faquir swinging by hooks in his sides."
"I read about it long ago, my dear, and saw pictures of it; but I thought it was all done away with now."
"So the Rector said, and that English laws [19/20] hinder the worst of it; but they don't really know any better, and they put poor old men into the Ganges to die, with a bit of cowdung in their mouths! Men are wanted, ever so much, to teach them better! Mother, I must go and be a missionary."
"You had better be eating your supper than talking of what you know nothing about."
"But, mother, there was Mr. Goodrich--our Goodrich of my form--helping him," said Edward impressively.
"I suppose he is some cousin of his. Come, do go on with your supper. Grandpa won't go to sleep till he hears you safe upstairs."
"But, mammy dear, you must go and hear the gentleman preach to-morrow. Now promise me."
"Well, if grandpapa can spare me, and if Susan gets forward enough with the joint--"
"Do make haste, Eddy," as his bread and cheese halted on the way to his lips, "or grandpapa will be knocking overhead."
Nor would she listen to a word more till she had driven her son up to his own little room, and [20/21] shut the door on him, his last words being: "You've promised, mother!" He said his prayers under the vine-sheltered window as usual, and a thought of the scenes on the wall made him pause over "Thy kingdom come." When he rose up, he went to his money-box and shook it out. There were two threepenny bits in it; one would have to be given in church to-morrow (for it was reckoned mean and ungrateful not to give silver), fivepence in coppers, and half-a-crown, given by a visitor of his mother. He was saving in hopes of a pair of skates, and had been sorry to hear the collection announced, because the little silver bits would have to be sacrificed, and he looked twice at the bright half-crown, and thought of "The joyful sound proclaim." Perhaps it would not freeze next winter! He would see how he felt about it to-morrow, and be prepared, at any rate; so the half-crown and the threepenny pieces both went into his Sunday jacket pocket before he lay down.
His mind was full of the same subject when he awoke, and he gave hearty help to his mother in forwarding the needful work about the house, and he hunted her up soon after ten o'clock to [21/22] put on the black silk in which she always looked so lady-like.
"Going to church, Missus?" said the farmer, who had just come in from inspecting the calves, and was unfolding his Sunday newspaper.
"Yes, Grandpa; Eddy wants me to go and hear this Mr.--Mr.--
"Smithson," suggested Edward. "He has been among the Red Indians."
"I hear he is a very fine preacher," added Mrs. Bryant.
"Missionary sermon, eh? Ah! hunting just to get money, a regular dodge--better spent at home. And what's this--"picking up Edward's paper. "Who's been sticking tracts about here?
"Oh, Grandpa, let me have it. they have it to me last night, and I had not time to see it."
"Parsees and Chinamen! Rot! Only fit to light a pipe with!"
He crushed it, and threw it into the grate, but the fire was low, and Edward watched to rescue it, while his mother was saying:
"Well, I like to hear a good preacher now and then, and I have put everything ready for Susan, [22/23] so if you don't want me particularly, Grandpapa, I should be glad to go for once in a way."
He gave a sort of grunt which, at any rate, was not a refusal. Mrs. Bryant was a good woman, and had been a regular church-goer in her youth; but since she had lived at Birkfarm, her own frail health at first, the needs of her young child, and then of the household and the old man, had made the distance seem longer and longer, so that she was out of the habit, though she always read her Bible and one or two sermon books on a Sunday, and sent Edward regularly; besides that, she always made him read a chapter in the Bible, and heard his Catechism in the evening.
It was a very fine day, and the walk through the fields was pleasant before the sun had become powerful. There was the sweet Sunday quiet all round, and the bells began to peal.
"How odd it must be to be in a country where there are no church bells," said Edward.
"Your uncle--my poor brother Charlie--when he came home from Canada, he could never hear enough of our bells at Awmouth-- he said he was quite lost without them in the backwoods."
 "What did Uncle Charles do? Did they have no church at all?"
"Oh, I believe there was one twenty miles off, that a clergyman came to once a month, and that sometimes your uncle rode over to it. I think the place is more settled now; but I have not heard since poor Charlie died. What stories he did tell me about the Indians!"
"Were they Christians, mother?"
"I am sure I don't know. They made beautiful bark baskets and canoes, worked with porcupines' quills. I had one for a long time, but it was lost when I moved here. They were harmless enough, that tribe; but there are terrible savages over in the States that would think nothing of scalping you, and hanging your scalp up by the hair to their belts."
"And does no one try to teach them?"
"Oh! this was all five-and-twenty or thirty years ago; everything may be changed since then. It was reading about 'Leather-stocking' in Mr. Cooper's books that made your uncle want to go out; but, there, he did not find it one bit so romantic as he expected, and the Indians were nasty dirty fellows."
 Edward decided on looking for "Leatherstocking "--if such were his name--among his mother's old books in the parlor cupboard; and therewith they came into the lane, where more church-goers appeared, and presently, from Dr. Millar's gate, came France's and Aline, also a tiny boy, proudly strutting in Sunday knickerbockers, and a little girl endeavoring to carry a big red prayer-book, as well as a small fringed parasol over her shoulder, in an opposite direction from the sun.
"Mamma is at home with baby, and papa has been sent for to old Mr. Mason," explained Frances, "so we are taking the children to church; and Mabel and Bertie have promised to be very good."
"I have got my big bright penny for the poor babies that get buried, and perhaps Pharaoh's daughter will come and save them! And see my book that Aunt Bessie gave me."
While she was displaying the large book, down went the penny on one side, and the parasol on the other, and while Edward was hunting for the penny in the grass, Master Bertie captured the sunshade, shut it up, and began to poke him in [25/26] the back with the point, and peace was only restored by Mrs. Bryant persuading the boy that he would be taken for a girl with such a feminine implement.
She offered to take him to sit with her, but this was contrary to the dignity of all concerned, and she had to withdraw her offer. Mabel had more to say about the Chinese babies, and Aline explained that they had been reading to her the story below the illustration on the paper that they had. brought home, which had much struck her little mind.
Their seat was just in front of Mrs. Bryant, so that she might help in time of need; but the children were good on the whole, Bertie much occupied with counting the O's in the Benedicite, and staring at old Mr. Briggs's bald head till he went to sleep; Mabel listening with open mouth.
The text was, "How shall they hear except there be a preacher, and how shall they preach except they be sent?" and an eloquent and striking picture was drawn of the contrast between the heathen and those who dwelt at home in ease and comfort with all the blessings of religion, carrying with it civilization and peace. [26/27] Mr. Smithson told how, in the islands of the Pacific, every village spoke a different language, so that a missionary said surely they had come straight from the Tower of Babel, and how, what was worse, each village was at feud with its neighbor, so that a man could not safely walk a few miles beyond his own precinct without being in danger, and how the people themselves were weary of their perpetual strife, and called on the Christians on other isles to bring them the words of peace.
The Words of Peace--this most appropriate name by which the message of the Gospel is known, even by those who have not yet surrendered themselves to it. And in these spheres of action the crying need was for Men to receive those who were stretching forth their hands to beg for the light we have ourselves received. Therewith the preacher replied to the too frequent objections in people's minds, who asked, "Why should we disturb the native, who is very happy as he is, by showing what this undisturbed happiness is, when every village is at feud with its neighbor and slaughter prevails at each moment? Or when a chief cannot die without a [27/28] witch doctor denouncing whom he will as the author of the illness, and all the family--wives, children, and relations--being cruelly murdered in revenge? Or, even in India, though the burning of widows be prohibited by English rule, yet the widowed girl, even though she be betrothed in infancy, and have never seen her husband, becomes the persecuted family slave, with no hope or favor in store for her, but compelled to lead so dreary and miserable a life that the flames were really thought preferable? Or, again, the contempt of life and destruction of infant girls in China---- "
At that moment little Mabel burst out in an irrepressible gasping cry, half scream half sob. Frances tried to remove her, but she drew up her heels and sat fast. Edward, who was just behind, leaned over, took her up in his arms and carried her out. Frances following, while she still sobbed, words breaking out between--"Oh the poor little dear baby girls."
They sat her down in the churchyard, and Frances shook her and scolded her, but still she did not leave off crying "the babies, the babies." Perhaps she had been half asleep, and some [28/29] dream of the picture had mixed itself with the words to which she had awakened, of the girlbabes whose fathers were about to bury them alive unless a sum were paid for them.
The congregation were beginning to come out of church, and Frances wanted to lead her out of the way, being very much ashamed of her conduct; but she would not stir, and went on sobbing out something about King Pharaoh's daughter, the babies, and her penny, so that Edward, who had of course missed the collection himself, offered to take her back to give it.
So he did, meeting one of the churchwardens with his bag, going to the vestry. Edward told him, and he smiled pleasantly, saying, "Good little maid!"
But alas! the penny, which had been nursed within the little thread glove, was not to be found there. Where could it be? They went back to the seat where Mabel had been, and looked up and down, and still it did not appear. Mr. Brooks said he could wait no longer, and the little girl was just breaking into another howl, when Edward said "Here," and thrust between her fingers what felt like a penny as she dropped [29/30] it triumphantly into the bag--and then, rather in a fright at finding herself in the big empty church, her little boots went clattering down the aisle. Frances and Aline were waiting for her, and Bertie, holding his head very high, and declaring that he didn't cry.
But Mabel had her own story to tell, though nobody but Aline listened to her. "I lost my penny, and we hunted for it all over the pew; but at last Eddy found it, and do you know, Alley, it had all turned into silver! And I gave it to the bag to save the poor little babies, just as Pharaoh's daughter saved Moses in the ark of bulrushes."
Aline thought that Mabel must have picked up one of the round tin tickets that the school-children had; but she was a kind sister, and did not laugh at the little one's belief in the transformation. And poor Mabel had to be received at home in disgrace for having cried at church: "Such a great girl as she was!"
Edward had run after his mother, and did not hear; but he had not heard the end of the "big silver penny," for as he was strolling about the fields--in some hesitation whether he would go [30/31] to evensong, doubting between sunshine with research after a weasel's hole, and weariness with the possibility of some more missionary stories in the sermon--the Rector, accompanied by Mr. Goodrich, came to the back gate of the rectory garden and hailed him. "Ha! Edward Bryant; I thought it was you! You took Dr. Millar's little girl up to give her offering, didn't you? Well, it was half-a-crown. Was not it a mistake?"
Edward turned as red as a girl might have done, and mumbled, "She had lost hers, sir."
"It was yours, then? You meant it?" asked the Rector, in a kind leading voice, that seemed to draw out of Edward the exclamation--"Oh, sir, I do want to know more about those missionary gentlemen."
The Rector stopped, and smiled, saying: "Well, Mr. Goodrich is the man to tell you. He is preparing to go out to India to help in the work there as soon as "
"As soon as there is reason to think I am in some degree ready," said Mr. Goodrich quietly; but with a look on his face that greatly struck Edward. "Would you like to see some books, [31/32] Bryant? If you will come to my rooms I can lend you some that I think will interest you."
"Thank you, sir; "and there it ended for that evening with Edward. But Mr. Goodrich said eagerly, as they returned into the garden: "A nice chap, that. Are there hopes of any purpose in him?"
"No man can say. His grandfather--great-grandfather, in fact--is an unprosperous old broken-down farmer of the solid stamp, his mother a quiet, overdone, commonplace woman. Troubles and hard work before him, I should think, and no sympathy for aspirations."