Another instance of Dick’s failing to give proper notice of a service was as follows; but on this occasion it was not really his fault. Some large reservoirs were being made in the parish, and nearly a thousand navvies were employed on the works. These men were constantly coming and going, and very often they brought some infectious disorder which spread among the huts where they lived. One day a navvy arrived who broke out in smallpox of a very severe kind, and in a couple of days the man died, and the doctor ordered the body to be buried the moment a coffin could be got. It was winter-time, and the vicar had ridden over to see some friends about ten miles away. As the afternoon advanced it began to rain very heavily, and he decided not to ride back home, but to sleep at his friend’s house. About five o’clock a messenger arrived to say a funeral was waiting in the church, and he was to come at once. He started in drenching rain, which turned to sleet and snow as he approached the moor edges. It was pitch-dark when he got off his horse at the church gates, and with some difficulty he found his way into the vestry and put a surplice over his wet garments. He could see nothing in the church, but he asked when he got into the reading-desk if any one was there. A deep voice answered, “Yes, sir; we are here”; and he began the service, which long practice had taught him to repeat by heart. When about half-way through the lesson he saw a glimmer of light, and Dick entered the church with a lantern, which he placed on the top of the coffin. It was a gruesome scene which the lantern brought into view. There was the coffin, and before it, in a seat, four figures of the navvy-bearers, and Dick himself covered with snow and as white as if he wore a surplice. They filed out into the churchyard, but the wind had blown the snow into the grave, and this had to be got out before they could lower the body into it. The navvies, who were kind-hearted fellows, explained that they could give no notice of the funeral beforehand, and they quite understood the delay was no fault of the vicar’s or Dick’s.
Dick was, in spite of his faults, an honest and kind-hearted man, and his death, caused by a fall from a ladder, was much regretted by his good vicar. On his death-bed the old clerk sent for his favourite grandson, who succeeded him in his office, and made this pathetic request: “Thou’lt dig my grave, Jont, lad.”