The redemption of Moses Fletcher.
Moses Fletcher was suffering from what the doctor called ’nervous shock,’ with sundry wounds of a severe nature received in an attempt to rescue his dog in a canine melee.
He was a medium-sized man, with a hatchet face, lit by keen gray eyes, small as a ferret’s; and, by way of apology for a mouth, displayed a thin lip-line which fell at either end with a cruel and cynical curve.
As he lay in bed, with a face as white as the counterpane which covered him, he now and again extended his bandaged hand to the favourite hound that rested on a plaid shawl at his feet, calling it by endearing names, and welcoming its warm and faithful caresses.
The chamber was small, but cosy, with many evidences of comfort. Trellised greenery looked in at him through the deep-splayed windows, and tapped a welcome on the diamond panes. He had, however, no ear for this salute. Nor did he eye with delight the flowering geraniums that clustered so thickly in the pots filling the sills. Nor did he even care for the great bars of sunlight that fell in golden splendour across his bed, causing the old dog to wink, and sneeze, and smile beneath their mellowing beams. No, these were nothing to him; indeed, they never had been—he had lived for years oblivious alike to tree and flower and sun.
On the walls of his bedroom hung a number of rude prints, chief among which was a hideous representation of Jesus Christ driving the money-changers out of the Temple—the man of gentleness being represented as a stern, passionless Master, the strength of whose person was thrown into a relentless face, and a mighty arm wielding a massive whip. At this figure he often glanced, and now and again a look of recognition seemed to steal over his features, as though the essence of his religion was embodied in that act—a gospel anodyne for a suffering soul.
By the side of his bed was a small table on which lay two books, the one bound in morocco, the other in leather—a Bible and a ledger—his sole literature during the weary hours of sickness, and wittily denominated by his wife, ’the books of mercy and of judgment.’ Indeed, she often told him that he knew ‘a deal more o’ th’ book o’ judgment than he did o’ t’other’; and it was even so.
Moses languidly took up his Bible. It was a veritable study in black and white, many passages being underscored, and many remaining as unsoiled as though seldom read. Indeed, the Gospels seldom had been read, while the imprecatory Psalms and the latter part of the Epistle to the Romans were greasy and stained with oft perusal. But there was a more remarkable feature about the Bible than this—its margin was filled with a number of pen-and-ink notes! figures and calculations of money advanced and interest drawn and due; his clever, sarcastic wife calling this his ‘reference Bible,’ and sometimes telling him he was ‘mighty i’ th’ Scriptures’ when his own interest was concerned.