Farther on he saw Mr. and Mrs. Dubois, with Adele, kneeling imploringly, with terror-stricken faces, before a representation of the Virgin Mary and her divine boy. Then the glare of light in the building increased. Rushing to the entrance to look for the cause of it, he there met Mrs. McNab coming towards him with a wild, disordered countenance,—her white cotton headgear floating out like a banner to the breeze,—shaking a brandy bottle in the faces of all she met. He gained the door and found himself enwrapped in a sheet of flame.
Suddenly the whole scene passed. He woke. A glorious September sun was irradiating the walls of his bedroom. He heard the movements of the family below, and rose hastily.
A few moments of thought and prayer sufficed to clear his healthy brain of the fantastic forms and scenes which had invaded it, and he was himself again, ready and panting for service.
In order to bring Mr. Norton more distinctly before the reader, it is necessary to give a few particulars of his previous life.
He was the son of a New England farmer. His father had given him a good moral and religious training and the usual common school education, but, being poor and having a large family to provide for, he had turned him adrift upon the sea of life, to shape his own course and win his own fortunes. These, in some respects, he was well calculated to do.
He possessed a frame hardened by labor, and, to a native shrewdness and self reliance, added traits which threw light and warmth into his character. His sympathies were easily roused by suffering and want. He spurned everything mean and ungenerous,—was genial in disposition, indeed brimming with mirthfulness, and, in every situation, attracted to himself numerous friends. He was, moreover, an excellent blacksmith.
After leaving his father’s roof, for a half score of years, he was led into scenes of temptation and danger. But, having passed through various fortunes, the whispers of the internal monitor, and the voice of a loving wife, drew him into better and safer paths. He betook himself unremittingly to the duties of his occupation.
By the influence of early parental training, and the teachings of the Heavenly Spirit, he was led into a religious life. He dedicated himself unreservedly to Christ. This introduced him into a new sphere of effort, one, in which his naturally expansive nature found free scope. He became an active, devoted, joyous follower of the Great Master, and, thenceforward, desired nothing so much as to labor in his service.
About a year after this important change, a circumstance occurred which altered the course of his outward life.