‘You are right, Stephen,’ said Mr. Lockwood; ’you are wise in keeping your tongue from evil speaking: for “therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.” You have taught an old parson a lesson, my boy. You had better leave your money with me until my lawyer gives us his opinion. Now go home in peace, and serve your master faithfully; but if you should need a friend before I return, come here and ask for the clergyman who is going to take my duty. I will tell him about you, and he will help you until I come home.’
That afternoon Stephen retraced his lonely path across the hills in great gladness of heart; and when he came to Fern’s Hollow, he leaped lightly down the bank against which the old stove-pipe had been reared as a chimney, and stood again on the site of the old hearth, in the midst of the new walls of red bricks that were being built up. How the master could remove the new house and restore the old hut was a question of some perplexity to him; but his confidence in the parson at Danesford was so perfect, that he did not doubt for a moment that he could call Fern’s Hollow his own again next spring.
Visit of black bess.
Everybody at Botfield was astonished at the change in Stephen’s manner; so cheerful was he, and light-hearted, as if his brief manhood had passed away, with its burden of cares and anxieties, and his boyish freedom and gladsomeness had come back again. The secret cause remained undiscovered; for Martha, fluent in tongue as she was, had enough discretion to keep her own counsel, and seal up her lips as close as wax, when it was necessary. The people puzzled themselves in vain; and Black Thompson left off hinting at revenge to Stephen. Even the master, when the boy passed him with a respectful bow, in which there was nothing of resentment or sullenness, wondered how he could so soon forget the great injury he had suffered. Mr. Wyley would have been better satisfied if the whole family could have been driven out of the neighbourhood; but there was no knowing what ugly rumours and inquiries might be set afloat, if the boy went telling his tale to nobody knows whom.
Upon the whole, Martha did not very much regret her change of dwelling, though she made a great virtue of her patience in submitting quietly to it. To be sure, the cinder-hill was unsightly, and the cabin blackened with smoke; and it was necessary to lock little Nan and grandfather safely within the house whenever she went out, lest they should get to the mouth of the open shaft, where Stephen often amused the child by throwing stones down it, and listening to their rebound against the sides. But still Martha had near neighbours; and until now she had hardly even tasted the luxury of a thorough gossip, which