‘We may be pilgrims,’ said Tim reflectively, over a slice of cake, ’but there’s lots of pleasant things sent us by the way.’
They were still at tea when the gamekeeper, who was passing by, and who guessed from the smoke from the chimney, and the donkey grazing in the new pasture, that some gipsies had taken possession of Fern’s Hollow, came to look through the unglazed window. He had not seen Stephen since his illness, and there was something in his wasted face and figure which touched even him.
‘I’m sorry to see thee looking so badly, my lad,’ he said; ’I must speak to my missis to send you something nourishing, for I’ve not forgotten you, Stephen. If ever there comes a time when I can speak up about any business of yours without hurting myself, you may depend upon me; but I don’t like making enemies, and the Bible says we must live peaceably with all men. I heard talk of you wanting some out-door work for a while; and there’s my wife’s brother is wanting a shepherd’s boy. He’d take you at my recommendation, and I’d be glad to speak a word for you. Would that do for you?’
Stephen accepted the offer gladly; and when the gamekeeper was gone, they sang a hymn together, so blotting out by an offering of praise the evil prayer which he had uttered upon that hearth on the night of his desolation and strong conflict. Pleasant was the way home to the old cabin in the twilight; pleasant the hearty ‘Good-night’ of Tim and Bess; but most pleasant of all was the calm sense of truth, and the submissive will with which Stephen resigned himself to the providence of God.
The work of a shepherd was far more to Stephen’s taste than his dangerous toil as a collier. From his earliest years he had been accustomed to wander with his grandfather over the extensive sheep-walks, seeking out any strayed lambs, or diligently gathering food for the sick ones of the flock. To be sure, he could only earn little more than half his former wages, and his time for returning from his work would always be uncertain, and often very late. But then, sorrowful consideration! there was no little Nan to provide for now, nor to fill up his leisure hours at home. Martha was earning money for herself; and as yet the master had demanded no rent for their miserable cabin; so his earnings as a shepherd’s boy would do until Mr. Lockwood came back. Still upon the mountains he would be exposed to the bleak winds and heavy storms of the spring; while underground the temperature had always been the same. No wonder that Miss Anne, when she looked at the boy’s wasted and enfeebled frame, listened with unconcealed anxiety to his new project for gaining his livelihood; and so often as the spring showers swept in swift torrents across the sky, lifted up her eyes wistfully to the unsheltered mountains, as she pictured Stephen at the mercy of the pitiless storm.