“That gentleman’s got the face of a priest, Mr. Edmund,” was Penny’s remark at first sight of him.
“Murray’s a treasure!” cried Val in delight. “He’ll do wonders with our bairns, Ted!”
It was a true forecast. The children all took to him at once; the little lassies loved him; for he had a gentle way with them—like that of a kindly, grown-up brother; the boys regarded him with more awe, but were ready to stand up for him against any adversary, as the best shinty player in the district. He thoroughly transformed our little choir of children—leading them and accompanying them with taste and skill.
To Val as well as to myself he grew inexpressibly dear. It became the regular custom for one or other of us to look in at the schoolhouse of an evening, to smoke a pipe with the master, or to lure him for a walk—should the weather be favorable; while on Sunday evenings after service Murray dined with us as a matter of course. It was in the intimate fellowship thus engendered that he confided to me his life story as detailed above.
It was a wrench to all three of us when the parting came, and the dear boy left us to begin his training for the Foreign Missions—his elected field of labor; but we could not grudge our sacrifice when we compared it with the immensity of his.
Bernard is devoting rare talents, ceaseless energy, abundant tenderness to the winning of souls to God. Difficult and hopeless as his efforts appear, yet his rare letters breathe patience and cheerful content. Like every true missionary, he is prodigal of labor, in spite of the apparent scarcity of the harvest gathered; for like his fellows, he relies upon those inspired words which promise a plentiful reaping before the great Harvest-home.
“They went forth on their way and
But returning, they shall come with joy: carrying
“While memory watches o’er
the sad review
Of joys that faded like the morning dew.”
(Campbell—“Pleasures of Hope")
Although Penny’s early history is not concerned with Ardmuirland or its neighborhood, yet her long residence in the district will serve as an excuse for its introduction here, apart from the fact of its undoubted interest. Indeed, any account of Ardmuirland which should ignore so prominent a figure in its social life would fail to give a perfect picture of the place; yet but for the circumstances of her youthful career Penny would never have appeared there at all. Her story, as given here, is pieced together from knowledge gained at various times in intimate conversation; in such a form it is more likely to meet with the reader’s appreciation than related in her own words.
Lanedon, in the Midlands, was a humble village enough half a century ago. It lay low, amid gently swelling green hills, and was shaded by luxuriant woodlands; out of the beaten track it slept in rustic seclusion, undisturbed by the events of the outside world, its knowledge of such things being confined to scraps of information which the local newspaper might cull from more up-to-date journals.