These delicious agitations by the edge of the salt-sea wave must have greatly improved my health, which however was still looked upon as fragile. I was loaded with coats and comforters, and strolled out between Miss Marks and Mary Grace Burmington, a muffled ball of flannel. This alone was enough to give me a look of delicacy which the ‘saints’, in their blunt way, made no scruple of commenting upon to my face. I was greatly impressed by a conversation held over my bed one evening by the servants. Our cook, Susan, a person of enormous size, and Kate, the tattling, tiresome parlour-maid who waited upon us, on the summer evening I speak of were standing—I cannot tell why—on each side of my bed. I shut my eyes, and lay quite still, in order to escape conversing with them, and they spoke to one another. ’Ah, poor lamb,’ Kate said trivially, ’he’s not long for this world; going home to Jesus, he is,—in a jiffy, I should say by the look of ‘un.’ But Susan answered: ’Not so. I dreamed about ’un, and I know for sure that he is to be spared for missionary service.’ ‘Missionary service?’ repeated Kate, impressed. ‘Yes,’ Susan went on, with solemn emphasis, ’he’ll bleed for his Lord in heathen parts, that’s what the future have in store for ’im.’ When they were gone, I beat upon the coverlid with my fists, and I determined that whatever happened, I would not, not, not, go out to preach the Gospel among horrid, tropical niggers.
IN the history of an infancy so cloistered and uniform as mine, such a real adventure as my being publicly and successfully kidnapped cannot be overlooked. There were several ‘innocents’ in our village—harmless eccentrics who had more or less unquestionably crossed the barrier which divides the sane from the insane. They were not discouraged by public opinion; indeed, several of them were favoured beings, suspected by my Father of exaggerating their mental density in order to escape having to work, like dogs, who, as we all know, could speak as well as we do, were they not afraid of being made to fetch and carry. Miss Mary Flaw was not one of these imbeciles. She was what the French call a detraquee; she had enjoyed good intelligence and an active mind, but her wits had left the rails and were careening about the country. Miss Flaw was the daughter of a retired Baptist minister, and she lived, with I remember not what relations, in a little solitary house high up at Barton Cross, whither Mary Grace and I would sometimes struggle when our pastoral duties were over. In later years, when I met with those celebrated verses in which the philosopher expresses the hope
In the downhill of life, when I find I’m
May my lot no less fortunate be
Than a snug elbow-chair can afford for reclining,
And a cot that o’erlooks the wide sea