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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 468 pages of information about Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood.

When I fell asleep, I was again in the old quarry, staring into the deep well.  I thought Mrs Oldcastle was murdering her daughter in the house above, while I was spell-bound to the spot, where, if I stood long enough, I should see her body float into the well from the subterranean passage, the opening of which was just below where I stood.  I was thus confusing and reconstructing the two dreadful stories of the place—­that told me by old Weir, about the circumstances of his birth; and that told me by Dr Duncan, about Mrs Oldcastle’s treatment of her elder daughter.  But as a white hand and arm appeared in the water below me, sorrow and pity more than horror broke the bonds of sleep, and I awoke to less trouble than that of my dreams, only because that which I feared had not yet come.

CHAPTER XXX.

A sermon to myself.

It was the Sabbath morn.  But such a Sabbath!  The day seemed all wan with weeping, and gray with care.  The wind dashed itself against the casement, laden with soft heavy sleet.  The ground, the bushes, the very outhouses seemed sodden with the rain.  The trees, which looked stricken as if they could die of grief, were yet tormented with fear, for the bare branches went streaming out in the torrent of the wind, as cowering before the invisible foe.  The first thing I knew when I awoke was the raving of that wind.  I could lie in bed not a moment longer.  I could not rest.  But how was I to do the work of my office?  When a man’s duty looks like an enemy, dragging him into the dark mountains, he has no less to go with it than when, like a friend with loving face, it offers to lead him along green pastures by the river-side.  I had little power over my feelings; I could not prevent my mind from mirroring itself in the nature around me; but I could address myself to the work I had to do.  “My God!” was all the prayer I could pray ere I descended to join my sister at the breakfast-table.  But He knew what lay behind the one word.

Martha could not help seeing that something was the matter.  I saw by her looks that she could read so much in mine.  But her eyes alone questioned me, and that only by glancing at me anxiously from, time to time.  I was grateful to her for saying nothing.  It is a fine thing in friendship to know when to be silent.

The prayers were before me, in the hands of all my friends, and in the hearts of some of them; and if I could not enter into them as I would, I could yet read them humbly before God as His servant to help the people to worship as one flock.  But how was I to preach?  I had been in difficulty before now, but never in so much.  How was I to teach others, whose mind was one confusion?  The subject on which I was pondering when young Weir came to tell me his sister was dying, had retreated as if into the far past; it seemed as if years had come between that time and this, though but one black night had

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