You are here

قراءة كتاب Frank Oldfield Lost and Found

تنويه: تعرض هنا نبذة من اول ١٠ صفحات فقط من الكتاب الالكتروني، لقراءة الكتاب كاملا اضغط على الزر “اشتر الآن"

‏اللغة: English
Frank Oldfield
Lost and Found

Frank Oldfield Lost and Found

No votes yet
دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 1

Reverend T.P. Wilson

"Frank Oldfield"

Chapter One.


“Have you seen anything of our Sammul?” These words were addressed in a very excited voice to a tall rough-looking collier, who, with Davy-lamp in hand, was dressed ready for the night-shift in the Bank Pit of the Langhurst Colliery. Langhurst was a populous village in the south of Lancashire. The speaker was a woman, the regularity of whose features showed that she had once been good-looking, but from whose face every trace of beauty had been scorched out by intemperance. Her hair uncombed, and prematurely grey, straggled out into the wind. Her dress, all patches, scarcely served for decent covering; while her poor half-naked feet seemed rather galled than protected by the miserable slippers in which she clattered along the pavement, and which just revealed some filthy fragments of stockings.

“No, Alice,” was the man’s reply; “I haven’t seen anything of your Sammul.” He was turning away towards the pit, when he looked back and added, “I’ve heard that you and Thomas are for making him break his teetottal; have a care, Alice, have a care—you’ll lose him for good and all if you don’t mind.”

She made him no answer, but turning to another collier, who had lately come from his work, and was sauntering across the road, she repeated her question,—

“Jim, have you seen anything of our Sammul?”

“No, I know nothing about him; but what’s amiss, Alice? you’re not afraid that he’s slipped off to the ‘George’?”

“The ‘George!’ no, Jim, but I can’t make it out; there must be summut wrong, he came home about an hour since, and stripped and washed him, then he goes right up into the chamber, and after a bit comes down into the house with his best shoes and cap on. ‘Where art going, Sammul?’ says I. He says nothing, but crouches him down by the hearth-stone, and stares into the fire as if he seed summat strange there. Then he looks all about him, just as if he were reckoning up the odd bits of things; still he says nothing. ‘Sammul,’ said I, ‘won’t you take your tea, lad?’ for it were all ready for him on the table. Still he doesn’t speak, but just gets up and goes to the door, and then to the hearth-stone, and then he claps his head on his hands as though he were fretting o’er summat. ‘Aren’t you well, Sammul?’ says I. ‘Quite well, mother,’ says he, very short like. So I just turns me round to go out, when he jumps up and says, ‘Mother:’ and I could see by the tears in his eyes that he were very full. ‘Mother,’ says he again, and then he crouches him down again. You wouldn’t believe, how strange I felt—you might have knocked me down with a feather; so I just goes across to old Jenny’s to ax her to come and look at him, for I thought he mightn’t be right in his head. I wasn’t gone many minutes, but when I got back our Sammul were not there, but close by where he were sitting I seed summat lapped up in a piece of papper, lying on the table. I opened it, and there were a five-shilling piece and a bit of his hair, and he’d writ on the papper, ‘From Sammul, for dear mother.’ Oh, what must I do—what must I do? I shall ne’er see our Sammul any more,” and the poor woman sobbed as if her heart would break.

Before Jim had time to answer, a coarse-looking man of middle height, his hands thrust deep into his pockets, a pipe in his mouth, and his whole appearance bespeaking one who, in his best moments, was never thoroughly sober, strode up to the unhappy mother, and shouted out,—

“What’s up now? what’s all this about?”

“Your Sammul’s run away—that’s what it’s about,” said Jim.

“Run away!” cried the other; “I’ll teach him to run away—I’ll break every bone in his body when I get him home again.”

“Ay, but you must catch him first,” said Jim, drily.

“Alice, what’s all this?” said Johnson, for that was the father’s name, turning fiercely on his wife.

She repeated her story. Johnson was staggered. Samuel was a quiet lad of fourteen, who had borne with moderate patience many a hard word and harder blow from both parents. He had worked steadily for them, even beyond his strength, and had seen the wages which ought to have found him sufficiency of food and clothing squandered in drink by both father and mother. Johnson was staggered, because he knew that Samuel could have a will of his own; he had felt a force in his son’s character which he could not thoroughly understand; he had seen at times a decision which showed that, boy as he was, he could break sooner than bend. Samuel, moreover, was an only son, and his father loved him as dearly as a drunkard’s selfishness would let him love anything. His very heart sickened at his wife’s story, and not without cause. They had but two children, Samuel and Betty. Samuel worked in the pits; his sister, who was a year younger, was employed at the factory. Poor children! their lot had been a sad one indeed. As a neighbour said, “yon lad and wench of Johnson’s haven’t been brought up, they’ve been dragged up.” It was too true; half fed and worse clothed, a good constitution struggled up against neglect and bad usage; no prayer was ever taught them by a mother’s lips; they never knew the wholesome stimulant of a sober father’s smile; their scanty stock of learning had been picked up chiefly at a night-school; in the Sunday school they had learned to read their Bibles, though but imperfectly, and were never more happy than when singing with their companions the hymns which they had practised together. They were specially dear to one another; and in one thing had ever been in the strictest agreement, they would never taste that drink which had made their own home so miserable and desolate.

About a fortnight before our story opens, Langhurst had been placarded with bills announcing that an able and well-known total abstinence advocate would give an address in the parish schoolroom. Many went to hear, and among them Samuel and Betty Johnson. Young and old were urged to sign the pledge. The speaker pictured powerfully a drunkard’s home—he showed how the drink enticed its victims to their ruin like a cheating fiend plucking the sword of resistance from their grasp while it smiled upon them. He urged the young to begin at once, to put the barrier of the pledge between themselves and the peculiar and subtle array of tempters and temptations which hedged them in on all sides. In the pledge they had something to point to which could serve as an answer to those who could not or would not hear reason. He showed the joy of a home into which the drink had never found an entrance—total abstinence was safety—“never to taste” was “never to crave.” He painted the vigour of a mind unclouded from earliest years by alcoholic stimulants; he pointed to the blessing under God of a child’s steady practical protest, as a Christian abstainer, against the fearful sin which deluged our land with misery and crime, and swept away every spark of joy and peace from the hearthstones of thousands of English homes. Every word went deep into the hearts of Samuel and his sister: the drunkard’s home was their own, the drink was ever before their eyes, the daily sin and misery that it caused they knew by sharp experience—time after time had they been urged to take the drink by those very parents whose substance, whose strength, whose peace had all withered down to the very ground under its fatal poison. How hard had been the struggle to resist! but now, if they became pledged abstainers, they would have something more to say which could give additional strength to their refusal.

The speaker stood pen in hand when he had closed his address.