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Andrew Golding - A Tale of the Great Plague
by Anne E. Keeling
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'Well,' said Harry, 'I may truly say the same of myself. It hath pleased God,' he said reverently, 'to bring me to Himself through suffering. I trusted overmuch to my own heart; and not till I was stript of all, a beggar and a slave, did I learn mine own vileness and weakness, and Christ's all-sufficiency. I thank Him for the teaching. And I think my Lucy hath gone through the same school; is it not so, sweetheart?' and I murmured an assent.

'Not one of you,' said Andrew, 'has been so poor a pupil at that learning as I; but I think my many stripes have surely beaten it into my hard heart at last, and that I have mastered my task once and for ever.'

'Then,' quoth Harry, 'we are all on one footing so far, and we may thank Heaven for it. But I cannot fall in with you in your condemning of other Churches, and the Church of England chiefly. She is not disowned of God, not quite gone astray from Him; there is in her, I must think, a seed of life and holiness.'

'Your father went out from her notwithstanding,' says Althea; 'and in my mind he did well, though I was fool enough to condemn him at the time.'

'With your leave,' says Harry, 'I think he was driven out, because of those nice and subtle points of doctrine, that our rulers cruelly enforced, and he could not honestly assent to. But I have heard him say, 'tis his firm persuasion that out of this misgoverned English Church there shall yet rise great good, and marvellous blessings, to the land and the world. And in that hope I shall cleave to it with all its faults; and so I trust will my wife;' to which I had nothing to say but blushing. Andrew, however, was troubled.

'I fear thou art in perilous error, kind and good Harry,' said he. 'But let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind.'

'That am I,' said Althea promptly, on which he smiled again; and the two falling into talk about their own concerns, we charitably left them to it; for now it was well understood among us that they would wed at the earliest opportunity.

It was a pretty sight to see the new humility they practised towards each other. Andrew, being now fully acquainted with my sister's efforts on his behalf, seemed to look on her as a protecting angel; but she, regarding him as a saint and a martyr, knew not how to show enough reverence to him. Also her high courage failed her sometimes, and she would cling to the good Mary Giles like a timid child to its mother; Mary on her part showing the same tenderness for her that her husband displayed to Andrew. These good people, with Will, kept them company when they departed for Amsterdam, which thing was a marvellous comfort to Harry and me; and shortly we had news how the lovers were married, after the Quaker fashion, and were in a happy way to be settled in that city. They dwell there still. The good honest Standfasts have power from Andrew to manage his lands for him, which they do faithfully; and the moneys due to him therefrom being privily conveyed to him, maintain him and his wife in comfort, nor them alone, but many poor and pious souls who are their pensioners.

And now, our companions being gone, it might have been thought that I should feel a great lack of them, especially when the Diamond loosed from port and bore us away with her. But I could feel nothing save joy and gratitude, more especially when I thought of the heavy and dreadful summer that lay behind me; and I was possessed with a great longing to see my father Truelocke once more. Harry had got word conveyed to him of his safety, and of our approaching journey; and sure I am his thoughts flew to meet our thoughts on the way, as we drew nearer and nearer. But I want words to express the tenderness of our meeting together, when at last my Harry and I beheld that venerable face again. There are some joys that cannot be told.

We have made our home with him in Dent-dale; for there Harry hath bought a little farm, with a pretty odd farmhouse belonging thereto; and our father lives with us, well content, and in great peace. For no squabblings about ecclesiastical matters ever trouble the quiet of our sweet mountain solitude. There is a little lonely church in the Dale, where a good simple-hearted pastor ministers; and there can we worship in a homely and hearty fashion; nor does the pastor take it ill that Mr. Truelocke keeps aloof from the prayers, but respects his scruples, and reveres his character. For proof thereof, I did not cease urging on Harry his careless promise, that our union should have our father's blessing on it; and the good pastor falling in with my whim, prevailed on Mr. Truelocke to remarry us very privately in the little church I spoke of, he himself assisting. 'Twas a foolish fancy, I wot, but I was not easy till I had it gratified. And it is now my constant hope that Harry will never put to sea again, but will be content to plough the kindly earth and gather in her fruits, instead of furrowing the barren cruel waves; sure he has had enough of strange adventures. Yet I fear him sometimes, when little work is stirring; then he is so restless that even in his dreams he will talk of seafaring; I think, however, he will wander no more, so long as our father lives.

We get letters from Althea and her husband, at rare intervals indeed; but then they are long and ample. And it is a marvel how stiffly Althea now stands for all the points of the Quaker doctrine, which formerly she so abhorred and contemned.

Not many days since there reached me a long letter from her, in which she told me indeed a great deal of news, and also expressed a wonderful sisterly affection; but the burden of it was her disquietude because of my religious errors. She was very earnest with me upon the sin and danger of conforming to the world, in dress, and speech, and deportment.

There were things in this letter which really troubled me, so I carried it to Mr. Truelocke; and when he had read it, I asked his opinion, whether Christian folk were bound to observe such strictness as Althea now advocates and practises? at which, softly smiling, he said,—

'"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." I think thou art not far from exemplifying that pure religion in thine own life, daughter; so I trust does thy sister; but I think her not more free from world-spots than thee, because she perchance goes clad in grey, and thou in scarlet;' for I had a new red cloak and hood upon me. 'This,' he said, touching the cloak lightly, 'is no stain of scarlet sin, 'tis honest dye-stuff, Lucy.'

'It might make me vain and proud to go gaily, might it not?' I said.

'When it has that effect, child, renounce it as a snare,' he replied. 'I think thou art not over gay as yet, for a young wife, with a true-love husband to please.'

'But besides these things,' I said, 'there are others more serious. See how my sister cries out against all set forms of worship, even to the singing of hymns; and how she accounts even the outward visible forms of the two great sacraments as having something of the nature of an idol that we sinfully adore. All should be spiritual and inward, according to her, and to other Friends; and I do not myself understand how that can be.'

''Tis a great truth that they uphold,' said he musingly, 'yet I cannot see that it includes all truth. For my own share, I still hold fast to my opinions; they commend themselves to my reason as strongly as ever. I should lie, did I deny them. And yet from my very heart I agree with the Friends in prizing the spirit above the letter. And I hope, my daughter,' he went on, while a smile trembled on his lips, 'that a day will yet dawn when all Christian men shall agree so heartily as touching the deep and vital truths of their faith, that they may be content to differ as to the visible ceremonial garment that their faith may wear. But that will not be in my day, Lucy, nor, I fear much, in thine. Let us hope and pray for its coming; and let us rejoice meanwhile and give thanks for our safety here from the strife of tongues, for the peace and rest we are allowed to share in this corner of the earth; so far are we happy above many.'

And I am only too glad to obey his word, and to fare like a bird of the air that is fed by God's daily bounty, without care for the morrow. Nor will I trouble myself any more about this nice point of doctrine and that, laying on myself a burden that God never gave me. Has He not given me His own peace; and with it more of earthly bliss than ever my heart dared hope for? And were I even less happy in my lot, I ought all my life to praise Him for His hand over us for good, while we dwelt in that City of the Plague. I have heard with infinite satisfaction, how, since this cold winter weather came on, the sickness is mightily abated, and men hope it is passing away. But it hath swept off, say they, not less than a hundred thousand souls in one fatal year; and what were we, that we should escape? It is all of the Lord's goodness, and His pity to our rashness.

THE END

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