,- -- -
The Baldwin libary
AWARDED TO :--5
I V, 7
- A I
"'Yonder is the child herself carrying in a jug of water from the well,'
said Franks to himself."--p. 33.
A. L. O. E.,
AUTHORESS OF THE CLAREMONT TALES," "c BRAID OF CORDS,'
'NED FRANKS," SHEER OFF," ETC.
30 PATERNOSTER ROW.
6 GEORGE STREET.
SUCH of the readers
this little work as may have
chanced to have seen "Ned
Off," will perceive at once that the present story is
a continuation of them, though not necessarily to be
with either, as each is complete in
The same individual who is represented in
series as a godless termagant, and in
the second as a drunkard
hardly rescued from
in which she was
appears in this,
as a penitent
and a be-
trials and sore tempta-
tions, on a heavenward path.
Such instances of the
of grace over a corrupt nature and evil
habits are, thank God! to be met with in life.
who will be, we believe,
welcome and honoured
guests in the courts of heaven, will be gathered from
those who were once great wanderers on earth, and
who will be ready to own that they were unworthy
even of the portion of the dogs-the crumbs under
the Master's table.
I. TJIE TWO FRIENDS.
II. SUNSHINE. .
III. HOME IN THE QUARRY.
IV. GOOD NEWS. .
V. REFLECTIONS. .
VI. THE CLERK'S HOME.
VII. THE CASTAWAYS.
VIII. A FIRST MEETING.
IX. THE GREAT QUESTION.
X. SEEDS AND PEBBLES.
XI. NANCY'S VISIT. .
XII. EVENING VISITORS. .
XIII. BREAKING THE NEWS.
XIV. THE CONSULTATION. .
XV. AN OFFER DECLINED.
XVI. A STORM. .
XVII. IN THE ENEMY'S GRASP.
XVIII. TRIBULATION. .
XIX. THE HUSBAND'S PRAYER.
XX. THE NIGHT WATCH. .
XXI. HOPES DISAPPOINTED.
XXII. A VICTORY.
XXIII. PASSING AWAY.
XXIV. A PERILOUS PASS.
The Two Friuends
think of her not sending you the keys of the
Nancy Sands, the clerk's wife,
as she stood looking at a beautiful
little piece of
about ten minutes before
" Oh, the keys will come all in good time," replied
"My aunt would not trust them to come
in the same way as the package, she sent them by a
private hand, and Ned has gone to the town to fetch
Father will soon be back, won't
last words were addressed to a fine little
eighteen months old, whom she held in her arms, a
child, with yellow
like so many little
8 THE SILVER KEYS.
"It's a bit tantalizing to get such a cabinet
and have to wait before having a peep at what's
in it," observed Nancy Sands. "I never saw
such a pretty thing in my life, though it is so old-
fashioned. That wood is ebony, ain't it? How
finely it is carved, and inlaid with bright mother-
o'-pearl! That cabinet must have cost a great deal
"I daresay that it did when it was new," said
Persis, who, after clearing away the matting in which
the package had been carefully wrapped, had seated
herself by her window, to watch with baby for the
first sight of his father coming up the road. That
cabinet has been for more than a hundred years in
the family, and has been now left to me as a legacy
by the aunt of my mother. The very first thing
which I can remember is being shown it when I
was a very little child. Perhaps you will say just
the same thing one day, my darling," added the
mother, after her usual fashion drawing baby into
the conversation, though his share in it could not be
expected to go beyond a crow or a coo. You'll
pull out every one of the little drawers, won't you,
and jingle the silver keys?" The child's chubby
face dimpled into a smile, and he clapped his soft
little hands. If he did not understand his mother's
question, he understood well the loving tone and the
THE TWO FRIENDS. 9
loving look with which it was asked, and made what
answer he could.
"You know, I suppose, what is in the cabinet,"
"It must be nearly twenty years since I last
looked into those five small drawers," replied Persis,
"for I have not been in Cornwall, where my old
relative lived, since I was quite a young child.
There was an old letter in one of the drawers. I
remember this, for I wondered at the time why a
sheet of paper, yellow with age, should be kept in
such a beauty of a box, instead of being used to light
the fire. It did not help me then to be told that it
was a bit of the handwriting of a good tinker who
had lived two hundred years ago. You would not
be much the wiser, my little Ned, if we talked to
you about the writings of Bunyan."
"But no doubt there are other things in that
fine cabinet besides scraps of old letters," observed
Nancy, who was not disposed to value autographs
much more than the child would do.
"Oh! yes, there are other things," replied Persis;
"there are curious pieces of money, very old and so
much worn that you could scarcely make out what
had been stamped upon them; but I have a less
clear remembrance of these coins than I have of the
little bunch of silver keys on a silver ring which
THE SILVER KEYS.
opened the five drawers. The coins were old and
dull, the keys looked bright and new; little folk like
what is bright and pretty, don't they, my Ned?"
"What! was there a bunch of keys to open one
cabinet?" inquired Nancy Sands.
"Yes," replied Mrs. Franks; "each one of those
five little drawers has a separate key; what opens
one will not open another."
"And all the keys are hung on one ring," laughed
Nancy. "The man who made that cabinet must
have had a fancy for cutting out work for himself;
perhaps he sharpened a fresh knife for every slice
that he cut off the loaf of a morning. He made a
pretty job of the cabinet, however. The Queen her-
self might lock up her diamonds in it. How care-
fully it has been kept! There's not an edge of the
carving broken, not a bit of the mother-o'-pearl
started from its place, and yet the cabinet, you tell
me, is more than a hundred years old."
It has always been preserved as a family trea-
sure," said Persis. My great-aunt used to dust it
with a silk handkerchief, and the only time in my
life when I received a slap from her hand, was when
I knocked the ebony cabinet with a ninepin. You
see there a little dint that marks the place which I
hit. Ah! Ned, my boy, we must keep a sharp look
after you, or those mischievous little fingers of yours
THE TWO FRIENDS. 11
may leave, some of these days, deeper marks than
did your mother's."
"He'd not get the slap, though, if he smashed the
whole cabinet to shivers, sent the silver keys through
the window, and the precious scrap of paper into the
fire," laughed Nancy.
His father would not lift a finger on baby for all
the cabinets that ever were made!" exclaimed Persis,
fondly stroking back from her boy's fair forehead the
little cork-screw curls that clustered upon it.
"Ned Franks is not likely to hit his own child
when he never hits one of his schoolboys," observed
the clerk's wife; "and I am sure that to be drum-
ming learning into dunces from morning till night,
and managing a pack of frolicsome young cubs like
our Colme children,, must need the patience of a
saint. I am often glad that my goodman was not
chosen schoolmaster instead of your husband," con-
tinued Nancy; "you know that there was some
talk about it at the time, and I was as mad as a
March hare at Ned Franks being preferred to John
I have often heard my Ned say that your hus-
band would have made a much more learned school-
master than himself," observed Persis, seeing that
Ned was but a sailor who had been brought up at a
12 THE SILVER KEYS.
Oh! as for learning, my John is full of it down
to his finger nails!" cried Nancy. He has learning
enough for a schoolmaster, and he has patience
enough besides, for if you stirred John with a hot
poker you couldn't make him boil over."
Persis could not help laughing a little at the wife's
description of her staid, solemn husband, the clerk
of Colme; but she buried her face in baby's soft
neck, and with kisses provoked his mirth in order
to hide her own.
"But you need something else besides learning
and patience if you're to teach village cubs, or keep
them in anything like order," resumed Nancy Sands.
"Ned Franks has the knack of taming the wildest,
and make them go on what scent he will, just as a
huntsman trains his hounds; and that, too, without
a smack of the lash to make them quicken their
pace, or still their yelping."
Persis raised her head with a smile; praise of the.
husband was always sweet to the wife. I believe
that one thing which makes Ned such a favourite
with children is his lively temper," she observed;
"my husband is always so cheerful."
Your husband always is cheerful," repeated
Nancy, rather gloomily, with an emphasis on the
word your; and she added with a sigh, my poor
husband never had a chance of it."
THE TWO FRIENDS. 13
"Oh! Mrs. Sands," cried Persis quickly, "I never
thought-I never meant to say"
"No, no, child, you would not say it, even if you
thought it," interrupted Nancy, with mingled kind-
liness and bitterness in her manner; "but I know
what the world thinks-and what it says too. You
always gave your husband a happy home; he had
always a smiling wife to welcome him when he came
from his teaching, and a room decked out as neat as
a noble's, flowers in the window, and a nicely-cooked
dinner on a tablecloth white as snow; whilst I-I,"
-Nancy dropped her head on her chest, and the sigh
which finished off her sentence sounded almost like
But all is well in your home now, dear Nancy,"
said Persis. I am sure that you have acted nobly,
for you must have had difficulties, great difficulties."
She paused, for it is a delicate matter even to praise
a reformed drunkard, and such was the woman who
now sat beside the schoolmaster's wife in her bright
"iDifficulties-ay, none but the like of me know
what difficulties," muttered Mrs. Sands. I've been
a brand, indeed, plucked from the burning; you and
your husband helped to pull me out. But though
the log may be saved, there will always be a mark
left on it where the fire has scorched. Say what
14 THE SILVER KEYS.
you will, Persis Franks, there will-there must be a
mighty difference to the end of our days between
you and me."
Certainly, as regarded outward appearance, there
could scarcely have been found in the village of
Colme greater contrasts than Persis Franks and
poor Nancy Sands. The schoolmaster's wife was
always the picture of neatness, her dress might be of
the commonest print, but it was sure to look well,
for it fitted her well, and never showed a rent or a
stain. Her light brown hair, neatly braided, lay
smooth as satin over a brow that looked as if it
knew not how to frown. The tones of her voice
were sweet; and if Persis had ever need to speak a
reproof, they had more power in their softness than
the loudest chiding of a scold.
"Persis always reminds me of a pink-tipped daisy,
fresh and bright, with the sunshine upon it," had
been the description of her given by a boy to whom
she had shown motherly kindness. Ned Franks,
who from having passed his early years as a sailor,
was apt to employ sea terms, once said of his wife,
She's like the little missionary-ship that's bound,
year after year, for Labrador; '-Harmony' is her
name, and she has the figure-head of an angel!"
What wonder was it that the husband of Persis
had a lighter heart, a more cheerful face, and a
THE TWO FRIENDS. 15
merrier laugh than any other man in the village of
Nancy Sands, the clerk's wife, had a very different
appearance indeed from her friend. It was not
merely that Nancy's figure was rather low and thick-
set, or that her dress, though not dirty, was never tidy.
An accident which had maimed the right arm of the
poor woman gave a great excuse for the untidiness,
and her shape was no fault of her own. But there
was an expression of hardness, which might easily
be mistaken for ill-temper, upon Nancy's face, which
made every one on first seeing her think, "I should
not care to have much to do with that woman." There
were deep furrows over Nancy's black, beetling brows,
that told how often those brows had been knitted into
a frown. Her nose was long, her chin projected,
and Nancy had a trick of clenching her teeth and
pressing her lips tightly together, which gave a dis-
a,greeable look of dogged determination to her fea-
tures. When we add to this that Nancy had no taste
whatever in dress, but would wear a pink or yellow
rose in her small bonnet over her thick black ill-
combed hair, and would put over an ill-made gown a
shawl half worn to rags, though she had a nice one,
her husband's last wedding-day present, in her drawer
at home, I think that all must agree that the clerk's
wife, Nancy Sands, looked a contrast indeed to Persis.
THE SILVER KEYS.
It may seem strange that two women who differed
so much from each other, should yet often be found
together. The village gossips did not care to hide
their wonder at the intimacy between the two.
How Ned Franks lets that woman Nancy be so
much with his wife is what I can't make out," Bell
Stone, the carpenter's widow, would mutter to
herself, if ever she saw the stout figure of Mrs. Sands
going up to the flower-covered porch of the village
"The Franks are such decent folk themselves that
I wonder how they can take up with a woman that
was a drunkard," observed Mullins, the butcher, one
day to his wife, as they sat at their noonday meal.
"Nancy was a drunkard once, but she's reformed;
at least so folk say," was the reply.
"Fiddle-stick and nonsense!" cried the butcher,
who had himself no objection to a glass or two of
gin, especially upon club-nights. "I've no faith in
taking the pledge, and all that there humbug. No
one, no woman at least, ever gets rid of the habit
of drinking; once a drunkard, always a drunkard !"
and the oracular butcher having thus pronounced a
decided opinion, buried his unshaven lip in a pot of
foaming porter with great satisfaction.
Mullins was by no means the only person in
Colme who had comfortably settled that there was
THE TWO FRIENDS. 17
no use in Nancy's trying to break loose from the
bonds of her besetting sin. Mrs. Fuddles, the land-
lady of the "Chequers," unwilling to lose one of
her most frequent customers, had often declared her
conviction that Nancy Sands' reformation would and
could last but for a very short time.
I'll have her back as the days shorten and the
weather gets cold," said the landlady of the public-
house down near the mill. Nancy will never stand
biding at home with her old raven of a husband,
when we've the fiddle and the dance and the gay
lights here. She'll like the sound of singing and
popping of corks better a deal than his croaking !"
The days grew short, the evenings grew dark, but
Nancy Sands did not appear at the Chequers."
She'll be seen here at Christmas-time, or my
name is not Judy Fuddles," said the landlady.
Nancy was seen at Christmas-time in the church,
kneeling by the side of Persis; she was seen at the
vicar's clothing-club meeting; she was seen with
her husband, the clerk, at the feast which Sir
Claudius Leyton gave at the Hall; but she disap-
pointed the expectations of Mrs. Fuddles, she was
not seen at the Chequers."
"John Sands seems at last to have found out the
way to manage his wife," observed one of her cus-
tomers to the mortified Mrs. Fuddles.
18 THE SILVER KEYS.
"Manage his wife !" echoed the landlady in shrill
tones of scorn; "Sands can no more manage her
than I could stop the miller's wheel yonder with a
cracked wine-glass! He's a poor raven, she's a
kite or a hawk; if he so much as ruffled a feather
she'd peck out his eyes! No, it's those canting
Franks as have got hold of the woman, just to
curry favour with Sir Claudius and the old vicar."
And if the Franks did hold out a helping hand to
a poor tempted neighbour, struggling to get out of
the mire of a hateful vice, did it make them less
worthy of the respect of those who knew how
blameless their own walk through life had been?
Were their honesty and sobriety less pleasing to
their Maker because they obeyed His command to
despise no man, and did not forget the apostle's
exhortation, Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a
fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in
the spirit of meekness; considering thyself lest thou
also be tempted."* Ned was well pleased that his
Persis should, as he said, take poor Nancy in tow;"
he was well pleased that the clerk's wife, when her
husband was busy, should "drop in for a cup of tea."
Persis had a delicate way of making Nancy always
feel herself to be welcome. Mrs. Franks did not
mind accepting from her poor maimed neighbour
Gal. vi. 1.
THE TWO FRIENDS. 19
such little kindnesses as Nancy was able to offer,
nor did she refrain from stooping to ask for them.
Would Nancy kindly watch little Ned while his
parents went together to church? Would Nancy, who
knew so well all about washing, give Persis a hint
how to "get up" the pretty frilled dress which
Mrs. Curtis had brought ? Could Nancy oblige her
neighbour with her nice recipe for making strong
soup ? Such little requests as these made the clerk's
wife feel herself at home in the schoolmaster's
dwelling; it gratified her to make some return for
the constant kindness which she met there. Nancy's
happiest hours were spent in the schoolhouse; she
was proud to call Persis and Ned her friends, and
she loved their boy with a love only less than that of
his parents. Without these peaceful hours which
brought her within the influence of a Christian
woman's example, it may be feared that Nancy
would have fallen back into the slough from which
she had so painfully struggled. She required no
help in money, for her husband's salary maintained
them both; what Nancy needed was the encourag-
ing word, the kindly welcome, the feeling that there
were some besides her long-suffering husband who
hoped for her, and cared for her; and this Nancy
found in the home of the Franks.
And were not her friends in thus being pitiful
THE SILVER KEYS.
and courteous towards a once greatly erring woman,
doing God's work as truly as when Persis nursed a
sick neighbour, or Franks laboured hard at repairing
an almshouse? Yes, this was real work, though it
made no show; it was good work, though it-earned
no praise. It would have been well if Bell Stone,
Tom Mullins and the rest, who were ever raking up
the memory of sins repented of, forsaken, and for-
given, had remembered instead that charity "hopeth
all things." The Pharisee in the parable had been
far more blessed if, instead of thanking God that he
was not as the publican, he had turned to the poor
sinner who stood smiting himself on the breast, and
had whispered, Hope in the Lord, for with the
Lord there is mercy and with him is plenteous
THE conversation which had taken such a painful
turn was happily interrupted by baby Ned, who,
leaning over his mother's shoulder, had been flatten-
ing his chubby face against the window-pane on the
look-out for his father's return. Suddenly, a current
of quicksilver seemed to run through the frame of
the child, little feet, hands, head, were in a dance of
joyous excitement, and the inarticulate cry of delight
told as plainly as words could have done that his
father was in sight. The babe, in his eagerness to
meet him, was ready to spring through the window,
so that his mother could scarcely hold him. In two
minutes more the firm elastic step of Ned Franks
was heard on the staircase, and his wife, as she rose to
meet him, thought of the lines in the good old song,
His very foot has music in't,
As he comes up the stair."
It was a pleasant sight to see that meeting between
the father and his first-born, as little Ned, with out-
stretched arms, sprang into the embrace of his
parent. The sailor-schoolmaster had, some years
THE SILVER KEYS.
previously, lost his left arm by an accident, and it
had been replaced by a hook below the joint of the
elbow. Many men thus maimed would have found
dandling a child to be a difficult, perhaps a danger-
ous task;- but Franks was so clever in the manage-
ment of his hook, that both he and every one else
had almost forgotten that it was not a hand. Persis
had long ago lost the fear which she had at first felt
when she saw the maimed father dancing aloft his
tiny babe. She was rather proud of Ned's skill in
handling their child, and so, sooth to say, was Ned
himself. He had not the least difficulty now in
raising the boy on high to the full length of his own
arm and hook, the little fellow kicking and crowing
with delight, with his curly pate almost touching
"Well now, Mr. Franks, where are the silver
keys ? inquired Nancy Sands, whose hard features
had softened while she watched the baby's glee, but
whose curiosity made her a little impatient to see
the contents of the ebony cabinet.
"Ah to be sure-this boy is putting everything
else out of my head," cried Franks, shifting little Ned
to his shoulder, where the child amused himself by
pulling his father's locks, which were as curly and a
good deal thicker than his own. "Why, Persis, that
is a cabinet fit for Windsor Castle !" Franks exclaimed,
as, holding the boy firmly by his hook, he plunged
his right hand into his pocket to draw out the keys.
"But how's this; I can't find them," added the
schoolmaster of Colme, after a search, thorough, but
vain; "I am certain that I put the bunch here,
but it is as certain that it is not here now. Take
the child, Persis, my dear, I must have a hunt in the
But no hunting could bring out the keys. Persis
took the little delay occasioned by their loss with
much more patience than did her husband, who had
come home heated from a rapid walk on a summer
afternoon, and who was not a little provoked with
himself for losing his wife's silver keys.
"I daresay that you've dropt them when pull-
ing something else out of your pocket," suggested
I've not pulled anything-but yes, yes," con-
tinued Franks, correcting himself, I did pull out
my purse to give a sixpenny bit to a little girl whom
I met on the bridge."
"I thought that it was a rule not to give to
beggars," said Nancy.
"Oh! but all rules have exceptions you know,"
answered Franks. "This beggar was a woe-begone
little creature, with one of her feet looking through
the end of her shoe; and she told me such a pitiful
24 THE SILVER KEYS.
tale of her mother being dead, and her father out of
work, and her granddad sick and like to die, that I
really could not help giving."
"Had the girl a squint ?" asked Nancy quickly.
"Not exactly a squint," replied Ned, but her
right eye goes a little too far on the right tack, and
the other on the left, so that one does not exactly
make out which eye looks at one, if either, or neither,
or both. The girl is otherwise rather pretty, and in
spite of the hole in her shoes does not look just like
a common beggar."
"I know her, I know her," said Nancy Sands in
her dogged, determined manner, "you had better
have tossed your sixpence into the sea, than have
given it to little Dell Thorns. If her father be out
of work-which I doubt-it's because Hugh likes
to get money in any way rather than by honest
labour. Hugh Thorns is the greatest ruffian unhung.
He has been at least twice in prison; once for
poaching, once for nigh killing a man in a prize-
fight, for he is as strong and as fierce as a bear.
He was once tried for a burglary too, but got off
scot-free--more's the pity; the lawyers got him off
somehow, but every one thought that the man was
guilty of the housebreaking, and a great deal more
I pity the child of such a father," said Franks.
"Is it true that she has no mother?" asked
"Poor Delilah died some years ago," answered
Nancy;" folk say that Hugh shortened her life by
a kick which he gave her. Then he handed over
his wretched little child to some showman going
about the country, who was to make a dancing-girl
of her, trick her out in gauze and tinsel, teach her
to jump through hoops, run along ropes, and twirl
round and round like a tee-totum."
"Poor little thing !" murmured Persis.
"The old man, her grandfather, did all that he
could to prevent her going, I've heard," continued
Nancy, "but he wasted his breath, for Hugh never
cared a straw for the wishes of his father. But the
old man had his will after all, though not in the
way he'd have chosen, for Dell sprained herself in
some difficult jump, and so the playman could make
no more gain by her, and returned her upon her
father's hands like a spoilt bit of goods."
"Perhaps that was well for the poor little girl,"
May be, if she had had anything like a decent
home to go back to," said Nancy. "I fancy that
Dell lives with her grandfather, at least he had a
cottage somewhere by the quarry, scarce half-a-mile
from the bridge."
THE SILVER KEYS.
What sort of man is the elder Thorns ?" inquired
"I never heard any harm of him, nor any good
neither," answered Nancy. "I've a notion that he's
paralysed, or bedridden, or something of the sort.
He never could take care of the child; no doubt she
grows up like a weed."
"I think that I can tell now why I lost the keys,"
said Franks, wiping his heated brow. My con-
science told me to go with that child to her home,
and see if what she said about her granddad were
true, and may be speak a few words of comfort to
the poor old man if it were so. But I was in such
a precious hurry to get home with the keys, that I
pulled out my sixpenny piece as a sop to my con-
science. I have no doubt that I pulled out the keys
with it, and as little doubt that Dell picked them
up, for I chanced to look round as I crossed the
bridge, to have another look at the girl, and I
saw her stooping to pick up something from the
"She was an ungrateful monkey not to run after
you with your keys," remarked Nancy.
What can one expect from a child brought up
as she has been," observed Persis, pressing her boy
closer to her heart, and thinking what a different
father his was from poor little Dell's. But, Ned,
where are you going?" she added abruptly, as her
husband took up the cap which he had laid down
on the table, and putting it over his curly head,
seemed about to quit the room.
I am going to get back what I have lost in such a
lubberly way," said the sailor-schoolmaster, opening
"Oh! stop, do stop, you are heated and tired,"
cried his wife. "The bridge must be nearly two
miles off, the cabinet will wait quietly enough."
"Ay, and if I were made of wood like the
cabinet, so would I," interrupted Franks playfully;
"but as you see, I am not. I and my scholars will
not have another half-holiday till Saturday comes
round again, and as for keeping wife waiting a
whole week for her keys, I'd not do it if the old
bridge were ten miles off instead of two." And
nodding a goodbye to the baby, who, with out-
stretched arms and inarticulate sounds, seemed to
entreat him to stay, Ned Franks quitted the room.
Lightly the sailor-schoolmaster retraced his steps
along the road, he was not the kind of man to be
put out by a trifle. Persis might well say that her
husband was always cheerful. There are some
persons, who, however they may be loaded with
blessings, never seem to know that they are so.
They are always on the look-out for the smallest
28 THE SILVER KEYS.
cloud in the sky; and if they cannot find troubles,
they make them. There is a wide difference, though
one often overlooked, between having blessings and
being blessed; much resembling that between having
food, without or with an appetite to enjoy it. Ned
Franks was not a thankless receiver of the bounties
of Providence. He was not only rich in home joys,
but was thoroughly conscious of being so. Franks
thought himself ten times happier than he had
expected to be, and a hundred times happier than he
had ever deserved to be, and he enjoyed his blessings
with a heart that overflowed with thankfulness to-
wards the Great Giver of all.
There are other persons, often very well-meaning
Christians, who appear afraid to be happy; who
deem it to be scarcely consistent with piety to look
upon earth as anything better than a valley of tears,
and who fear to offend a jealous God by enjoying
what He bestows. Such was not Franks' view of
religion. With him it was as naturally connected
with joy, as is sunshine with light. He regarded
his Creator as a merciful, reconciled Father, and felt
much the same simple, trustful, joyous delight in a
sense of His presence as Ned's little child might feel
in his own. Franks realized that he had been brought
nigh, very nigh, to God by the Saviour's death on
the cross, therefore there was no fear in his love.
The schoolmaster might
have taken for his motto
through life, I will run in the way of Thy com-
mandments when Thou hast enlarged my heart." *
Ned was by nature ardent and impetuous, and must
have been "a running Christian," if a Christian at
all. He could not serve, love, or rejoice in a languid
half-hearted way. And so the light of the humble
schoolmaster of Colme shone very brightly indeed,
and served not only to guide but to attract those
who beheld it. The children whom he taught, the
neighbours whom he conversed with, were drawn
towards the religion of a man whose religion
evidently helped to make him so happy.
"Does it not just cheer one up to hear Ned
Franks leading the children in his favourite hymn,"
observed Nancy Sands one day to
her husband, the
" Lift up your heart, lift up your voice,
Rejoice, again I say,- rejoice! "
" I shall never
out thinking of
not singing it
hear those lines or
Him; I've a notion
aloud, he's singing
that tune with-
that when he is
it still in his
See the exquisite chapter on this verse in the Rev. P. B.
Powers' I WILLS of the Psalms.
30 THE SILVER KEYS.
om e in the Quarry.
WITHIN half-an-hour Ned Franks had reached the
grey one-arched stone bridge on which he had met
"Which way shall I steer now ?" thought the
sailor; "yonder lies the town of B straight
ahead, but Nancy said something about a quarry,
-and I'm not likely to find one in the midst of the
houses, though some of the houses, no doubt, were
built of stones found in the quarry. The sun, hot
as it is, has not dried up all the rain that fell in the
forenoon, may be I'll find some trace of footsteps to
As Franks said this to himself, he looked over
the low parapet of the bridge, towards a rough path,
so little marked that it was apparently not much
used. This path led first downwards, towards the
stream which flowed under the bridge, and then to
the left, through low-lying fields, in a direction
opposite to that in which lay the town at the dis-
tance of about half-a-mile. There was much clay in
the soil in these parts, so that the rough pathway
HOME IN THE QUARRY. 31
would retain prints of footsteps, at any rate after
being moistened by rain. Franks turned down from
the bridge, and descended towards a row of pollard
willows which at this place bordered the stream.
"Here are footprints in the clay, sure enough,"
remarked Franks, and they must be Dell's, for I
can see traces where the little foot came through
the old shoe. What a slim little foot it is! I'm on
the right tack now; I've but to follow this path, and
I'll soon find the cottage I'm bound for."
It was not quite so easy to do so as Franks had
expected. The path did not run by the stream, nor
continue long to lead through the fields; it struck
away into a very wild stony district of land, too
barren for cultivation, and in which not a dwelling
was to be seen. The ground was quite new to
Franks, for though he had often walked from Colme
to the town, he had never before had any cause to
turn aside from the straight highroad which con-
nected the places. The path which he now followed
could soon scarcely be traced, for the quarry to
which it led had long ago been almost exhausted,
and there being a brick-field nearer to B no
stone had been carried away for building purposes
for many a year.
"I can't have steered right after all," thought
Franks, pausing to look around him; "this path
THE SILVER KEYS.
seems to lead to nothing, and if any folk live in this
wild barren place it must be under ground, for I
can't see before me the sign of a cottage. Ah!
there yonder, just over that clump of furze, there's
something that looks like smoke from a chimney,
though the chimney itself is not to be seen. I'll
bear down in that direction."
Ned had not gone far over the rough broken
ground, when he came rather suddenly on the edge
of an old quarry, from which had been taken all the
stone which had been used in building the church
of B But it must have been fifty years at
least since blocks had been quarried, or the noise of
blasting been heard in that place. Stonecrop and
other plants of the kind that love a rocky home, had
nestled undisturbed in many a corner and cleft
where once the pickaxe had struck. Rough masses
of stone lay here and there, half-covered with moss
and lichen. Franks looked down on the dwelling
from which rose the smoke which had guided him
to the place. The cottage, or rather hut, had been
formed of rough-hewn stones and rubbish, rudely
built up against the side of the pit. The dwelling
had probably been used to shelter the quarrymen
when at work down in the pit; and a well, which
was but a few yards from the building, had doubt-
less been made for their convenience. The hut had
HOME IN THE QUARRY.
been so rudely constructed of
hand, and was now so weather-stained and discoloured
with lichen, that it looked
rather like a part of
quarry itself, than a habitation of men.
"There can be no doubt that I have
yonder is the
of water from the well,"
I'll be to have a draught
after my cruise in the
heat of the sun.
little lass! he called out to the child, who, startled
by his voice, looked up, and then, instead of obeying
his call, darted into the stone-built building.
"She has gone like one of the wild conies into its
rocky hole," observed Franks ;
"but it's easy enough
her there, as there can be no back
from that burrow."
Springing down what could scarcely be
path, zig-zagging down the steep side of the quarry,
the former sailor
himself at the
door of what looked as
much like a cave as a
The door itself was of
oak, and as Franks
had not only a latch, but a strong iron
Ned tapped at the
door, and a feeble voice
He had to bend
form as he did
so, for the doorway was low.
the appearance of
34 THE SILVER KEYS.
inside of the dwelling was that of poverty and dis-
comfort. Being built down in a pit, and against its
side, there could, of course, be no free circulation of
air in the hut, and on that hot day the place felt
stifling, so that Franks, heated with his quick walk,
thought that he could hardly bear to remain within
for ten minutes. The cottage was untidy and dirty,
and this was enough to make it seem a wretched
place to Franks, who, on board a man-of-war, and
afterwards in his own home, had been accustomed
to have everything around him perfectly neat and
spotlessly clean. The bed, in which lay an old man
with long grey hair and beard, looked as if it had
not been made for weeks, and all sorts of scraps and
rubbish littered the stony floor.
But the quick glance of Franks soon showed him
that though there might be dirt and discomfort
in the hut of old Thorns, there was certainly no
pressing want of the necessaries of life. Half a side
of bacon was suspended from a hook in the ceiling,
and from the iron pot on the fire came a savoury
scent which mixed with, though it could not over-
power, other less pleasant odours. Over the fire-
place appeared a gun and a bludgeon, a powder-flask,
and some pipes with smoke-blackened bowls. There
had been no attempt to ornament any part of the
cottage, except on one side, which was partly papered
HOME IN THE QUARRY.
with what seemed to be coarse
fighters, and pictures of scenes of
prints of prize-
could, however, scarcely make out their
had been Franks'
when he entered the hut; "this is a
disreputable place," was his second reflection.
"I hope that you won't mind a stranger's coming,"
said the sailor-schoolmaster, courteously raising
cap, and addressing the old man, who
what surprised to
"I think that your
little lass here may have picked up a bunch of keys
Ned turned as he spoke towards
Dell, who looked frightened, and seemed
keys ?" he inquired of the child.
I've not," replied Dell,
step, her peculiar eyes appearing to look for a place
of escape, at once to'the right hand and the left.
"Don't you be a-telling lies," said the bearded old
man from the bed; "you knows as well as I does
that the keys be ahind yon pewter pot on the table."
Dell showed no sign of shame at being
in falsehood, but watched the stranger as he stepped
forward and possessed himself of the bright
THE SILVER KEYS.
"I am sorry, my child, that you should have said
what was untrue," said Franks, gravely but kindly.
She knows no better, sir; how should she when
there's no one to larn her," said the old bed-ridden
man. "You be the first un as has come in through
that door since her mother was carried out to be
buried,-save Hugh and his pals, on course," he
"You seem to be ill, my friend," said Franks,
going up to the bedside.
"I be paralysed, sir," was the reply; "I han't
been off this here bed for many a year, and I can't
so much as turn on it without help." The poor old
man ended with a groan.
"And does no one ever come to see and cheer
you ?" asked Ned.
"Never a one," answered Thors. "I'm mighty
glad to see you; for it's weary work lying in this
here dark hole year after year, and never hearing
so much as a bless you.'"
Franks thought that it must be wearisome indeed
to lie buried alive in that stifling den, with no
society but that of Dell and her worthless father.
The place was so solitary and so unattractive that
it was little matter for surprise that no respectable
person should visit the hut in the quarry.
NED FRANKS was one soon to make friends,
cially with the young; no child could be for
minutes under the influence of his cheery voice and
at Ned's request, brought
him water to drink;
the visitor, seated
on a three-legged stool near the bed,
her grandfather, Dell stood leaning
rough wall, watching him with curious
if he were a strange creature of
a different species
from any that she 1
sad life. Ned found
fectly clear as far
iad yet met with in
as his knowledge
was a very ignorant man.
of old Thors per-
went, but he
evidently so glad to have any visitor to talk to, that
Ned had not the heart to leave
him to his lonely
without speaking to him a few
kindness and comfort that might rest with
effect on the memory of the much afflicted old man.
Intent on his errand of
Ned soon half
forgot the closeness and heat of the hut.
P P",) tv s,
THE SILVER KEYS.
"You never see a clergyman here, I suppose?"
inquired Franks, after listening for a while to old
Thorns' description of his illness, the deadness of
his lower limbs, the length of time that had passed
since he had been able so much as to put a foot to
"It's not like as a parson would ever come here,
I take it," replied the paralytic, with a glance at the
gun and the bludgeon over the fireplace. Franks
noticed that Dell looked inclined to titter, as if the
visitor had asked the oddest of questions.
"Used you to go to church when you were
strong and hearty?" inquired the sailor, desirous to
find out whether there were any previous knowledge
of religion on which he could work.
"Go to church," repeated old Thorns, with a
dreamy look in his dim eyes, as if he were recalling
a time so long past as to be almost beyond the
reach of memory; "oh! ay, sir, many and many .a
year ago, afore I'd a grey hair in my head, I'd a
master who made all his men go to church, and
then I went regular. I never missed a Sunday, that
I knows of, without being at church."
"And do you remember anything of what you
heard there?" said Franks in a kindly tone, that
made it impossible to take offence at the question.
"How could I; it's not like I should after all
these long years. I mind me that the parson spoke
fine, but I'se never was lamed; I didn't make out
his meaning then, and all he
said went out of
believe there be a great God
continued the old man, speaking
earnestly at his
tries to say to myself,
I can never
beginning to end."
Then," thought Franks,
it all from
"Satan has not carried
off all the
fell on the ignorant
of this poor fellow,
there were one or two
also that there
is a heaven
for souls after death ?"
"Yes, sure, there be that place for the good, and
t'other place for the bad," replied Thorns.
"And may I ask how you hope to get to heaven?"
said Franks, anxious to find out whether the sick
man had any clear idea of the only means
did not at once reply to the
Dell, who had been listening wonderingly
to a conversation so unlike any
THE SILVER KEYS.
before had heard, seated herself on the floor opposite
Franks, clasping her knees with her hands, and
silently watching his countenance.
At last the old man's answer came slowly forth-
"I be not good enough for the one place, sir, and
not bad enough for t'other. Ain't there some
middle place for poor unlarned folk like me?"
The question was earnestly, anxiously put, and
Franks felt how solemn a thing it is to deal with
an immortal soul, especially a soul that was
evidently drawing near to eternity, with scarcely
the faintest gleam of spiritual light. "Such ques-
tions as these, my friend," said Franks, "are best
answered out of God's own Word. Would you like
me to read a little to you now?"
"Sure, sir, I'd be glad to hear ye read," was the
"Have you a Bible here?" inquired Franks,
glancing around the dirty untidy hut, with but slight
hope of finding a copy of the Scriptures within it.
"Yes, there be one somewhere about. Dell, get
the Bible," said the old man, glancing up at a shelf
as he spoke. But on that shelf, amidst dusty old
crockery, bottles, and rags, nothing like a book was
to be seen.
Dell pointed downwards. There be an old book
under the leg of the bed," said the child.
"Who put it there ?"
old man angrily.
"I put it there, 'cause the leg was broken.
of use to nobody,"
down on his
knees, and with some
difficulty drew out the Bible, replacing it by a piece
volume was cover
he found lyi
d with dust,
one of its
side-boards and many of its leaves.
as best he could,
the dust from
seat with the observation,
knew what a treasure this
not leave it so long neglected."
but an unlarned man, I never could read
but a little," said Thors; "I'd just spell out a word
here and there, and there was never no one to ex-
plain what it meant to a poor fellow like me."
"To the poor the Gospel has been preached from
the first," observed Franks;
be specially dear.
iat the word GOSPEL
"it seems as if to them
Do you know,
"I can't say as I does," replied Thorns.
"Gospel means good
is a message from God to make glad
hearts of us poor sinners.
If you were to receive a
the Queen, telling you that she was
coming herself some day to take you from this
THE SILVER KEYS.
cottage to live with her in her royal palace, with
every comfort and pleasure that heart could wish,
would you not care so much as to read her letter,
would you throw it aside into any corner, and let
it be covered with dust?"-Franks glanced as he
spoke at the torn soiled Bible which he held in his
Dell opened her eyes wide at the new and strange
question; and Thorns replied, "Sure, sir, even Hugh
would set great store by a letter from the Queen;
he'd maybe have it framed and hung on the wall;
and I'll be bound wouldd be read till all of us
knew it by heart."
"But the Queen wouldn't be sending a letter
folk like we," muttered Dell, "or want to have
anywhere near her."
"The King of kings has sent such a letter,
invite to His home the poorest of us all," sa
Franks; and reverentially opening the holy volun
he read aloud the single verse, God so loved i
world that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but
have everlasting life. This is the Gospel message,"
said Franks, looking up from the page, "tbiese are
the glad tidings which made angels sing Glory to
God in the highest,-and on earth peace, goodwill
towards men. Is it not strange that we, to whom
not care even to
I don't make out what message there be for me,"
said the poor man sadly.
" I might
about these things when I was young, but now I'm
old-my life's nigh over.
I'll soon die
, and be put
will not die !"
body must sleep awhile
in the dust; but the soul
-the immortal soul, the part which hopes, believes,
and loves-death has
no power over that.
Gospel tells us the way by which our souls may live
in peace and joy
and glory for millions and millions
of years, more years than there are blades of grass
on the earth, or water-drops in the
Gospel which shows this way to
news indeed !"
"And what is this way ?"
asked Thors, with the
simple earnestness of a child.
Franks, in such plain language as he would have
used in speaking to a child, then told of
is the Way,
the Truth, and the
the desolate old man of
and was able
his sins, and to take him to joy
The visitor then read from the Bible
a few more verses, very few,
THE SILVER KEYS.
Thonms could scarcely receive more than one idea at
"Gospel-good news-good news!" murmured
the old man in a low tone to himself, as Franks
closed the Bible and rose to depart. The paralytic
seemed seeking to press down the words into his
own memory, that memory which could with
difficulty retain any new impression. Then, looking
up again with an anxious wistful gaze into the
kindly face of Ned Franks, he said, "Oh sir, come
again, and come soon; my time is short, and I've no
one to tell me of these things but you!"
"I am afraid that I cannot promise to come very
soon," replied Franks; "I am schoolmaster at
Colme, and it is not on every day in the week that I
have time to come so far for a visit."
But you will come again-you will come again,"
repeated the paralytic in a feeble pleading voice;
" I won't trouble any one long. It's a blessed word
that as you spoke, Gospel-good news-good news.
Dell, you mind me of it if I forget it."
Franks bent down, pressed the withered trem-
bling hand which lay on the ragged quilt of the
bed, and promised not to be long of returning. He
then patted Dell kindly on the shoulder, bade her
take good care of her grandfather, and told her that
he would bring her, when he came, a nice piece of
features lighted up with an expression
which was strange to them; it was not so much
that the visitor's promise
pleased her, as that his
gentle tone and kindly manner were opening
of joy a heart which was
for lack of those human affections which
young as dew to the tender herb.
are to the
Franks drew a long gasping
as he passed
through the low doorway into the open air, from
the hot close atmosphere of the cottage,
the scent of stale tobacco and gin, an
which no pure breeze of heaven evei
He could scarcely breathe freely till he h
side of the
it is cleal
enough to me why I dropped
steps towards his home;
that brought me to this 1
"it was no mere chance
)lace. The Master knew
as he rapidly retraced his
U P, fU jo f *1 ou S+
THE SILVER KEYS.
that there was a poor thirsting soul down in that
pit, and sent His servant to carry a drop of cold
water to the ignorant and afflicted."
After passing the bridge, Franks somewhat slack-
ened his pace, for he was now tired. As he pursued
his way along the high road to Colme, his mind
turned again to the subject of the keys; he regarded
them now as a kind of emblem or type.
That poor old Thors has the treasure of a Bible
in his possession, within reach of his hand; he has
probably had it from his boyhood, but it has been
to him as a locked-up treasure, he has lacked a key
to open to him the meaning even of the simplest
words. The holy Book has been a shut-up posses-
sion, like the beautiful cabinet left to my wife; it is
before him, it is his own, he wants to know what is
in it, but the silver keys are missing. And if the
Lord has put it into the power even of a man such
as myself, with little knowledge and skill, to open
out the meaning of some part of Scripture, the
simplest part indeed, but that which holds a price-
less treasure, shall I keep back the keys? Shall I
leave a poor ignorant brother to die poor, when his
soul might be satisfied with such riches?" The
heart as well as the conscience of Franks answered
"No to the question.
Then came counting the cost. "It will take up
more time than I can well spare if I go on this
cruise often," thought the schoolmaster bf Colme.
My Saturday afternoons, and the hours on Sunday
between church services, are pretty nearly all the
time that I can call my own, and these I always
give to home enjoyment. I need them to freshen
me up after the wear and tear of the week. It
would be something of a sacrifice to go off to that
hot close den in the quarry, instead of sitting with
Persis under the hawthorn, listening to her singing,
or having a romp with our boy. Yes, it would be
something of a sacrifice both to my wife and to me.
But one can't go always on the right course with a
pleasant breeze filling one's sails; if we go only
where inclination blows us, we are certain to strike
on a rock. The religion that never makes a man do
something that he dislikes, or give up something
which he values, call it by what name we may, is
not the religion of the Cross. As for my visiting
poor Thors, I must talk to my wifie about it."
As Franks, near the end of his walk, came opposite
to the church of Colme, he saw the figure of Nancy
Sands coming out of the vestry door. The clerk's
wife had for the last three months been given the
occupation of keeping the church clean and neat, an
occupation in which the reclaimed drunkard took
great pride and pleasure, though her maimed ondi-
THE SILVER KEYS.
tion obliged her to do her work very slowly indeed.
Half a day's labour now did not accomplish more
than a single hour's would have done when Nancy
was noted as the strongest and most active woman
in Colme. But Mrs. Sands had abundant time to
give to her work, and what to others might have
been tedious, was a pleasant employment to her.
Stop a bit, Mr. Franks, till I lock this door,"
cried Nancy, as she caught sight of Ned; "I'll walk
to the schoolhouse with you, for I must be present
when the cabinet's opened, and I see that you've
found the bunch of bright keys. I've just been
finishing dusting the cushions for Sunday," Nancy
continued, as she walked on by the schoolmaster's
side; "I was all the morning in the church, as I
always am on Saturdays; on most of the other week-
days I do a bit of the cleaning besides."
"You seem to spend half your time in the church;
and I never saw it look nicer than since you've had
care of it, Nancy," said Franks.
The clerk's wife flushed with pleasure, and she
swung to and fro, like a pendulum, the great iron
key which she carried hooked on her finger.
"There is some difference in size between your
key and these," observed Franks with a smile, hold-
ing up his small glittering bunch, dangling from
their bright silver ring.
"I would not exchange the plain iron church
key for any keys of silver or of gold," replied
Nancy, who felt a great increase of personal dignity
from having it entrusted to her care. No one but
John and myself has a right to touch it, and I would
not give it up to a stranger,-no, not for a ten-pound
note. Oh! Mr. Franks, it was a happy day for me
when Mrs. Curtis told me that the vicar would let
me have the cleaning of the church! I am sure that
but for her I should never have been chosen for the
Franks had no doubt whatever on the subject.
He knew that the vicar had needed a good deal of
his wife's mild persuasion before consenting to em-
ploy Nancy Sands, unfitted as she was by her acci-
dent for much work, and degraded as she had once
been by a habit of indulging in strong drink. Franks
himself had been consulted by the clergyman as to
Nancy's fitness for the trust, and his hearty testimony
as to the sincerity of her reformation had chiefly
induced the vicar to comply with Mrs. Curtis' earn-
"If Mrs. Sands is really now sober and steady, I
am satisfied," had been the vicar's remark; "as for
her being maimed," he had added, with a smile to
the sailor-schoolmaster, who laboured under a similar
disadvantage, "you have shown us that there are
THE SILVER KEYS.
some who, strong in good will and a brave heart, can
do more work with one hand than others can manage
I'll not soon forget that day," continued Nancy
to Franks. "I was sitting in my little parlour all
alone (for John was attending a funeral) and sad-
for I had only dismal thoughts to keep me company
while he was away. I so missed the work I'd been
used to! I thought on the days when the lines in
my yard had been covered with linens and muslins
white as the snow, and dresses of pretty bright colours
between, waving gently to and fro as the drying wind
moved them. I could not wash now, I could earn
nothing now, I could not so much as darn my poor
John's stockings, all I could do was to tidy his home,
but that, of course, brought in not a penny. As I
was sitting all alone, as I said, who should come but
Mrs. Curtis, looking as if she brought some good
news, and shared herself in the pleasure they would
give. Scarce had she sat down by the fire when she
said, 'Nancy Sands, how beautifully neat your room
looks, and I see that you have flowers now in the
"'I've plenty of time to look after them now,'
answered I; and I think that I sighed, for my heart
was heavy enough.
"'Do you think that, now that Mr.s Doyle is going
away, you could take
asked the lady.
jump at the offer?"
smiling at the recollection.
have done work in the church
" I'd have been glad to
h for nothing, I would,
for was not the getting
parson could trust me?
Last year he'd as soon have
given charge of
the key to
or a felon as to
poor John's wife."
Nancy sighed as she
uttered the last sentence,
the humiliating, degrading state from
which she lately had risen.
"Mr. Curtis has never had reason to regret having
trusted you," observed Franks.
"And never shall!"
mence; I'll shame all the spiteful wretches as said
that he would.
Bell Stone-maybe she had
hoped for the place herself-it's
bitter, cruel things she said! SI
he declared that if I
had care of
the church, folk would
be able to write
hymn-books, and that after a visit to the 'Chequers'
I never go
I'd forget to lock the
or I'd lose the key,
and that it
well that Mr. Curtis
keeps the church plate at the
Ah! she said all that-and worse,-the
backbiting, spiteful "
THE SILVER KEYS.
"Softly, softly, my friend," said Ned Franks, as
Nancy's voice and temper were rising; "whatever
others may say or do against us, are we not, as
Christians, bound to forgive as we have been
"It is not easy to forget though," muttered Nancy,
who was warm and passionate by nature.
It is by no means easy," replied Franks; indeed
without God's help it is impossible. But I often
think of those words of Hezekiah, Thou hast cast
all my sins behind Thy back; that means, I should
think, that though God cannot actually lose remem-
brance of anything that has happened since the
beginning, He yet puts, as it were, our sins where
He never looks at them more, behind His back, not
before His eyes. They are to Him as if they had
never been. This is the way in which our God
forgives, and, as we may say, forgets; and this is
the way in which we must also forgive; we must
try to put our wrongs out of sight, we must cast
them behind us."
"As you did, Ned Franks, as you did, or I should
never have been here this day!" exclaimed Nancy,
who had owed her preservation from death by drown-
ing to the man now at her side, whom in her evil
days she had hated, abused, and slandered. The
remembrance of her own sin had the natural effect
THE CLERK'S HOME.
Nancy less severe on that of
is closely linked
spirit softened even towards
wife entered the schoolmaster's dwelling.
THE ebony cabinet was duly opened with
keys, baby Ned
showing as lively an interest in the
matter as did his parents.
Nancy, who was present
when the little drawers were unlocked, one after
another, described their contents to her husband as
the Sands sat together at supper in the evening.
is not so pretty as that of
Franks, though now it is as clean, and almost as
comfortable. A large almanack on one wall, and a
map on the other,
both framed in black
yellow from age, are seen instead of coloured pictures
on Scriptural subjects, with which Franks has adorned
his bright little parlour.
The clerk, John
Sands, himself might almost
described as parchment framed in black.
no colour at all about
54 THE SILVER KEYS.
cropped hair is as black as the fur of a beaver, and,
at a distance, looks like a cap of such heavy material,
surmounting a pale, but now placid face. Sands
has none of the brightness, the almost boyish joyous-
ness of Ned Franks. A laugh would sound as
strange from the lips of the clerk as a grumble
from those of the sailor-schoolmaster. John gravely,
soberly, and steadily performs all his duties, always,
however, appearing most at home when assisting at
a funeral service. Yet John Sands is now happy,
as far as a naturally sombre disposition allows him
to be so. Not a day passes without the clerk's
silently thanking God from the depth of a grateful
heart, for the wondrous change in his wife. He
had loved her long and faithfully in her youth, she
had been the only woman whom John had ever cared
for, and he had never ceased to love her even when
she had been most unworthy of his affection. If
John Sands had been weighed it would have been
found that the clerk had gained several pounds of
flesh during the last six months of domestic comfort
and peace; and were it possible to weigh the spirits,
how much lighter would have been found the heart
of the once much-enduring man!
John's manner towards his wife is very unlike that
of Ned towards Persis, for it always conveys an
impression that the meek quiet clerk is a little
THE CLERK'S HOME.
afraid of his wife ;
true faithful love
but there is a great
couple than the world gives
them credit for feeling,
and much more of real happiness in their home than
even those who know them best would readily believe.
"Yes, John, I was at the opening of the ebony
cabinet," said Nancy, as she held out her plate for a
slice of cheese,
who chanced*to come in
with a box of ninepins for
"And were the contents
of much value ?"
the clerk, in the slow measured accents with which
he spoke in
private conversation as well as in lead-
ing the responses in church.
"Well, I suppose of value to
very little value to any one else," was Nancy's reply.
"I had expected to see jewels, old-fashioned
spoons and forks, and that sort of
was nothing of the sort, and (save one coin, battered
and bent) not a bit of
gold in one of
There were packets of family letters, neatly
tied up with narrow ribbon, and about a dozen tiny
of hair, all labelled
kissed two of
with names and dates.
with tears in her eyes;
belikes they were treasures to her."
"Perhaps the hair
said the clerk.
of her father
THE SILVER KEYS,
What took Franks' fancy most of all was a little
picture no bigger than a crown-piece, a likeness of
Persis' great-grandmother," continued Nancy. "A
pretty old-fashioned picture it is, and, barring the
way of dressing the hair, as like to Persis herself as
any picture could be. You should have seen Franks'
delight when, on his showing it to baby Ned, the
child kissed it and said 'Mamma,' nigh the only
word he can say, for he's slow with his tongue,
though quick in everything else. Mrs. Curtis, too,
was a good deal taken with the picture, and spoke
about family likenesses, after her own way of finding
out some lesson to be learned from everything under
What did she say ?" asked the clerk.
"When I observed how strange it is that features
should go down from generation to generation, so
that a child often has a likeness to some relation
who died a hundred years ago, Mrs. Curtis spoke
about Christians bearing the likeness of One whom
they never have seen, a likeness, indeed, dim and
blurred here, but which will be plainly seen in
another world, when the spirits of the just are made
perfect. Then Franks, who knows his Bible so well,
quoted the verse, When He shall appear we shall be
like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."
Sands silently nodded his head.
THE CLERK'S HOME.
"There were a good
"They were all of copper but one, and that one
at for a long time,
that had been stamped
She said that they
they'd no more meaning
very curious, but to
than if they'd
a hen in the sand.
it, than an old
bent bit of a
coin like that."
"But the learned might not be of
your mind, my
dear," said the clerk.
"What the lady and the Franks looked at longest
was an old old letter which
Bunyan," Nancy went on.
"What! by the author of the 'Pilgrim's Progress'?"
said the clerk.
"So said Persis Franks," answered Nancy.
letter had been written ages ago to some relation of
her own, who had been kind to Bunyan's poor blind
her father was in prison.
not much in the letter but thanks and a
but I could see that it was more valued by
and the Franks than if that yellow bit
paper had been a bank-note."
THE SILVER KEYS.
John nodded his head, as if to say, I should so
have valued it too."
"Perhaps Mrs. Curtis saw that I wondered a bit
at a short letter like that being thought so much
of," continued Nancy, for she spoke to me about
St. Paul's likening the early Christians to epistles or
letters of Christ, written by the Spirit of God."
"That text is in the third chapter of Second
Corinthians," said John, who had a fine memory for
chapter and verse.
"The lady said that this is a thought which
should both humble and cheer God's people: humble
them, because of how little worth is the piece of
paper on which a letter is written; cheer, because
what an honour it is that the world should be able
to read in their lives a message from Christ their
"I wish that I had heard Mrs. Curtis," said John.
"I wish that you had," Nancy rejoined, "for you
would have made out the lady's meaning, and
remembered her words much better than I can.
Mrs. Curtis said, I know, that in every true Chris-
tian's conduct we should read clearly these two
Scripture texts, The love of Christ constraineth; and
The path of the just is as the shining light, that
shineth more and more unto the perfect day. I
could not help looking at Persis Franks and her
THE CLERK'S HOME.
husband, for, thought I, 'The dullest
those words written on you both.' "
There was again John's silent nod of assent.
features working with emotion as she spoke, "if
am an epistle
it is this,
death of a sinner."
"My dear, you
her husband tenderly.
"And on your life, John," continued Nancy with
a trembling lip, as
"on your life
I full into the face
has been written, j
patience have its
another man in the world that would have had
patience with me that you had !'
" You have strange
thoughts, my dear,"
John, who was much touched
"I have plenty of time
Nancy; even when I'm busy in cleaning the church.
I dust your desk, John, says I to myself,
many and many a Sunday my poor John has
stood here, and given
out the hymns,
'Amen' to the
sore, afraid to think where
his wife might be at the
60 THE SILVER KEYS.
"Let's forget all that," said her husband.
"And now," continued Nancy, disregarding the
interruption, "now, thinks I, here am I, almost as
much a bit of the church as the clerk himself, for
don't we keep the key between us ?" -Nancy
glanced almost proudly at the iron key hung up on
the wall. "If the Queen herself were to wish to
see the church, is not we as would let her in ?"
There was the faintest possible approach to a
smile on the lips of the clerk of Colme.
"I often repeat to myself," said Nancy, "that
verse which seems just to suit me, I would rather
be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to
dwell in the tents of wickedness. It's a great honour
to have one's work in the church, though it be but
to wash or sweep it. The vicar serves his Master
there, standing up and speaking aloud from his
pulpit; and you too serve in your way; and a poor
sinner like me can serve too, John, but quietly,
silently, when no one is by, and often down on my
"My dear began John Sands, but whatever
he might have intended to say to his wife he did not
say; he gave a little husky cough, rose, and walked
to the window.
his wife were
preceding conversation in their little room, Persis and
her husband were talking
Ned was still called) lay fast
on a sofa beside them.
That sofa, simple and almost
rude as it was in construction, was the masterpiece
ingenuity, and was universally acknow-
ledged to be a wonderful specimen of art, considering
that it had been made by a carpenter, self-taught,
who had only one arm and a hook to work with.
lining part had
polished by the clever fingers of Persis.
cushioned, exquisitely-carved sofa at 1
the Great Ex-
had been so much admired or
this homely piece of furniture, with its green chintz
cover dotted with rosebuds, on which
Ned Franks, in his own animated
to his wife his visit to the hut in the quarry.
her fingers rapidly
62 THE SILVER KEYS.
plied the knitting-needles, with which she was
making little socks for her boy.
But when Franks came to his promise of soon
revisiting old Thors, and spoke of his intention
to go as often as he could, the pleasant face of
Persis became very grave, and laying down her
knitting on her lap, she spoke almost in a tone of
How can you possibly go such a distance often,
and to such a place?" said the wife. "You do not
know all that Nancy told me, after you had left us,
of that fearful man, Hugh Thors. There may
really be danger in visiting the lonely cottage where
Ned Franks laughed at his wife's serious tone.
"You talk of danger to an old blue-jacket who was
in the Crimean war," cried he.
"Oh! you may laugh and make mirth of such
matters, it is just like you to do so, but I see no
fun at all! exclaimed Persis. "I don't want my
husband to keep company with ruffianly prize-
fighters, or poachers, or burglars discharged from
"Lest I should be snared into boxing or house-
breaking myself ?" asked Ned gaily.
You know well what I mean," said Persis. You
are maimed, you have only one hand."
THE CASTAWAYS. 63
"And a hook !" interrupted her husband, play-
fully holding it up to her view.
"And yet," continued Persis, who was not at all
disposed to jest, "I do believe that you would
volunteer to lead a forlorn hope any day, quite
forgetting that you are now a husband and father,
and have no right to throw your life away."
The blue eyes of Ned Franks sparkled with fun.
"It is not a very desperate adventure," said he, "to
encounter a bedridden old man and a child; it
scarcely needs the courage of a Quixote. Even
should I happen to meet this Hugh Thorns, I think
that the chances are that I should survive the meet-
ing!" and Ned laughed so merrily at his wife's
needless alarm, that Persis raised her finger with a
warning glance at the sleeping child, lest his father's
mirth should awaken him.
Persis was quick to perceive that she had tried
to approach her husband on the wrong tack when
she had tried to influence him by the motive
of fear. She instantly shifted sail and altered her
"I really cannot spare you, Ned, during the little
time which we have always hitherto spent so hap-
pily together," said Persis, laying her hand lovingly
on the arm of her husband. "I always look forward
with such pleasure to the Saturday half-holiday, and
THE SILVER KEYS.
the sweet peaceful hours on Sunday. And baby
too, would miss you sadly," continued the mother;
"he cried after you to-day when you left so sud-
denly; I could scarcely get him quiet again. I
cannot think why you should like to be such a
truant from home."
"I do not like it all," said Ned; "there is no
place in the world like home to me."
"I never wish to hinder you in good works,"
continued Persis, whose conscience was perhaps
pricking her a little; "I did not seek to prevent
your working to mend the old almshouses, nor have
I grudged the time which you have given to visiting
the sick and dying in the parish. But these Thoms
do not belong to the parish, they live so far off, that
to look after them is clearly no duty of yours.
B-- is much nearer to the quarry than is Colne.
Why do none of the people of the town visit the
"I cannot just say why, but the simple fact is
that they do not," replied Ned Franks. "And as
for the sick man not being of our parish, all the
world is the Lord's parish, and whither He pleases
to send His servants, that's the place where they
ought to go to."
"How can you tell that the Lord sends you to
this horrid quarry?" asked Persis, resuming her
knitting, and plying the
needles very fast, as
Franks saw that his wife was vexed, and he could
not bear to vex her, so his voice was more than
usually gentle and tender as he replied.
" There's a
proverb, wife, that circumstances are the voice
Providence,' which means, as I
read it, that when-
ever the Lord gives us an opportunity of doing good
to some fellow-creature, it
is almost the same as if
hear His voice
bidding us do it.
was the circumstance
which led me to visit
a man of
had never heard even the name.
whom, till to-day, I
I was welcomed,
I was wanted, I was prayed to return; a door of
usefulness was, as it were, plainly opened before me."
"Yet still," began Persis, but she stopped short;
her influence over
and yet, uneasy on his account, could
give a cheerful consent to his continuing to visit the
hut in the quarry.
I will tell you of a circumstance which occurred
when I was a jack-tar, on board the 'Sylph,' sailing
between the Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope,"
said Franks; the affair read me a lesson then, and
I cannot forget it now.
We had been becalmed for
weeks, till our water ran low, and we had been put
on half-rations of food, so that when a breeze sprang
66 THE SILVER KEYS.
up at last, all hands were eager enough to hoist sail, and
make speed for the land. There was another cause
for our impatience to get quickly to port. A French
vessel, the 'Cadmus,' had started at the same time
as ourselves, with a cargo of just the same kind of
goods as we carried. Now of course it was a matter
of some importance which of the two vessels should
make the quickest run, and take goods first into the
market; and besides this, there was a great feeling
of emulation between the French and the English
crews, and there had been a sad amount of betting
before starting as to which of the two vessels would
drop anchor first in the bay. When we were be-
calmed, what vexed us more than short rations or
want of water was the fear that the 'Cadmus,'
might get in before us, unless, as we hoped with all
our hearts, the French craft was in the same strait
as ourselves. You may fancy, wifie, how we crowded
canvas, when the day before we reached port, just at
morning's dawn, we came in sight of the 'Cadmus.'
She was a-head of us, to be sure, but we gained fast
upon her, for the 'Sylph' was the better sailer of
the two, or at least was handled better. There's no
race so exciting as a race at sea. We were resolved
not to be beaten by the Frenchman. There was not
one of us, I believe, that would not have given
a month's pay for the pleasure of passing the
THE CASTAWAYS. 67
'Cadmus,' and the captain was just as eager as
I suppose that the captain had a greater interest
than any one else in the Sylph's' winning the race,"
observed Persis, "as you have told me before that he
was part-owner of the cargo."
"Yes; and being a married man, he was of course
anxious to make the most of his share," said Franks.
"Just about noon, as we were getting near enough to
the 'Cadmus' to let those on board of her hear the
ring of a good British cheer, the man on the look-out
.sang out that he saw some object lying low on the
water, far away to the south, and that it looked to
him like a raft. The captain's glass was soon
turned in that direction, and he made out that there
was a raft; or something of the sort, and some white
thing above it, as if hung up as a signal."
"Some poor shipwrecked creatures were there in
distress, I suppose," observed Persis, pausing in her
knitting at this point in the story.
"So thought our captain," said Franks.
"Then surely you went to their help," cried
Persis; "no one could doubt what to do."
"It is easy for you to say that, wife, you who
were never racing a Frenchman into port, all sails
set, wind fair, and the vessel a-head looming larger
and larger every minute, for we could almost
THE SILVER KEYS.
distinguish the faces of the men on the deck of the
' Cadmus.' When there was the first word spoken
of tacking about, you should have heard the uproar
on board of the 'Sylph,' specially from those who
had better that we would reach the port first.
Some were sure that there was no raft at all, only
some floating log or bit of a wreck; others declared
that the object seen to the south was but a cata-
maran with niggers on it, and even if they were
hanging out a signal of distress, what European would
go out of his way for the sake of woolly-headed
niggers! It was our business, they cried, to get
into port, and not to go cruising about picking up
waifs on the sea. I never saw the ship's company
so near mutinying as when the captain told the man
at the wheel to put the helm about, and steer for
"Bless him for it !" exclaimed Persis.
"The crew did not bless him, I'm afraid," said
Franks with a smile, "when they heard from the
deck of the Cadmus' what the Frenchman meant
for a cheer, for our rivals in the race were mightily
pleased to see us losing way by bearing off from the
straight course. It drove our mates half wild to hear
that derisive shout coming across the blue waters."
"And did you find any one on the raft?" asked
Persis with interest.
"Yes; a Portuguese man and boy," replied Franks.
"They had escaped
from a burning vessel, and
been lying on the water for three days
food or a drop of
mere skeletons of
these poor foreigners when we got them up the side
--~ 1 -v-V-3 -V uyL IV 3 1 V~LVrVn J-L
of the 'Sylph.'
They could not have held out for
one day more."
Oh how thankful you must have been that you
had gone to their rescue !" exclaimed Persis Franks.
"I do not think that any one was sorry, not even
those who had clamoured the loudest against turning
back," said Ned.
"The boy soon revived, and lived
to join our crew, and be a favourite with us all; but
the man, poor fellow! was too far gone.
He was a
Portuguese merchant, and not accustomed to hard-
ships at sea.
He did not live to see the next morn-
carried off a
exchanged them next day for a handful of pease,
a cup of fresh water.
Before the merchant died
gave the money bag as a token of gratitude to our
captain, who, generous-hearted
the dollars amongst our crew."
"Then, even as regards this
losers from going out (
strangers," said Persis.
life, you were no
)f your way to save these poor
70 THE SILVER KEYS.
"Losers-no indeed !" exclaimed Ned with great
animation, "for you've not heard the end of my story.
We won the race after all, and dropped our anchor
in the bay three minutes before the Frenchman!
Did we not treat him with a cheer !" Franks laughed
so merrily at the remembrance of that triumph, that
if the baby did not awake, it showed that little
Ned was one who could sleep through a tempest.
But in a few moments the mirth that had shone
in the laughing eyes of the former sailor, changed
to a thoughtful earnest expression, as he went on to
explain what had been his object in relating his story.
"Now, Persis, to my mind a poor ignorant man
like Thors, going down to his grave without the
knowledge of the only sure means of salvation, yet
hungering and thirsting, as it were, for truth, is like
the poor Portuguese castaway dying on the billows.
Is it for us who are scudding before a pleasant
breeze with a safe port in view, is it for us to say
What matters it to me if he perish ?"'
Persis rested her head on her husband's shoulder,
and a tear wet his rough jacket. "I have been very
selfish-very sinful," she murmured.
"4 I would not let any one else say so, wifie," was
the loving reply; and a second tear, just ready to
drop, was kissed away before it had time to fall.
There was silence for a few moments, and then
"I believe that
they who are willing
to go to Heaven themselves
helping any other poor sinner to reach it,
are never likely to arrive there at all.
Ned, I will
try from henceforth to be your helper and not your
hinderer in deeds of mercy.
I have just been think-
Persis continued more cheerfully,
might make some little offering to the Lord out
the contents of my ebony cabinet."
"There is not much in it that could
be turned to
use in the way of
but yourself would place value on locks of
There is one gold coin," observed Persis; "a coin
that has lain idle and useless
for hundreds, perhaps
It is old, worn, and bent,
but still it is of gold,
and that always fetches
The little piece
bring fifteen shillings."
"Hardly so much," said Franks; "remember how
thin it is, and
He rose, went up to the
cabinet, and opened
one of the drawers from
lock of which the bunch of keys was hanging.
took out the golden
coin and balanced
"I do not think that this weighs more than
72 THE SILVER KEYS.
But half-a-sovereign would feed a poor family for
a week," observed Persis. I should like to turn the
little old bit of gold into loaves of bread."
Franks gave one of his pleasant smiles. "Suppose
that you quietly drop it to-morrow into the poor-box
in church," said he. Mr. Curtis will know better
than we how to get the best price for the coin."
"Yes," replied Persis; "and I love best to take
my little alms to church, for there one most feels as
if laying the offering-the tiny offering-at the feet of
the Lord. What are you thinking of, Ned ?" Persis
continued, looking up inquiringly into the face of her
husband, on which passing feelings were mirrored
so clearly that she saw that the coin on which his
eyes were fixed, was suggesting some interesting
train of ideas to his mind.
"I was thinking that my poor old man in the
quarry might resemble this coin," replied Franks.
"He has had many a hard rub, he has been soiled
and worn out, as it were, by the world's hard use,
till one can hardly make out that our King's likeness
has ever been stamped upon him. Then of late
years poor Thors has been shut up in darkness,
as was this coin, useless to all, perhaps valued by
"Like the lost piece of silver in the parable," said
"But his soul is precious still," continued Franks;
who knows whether,
old man may
not be brought.
the Lord at last, and be
house at the end, as gold
Found in His treasure-
that has been tried in the
The idea rested pleasantly on the mind of
it into a prayer when, on the following
dropped her little piece of gold through the slit in the
Persis imagine what
consequences were to follow
simple and pious an act.
performance of so
74 THE SILVER KEYS.
& First meeting.
ON the Sunday afternoon Ned Franks started to pay
his promised visit to the hut in the quarry, not for-
getting to take with him a good slice of his wife's
home-made cake for Dell.
"What silver key shall I take with me to-day ?"
thought Franks; "what word of Scripture shall I
try to open out to that poor old man ? Ah, it were
well if I could but give him a glimpse of what is
meant by 'Salvation,' that word which expresses in
itself safety and peace and Heaven! Would that
old Thors belonged to our parish; our good vicar
would know how to make these matters clear to his
mind; I scarce know how to fit the key rightly into
the lock,-but I can but do my best."
Silently praying as he walked that he might be
led to speak God's words and not his own, Franks
went on his way till he reached the bridge. He
then, as before, turned off from the high road into
the path leading down towards the stream bordered
by willows, then bending his course to the left, soon
entered upon the wild barren tract of stony ground
A FIRST MEETING.
As he did so Franks saw
two men coming
towards him from the direction of
The one individual was short and
and formed a remarkable contrast to his com-
panion, who was
a singularly powerfully-built
As the two men came tramping
figures seen clearly against
background of the blue sky, Franks thought that he
had never beheld a form that gave such an impres-
bull-dog strength as that of the larger man,
with his thick
broad chest, and
is something of
in the face
too," thought Ned, when the men came near enough
for him to distinguish their features.
All the lower
part of that face projected, the mouth was wide, the
they unclosed in
the huge teeth beneath them showed
the fangs of a wolf.
"This must be Hugh
"he looks just the
fellow whom one
fancy standing with doubled fists, stripped to
in a prize-ring; and an ugly customer he
to any one who should square up
for it was
customer" to be met with on a lonely waste, where
76 THE SILVER KEYS.
not a dwelling was in sight, "ruffian was so plainly
stamped on the whole appearance of the man. Hugh
and his comrade came straight towards Franks;
the former swinging to and fro as he stalked
onwards a heavy bludgeon which he held-in his
Holloa! I say, where be you going ?" was Hugh's
rough greeting to Franks, as they drew near to each
other. The deep strong voice from the ruffian's
powerful chest sounded like the growl of a bull-dog
ere he spring at the throat of his foe.
"To see a sick old man yonder," was the reply.
"If you mean my dad, he don't want you or the
like of you," growled Hugh.
"If I find such to be the case, I shan't trouble
him long," said Ned Franks, steadily meeting the
insolent stare of the bully, and walking briskly
forward as he did so. Contrary to Ned's expectation
Hugh made no reply, nor did he attempt to stop the
schoolmaster, though Ned passed so near him as to
be within reach of the swing of the bludgeon.
Franks strode on for some twenty paces, and then
halting, turned to look behind him. Hugh did the
same thing at the same moment, so that again the
one-armed schoolmaster and the ruffian stood facing
each other with the gaze of suspicion. Each, how-
ever, soon turned on his heel and pursued his way.
"'Halloa! I say, where be you going?' was Hugh's rough greeting to
Franks, as they drew near to each other."--p. 76.
A FIRST MEETING.
a rapid walk, found
paling which he had
his previous visit.
noticed as a land-
side of the excavation to the stone-built
which nestled in the hollow.
"Did you meet
a quick, alarmed tone, as she started up from
had been left
wide open on account of the stifling
"I suppose that was he whom
I met not ten
minutes ago," replied Ned; "a large, strong-looking
"So strong-oh! so strong !"
exclaimed Dell, more
in a tone of fear than of admiration;
take a pewter pot in
The child squeezed her fingers
her teeth hard as
she did so, to express
sistible force of the crush.
" Such-a gripe from
the hand of Hugh,"
" would not be pleasant on one's throat."
Wriggle-in Jack was with father?"
"There was a man with
but I did
not know that he bore so queer a name,"
" What sort of a fellow is he?"
78 THE SILVER KEYS.
Dell made no reply to the question, unless a
nervous twitch of her pinched features could be
taken as a reply. Ned then noticed that one of the
child's eyes was bloodshot, and that the flesh around
it was bruised as if by a recent blow. Indignation
and pity mingled in the sailor-schoolmaster's breast,
but he asked Dell no more questions. It was not
well that she should speak to a stranger of the
brutality of a parent. Silently Ned Franks followed
the child into the hut.
Franks found the place in the same condition as
on the preceding day, save that now the smell of gin
and tobacco was more overpowering, as if pipes had
been smoked, and drams had been drunk but a short
time before his entrance. On the table also were
dirty plates, knives, forks, and a dish in which lay
fragments of half-raw beef-steak, beside an empty
The visitor went up to the bed of the sick old
Oh! sir, I be so glad to see you!" faltered poor
Thorns, as Franks, after pressing the sufferer's
wrinkled hand, sat down by the side of the bed.
"Have you brought me cake, as you said you
would?" asked Dell, touching the sleeve of Ned's
jacket, with a manner half timid, half confiding. He
was pleased to hear so child-like a question from the
A FIRST MEETING.
miserable little creature to whom the unnatural kind
of life which she
a look of cunning
and premature age.
Oh! I've not forgotten my promise," said Franks,
and he pulled from his deep pocket a large
cake wrapped in paper.
" It is my wife's own making,
and so must be good, my girl."
"I wish I was your girl," muttered
sat down on the
dainty which he
Floor near Franks' feet
with the eagerness of
to eat the
She did not do so
picked out and
ate the raisins one by one, and crumbled
in her soiled little hands.
It was.not food that she
Franks now spoke to the old man about his health,
and attempted to make his position in bed more easy.
It was not long, however, before the sailor-school-
to follow out what
principal object of his visit.
" I am
glad to see the Bible on your
- "Have you been reading it, my friend?"
"I've been a-trying; but the place be so dark, and
my old eyes be but dim," was the poor man's reply.
I be so unlarned,-I never
spell out a word here and there."
Franks took up the Bible, not
a lying posture, and
in that dark
THE SILVER KEYS.
corner of his dark abode, poor Thorns had not suc-
ceeded in his attempt to read. The light came in
only from one side of the hut, more through the
open door than the dust-covered window, and even
on that side the light was but dull. No direct rays
of the sun could ever reach the hut, from its position
down in the quarry. But Ned's sight was acute,
and he held the book so as to let as much light as
possible fall on the page, so that he had no difficulty
Do you remember anything of what you heard
yesterday?" asked Franks, addressing his question
Good news," answered the child at once; and
from his bed her grandfather feebly echoed the
words, Good news;" adding that's been a-running
in my head whiles I lay awake half the night, and
it cheered me."
Franks thought of songs in the night." Such
songs might be given to a suffering, ignorant old
man even in such a den of misery as this.
"Shall I read to you a little more, and try to
explain more clearly how the Gospel is good news
to sinners like you and me?" asked Franks.
By a movement of his grey head old Thors signi-
fied his assent. Ned, by resting the book on his
knee, and holding it steady by means of his hook,
THE GREAT QUESTION.
whilst with his right hand he turned over the leaves,
soon found the place which he sought, the sixteenth
chapter of Acts.
"I am going to read of two men who were thrown
into prison," said he.
The attention of
Dell was immediately
There was a sad interest and attraction to
of Hugh Thorns in a story about a prison.
the Bible aloud, always threw
engaged in reading
his whole soul into
what he was doing.
His was no formal,
performance of a solemn task; no one ever heard him
drone over- a chapter with unvarying tone.
were a fault
in his manner of reading,
of throwing into it too much of his
tion and warmth.
Some critics might object to the
strong emphasis, the abrupt
pause, the tones now
into solemnity, now raised
as in earnest
THE SILVER KEYS.
reading; but they never failed to command the
attention of those who listened.
"John Sands, worthy man, always reads as if he
meant to lull you to sleep," Mrs. Stone had one day
observed to her sister-in-law, Mrs. White. "But
Ned Franks reads as if he would take you by the
arm, as it were, and shake you hard to awaken you."
"And the two look so different too!" cried Mrs.
White's son, who was one of Ned's scholars. Mr.
Sands would no more lift up his eyes from his book
than the hour-hand would start up from the face of
yon clock over which it is creeping so slowly; but
our master don't seem to want eyes for his reading
at all. He's always looking right into the face of
some one, and if you happen to be that some one,"
added the boy, laughing, you feel as if Mr. Franks
were reading you right through instead of his book."
Thus when Ned read of Paul and Silas in prison,
and then paused, with his finger on the page, to
speak of their position in the Philippian dungeon,
their bleeding backs, their confined ankles, their
pain, their danger, and yet the peace in their hearts
and the praise on their tongues, it seemed as if he
were describing what he himself had seen. Dell
listened with lips apart, and in profound silence, till
Franks had read of the answer to prayer which the
Almighty sent in the midnight earthquake, and then
THE GREAT QUESTION.
the child interrupted the reading with the
"Earthquake-what can that be?"
"A violent trembling of
the solid earth,"
" I felt the shock of a severe one when
was a sailor, and chanced to be
Never can I
earthquake,-the low, rumbling sound like thunder,
the rocking to and fro of the buildings, the heaving
of the ground upon which I stood, till I expected it
every moment to open and swallow me up!
what an awful crash was that when a large building
-a solid stone building-suddenly fell, burying
several poor creatures under its ruins!"
" What makes earthquakes come ?"
looking half frightened as well as curious.
"Fire under the earth," was the reply;
bursts forth from
" fire which
which throw forth clouds of smoke with flames and
ashes and torrents of melted stone, which have been
known even to bury a city!"
"There must be
an awful great furnace some-
observed the old man from the bed,--" an
the firm earth, set
mountains on fire, and
are in 'em.
Many of the learned tell us that the whole inside
of our world is one huge furnace," said Ned Franks,
THE SILVER KEYS.
"a furnace that always is glowing. They tell us
that we but stand, as it were, upon a crust that
divides us from the fire beneath us. We are sure,
for so it is written in the Bible, that not just here
and there, but in every place there will at last be a
terrible shaking, that the whole world will be wrapt
in flame, and the elements melted with fervent
c God have mercy upon us!" ejaculated Thors,
fear instinctively taking the form of prayer. "But
sure, sir, you don't believe all that ?"
"As firmly as I believe that the clouds are above
us," replied Franks.
"But you hope as how that dreadful day mayn't
come in your time," observed Thorns.
"It would be idle to hope that," said Franks;
"for whether I be living on earth when it comes, or
whether its coming be delayed till long after my
body has been laid underground, I shall certainly
see that great day. The dead shall arise from their
graves-you and I shall arise--to meet our Judge."
Earnestness and solemnity were in the tones of
Franks' voice, yet his face had not lost its expres-
sion of serenity and peace. The old man gazed on
him with anxious eyes, and then said, It is awful
to think on such things! Don't they make you
TE_ GREAT QUESTION. 85
"No," replied his visitor. "I look forward with
hope and joy to that day. I fear neither earthquake
nor flame, nor the anger of God, which is more
terrible than all, for, thanks be to Christ my Lord,
I believe that I am a saved sinner."
"But what must I do to be saved ?" cried Thorns.
"That is the very question which was put to Paul
and Silas by the Philippian jailor," replied Franks,
and he read on to the end of the 30th verse of the
chapter before him. Franks then paused to make,
as he was wont, a few observations on what he had
WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED? that is the
most solemn, the most important question ever put
by mortal man Had the Scripture account stopped
here, how we should have longed with exceeding
desire to know what answer was given to that ques-
tion by God's own holy apostle !"
"But what did St. Paul say, sir, what did he
say ?" asked the old man with nervous impatience.
Franks -in reply read aloud, slowly and reverently,
those all-important words which contain, as it were,
the very essence of Gospel truth, BELIEVE ON THE
LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THOU SHALT BE SAVED."
"Does that mean saved from the earthquake,
saved from the fire ?" asked Dell, looking anxiously
up into the face of the reader.
86 THE SILVER KEYS.
"It means saved from them and from all else the
thought of which may make us poor sinners afraid
of the Day of Judgment," replied Franks. "They
who truly believe need not tremble though earth and
heaven should shake, the sun be turned into dark-
ness, and the moon into blood, and the whole earth
be wrapt in flames !"
Why, where could they flee !" cried Dell, and the
feeble voice of her grandfather echoed, "Where
could they flee?"
Franks turned over the pages of the Bible till he
came to the passage which he sought in the First
Epistle to the Thessalonians, and he read it aloud as
one whose hope is indeed like an anchor sure and
stedfast. The Lord Himself shall descend from
Heaven with a shout, and the voice of the archangel,
and with the trump of God; and the dead in
Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive
and remain shall be caught up together with them
in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so
shall we be for ever with the Lord!
"I see, I see," murmured Thorns; "the good will
be caught up out of the way of the earthquake, out
of the reach of the fire."
"Caught up to glory and joy," cried Franks;
"caught up to live and rejoice and reign for ever
and ever !" The countenance of the believer beamed
THE GREAT QUESTION.
with that "hope of salvation" which
of heaven upon earth, as he
St. Paul bid
is a foretaste
added, "Well might
us comfort one another with
But there was no
wrinkled face of the paralytic old man.
" It is any-
thing but a comfort," said
awful trumpet sounding, and
and melting, and the
" to think
the earth shaking and
Judge coming down
from the sky, unless we be quite sure and certain
that we ourselves will be amongst them as will
up and saved.
No doubt you
may be very
good, sir, and so may feel easy about it, but I'm not
clear that when all the saints and church-goers such
as you be, are caught up in the air, poor old Adam
Thorns mayn't be left behind."
I am but a poor sinner myself," said
" the only hope that I have to gladden my
heart when I look forward to the Day of Judgment,
is the hope of salvation through the
Lord Jesus Christ."
Who for us men and our salvation came down
Heaven," murmured the old man
one who is striving to recall some almost forgotten
tune heard long long ago, of which a few notes have
lingered on memory still.
"I mind me that we
used to repeat them words after the parson in
88 THE SILVER KEYS.
church, in the old old time. Does salvation mean
being saved at that terrible day ?"
"It means that, and a great deal more," replied
Franks. Salvation means being saved from the
power of sin here, and from its punishment here-
after; it means having all our guilt washed away;
it means being delivered from the just anger of God,
and made His dear children for ever. This, this is
I should be glad, mighty glad, to make sure of
salvation," said poor Thors, with a simple earnest-
ness which touched his visitor's heart. "But how
am I to get it ?" To a mind so ignorant as that of
the old man, it was needful to explain line upon
Franks' reply was simply to repeat again St. Paul's
answer to the jailor.
But how am I to know that I do really believe?"
inquired Thors. "I've met with folks in my day
who said they believed every word in the Bible from
beginning to end, but they were no better than other
folk for all that. Would such go to heaven at the
"Many, I fear, profess to believe who are not in
earnest," replied Franks; "or they cling so tightly
to their sins that they throw away, for the sake of
those sins, even their hope of salvation."
THE GREAT QUESTION. 89
The old man did not understand the last sentence
spoken by Franks; Adam Thors' mind could
scarcely take in more than one idea at a time, though
that idea it would hold very firmly. "Oh, sir, do
you think that the Lord will save me, even me ?" he
asked, clasping his withered hands, and fixing an
anxious gaze on his visitor's face.
Franks felt what a solemn, what an awful responsi-
bility is theirs who deal with souls awakening to a
consciousness of their own immortality and the
terrors of coming judgment. A prayer for wisdom
rose from the schoolmaster's heart before he replied,
"My friend, if the Lord Jesus were to enter this
cottage at this very moment, what would you do?"
An awe-struck expression came over the sick
man's pallid features. "I a'most think I could
crawl out of bed somehow," was his reply, or if I
could not-for I ha'n't left it for years-I'd just lie
here, and I'd say, 'Lord! save me, any way, any how,
only save me !'" Tears rolled down the old man's
wrinkled cheeks as he spoke.
"The Lord is indeed here, He is with us at this
moment!" cried Franks, realising that wondrous
Presence as truly in that close stifling den, as he
had ever done even in church; "shall we not pray
to Him now ?"
Franks knelt down on the stony floor, and Dell
90 THE SILVER KEYS.
imitated his posture with wondering awe, she had
never bent her little knees in worship before, and
strange to the child did it seem to hear words
addressed to a Being whom she could not behold.
It was the first time that the sound of -prayer
had arisen in the home of the godless Hugh
Oh Lord, have mercy upon us!" began Franks,
and to his surprise from the old man came the
response, "And grant us Thy salvation;" the once
familiar words, heard so often in church many years
ago, coming back again on memory. Franks'
prayer was short, but very fervent, and old Thorns'
hearty "Amen," went warm to his heart at the
That Sabbath-day was one which Franks remem-
bered with pleasure to the end of his life. Such
days, we may believe, will be remembered with
delight through eternity's myriad ages. Peaceful
and profitable were the Christian's hours spent in
the house of prayer, sweet and happy those which he
passed in his home; but none bore on them more of
the radiance of Heaven's own light than that in
which Franks gave to a poor mortal drawing near to
the grave, a glimpse of the treasures of comfort con-
tained in the word SALVATION!
SEEDS AND PEBBLES.
MONDAY morning always commenced a
hard work for Franks. From not having
regularly trained as a teacher, he had a
of lee-way to make up, as he called it,
to get up
with those who had had greater advantages of
education. Ned had been made a schoolmaster
before the days of School Boards, or he would
certainly have failed in satisfying a Government
inspector. But whatever the sailor did, he did it
with all his might, and his energy and steadiness
commanded no small degree of success. The vicar
once, when rallied on having made a schoolmaster
of a jack-tar, observed, that though Franks could
not set a- hard sum in fractions, he always set a
good example. "I'd rather have my village lads,"
said the vicar, "turn out honest God-fearing men
like their master, than be able. to calculate to a
nicety how many cube inches there are in the
But Franks himself felt the necessity of acquiring
$PPeds aad Violktps+
THE SILVER KEYS.
more knowledge when placed as he was in the
position of having to impart it to others. Thus
part of every week-day evening was regularly de-
voted to study; Franks learned in order that he
might more skilfully teach.
The sound of the cuckoo-clock striking twelve at
mid-day, and then the hum below, clatter of benches,
and trampling of feet, followed by the noise of
children's voices from the road, were always wel-
come to Persis, whose little sitting-room was just
above that in which Ned taught his young pupils.
The house was old-fashioned in construction, and
the schoolroom would have been as much improved
by being more lofty, as the master by being more
learned; but to increase Franks' knowledge was an
easier matter than to raise the timbers of the ceiling.
"Baby shall hear the pretty bird cry, 'Cuckoo,'
and call to father to come to his Neddy," said
Persis, as she lifted up her curly-headed boy to
enjoy what was to the child a never-failing source
of amusement, seeing the toy-bird come out to pro-
claim the hour of noon. The clock had been a gift
from the Sands, a token of gratitude from the
reformed drunkard and her husband, and the
present received under such circumstances was
greatly valued by the Franks. Nancy's hard fea-
tures never relaxed into a pleasanter look than when
SEEDS AND PEBBLES. 93
she saw baby Ned clapping his dimpled hands as
the bird clapped his painted wings; and even
sombre John had been trapped into a smile on sud-
denly hearing little Ned's rosebud lips try to mimic
the note of the cuckoo.
There was rather a longer delay than usual in
Franks' obeying the cuckoo's call on the Monday
following his visit to the quarry. Little Ned, who
expected his daily ride on his father's shoulder, was
watching the door with impatience when it opened
at last, and Franks ushered into the room the vicar's
wife, and her nephew Sir Claudius Leyton, who was
at once curate of Colme, and lord of the manor.
Baby Ned, young as he was, was intelligent enough
to be aware that the ride must be a pleasure put off
for a while, and from his mother's arms stared with
his bright blue eyes at the guests,-half shy, yet
pleased at the notice which was always taken of him
by the lady.
Mrs. Curtis, after a kindly greeting to the mother
and a kiss-to the golden-haired child, took the seat
placed for her by Franks, and explained the object
of her visit.
"The description which I gave to my nephew of
your ancient gold coin has made him very anxious
to have a sight of so rare a curiosity," said the lady.
"I could scarcely persuade him to delay his visit.
94 THE SILVER KEYS.
Mrs. Franks, till the hour when your husband
would be disengaged from the school."
"I have had all my life a great fancy for collect-
ing rare coins," observed the young baronet;
"though till last year, when I came to the Hall, I
had little opportunity of indulging the fancy."
Persis glanced at her husband, as if to ask him to
answer for her,-for knowing that the coin was in
her possession no longer, she felt a little difficulty
in replying to a request for permission to see it.
"My wife would most gladly have shown the
coin to Sir Claudius," said Franks ; "but the fact is
that she has parted with it already."
The young baronet almost started at the an-
nouncement; he flushed and bit his lip, betraying
an amount of vexation and disappointment which
surprised Ned Franks, for they seemed to the sailor-
schoolmaster so disproportioned to their cause.
Why should a man of rank and fortune, and a
clergyman besides, care so much for the sight of a
little bent bit of gold! Perhaps Sir Claudius saw
the look of surprise, for he hastened to make an
"If the coin was a thing which Mrs. Franks was
contented to part with," he said, "I am very sorry
that I had not had the refusal of it. The fact is
that I have found in the Hall a very fine collection
SEEDS AND PEBBLES.
of coins, which pleased me more than
in the house
but not quite;
SThe collection is nearly perfect,
one link in a long chain was
your coin would
guineas for its possession."
Again Persis exchanged glances with her husband,
and the smile of pleasure which rose to her
was reflected on his.
"If such be the case, sir, there is no harm
said the sailor-schoolmaster gaily;
"the coin has
not been dropped into the sea, nor melted in the
fire, it is safe enough at the bottom of the poor-box
in our church."
amused Ned Franks.
of pleasure at the
Franks had felt the delight of winning souls, and he
had felt the joy of family affection; he could also-
from having experienced it-enter into the
brought by success after
But why the
should make any one so
Sir Claudius, was a
of hard labour.
a complete set
happy as it
riddle to the
Bits of money of
except to be looked
at, seemed to Franks to be little
96 THE SILVER KEYS.
better than toys, and he was astonished to think
that any person should be willing to give ten
guineas for one small coin. Franks did not con-
sider how great may be the value of coins as
throwing light on history, for, as the reader-knows,
he was not a scientific man.
"I only valued the little piece at half-a-guinea,"
said the schoolmaster of Colme, "for I did not
know that it was worth a penny more than its
simple weight of gold would bring. I'm glad to
find that I was mistaken."
Mrs. Curtis then spoke. "We must consult the
vicar about this matter," said she. If Mrs. Franks
dropped her offering into the poor-box, thinking
that it was worth but half-a-guinea, and now finds
that she can sell it for ten guineas-" the lady
hesitated a little as she added, perhaps Mr. Curtis
may think it but fair and right that the nine and a-
half guineas should be returned to the former
owner of the coin."
Again Persis exchanged glances with her husband,
and well he understood the eager little shake of her
head, and the request spoken only by her eyes, that
he would speak for her, and say what he knew that
she would wish him to say.
No, no, madam," cried Franks; "what my wife
gave she gave with all her heart, and I'll answer for
SEEDS AND PEBBLES. 97
it that Persis would not take back a sixpence
of the money were it a hundred guineas instead
"Not even for the sake of your child?" asked
Mrs. Curtis, addressing herself to Persis.
Persis smiled, shook her head, and pressed her
lips on her child's rosy cheek. She thought, though
she did not say aloud what she thought, "There is
something better than gold that I covet for my
darling. The blessing of the Lord it maketh rich,
and He addeth no sorrow with it."
Then really we may regard this liberal offering
of yours as an answer to prayer," said the vicar's
wife, "for cases of great distress are in the parish
at present, and never has Mr. Curtis found the
church contributions more wretchedly low than he
has for the last two months. The last time that
the poor-box was opened there were in it but a few
Again Persis and Ned looked at each other, and
this time with a little surprise. They thought that
they had the best reasons for knowing that for once
the vicar's wife had not kept to the strict truth.
It was the first time that they had ever found the
lady speak in a careless, exaggerating way.
"You know," continued Mrs. Curtis, "that the
poor-box is opened once a month in the presence