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should most certainly have shot. But I'd rather not shoot you, poor, starving fellows. I know what it is to be hungry. I'm sorry for you — sorry from the bottom of my heart.”
There was no mistaking that compassionate accent, nor the murmur which followed it.
" But what must we do, Mr. Halifax?” cried Jacob Baines.
Suppose I gave you something to eat; would you listen to me afterward ?"
There rose up a frenzied shout of assent. Poor wretches, they were fighting for no principle, true or false, only for bare life. They would have bartered their very souls for a mouthful of bread.
“ You must promise to be peaceable,” said John again, very resolutely, as soon as he could obtain a hearing. “ You are Norton Bury folk, - I could get every one of you hanged, even though Abel Fletcher is a Quaker.”
“ Aye-aye. Something to eat; give us something to eat."
John Halifax called out to Jael ; bade her bring all the food of every kind that there was in the house, and give it to him out of the parlor window. She obeyed.
“ Now, my lads, come in ;” and he unlocked the gate.
They came thronging up the steps, not more than two score, I imagined, in spite of the noise they had made.
John divided the food as well as he could among them; they fell to it like wild beasts. Meat, cooked or raw, loaves, vegetables, meal ; all came alike, and were clutched, gnawed, and scrambled for in the fierce selfishness of hunger. Afterward there was a call for water. “ Beer !” shouted some.
“Water,” repeated John. “ I'll have no drunkards rioting at my master's door.”
And, either by chance or design, he let them hear the click of his pistol. But it was hardly needed. They were all cowed by a mightier weapon still — the best weapon a man can use his own firm, indomitable will.
At length all the food we had in the house was consumed. John told them so; and they believed him. Little enough, indeed, was sufficient for some of them ; wasted with long famine, they turned sick and faint, and dropped down even with bread in their mouths, unable to swallow it. Others gorged themselves to the full, and then lay along the steps, supine as satisfied brutes. Only a few sat and ate like rational human beings; and there was but one, a little, shrill-voiced man, who asked me if he might“ tak’a bit o' bread to the old woman at home ?”
John, hearing, turned, and for the first time noticed me.
“Phineas, it was very wrong of you; but there is no danger now. Well, my men,” he said, looking round with a smile, “ have you had enough to eat ? ”
“Oh, aye,” they all cried.
“ That's right, Jacob Baines ; and, another time, trust the Lord. You wouldn't then have been abroad this quiet, blessed summer morning," -- and he pointed to the dawn just reddening in the sky, — “ burning and rioting, bringing yourselves to the gallows and your children to starvation.”
• They be nigh that already,” said Jacob, sullenly. “We men ha' gotten a meal ; but what'll become o' the little 'uns at home? Mr. Halifax," and he seemed waxing desperate again, “ we must get some food somehow.”
Another of the men plucked at him from behind.
“Sir, when thee was a poor lad, I lent thee a rug to sleep on ; I don't grudge thee getting on; thee was born for a gentleman, surely. But Master Fletcher be a hard man.”
“ And a just one,” persisted John. “You that work for him, did he ever stint you a halfpenny? If you had come to him and said, “Master, times are hard, we can't live upon our wages,' he might — I don't say that he would – but he might even have given you the food you tried to steal."
“D'ye think he'd give it us now?” And Jacob Baines, the big, gaunt, savage fellow, who had been the ringleader, - the same, too, who had spoken of his little 'uns," — came and looked steadily in John's face.
John called me aside, explained to me, and asked my advice and consent, as Abel Fletcher's son, to a plan that had come into his mind. It was to write orders, by which each man, presenting one to our mill, should receive a cer. tain amount of flour.
“Do you think your father would agree?” "I think he would."
John sat down as composedly as if he had been alone in the counting-house, and wrote. I looked over his shoulder, admiring the precision, concentrativeness, and quickness with which he seemed to arrange and then execute his ideas. He
possessed, to the full, that “ business” faculty which, out of very ordinary material, often makes a clever man.
“ Isn't this better than hanging ? ” said John to the men, when he had distributed the little bits of paper precious as pound notes. Why, there isn't another gen.
tleman in Norton Bury who, if you had come to burn his house down, would not have had the constables or the soldiers shoot down one half of you like mad dogs, and sent the other half to the county jail. Now, for all your misdoings, we let you go quietly home, well fed, and with food for children, too. Why, think you ?”
“I don't know,” said Jacob Baines, humbly.
“I'll tell you. Because Abel Fletcher is a Quaker and a Christian."
“Hurrah for Abel Fletcher! Hurrah for the Quakers !” shouted they, waking up the echoes down Norton Bury streets, which, of a surety, had never echoed to that shout before. And so the riot was over.
Note. This extract is from “ John Halifax, Gentleman," a story, the object of which is to portray the development of a true Christian gentleman from a poor orphan boy. Wandering from place to place in search of employment, John Halifax was hired as a cart driver by Abel Fletcher, a Quaker tanner and miller. Phineas Fletcher, the invalid son of the Quaker, tells how, through unswerving honesty, John Halifax wins the confidence and esteem of his father. During the English famine in 1800 a mob of starving workmen attacked the house of the Quaker, but they were appeased and dispersed in the manner here narrated. The entire story is well worth reading.
SONG OF THE RIVER.
BY ABRAM J. RYAN.
A river went singing a-down to the sea,
A-singing — low — singing —
“ I'm bringing, a-bringing –
To the shores that are white where the waves are
weary, To the beach that is burdened with wrecks that are
“A song sweet and calm
Will be grateful and glad,
And the tempests shall cease
Down the slopes where the rocks are gray,
Through the vales where the flowers are fair –
and on Day and night, and night and day. Going and going, and never gone,
Longing to flow to the “ far away.”
Staying and staying, and never still, –