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Chapter 7

OVER THE BORDER


“The latest Gospel is, know thy work, and do it.”


Late in August I had a letter from Miss Berners saying, she was now at home in Richmond, and wished me to come to her, as soon as I could. This summons to duty was pleasant, although I left home with a heavy heart. A presentiment of sorrow was on me, and I could not help following my soul back and forward, in endless ways of reminiscence and foreboding. About my father especially, I had a sort of sacred terror. And if any of my readers think that I was too much bound to my family, let me remind them that our families are the chief thing, except in societies like Lacedæmon, which went in for “efficiency” and righteously perished from the face of the earth. Father! Mother! Child! Is there any holier Trinity than this?

I arrived in Richmond after a hard day’s travel, late in the evening. It was almost dark when my cabman found the house in a rather out-of-the-way suburb. It did not jump to my eyes pleasantly, as did the house in Downham Market. It was a lonely place, and there was no sign of light or habitation about it. But Miss Berners welcomed me gladly, and as I drank a cup of tea beside her, she spoke to me of her prospects. They were far from hopeful, for only three of her old pupils were coming to Richmond.

“Miss Stokes has opened a school in my old home,” she said mournfully, “and the girls have just gone back there.”

“She was their principal teacher when you were there,” I answered.

“I know. It was very clever of her to step into my shoes, but I fear it will ruin me.”


“It is a wonder you did not anticipate this move,” I ventured. “It was so natural.”

“It was very unkind and dishonorable, if that is natural,” she answered, nor was she able to see the matter in any other light.

It was an uncomfortable settling to work. The furniture of the old home did not look as if it belonged to this mournful relic of a once splendid mansion, and there ought to have been many things bought, which Miss Berners would not spend money for, while the result of her speculation was uncertain. For the new scholars came in so slowly, that I took on myself all the teaching there was to do, excepting French. The busy school, the public recitals and receptions, we had been promised, were very far off; and the days were set to notes of constant disappointment. The work was hard, for I taught individually; the school hours were lengthened, and music lessons were to be given when their work was over.

I was not happy, but I had a letter to deliver, which I believed would bring me a little change and pleasure; and on the second Sunday afternoon after the service in the Wesleyan Chapel was over, I waited for the preacher, who was the famous Dr. Farrar, and gave him the following note from my father:

Dear Brother Farrar,

My daughter Amelia is likely to be teaching in Richmond this winter. I know you will give her counsel, and show her kindness, if needed. Your brother in Christ,

William Henry Huddleston.

Dr. Farrar read the note with a pleasant countenance, and then smiled at me. “So you are Amelia?” he asked, and I answered, “Yes, sir.” Then he called three ladies who were standing a little apart, and said, “Esther, this is Amelia Huddleston. You remember my correspondence with her father, I am sure.”

“Oh, yes, about that weary Tractarian Movement. I remember it very well,” she answered, and then turning to me continued, “I am glad to see you, Amelia. Come home with us, and spend the evening with my girls.” This was the beginning of a friendship that enabled me to endure cheerfully the weariness and monotony of my duties. For amid many outside annoyances I built silently on my trust in God, and I did my day’s work loyally.

Richmond was then, and may be yet, the seat of a great Wesleyan college for the preparation of young men for the ministry; and of this college Dr. Farrar was the principal. His family consisted of his wife and two lovely daughters, the eldest being just my own age. We were friends at once, our mutual knowledge of Mr. Punshon, forming an excellent basis for our intimacy. And after this introduction, I spent all my spare hours at Dr. Farrar’s, where I was always made freely welcome.

Joyful or sorrowful the days go by, and at the end of October we had eight pupils, but only three of these eight were boarders, and the great empty house that should have been full of youth and happiness, was a lonely anxious place. And it was at this time I heard that the sorrow so long expected had arrived. My father after preaching to a crowded chapel had hurried home, and fallen across the threshold in a strong, and not to be disputed epileptic fit. Then with heart-breaking reluctance, he had signed his resignation from the active ministry, and had seen another take his place. In great anguish he had prayed that this cup might pass from him; but, no, he had to drink it to the very dregs. Yet Mother wrote me, that he had not missed the vision of the comforting angel; for vision is the cup of strength only given in some great calamity.

I felt severely the grief that I knew filled every room in my home, but God had sent it, and He knew what was best. This trust was not a mere formula of words; it was a veritable and active faith with me. I trusted God. I leaned my child heart upon the everlasting Love of “our Father in heaven” and the days went on, and I did my work, and believed that all would come right.

Miss Berners’ affairs, however, grew every week worse and worse, and just before Christmas, I went into her room one morning, and found her lying on the bed weeping bitterly. She opened her eyes, and looked sadly at me and I asked, “Is it worth while continuing the fight? You are growing thin and gray, and you have not gained a step.”

“O Amelia!” she answered, “I have made a great mistake.”

“Every day is making it worse. Why not stop it?”

“My expenses are double my income.”

“Then it is robbery to continue them.”

“What would you do? Tell me truly, Amelia.”

“I would close the school this very hour,” I answered. “I would tell those three Downham Market girls to pack their trunks, and send them home by the noon train. At nine o’clock I would send those five unhappy-looking day scholars home also. Give all you have to your creditors, and go home yourself, and rest awhile. Then you can doubtless retrieve this great mistake.”

“And what will you do, Amelia?” she asked.

“I do not know yet,” I answered. “I must think.”

After the Downham Market girls had been sent home, I went to my room and began to consider my own affairs. I remembered first, the loss in my father’s income. That was an irreparable loss. I thought of all the expenses incident to constant sickness in a house, of the education of Mary and Alethia, of the necessity of Jane’s presence to assist Mother and I said to myself, “You, Amelia, are the one person not needful, and you must in some way provide for yourself.” I opened my purse, and found I had fourteen shillings. How was I to provide for myself? I was a stranger in Richmond. I knew no one but the Farrars. Perhaps Mr. Farrar might—and then I tried to imagine what Mr. Farrar might do for me. I thought until my head burned, but thank God! there was no fear in my thoughts. That paltering, faltering element, was not among my natural enemies. Far from it, I found something magnetic in extremities. If I was ever indifferent to events, it was because they were only moderate. To possess my soul in patience was a difficulty; to possess it in resistance and struggle was more natural, and more agreeable.

I bathed my hot head and face, and then did what I ought to have done at first—I went to my Father in heaven, and told Him all my sorrow and perplexity. And as I talked with Him, tears like a soft rain fell upon my prayer, and I rose up full of strength and comfort, whispering as I dressed myself for the street, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? The Lord is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

I went quickly to Dr. Farrar, and I found him at home; then without hesitation I told him all that troubled me. He answered, “You are right, Amelia, and I can find work for you, if you are not too proud to take it.”

“Pride has nothing to do with my duty,” I replied.

“Then listen,” he continued. “You must have noticed that during the last ten years there has been a tremendous output of national energy and wealth for the education of the lower classes. National schools, and Bell and Lancaster schools, are going up all over England; and we Wesleyans, could not sit still when all other churches were working. Indeed we are going to build a school in all towns where the chapel membership is able to support one.”

“I believe there is such a school in Kendal,” I said.

“Our wisest men have decided, that a certain form of teaching called the Stowe method, will be best for the class of children we wish to reach; and this method is taught in the Normal School at Glasgow, where we have now nearly forty young men and women studying it. Now, Amelia, if you will go to Glasgow to learn this method, I will promise you a good school, and a good salary, and you could bring your father and mother to wherever you are located, and make your homes together.”

Then with the daring decision of young fresh faculties, I cried out, “O Dr. Farrar! I should like that better than anything else.”

“The children may be mostly poor children,” he added.

“I used to long to be a missionary. I can call it a mission work. Oh, I should enjoy it! But—” and I looked doubtfully at him—“but this course of instruction, will it cost much money?” I asked.

“Our Board of Education will look after that,” he answered. “They pay the Normal School so much for every pupil, and they will also give you one pound every week for your rooms and food. You can live on that, I should say?”

“Very well indeed.”

“The Board will also allow you five pounds for traveling expenses, but——”

“Yes, Dr. Farrar, but what?”

“When you have won your diploma, and have been appointed to a school, the Board will expect you to gradually pay back what it spends for your education.”

“That is right,” I answered. “I should like to pay it back, but if I should die, would my father have to pay it for me?”

“No, no, child! Death pays all debts. You are more likely to marry, than to die.”

“And what then, Doctor?”

“If you marry well, the Board will not count its loss in your gain.”

We talked over this subject thoroughly, and I assured him of my perfect satisfaction, and even pleasure, in the proposition. “If that is so,” he said, “go and pack your trunk, take it in the morning to the Easton Square Railway Station, and leave it in the baggage room; then come to me at this address,” and he wrote a few lines for my direction. “The Board meets there to-morrow at ten o’clock to examine applicants, and you will be questioned a little, no doubt, but I think they will not puzzle you.”

“Not unless they are grammarians, and ask me to parse a sentence.”

As I was leaving he asked, “Have you money enough to take you to London?”

“I have fourteen shillings,” I said. “Miss Berners can give me nothing.”

“Fourteen shillings is enough. The rest of your traveling expenses will be provided.”

So I went back to the defunct school, and packed my clothes, and helped Miss Berners to pack all her personal belongings. We talked very little. The past was done with, the future uncertain, but she promised to send the money due me to my mother as soon as she saw her friends in Reading.

“Will you remain in Reading?” I asked.

“No!” she answered. “I will take passage on a good ship, that intends to be at sea for a year, or more. I wish to be where I can never get a bill, or a dunning letter, or hear the postman’s knock.”

We rose early in the morning, and had a hurried cup of coffee and then said good-bye. It was an uneasy and uncomfortable parting, and I was astonished that I could not feel any regret in it. There was only a sense of something finished and done with, and I believe Miss Berners forgot me, as soon as my cab was out of sight. But within a week she sent the money owing me, and said she was going to Louisiana. At that time Louisiana was as little known to the average Englishman or woman, as Timbuctoo. We asked a young man who had been shooting game in Canada, “Where is Louisiana?” and he answered, “It is one of the West Indian Islands, belonging to France.” Then I reflected that Miss Berners spoke French pretty well, and could probably take care of herself.

I left my luggage as directed by Dr. Farrar, and went to the Wesleyan Board of Education. It had begun to rain by this time, and the place looked mean and unhappy. But there was a good fire in the small waiting-room, and three young men, and one young woman already there. For a moment I had a sickening terror of what I was doing, but I quickly put my foot upon it. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” I asked almost angrily, and my soul knew better than to shirk, or shrink before that question.

All was more favorable than I expected. Dr. Farrar had evidently spoken to the Board, which consisted of six or eight nice, clerical old gentlemen. Probably all of them had daughters of their own, for they were very kind, and before considering my case, spoke in the most sympathetic manner of my father’s affliction. Every one had some pleasant memory of him, or some particular message to send. And they were so cheerful, that I looked into the faces of my inquisitors with confiding smiles. Upon the whole, the examination was an easy one, and nobody named grammar. I came off with flying colors, and I really think the Board believed themselves to have secured an unusually bright and clever teacher. There was nothing more to do, except sign a paper enrolling myself among the Wesleyan pupils at the Glasgow Normal School, which paper also contained the Board’s obligation to pay me one pound weekly. My traveling expenses were given to me in hand, and then I bid all good morning, feeling truly in my heart the sweetest and strongest gratitude, for their kindness towards me.

I got a train for Kendal about one o’clock, but did not arrive there until late. The door had been locked, and Mother unlocked it with such a joyful cry of “Milly! Milly! Milly!” as brought every one to meet me. I shall never forget that home-coming. Father came down stairs again, the fire was rebuilt, and a nice little meal prepared, while Jane, Mary and Alethia hung round me as if I had been lost and found again.

The best part of that happy meeting was the pleasure it gave Father to hear of the sympathy and praise, that had followed the mention of his name to the Board of Education. I repeated every pleasant word twice over. He did not ask me to do so, but I knew the friendly messages were the sweetest music in his ears. And when I finally told them I was going to Glasgow, Father said,

“It is a Providence, Milly! I had a letter not a month ago from my old friend John Humphreys, who is now Collector of Excise for the port of Glasgow. Either he, or Mrs. Humphreys, will look for proper rooms for you. They will know just what you want.”

The letter to the Humphreys asking this favor was written at once, and in four days we received something like the following answer to it:

Dear William,

We have rented your daughter a parlor and bedroom with the sister of my grocer. His shop is in Sauchiehall Street, and they live above it. They are most respectable people, and have no other boarders. It is also near the school. She will be very comfortable there. Let us know exactly when she is coming, and either Mrs. Humphreys or I will meet her train, and see her safely housed.

Your true friend,

John Humphreys.

Then it was decided I should go to Glasgow on the third of January, 1849, by the ten o’clock morning train, which would allow me to reach my destination before it was dark. Until that day I rested myself body and soul in the sweetest influences of love and home, and when the third of January came, I was full of new strength and new hope, and ready for whatever had been appointed to happen unto me.

My dear mother went with me as far as Penrith. She intended to visit my brother Willie’s grave, and perhaps spend a night with her friend, Mrs. Lowther. Fortunately we had the railway carriage to ourselves and, oh, how sweet were the confidences that made that two hours’ drive ever memorable to me! At Penrith we parted. Penrith is a mile or more from the Caledonian Line, but there were vehicles there to meet the train, and I watched Mother pass from my sight with smiles, and the pleasant flutter of her handkerchief.

Then by a real physical effort I cast off the influences I had indulged for a week, and began to allow my nature to imbibe the strength of the hills through which I was passing—hills beyond hills, from blue to gray—hills sweeping round the horizon like a great host at rest. Down their sides the living waters came dancing and glancing, and, oh, but the lift of His hills, and the waft of His wings, filled my heart with joy and strength. Now and then we passed a small stone house, rude and simple, with a moorland air, and I felt that the pretty English cottages with their thatched roofs and blooming gardens, would have been out of place in the silent spaces of these mountain solitudes.

It grew very cold as we neared Carlisle. Every one I saw was buttoned-up and great-coated, and I was sensible of as great a change in humanity as in nature. I had missed all the way from Kendal the workingman’s paper cap, the distinctive badge of labor in those days. If there were workingmen around Carlisle they did not wear it. All the men I saw wore large caps of heavy blue flannel, sometimes bordered with red—an ugly head-gear, but apparently just the thing wanted by the big, bony men who had adopted it. I saw a crowd of them at Gretna Green, where a woman got into the train, and rode with me as far as Ecclefechan. She was not a pleasant woman, but I asked her about this big blue cap, and with a look of contempt for my ignorance, she answered, “They are just the lad’s bonnets. Every one wears them. Where do you come from?”

“London,” I replied with an “air.”

“Ay, I thought so. You’re a queer one, not to know a blue bonnet, when you see it.”

Then I had the clue to a dashing, stirring song which had always puzzled me a little, “All the Blue Bonnets are over the Border.” It meant, that these blue-bonneted giants, were over the English border, raiding and harrying the shepherds and farmers of the northern counties. And I smiled to myself, as I remembered the kind of welcome always waiting for them, whenever the slogan passed from fell to fell:

“Cumberland hot,

Westmoreland hot,

Prod the Scot!

For all the blue bonnets are over the Border!”




Amelia E. Barr