Early last Fall there died in Troy an old man and his wife. The woman went first, and the husband took a chill at her grave’s edge, when he stood bareheaded in a lashing shower. The loose earth crumbled under his feet, trickled over, and dropped on her coffin-lid. Through two long nights he lay on his bed without sleeping and listened to this sound. At first it ran in his ears perpetually, but afterwards he heard it at intervals only, in the pauses of acute suffering. On the seventh day he died, of pleuro-pneumonia; and on the tenth (a Sunday) they buried him. For just fifty years the dead man had been minister of the Independent chapel on the hill, and had laid down his pastorate two years before, on his golden wedding-day. Consequently there was a funeral sermon, and the young man, his successor, chose II. Samuel, i. 23, for his text–“Lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.” Himself a newly-married man, he waxed dithyrambic on the sustained affection and accord of the departed couple. “Truly,” he wound up, “such marriages as theirs were made in Heaven.” And could they have heard, the two bodies in the cemetery had not denied it; but the woman, after the fashion of women, would have qualified the young minister’s assertion in her secret heart.
When, at the close of the year 1839, the Rev. Samuel Bax visited Troy for the first time, to preach his trial sermon at Salem Chapel, he arrived by Boutigo’s van, late on a Saturday night, and departed again for Plymouth at seven o’clock on Monday morning. He had just turned twenty-one, and looked younger, and the zeal of his calling was strong upon him. Moreover he was shaken with nervous anxiety for the success of his sermon; so that it is no marvel if he carried away but blurred and misty impressions of the little port and the congregation that sat beneath him that morning, ostensibly reverent, but actually on the pounce for heresy or any sign of weakness. Their impressions, at any rate, were sharp enough. They counted his thumps upon the desk, noted his one reference to “the original Greek,” saw and remembered the flush on his young face and the glow in his eyes as he hammered the doctrine of the redemption out of original sin. The deacons fixed the subject of these trial sermons, and had chosen original sin on the ground that a good beginning was half the battle. The maids in the congregation knew beforehand that he was unmarried, and came out of chapel knowing also that his eyes were brown, that his hair had a reddish tinge in certain lights; that one of his cuffs was frayed slightly, but his black coat had scarcely been worn a dozen times; with other trifles. They loitered by the chapel door until he came out in company with Deacon Snowden, who was conveying him off to dinner. The deacon on week days was harbour-master of the port, and on Sundays afforded himself roasted duck for dinner. Lizzie Snowden walked at her father’s right hand. She was a slightly bloodless blonde, tall, with a pretty complexion, and hair upon which it was rumoured she could sit if she were so minded. The girls watched the young preacher and his entertainers as they moved down the hill, the deacon talking and his daughter turning her head aside as if it were merely in the half of the world on her right hand that she took the least interest.
“That’s to show ‘en the big plait,” commented one of the group behind. “He can’t turn his head t’wards her, but it stares ‘en in the face.”