**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


The Distracted Preacher
by [?]

‘But they tell you you may take it?’

‘Yes, the smugglers: but the buyers must not know that the smugglers have been kind to me at their expense.’

‘I see,’ said Stockdale doubtfully. ‘I much question the honesty of this proceeding.’

By her direction he held the tub with the hole upwards, and while he went through the process of alternately pressing and ceasing to press, she produced a bottle of water, from which she took mouthfuls, conveying each to the keg by putting her pretty lips to the hole, where it was sucked in at each recovery of the cask from pressure. When it was again full he plugged the hole, knocked the hoop down to its place, and buried the tub in the lumber as before.

‘Aren’t the smugglers afraid that you will tell?’ he asked, as they recrossed the churchyard.

‘O no; they are not afraid of that. I couldn’t do such a thing.’

‘They have put you into a very awkward corner,’ said Stockdale emphatically. ‘You must, of course, as an honest person, sometimes feel that it is your duty to inform–really you must.’

‘Well, I have never particularly felt it as a duty; and, besides, my first husband–‘ She stopped, and there was some confusion in her voice. Stockdale was so honest and unsophisticated that he did not at once discern why she paused: but at last he did perceive that the words were a slip, and that no woman would have uttered ‘first husband’ by accident unless she had thought pretty frequently of a second. He felt for her confusion, and allowed her time to recover and proceed. ‘My husband,’ she said, in a self-corrected tone, ‘used to know of their doings, and so did my father, and kept the secret. I cannot inform, in fact, against anybody.’

‘I see the hardness of it,’ he continued, like a man who looked far into the moral of things. ‘And it is very cruel that you should be tossed and tantalized between your memories and your conscience. I do hope, Mrs. Newberry, that you will soon see your way out of this unpleasant position.’

‘Well, I don’t just now,’ she murmured.

By this time they had passed over the wall and entered the house, where she brought him a glass and hot water, and left him to his own reflections. He looked after her vanishing form, asking himself whether he, as a respectable man, and a minister, and a shining light, even though as yet only of the halfpenny-candle sort, were quite justified in doing this thing. A sneeze settled the question; and he found that when the fiery liquor was lowered by the addition of twice or thrice the quantity of water, it was one of the prettiest cures for a cold in the head that he had ever known, particularly at this chilly time of the year.

Stockdale sat in the deep chair about twenty minutes sipping and meditating, till he at length took warmer views of things, and longed for the morrow, when he would see Mrs. Newberry again. He then felt that, though chronologically at a short distance, it would in an emotional sense be very long before to-morrow came, and walked restlessly round the room. His eye was attracted by a framed and glazed sampler in which a running ornament of fir-trees and peacocks surrounded the following pretty bit of sentiment:-

‘Rose-leaves smell when roses thrive,
Here’s my work while I’m alive;
Rose-leaves smell when shrunk and shed,
Here’s my work when I am dead.

‘Lizzy Simpkins. Fear God. Honour the King.

‘Aged 11 years.

”Tis hers,’ he said to himself. ‘Heavens, how I like that name!’

Before he had done thinking that no other name from Abigail to Zenobia would have suited his young landlady so well, tap-tap came again upon the door; and the minister started as her face appeared yet another time, looking so disinterested that the most ingenious would have refrained from asserting that she had come to affect his feelings by her seductive eyes.