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King O’ Prussia
by [?]

The boy pitched this tale to his mother, and Arch’laus backed him up, adding that the ghost had turned to him and said, “Thou, too, Arch’laus in a year’s time shall be a smuggler–p’r’aps sooner.” He told this to his father and got strapped for it. But Mrs. Geen came of a family that believed in ghosts. The boy’s tale described his grandfather to a hair–which was not wonderful considering how often she had talked to Phoby about the old man. At any rate, after being in two minds for a week she gave way, after a fashion, and allowed Phoby to run over to Prussia Cove to his aunt, Bessie Bussow; and Bessie–who loved spirit– had him apprenticed to Hosking, the Cove carpenter. Pretty carpenter’s work Hosking was likely to teach him!

Now, after the way of women, the deed was no sooner done than Mrs. Geen began to repent it. She knew very well that her dear boy would run into danger; but she kept her trouble to herself until there arrived at Ardevora a new Methodist preacher called Meakin. In those days John Wesley himself used to pay us a visit pretty well every August or September, but this year, for some reason or other, he gave us an extra revival, and sent down this Meakin to us at the beginning of June. For a very good reason he was never sent again.

He started very well indeed. You couldn’t call him much to look at; he had a long pair of legs which seemed differently jointed to yours and mine; no shoulders nor stomach to speak of, no-coloured hair, and a glazing, watery eye. But the wonder began when you heard his voice. It filled his clothes out suddenly like one of those indiarubber squeakers the children blow at Whitsun Fair; and coming from a man whose looks were all against him, it made you feel humble-minded for having been so quick to judge. I think he had found out the value of this kind of surprise and went about neglecting his appearance on purpose.

As I say, he started very well. He preached at the Stennack on Saturday, and next day near the market-place, “for the sake,” he said, “of those who could not climb the hill”–though, to be sure, they needn’t have left their doors to hear him a mile off. There was a tidy gathering–farm-carts and market-carts and gigs from all parts of the country round–almost as many as if he had been John Wesley himself. He preached again at five o’clock in the evening, and so fired up Mrs. Geen that by ten next morning she was down at Nance’s house, where he lodged, laying all her trouble before him.

Mr. Meakin heard her out, and then took a line which altogether surprised her. He seemed to care less for the danger her Phoby was running than for the crime he was committing. Yes; he called it a crime!

“As a Christian woman,” he said, “you must know his soul’s in danger. What in comparison with that does his body matter?”

Mrs. Geen hadn’t any answer for this, so what she said was, “My Phoby ‘ve never given me a day’s trouble since his teething.” And then, seeing the preacher was upset, and wishing to keep things as pleasant as possible, she went on, “I don’t see no crime in learning to be a carpenter.”

“By your own showing,” said Mr. Meakin, “he is in danger of being led into smuggling by wild companions.”

“Nothing wild about John Carter,” she held out. “A married man and as steady as you could wish to see; a man with convictions of sin, as I know, an’ two of his brothers saved. You couldn’ hear a prettier preacher than Charles. And John, he always runs a freight most careful. I never heard of any wildness at all in connection with he–not a whisper.”