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The Cottars of the Glen
Chapter IV

The sacrament—The conversion—The discovery—Affecting scene— The workshop—The poacher—Death of the poacher—The lesson taught

After the hubbub caused by the robbers had ceased, and the cottagers had resumed their composure, a general preparation was made for setting out for the church. The precaution, however, of leaving a few to watch in their absence was resorted to. Scores on scores of people were seen issuing from the glen, and along the sides of the hills, to the place of meeting, on this day of high solemnity. The church-yard was the meeting place, for the company was so large that the church itself could not contain them. The whole of the services were observed in the open air—in the bright sunshine—while the multitude sat on through stones, or on the green-tufted graves of the dead. On these occasions great crowds convened from all the parishes around, and a number of ministers of various gifts and degrees of acceptability were generally found assisting on these hallowed seasons. The people, on the whole, were not disappointed in their expectations, for the gospel came in the fulness of its blessing on the hearts of those who thirsted for the "Word of God. This sacramental solemnity was in no respect different from others that were held annually in the same place, and it is mentioned simply in connection with a specific occurrence that befel at the time, and that was the conversion of the youngest daughter of our cottage patriarch, in whose behalf, as we have already noticed, he had wrestled as in agony. The great and absorbing desire on the part of Saunders was to see his child led to the Saviour.

Jenny was about thirteen years of age when this great change was experienced. It was while one of the ministers was addressing a table from the words, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!" that Divine influence reached the heart of the poor child, and laid her prostrate as a subdued penitent at the footstool of the Lord. The Word came in power, and with all her heart she embraced the Saviour, and devoted herself entirely to Him. Little reckoned her affectionate parent what was going on in the heart of his dear child, for whom he had travailed as in birth, till Christ was formed in her. It was not till all was over, and the family, in company with others, had reached their home in the glen, that the whole matter was divulged. When Barbara had prepared the evening meal, of which, after the fasting of nearly a whole day, the family were amply disposed to partake, Jenny was not to be found. What had become of the child. "I thought," said the mother, with some degree of concern; "I thought she had been with us." On this she retired to seek her; and, stepping here and there among the bushes, and along the side of the dike, she at least heard a voice—the voice of her child, engaged in fervent prayer, and pleading with great earnestness for mercy through the blood of the great Redeemer whom that day she had evidently seen set forth crucified in the midst of the public assembly. Tbis voice of prayer was sweet music in the mother's ears, and her own heart melted, and she kneeled by the dike and united her prayer with that of her poor child, who with tears was drawing near to the great Father of mercies through the blood of the blessed propitiation. She waited for a few minutes till Jenny rose from her knees, and, coming round by the little gate to the place where her mother was, the poor thing stood sobbing and bathed in tears, and then revealed the matter to the anxious mother. "My dear, dear child," faltered Barbara, her voice choked with deep emotion; "my dear child, this is the day of your spiritual birth, twice born—born to your parents, and now born to God. Your father and I have longed to see this day, and now it has come; our prayers are doubly answered, and all thanks to Him, the great Spirit, who bath wrought the change, His right hand and His holy arm have gotten Him the victory!"

When they entered the house Barbara announced the good news to Saunders. "Come," he exclaimed, with ecstasy; "come to my arms, my dear child, come to my bosom. We received you from the Lord when you came into the world, and we received you joyfully; and now again we receive you from the same Lord, but by a high and spiritual birth, we receive you as a child born again —born of the Holy Ghost, and in union with the Divine Saviour, and in connection with the great body of the faithful. O what a day has this been to me in answer to prayer, first in defending us from the ruthless housebreakers, and now in bringing home my dear child into the redeemed family of God, our heavenly Father. The Lord enabled me to wrestle in prayer this morning for your salvation, and now in the evening of this same day He has enabled me to see my dear child, always dear, but never so dear to me as now, stand before me in a state of grace. Let us kneel, my household, let us kneel and give thanks to the God of salvation for His distinguished favour to us this day." When they rose from prayer, they partook of their meal with glad hearts, and Saunders rejoiced in God with all his house. The conversion of Jenny is a fact well known to us, and is not given merely for illustration's sake.

We have said that Saunders followed the occupation of a wright, and supplied the glen and places adjacent with implements of husbandry, and with articles of domestic use. As he was somewhat dexterous in the way of his calling, he drew customers from a pretty wide circle; and, being a thoroughly honest man, he was fully trusted by his employers. As to worldly means he was at first straitened enough, and had his own difficulties like other people, but gradually he got his head above the water, and, by the Divine blessing, wrought himself into tolerably comfortable circumstances. His workshop stood close by the end of his dwelling-house, and was, on the whole, as snug a place for his purpose as could be desired. The workshop, then, as might be expected, was a place of frequent resort, and most of the idlers in the glen thought they had a prescriptive right to pass in upon Saunders when they found it convenient. The story of the robbers was now the frequent topic of conversation, and the conduct of Saunders was loudly applauded. One day as a batch of loungers had incidentally met in the workshop, and all were condemning acts of robbery, and one man especially was vociferous, and almost frantic in his denunciations of the villanous practices of the men who had been so opportunely detected, and chased from their ambush in the underwood. This individual was a suspected poacher, and Saunders opined that his furious zeal was intended as a cloak to conceal his own nefarious practices. "O yes!" added Saunders, "what can be more wicked than robbery? But, then, robbery is not all of one kind, there are diversities of robberies. A man may rob by withholding from his servant a portion of his fair and honest wages; a man may rob by refusing to pay his just debts; a man robs who is guilty of extortion: a man robs who steals a sheep from the hill; and a man robs who gins hares, and shoots moor-fowls on the mountains and on the wild moors. In these and many other ways a man may be guilty of robbery." "I agree with you," said the man; "in all the things which you have mentioned except one, and that is poaching, which you degrade by the name of robbery, and "------

"Beg your pardon," replied Saunders, "you cannot degrade that which has no dignity in it." "What! no dignity in pursuing the game on the mountains; do not the gentry all around follow that practice." "May be," added Saunders, "but in that case they are taking what is their own, and the moral degradation of theft cannot be attached to them." "I hold," rejoined the poacher, "that the snaring of hares, and the shooting of the wild fowls on the hills is no moral evil, for I contend that these belong to nobody. No man can lay exclusive claim to these animals and mountain birds which the gentry are now pleased to call game, and which they preserve simply for their own amusement, and I affirm that the capture of the so-called game is the indefeasible right of every man universally."

"Well," replied honest Saunders, "what may be man's abstract and original right to these articles I shall not take it upon me to determine; but this I know, whatever in that respect overrides the law must be wrong, and no man can, in my sincere convictions, be an honest man if he be guilty of poaching!" "But I insist," replied the man, "that these are the property of no individual, and that the law that says they are the property of the certain persons on whose lands they are found, is a wrong law, and surely we are not bound to keep the law if it be wrong." "That may be your opinion, but the opinion of the law makers may be different, and if we think a law to be hard, we can reclaim. We live in a free country, and we can petition and seek redress, but we have no right to take the law in our own hand. I say again, that no honest man can be a poacher. It is a bad trade to follow, and it hardens and demoralises the person who follows it." "I don't at all coincide with your reasoning," replied the poacher, " and I am determined to assert my right." "May be," added Saunders, "but I am against it because it is against the law, and law is law till it be fairly altered; and my religion teaches me to respect the laws, and to live loyally, and soberly, and honestly in all things, that the Christianity which we profess may sustain no damage and suffer no reproach."

In this way did Saunders and his opponent reason in the presence of a number of people convened in the workshop. When the man departed, Saunders remarked that he thought he was ill at ease, and that this was not the first time that he had voluntarily introduced the subject, and that he had more than once observed a faltering in his tone, although he seemed at present to be more dogmatical in his assertion than on former occasions; but this, perhaps, may be to serve a purpose in the midst of so many of us. I have often thought that I have no more right to appropriate the game on these hills without permission, than to cut the wild wood that grows in these dark lins and on that tangled woodland without honestly buying it, or receiving it as a free gift: the one is no more mine than the other.

Next morning the cottars were thrown into a state of no small consternation and distress when the news reached them that the poor poacher was found dead on the hill in a pool of his own blood. He had gone out that very night with his gun on his shoulder, and when stepping across a drain he missed his footing, and in falling his gun went off, and the shot passing through a vital part he bled to death. In this plight he was found by a shepherd on the height. The circumstance was a matter of much thoughtfulness to the simple-hearted cottars, who disapproved of the man's occupation, and they resolved to denounce all such forbidden traffic.

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