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Chapter XIII.

Introduces Sophy Rowley and Sam Rafter, the journeyman joiner.— Remarks on local influences.—Bob Stubble's complacency at his defeat in love matters.

SOPHY ROWLEY, the only daughter of the honest old pair just introduced, was a pretty-looking girl of about nineteen years of age; of artless, unpretending manners, and thoroughly domesticated habits. She was born at Briarburn (the name of her father's farm), and had been carefully trained by her devoted parents. Of course she liked a little bit of fun now and then, but she did not dislike work, and rarely or never neglected important duties for pastime of any sort. She had received a useful education at a day-school at Daisybank, and had been a scholar in a Sunday-school there, until she grew old enough to be a teacher. Since then she had been most diligent in studying to qualify herself for the duties of her office. She felt a real interest in the welfare of her pupils, and received their love and confidence in return.

Maggie Stubble and Sophy had been schoolfellows, and were at one time warmly attached to each other, but of late Maggie had slighted her unpretending friend in a way which she could not fail to notice; and though she did not resent the treatment in an ill-natured way, she had too much honest pride to obtrude her friendship upon one who had so plainly shown that she did not value it.

Bob Stubble had long shown a partiality for Sophy, which was observed by her watchful parents. It is true he had never consulted them, or made to their daughter what could be properly called a declaration of love; but that they attributed to his natural shyness, for they could have no doubt as to the object of his frequent visits to their house. Mr and Mrs Rowley had often talked the matter over, but were strangely perplexed when trying to decide what answer to give to Bob if he “popped the question,” which they daily expected him to do.

“Bob is a smart fellow,” remarked Mr Rowley, as he and

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his wife were one day discussing the merits and demerits of the youth. “There is not a lad in the district that knows more about cattle than he does, and he is pretty knowing in many other things; still, I do not think he is exactly the one to make our girl happy for life, and I cannot make up my mind that it would be a safe match for her.”

“He is very steady, and a well-spoken young fellow, Peter,” said Mrs Rowley, with a sort of inquiring glance at her spouse.

“Yes, he is all that, my dear, and more too; but I take it that a man who totally disregards the divine command to keep the Sabbath-day holy has not much religion; consequently it would be an unequal yoke for Sophy, and we could not expect their union to be a happy one.

“That is just what I have been thinking, Peter; and I believe it is the very thing that stops us from making up our minds to say yes, if he should ask us to let him have Sophy. Every day since she has been born we have asked God to teach us to train her in the right way, and it seems to me to be going in the face of Providence to give her to a man who does not ‘fear God and keep His commandments.’ But Bob is an honest, good-natured lad, and he has got sense enough in his head to know what is lawful and right. He may get religion, you know, Peter.”

“Yes, mother, he may get it easily enough, if he will only seek it in the right way, and I believe he knows the way too; but he must show proofs to us that he really does possess it, before we can safely give our girl to him. I do not believe in the notion I have heard some people propound, that a good woman can always influence her husband. It is flattering to womankind I daresay, but I have no faith in it. It may be possible for her to do it to some extent, but it is a dangerous experiment for any young girl to make. She had better try to reform a man before marriage, for if she has not influence over him then, it is ten to one if she will ever have it, and she will run a terrible risk of being influenced by him to her own ruin. That is my opinion, mother; and if you agree, I think it will be well for one of us to tell Sophy our mind, and advise her how to act with Bob in future. I am sure she will dutifully accede to our wishes, for she knows that we have her best interests at heart.”

Mr and Mrs Rowley saw eye to eye in most things, especially in the important matter of training their only daughter; and they never had any of those jarring arguments which so often

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mar the happiness of man and wife. After tea that evening, Peter rode into a Church meeting at Daisybank; and while he was away, Mrs Rowley had a long conversation with Sophy, and learned from her the exact state of her mind towards Bob. She admitted that she had liked him very well a year or two ago, but that the feeling had not strengthened upon a longer acquaintance; and lately she fancied that he had been influenced by his sister to slight her, for there had been a marked alteration in his demeanour towards her, inasmuch as she had resolved before her mother spoke to her to discontinue her intimacy with him, as soon as she could do so without disturbing the neighbourly feelings of the two families. Moreover, Sophy confessed, after some hesitation, that she had a growing regard for another young man, who had shown her respectful attention, though he had never even whispered a word of love in her hearing. That young man, she blushingly stated, was Samuel Rafter, the young joiner of Daisybank.

Sophy might with good reason have admired Sam for his handsome face and manly figure; but there were other attractions which had more influence over the sedate young maiden's heart; and Mrs Rowley's eyes glistened with tears of joy and pride as she heard her daughter declare that she never would marry any one, however high his social position might be, if he did not possess true religion, which is the spring source of all good qualities, and without which she could not hope to be happy with any husband. “God bless you, my dear child!” said Mrs Rowley, kissing her affectionately; “you have filled my heart with gladness, and I am sure your dear father will rejoice too, when I tell him what you have said to me. It will be a gloomy day for us when you leave our home for one of your own, and I have no wish to hasten the time. Solicitude for your happiness has induced me to learn your feelings for young Stubble, and now I know how to act towards him.”

Samuel Rafter was a bustling young man, about twenty-four years of age. He was born in the neighbourhood of Daisybank, and had served his apprenticeship to Mr Clamp, the master-builder. I have already alluded to Sam's handsome face and athletic frame. His head was a study for a phrenologist, but, above all, his heart was sound.

Sam's widowed mother lived in a neat little cottage of her own, on the outskirts of Daisybank; and during the term of his apprenticeship, she had a hard struggle to keep a comfortable

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home for herself and her only son. Her poor old back often ached very much with sitting many hours every day of the week, making cabbage-tree hats for their mutual support; but when Sam was out of his time, he would not suffer her to work at hat-making, and he hired a woman for a day in each week to do the domestic drudgery. When most of the working-men of Daisybank rushed to the diggings, leaving their families to shift for themselves, Sam nobly resolved that he would not leave his poor old mother alone for all the gold in the land. He kept to his trade, and in consequence of the scarcity of workmen and abundance of money, he could readily earn from twenty-five to thirty shillings a-day; so he made the most of the good times, and often worked a quarter of a day overtime, or did odd jobs in his own little workshop at home, for which he got well paid.

It is a remarkable fact, that out of the many persons of the working-class with whom I was acquainted in those exciting days of high prices, I could name but very few indeed who carefully husbanded their earnings, and who could say, when the excitement had somewhat subsided, that they were really better off for the unprecedentedly high wages which they had received. Sam Rafter, however, was one of the rare exceptions. His early-formed habits of frugality and industry were never vitiated, or even influenced, by the examples of extravagance and idleness which surrounded him. He made money fast, but he saved it; and not one of his fellow-workmen who had rushed to the diggings was so well off as himself at the year's end; while many of them returned penniless, and with their health broken down by severe bodily exertion, and the privations and hardships which were inseparable from a digger's life in those early days of gold-seeking.

Another strong reason which Sam had for not going to the diggings was, that he was a teacher in the Sunday-school, and leader of the little choir in the church; and he knew that there was no one who would fill his offices if he vacated them just then. Conscience told him that it was his duty to remain; so that decided it, and all the tempting reports from the gold-fields did not induce him to swerve.

The Great Teacher himself said, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country.” It is very likely that Sam might have improved his social position had he removed from the neighbourhood where he was bred and born, for, in addition to a fine manly figure, he had a strong intellect.

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His early education had been neglected, but he diligently applied himself to self-culture, in which he was greatly assisted by a little book, written by Rev. J. Paxton Hood, called “Self-education.” Sam has often recommended the same useful work to young men of his acquaintance. There were no mutual-improvement classes or reading or lecture rooms at Daisybank in those days, and it occurred to Sam that something of the kind might be inaugurated: so he took great pains to prepare a lecture to young men, and got the use of the court-house to deliver it in. He had no pedantic motive in coming out as a lecturer, but simply a desire to induce some thoughtless lads in the village to read and study, instead of wasting their evenings in riotous games, to the annoyance of quiet folk.

It is likely enough that, had any pretentious stranger announced a lecture, he would have had an approving audience; but poor Sam's first attempt to enlighten his friends in that way was a failure, for the very reason which should have ensured its success—he was well known to them all. The old gentleman who was asked to preside at the lecture said, “Pooh, pooh! What does that lad know about lecturing? He had better stick to his tool-basket.” It was urged that Sam's boldness might incite others in the district “to come out” in the same way, but the old gentleman still declined to countenance presumption by taking the chair. An old woman said reproachfully, “Why, I knew him when he used to run about the streets without shoes or stockings; so I'm sure I shall not go to hear him.” The lads for whose benefit Sam had taken all the pains, ridiculed the whole affair, and only went for the avowed purpose of “making a fool of Chips;” thus showing that they were fools themselves.

Many young lecturers or preachers, and young authors too, have winced under the lashings of critics; and some sensitive minds have been permanently weakened by such onslaughts, like a tree bowed to the ground by the fury of a hurricane without elasticity enough to rise again. Sam Rafter was naturally annoyed for a while at the treatment his first literary effort had received; but he had too much energy of character to be disheartened by the remarks of a few prejudiced persons, who had condemned his lecture without hearing it, or at any rate without understanding it. He locked the manuscript in his desk, remarking to himself, as he did so, “Perhaps this snubbing is all for the best. If I had been applauded, it

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might have made me too self-confident, and I might have come out as a Mentor before I had the necessary qualification; and then of course I should have merited the contempt of sensible folks. I will diligently strive to increase my little stock of knowledge; and when I next appear as a lecturer perhaps I shall be better appreciated, for I will take care that it shall be in some place where there are not so many old fogies present who knew me when I was a little boy, and who seem to regard me as a boy still, despite the evidence of my whiskers. Ah, well! it is all right, I am sure,” he continued, “and it will doubtless conduce in some way to my good, though I cannot see the working of it just at present. ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ ”

That was the way Sam usually derived comfort under trials or difficulties which he could not exactly see through. Opposition only “put him on his mettle,” as he called it, and brought out qualities which he otherwise would not have known that he possessed.

I was present at a dinner given by a rejected candidate for the representation of an electorate in one of the northern districts of this colony to a few of his supporters. In the course of his speech, after his health was drunk, the gentleman jocosely remarked: “The main reason my opponents have given for rejecting me as their representative is—‘That I was once a boy about their town.’ Now, most of us have been boys about some place or other; but it is plain that a boy does not always get most appreciated in his native place.”

Thus a ridiculous prejudice lost that electorate one of the wisest and best men that ever sat in our legislative halls. He was returned for another constituency, and he afterwards filled a seat in the “Upper House” until his death. It is true that he was a “boy about N——,” a poor boy too; but he left that town while in his boyhood, and in course of time he rose by his own energy and talent to be a wealthy and highly influential man. Foremost in every useful work, he lived respected and died regretted, and his memory is revered by thousands who knew his sterling worth. Though I have not given his name, doubtless some of my readers will recognise the picture of one of their warmest friends.

It is my deliberate opinion that where there are no inseparable family ties, or other important considerations or influences, it is advisable for young men who have their way to work up in life, to leave their native home—especially if it be situate

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in a small country town; for in general they will have a better chance of distinguishing themselves where they were not known as poor boys.

It is likely that the local influences alluded to lowered Sam Rafter in the estimation of Miss Stubble, and steeled her heart to the softer influence of love. There was certainly nothing in his personal appearance for her to object to; on the contrary, there was everything which most women would think attractive; besides, his character was unblemished, and his habits steady in the extreme. But all those excellencies were overlooked or slighted by purse-proud Maggie; and she treated the modest advances of Sam first with flirting indifference, then with a disdain which he could not misunderstand. So, with a proper manly spirit, he ceased his attentions to her, and after a time begun to look tenderly at Sophy Rowley, and I have before stated that she regarded him with growing affection. It was not long before Sam proposed in due form, and was accepted by Sophy with the unhesitating assent of her parents.

Bob Stubble soon heard of the engagement, and doubtless felt a little chagrined, for he really liked Sophy. However, he consoled himself by saying that she was too prosy to suit him, altogether too sedate for a young girl of her age. The new companionship of Goldstone perhaps helped to keep Bob from thinking of his defeat, and it was not apparent to any one that he grieved much about it. Maggie and her mother were glad that there was now no probability of a close connexion with such a disagreeably strait-laced family as the Rowleys, and tried to make Bob believe that he ought to look for a wife in a much more elevated circle of society.

“All right! I am not in a hurry to wed. Who knows that I may not smite some fine girl with plenty of money? Many worse-looking fellows than I have made a fortune in that way.” As Bob gave expression to those half-jocular sentiments, he fondled his young beard, and looked as striking as if he were standing for his photograph.