HESTER Wilmot, I am ſorry to obſerve ha [...] been by nature peeviſh, and lazy, ſhe woul [...] now and then ſlight her work, and when her mothe [...] was very unreaſonable ſhe was too apt to retu [...] her a ſaucy anſwer, but when ſhe became a [...] quainted with her own heart, and with the ſcripture [...] theſe evil tempers were in a good meaſure ſubdue [...] for ſhe now learnt to imitate, not her violent mother, but him who was meek and lowly. When ſh [...] was ſcolded for doing ill ſhe prayed for grace t [...] do better; and the only anſwer ſhe made to he [...] mother's charge, "that religion only ſerved t [...] make people lazy," was to ſtrive to do twice a [...] much work, in order to prove, that it really mad [...] them diligent. The only thing in which ſhe ve [...] tured to diſobey her mother was, that when ſhe o [...] dered her to do week-days work on a Sunday Heſter cried, and ſaid, "ſhe did not dare diſobe [...] God," but to ſhow that ſhe did not wiſh to ſa [...] her own labour, ſhe would do a double portion work on the Saturday night, and riſe two hour earlier on the Monday morning.
Once when ſhe had worked very hard, her mother told her ſhe would treat her with a holid [...] the following Sabbath, and take her a fine walk eat cakes and drink ale at Weſton fair, whi [...] though it was profeſſed to be kept on the Monda [...] yet, to the diſgrace of the village, always began [Page 3] the Sunday evening.* Rebecca, who would on no account have waſted the Monday, which was a working day, in idleneſs, and pleaſure, thought ſhe had a very good right to enjoy herſelf at the fair on the Sunday evening, as well as to take her children. Heſter earneſtly begged to be leſt at home, and her mother in a rage went without her. A wet walk and more ale than ſhe was uſed to drink gave Rebecca a dangerous fever, during this illneſs, Heſter who would not follow her to a ſcene of diſſolute mirth, attended her night and day, and denied herſelf neceſſaries that her ſick mother might have comforts. And though ſhe ſecretly prayed to God that this ſickneſs might change her mother's heart yet ſhe never once reproached her, or pat her in mind, that it was caught by indulging in a ſinful pleaſure. Another Sunday night her father told Heſter, he thought ſhe had been at ſchool long enough for him to have a little good of her learning, ſo he deſired ſhe would ſtay at home and read to him. Heſter cheerfully ran and fetched her Teſtament. But John fell a laughing, called her a fool, and ſaid, "it would be time enough to read the Teſtament to him when he was going to die, but at preſent he muſt have ſomething merry." So ſaying, he gave her a ſong-book which he had picked up at the Bell. Heſter having caſt her eyes [Page 4] over it, refuſed to read it, ſaying, "ſhe did not dare offend God by reading what would hurt her own ſoul." John called her a canting hypocrite and ſaid, he would put the Teſtament in the fire, for that there was not a more merry girl than ſhe was before ſhe became religious. Her mother for once took her part, not becauſe ſhe thought her daughter in the right, but becauſe ſhe was glad of any pretence to ſhew her huſband was in the wrong; though ſhe herſelf would have abuſed Heſter for the ſame thing if John had taken her part. John, with a ſhocking oath, abuſed them both, and went off in a violent paſſion. Heſter, inſtead of ſaying one undutiful word againſt her father, took up a Pſalter in order to teach her little ſiſters, but Rebecca was ſo provoked at her for not joining her in her abuſe of her huſband, that ſhe changed her humour, ſaid John was in the right, and Heſter a perverſe hypocrite, who only made religion a pretence for being undutiful to her parents. Heſter bore all in ſilence, and committed her cauſe to him who judgeth righteouſly. It would have been a great comfort to her if ſhe had dared to go and open her heart to Mrs. Crew, and to have joined in the religious exerciſes of the evening at ſchool. But her mother refuſed to let her, ſaying, it would only harden her heart in miſchief. Heſter ſaid not a word, but after having put the little ones to bed, and heard them ſay their prayers but of ſight, ſhe went and ſat down in her own little loft, and ſaid to herſelf, "it would be pleaſant to me to have taught my little ſiſters to read, I thought it was my duty, for David has ſaid▪ Come ye children hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. I would have been ſtill more pleaſant to have paſſe [...] [Page 5] the evening at ſchool; becauſe I am ſtill ignorant, and fitter to learn than to teach; but I cannot do either without flying in the face of my mother; God ſees fit to-night to change my pleaſant duties into a painful trial. I give up my will, and I ſubmit to the will of my father; but when he orders me to commit a known ſin then I dare not do it, becauſe, in ſo doing, I muſt diſobey my father which is in heaven." Now it ſo fell out that this diſpute happened on the very Sunday next before Mrs. Jones's yearly feaſt. On May-day all the ſchool attended her to church, each in a ſtuff gown of their own earning, and a cap and white apron of her giving. After church there was an examination made into the learning and behaviour of the ſchools; thoſe who were moſt perfect in their chapters and brought the beſt character for induſtry, humility, and ſobriety, received a Bible, or ſome other good book."
Now Heſter had been a whole year hoarding up her little ſavings in order to be ready with a new gown on the May-day feaſt. She had never got leſs than two ſhillings a week, by her ſpinning, beſides working for the family, and earning a trifle by odd jobs. This money ſhe faithfully carried to her mother every Saturday night, keeping back, by conſent, only two-pence a week towards the gown. The ſum was compleat, the pattern had long been ſettled, and Heſter had only on the Monday morning to go to the ſhop, pay her money, and bring home her gown to be made. Her mother happened to go out that morning early to iron in a gentleman's family, where ſhe uſually ſtaid a day or two, and Heſter was buſy putting the houſe in order before ſhe went to the ſhop.
[Page 6] On that very Monday there was to be a meeting at the Bell of all the idle fellows in the pariſh, John Wilmot of courſe was to be there. Indeed he had accepted a challenge of the Blackſmith to a batch at all-fours. The Blackſmith was fluſh of money, John thought himſelf the beſt player; and that he might make ſure of winning, he reſolved to keep himſelf ſober, which he knew was more than the other would do. John was ſo uſed to go upon tick for ale, that he got to the door of the Bell before he recollected that he could not keep his word with the gambler without money, and he had not a penny in his pocket, ſo he ſullenly turned homewards. He dared not apply to his wife, as he knew he ſhould be more likely to get a ſcratched face than a ſix-pence from her; but he knew that Heſter had received two ſhillings for her laſt week's ſpinning on Saturday, and perhaps ſhe might not yet have given it to her mother. Of the hoarded ſum he knew nothing. He aſked her if ſhe could lend him half a crown and he would pay her next day. Heſter pleaſed to ſee him in good-humour after what had paſſed the night before, ran up and fetched down her little box, and, in the joy of her heart that he now deſired ſomething ſhe could comply with out wounding her conſcience, cheerfully poured out her whole little ſtock upon the table. John was in raptures at the ſight of three half crown: and a ſix-pence, and eagerly ſeized it, box and all together with a few hoarded halfpence at the bottom, though he had only aſked to borrow half crown. None but one whoſe heart was hardene [...] by a long courſe of drunkenneſs could have take [...] away the whole, and for ſuch a purpoſe. He tol [...] her ſhe ſhould certainly have it again next morning, [Page 7] and indeed intended to pay it, not doubting but he ſhould double the ſum. But John over-rated his own ſkill or luck, for he loſt every farthing to the Blackſmith, and ſneaked home before midnight, and quietly walked up to-bed. He was quite ſober, which Heſter thought a good ſign. Next morning ſhe aſked him in a very humble way for the money, which ſhe ſaid ſhe would not have done, but that if the gown was not bought directly it would not be ready in time for the feaſt. John's conſcience had troubled him a little for what he had done, for when he was not drunk he was not ill-natured, and he ſtammered out a broken excuſe, but owned he had loſt the money, and had not a farthing left. The moment Heſter ſaw him mild and kind, her heart was ſoftened, and ſhe begged him not to vex; adding, that ſhe would be contented never to have a new gown as long as ſhe lived, if ſhe could have the comfort of always ſeeing him come home as ſober as he was laſt night. For Heſter did not know that he had refrained from getting drunk, only that he might gamble with a better chance of ſucceſs, and that when a gameſter keeps himſelf ſober, it is not that he may practiſe a virtue, but that he may commit a worſe crime. "I am indeed ſorry for what I have done," ſaid he, "you cannot go to the feaſt, and what will Madam Jones ſay?" "Yes, but I can," ſaid Heſter, "for God looks not at the gown, but at the heart, and I am ſure [...]e ſees mine full of gratitude at hearing you talk ſo kindly; and if I thought my dear father would change [...]is preſent evil courſes, I ſhould be the happieſt [...]irl at the feaſt to-morrow." John walked away mournfully, and ſaid to himſelf, "ſurely there [Page 8] muſt be ſomething in religion ſince it can thus change the heart. Heſter was a pert girl, and now ſhe is as mild as a lamb. She was an indolent girl, and now ſhe is up with the lark. She was a vain girl, and would do any thing for a new ribbon; and now ſhe is contented to go in rags to a feaſt at which every one elſe will have a new gown. She deprived herſelf of her gown to give me the money, and yet this very girl ſo dutiful in ſome things would ſubmit to be turned out of doors, rather than read a looſe book at my command or break the Sabbath, I do not underſtand this, there muſt be ſome myſtery in it." All this he ſaid as he was going to work, In the evening he did not go to the Bell, whether it was owing to his new thoughts or to his not having a penny in his pocket, I will not take upon me poſitively to ſay, but I believe it was a little of one, and a little of the other.
As the pattern of the intended gown had long been ſettled in the family, and as Heſter had the money by her, it was looked on as good as bought, ſo that ſhe was truſted to get it brought home and made in her mother's abſence. Indeed ſo little did Rebecca care about the ſchool, that ſhe would not have cared any thing about the gown, if her vanity had not made her wiſh that her daughter ſhould be the beſt dreſt of any girl at the feaſt. Being from home as was ſaid before, ſhe knew nothing of the diſappointment. On May-day morning, Heſter, inſtead of keeping from the feaſt becauſe ſhe had not a new gown, or meanly inventing any excuſe dreſſed herſelf out as neatly, as ſhe could in her poor old things, and went to join the ſchool in order to go to church. Whether Heſter had formerly indulged a little pride of heart, and talked of this gown rather [Page 9] too much, I am not quite ſure, certain it is, there was a great hue and cry made at ſeeing Heſter Wilmot, the neateſt girl, the moſt induſtrious girl in the ſchool, come to the May-day feaſt in an old ſtuff gown, when every other girl was ſo creditably dreſt. Indeed I am ſorry to ſay, there were two or three much too ſmart for their ſtation, and who had dizened themſelves out in very improper finery which Mrs. Jones made them take off before her. "I mean this feaſt," ſaid ſhe, "as a reward of induſtry and piety, and not as a trial of ſkill who can be fineſt, and outvie the reſt in ſhow. If I do not take care my feaſt will become an encouragement, not to virtue, but to vanity. I am ſo great a friend to decency of apparel that I even like to ſee you deny your appetites that you may be able to come decently dreſſed to the houſe of God. To encourage you to do this, I like to ſet apart this one day of innocent pleaſure againſt which you may be preparing all the year, by laying aſide ſomething every week towards buying a gown out of your little ſavings. But, let me tell you, that meekneſs and an humble ſpirit is of more value in the ſight of God and good men than the gayeſt cotton gown, or the brighteſt pink ribbon in the pariſh."
Mrs. Jones, for all this, was as much ſurpriſed as [...]he reſt at Heſter's mean garb: but ſuch is the [...]ower of a good character, that ſhe gave her credit [...]or right intention, eſpecially as ſhe knew the un [...]appy ſtate of her family. For it was Mrs. Jones's [...]ay (and it is not a bad way) always to wait, and [...]nquire into the truth, before ſhe condemned any [...]ody of good character, though appearances were [...]gainſt them. "As we cannot judge of people's [...]otives," ſaid ſhe, "we may, from ignorance often [Page 10] condemn their beſt actions, and approve of their worſt". "It will be always time enough to judge unfavourably, and let us give others credit as long as we can, and then we in our turn may expect a a favourable judgment from others." Heſter was no more proud of what ſhe had done for her father, than ſhe was humbled by the meanneſs of her garb, and though Betty Stiles, one of the girls, whoſe finery had been taken away ſneered at her, Heſter never offered to clear herſelf by expoſing her father, though ſhe thought it right ſecretly to inform Mrs. Jones of what had paſt. When the examination of the girls began, Betty Stiles was aſked ſome queſtions on the fourth and fifth commandments, which ſhe anſwered very well. Heſter was aſked nearly the ſame queſtions, and though ſhe anſwered them no better than Betty had done, they were all ſurpriſed to ſee Mrs. Jones riſe up and give a handſome Bible to Heſter, while ſhe gave nothing to Betty. This girl cried out rather pertly, "Madam, it is very hard that I have no book, I was as perfect as Heſter." "I have often told you," ſaid Mrs. Jones, "that religion is not a thing of the tongue but of the heart. That girl gives me the beſt proof that ſhe has learned the fourth commandment to good purpoſe, who perſiſts in keeping holy the Sabbath-day, though commanded to break it by a parent whom ſhe loves. And that girl beſt proves that ſhe keeps the fifth, who gives up her own comfort and cloathing, and credit, to honour and obey her father and mother, even though they are not ſuch as ſhe could wiſh. Betty Stiles, though ſhe could anſwer the queſtions ſo readily went a-nutting laſt Sunday when ſhe ſhould have [Page 11] been at ſchool, and refuſed to nurſe her ſick mother when ſhe could not help herſelf."
Farmer Hoſkins, who ſtood by, whiſpered to Mrs. Jones, "Well, Madam, now you have convinced even me of the benefit of religious inſtruction, now I ſee there is a meaning to it. I thought it was in at one ear and out at the other, and that a ſong was as well as a pſalm; but now I have found the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I ſee your ſcholars muſt do what they hear, and obey what they learn. Why, at this rate, they will all, be the better ſervants for being really godly, and ſo I will add a pudding to next year's feaſt."
The pleaſure Heſter felt in receiving a new Bible, made her forget that ſhe had on an old gown. She walked to church in a thankful frame; but how great was her joy, when ſhe ſaw, among a number of working men, her own father going into church. As ſhe paſt by him ſhe caſt on him a look of ſo much joy and affection, that it brought tears into his eyes, eſpecially when he compared her mean dreſs with that of the other girls, and thought who had been the cauſe of it. John, who had not been at church for ſome years, was deeply ſtruck with the ſervice. The confeſſion with which it opens went to his heart. He felt, for the, firſt time, that he was "a miſerable ſinner, and that there was no health in him." He now felt compunction for ſin in general, though it was only his ill behaviour to his daughter which had brought him to church. The ſermon was ſuch as ſerved to ſtrengthen the impreſſion which the prayers had made, and when it was over, inſtead of joining the ringers (for the belfry was the only part of the church John liked, becauſe it uſually led to the [Page 12] alehouſe) he quietly walked back to his work. It was indeed the beſt day's work he ever made. He could not get out of his head the whole day the firſt words he had heard at church. "When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedneſs and doth that which is lawful and right, he ſhall ſave his ſoul alive." At night, inſtead of going to the Bell, he went home, intending to aſk Heſter to forgive him; but as ſoon as he got to the door, he heard Rebecca rating his daughter for having brought ſuch a diſgrace on the family as to be ſeen in that old rag of a gown, and inſiſted on knowing what ſhe had done with the money. Heſter tried to keep the ſecret, but her mother declared ſhe would turn her out of doors if ſhe did not tell the truth. Heſter was at laſt forced to confeſs ſhe had given it to her father. Unfortunately for poor John it was at this very moment he opened the door. The mother now divided her fury between her guilty huſband and her innocent child, till from words ſhe fell to blows. John defended his daughter, and received ſome of the ſtrokes intended for the poor girl. This turbulent ſcene partly put John's good reſolutions to ſlight, though the patience of Heſter did him almoſt as much good as the ſermon he had heard. At length the poor girl eſcaped up ſtairs not a little bruiſed, and a ſcene of much violence paſſed between John and Rebecca. She declared ſhe would not ſit down to ſupper with ſuch a brute, and ſet off to a neighbour's houſe, that ſhe might have the pleaſure of abuſing him the longer. John, whoſe mind was much diſturbed, went up ſtairs without his ſupper. As he was paſſing by Heſter's little room he heard her voice, and as he concluded ſhe was [Page 13] venting bitter complaints againſt her unnatural parents, he ſtopped to liſten, reſolving to go in and comfort her. He ſtopped at the door, for by the light of the moon he ſaw her kneeling by her bedſide, and praying ſo earneſtly that ſhe did not hear him. As he made ſure ſhe could be praying for nothing but his death, what was his ſurpriſe to hear theſe words. "O Lord, have mercy upon my dear father and mother, teach me to love them to pray for them, and do them good, make me more dutiful and more patient, that, adorning the doctrine of God my Saviour, I may recommend his holy religion, and my dear parents may be brought to love and fear thee."
Poor John, who would never have been hard hearted if he had not been a drunkard, could not ſtand this, he fell down on his knees, embraced his child, and begged her to teach him how to pray. He prayed himſelf as well as he could, and though he did not know what words to uſe, yet his heart was melted; he owned he was a ſinner, and begged Heſter to fetch the prayer book, and read over the confeſſion with which he had been ſo ſtruck at church. This was the pleaſanteſt order ſhe had ever obeyed. Seeing him deeply affected with a ſenſe of ſin, ſhe pointed out to him the Saviour of ſinners; and in this manner ſhe paſt ſome hours with her father, which were the happieſt of her life; ſuch a night was worth a hundred cotton, or even ſilk gowns. In the courſe of the week Heſter read over the confeſſion, and ſome other prayers, to her father ſo often that he got them by heart, and repeated them while he was at work. And at length he took courage to kneel down and pray before he went to bed. From that time he [Page 14] bore his wife's ill-humour much better than he had ever done, and, as he knew her to be neat, and notable, and ſaving, he began to think, that if her temper was not quite ſo bad, his home might ſtill become as pleaſant a place to him as ever the Bell had been: but unleſs ſhe became more tractable he did not know what to do with his long evenings after the little ones were in bed, for he began once more to delight in playing with them. Heſter propoſed that ſhe ſhould teach him to read an hour every night, and he conſented. Rebecca began to ſtorm from the mere trick ſhe had got of ſtorming; but finding that he now brought home all his earnings, and that ſhe got both his money and his company (for ſhe had once loved him) ſhe began to reconcile herſelf to this new way of life. In a few months John could read a pſalm; in learning to read it he alſo got it by heart, and this proved a little ſtore for private devotion, and while he was mowing he could call to mind a text to chee [...] his labour, He now went conſtantly to church and often dropped in at the ſchool on a Sunday evening to hear their prayers. He expreſſed [...] much pleaſure at this, that one day Heſter ventured to aſk him if they ſhould ſet up family prayer at home. John ſaid he ſhould like mightily, but as he could not yet read quite we enough, he deſired Heſter to try to get a prop [...] book and begin next Sunday night. Heſter ha [...] bought of a pious Hawker for three-halfpence the Book of Prayers, printed for the Cheap Repo [...] tory, by Mr. Marſhall, Queen-Street, Cheapſide.*
[Page 15] When Heſter read the exhortation at the beginning of this little book, her mother, who ſat in the corner, and pretended to be aſleep, was ſo much ſtruck that ſhe could, not find a word to ſay againſt it. For a few nights, indeed, ſhe continued to ſit ſtill, or pretended to rock the young child while her huſband and daughter were kneeling at their prayers. She expected John would have ſcolded her for this, and ſo perverſe was her temper, that ſhe was diſappointed at his finding no fault with her. Seeing at laſt that he was very patient, and that though he prayed fervently himſelf he ſuffered her to do as ſhe liked, ſhe loſt the ſpirit of oppoſition for want of ſomething to provoke it. As her pride began to be ſubdued, ſome little diſpoſition to piety was awakened in her heart. By degrees ſhe ſlid down on her knees, though at firſt it was behind the cradle, or the clock, or in ſome corner, where ſhe thought they would not ſee her. Heſter rejoiced even in this outward change in her mother, and prayed that God would at laſt be pleaſed to touch her heart as he had done that of her father.
As John now ſpent no idle money, he had ſaved up a trifle by working over-hours, this he kindly offered to Heſter to make up for the loſs of her gown. Inſtead of accepting it, Heſter told him, that as ſhe herſelf was young and healthy, ſhe ſhould ſoon be able to clothe herſelf out of her own ſavings, and begged him to make her mother a preſent of this gown, which he did. It had been a maxim of Rebecca, that it was better not go to Church at all than go in an old gown. She had, however, ſo far conquered this evil notion, that ſhe had lately [Page 16] gone pretty often. This kindneſs of the gown touched her not a little, and the firſt Sunday ſhe put it on, Mr. Simpſon happened to preach from this text, "God reſiſteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." This ſermon ſo affected Rebecca that ſhe never once thought ſhe had her new gown on, till ſhe came to take it off when ſhe went to-bed, and that very night, inſtead of ſkulking behind, ſhe knelt down by her huſband.
There was one thing ſunk deep in Rebecca's mind, ſhe had obſerved, that ſince her huſband had grown religious he bad been ſo careful not to give her any offence, that he was become ſcrupulouſly clean; took off his dirty ſhoes before he ſat down and was very cautious not to ſpill a drop of bee [...] on her ſhining table. Now it was rather remarkable, that as John grew more neat Rebecca grew more indifferent to neatneſs. But both theſe change aroſe from the ſame cauſe, the growth of religio [...] in their hearts. John grew cleanly from the [...]ea [...] of giving pain to his wife, while Rebecca grew in different from having diſcovered the ſin and vani [...] of an over anxious care about trifles.
Heſter continues to grow in grace, and in knowledge. Laſt chriſtmas-day ſhe was appointed a [...] under teacher in the ſchool, and many people think that ſome years hence, if any thing ſhould happe [...] to Mrs. Crew, Heſter may be promoted to be hea [...] miſtreſs.