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The Torn Bible; Or, Hubert's Best Friend

Alice Somerton

  Produced by Chris Curnow, Griff Evans, Lindy Walsh and theOnline Distributed Proofreading Team at





  Perhaps, dear boys, you wonder why I should have dedicated this littlebook to you: it is that you may feel a deeper interest in it, andimbibe, from reading it, an earnest love and reverence for your Bible,which, like a good angel, can guide you safely through the world aslong as you live. Like Hubert's mother, I ask you to read a portionevery day; and, whatever be the battle of life you may have to fight,may God's blessing attend you, making you humble towards Him, dutifulto your parents, and a blessing to mankind.

  Believe me, Yours affectionately, ALICE SOMERTON.




  May thy goodness Share with thy birthright! * * * * * * * What heaven more will That these may furnish and my prayers pluck down, Fall on thy head! Farewell.--SHAKESPEARE.

  The rural and picturesque village of Hulney, in the north of England,is a charming place; it is almost surrounded with well-wooded hills,and the little rivulets, which ever murmur down their sides, run intothe limpid stream along the banks of which most of the cottages arebuilt.

  At the north end of the village, on the slope of a hill, is the church,so thickly covered with ivy that the only portions of the stoneworkvisible are part of the ancient tower and the chancel window.

  Legend and historic fact hang their mantle round this old church.History tells us that the brave, yet often cruel, Margaret, wife ofHenry VI., fled there after a defeat in one of her battles; and it isalso recorded that one hundred of the heroes of Flodden Field restedthere on their return from the victory. Modern times have added to theinterest which clings to this old place, and one thing especially whichdraws attention will form the subject of this story.

  In that old churchyard, where the children of many generations lie sideby side, there is many a touching or interesting record; but thestranger ever lingers the longest near seven white grave-stones, allbearing the name of Goodwin. Upon the one which has the most recentdate is the following inscription:--"Sacred to the Memory of HubertGoodwin, aged seventy years;" and below this a book, partly destroyed,with several of the loose leaves, is carved upon the stone: and though,perhaps, this description of it may not be striking, the exquisitecarving of that destroyed book is such that people ask its meaning, andthey are told that it is a "torn Bible."

  Hubert Goodwin, the tenant of that grave, was the eldest of sixchildren, blessed with pious and affectionate parents, well to do inthe world, and descended from a family of some distinction.

  Great pains were bestowed upon Hubert's education, as he grew up toyouth; but from his birth he was of such a passionate turn, and attimes so ungovernable, that he was the source of all the sorrow thatfor many years fell to the lot of his parents: he was different to theirother children, and many a time when reproof had been necessary, and thelittle wayward one, after a troubled day, had retired to rest, hismother's heart, still heavy, led her softly to the bed where he laysleeping, and there, kneeling down, she would commend him again, withperhaps a deeper earnestness, to that One who knew all her trouble, andwhom she knew could alone help her. Once the boy awoke as his motherknelt beside him, and, as though in answer to her prayer that his heartmight be changed, he burst into tears, and, throwing his arms round herneck, expressed deep sorrow at having grieved her, and promised to tryand do better. Poor mother! her joy was brief; in a very short time hewas as undutiful and rebellious as ever, and so he continued until hereached the age of twelve years, when, as he had determined upon beinga soldier, his parents, much against their wish, sent him to a militaryschool, to be educated for the army.

  A year rolled away, and all the accounts that came from the master ofHubert's school informed his parents that he was a bold, unruly boy--agreat deal of trouble to his teachers--but he would probably tame downa little in time, and do very well for the profession he had chosen.Many and many a time these parents wept over the letters which spokethus of their son: they wished him to be a good soldier--one fearingand serving God--and they oftentimes repeated their tale of sorrow totheir good pastor, in whom they were wont to confide; but his meed ofcomfort was ever the same. What other could he offer? Good man, heknelt with them, directed them to the source of true comfort, the LordJesus Christ, and tried to lighten their hearts' burden by drawing themnearer to the hand that afflicted them.

  When Hubert had been three years at school, he obtained, through theinfluence of friends, a cadetship in one of the regiments belonging tothe East India Company; he was still only a boy, and his parents hadrather he had not gone entirely away from them so soon, for they felt,and with some truth, that while he was at school he was at least undertheir protection, if not their guidance. Hubert, however, came home tothem a fine noble-looking youth, delighted at the prospect before him,and as proud and vain as possible at being at last really a soldier. Howmuch his parents loved him, and how they tried to persuade themselvesthat the vivacity and recklessness he showed arose more from thehilarity of a heart buoyant with youthful spirits, than from an evilnature! but when, on the first Sabbath after his return home, he scoffedat the manner in which they observed that holy day, another arrowpierced their bosoms, another bitter drop fell into their cup of sorrow.

  During the three years Hubert had been at school, his parents hadgradually observed that, though he did perhaps attend to most of theirwishes, there was a careless sort of indifference about him; and thoughthey were always glad to see him in his vacations, they were as glad tosee him go back to school, because their home was more peaceful, andevery one was happier when he was not there. Think of this, boys,whoever you may be, that are reading this story, and when you spend ashort time with those kind parents who love you so much, let them see,by your kindness and willing obedience, that you wish to love them asmuch as they love you; and never let them have to say that their home ishappier when you are not there: no, rather let them rejoice at yourcoming home, welcome you, and think of you as the bright light thatcheers every one in their dwelling; and if they can do that, be assuredthat God will bless you.

  Only a fortnight's leave of absence had been granted to Hubert, and oneweek had gone. The way in which he had spoken of sacred things, and ofthe manner in which they had observed the Sabbath, roused his mother;and though her reproof was gentle, she was earnest, and tried all shecould to influence him to better thoughts. She told him of the manysnares and dangers he would have to encounter, and the many temptationsthat ever lurk along the path of youth; of the strange country to whichhe was going; and of the doubly incurred danger of going forth in hisown strength. He listened as she talked to him; but along that way whichshe so dreaded, all his hope and young imagination were centred, and hegrew restless and impatient to be gone.

  They were busy in Hubert's home; brothers and sisters all helped toforward the things necessary for their eldest brother's future comfort,and they sat
later than usual round the fire the last night of his staywith them; for everything was ready, and the mail-coach would take himfrom them early on the morrow. The ship which was to convey Hubert toIndia was to sail from Portsmouth, and as his father was in ill-health,there was some concern in the family circle about his having to take thejourney alone; he promised, however, to write immediately he reached thevessel, and so, with many a kiss and many a prayer, the family separatedfor the night.

  It was a lovely autumn morning in the year 1792; everything roundHubert's home looked beautiful, and his brothers and sisters, as theyclustered around him, and gave him their last kisses, each extorted apromise that he would write a long letter to them very soon. Excitementhad driven off every regret at parting with him, and one young brotherran off long before the time, to keep watch at the gate for the coachcoming.

  The time for Hubert to go drew near, and his father, infirm from recentsickness, took his hand as he bade him farewell, and laying the otherupon his head, reminded him once more of lessons long ago taught, andlong ago forgotten; gave him again good counsel concerning his futurelife; then pressed him earnestly to his heart, and prayed God to keephim. Then came his mother; she had already poured out the deep sorrowshe felt at his leaving her, and had endeavoured to school herself tothe parting; without a word she threw her arms round his neck, and benther head for some minutes over him. "Oh, Hubert," she at length said,"when sickness or trouble comes upon you, you will be far from home, andthere will be none of us, who love you so dearly, near to comfort you,and no one to try and guide you right; but see here, I have a Bible;take it, treasure it as my last gift, and promise me that you will readit every day. I care not how little you read, but promise that you willread some: you will never regret it, and may it teach you the way toheaven."

  "I _will_ read it, mother; I wish I were as good as you are; I know I amnot like the others. Mother dear, don't cry; I will try and do as youwish; good-bye!" and after kissing her affectionately he hurried fromthe house.

  The coach was at the gate, round which the children gathered, and for afew minutes every one seemed busy. The servant-man was there withHubert's trunk and a small leather bag; the nurse had come round fromthe back garden with the baby; cook followed, and stood a little waybehind the gate with her arms half wrapped up in her apron; and thehousemaid stood at one of the open bed-room windows; while on the stepsof the door were his parents, joining in the farewell to the first-born.Pilot, the house-dog, seemed to have some notion of the passing event,for he had come to the gate too, and did not, as was his usual custom,race and gambol with the children, but sat down amongst them all,apparently in a thoughtful mood. Hubert kissed his brothers and sisters,and then took his seat amongst the passengers; then came many agood-bye, and waving of handkerchiefs, and the coach rolled away.

  "He's gone," said his father, as the coach wended its way round thehill. "Never mind, Mary; it was not for this we trained him, but we'vedone our duty, I hope, in letting him go, for he was determined, andwould perhaps soon have taken his own way; poor lad! Perhaps amongststrangers he will do better than with us; but I would sooner have buriedhim--sooner, by far, have laid him in the churchyard--than he shouldhave taken this course. What is the use of trying to make children good?Tears, prayers, self-denials, what is the use of them all, if the resultis like this?" So he murmured, and then bowed his head and wept, and hiswife, instead of receiving comfort from him, became the comforter; for,putting her arm round his neck, she replied,

  "Oh, yes, dear, our prayers and tears have brought us many blessings;see the other children, how good they are; don't murmur. God may yetbless us in Hubert; it is terrible to part with him in this way; but itmay yet be a blessing to us all: God knows." Then she sat down and weptwith her husband over this first great sorrow; and they _did_ weep; theyand God alone knew the depth of the woe that had come upon them; thefirst-born pride of their home and hearts going from them, perhaps forever, without one religious impression, or care for the future, was asorrow that none around could lighten, and they knelt down and prayedfervently for that reckless son, and tried to feel a deeper trust in Himwho, though depriving them of one blessing, gave them many.