Lavengro, by George Borrow

Chapter 78

Low and calm — Much better — Blessed effect — No answer — Such a sermon.

Before I sank to rest I heard Winifred and her husband conversing in the place where I had left them; both their voices were low and calm. I soon fell asleep, and slumbered for some time. On my awakening I again heard them conversing, but they were now in their cart; still the voices of both were calm. I heard no passionate bursts of wild despair on the part of the man. Methought I occasionally heard the word Pechod proceeding from the lips of each, but with no particular emphasis. I supposed they were talking of the innate sin of both their hearts.

‘I wish that man were happy,’ said I to myself, ‘were it only for his wife’s sake, and yet he deserves to be happy for his own.’

The next day Peter was very cheerful, more cheerful than I had ever seen him. At breakfast his conversation was animated, and he smiled repeatedly. I looked at him with the greatest interest, and the eyes of his wife were almost constantly fixed upon him. A shade of gloom would occasionally come over his countenance, but it almost instantly disappeared; perhaps it proceeded more from habit than anything else. After breakfast he took his Welsh Bible and sat down beneath a tree. His eyes were soon fixed intently on the volume; now and then he would call his wife, show her some passage, and appeared to consult with her. The day passed quickly and comfortably.

‘Your husband seems much better,’ said I, at evening fall, to Winifred, as we chanced to be alone.

‘He does,’ said Winifred; ‘and that on the day of the week when he was wont to appear most melancholy, for tomorrow is the Sabbath. He now no longer looks forward to the Sabbath with dread, but appears to reckon on it. What a happy change! and to think that this change should have been produced by a few words, seemingly careless ones, proceeding from the mouth of one who is almost a stranger to him. Truly, it is wonderful.’

‘To whom do you allude,’ said I; ‘and to what words?’

‘To yourself, and to the words which came from your lips last night, after you had heard my poor husband’s history. Those strange words, drawn out with so much seeming indifference, have produced in my husband the blessed effect which you have observed. They have altered the current of his ideas. He no longer thinks himself the only being in the world doomed to destruction, — the only being capable of committing the never-to-be-forgiven sin. Your supposition that that which harrowed his soul is of frequent occurrence amongst children has tranquillised him; the mist which hung over his mind has cleared away, and he begins to see the groundlessness of his apprehensions. The Lord has permitted him to be chastened for a season, but his lamp will only burn the brighter for what he has undergone.’

Sunday came, fine and glorious as the last. Again my friends and myself breakfasted together — again the good family of the house on the hill above, headed by the respectable master, descended to the meadow. Peter and his wife were ready to receive them. Again Peter placed himself at the side of the honest farmer, and Winifred by the side of her friend. ‘Wilt thou not come?’ said Peter, looking towards me with a face in which there was much emotion. ‘Wilt thou not come?’ said Winifred, with a face beaming with kindness. But I made no answer, and presently the party moved away, in the same manner in which it had moved on the preceding Sabbath, and I was again left alone.

The hours of the Sabbath passed slowly away. I sat gazing at the sky, the trees, and the water. At last I strolled up to the house and sat down in the porch. It was empty; there was no modest maiden there, as on the preceding Sabbath. The damsel of the book had accompanied the rest. I had seen her in the procession, and the house appeared quite deserted. The owners had probably left it to my custody, so I sat down in the porch, quite alone. The hours of the Sabbath passed heavily away.

At last evening came, and with it the party of the morning. I was now at my place beneath the oak. I went forward to meet them. Peter and his wife received me with a calm and quiet greeting, and passed forward. The rest of the party had broken into groups. There was a kind of excitement amongst them, and much eager whispering. I went to one of the groups; the young girl of whom I have spoken more than once was speaking: ‘Such a sermon,’ said she, ‘it has never been our lot to hear; Peter never before spoke as he has done this day — he was always a powerful preacher, but oh, the unction of the discourse of this morning, and yet more of that of the afternoon, which was the continuation of it!’ ‘What was the subject?’ said I, interrupting her. ‘Ah! you should have been there, young man, to have heard it; it would have made a lasting impression upon you. I was bathed in tears all the time; those who heard it will never forget the preaching of the good Peter Williams on the Power, Providence, and Goodness of God.’

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32