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Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles   By:

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MRS. HALLIBURTON'S TROUBLES

BY MRS. HENRY WOOD

AUTHOR OF "EAST LYNNE," "THE CHANNINGS," "JOHNNY LUDLOW," ETC.

TWO HUNDRED AND TENTH THOUSAND

London MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 1904

LONDON: PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, DUKE STREET, STAMFORD STREET, S.E., AND GREAT WINDMILL STREET. W.

MRS. HALLIBURTON'S TROUBLES.

CHAPTER I.

THE CLERGYMAN'S DAUGHTER.

In a very populous district of London, somewhat north of Temple Bar, there stood, many years ago, a low, ancient church amidst other churches for you know that London abounds in them. The doors of this church were partially open one dark evening in December, and a faint, glimmering light might be observed inside by the passers by.

It was known well enough what was going on within, and why the light was there. The rector was giving away the weekly bread. Years ago a benevolent person had left a certain sum to be spent in twenty weekly loaves, to be given to twenty poor widows at the discretion of the minister. Certain curious provisos were attached to the bequest. One was that the bread should not be less than two days old, and should have been deposited in the church at least twenty four hours before distribution. Another, that each recipient must attend in person. Failing personal attendance, no matter how unavoidable her absence, she lost the loaf: no friend might receive it for her, neither might it be sent to her. In that case, the minister was enjoined to bestow it upon "any stranger widow who might present herself, even as should seem expedient to him:" the word "stranger" being, of course, used in contra distinction to the twenty poor widows who were on the books as the charity's recipients. Four times a year, one shilling to each widow was added to the loaf of bread.

A loaf of bread is not very much. To us, sheltered in our abundant homes, it seems as nothing. But, to many a one, toiling and starving in this same city of London, a loaf may be almost the turning point between death and life. The poor existed in those days as they exist in these: as they always will exist: therefore it was no matter of surprise that a crowd of widow women, most of them aged, all in poverty, should gather round the church doors when the bread was being given out, each hoping that, of the twenty poor widows, some one might fail to appear, and the clerk would come to the door and call out her own particular name as the fortunate substitute. On the days when the shilling was added to the loaf, this waiting and hoping crowd would be increased four fold.

Thursday was the afternoon for the distribution. And on the day we are now writing about, the rector entered the church at the usual hour: four o'clock. He had to make his way through an unusual number of outsiders; for this was one of the shilling days. He knew them all personally; was familiar with their names and homes; for the Rev. Francis Tait was a hard working clergyman. And hard working clergymen were more rare in those days than they are in these.

Of Scottish birth, but chiefly reared in England, he had taken orders at the usual age, and become curate in a London parish, where the work was heavy and the stipend small. Not that the duties attached to the church itself were onerous; but it was a parish filled with poor. Those familiar with such parishes know what this means, when the minister is sympathising and conscientious. For twenty years he remained a curate, toiling in patience, cheerfully hoping. Twenty years! It seems little to write; but to live it is a great deal; and Francis Tait, in spite of his hopefulness, sometimes found it so. Then promotion came. The living of this little church that you now see open was bestowed upon him. A poor living as compared with some others; and a poor parish, speaking of the social condition of its inhabitants. But the living seemed wealth compared with what he had earned as a curate; and as to his flock being chiefly composed of the poor, he had not been accustomed to anything else... Continue reading book >>




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