Chapter 72

Desired effect - The three oaks - Winifred - Things of time - With God’s will - The preacher - Creature comforts - Croesaw - Welsh and English - Mayor of Chester.

THE OIL, which the strangers compelled me to take, produced the desired effect, though, during at least two hours, it was very doubtful whether or not my life would be saved. At the end of that period the man said that with the blessing of God he would answer for my life. He then demanded whether I thought I could bear to be removed from the place in which we were; ‘for I like it not,’ he continued, ‘as something within me tells me that it is not good for any of us to be here.’ I told him, as well as I was able, that I, too, should be glad to leave the place; whereupon, after collecting my things, he harnessed my pony, and, with the assistance of the woman, he contrived to place me in the cart; he then gave me a draught out of a small phial, and we set forward at a slow pace, the man walking by the side of the cart in which I lay. It is probable that the draught consisted of a strong opiate, for after swallowing it I fell into a deep slumber; on my awaking, I found that the shadows of night had enveloped the earth - we were still moving on. Shortly, however, after descending a declivity, we turned into a lane, at the entrance of which was a gate. This lane conducted to a meadow, through the middle of which ran a small brook; it stood between two rising grounds; that on the left, which was on the farther side of the water, was covered with wood, whilst the one on the right, which was not so high, was crowned with the white walls of what appeared to be a farmhouse.

Advancing along the meadow, we presently came to a place where grew three immense oaks, almost on the side of the brook, over which they flung their arms, so as to shade it as with a canopy; the ground beneath was bare of grass, and nearly as hard and smooth as the floor of a barn. Having led his own cart on one side of the midmost tree, and my own on the other, the stranger said to me, ‘This is the spot where my wife and myself generally tarry in the summer season, when we come into these parts. We are about to pass the night here. I suppose you will have no objection to do the same? Indeed, I do not see what else you could do under present circumstances.’ After receiving my answer, in which I, of course, expressed my readiness to assent to his proposal, he proceeded to unharness his horse, and, feeling myself much better, I got down, and began to make the necessary preparations for passing the night beneath the oak.

Whilst thus engaged, I felt myself touched on the shoulder, and, looking round, perceived the woman, whom the stranger called Winifred, standing close to me. The moon was shining brightly upon her, and I observed that she was very good-looking, with a composed yet cheerful expression of countenance; her dress was plain and primitive, very much resembling that of a Quaker. She held a straw bonnet in her hand. ‘I am glad to see thee moving about, young man,’ said she, in a soft, placid tone; ‘I could scarcely have expected it. Thou must be wondrous strong; many, after what thou hast suffered, would not have stood on their feet for weeks and months. What do I say? - Peter, my husband, who is skilled in medicine, just now told me that not one in five hundred would have survived what thou hast this day undergone; but allow me to ask thee one thing, Hast thou returned thanks to God for thy deliverance?’ I made no answer, and the woman, after a pause, said, ‘Excuse me, young man, but do you know anything of God?’ ‘Very little,’ I replied, ‘but I should say He must be a wondrous strong person, if He made all those big bright things up above there, to say nothing of the ground on which we stand, which bears beings like these oaks, each of which is fifty times as strong as myself, and will live twenty times as long.’ The woman was silent for some moments, and then said, ‘I scarcely know in what spirit thy words are uttered. If thou art serious, however, I would caution thee against supposing that the power of God is more manifested in these trees, or even in those bright stars above us, than in thyself - they are things of time, but thou art a being destined to an eternity; it depends upon thyself whether thy eternity shall be one of joy or sorrow.’

Here she was interrupted by the man, who exclaimed from the other side of the tree, ‘Winifred, it is getting late, you had better go up to the house on the hill to inform our friends of our arrival, or they will have retired for the night.’ ‘True,’ said Winifred, and forthwith wended her way to the house in question, returning shortly with another woman, whom the man, speaking in the same language which I had heard him first use, greeted by the name of Mary; the woman replied in the same tongue, but almost immediately

  By PanEris using Melati.

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