Tales for the Bush

Mary Theresa Vidal

Preview: Issue 1 of 25


"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."

Exodus, xx. 8.


Thomas and Anne Thompson were among those who determined to leave England for New South Wales. They had been married eight years; their family was increasing, and labor becoming scarcer and scarcer. They heard of other families emigrating and that they easily got high wages, and lived in plenty: so they thought with their four children they would do so also. They were both honest, hard working and strong people, and Anne had been well brought up by a careful and pious mother, who had lived many years as servant in the squire's family. Anne was her only child, and she had been able to keep her at school, and, what is of far more consequence, she had set her a good example. Old Nurse Gordon, as she was still called, was well provided for by her former master's family, and though it was near breaking her heart when she heard of their plans to emigrate, she could not find any reason against it. She laid down her spectacles on the old Bible from which she had been reading, and, wiping away the tear from her eye with the corner of her white apron, she patted her little grandchild's head and answered, "well, Anne dear, I'm not learned enough to gainsay you, may be 'tis just as you and Tom say; but, if it was God's will, I should have wished to have you close my old eyes and see me laid in the grave--but His will be done!"

"Aye mother, that's the way to look on it," said Tom "cheer up, and we'll save you a little something in that country which will go to make you more comfortable."

"Thank ye kindly, Tom," said the old woman, "but I am, thank God, well cared for-while my missis lives, I shall never want--night and day I pray God to bless her and her's--and you must do so too, for oh! it's a cruel comfort to think that, though we've no silver nor gold, we have one way of repaying they that are kind--we can pray to God for them. And now," continued she, "let's have a cup of tea together," and she and her daughter spread the tea-things and produced the loaf.

This was the last time they ever met in that little cottage. It was Sunday evening. The old woman wore her Sunday gown, and white apron; the meadows seen from the door looked green; the sun set very gloriously, and threw its slanting red beams on them as they sat: the roses and sweet briar smelt very sweetly and they heard the chimes of the village church; for in that place they chimed every Sunday evening. As they sat, feeling sorrowful and sad, the old mother again spoke, "I'm thinking that's a sound ye'll not hear yonder; I suppose there's no church bells across the seas."

"I suppose not," said Tom, "it is a new country, a fine place for farming and grazing."

"Well, I hope God will prosper you--but mind my last words--when I'm dead and buried, mind my words'honor the sabbath day, and keep it holy.' When once we forget this, we don't know where to stop: and Anne, my dear, see I give you this book, this Prayer Book; use it, and teach the children out of it; look, my name is on it--read it Tom." Tom read--"this book was given to Anne Gordon by her mistress as a reward for her punctual attendance at church."

"Yes," said the old woman as she followed her son-in-law's voice--"yes, that's it--and now I give it to you, Anne Thompson, with my blessing; and you Tom, you have been a kind and sober husband to her; and now you are going so far, be sure you mind all your duty--may be there'll be no good parson like Mr. Howe--but remember his words, and keep your church and fear God."

It was now time for them to go, so putting the children's hats and bonnets on, Thomas and Anne returned home; they had a walk of a quarter of a mile, but it was a pleasant evening and they talked cheerfully of the future; how they should save money and buy a farm, and, perhaps, grow rich.


In five months from this time the family of the Thompsons reached Sydney. They had encountered some troubles on the voyage: Anne was very sick, and it made her very weak and inclined to be discontented and cross tempered, and there were many discomforts on board the ship. There were a great many passengers, and some of the bad ones quarrelled; but Tom was steady and sober, which was a great comfort. He attended to the children when Anne was ill, and was always ready to lend a helping hand when it was wanted, so that he became a favorite.

Their little boy John, the eldest, got very ill, so ill, that they began to fear it might be their lot to bury him in the ocean, as one other poor mother had done her child. This was a sore trouble to Anne; she thought she could have borne to bury her child under a green sod; but to hear the coffin plash down into the waves of the deep sea--that was dreadful.

While she was thinking in this way, her mother's gift came into her head, and she opened the Prayer Book. She turned to the burial service; there she saw that the same good and holy words would be used as if she were at home in Ringford church yard; and at the bottom of the service she saw that there was something written expressly for a sea burial; it spoke of the sea giving up the dead and of God's subduing all things to Himself.

Now this comforted Anne, and she felt what a blessed book the Prayer Book was; there were prayers for every thing; in sickness, in death, or in joy. Whether on dry land, or on the deep waters, turn to your Prayer Book, and you will find words of comfort and instruction; the self same words too which all good christians have ever used, the same words which are uttered in every church throughout the world.' Thinking of these things and watching by little John, was of use to Anne; she felt she had been impatient and fretful at the discomforts of board-ship, and as she sat by the sick child, she prayed for forgiveness and for grace to help her to quench such feelings in future. Thus the trial was turned into a blessing, and Anne felt every day more ready to submit cheerfully to God's will. But it pleased the Almighty to spare them the trial of losing their child. Little John recovered; and before they reached land, he was as rosy as before, and said his catechism every Sunday, out of the Prayer Book, to his mother.


I cannot tell you all that happened to them, or how many plans they had when they first landed; but they at last set up a little shop in some of the outskirts of Sydney; and besides this, Tom was able to get plenty of work at his trade, which was gardening. Every thing seemed to go on well: they had plenty of custom, and Anne's tidy appearance and respectful manner brought people to the shop.

There was no church where they lived, but the service was performed in the school room, every Sunday; and the two eldest children went to the school. The custom of the place was for all these little shops, like the Thompson's, to be kept open during Sunday. The shutters were half closed; and many persons bought all they wanted on Sunday, instead of coming on Saturday afternoon. At first this struck Anne's conscience: she thought of locking up the house, and going to church at the school house, with all the children; but her husband objected, and said that would never do, they must do as others did--it was the custom of the country; and, if they refused to serve customers on a Sunday, they should have none.

"And that's true, sure enough," sighed Anne--"there's Mrs. Harris over the way, and the Browns, and scores of others that make no more account of the Sabbath than if it was a common day; but its hard to be forced to serve and slave on a day of rest."

"Never mind Anne," said her husband--"its only for a time, let us make haste and save some money, and then we can do as we like, we can keep Sunday as we did at home, and you shall be quite a lady."

Anne smiled, for she wondered what sort of lady she'd make; and then she washed the children's faces, and tied their pinafores, and led them out to the door.

"Now go on steady there's my dears, and behave well in church, and mind the text Johnny." Then she turned into the little room which formed both kitchen and shop. She took out her book intending to read, but presently Mrs. Harris over the way stepped in, and Anne had to serve her with tea and sugar; some spice was wanted which could not be found without more light, so she went to open the shutter.

Just then, Mr. Martin, the clergyman passed: Mrs. Martin and their three children were with him. Anne dropped a curt'sy, for she had not left off that custom which some people think unnecessary after they leave England. Her good mother had always taught her to be respectful to her superiors, and that politeness to one another is taught in the Bible. So Anne curtsied--but how ashamed she felt. She fancied Mr. Martin looked sternly at her--she thought that Mrs. Martin stared at her dirty apron.

"Ah," thought she, "it used not to be so on a Sabbath morning at home, but it is just like no Sunday here, no bells, no church, no any thing."

"What are you so long about taking down the shutters," called her husband: so Anne hastily put down the shutter, and went in; but her heart was ill at ease--she did not feel happy.

Next Sunday, however, she minded it less; she did not see Mr. Martin pass. Mrs. Harris and Mrs. White came and laid out upwards of a pound between them, for Mrs. Harris was expecting some friends from Sydney to tea. They talked of the new store further on the road, where very cheap and good things were to be had; "but they will not do," said Mrs. Harris, "they shut up on a Sunday because she's a Methodist. Such nonsense, expecting people to lose Saturday, which is always a busy evening, because they won't weigh out a penny-worth on Sunday; besides, really, in this country, folk hav'nt the convenience for keeping things, and it is very hard not to enjoy a good dinner on a Sunday."

"Well Anne," said her husband that evening, "this good day; we'll put up the money to buy a cow--I saw a beauty the other day--when we've got two or three head, then I shall think we are fairly in for good fortune."


Sunday after Sunday passed; weeks and months came and went; all prospered with the Thompsons. They had bought a cow and calf, and put it out to a run; they lived well and put by a little besides; still, neither of them looked so nice or so cheerful as when they lived hard at Ringford.

Anne's clothes got out of repair; she never had any time to mend them; she was in the shop every day. They had plenty of custom, and all her time was occupied. She worked hard, and now she did not look forward to any day of rest. There was no quiet Sunday when cares and troubles were forgotten; no regular attending church, but only now and then when she could persuade Tom to mind the shop. There was no quiet evening walk; no hearing the children read. They had meat, and bread and butter, and plenty of tea and sugar, it is true, besides many other little luxuries; but it was eaten in discomfort; there was no regular time for any thing. All days were alike; no Sunday came to mark the time--to begin another week with the minister's blessing, after a grateful rest to the mind and body.

Anne was not happy, but she did not perhaps put it down to the right cause. Her conscience had spoken, and had not been heeded, and now it did not prick her. We soon slip down a hill when we once begin.

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