Sunday, 27 May 2012

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

The Lady and the Robber: A True Story

In a large and lonely house, situated in the south of England, there once lived a lady and her two maid servants.  They were far away from all human habitations, but they seem to have felt no fear, and to have dwelt there peacefully and happily.  It was the lady’s custom to go round the house with her maids every evening to see that the windows and doors were properly secured.  One night she had accompanied them as usual, and ascertained all was safe.  They left her in the passage close to her room and then went to their own which was quite the other side of the house.  As the lady opened her door, she distinctly saw a man underneath her bed.  What could she do?  Her servants were far away and could not hear her if she screamed for help, and even if they had come to her assistance, those three weak women were no match for a desperate housebreaker.  How then did she act?  She trusted in God. 

Quietly she closed the door, and locked it on the inside, which she always was in the habit of doing.  She then leisurely brushed her hair, and putting on her dressing gown, she took her Bible and sat down to read.  She read aloud, and chose a chapter which had peculiar reference to God’s watchfulness over us and constant care for us, by night and day.

When it was finished she knelt and prayed at great length, still uttering the words aloud, especially commending herself and servants to God’s protection, and dwelling upon their utter helplessness, and dependence upon Him to preserve them from all dangers.

At last she rose from her knees, put out her candle, and laid down in bed; but she did not sleep.  After a few minutes had elapsed, she was conscious that a man was standing by her bedside.  He addressed her, and begged her not to be alarmed.  “I came here, said he, to rob you, but after the words you have read, and the prayers you have uttered no power on earth could induce me to hurt you or touch any thing in your house.  But you must remain perfectly quiet, and not attempt to interfere with me.  I shall now give a signal to my companions which they will understand and then we will go away and you may sleep in peace, for I give you my solemn word that no one shall harm you, and not the smallest thing belonging to you be disturbed”.  He then went to window, opened it, and whistled softly, returning to the lady’s side (who had not spoken or moved) he said, “Now I am going.  Your prayer has been heard, and no disaster will befall you”.

He left the room, and soon all was quiet, and the lady fell asleep, still upheld by that calm and beautiful faith and trust.  When the morning dawned and she awoke, we may be assured that she poured out her thanksgivings and praise to Him who had “defended” her under His wings and “kept” her safe under His feathers “so that she may not be afraid of the terror of the night”.  The man proved true to his word, and not a thing in the house had been taken.  From this true story let us learn to put our whole trust and confidence in God.

It afterwards was confessed by the Robber, if she had given the slightest alarm he was fully determined to murder her; so that it was really God’s good guidance that told her to follow the course she took.  Then before he went away, he said, “I never heard such words before, I must have the book you read out of” and carried off her Bible, willingly given you may be sure. 

The lady was sometime after attending a religious meeting in Yorkshire where after several noted clergy and others had spoken, a man arose stating that he was employed as one of the book-hawkers of the Society, and told the story of the midnight adventure, as the wonderful power of the Word of God.  He concluded with, “I was that man”.  The lady arose from her seat in the hall and said quietly, “It is all quite true.  I was the lady”.

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