She walked several kilometers bare-footed through dangerous mountain terrain in cold winter to buy a Bible. But it was sold out before she got to her destination. What happened? Find out.
There are dreams and there are dreams. And there are dreamers and there are dreamers too. Some of these dreamers realize their dreams, while others have had their names writ in water. In some, theirs may be an ambition to rule empires, while for other young men, the mere accomplishment of marrying a fair lady and living happily with her ever after in a hanging garden beside a blue sea, is a big dream.
Now consider one of these dreamers who dreamt of owning a Bible. But the family being very poor could barely provide food for the members, not to talk of buying a Bible. Now this dreamer is not the Biblical Joseph, the dreamer. But her name is Mary Jones, a sixteen - year old girl born 1784 in a village in Wales that goes by the curious name of Llanfihangel.
There is nothing wrong to dream of owning a Bible though. But the odds against her were many. Because the girl lived in the wrong century and dreamed in the wrong times. In those days, to own a Bible was to die. Like William Tyndale. Like Jan Hus. Like so many others.
But big dreamers are die-hards. And Mary was one of them. So this daughter of poor weavers started saving whatever money that she got in order to buy a Bible. It was Marys parents that aroused her interest in the Bible. They told her Bible stories and instilled the fear of God in her heart. Since the family never had a Bible, Mary often read a neighbors Welsh Bible.
Then when she is sixteen years old in the year 1800, news came that a few Welsh Bibles were available for sale at the local church at Bala. She checks her box of coins. It is full. She tells her parents that her dream is coming true. For she is going to Bala to buy her own copy of the Bible.
The journey to Bala itself was not an easy one. From Llanfiangel in the Atlantic coastline up to Bala in the hinterland is over 40 kilometers. Again, she was to walk barefooted in the middle of winter and without a winter coat or boot to get there. Furthermore, it was a steep mountainous terrain, often rising, falling, and meandering here and there. And worse, it was a highway for robbers.
Few parents would allow a sixteen-year old daughter to take the risk. But few families have sixteen year olds who have a love for the Bible. So on the day of Marys departure, Mr. and Mrs. Jones buys bread and dried meat that would last her journey, ties them up in a large white handkerchief and puts it in a basket.
Mary ties her coins in a neck handkerchief, keeps it in the pocket of her long dress, adorns a hat and carries her basket of provisions. And with a hug, a kiss and a goodbye from her parents, she starts the long, uncertain journey to Bala.
She had thought of making the journey in three days. She walked 18 kilometers the first day. It was very cold and she shook all along the journey. She only stopped to eat and rest under a tree. She was almost dropping dead when she sights a watchman warming himself beside a fire in a village gate house. Not wanting to spend the money by lodging in an inn, she begs the watchman that he allows her to pass the night in the gate house.
No problem says the old man spreading his palms by the fire. But who ye and where art thou goest this winter cold? he asks.
I am Mary. Going to Bala.
Thats 22 kilometers away, and no winter boots and coat, says the old man absent mindedly. Heres some hot soup. Itll do ye some good.
With that, he pours the hot soup in two bowls. And they drink and talk of the weather. Before long, the old watchman falls asleep followed by the tired Mary.
In the morning, she thanks the old man, washes her face and continues her journey. Today, she walks 15 kilometers, stopping twice to rest and eat. What makes the journey hard is that she would have to climb and descend mountains. Her legs swoll and ached. And at night, she meets a group of weavers who were working through the night by a fireside. She indicates her willingness to help in the loom for an opportunity to stay the night.
The curious weavers receive her after hearing her story. She works for a while and is allowed to even sleep in the early morning hours. They even give her a coin before she leaves in the morning. When she was exhausted in the evening, she drags herself into an unlit gate house at the outskirt of a village. The watchman was not there. Perhaps, he will be coming later, she thought. And she lay on a mat and sleeps away.
It is 2 am. Two thieves, Red Devil and Black Night are looking for someone to rob. The road is empty. It is plain that they would have to go hungry and empty handed. And the night is cold. They look into the dark gate house. The night watchman didnt come. So they decide to go in and rest for a while before the break of dawn. But to their surprise they find a girl fast asleep there. Red Devil holds her throat, while Black Night searches and takes her money. After that, they take her remaining bread and meat, leaving the cloth and the basket; and run away.
The local apothecary generally called Dr. Hades finds it unusual to be woken by this barefooted girl with a basket this early morning. After listening to her, he asks:
Do you know them that stole your money?
No, was Marys answer.
And is that why you want to drink arsenic to kill yourself?
Yes, she replies.
But where did you get the coin you want to use to pay for the poison?
She explains that it is a gift from some weavers whom she had helped to weave the night before. But Dr. Hades is not satisfied with her answer. Perhaps, the girl is a run-awayone of these bad girls in the neighborhood. Perhaps, she needs food and a good sleep. He goes to an inner room, returns with a mixture which he gives to her, and asks her to use the coin to buy some food.
Mary thanks him and walks to the gatehouse. She spreads the white handkerchief on the ground, finds a piece of rock, and starts to write a suicide note on it, the bottle of arsenic by her side. But halfway, she falls asleep.
Lord Godsend, a generous rich man, happens to be passing through that road at that time. He is driven in his horse- drawn chariot by Johnny, who is in the habit of swearing by the minute.
By Jove, the girl is dead, he says to Lord Godsend, pointing to the sleeping Mary as they ride pass.
How do you know, Johnny? asks the rich man.
Upon mi life, killed by robbers, mi Lord. So they argue back and forth. But after they have gone a good distance, Lord Godsend asks to be driven back to confirm who is right. But Johnny didnt want to hear and prompts the horse to ride on. By heavens she must be smelling mi Lord.
Mary had woken up now. She finishes her writing, reads it and signs her name. She quickly eats her last food, drinks the mixture, and lies down waiting to die.
Exactly what I said, mi Lord, said Johnny showing Lord Godsend the empty bottle of arsenic when they finally get there. Poisoned herself to death. By my horse shoe, a bad girl.
Lord Godsend picks the suicide note and reads: I drank poison and died. Because thieves stole the money that I wanted to use to buy a Bible. Weep not for me, dear mom and dad. We will meet againMary Jones.
Lord Godsend is angry. Who must have sold the poison that killed this girl? He looks at the poison bottle and reads the address label: ARSENIC. DR. HADES. 13 BALA ROAD, UPTOWN. He gets into the carriage at once and rides away to get the cops to arrest Dr. Hades. When they get there, however, the apothecary begin to swear and say that he never sold her arsenic but a sleeping mixture, which he put in an arsenic container and even gave her back the money to buy food since he thought that she needed food and a good sleep.
But the cops and all the country folks who gather there that morning will not believe Dr. Hades.
Do you think Johnny that the girl is sleeping or dead? asks Lord Godsend.
Upon the wheels of this carriage, she is as dead as a rock. If otherwise, I will drink arsenic and join my ancestors, he replies. And to prove the point the police decide to first visit the scene, before taking the apothecary to jail.
Mary wakes up. What is this? she asks. Had she not taken poison to die? She looks around but she could find neither the arsenic bottle, nor the suicide note. Only her empty basket. This must be a bad dream she thinks. She now gets up and is confronted by a crowd led by the police and a rich man in a horse-drawn carriage. She thinks of running. But where can a girl who is weak, hungry and cold run to? The people also stand momentarily; thinking that it is an apparition.
But it is Dr. Hades that seizes the initiative and exclaims: See! She was only sleeping, not dead. Then things are explained. Lord Godsend takes her to an inn where he gives her food to eat and fills her basket with provisions. He also gives her some money to buy the Bible. Mary, full of thanks to the kind man, continues to walk the remaining 7 kilometers to Bala. And the people wonder at the courage of this little girl who is walking 40 kilometers to buy a Bible.
After that, they joke whether Johnny would take arsenic and die as he swore, for that is what honorable men do. But Johnny is not a man of honor. In the name of all the saints, he swears again, I knew not when I said so. And they just laugh and call him Johnny the joker.
It was Sunday noon when Mary entered the church premises. The church service had just ended and the worshipers were stepping out of the church. Then she asks the first people that she meets where the Bible copies were sold. One calls the other and soon everyone gather and look at her as if she was a space alien.
It was not that she was bare footed and poorly dressed. The fact was that all the Bibles had sold out yesterday. And the money that she was having could not even buy one, even if it was available. Double trouble for Mary!
Because of the chaos that Saturday, the Reverend Father himself sold the Bibles. He first took his special personal copy that was sent to him by the pope. That copy was printed in different colors in both Welsh and English. It also has cross references and a Bible index. The title cover itself was printed in letters of gold and the whole Bible was zipped in a golden case. It was such a beautiful Bible that people were busy looking at it when the common Bibles sold out.
Those who did not get copies of the Bible were manysome families joined to buy one. In fact, two churchmen fought over ownership of the last copy, tearing it into two parts. In the end, both shared the cost and by a toss of the coin, one took the Old Testament while the other had the New Testament. That was why they looked at Mary in wonderment, and when they explained to her, she collapsed and wept.
Now, Rev. Goodman looks through the church window and wonders what is amiss. So he takes his winter coat and walks out, his golden Bible in hand. After listening to Marys story, the Reverend first dries her tears and kisses her. Then he slips his sandals under her feet, takes off his winter coat and puts it on Mary. Third he gives her his golden Bible in Welsh and English and which was printed in many colors with these words: Read it carefully, study it diligently, treasure up the sacred words in your memory, and act up to its teaching. And he finally blesses her and tells her to use the money which Lord Godsend gave her to pay for a ride home. Marys eyes shine, the church people are speechless.
It was big news when Mary reached Llanfiangel on a horse-drawn carriage wearing a winter coat, a pair of sandals, and, wait a momenta golden Bible! Everyone flocks to see the Bible and her poor parents are overjoyed.
Years later, this story was told at the Committee of the Religious Tract Society of London. The result was that a decision was made to supply Bible translations to the people of Wales and the whole world. So if you own a Bible today, remember the sacrifice of a sixteen-year old girl from a remote village in Wales whose dream came true.
May your dream come true!
(EXCERPTED FROM THE BOOK, MARYS DREAM, TO BE PUBLISHED SOON. IF YOU ENJOYED READING THE STORY AND WOULD LIKE TO MAKE A VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTION TOWARD ITS PUBLICATION, PLEASE CONTACT THE AUTHOR.)
ARTHUR ZULU is an editor, book reviewer, and author of Chasing Shadows! and How to Write a Best-seller.
For his works and free helps for writers, goto:
Web search: Arthur Zulu
About the Author
Arthur Zulu is an editor, book reviewer, and published author.
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