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In the year 1830, when Nature had arrayed herself in her annual garb of the many-hued autumn, on a particular morning of September, the sun rose brilliantly to cheer the hearts of the holiday-makers in Alstonfield, a rude and rural village in the agricultural district of Staffordshire, which history seemed long ago to have left unnoticed and unknown. But though no chronicles of Alstonfield exist, and though it has no archives, the touching record of this paper and the published wrongs of its simple hero, shall excite a sympathy in human hearts, and henceforth establish for Alstonfield a glorious renown as the birth-place of a martyr. A martyr! Every thing created of God has its effect, and every thing made by man has its effect. How terrible seems the reflection on human errors! What thousands and tens of thousands of martyrs does every atom of Truth demand to establish itself in the world! How many victims did Paganism require before it would relinquish its firm hold upon the minds of men in favour of Christianity. How many victims will Christianity itself sacrifice



before its sectarian prejudices and worldly vices shall be cast off, and it shall stand forward in its purity to be the worship of the world? How many

victims will War yet require to be slaughtered like wild beasts of prey,—to be murdered in the open face of day, ere she will abdicate her gory throne, and branded fly -pursued by her own vile creatures, the wolf and the vulture—leaving the earth at last to the pure and mild dominion of sweet peace ? Oh! Heaven hasten this desired empire, and bless the intentions to promote it!

The particular morning above mentioned, on which the sun had risen brilliantly to cheer their hearts, was in turn welcomed by the holiday-makers of Alstonfield, and the holiday-makers consisted of nearly the whole population. The occasion was the annual wake, which, at the time of our story, was still kept up, with many of the ancient honours appertaining to such festivals. The donkey-racing—the sackracing—the single stick-wrestling, and that particularly noble, stupid British amusement of boxing, were all prosecuted with an ardour worthy of the middle ages, or a better cause. And on this day, it was expected that the feats of every performer would at least equal, and most probably excel, anything that had preceded the present wake.

The donkey-race was to be the great event of the day, and much was said through the village upon the merits of the various animals that were to kick, plunge and run, and were to be kicked and beaten in


the contest for the stakes of £5. The two favourites of the day seemed to be the steeds of Nat Willet and Joe Caplin, and these two champions for lucre and for village-fame, it is necessary that we should know something of before proceeding further.

Joe then was a fair, intelligent, and well-grown young man of six-and-twenty-an honest and simple rustic, with a good word and a smile always at command. He was rather courted among his associates as a shrewd, hard-working, well-meaning fellow. He had at home an old widowed mother, whom he kept as well as he could, in addition to a good-hearted wife, and two little ones who all loved him very dearly. He had married before his father's death, and started as fairly in life as a young man could ; that is, he had able hands, a willing heart, and a loving wife, to help him through a world of trouble. With few wants and contented minds, his wife and he could not but be happy; in time, however, there had come an innocent intruder to call upon them for a little more work and a little more self-denial; then brother John had had a long family and bad health, and they had taken a nephew to add to their family and their

Then father had died, and mother must go to the union; Joe couldn't bear that, nor his wife either, so mother had come and divided their already scanty stock with them; and soon after all these occurrences there appeared another little trouble in the form of a second baby, and Joe had very hard work indeed to make both ends meet, and lately had begun to look a





little care-worn and anxious, for wages were low and work was uncertain. On wet days they were all as much obliged to eat and drink as on fine days, but there was no work to do on the wet days, and when many of them came together it made Joe look very thoughtful indeed. The present week, however, of which the particular day was Friday, had thrown a life

upon the features of Joe, for he had succeeded in gaining a prize at the County Agricultural Society's Meeting, for the cleanest and neatest cottage in the parish, thanks to the good housewifery of Lizzy his wife, and the help of his well-experienced old mother. This prize had put them all in good spirits, for it seemed really like a good omen that such luck should begin the week in which fell the junior Joe's fifth birth-day, as well as the wake the day after, upon which last occasion, Joe the elder had agreed, for the consideration of a few shillings, to ride one of the contending donkeys for the Alstonfield sweepstakes.

This donkey-riding, which Joe had in the first instance undertaken for the little consideration it would put in his pocket, had not altogether pleased the women of Joe's household, but they had kept their misgivings to themselves, and after the improved condition of Joe's spirits, they could not but agree at their frugal meal on the wake morning, in Joe's opinion that his luck seemed all at once to have taken a turn, and he was sure he should win the race, because Good Fortune, having just begun to notice him, had put this race in his way on purpose to help him.

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It was with such an opinion, and with the confidence of a winner, that Joe walked down to the village-green—the impromptu race-course of the day, to receive the encouragements of his friends and backers, and alas ! never to dream of the malignant nature of the Good Fortune who had just taken him under her care !

Nat Willet, the chief antagonist of Joe, was a very different character. The son of poor people who had neither time nor funds to devote to his training, Nat had grown up shoeless and hatless in the village ; seldom fed and always hungry, he had learned to cheat his playfellows of the street and the gutter. out of hunks of bread, or tempting bones, great delicacies to him, and he suffered the various chastisements he often had to endure more as a payment in kind for his luxuries, than as a retribution for wrong doing. What wonder that such a lad should have grown up a lazy and doubtful character ! What wonder that the education of his childhood should have formed the character of his manhood! What wonder that at five-and-forty years Nat should be a systematic poacher, an ale-house gambler, and a man ready to any one's money for any sort of job, delicate or not, honest or otherwise !

Nat's head-quarters were at Alstonfield, and when possible he made a point of assisting at its wake, that being an occasion on which he was sure to make some money. At other times he wandered about the county.

A drover on market-days, a horse

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