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 is printed in gold letters and the whole Bible is 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 many—some families joined to buy one. In fact, two churchman 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 took the New Testament. That was why they looked at Mary in wonderment, and when they explained to her, she collapsed and wept.
This daughter of poor weavers started saving whatever money that she got in order to buy a Bible. It was Mary's 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 neighbor's Welsh Bible.
Then when she was 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 checked her box of coins. It was full. She told her parents that her dream was coming true. For she was 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 booth to get there. Furthermore, it was a steepy 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 a risk. But few families have sixteen year olds who have a love for the Bible. So on the day of Mary's departure Mr. and Mrs. Jones bought bread and dried meat that would last her journey, tied them up in a large white handkerchief and put it in a basket.
Mary ties her coins in a neck handkerchief, puts 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 sighted a watchman warming himself beside a fire in a village gate house. Not wanting to spend the money by lodging in an inn, she begged the watchman that he allow her to pass the night in the gate house.
"No problem" said the old man spreading his palms by the fire. "But who ye and where art thou goest this winter cold?" he asked.
"I am Mary. Going to Bala."
"That's 22 kilometers away, and no winter boots and coat" said the old man absent mindedly. "Here's some hot soup. It'll 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, washed 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 met a group of weavers who were working through the night by a fireside. She indicated her willingness to help in the loom for an opportunity to stay for the night.
The curious weavers received her after hearing her story. She worked for a while and was allowed to even sleep in the early morning hours. They even gave her a coin before she left in the morning. When she was exhausted in the evening, she dragged 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 slept away.
It was 2 am. Two thieves, Red Devil and Black Night were looking for someone to rob. The road was empty. It was plain that they would have to go hungry and empty handed. And the night was cold. They looked into the dark gate house. The night watchman didn't come. So they decided to go in and rest for a while before the break of dawn. But to their surprise they found a girl fast asleep there. Red devil held her throat, while black night searched and took her money. After that, they take her remaining bread and meat, leaving the cloth and the basket; and ran away.
The local apothecary generally called Dr. Hades found it unusual to be woken by this barefooted girl with a basket this early morning. After listening to her, he asked:
"Do you know them that stole your money?"
"No" was Mary's 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 explained that it was a gift from some weavers whom she had helped to weave the night before. But Dr. Hades was not satisfied with her answer. Perhaps, the girl is a run-away—one 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 spread 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, happened to be passing through that road at that time. He was driven in his horse- drawn chariot by Jonny, 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, Jonny?" asked the rich man.
" Upon mi life, killed by robbers, mi Lord.'' So they argued back and forth. But after they had gone a good distance, Lord Godsend asked to be driven back to confirm who is right. But Jonny didn't want to hear and prompted 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 Jonny showing Lord Godsend the empty bottle of arsenic when they finally got 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 mum and dad. We will meet again—Mary Jones."
Lord Godsend was angry. Who must have sold the poison that killed this girl? He looked at the poison bottle and read the address label: ARSENIC. DR. HADES. 13 BALA ROAD, UPTOWN. He got into the carriage at once and rode away to get the cops to arrest Dr. Hades. When they got there, however, the apothecary was swearing and saying 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 villagers who gathered there that morning will not believe Dr. Hades.
"Do you think Jonny that the girl is sleeping or dead?" asked 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 sucide note. Only her empty basket. This must be a bad dream she thought. She now gets up and is confronted by crowd led by the police and a rich man in a horse- drawn carriage. She thought of running. But where can a girl; who is weak, hungry and cold run to? The people also stood momentarily thinking that it was an apparition.
But it was Dr. Hades that seized the initiative and exclaimed: "See! She was only sleeping, not dead. Then things were explained . Lord Godsend took her to an inn where he gave her food to eat and filled her basket with provisions. He also gave her some money to buy the Bible. Mary, full of thanks to the kind man continued to walk the remaining 7 kilometers to Bala. And the people wondered at the courage of this little girl who is walking 40 kilometers to buy a Bible.
After that, they joked whether Jonny would take arsenic and die as he swore, for that is what honorable men do. But Jonny was not a man of honor. "In the name of all the saints" he swore again, "I knew not when I said so." And they just laughed and called him Jonny the joker.
Now, Rev. Goodman looked through the church window and wondered what was amiss. So he took his winter coat and walked out, his golden Bible in hand. After listening to Mary's story, the Reverend first dried her tears and kissed her. Then he slipped his sandals under her feet, took off his winter coat and put it on Mary. Third he gave 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. Mary's eyes shone, the church people were speechless.
It was big news when Mary reached Llanfiangel on a horse -drawn carriage wearing a winter coat, pair of sandals, and wait a moment: a golden Bible! Everyone flocked to see the bible and her poor parents were 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!
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