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A Village Romance

A Village Romance
Written in 1936 by Frederick R Bones
(Spelling and punctuation as seen)

A Tribute to my wife who passed over on July 4th 1936 Just a Village Romance which started in the early Spring of 1879
which lasts an eternity...... In the year 1879 away on a pretty little hil in East Kent there stands a beautiful little Primitive Methodist
Chapel in the garden of which stands prettily trained Yew Trees guarded in the front by a white painted fence. The Chapel front is
white. When visitors to this little village stop and have a look round invariably one hears them say, "Oh, what a pretty place and what a fine
view across the landscape, one of the prettiest in Kent" For as one stood in front of this little chapel and gazed around one of the first sights that
caught the eye to the left was the spires of Canterbury Cathedral, then as ones gaze wandered round to the right one could see across the valley
of the Stour River the Stone Street Downs, along the ridge of which runs the Canterbury to Folkestone Road, along which history tells us the
stones were carted from Lydd to build the Cathedral. Hence the name of the Downs and Road. Then as the admirer lets their gaze travel round
still further to the right and not far away, can be seen the battle ground of the Danes, known as the January Downs, because of a battle fought
there in that month (so tradition says). At the bottom of the Downs close behind the Water Mill, is a large enclosed mound supposed to be the grave
of some of those killed in the battle referred to. I have sat and listened many times as a boy to stories told of the finding of old War Relics in a
nearby chalk pit, from which chalk had been carted away.

Then nearer home one sees an old building that in bygone days was used as a Workhouse. At each end stands two cottages supposed
to be the abode of the Officials of the said Workhouse. The one's eye comes further round one sees glistening up the valley the River
Stour, and just on its left can be seen the Thanet Branch of the South Eastern Railway, then a little further to the right in the distance one can
see just a little bit of the town of Ashford, then still further round to the right and much nearer home, one can see the tower of the village
church, from the tower of which comes every Sunday evening, the sweet strains of its eight bells. Just beyond this can be seen an old castle, from the
battlements of which history tells us may battles were fought against the Danes on the Downs previously mentioned. I have rambled on in this
way in my description of this little village chapel and its surroundings, because its memories are so dear to me and were just as dear to my
Dear Wife, and I fancy I hear you say as you read, "Well I cannot see much romance in this", but please be patient and you shall have the real
romance or so I think. I will take you now back to the little chapel again. It is a beautiful Sunday evening in the summer of 1879. Inside the
chapel there is a fine service going on. The Presence of God is very real to those who are there. The service closes after much singing and many
prayers, for God was truly in the place. Quite a number of people are coming out and quite a few of them are lads and lasses between 15 and 20
years of age. Most of them are going quietly to their homes, but one of those lads lingers by the fence, and to look at him one might
conclude that he was at a loose end, but if a stranger coming by and had lingered just a few minutes, he would have seen a smiling little lass come
out of the chapel and go direct to the lonely lad and the very expression of her countenance indicated she was no flirt, but that she had
something to say to him which she considered of vital importance, and to him it was such. No doubt you wonder what it was. Well here
it is. "Oh Fred, I am so glad you have decided as you have tonight. I am so glad you have decided to love Jesus. I have been praying for you
and thank God, my prayers are answered." Not much more was said by either of them that night. Each went to their separate home, but from
that night there was commenced a lifelong friendship; That friendship continued for 57 years, for on the 22nd July 1888 they vowed
at God's alter in the village church, that their lives together should be devoted to each other and their God. This vow was never
broken, thank God, for never through all those 48 years did they guarel.

Now I want to give you a few peeps into the life of this smiling little lass. Through those 57 years of her life from that Sunday
night began a new life for that lad. Ever and always through those years, that lad had the conscious feeling that she not only had prayed
for him, but rather she was always praying for him. He soon became a Sunday School Teacher and in the year 1884 he became a
Local Preacher in the Circuit in which that little chapel belonged and very soon the demands of the circuit were great, sometimes being from
eight or nine Sundays out of thirteen, but still he knew she was praying for him and for 52 years he laboured as a Local Preacher, always
conscious that wherever he went her prayers went with him; sometimes returning home tired and dispirited, but always getting new
courage to labour on, because he knew she was praying for him and always waiting to greet him with a beautiful smile that always will
live in his memory and will always call to greater service. And so the years sped by, but as I look back today over those years and look
at the responsibilities that fell on her shoulders and know she bore them, I wish I could find more such women today.

Now I want to take you back again, almost to the beginning. I reminded you further back of the step she and I took in July 1888. Very
soon there came to her the responsibility of motherhood and that she never once neglected, but rather she seemed somehow to have
become a greater women. The true mother seemed to assert itself. During the years that followed, there was added to those two, four
daughters and nine sons, but with them all she never lost her smile and never once did she betray her trust in her God, nor her devotion to her
family. I always felt that to her no sacrifice was too great for her children and her husband, or even her church. I could give you many
illustrations to prove this, but I might weary you, so just a few. Many nights I have known her working with her needle until nearly
midnight, especially on a Saturday night so that her children could hold their own with the rest of the village. I have a very vivid
recollection of one Sunday morning when the family numbered four girls and two boys, the youngest quite a baby. It was Sunday School time
and with all a true mother's pride she had got the four girls (who were the eldest) ready for School and I was just starting off with them, but she
had come out to see them off, when standing on the other side of the road was an Uncle of hers. He too was a father of a large family and
looking at those four little girls he said "What, have you just turned them out of a bandbox?" And never once did I see them go otherwise. From
her was always a smiling welcome to the preachers, whether layman or minister. They always knew there was a smiling welcome awaiting
them. Of course, there were some very trying times for her, but I was always reminded that she could meet those times with a mighty faith
and a bright smile. Never shall I forget an experience through which we passed. We had been married about 17 years when a great misfortune
overtook us. It meant the leaving of our native village and all our friends, and having to move some ten miles away amongst strangers where
my future work was, and for a time we met with many disappointments, but NEVER ONCE did she grumble or complain. Always when I got
home there was that beautiful smile that I always loved. Sometimes during those dark days, (and some of them were very dark days) I felt more
than once tempted to take the cowards way out, but always there came to me the vision of her brave smiles and the memory of those words, "Oh Fred,
I have prayed for you!" and I knew she was still praying for me. When we settled down in our new home, there was one woman and only
one with whom she became very friendly, and this woman was a very kind hearted soul but very profane in her language. One day this
woman and she were together, and this woman gave expression to some very profane utterance. Her smile at once disappeared and in its place
there was such a pained look and in such a pained voice she said,"Oh, Mrs.-, I do wish you would not use such words, it hurt one so much". Nothing
further was said, but ever afterwards that woman put a restraint on her words and some few years later, when she knew she was dying, although
they were 15 miles apart she sent for her so that she could take her hand and flit away to be with Jesus. This was the atmosphere in which
she always lived and I am quite sure the quiet, Godly life had its influence on all her family. Four sons served in the Great War of 1914 to 1918
and I believe that through her prayers and faith all four came home again and not one of them in any way brought any disgrace on the name
of God.

Do you say, "What is the moral and spiritual outlook of her family"? Well, here it is in brief. One son is and has been for several
years a Methodist Local Preacher, two sons are Sunday School Teachers, and organists in their mother's church; another living in
London is an active social worker in the interest if London's underworld, also he is a member of a London Methodist Church choir.
One son, who died as a result of the Great War service, although he had to go to France, he kept his faith in his mother's God and went
home rejoicing in Jesus Christ. But what about the girls? They too bear testimony to their mother's Godliness. One is an active
worker in the Baptist Church in one of our seaside towns, another is a very active worker in one or our London Methodist
Churches, having been for a long time its Church treasurer, and reverence for their mother's church. It was not so much in what she said
as in what she lived, for no one could overlook the fact that she loved God and her church. And so I could go on, revealing much more of
the life of that smiling lass but I will refrain; much of her life and character is to me too sacred to talk about and God knows. But what
I would like to say now is, life was not all trials and dark days. Oh no. The time came when, like Job, the sky cleared and ease and quiet
came and I feel sure it was her unswerving faith in her God that brought us through into the full sunshine, for in deeds, if not in words, her
life was, "though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." Often in these later years of her life has she said to me when we have been looking
back and talking of those dark days, "Ah, it was God's way and His way was and is best." And in that mighty faith I am quite sure she has
gone home to be with Jesus for she had come out of great tribulation, therefore she is before the Throne of God, where there are
no more sighs and tears.

So in the quiet of the evening of the 4th July, 1936, God came and very quietly took her home from us. Just a smile, her
last to us here and she was gone, And oh how we miss her and so my little village romance is ended.

Written during the winter of 1936 Frederick Richard Bones

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