Abby slid the pint of ale across the shiny wooden planks of the bar.
“’ere ye go, Bert. Best drink it down ‘fore the Misses sends someone to find ye.”
“’at I will, Min. “’at I will.”
Abby slipped the extra shillings into her pouch. She wished more of her customers were as gentle and generous as Bert. When Abby came to work at the tavern, she decided to go by her middle name, Min—short for Minnie. Even though she had searched high-and-low for a job, this was the only one that paid enough for ‘er and ‘er four- year-old son, Jack, to live on.
She felt the gold, ‘eart locket nestled against ‘er chest. “If only you ‘adn’t died in that coal mine,” she cried to ‘erself. The ache of ‘is passing would never leave ‘er. She felt the burning of ‘is love all the way to ‘er very soul.
The flickering flame of the lantern cast eerie shapes and shadows around the room. The sailors and mill workers were beginning to come in after a ‘ard day’s work and the raucous laughter and singing could be heard everywhere.
“Come over ‘ere Dolly mop,” slurred the youngest one. Bring ye over some gatters.”
She filled the glasses and carefully carried them to the corner table. The mix of cigar smoke, body odor, and bad breath assaulted her nostrils. The rough, calloused hands of the men started grabbing at her skirt.
“Aar ye all right or do ye need some help,” called Thomas. “I’d be glad to throw ‘em ruffians out in the pouring rain.
“Did ye hear that boys?” she said as she slapped their hands away.
Thomas’s protection was needed when working in a place like this. It didn’t ‘elp ‘er at night, when she was needed to perform the other duties of ‘er other job, however.
“Please God protect me,” she whispered to no one in particular.
Knock, knock, knock sounded from the wooden door of the small, dreary room. She had put a clean sheet over the dirty straw, but it did nothing to take away the stain of the filth below. She hoped this man wouldn’t beat ‘er like the last one. The powder and rouge she ‘ad put on barely covered the marks on ‘er face.
“Come in,” she shouted.
“Do ye be Abby,” a gentle voice inquired.
“That be me,” she replied.
“Do not be afraid. I came to save ye, not to harm ye.”
This very night, I was on my way to ‘ave me way with you, when I heard beautiful singin’ comin’ from the church. It was if my spirit wrestled with God, before I would go in.
Look at these hands, chapped and worn from the sea. The truth be, I’ve been a angry, selfish man all me life. Then out of nowhere I heard this ‘ere preacher say. “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become a fisher of men.”
It was as if a force took me down to the front of the church. I could no longer deny the depth and darkness of me sin. I knew this Jesus was the only one who could take away this ‘ere load I’d been carrying. Immediately, I could feel a peace and a joy like I ‘ad never known.
When I was on my way home, God spoke to me and told me to go and tell the woman I was supposed to meet, Abby, what ‘ad ‘appened to me. “She be needin’ this kind of forgiveness, too,” He said. God also told me to tell ye to go to this very house in London where a lady named, Mrs. Gaston, would give ye a ‘honest job.”
Abby wept. Only God could know her real name. He was freeing her from selling out to this kind of life.
When she looked down, it appeared that a sudden, bright light was making the ‘eart of ‘er locket glow in the form of a cross
Note: “Come ye after me, and I will make you a fisher of men” (Mark 1:17 KJV)
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