THE OLD CHURCH BELL 747
what would become of him, not even the old church bell that had sung at his birth, hanging so high in the tower, over him who was one day himself to sing the beautiful ' Lay of the Bell'.
Well, the boy grew older, and the world grew older with him. His parents removed to another town, but they had left dear friends in little Marbach ; and therefore it was that mother and son one day went there on a visit. The lad was only six years old, but he already knew many things out of the Bible, and many a pious psalm ; and many an evening he had sat on his little stool, listening while his father read aloud from s Gellert's Fables', and the poem about the Messiah ; and he and his sister, who was his senior by two years, had wept hot tears of pity for Him who died on the cross to redeem us all.
At the time of this first visit to Marbach the little town had not greatly changed ; and indeed they had not long left it. The houses stood, as before, with their pointed gables, projecting walls, and low windows : but there were new graves in the churchyard ; and there, in the grass, hard by the wall, lay the old bell. It had fallen from its position, and had received a crack and could ring no more, and accordingly a new bell had been put in its place.
Mother and son went into the churchyard. They stopped . where the old bell lay, and the mother told the boy how for centuries this had been a very useful bell, and had rung at christenings, at weddings, and at burials ; how it had spoken about feasts and rejoicings, and alarms of fire ; and how it had, in fact, sung the whole life of man. And the boy never forgot what his mother told him. It echoed in his heart, until, when he was grown a man, he was compelled to sing it. The mother told him also how the bell had rung of joy and comfort to her in the time of her peril, that it had rung and sung at the time when he, her little son, was born. And the boy gazed, almost with a feeling of devotion, at the great old bell; and he bent over it and kissed it, as it lay all rusty and broken among the long grass and nettles.
The old bell was held in remembrance by the boy, who grew up in poverty, tall and thin, with reddish hair and freckled face ;—yes, that's how he looked; but he had