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Selina of Sussex 1818-1886
by Leonard Holder
Family life in Sussex, southern England, seen through the eyes of Selina, the wife of Eli Page, farmer and Baptist minister
22.9 x 15.2 x 2.1 cm
Published by Xlibris
John - Selina and Eli’s second son
John was silent for a bit, then he said, ‘I’d better tell you, Mum, but I’m not sure how I’m going to tell Dad. The only way we can see each other is for me to creep into her bedroom at nights, and yes, Mary Ann thinks there’s a baby on the way.’
‘Oh, John!’ I said. ‘That’s serious. What do you think you are going to do? How old is Mary Ann?’
‘I want to marry her, Mum, and she’s just one year younger than me. I’m now twenty-two, and Mary Ann has just had her twenty-first birthday.’
‘Well, that’s something to be thankful for,’ I said. ‘At least you are both adults even if you aren’t very morally responsible.’ ……
Eli was even more angry than I had anticipated. I think in regard to the children, he always had in his mind the example of his namesake, Eli the priest in the Old Testament. The Bible shows us that the biblical Eli had been a very godly man and a good conscientious priest, but his sons had brought disgrace on the priesthood through their sinful behaviour, and God had laid the responsibility for this on Eli’s weakness in not restraining them.
Eli spoke of thrashing John and then, rather contradictorily, said he never wanted to see him again and certainly never wanted to see this Mary Ann girl with whom he had sinned. I had thankfully had more time to think the situation through and now could quietly share with Eli my thoughts.
‘Eli,’ I said, ‘John is now an adult. We have brought him up well, and he is essentially a kind and considerate young man. I think that if John had been living in a more open situation, this wouldn’t have happened. He and Mary Ann were forced to see each other in the secret of her bedroom because they saw no other way. Their behaviour was wrong both before God and the society in which we live, but they are two young, warm-blooded human beings in love. I once heard my father say that if the temptation and the opportunity come together, it takes God’s special grace and strength to resist it.’
‘There’s another thing, Eli,’ I added. ‘Although it seems a long time ago, remember that Richard was born less than seven months after our marriage!’
Eli was quiet for several minutes and then put his arms round me and kissed me.
‘Thank you, Seli dear,’ he said. ‘What a blessing you are to me, and how wise God was in giving us men female helpmeets to complement our wilder natures!’
Orpha - Selina and Eli’s second daughter
One beautiful spring morning, I took the pony and trap and drove up to Horns Farm, Hurstpierpoint, myself to see Orpha. I took her a jar of honey from our bees and some plum jam. I was shocked at her appearance, and although I tried not to show it, I think she could sense my reaction.
‘Mum, I’m getting weaker and weaker,’ she said, ‘and some nights the pain is almost unbearable. They say it’s my kidneys.’
I took the bull by the horns, as the saying goes, and with an overwhelming love for my daughter, I blurted out the one thing that was on my heart. ‘Orpha, my dear, are you ready to die? Are you ready to face God?’
‘No, Mum, I’m not, and I’m not going to die. I’m thirty-two, I’ve got a husband and adopted daughter to look after. God can’t let me die yet. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to think about it.’
I gave her a hug and a kiss and sat down to talk about other things, but deep within me, I felt despair. I had little doubt that Orpha had only a short while to live, and she was refusing to make her peace with God, refusing to acknowledge sin and her need of a Saviour.
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