THE darkness is coming on rapidly, as a man with a basket on his head turns the corner of a street in London. He cries loudly as he goes, "Herrings! Three a penny! Red herrings, good and cheap, at three a penny I'Soon he comes close to me and commences conversation. ' 

"Governor, what do you think of these 'ere herrings?"

As he speaks, I note that he has three in his hand, while the remaining stock is deftly balanced in the basket on his head. 

"Don't you think they're good? And don't you think they're cheap as well?" 

"Yes, I think they are good and cheap." 

"Then, look you, governor, why can't I sell 'em? I have walked a mile and a half along this dismal place, offering these good and cheap uns; and nobody will buy." 

"I do not at all wonder at that," I answered.

"Tell us why not, governor, tell us why not."

"The people have no work at all to do, and they are starving; there are plenty of houses round here that have not had a penny in them for many a day," was my reply.

"Ah! Then, governor," he rejoined, "I've put my foot in it this time; I knew they were very poor, but I thought three a penny 'ud tempt 'em. But if they haven't the half-pence, they can't spend 'em, sure enough; so there's nothing for me but to carry 'em elsewhere. I thought by selling cheap, after buying cheap, I could do them good, and earn a trifle for myself. But I'm done this time."

"How much will you take for the lot?" I inquired.  First a keen look at me then down came the basket from his head then a rapid calculation then a grinning inquiry "Do you mean profit an' all, governor!"


"Then I'll take four shillin', and be glad to get 'em. "I put my hand in my pocket, produced that amount, and transferred it to him.

"Right! Governor, thank'ee! What'll I do with 'em? "He said, as he quickly transferred the coins to his own pocket.

"Go round this corner into the middle of the street, shout with all your might, 


and give three to every man, woman, and child, that comes to you, till the basket is emptied."

"All right! Governor, if you say so, I'll do it"

So he proceeded into the middle of the street, and went along shouting, "Herrings for nothing! Real good, red herrings for nothing!"

I stood at the corner to watch his progress; and soon he neared the house where a tall woman that I knew stood at the first floor window, looking out upon him.

"Here you are, missus," he cries, "herrings for nothing! A fine chance for yer; come an' take 'em."

The woman shook her head unbelievingly, and left the window.

"Vot a fool!" said he; "but they won't all be so. Herrings for nothing!" A little child came out to look at him, and he called to her: "Here, my dear, take these in to your mother, and tell her how cheap they are herrings for nothing." But the child was afraid of him and them, and ran in doors. So, down the street, in the snow, slush, and mud, went the cheap fish, the vender crying loudly as he went, "Herrings for nothing!" and then adding savagely, "Oh, you fools. "Thus he reaches the end of the street; and then turning to retrace his steps, he continues his double cry as he came, "Herrings for nothing!" and then, in a lower but very audible key, "Oh, you fools."

"Well," I said to him calmly, as he reached me at the corner.

"Well!" he repeated, "if yer think so! When yer gave me the money for herrings as yer didn't want, I thought you was training for a lunatic 'sylum! Now I thinks all the people round here are fit company for yer. But what'll I do with the herrings if yer don't want 'em, and they won't have 'em?"

"We'll try again together," I replied; 

"I will come with you this time, and we'll both shout."

Into the road we both went, and he shouted once more and for the last time, 

"Herrings for nothing!"

Then I called out loudly also, "Will any one have some herrings for tea? "

They heard my voice, and they knew it well; and they came out at once, in twos and threes and sixes, men and women and children, all striving to reach the welcome food. As fast as I could take them from the basket, I handed three to each eager applicant, until all were speedily disposed of. When the basket was empty, the hungry crowd that had none, was far greater than that which had been supplied; but they were too late, there were no more "Herrings for nothing!"

Foremost among the disappointed was a tall woman of a bitter tongue, who began vehemently, "Why haven't I got any? ain't I as good as they? ain't my children as hungry as theirs? Why haven't I got any?"

Before I had time to reply, the vender stretched out his arm toward her, saying, "Why, governor, that's the very woman as I offered 'em to first, and she turned up her nose at 'em."

"I didn't," she rejoined passionately, "I didn't believe you meant it!"

"Yer goes without for your unbelief!" he replied. "Good-night and thank'ee, governor!"

I told this story upon the sea-beach, to a great crowd gathered there on a summer Sabbath day. They looked at each other; first smiled, then laughed outright, and at length roared with laughter.

It was my time then; and I said, "You cannot help laughing at the quaint story, which is strictly true. But are you sure you would not have done as they did, and been as unbelieving as they? Their unbelief only cost them a hungry stomach a little longer; but what may your unbelief cost you? God has sent his messengers to you for many years to offer--


peace for nothing! salvation for nothing! He has sent to you the most loving and tender offers that even an almighty God could frame; and what have you replied? 

Have you taken the trouble to reply at all? Have you not turned away in utter scornful unbelief, like the woman? or ran away in fear, like the child ? You are still without a hope on earth, or a hope in Heaven, because you will not believe God's messengers when they offer you all that you need for time and eternity FOR NOTHING.

"Take warning by that disappointed crowd of hungry applicants. When they were convinced that the offer was in good faith, and would gladly have shared with their fellows, 

they were too late!

"Let it not be so with you! Do not you be in that awfully large crowd of disappointed ones, who will be obliged to believe when belief will not help them; whose knowledge, when it comes, will only increase the sorrow that they put off believing until it was too late"

As I looked earnestly upon that vast crowd, the laughter was entirely gone, and an air of uneasy conviction was plainly traceable upon many faces.

"Will you not come to Jesus now?" I entreated. "He is waiting, pleading with you! Here is salvation, full, free, and eternal; help, guidance and blessing, all for nothing! Without money and without price." 

Kind Words.