Treasure In Wales
As Mary walked away from home, neighbors leaned out of their doors, calling, "Good luck, Mary! God go with you! Bring back your Bible!"
Everyone in the village knew of Mary’s quest to own a Bible–nearly all of them had bought eggs or vegetables from her, or paid her to carry their firewood or mind their babies, as she earned money to fulfill her dream. Everyone liked her. Everyone wished her well as she set off down the path to Bala.
At first it was just a pleasant spring walk, but soon Mary’s bare feet began to ache. She was used to long walks and hard work. But as she climbed higher into the hills, she felt the pull in her muscles.
Late in the morning Mary came to a rushing stream that crossed her path. She could see no way around it, so she trod carefully on the damp, slippery stepping-stones. She didn’t want to slip and fall, more afraid of losing her purse of money than of getting cold and wet. But she made it safely to the other side.
She trudged on for many more miles before she stopped to eat her little lunch. Then she shouldered her bag and set out again.
The late afternoon was somewhat scary. Mary traveled through dark woods, and the path was hard to find. When she passed through a village, Mary asked if she was on the road to Bala.
The villagers assured her she was. "But you’ll not make Bala by nightfall," they said. "Will you stop here?"
Mary didn’t want to stop. She set out, almost running despite her weariness. The longer she was gone, the more her mother would worry.
Darkness fell, and Mary twisted her ankle on the stony path. She stumbled on, praying for more strength. Then, up ahead, she saw the lights of a town. It must be Bala.
She couldn’t go looking for Reverend Charles so late at night. So on the outskirts of town Mary curled up against a haystack in a farmer’s field. Exhausted, she fell asleep almost immediately.
Mary awoke with the dawn, her head pillowed on her bag and her hand still clutching her precious purse.
I must look a sight! she thought, wishing she could see her reflection in a looking glass.
Mary ate another little bit of bread and cheese. Then she laced on the boots she had carried until then to keep them from wearing out. She smoothed her hair and clothes as best she could and set off into town.
The first people Mary met were able to direct her to Reverend Charles’s home. When she got there a servant girl about her own age answered the door and looked curiously at Mary. She told her to wait in the hall and went to get the minister.
Mr. Charles appeared, a very dignified-looking man with a kind smile. He too looked curiously at the young girl in the travel-stained clothes, holding her purse in both hands. "What can I do for you, young lady?"
"Oh, Mr. Charles, I’ve come all the way from a village called Llanfyhangel-Y-Pennant. There’s a lady there, Mrs. Evans, who says she bought her Bible from you. Do you have any Welsh Bibles to sell?"
"Oh, I’m so sorry, my dear girl," Mr. Charles replied. "I have only one left, and it’s been promised to someone else. No, there are no more–only a few were ever printed, and they are all gone."
Mary stood in the minister’s hallway listening to the words that spelled the end of her lifelong dream. Tears sprang to her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.
"Now, now, don’t cry, don’t cry," said Mr. Charles helplessly, handing Mary his big white handkerchief. In return, Mary thrust her purse into his hands.
"Here’s all my money–I’ve been saving ever since I was 10 years old–I’ve worked at everything I could think of–I went to school to learn to read, and I went to Mrs. Evans’ house to read the Bible–I want my own Welsh Bible more than anything in the world!"
"Can you read English, my dear? I have many English Bibles."
"Hardly at all," Mary sniffled. "I want the Bible in my own language–so it will be just as though God were talking to me."
There was a long silence. When Mary looked up, Mr. Charles was gone. She was alone in the hallway. At the far end she could see the servant girl peering through a crack in the door. Then the door nearest her opened, and Mr. Charles walked out again, holding a Bible.
"The gentleman who wanted this Bible can read English as well, so he will have to make do with an English Bible," said Mr. Charles. "What did you say your name was, my girl? Mary? Well, Mary, you shall have my last Welsh Bible." He looked down at her small purse, not bothering to count the coins. "After hearing your story, I hardly want to take your money."
"Oh, but take it," Mary said, clutching the Bible. "Perhaps with the money you can print another Welsh Bible for someone else to read!"
Mary was all ready to set out on the road again, but Mr. Charles insisted she stay and have breakfast. Over the breakfast table she told him all about her long struggle to own a Bible, and he told her how difficult it was to obtain Bibles for the people of Wales. "But your story has shown me how great the need is," he said. "Something must be done about this!"
The long walk home with the precious Bible in her bag seemed short to Mary. That night she was finally able to fulfill her dream of reading the Bible aloud to her mother by the fireside.
Reverend Thomas Charles went to London, England, soon after that. He told many church people there the story of Mary Jones and the desperate need for Bibles in Wales.
"And if the need is so great in Wales, surely it’s the same in other countries," many people said. Within a few years the British and Foreign Bible Society was formed to translate and distribute Bibles for people all over the world. Today, Bible Societies around the world continue to carry on that work.
And what about Mary Jones? She grew up, married, and raised a large family. She continued to cherish her Welsh Bible and taught her own children and others to read the Bible in their own language. She continued to earn extra money whenever she could to help the Bible Society in their work as they distributed Bibles to the people of Wales. Mary Jones died at the age of 80, clasping her well-worn Welsh Bible in her hands.