Andrew Kennedy Hutchison] [Boyd.

The every-day philosopher in town and country online

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four hours each. And then I look at that rich syc-
amore, with foliage so thick, and at the hawthorn
blossoms, and at the yellow broom, and at the green
grass (for there is "much grass in this place"), and
thank God for all !

Last night, on the little village green, I saw several
moral outsiders, — I mean members of a class from
which respectable folk would for the most part shrink
away. There were four poor fellows, acrobats or tum-
blers ; and a girl who is a rope-dancer. They had
sent in advance a large bill, which was stuck on a
tree, to say there was a grand entertainment coming.
The entertainment hardly came up to its description.
Still the men did many really wonderful gymnastic
feats. They had a striking scene in which to display
their abihty. It was a beautiful twilight ; the little
green had fine large trees round it ; in the distance
there was a great purple hill, and close by was the
gi-ay old chapel. The only drawback was a very
cold wind. There was a large assemblage of country


folk, not very hearty or appreciative spectators ; and
all evidently regarding themselves as on a totally dif-
ferent level from the poor wanderers. The four men
turned somersaults and the like ; the poor girl, in her
sorry finery, stood by, wrapped in a large shawl till
the time of her performance should come. I observed
that when the hat went round, the rustic audience
evinced great economy in their gifts. The Fool, poor
fellow, his face bedaubed with coarse red and white,
and wearing a cap with two ears, simulated great
spirits, and made many jokes. I looked at him with
great pity, and wondered if any human being ever
deliberately chooses that way of earning his bread, or
whether some men are gradually hedged up to it, with-
out having had a chance of anything else. I was spe-
cially sorry for the poor girl, standing with the cold
wind blowing through her thin dress. The rustics
roared with laughter, as the fool quoted Shakspeare.
He was evidently a man of better education than the
rest. His most effective p?Rnt was when he took up a
small looking-glass, Avhich was to be given as a prize
in some way I did not make out, and, looking into
the glass, exclaimed, " Ah, that face ! that fine old
face ! He was a man, take liim for all in all," — and
so forth. Not since I was a child have I seen such
people ; and I was greatly touched by the sight of
them, and by thinking what kind of life they must
lead. I wondered if they ever went to church, or if
any clergyman cared for them when they might be


sick or dying. And if I had been able, I should as-
suredly, in defiance of all the laws of Political Econ-
omy, have seized them, and taken them away from
their sorry occupation, and set them to respectable
work, and made them go regularly to church ; and, in
short, brought them inside.

There is a curious feeling of the difference of being
inside and outside, when you are sitting in the cabin
of a ship at sea. It is so, even if you be making a
voyage no longer than that from Glasgow to Liverpool.
It is more so, if you be sailing on distant seas. Fancy
a snug little sleeping-cabin, and you lying there in a
comfortable berth placed against the side of the ship.
You lazily lay your head upon the end of the pillow
next the ship's side ; about six inches distant from
you, but outside, there is a huge shark rubbing its
nose against the vessel. Your head and the horri-
ble head of the strange monster are but a few inches
apart ; happily you are inside and the monster out-
side. Somehow it seems as if it were a more remark-
able thing for a homely Scot, who went in his youth
to a Scotch parish school and a Scotch parish church,
to be eaten by a shark in a far-away place, than it
would be for almost any other human being to meet a
like end. The parish school and the Shorter Cate-
chism are things wholly inconsistent with a man's liv-
ing any other than a decent life, or meeting any other
than a quiet Christian close. You know how pleasant
and refreshing it is, when you are walking along a

ouTSiDi:. 173

dusty road in June, outside some beautiful park, to
come to a spot whence you have a view into a green
recess of the woods within. And probably you know
a city where, as you walk the glaring summer streets,
you can look in many places through iron rails into
depths of cool grass and verdant leaves that gladden
eyes and heart together. And if you pay a yearly
subsidy for a share in such a place, you know that
when the iron gate swings noisily into its place behind
you, and you pass from the pavement to the neat grav-
elled walk or the cool turf, though it be but for a quar-
ter of an hour at the close of a busy afternoon, you
have felt that there is far more than a physical differ-
ence between the outside and the inside ; you have
felt that breaths of balmy country air come back to
you, and the remembrance of pleasant country cares.
There are human beings, the possessors of fair do-
mains, who seek by lofty walls to keep their fellow-
creatures, outside their belongings, — even to prevent
their fellow-creatures from refreshing their weary eyes
by looking upon green expanses which they are not
likely to tread. It is a narrow and unworthy mind
that feels it cannot fully enjoy its own possessions,
unless all mankind be kept definitively outside them !
But it testifies to a truly noble nature, when we see
what may be seen in many places now : the possessor
of a beautiful stretch of landscape around his dwell-
ing cordially welcoming his humbler neighbors to its
paths and glades, — giving up the prettiest portion of

174 OTiTsroE.

his park for a cricket-ground for the lads of the ad-
joining vilhige, — and judging that his charming acres
look all the more charming when they cease to be a
charming solitude, and are hghted up by happy faces.
But a sweet country place is usually in the midst of a
sweet country ; and there is no place where you value
green grass and green trees so much, as when you see
them in contrast to the streets of a town, and espe-
cially to the ugliest streets of a town. I know a spot
which, on a summer day, is peculiarly stifling and
dusty, — the dust being mainly the dust of coal.
There is a suburban railway station ; there are va-
rious mills ; there are houses of unattractive exterior ;
everything is glaring in the sunshine ; everything is
covered with dust. But you enter by a door in a
lofty wall, and you feel the diiference between being
outside and inside. There is a curious, old-fashioned
house, surrounded by a pretty garden, laid out with
much taste. Everything is green, fresh, cool, quiet.
It would be a pleasant spot anywhere ; but being
where it is, it is a true feast to the eyes. You enjoy
the inside so much more keenly, for the contrast with
the outside. Green grass, green trees, clear water,
abundant flowers and blossoms, freshness and fra-
grance in the air. And outside, the coal-dust, the
glaring pavements, the railway station !

I suppose most people like to contrast insides and
outsides, that they may relish one or other the more.
Did you ever, my reader, sit in your warm, cheerful


library, on a cold winter night, away in the country,
which in winter (it must be confessed) looks dread-
fully bleak to people accustomed to the town ? Your
curtains are drawn, and your lamp is lit ; and there
are your familiar books all round, with their friendly-
looking backs. There is the blazing fire, and not-
withstanding the condemnation of a certain great
Bishop, you do not think it wrong to possess various
easy-chairs. All this is pleasant. There is an air of
snugness and comfort, and you feel very thankful, it
is to be hoped, to the Giver of all. But you do not
know, from the survey of the mere interior, how
pleasant it is. Go away out, and look at the cold
wall outside your chamber. There it is, dark with
the plashes of rain, which the howling blast bitterly
beats against it. There are the leafless trees, shiver-
ing in the blast. There is the stormy sky, with the
racking clouds, which the chilly moon is wading
through. If you try to make out the landscape as
a whole, there is nothing but a dense gloom, with a
spectral shape here and there, which you know to be
a gate or a tree. On a moonless night, the country is
terribly dark. It is dark to a degree that townfolk,
with their abundant street lamps, have no idea of.
After beholding all these things outside, come in
again, and you will understand in some measure
how well off you are. You will know the distance
there may be, between the two sides of a not very
thick wall.


Less than a wall may make the distance. You
have probably travelled in a railway carriage through
a dark stormy night. If you are a quiet, stay-at-
home person, who do not travel so much that all rail-
way travelling has come to be a mere weariness to
you, you will enjoy such a night with considerable
freshness of interest. And especially, you will feel
the distance between being outside and being inside.
Inside, the thick cushions ; the two great powerful
lamps, which give abundant light ; the warm rugs and
wraps ; the hot water stool for your feet ; the news-
papers, and the new magazine ; one or two pleasant
companions, who do not trouble you by talking, ex-
cept at the stations ; — the stations forty miles apart.
There you lie in luxury, with the feeling that you '
may honestly do nothing, — that you may rest. And
looking through the window, there is the bleak, dark
landscape, with all kinds of strange shapes which you
cannot make out : the glare cast upon cuttings through
which you tear, the fearful hissing and snorting of
a passing engine, the row of lighted windows of a
passing train ; the lurid flame of distant furnaces,
the lights of sleeping towns. Yes, a night's travel-
ling between Edinburgli and London is as wonderful
a thing as anything recorded in the "Arabian Nights "
if it were not that it has grown so cheap and com
mon !

Lookino; out of the carriao;e-window over the tracts
on either side, and thinking how little parts you from


them, you may call to mind a certain ghastly jour-
ney by a night-train. A deliberate and cruel mur-
derer, who had committed (it was believed) more
than one or two murders for gain, was very justly
sentenced to be hanged. He was tried and sentenced
in London ; and then he was conveyed in a railway
carriage a journey of a hundred and forty miles to
the place of execution. He sat, manacled, between
two officers of justice, through these hours of travel-
ling. It must have been an extraordinary journey !
It was a near glimpse of freedom for a man to have
when the tightest meshes of the law had grasped him.
There he was, inside, — a person going to a dreadful
death ; and outside, stretching away and away, the free
fields ; and only the two or three inches between that
inside and that outside ! I can imagine how the poor
wretch thought, Oh, if I could but get into the mid-
dle of that thick wood ; if I could but hide under that
ivied bridge ; if I could but put a hundred yards
of midnight darkness between me and those terrible
keepers who have me in their charge ! I can im-
agine how, as he felt rapid mile after mile bringing
him nearer the scaffold, he would wish for some terri-
ble accident, some awful smash ; nothing could come
amiss to him ; nothing could make hiyn worse ! But
in such a case, of course, the little partition between
the inside and the outside, — the couple of inches of
timber and cloth, the eighth of an inch of glass, —
was the little indication of an awful gulf, that had


been making for months and perhaps years. Some-
times, indeed, the grievous moral lapse that puts a
man in the cage of which he can never get out, — or
that puts him outside the pale through which he can
never afterwards get in, — may be the doing of a very
short time. The hasty blow, the terribly wrong turn-
ing, may have marked a change as definite as that
when the poor castaway is swept from the ship's deck
into the waves of the Atlantic.

In old days, when society w^as unsettled, it seems as
if one w^ould have felt, more vividly than now, the
difference between being inside and being outside, in
the matter of safety. There must have been a pleas-
ant feeling of security in looking over the battlements
of a great castle, and thinking that you were safe in-
side them. The sense of danger with which men
must in those days have gone abroad, would be com-
pensated by the special enjoyment of safety when
they were fairly inside some place of strength. Hu-
man nature is so made that even though yon are
aware that no one desires to attack or injure you, still
there is a pleasure in thinking, that even if any one
had such a desire, he could not. You know how chil-
dren like to imagine some outer danger, that they
may enjoy the sense of safety inside. It is with real
delight that your little boy, sitting on your knee, sud-
denly hides his face in your breast, exclaiming loudly
that there is a great bear coming to eat him. He
feigns a danger outside, that he may enjoj thi\ I'^ei-

ouTsroE. 179

ing of being safe from it. So you will find a man
who has been laboring hard, going away for a little
rest to some remote quiet place. He tells you, no
one can get at him there. The truth is, nobody wants
to get at him ; but like the child with the great bear,
he calls up some vague picture of a great number of
people coming to worry him about a great many mat-
ters, that he may have the pleasant feeling that he is
safe from them where he is. You can think of a man
who has committed some crime, flying from justice ;
and as he ^uts mile after mile of desolate country
between him and the place from which he has fled,
thinking that surely he is safe in this retreat. You
can think of the forger, a few years since, who fled
across the Atlantic ; fled from the American seaboard
and penetrated deeper and deeper into the backwoods,
till he stopped in an utter solitude somewhere in the
Far West. You can think how, as week after week
went on, he began to feel as if he might breathe in
peace at last ; and think of the poor wretch, sitting
one evening in his little log-house, when two London
detectives walked in, having tracked him all this way !
Did you ever see a foolish duck dive at a hole made
in the ice; and come up again under the ice at a hope-
less distance from the opening ? It is a sad thing to
see even that poor creature perishing, with only an
inch or two of transparent ice between it and the air.
Y'ou hasten to break a hole near it to let it escape ;
but by the time the hole is made, the duck is twenty


yards off. The duck I have seen ; but it must be a
fearful case when a human being gets into the like
position. You may have lately read how a man was
at the bottom of a deep well, when the earth near the
top fell together and shut him in. There were ready
hands to rescue him; and he was not so shut in but that
his voice could be heard hurrying his deliverers. He
told them that the water was rising ; that it was at
his knees, at his breast, at his neck ; and the workers
above were too late to save him. I suppose it is quite
ascertained that in those wicked and cruePages which
ignorant people call the good old times, it was not unu-
sual to wall up a nun in a niche of a massive wall,
and leave her there to perish. Vade in pacein, were
the words that sentenced to this doom ; \vhich the
reader probably knows, mean not Depart in peace, but
Go to rest. Such was the kindly repose provided in
those happy days. And another dismal inside is that
of which Samuel Rogers tells us the true story ; the
massive chest of oak in which a poor Italian girl hid
herself, which closed with a spring-lock, and never
chanced to be opened for fifty years. You can think
of the terrible rush of confused misery in the poor
creature's heart when she felt herself shut in, and
heard the voices that seemed approaching her die
away. But half a century after, when the chest w^as
drawn out to the light and its lid w^as raised, there
was no trace in the mouldering bones of the thrilling
annruish which had been endured within that little


space. It is a miserable story. Yet perhaps it has
its moral analogies not less miserable. There are
human beings who by some wrong or hasty step have
committed themselves lil^e the poor girl that perished,
— who have, in a moral sense, been caught, and who
can never get out.

Yes ; it is a great question, Outside or Inside ; and
now, my reader, you must let me remember, drawing
these desultory thoughts to a close, that the testing
question which puts all mankind to right and left, is
just the question, in its most solemn significance, which
may be set out in that familiar phrase. There is the
Christian fold, — there is the outer world ; and we are
either within the fold of the Good Shepherd of souls,
or without it. It is not a question of degree, as it
might be if it founded on our own moral character and
deservings. It is the question, have we confided our-
selves to the Saviour or not ; are we right or Avrong ;
are we within or without ? And the two great alter-
natives, we know, are carried out, without sluiding off
between, into the unseen world. We know that there,
when some have gone in to the feast, the door is shut ;
and others may stand without, and find no admission.
Let us humbly pray, that He who came to seek and
to save that which was lost may find each reader of
this page, a lost sheep by nature, a poor wanderer in
the outer wilderness, — and draw all with the cords of
love within his fold. And let us humbly pray that at


the last, we may all, however our earthly paths have
varied, find entrance into that Golden City, which has
a wall great and high, whose building is of jasper, and
which shall exclude all sin and sorrow ; through whose
gates, though not shut at all by day (and there shall
be no night there), " there shall in no wise enter into
it anything that defileth ; " and where the blessed
inhabitants " shall go no more out," but be safe in
their Father's house forever !


VERYBODY is Going On. We are all
netting tliroiigli our little span of day-
light. We are spending the time that is
allotted to us, at the rate of three hun-
xt j-five days a year. We are all going on
through life, somehow, — not very cheerfully, if one
may judge hy the careworn, anxious faces of most
middle-aged people you pass on the street. But some
people are not merely Going On ; they are also Get-
ting On, — which is a very different thing. All are
growing older ; a man here and there is also growing
bigger. I mean bigger in a moral sense. As you and
I, my reader, look round on those early companions
who started with us in the race of life, we can discern
that great changes have passed upon many of them.
Some who started as cart-horses, of a very shaggy and
uncombed appearance, have gradually assumed the as-
pect of thoroughbred, or at least of well-bred animals.
Some who set out as horses sixteen hands high, have
shrunk to the size of Shetland ponies. Certain who


started as calves, have not attained maturity with
advancing years ; and instead of turning into consol-
idated oxen, they have only grown into enormous
calves. But without going into such mattei's, I am
'sure you know that among your old companions there
are those who are shooting ahead of the rest, or who
have already shot ahead of them. There are those
who are pointed at as Rising Men. They are de-
cidedly Getting On. I do not mean that they are be-
coming famous, or that they are becoming great men.
They have not had much chance of that. Their lot has
circumscribed their ambition. Their hearts do not beat
high for praise ; but have known various perplexities as
to the more substantial question of the earning of bread
and butter. But they are quietly and surely progress-
ing. They have now advanced a good deal beyond what
they were five or ten years since. Every profession
has its rising men. The Church, the Law, Medicine,
Commerce, Literature, have their men who are Get-
ting On, — year by year Getting On. A great many
men find their level rather early in life ; and remain
for many years much the same in standing. They are
not growing richer, as they grow older. They are
not coming to be better known. They are not gain-
ing a greater place and estimation in their walk of
life. Many a little shop-keeper at fifty-five is in
worldly wealth much as he was at thirty-five. He
has managed to rub on, sometimes with a hard strug-
gle ; it has been just enough to make the day provide


for the day's wants ; and there has been no accumula-
tion of money. Many a domestic .servant, after many
years of toil, is not a whit better off than when she
was a hopeful girl. If she has been provident and
self-denying, she may have a few pounds in the Sav-
ings'-bank. Many a laboring man in the country has
been able each week to make the hard-earned shillings
provide food and clothing for his children and their
mother; but he has laid up no store ; he has not ad-
vanced ; he lives in the same little cottage ; and his
poor sticks of furniture are all the worse for their
wear ; and his carefully-kept Sunday suit is not so
trim now as it used to be when he courted his hard-
featured wife in her fresh girlhood, and was esteemed
as a rustic beau. Many a faithful clergyman at sixty
is a poorer man than he was at thirty ; or in any case
not richer. It has cost many an anxious thought,
through these years, to make the ends meet ; and that
hard task will cost its anxious thoughts to the end.
You who wish to have an efficient clergy, who will do
their work heartily and well, agitate against that
wicked and idiotic notion, that a clergyman is likely
to do ills work best, if he be crushed down by the
pressure of poverty ; if his wife be worn into her
grave by sorry schemings to make the little means go
their farthest ; and if his poor little children have to
run about without shoes and stockings. There are
certain opinions which I should not think of meeting
by argument; but rather by the severest application


of the cat of ninetails. And one of these is the opin-
ion of the old fool (he was a Scotch Judge) who said
that " a puir church would be a pure church."

But returning from this digression, let me repeat,
that however hard it may be to explain how some men
get on while others do not, there can be no question as
to the fact that some men do get on while others do
not. People get on in many ways ; as you will un-
derstand, if you look back a few years, and compare
what some of your friends were a few years since
with what they are now. There is A, whom you re-
member in his early days at college, an ungainly cub
with a shock head of red hair and a tremendous
Scotch accent. That man has taken on polish ; he
has got on ; he has seen the world ; he is an accom-
plished gentleman. There is B, ten years since a poor
curate ; now risen to the charge of an important
parish. There is C ; he has married a rich wife ; he
has a fine house ; he has several horses, various dogs,
and many pigs ; he has made so great a rise in life,
that you would say that sometimes when he comes
down-stairs in the morning, he must think that he is
the wrong man. There is D; some years ago he
tried in vain for a certain very small appointment ;
the other day he was offered one of the most valuable
in the same profession, and declined it. There is E ;
he tried to write for the magazines. His early articles
were ignominiously rejected. . The other day he got a
thousand pounds for one edition of a few of the re-


jected articles. You know how, in running the race
of life, some one individual shows his head a little in
front, gradually increases his lead, and finally dis-
tances all competition. Once upon a time, there was
a staff of newspaper reporters attached to a certain
London journal. One of them, not apparently clev-
erer than the rest, drew bit by bit ahead, till he
reached the wool-sack. And when he presided in the
great assembly whose speeches he was wont to report,
he must unquestionably have felt that he had Got On.
Indeed, I have heard that homely phrase applied to
him by an old Scotch lady who knew him in his
youth ; and so who could never speak of his success

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Online LibraryAndrew Kennedy Hutchison] [BoydThe every-day philosopher in town and country → online text (page 11 of 19)