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MUSHROOMS ON THE MOOR

by

F. W. BOREHAM

Author of
'Mountains in the Mist,'
'The Other Side of the Hill,'
'The Golden Milestone,'
'The Silver Shadow,'
'The Luggage of Life,'
'Faces in the Fire,' etc., etc.







The Abingdon Press
New York - - - Cincinnati

First American Edition Printed May, 1919
Reprinted August, 1919; May, 1920; July 1921




CONTENTS


PART I

CHAP.

I. A SLICE OF INFINITY
II. READY-MADE CLOTHES
III. THE HIDDEN GOLD
IV. 'SUCH A LOVELY BITE!'
V. LANDLORD AND TENANT
VI. THE CORNER CUPBOARD
VII. WITH THE WOLVES IN THE WILD
VIII. DICK SUNSHINE
IX. FORTY!
X. A WOMAN'S REASON


PART II

I. THE HANDICAP
II. GOG AND MAGOG
III. MY WARDROBE
IV. 'PITY MY SIMPLICITY!'
V. TUNING FROM THE BASS
VI. A FRUITLESS DEPUTATION
VII. TRAMP! TRAMP! TRAMP!
VIII. THE FIRST MATE


PART III

CHAP.

I. WHEN THE COWS COME HOME
II. MUSHROOMS ON THE MOOR
III. ONIONS
IV. ON GETTING OVER THINGS
V. NAMING THE BABY
VI. THE MISTRESS OF THE MARGIN
VII. LILY




BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION

I have allowed the Mushrooms on the Moor to throw the glamour of their
name over the entire volume because, in some respects, they are the
most typical and representative things in it. They express so little
but suggest so much! What fun we had, in the days of auld lang syne,
when we scoured the dewy fields in search of them! And yet how small a
proportion of our enjoyment the mushrooms themselves represented! Our
flushed cheeks, our prodigious appetites, and our boisterous merriment
told of gains immensely greater than any that our baskets could have
held. What a contrast, for example, between mushrooms from the moor on
the one hand and mushrooms from the market on the other! What memories
of the soft summer mornings; the fresh and fragrant air; the diffused
and misty sunshine; the sparkle of the dew on the tall wisps of
speargrass; the beaded and shining cobwebs; the scamper, barefooted,
across the glittering green! It was part of childhood's wild romance.
And, in the sterner days that have followed those tremendous frolics,
we have learned that life is full of just such suggestive things. As I
glance back upon the years that lie behind me, I find that they have
been almost equally divided between two hemispheres. But I have
discovered that, under any stars,

There's part o' the sun in an apple;
There's part o' the moon in a rose;
There's part o' the flaming Pleiades
In every leaf that grows.

And I shall reckon this book no failure if some of the ideas that I
have tried to suggest are found to point at all steadily to that
conclusion.

FRANK W. BOREHAM.

HOBART, TASMANIA,
JUNE, 1915.




PART I


I

A SLICE OF INFINITY

I

Really, as I sit here in this quiet study, and glance round at the
books upon the shelves, I can scarcely refrain from laughing at the fun
we have had together. And to think of the way in which they came into
my possession! It seems like a fairy story or a chapter from romance.
If a man wants to spend an hour or so as delightfully as it is possible
to spend it, let him invite to his fireside some old and valued friend,
the companion of many a frolic and the sharer of many a sorrow; let him
seat his old comrade there in the place of honour on the opposite side
of the hearth, and then let them talk. 'Do you remember, Tom, the way
we met for the first time?' 'My word, I do! Shall I ever forget it?'
And Tom slaps his knee at the memory of it, and they enjoy a long and
hearty laugh together. It is not that the circumstances under which
they met were so ludicrous or dramatic; it is that they were so
commonplace. It seems, on looking back, the oddest chance in the world
that first brought them together, the merest whim of chance, the
veriest freak of circumstance; and yet how all life has taken its
colour and drawn its enrichment from that casual meeting! They
happened to enter the same compartment of a railway train; or they sat
next each other on the tramcar; or they walked home together from a
political meeting; or they caught each other admiring the same rose at
a flower show. Neither sought the other; neither felt the slightest
desire for the other; neither knew, until that moment, of the existence
of the other; and yet there it is! They met; and out of that
apparently accidental meeting there has sprung up a friendship that
many changes cannot change, and a love that many waters cannot quench.
Either would cross all the continents and oceans of the world to-day to
find the other; but as they remember how they met for the first time it
seems too queer to be credible. And they lie back in their easy chairs
and laugh again.


II

That is why I laugh at my books. Some day I intend to draw up a list
of them and divide them into classes. In one class I shall put the
books that I bought, once upon a time, because I was given to
understand that they were the right sort of books to have. Everybody
else had them; and my shelves would therefore be scarcely decent
without them. I purchased them, accordingly, and they have stood on
the shelves there ever since. As far as I know they have done nobody
the slightest harm in all their long untroubled lives. Indeed, they
have imparted such an air of gravity, and such an odour of sanctity, to
the establishment as must have had a steadying effect on their less
sombre companions. But it is not at these formidable volumes that I am
laughing. I would not dare. I glance at them with reverential awe,
and am more than half afraid of them. Then, again, there are other
books that I bought because I felt that I needed them. And so I did,
more than perhaps I guessed when I bore them proudly home. Glorious
times I have had with them. I look up at them gratefully and lovingly.
It is not at these that I am laughing. But there are others, old and
trusted friends, that came into my life in the oddest possible way. I
do not mean that I stole them. I mean rather that they stole me. They
seemed to pounce out at me, and before I knew what had happened I
belonged to them: I certainly did not seek them. In some cases I never
heard of their existence until after they became my own. They have
since proved invaluable to me, and I can scarcely review our long
companionship without emotion. Yet when I glance up at them, and
remember the whimsical way in which we met for the first time, I can
scarce restrain my laughter.


III

It was like this. Years ago I went to an auction sale. A library was
being submitted to the hammer. The books were all tied up in lots.
The work had evidently been done by somebody who knew as much about
books as a Hottentot knows about icebergs. John Bunyan was tied
tightly to Nat Gould, and Thomas Carlyle was firmly fastened to Charles
Garvice. I looked round; took a note of the numbers of those lots that
contained books that I wanted, and waited for the auctioneer to get to
business. In due time I became the purchaser of half a dozen lots. I
had bought six books that I wanted, and thirty that I didn't. Now the
question arose: What shall I do with these thirty waifs and strays? I
glanced over them and took pity on them. Many of them dealt with
matters in which I had never taken the slightest interest. But were
they to blame for that? or was I? I saw at once that the fault was
entirely mine, and that these unoffending volumes had absolutely
nothing to be ashamed of. I vowed that I would read the lot, and I
did. From one or two of them I derived as far as I know, no profit at
all. But these were the exceptions. Some of these volumes have been
the delight of my life during all the days of my pilgrimage. And as I
look tenderly up at them, as they stand in their very familiar places
before me, I salute them as the two old comrades saluted each other
across the hearthstone. But I cannot help laughing at the odd manner
of our first acquaintance. It was thus that I learned one of the most
valuable lessons that experience ever taught me. It is sometimes a
fine thing to sample infinity.


IV

When I was a small boy I dreaded the policeman; when I grew older I
feared the bookseller. And as the years go by I find that my dread of
the policeman has quite evaporated, but my fear of the bookseller grows
upon me. I had an idea as a boy that one day a policeman, mistaking my
identity, would snatch me up and hurl me into some horrid little
dungeon, where I might languish for many a long day. But since I have
grown up I have discovered that it is only the bookseller who does that
sort of thing. And in his case he does it deliberately and of malice
aforethought. It is no case of mistaken identity; he knows who you
are, and he knows you are innocent. But he has his dungeon ready. The
bookseller is a very dangerous person, and every member of the
community should guard against his blandishments. It is not that he
will sell you too many books. He will probably not sell you half as
many as are good for you. But he will sell you the wrong books. He
will sell you the books you least need, and keep on his own shelves the
intellectual pabulum for which your soul is starving. And all with a
view to getting you at last into his wretched little dungeon. See how
he goes about it. A friend of yours goes to the West Indies. You
suddenly wake up to the fact that you know very little about that
wonderful region. You go to your bookseller and ask for the latest
reliable work on the West Indies. You buy it, and he, the rascal,
takes a mental note of the fact. Next time you walk into the shop he
is at you like a flash.

'Good afternoon, sir. You are specially interested, I know, in the
West Indies. We have a very fine thing coming out now in monthly parts
. . .'

And so on. His attribution to you of special interest in the West
Indies is no empty flattery. The book you bought on your first visit
has charmed you, and you are most deeply and sincerely interested in
those fascinating islands. You order the monthly parts and the
interest deepens. The bookseller does the thing so slyly that you do
not notice that he is boxing you up in the West Indies. He is doing in
sober fact what the policeman did in childish imagination. He is
driving us into a blind alley, and, unless we are very careful, he will
have us cribb'd, cabin'd, and confined before we know where we are.


V

It was my experience in the auction-room that saved me. When I had
read all these books which I should never have bought if I could have
helped it, I discovered the folly of buying books that interest you.
If a book appeals to me at first sight it is probably because I know a
good deal about the subject with which it deals. But, as against that,
see how many subjects there are of which I know nothing at all! And
just look at all these books that have no attraction for me! And tell
me this: Why do they not appeal to me? Only one answer is possible.
They do not appeal to me because I am so grossly, wofully, culpably
ignorant of the subjects whereof they treat. If, therefore, my
bookseller approaches me, with a nice new book under his arm, and
observes coaxingly that he knows I am interested in history, I always
ask him to be good enough to show me the latest work on psychology. If
he reminds me of my fondness for astronomy, I ask him for a handbook of
botany. If he refers to my predilection for agriculture, I inquire if
there is anything new in the way of poetry; and if he politely refers
to my weakness for the West Indies, I ask him to bring me something
dealing with Lapland. The bookseller must be circumvented, defeated,
and crushed at any cost. He is too clever at trapping us in his narrow
little cell. If a man wants to feel that the world is wide, and a good
place to live in, he must be for ever and for ever sampling infinity.
He must shun the books that he dearly wants to buy, and buy the books
he would do anything to shun.


VI

Yes, I bought thirty-six books that day in the auction-room; six that I
wanted and thirty that I didn't. And some of those thirty volumes have
been the charmers of my solitude and the classics of my soul ever
since. I do not advise any man to rush off to the nearest auction mart
and repeat my experiment. We must not gamble with life. Infinity must
be sampled intelligently. But, if a man is to keep himself alive in a
world like this, infinity must be sampled. Like a dog on a country
road I must poke into as many holes as I can. If I am naturally fond
of music, I had better study mining. If I love painting, I shall be
wise to go in for gardening. If I glory in the seaside, I must make a
point of climbing mountains and scouring the bush. If I am attached to
the things just under my nose, I must be careful to read books dealing
with distant lands. If I am deeply interested in contemporary affairs,
I must at once read the records of the days of long ago and explore the
annals of the splendid past. I must be faithful to old friends, but I
must get to know new people and to know them well. If I hold to one
opinion, I must studiously cultivate the acquaintance of men who hold
the opposite view, and investigate the hidden recesses of their minds
with scientific and painstaking diligence. Above all must I be
constantly sampling infinity in matters of faith. If I find that the
Epistles are gaining a commanding influence upon my mind, I must at
once set out to explore the prophets. If I find some special phase of
truth powerfully attracting me, I must, without shunning it, pay
increasing attention to all other aspects. 'The Lord has yet more
truth to break from out His Word!' said John Robinson; and I must try
to find it. Mr. Goodman is a splendid fellow; but he fell in love with
one lonely little truth one day, and now he never thinks or reads or
preaches of any other. It would be his salvation, and the salvation of
his people, if he would set out to climb the peaks that have no
attraction for him. He would find, when he stood on their sunlit
summits, that they too are part of God's great world. He would have
the time of his life if he would only commence to sample infinity. His
people are accustomed to seeing him every now and again in a new suit
of clothes. If he begins to-day to sample infinity, they will next
week experience a fresh sensation. They will see the same suit of
clothes with a new man inside it.




II

READY-MADE CLOTHES

Carlyle, as everybody knows, once wrote a Philosophy of Clothes, and
called it _Sartor Resartus_. He did his work so thoroughly and so
exhaustively and so well that, from that day to this, nobody else has
cared to tackle the theme. It is high time, however, that it was
pointed out that with one important aspect of his tremendous subject he
does not attempt to deal. Surely there ought to have been a chapter on
Ready-made Clothes!

I am surprised that Henry Drummond never drew attention to the glaring
omission, for, if Drummond hated one thing more than another, he
loathed and detested ready-made clothes. They were his pet aversion.
Ready-made clothes, he used to say, were things that were made to fit
everybody, and they fitted nobody. Men are not made by machinery and
in sizes; and it follows as a natural consequence that clothes that are
so made will not fit men. The man who is an exact duplicate of the
tailor's model has not yet been born. How Carlyle's omission escaped
the censure of Drummond I cannot imagine. It is true that Drummond was
not particularly attracted by Carlyle; he preferred Emerson. I am
certain that if Drummond had read _Sartor Resartus_ at all carefully he
would have exposed the discrepancy, and Carlyle is therefore to be
congratulated on a very narrow escape.

Drummond's hatred of ready-made clothes is the essential thing about
him. I happened to be lecturing on Drummond the other evening, and I
felt it my duty to point out that Drummond would take his place in
history, not as a scientist nor as an evangelist, nor as a traveller,
nor as an author, but as the uncompromising and relentless assailant of
ready-made clothes. Unless you grasp this, you will never understand
him. He scorned all affectations and imitations. He would adopt no
style of dress simply because it was usual under certain conditions.
'He was,' as an eye-witness of his ordination remarks, 'the last man
whom you could place by the woman's canon of dress. And yet his dress
was a marvel of adaptation to the part he happened to be playing. On
his ordination day, when most men assume a garb severely clerical, he
was dressed like a country squire, thus proclaiming to fathers and
brethren, and to all the world, that he was not going to allow
ordination to play havoc with his chosen career. Now this was typical,
and it is its typical quality that is important. It applied not to
dress alone. It applied to speech. Drummond would affect no style of
address simply on the ground that it was usual upon certain platforms
or in certain rostrums. Did it fit him? Was it simple, natural, easy,
effective? If not, he would not use it. Nor would he adopt a course
of procedure simply because it was customary and was considered
correct. If, to him, it seemed like wearing ready-made clothes, he
would have none of it. Here you have the key to his whole life.
Everything had to fit him like a glove, or he would have nothing to do
with it. His scientific lectures, his evangelistic addresses, his
personal interviews with students, even his public prayers, were
modelled on no regulation standard, on no established precedent; they
were couched in the language, and expressed in the style, that most
perfectly suited his own charming and magnetic individuality.

Professor James, of Harvard, said of Henri Bergson, the Parisian
philosopher, that his utterance fitted his thought like that elastic
silk underclothing which follows every movement of the skin. Drummond
would have considered that the ideal. Generally speaking, he was
impervious to criticism; but if you had told him that a single phrase
rang hollow, or that some expression had savoured of artificiality, or
that even a gesture appeared like affectation, you would have stabbed
him to the quick. It was a great question in his day as to whether he
was orthodox or heterodox. Drummond regarded all standards of
orthodoxy and of heterodoxy as so many tailors' models. Orthodoxy and
heterodoxy stand related to truth just as those wonderful wickerwork
stands and plaster busts that adorn every dressmaker's establishment
stand related to the grace and beauty of the female form. If you had
asked Drummond to what school of thought he belonged, he would have
told you that he never wore ready-made clothes.

I tremble lest, one of these days, these notions of mine on the subject
of ready-made clothes should assume the proportions of a sermon, and
demand pulpit utterance. There will at any rate be no difficulty in
providing them with a text. The classical instance of the contemptuous
rejection of ready-made clothing was, of course, David's refusal to
wear Saul's armour. There is a world of significance in that old-world
story. Saul's armour is a very fine thing - _for Saul_! But if David
feels that he can do better work with a sling, then, in the name of all
that is reasonable, give him a sling! If he has to fight Goliath, why
hamper him with ready-made clothes? I began by saying that Carlyle
omitted to deal, in _Sartor Resartus_, with this profound branch of his
subject. But he saw the importance of it for all that. In his
_Frederick the Great_, he tells us how the young prince's iron-handed
father employed a learned university professor to teach the boy
theology. The doctor dosed his youthful pupil with creeds and
catechisms until his brain whirled with meaningless tags and phrases.
And in recording the story Carlyle bursts out upon the dry-as-dust
professor. 'In heaven's name,' he cries, 'teach the boy nothing at
all, or else teach him something that he will know, as long as he
lives, to be eternally and indisputably true!'

Now what is this fine outburst of thunderous wrath but an emphatic
protest against the use of ready-made clothes? A man's faith should
fit him like the clothes for which he has been most carefully measured,
if not like the elastic silk to which the Harvard professor refers. A
man might as well try to wear his father's clothes as try to wear his
father's faith. It will never really fit him. There is a great
expression near the end of the brief Epistle of Jude that always seems
to me very striking. 'But ye, beloved,' says the writer, 'building up
yourselves on your most holy faith.' That is the only satisfactory way
of building - to build on your own site. If I build my house on another
man's piece of ground, it is sure to cause trouble sooner or later.
Build your own character on your own faith, says the apostle; and there
is sound sense in the injunction. It is better for me to build a very
modest little house of my own on a little bit of land that really
belongs to me than to build a palace on somebody else's soil. It is
better for me to build up my character, very unpretentiously, perhaps,
on my own faith, than to erect a much more imposing structure on
another man's creed. That is the philosophy of ready-made clothes,
disguised under a slight change of metaphor.

I have heard that some people spend their time in church inspecting
other people's clothes. If that is so, they must be profoundly
impressed by the amazing proportion of misfits. The souls of thousands
are quite obviously clad in ready-made garments. Here is the spirit of
a bright young girl decked out in all the contents of her grandmother's
spiritual wardrobe. The clothes fitted the grandmother perfectly; the
old lady looked charming in them; but the grand-daughter looks
ridiculous. I was once at a testimony meeting. The thing that most
impressed me was the continual repetition of certain phrases. Speaker
after speaker rang the changes on the same stereotyped expressions. I
saw at once that I had fallen among a people who went in for ready-made
clothes.

The thing takes even more objectionable forms. Those who are half as
fond as I am of Mark Rutherford will have already recalled Frank Palmer
in _Clara Hopgood_. 'He accepted willingly,' we are told, 'the
household conclusions on religion and politics, but they were not
properly his, for he accepted them merely as conclusions and without
the premisses, and it was often even a little annoying to hear him
express some free opinion on religious questions in a way which showed
that it was not a growth, but something picked up.' Everybody who has
read the story remembers the moral tragedy that followed. What else
could you expect? There is always trouble if a man builds his house on
another man's site. The souls of men were never meant to be attired in
ready-made clothes. Somebody has finely said that Truth must be born
again in the secret silence of each individual life.

For the matter of that, the philosophy of ready-made clothes applies as
much to unbelief as to faith. Now and then one meets a mind distracted
by genuine doubt, and it is refreshing and stimulating to grapple with
its problems. One respects the doubter because the doubt fits him like
the elastic silk; it seems a part and parcel of his personality. But
at other times one can see at a glance that the doubter is all togged
out in ready-made clothes, and, like a bird in borrowed plumes, is
inordinately proud of them. Here are the same old questions, put in
the same old way, and with a certain effrontery that knows nothing of
inner anguish or even deep sincerity. One feels that his visitor has
seen this gaudy mental outfit cheaply displayed at the street corner,
and has snapped it up at once in order to impress you with the gorgeous
spectacle. How often, too, one is made to feel that the blatancy of
the infidel lecturer, or the flippancy of the sceptical debater, is
simply a matter of ready-made clothes. The awful grandeur of the
subjects of which they treat has evidently never appealed to them.
They are merely echoing quibbles that are as old as the hills; they are
wearing clothes that may have fitted Hobbes, Paine, or Voltaire, but
that certainly were not made to fit their more meagre stature. Doubt
is a very human and a very sacred thing, but the doubt that is merely


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