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George MacDonald.

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clear. Why not have what happiness you may for the rest of your
sojourn? If you find at the end of twenty years that here you are after
all, you will be rather sorry you did not do as I say."

"And if I find myself dying at the end of six months'?"

"You will thank God for those six months. The whole thing, my dear
fellow, is a want of faith in God. I do not doubt you think you are
doing right, but, I repeat, the whole thing comes from want of faith in
God. You will take things into your own hands, and order them after a
preventive and self-protective fashion, lest God should have ordained
the worst for you, which worst, after all, would be best met by doing
his will without inquiry into the future; and which worst is no evil.
Death is no more an evil than marriage is."

"But you don't see it as I do," persisted the blacksmith.

"Of course I don't. I think you see it as it is not."

He remained silent for a little. A shower of spray fell upon us. He
started.

"What a wave!" he cried. "That spray came over the top of the rock. We
shall have to run for it."

I fancied that he only wanted to avoid further conversation.

"There's no hurry," I said. "It was high water an hour and a half ago."

"You don't know this coast, sir," returned he, "or you wouldn't talk
like that."

As he spoke he rose, and going from under the shelter of the rock,
looked along.

"For God's sake, Aggy!" he cried in terror, "come at once. Every other
wave be rushing across the breakwater as if it was on the level."

So saying, he hurried back, caught her by the hand, and began to draw
her along.

"Hadn't we better stay where we are?" I suggested.

"If you can stand the night in the cold. But Aggy here is delicate; and
I don't care about being out all night. It's not the tide, sir; it's a
ground swell - from a storm somewhere out at sea. That never asks no
questions about tide or no tide."

"Come along, then," I said. "But just wait one minute more. It is
better to be ready for the worst."

For I remembered that the day before I had seen a crowbar lying among
the stones, and I thought it might be useful. In a moment or two I had
found it, and returning, gave it to Joe. Then I took the girl's
disengaged hand. She thanked me in a voice perfectly calm and firm. Joe
took the bar in haste, and drew Agnes towards the breakwater.

Any real thought of danger had not yet crossed my mind. But when I
looked along the outstretched back of the mole, and saw a dim sheet of
white sweep across it, I felt that there was ground for his anxiety,
and prepared myself for a struggle.

"Do you know what to do with the crowbar, Joe?" I said, grasping my own
stout oak-stick more firmly.

"Perfectly," answered Joe. "To stick between the stones and hold on. We
must watch our time between the waves."

"You take the command, then, Joe," I returned. "You see better than I
do, and you know the ways of that raging wild beast there better than I
do. I will obey orders - one of which, no doubt, will be, not for wind
or sea to lose hold of Agnes - eh, Joe?"

Joe gave a grim enough laugh in reply, and we started, he carrying his
crowbar in his right hand towards the advancing sea, and I my oak-stick
in my left towards the still water within.

"Quick march!" said Joe, and away we went out on the breakwater.

Now the back of the breakwater was very rugged, for it was formed of
huge stones, with wide gaps between, where the waters had washed out
the cement, and worn their edges. But what impeded our progress secured
our safety.

"Halt!" cried Joe, when we were yet but a few yards beyond the shelter
of the rocks. "There's a topper coming."

We halted at the word of command, as a huge wave, with combing crest,
rushed against the far out-sloping base of the mole, and flung its
heavy top right over the middle of the mass, a score or two of yards in
front of us.

"Now for it!" cried Joe. "Run!"

We did run. In my mind there was just sense enough of danger to add to
the pleasure of the excitement. I did not know how much danger there
was. Over the rough worn stones we sped stumbling.

"Halt!" cried the smith once more, and we did halt; but this time, as
it turned out, in the middle front of the coming danger.

"God be with us!" I exclaimed, when the huge billow showed itself
through the night, rushing towards the mole. The smith stuck his
crowbar between two great stones. To this he held on with one hand, and
threw the other arm round Agnes's waist. I, too, had got my oak firmly
fixed, held on with one hand, and threw the other arm round Agnes. It
took but a moment.

"Now then!" cried Joe. "Here she comes! Hold on, sir. Hold on, Aggy!"

But when I saw the height of the water, as it rushed on us up the
sloping side of the mound, I cried out in my turn, "Down, Joe! Down on
your face, and let it over us easy! Down Agnes!"

They obeyed. We threw ourselves across the breakwater, with our heads
to the coming foe, and I grasped my stick close to the stones with all
the power of a hand that was then strong. Over us burst the mighty
wave, floating us up from the stones where we lay. But we held on, the
wave passed, and we sprung gasping to our feet.

"Now, now!" cried Joe and I together, and, heavy as we were, with the
water pouring from us, we flew across the remainder of the heap, and
arrived, panting and safe, at the other end, ere one wave more had
swept the surface. The moment we were in safety we turned and looked
back over the danger we had traversed. It was to see a huge billow
sweep the breakwater from end to end. We looked at each other for a
moment without speaking.

"I believe, sir," said Joe at length, with slow and solemn speech, "if
you hadn't taken the command at that moment we should all have been
lost."

"It seems likely enough, when I look back on it. For one thing, I was
not sure that my stick would stand, so I thought I had better grasp it
low down."

"We were awfully near death," said Joe.

"Nearer than you thought, Joe; and yet we escaped it. Things don't go
all as we fancy, you see. Faith is as essential to manhood as
foresight - believe me, Joe. It is very absurd to trust God for the
future, and not trust him for the present. The man who is not anxious
is the man most likely to do the right thing. He is cool and collected
and ready. Our Lord therefore told his disciples that when they should
be brought before kings and rulers, they were to take no thought what
answer they should make, for it would be given them when the time came."

We were climbing the steep path up to the downs. Neither of my
companions spoke.

"You have escaped one death together," I said at length: "dare another."

Still neither of them returned an answer. When we came near the
parsonage, I said, "Now, Joe, you must go in and get to bed at once. I
will take Agnes home. You can trust me not to say anything against you?"

Joe laughed rather hoarsely, and replied: "As you please, sir. Good
night, Aggie. Mind you get to bed as fast as you can."

When I returned from giving Agnes over to her parents, I made haste to
change my clothes, and put on my warm dressing-gown. I may as well
mention at once, that not one of us was the worse for our ducking. I
then went up to Connie's room.

"Here I am, you see, Connie, quite safe."

"I've been lying listening to every blast of wind since you went out,
papa. But all I could do was to trust in God."

"Do you call that _all_, Connie? Believe me, there is more power in
that than any human being knows the tenth part of yet. It is indeed
_all_."

I said no more then. I told my wife about it that night, but we were
well into another month before I told Connie.

When I left her, I went to Joe's room to see how he was, and found him
having some gruel. I sat down on the edge of his bed, and said,

"Well, Joe, this is better than under water. I hope you won't be the
worse for it."

"I don't much care what comes of me, sir. It will be all over soon."

"But you ought to care what comes of you, Joe. I will tell you why. You
are an instrument out of which ought to come praise to God, and,
therefore, you ought to care for the instrument."

"That way, yes, sir, I ought."

"And you have no business to be like some children who say, 'Mamma
won't give me so and so,' instead of asking her to give it them."

"I see what you mean, sir. But really you put me out before the young
woman. I couldn't say before her what I meant. Suppose, you know, sir,
there was to come a family. It might be, you know."

"Of course. What else would you have?"

"But if I was to die, where would she be then?"

"In God's hands; just as she is now."

"But I ought to take care that she is not left with a burden like that
to provide for."

"O, Joe! how little you know a woman's heart! It would just be the
greatest comfort she could have for losing you - that's all. Many a
woman has married a man she did not care enough for, just that she
might have a child of her own to let out her heart upon. I don't say
that is right, you know. Such love cannot be perfect. A woman ought to
love her child because it is her husband's more than because it is her
own, and because it is God's more than either's. I saw in the papers
the other day, that a woman was brought before the Recorder of London
for stealing a baby, when the judge himself said that there was no
imaginable motive for her action but a motherly passion to possess the
child. It is the need of a child that makes so many women take to poor
miserable, broken-nosed lap-dogs; for they are self-indulgent, and
cannot face the troubles and dangers of adopting a child. They would if
they might get one of a good family, or from a respectable home; but
they dare not take an orphan out of the dirt, lest it should spoil
their silken chairs. But that has nothing to do with our argument. What
I mean is this, that if Agnes really loves you, as no one can look in
her face and doubt, she will be far happier if you leave her a
child - yes, she will be happier if you only leave her your name for
hers - than if you died without calling her your wife."

I took Joe's basin from him, and he lay down. He turned his face to the
wall. I waited a moment, but finding him silent, bade him good-night,
and left the room.

A month after, I married them.




CHAPTER XIII.

THE HARVEST.


It was some time before we got the bells to work to our mind, but at
last we succeeded. The worst of it was to get the cranks, which at
first required strong pressure on the keys, to work easily enough. But
neither Joe nor his cousin spared any pains to perfect the attempt,
and, as I say, at length we succeeded. I took Wynnie down to the
instrument and made her try whether she could not do something, and she
succeeded in making the old tower discourse loudly and eloquently.

By this time the thanksgiving for the harvest was at hand: on the
morning of that first of all would I summon the folk to their prayers
with the sound of the full peal. And I wrote a little hymn of praise to
the God of the harvest, modelling it to one of the oldest tunes in that
part of the country, and I had it printed on slips of paper and laid
plentifully on the benches. What with the calling of the bells, like
voices in the highway, and the solemn meditation of the organ within to
bear aloft the thoughts of those who heard, and came to the prayer and
thanksgiving in common, and the message which God had given me to utter
to them, I hoped that we should indeed keep holiday.

Wynnie summoned the parish with the hundredth psalm pealed from aloft,
dropping from the airy regions of the tower on village and hamlet and
cottage, calling aloud - for who could dissociate the words from the
music, though the words are in the Scotch psalms? - written none the
less by an Englishman, however English wits may amuse themselves with
laughing at their quaintness - calling aloud,

"All people that on earth do dwell
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
Him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell -
Come ye before him and rejoice."

Then we sang the psalm before the communion service, making bold in the
name of the Lord to serve him with _mirth_ as in the old version, and
not with the _fear_ with which some editor, weak in faith, has presumed
to alter the line. Then before the sermon we sang the hymn I had
prepared - a proceeding justifiable by many an example in the history of
the church while she was not only able to number singers amongst her
clergy, but those singers were capable of influencing the whole heart
and judgment of the nation with their songs. Ethelwyn played the organ.
The song I had prepared was this:

"We praise the Life of All;
From buried seeds so small
Who makes the ordered ranks of autumn stand;
Who stores the corn
In rick and barn
To feed the winter of the land.

We praise the Life of Light!
Who from the brooding night
Draws out the morning holy, calm, and grand;
Veils up the moon,
Sends out the sun,
To glad the face of all the land.

We praise the Life of Work,
Who from sleep's lonely dark
Leads forth his children to arise and stand,
Then go their way,
The live-long day,
To trust and labour in the land.

We praise the Life of Good,
Who breaks sin's lazy mood,
Toilsomely ploughing up the fruitless sand.
The furrowed waste
They leave, and haste
Home, home, to till their Father's land.

We praise the Life of Life,
Who in this soil of strife
Casts us at birth, like seed from sower's hand;
To die and so
Like corn to grow
A golden harvest in his land."

After we had sung this hymn, the meaning of which is far better than
the versification, I preached from the words of St. Paul, "If by any
means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I
had already attained, either were already perfect." And this is
something like what I said to them:

"The world, my friends, is full of resurrections, and it is not always
of the same resurrection that St. Paul speaks. Every night that folds
us up in darkness is a death; and those of you that have been out early
and have seen the first of the dawn, will know it - the day rises out of
the night like a being that has burst its tomb and escaped into life.
That you may feel that the sunrise is a resurrection - the word
resurrection just means a rising again - I will read you a little
description of it from a sermon by a great writer and great preacher
called Jeremy Taylor. Listen. 'But as when the sun approaching towards
the gates of the morning, he first opens a little eye of heaven and
sends away the spirits of darkness, and gives light to a cock, and
calls up the lark to matins, and by and by gilds the fringes of a
cloud, and peeps over the eastern hills, thrusting out his golden horns
like those which decked the brows of Moses, when he was forced to wear
a veil, because himself had seen the face of God; and still, while a
man tells the story, the sun gets up higher, till he shows a fair face
and a full light, and then he shines one whole day, under a cloud
often, and sometimes weeping great and little showers, and sets
quickly; so is a man's reason and his life.' Is not this a resurrection
of the day out of the night? Or hear how Milton makes his Adam and Eve
praise God in the morning, -

'Ye mists and exhalations that now rise
From hill or streaming lake, dusky or gray,
Till the sun paint your fleecy skirts with gold,
In honour to the world's great Author rise,
Whether to deck with clouds the uncoloured sky,
Or wet the thirsty earth with falling showers,
Rising or falling still advance his praise.'

But it is yet more of a resurrection to you. Think of your own
condition through the night and in the morning. You die, as it were,
every night. The death of darkness comes down over the earth; but a
deeper death, the death of sleep, descends on you. A power overshadows
you; your eyelids close, you cannot keep them open if you would; your
limbs lie moveless; the day is gone; your whole life is gone; you have
forgotten everything; an evil man might come and do with your goods as
he pleased; you are helpless. But the God of the Resurrection is awake
all the time, watching his sleeping men and women, even as a mother who
watches her sleeping baby, only with larger eyes and more full of love
than hers; and so, you know not how, all at once you know that you are
what you are; that there is a world that wants you outside of you, and
a God that wants you inside of you; you rise from the death of sleep,
not by your own power, for you knew nothing about it; God put his hand
over your eyes, and you were dead; he lifted his hand and breathed
light on you and you rose from the dead, thanked the God who raised you
up, and went forth to do your work. From darkness to light; from
blindness to seeing; from knowing nothing to looking abroad on the
mighty world; from helpless submission to willing obedience, - is not
this a resurrection indeed? That St. Paul saw it to be such may be
shown from his using the two things with the same meaning when he says,
'Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall
give thee light.' No doubt he meant a great deal more. No man who
understands what he is speaking about can well mean only one thing at a
time.

"But to return to the resurrections we see around us in nature. Look at
the death that falls upon the world in winter. And look how it revives
when the sun draws near enough in the spring to wile the life in it
once more out of its grave. See how the pale, meek snowdrops come up
with their bowed heads, as if full of the memory of the fierce winds
they encountered last spring, and yet ready in the strength of their
weakness to encounter them again. Up comes the crocus, bringing its
gold safe from the dark of its colourless grave into the light of its
parent gold. Primroses, and anemones, and blue-bells, and a thousand
other children of the spring, hear the resurrection-trumpet of the wind
from the west and south, obey, and leave their graves behind to breathe
the air of the sweet heavens. Up and up they come till the year is
glorious with the rose and the lily, till the trees are not only
clothed upon with new garments of loveliest green, but the fruit-tree
bringeth forth its fruit, and the little children of men are made glad
with apples, and cherries, and hazel-nuts. The earth laughs out in
green and gold. The sky shares in the grand resurrection. The garments
of its mourning, wherewith it made men sad, its clouds of snow and hail
and stormy vapours, are swept away, have sunk indeed to the earth, and
are now humbly feeding the roots of the flowers whose dead stalks they
beat upon all the winter long. Instead, the sky has put on the garments
of praise. Her blue, coloured after the sapphire-floor on which stands
the throne of him who is the Resurrection and the Life, is dashed and
glorified with the pure white of sailing clouds, and at morning and
evening prayer, puts on colours in which the human heart drowns itself
with delight - green and gold and purple and rose. Even the icebergs
floating about in the lonely summer seas of the north are flashing all
the glories of the rainbow. But, indeed, is not this whole world itself
a monument of the Resurrection? The earth was without form and void.
The wind of God moved on the face of the waters, and up arose this fair
world. Darkness was on the face of the deep: God said, 'Let there be
light,' and there was light.

"In the animal world as well, you behold the goings of the
Resurrection. Plainest of all, look at the story of the butterfly - so
plain that the pagan Greeks called it and the soul by one name - Psyche.
Psyche meant with them a butterfly or the soul, either. Look how the
creeping thing, ugly to our eyes, so that we can hardly handle it
without a shudder, finding itself growing sick with age, straightway
falls a spinning and weaving at its own shroud, coffin, and grave, all
in one - to prepare, in fact, for its resurrection; for it is for the
sake of the resurrection that death exists. Patiently it spins its
strength, but not its life, away, folds itself up decently, that its
body may rest in quiet till the new body is formed within it; and at
length when the appointed hour has arrived, out of the body of this
crawling thing breaks forth the winged splendour of the butterfly - not
the same body - a new one built out of the ruins of the old - even as St.
Paul tells us that it is not the same body _we_ have in the
resurrection, but a nobler body like ourselves, with all the imperfect
and evil thing taken away. No more creeping for the butterfly; wings of
splendour now. Neither yet has it lost the feet wherewith to alight on
all that is lovely and sweet. Think of it - up from the toilsome journey
over the low ground, exposed to the foot of every passer-by, destroying
the lovely leaves upon which it fed, and the fruit which they should
shelter, up to the path at will through the air, and a gathering of
food which hurts not the source of it, a food which is but as a tribute
from the loveliness of the flowers to the yet higher loveliness of the
flower-angel: is not this a resurrection? Its children too shall pass
through the same process, to wing the air of a summer noon, and rejoice
in the ethereal and the pure.

"To return yet again from the human thoughts suggested by the symbol of
the butterfly" -

Here let me pause for a moment - and there was a corresponding pause,
though but momentary, in the sermon as I spoke it - to mention a
curious, and to me at the moment an interesting fact. At this point of
my address, I caught sight of a white butterfly, a belated one,
flitting about the church. Absorbed for a moment, my eye wandered after
it. It was near the bench where my own people sat, and, for one flash
of thought, I longed that the butterfly would alight on my Wynnie, for
I was more anxious about her resurrection at the time than about
anything else. But the butterfly would not. And then I told myself that
God would, and that the butterfly was only the symbol of a grand truth,
and of no private interpretation, to make which of it was both
selfishness and superstition. But all this passed in a flash, and I
resumed my discourse.

- "I come now naturally to speak of what we commonly call the
Resurrection. Some say: 'How can the same dust be raised again, when it
may be scattered to the winds of heaven?' It is a question I hardly
care to answer. The mere difficulty can in reason stand for nothing
with God; but the apparent worthlessness of the supposition renders the
question uninteresting to me. What is of import is, that I should stand
clothed upon, with a body which is _my_ body because it serves my ends,
justifies my consciousness of identity by being, in all that was good
in it, like that which I had before, while now it is tenfold capable of
expressing the thoughts and feelings that move within me. How can I
care whether the atoms that form a certain inch of bone should be the
same as those which formed that bone when I died? All my life-time I
never felt or thought of the existence of such a bone! On the other
hand, I object to having the same worn muscles, the same shrivelled
skin with which I may happen to die. Why give me the same body as that?
Why not rather my youthful body, which was strong, and facile, and
capable? The matter in the muscle of my arm at death would not serve to
make half the muscle I had when young. But I thank God that St. Paul
says it will _not_ be the same body. That body dies - up springs another
body. I suspect myself that those are right who say that this body
being the seed, the moment it dies in the soil of this world, that
moment is the resurrection of the new body. The life in it rises out of
it in a new body. This is not after it is put in the mere earth; for it
is dead then, and the germ of life gone out of it. If a seed rots, no
new body comes of it. The seed dies into a new life, and so does man.
Dying and rotting are two very different things. - But I am not sure by
any means. As I say, the whole question is rather uninteresting to me.
What do I care about my old clothes after I have done with them? What
is it to me to know what becomes of an old coat or an old pulpit gown?
I have no such clinging to the flesh. It seems to me that people
believe their bodies to be themselves, and are therefore very anxious
about them - and no wonder then. Enough for me that I shall have eyes to
see my friends, a face that they shall know me by, and a mouth to


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