quite dark out of doors at least as dark as it would
Suddenly through the gloom I thought I heard a
moan and a sob. I sat upright in my chair and listened.
But I heard nothing more, and concluded I had de-
ceived myself. After a few moments, I rose to go home
and have some tea, and turn my mind rather away from
than towards the subject of witness-bearing any more for
that night, lest I should burn the fuel of it out before I
came to warm the people with it, and should have to
blow its embers instead of flashing its light and heat
upon them in gladness. So I left the church by my
vestry-door, which I closed behind me, and took my
way along the path through the clustering group of
Again I heard a sob. This time I was sure of it.
And there lay something dark upon one of the grassy
YOUNG WEIK. 251
mounds. I approached it, but it did not move. I
" Can I be of any use to you?" I said.
" No," returned an almost inaudible voice.
Though I did not know whose was the grave, I knew
that no one had been buried there very lately, and if the
grief were for the loss of the dead, it was more than
probably aroused to fresh vigour by recent misfortune.
I stooped, and taking the figure by the arm, said,
" Come with me, and let us see what can be done for
I then saw that it was a youth perhaps scarcely more
than a boy. And as soon as I saw that, I knew that his
grief could hardly be incurable. He returned no an-
swer, but rose at once to his feet, and submitted to be
led away. I took him the shortest road to my house
through the shrubbery, brought him into the study, made
him sit down in my easy-chair, and rang for lights and
wine; for the dew had been falling heavily, and his
clothes were quite dank. But when the wine came, he
refused to take any.
" But you want it," I said.
" No, sir, I don't, indeed."
" Take some for my sake, then."
" I would rather not, sir."
" I promised my father a year ago, when I left home,
that I would not drink anything stronger than water.
And I can't break my promise now."
" Where is your home?"
252 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
" In the village, sir."
" That wasn't your father's grave I found you upon,
was it ? "
" No, sir. It was my mother's."
" Then your father is still alive ? "
" Yes, sir. You know him very well Thomas Weir."
" Ah ! He told me he had a son in London. Are
you that son ? "
" Yes, sir," answered the youth, swallowing a rising
"Then what is the matter? Your father is a good
friend of mine, and would tell you you might trust me."
" I don't doubt it, sir. But you won't believe me any
more than my father."
By this time I had perused his person, his dress, and
his countenance. He was of middle size, but evidently
not full grown. His dress was very decent. His face
was pale and thin, and revealed a likeness to his father.
He had blue eyes that looked full at me, and, as far as
I could judge, betokened, along with the whole of his
expression, an honest and sensitive nature. I found
him very attractive, and was therefore the more em-
boldened to press for the knowledge of his story.
" I cannot promise to believe whatever you say ; but
almost I could. And if you tell me the truth, I like you
too much already to be in great danger of doubting you ;
for you know the truth has a force of its own."
" I thought so till to-night," he answered. " But if
my father would not believe me, how can I expect you
to do so, sir?"
YOUNG WXIB, 25J
" Your father may have been too much troubled by
your story to be able to do it justice. It is not a bit
like your father to be unfair."
" No, sir. And so much the less chance of your
Somehow his talk prepossessed me still more in his
favour. There was a certain refinement in it, a quality
of dialogue which indicated thought, as I judged ; and I
became more and more certain that, whatever I might
have to think of it when told, he would yet tell me the
" Come, try me," I said.
" I will, sir. But I must begin at the beginning."
" Begin where you like. I have nothing more to do
to-night, and you may take what time you please. But
I will ring for tea first ; for I dare say you have not
made any promise about that"
A faint smile flickered on his face. He was evidently
beginning to feel a little more comfortable.
" When did you arrive from London ?" I asked.
" About two hours ago, I suppose."
" Bring tea, Mrs Pearson, and that cold chicken and
ham, and plenty of toast We are both hungry."
Mrs Pearson gave a questioning look at the lad, and
departed to do her duty.
When she returned with the tray, I saw by the uncon-
sciously eager way in winch he looked at the eatables,
that he had had nothing fur some time ; and so, even
after we were left alone, I would not let him say a word
till he had made a good meal. It was delightful to see
254 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
how he ate. Few troubles will destroy a growing lad's
hunger ; and indeed it has always been to me a marvel
how the feelings and the appetites affect each other. I
have known grief actually make people, and not sensual
people at all, quite hungry. At last I thought I had
better not offer him any more.
After the tea-things had been taken away, I put the
candles out ; and the moon, which had risen, nearly full,
while we were at tea, shone into the room. I had
thought that he might possibly find it easier to tell his
story in the moonlight, which, if there were any shame
in the recital, would not, by too much revelation, reduce
him to the despair of Macbeth, when, feeling that he
could contemplate his deed, but not his deed and him-
self together, he exclaimed,
" To know my deed, 'twere best not know myself."
So, sitting by the window in the moonlight, he told
his tale. The moon lighted up his pale face as he told
it, and gave rather a wild expression to his eyes, eager
to find faith in me. I have not much of the dramatic
in me, I know ; and I am rather a flat teller of stories
on that account. I shall not, therefore, seeing there is
no necessity for it, attempt to give the tale in his own
words. But, indeed, when I think of it, they did not
differ so much from the form of my own, for he had, I
presume, lost his provincialisms, and being, as I found
afterwards, a reader of the best books that came in his
way, had not caught up many cockneyisms instead.
He had filled a place in the employment of Messrs
YOU.NO WITH. 255
' & Co., large silk-mercers, linen-drapers, &c., &c.,
in London; for all the trades are mingled now. His
work at first was to accompany one of the carts which
delivered the purchases of the day ; but, I presume be-
cause he showed himself to be a smart lad, they took
him at length into the shop to wait behind the counter.
This he did not like so much, but, as it was considered a
rise in life, made no objection to the change.
He seemed to himself to get on pretty well. He soon
learned all the marks on the goods intended to be un-
derstood by the shopmen, and within a few months
believed that he was found generally useful. He had as
yet had no distinct department allotted to him, but was
moved from place to place, according as the local pres-
sure of business might demand.
" I confess," he said, " that I was not always satisfied
with what was going on about me. I mean I could not
help doubting if everything was done on the square, ;.s
they say. But nothing came plainly in my way, and so
I could honestly say it did not concern me. I took care
to be straightforward for my part, and, knowing only the
prices marked for the sale of the goods, I had nothing to
do with anything else. But one day, while I was show-
ing a lady some handkerchiefs which were marked as
tnoiicJioirs de Paris I don't know if I pronounce it right,
sir she said she did not believe they were French cam-
bric ; and I, knowing nothing about it, said nothing.
But, happening to look up while we both stood silent,
the lady examining the handkerchiefs, and I doing nothing
till she should have made up her mind, I caught sight of
2$6 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
the eyes of the shop-walker, as they call the man who
shows customers where to go for what they want, and
sees that they are attended to. He is a fat man, dressed
in black, with a great gold chain, which they say in the
shop is only copper gilt. But that doesn't matter, only
it would be the liker himself. He was standing staring
at me. I could not tell what to make of it ; but from
that day I often caught him watching me, as if I had
been a customer suspected of shop-lifting. Still I only
thought he was very disagreeable, and tried to forget
" One day the day before yesterday two ladies, an
old lady and a young one, came into the shop, and
wanted to look at some shawls. It was dinner-time, and
most of the men were in the house at their dinner. The
shop-walker sent me to them, and then, I do believe,
though I did not see him, stood behind a pillar to watch
me, as he had been in the way of doing more openly. I
thought I had seen the ladies before, and though I could
not then tell where, I am now almost sure they were Mrs
and Miss Oldcastle, of the Hail. They wanted to buy
a cashmere for the young lady. I showed them some.
They wanted better. I brought the best we had, inquir-
ing, that I might make no mistake. They asked the
price. I told them. They said they were not good
enough, and wanted to see some more. I told them they
were the best we had. They looked at them again ; said
they were sorry, but the shawls were not good enough,
and left the shop without buying anything. I proceeded
to take the shawls up-stairs again, and, as I went, passed
YOUNO WEI*. 257
the shop walker, whom I had not observed while I was
attending to the ladies. ' You 're for no good, young
man !' he said with a nasty sneer. ' What do you mean
by that, Mr B. ?' I asked, for his sneer made me angry.
' You '11 know before to-morrow,' he answered, and walked
away. That same evening, as we were shutting up shop,
I was sent for to the principal's room. The moment I
entered, he said, ' You won't suit us, young man, I find.
You had better pack up your box to-night, and be off to-
morrow. There 's your quarter's salary.' ' What have I
done?' I asked in astonishment, and yet with a vague
suspicion of the matter. 'It's not what you've done,
but what you don't do,' he answered. ' Do you think we
can afford to keep you here and pay you wages to send
people away from the shop without buying? If you do,
you 're mistaken, that 's all. You may go.' ' But what
could I do?' I said. 'I suppose that spy, B ,' I
believe I said so, sir. ' Now, now, young man, none of
your sauce !' said Mr . ' Honest people don't think-
about spies.' ' I thought it was for honesty you were
getting rid of me,' I said. Mr rose to his feet, his
lips white, and pointed to the door. ' Take your money
and be off. And mind you don't refer to me for a char-
acter. After such impudence I couldn't in conscience
give you one.' Then, calming down a little when he saw
I turned to go, ' You had better take to your hands again,
for your head will never keep you. There, be of}"! 1 he
said, pushing the money towards me, and turning his
back to me. I could not touch it. ' Keep the money,
Mr ,' I said. ' It'll make up for what you've lost
358 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
by me.' And I left the room at once without waiting
/or an answer.
" While I was packing my box, one of my chums
came in, and I told him all about it. He is rather a
good fellow that, sir; but he laughed, and said, 'What
a fool you are, Weir! You'll never make your daily
bread, and you needn't think it. If you knew what I
know, you 'd have known better. And it 's very odd it
was about shawls, too. I '11 tell you. As you 're going
away, you won't let it out. Mr ' (that was the
same who had just turned me away) ' was serving some
ladies himself, for he wasn't above being in the shop,
like his partner. They wanted the best Indian shawl
they could get. None of those he showed them were
good enough, for the ladies really didn't know one from
another. They always go by the price you ask, and Mr
knew that well enough. He had sent me up-6tairs
for the shawls, and as I brought them he said, " These
are the best imported, madam." There were three
ladies ; and one shook her head, and another shook her
head, and they all shook their heads. And then Mr
was sorry, I believe you, that he had said they
were the best. But you won't catch him in a trap !
He 's too old a fox for that.' I 'm telling you, sir, what
Johnson told me. ' He looked close down at the
shawls, as if he were short-sighted, though he could see
as far as any man. " I beg your pardon, ladies," said he,
"you're right. I am quite wrong. What a stupid
blunder to make ! And yet they did deceive me. Here,
Johnson, take these shawls away. How could you be
YOUNG WXIR. 259
so stupid t I will fetch the thing you want myself,
ladies." So I went with him. He chose out three or
four shawls, of the nicest patterns, from the very same
lot, marked in the very same way, folded them differ-
ently, and gave them to me to carry down. " Now,
ladies, here they are ! " he said. " These are quite a
different thing, as you will see ; and, indeed, they cost
half as much again." In five minutes they had bought
two of them, and paid just half as much more than he
had asked for them the first time. That 's Mr !
and that 's what you should have done if you had wanted
to keep your place.' But I assure you, sir, I could not
help being glad to be out of it."
" But there is nothing in all this to be miserable
about," I said. " You did your duty."
" It would be all right, sir, if father believed me. I
don't want to be idle, I 'm sure."
" Does your father think you do?"
" I don't know what he thinks. He won't speak to me.
I told my story as much of it as he would let me, at
least but he wouldn't listen to me. He only said he
knew better than that. I couldn't bear it. He always was
rather hard upon us. I 'm sure if you hadn't been so
kind to me, sir, I don't know what I should have done
by this time. I haven't another friend in the world."
" Yes, you have. Your Father in heaven is your
" I don't know that, sir. I 'm not good enough."
" That 's quite true. But you would never have done
your duty if He had not been with you."
26o ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
" Do you think so, sir 1 " he returned, eagerly.
" Indeed, I do. Everything good comes from the
P'ather of lights. Every one that walks in any glimmering
of light walks so far in His light. For there is no light
only darkness comes from below. And man apart
from God can generate no light. He 's not meant to be
separated from God, you see. And only think then what
light He can give you if you will turn to Him and ask for
it. What He has given you should make you long for
more ; for what you have is not enough ah ! far from it."
" I think I understand. But I didn't feel good at all
in the matter. I didn't see any other way of doing."
" So much the better. We ought never to feel good.
We are but unprofitable servants at best. There is no
merit in doing your duty ; only you would have been a
poor wretched creature not to do as you did. And
now, instead of making yourself miserable over the
consequences of it, you ought to bear them like a man,
with courage and hope, thanking God that He has
made you suffer for righteousness' sake, and denied you
the success and the praise of cheating. I will go to
your father at once, and find out what he is thinking
about it. For no doubt Mr has written to him
with his version of the story. Perhaps he will be more
inclined to believe you when he finds that I believe
" Oh, thank you, sir ! " cried the lad, and jumped up
from his seat to go with me.
" No," I said ; " you had better stay where you are.
I shall be able to speak more freely if you are not
present. Here is a book to amuse yourself with. I do
not think I shall be long gone."
But I was longer gone than I thought I should be.
When I reached the carpenter's house, I found, to my
surprise, that he was still at work. By the light of a
single tallow candle placed beside him on the bench,
he was ploughing away at a groove. His pale face, of
which the lines were unusually sharp, as I might have
expected after what had occurred, was the sole object
that reflected the light of the candle to my eyes as I
entered the gloomy place. He looked up, but without
even greeting me, dropped his face again and went or.
witli his work.
"What!" I said, cheerily, for I believed that, like
Gideon's pitcher, I held dark within me the light that
would discomfit his Midianites, which consciousness
may well make the pitcher cheery inside, even while the
light as yet is all its own worthless, till it break out
upon the world, and cease to illuminate only glazed
pitcher-sides " What ! " I said, " working so late I "
' Yes, sir."
" It is not usual with you, I know.' 1
" It. 's all a humbug ! " he said fiercely, but coldly not-
withstanding, as he stood erect from his work, ami
turned his white face full on me of which, however,
the eyes drooped "It's all a humbug; and I don't
mean to be humbugged any more."
"Am I a humbug 1" I returned, not quite taken by
" I don't say that. Don't make a personal thing of
362 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
it, sir. You're taken in, I believe, like the rest of us.
Tell me that a God governs the world ! What have I
done, to be used like this 1 "
I thought with myself how I could retort for his young
son : " What has he done to be used like this ? " But
that was not my way, though it might work well enough
in some hands. Some men are called to be prophets.
I could only " stand and wait."
" It would be wrong in me to pretend ignorance," I
said, " of what you mean. I know all about it."
" Do you ? He has been to you, has he 1 But you
don't know all about it, sir. The impudence of the
young rascal ! "
He paused for a moment.
" A man like me ! " he resumed, becoming eloquent
in his indignation, and, as I thought afterwards, entirely
justifying what Wordsworth says about the language of
the so-called uneducated, " A man like me, who was
as proud of his honour as any aristocrat in the country
prouder than any of them would grant me the right
to be ! "
" Too proud of it, I think not too careful of it," I
said. But I was thankful he did not heed me, for the
speech would only have irritated him. He went on.
" Me to be treated like this ! One child a ..."
Here came a terrible break in his speech. But he
" And the other a ..."
Instead of finishing the sentence, however, he drove
YOUNG WEI 8. 26j
his plough fiercely through the groove, splitting off some
inches of the wall of it at the end.
" If any one has treated you so," I said, " it must be
the devil, not God."
" But if there was a God, he could have prevented it
" Mind what I said to you once before : He hasn't
done yet. And there is another enemy in His way as
bad as the devil I mean our selves. When people want
to walk their own way without God, God lets them try
it. And then the devil gets a hold of them. But God
won't let him keep them. As soon as they are ' wearied
in the greatness of their way,' they begin to look about
for a Saviour. And then they find God ready to pardon,
ready to help, nt breaking the bruised reed leading
them to his own self manifest with whom no man can
fear any longer, Jesus Christ, the righteous lover of men
their elder brother what we call big brother, you know
one to help them and take their part against the devil,
the world, and the flesh, and all the rest of the wicked
powers. So you see God is tender just like the pro-
digal son's father only with this difference, that God
has millions of prodigals, and never gets tired of going
out to meet them and welcome them back, every one as
if he were the only prodigal son He had ever hail.
There 's a father indeed ! Have you been such a father
to your son } "
" The prodigal didn't come with a pack of lies. He
told his father the truth, bad as it was."
Z6\ ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
" How do you know that your son didn't tell you the
truth ] All the young men that go from home don't do
as the prodigal did. Why should you not believe what
he tells you ? "
" I 'm not one to reckon without my host. Here 's
And so saying, he handed me a letter. I took it and
" SIR, It has become our painful duty to inform you
that your son has this day been discharged from the em-
ployment of Messrs and Co., his conduct not being
such as to justify the confidence hitherto reposed in him.
It would have been contrary to the interests of the
establishment to continue him longer behind the coun-
ter, although we are not prepared to urge anything
against him beyond the fact that he has shown himself
absolutely indifferent to the interests of his employers.
We trust that the chief blame will be found to lie with
certain connexions of a kind easy to be formed in large
cities, and that the loss of his situation may be punish-
ment sufficient, if not for justice, yet to make him con-
sider his ways and be wise. We enclose his quarter's
salary, which the young man rejected with insult, and,
" We remain, &c.,
" and Co."
" And," I exclaimed, " this is what you found your
judgment of your own son upon ! You reject him un-
heard, and take the word of a stranger ! I don't wonder
YOUNG WEIK. 265
you cannot believe in your Father when you behave so
to your son. I don't say your conclusion is false, though
I don't believe it But I do say the grounds you go
upon are anything but sufficient."
" You don't mean to tell me that a man of Mr 's
standing, who has one of the largest shops in London,
and whose brother is Mayor of Addicehead, would
slander a poor lad like that !"
"Oh you mammon-worshipper!" I cried. "Because
a man has one of the largest shops in London, and his
brother is Mayor of Addicehead, you take his testimony
and refuse your son's ! I did not know the boy till this
evening; but I call upon you to bring back to your
memory all that you have known of him from his child-
hood, and then ask yourself whether there is not, at
least, as much probability of his having remained honest
as of the master of a great London shop being infallible
in his conclusions at which conclusions, whatever they
be, I confess no man can wonder, after seeing how
readily his father listens to his defamation."
I spoke with warmth. Before I had done, the pale
face of the carpenter was red as fire ; for he had been
acting contrary to all his own theories of human equality,
and that in a shameful manner. Still, whether convinced
or not, he would not give in. He only drove away at
his work, which he was utterly destroying. His mouth
was closed so tight, he looked as if he had his jaw
locked ; and his eyes gleamed over the ruined board
with a light which seemed to me to have more of ob-
stinacy in it than contrition.
266 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
"Ah, Thomas!" I said, taking up the speech once
more, " if God had behaved to us as you have behaved
to your boy be he innocent, be he guilty there 's not
a man or woman of all our lost race would have re-
turned to Him from the time of Adam till now. I don't
wonder that you find it difficult to believe in Him."
And with those words I left the shop, determined to
overwhelm the unbeliever with proof, and put him to
shame before his own soul, whence, I thought, would
come even more good to him than to his son. For
there was a great deal of self-satisfaction mixed up with
the man's honesty, and the sooner that had a blow
the better it might prove a death-blow in the long run.
It was pride that lay at the root of his hardness. He
visited the daughter's fault upon the son. His daughter
had disgraced him ; and he was ready to flash into wrath
with his son upon any imputation which recalled to him
the torture he had undergone when his daughter's dis-
honour came first to the light. Her he had never for-
given, and now his pride flung his son out after her
upon the first suspicion. His imagination had filled up
all the blanks in the wicked insinuations of Mr
He concluded that he had taken money to spend in the
worst company, and had so disgraced him beyond for-
giveness. His pride paralysed his love. He thought