George MacDonald.

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he had repaid me every shilling I had spent upon him.
As soon as he was in deacon's orders, he came to assist
me for a while as curate, and I found him a great help
and comfort He occupied the large room over his
father's shop which had been his grandfather's : he had
been dead for some years.

I was now engaged on a work which I had been
contemplating for a long time, upon the development
of the love of Nature as shown in the earlier literature
of the Jews and Greeks, through that of the Romans,
Italians, and other nations, with the Anglo-Saxon for
a fresh starting-point, into its latest forms in Gray,
Thomson, Cowper, Crabbe, Wordsworih, Keats, and
Tennyson ; and Tom supplied me with much of the
time which I bestowed upon this object, and I was
really grateful to him. But, in looking back, and trying
to account to myself for the snare into which I fell, I
see plainly enough that I thought too much of what I
had done for Tom, and too little of the honour God
had done me in allowing me to help Tom. I took the
high-daTs-throne over him, not consciously, I believe,
but still with a contemptible condescension, not of
manner but of heart, so delicately refined by the innate
sophistry of my selfishness, that the better nature in me
called it only fatherly friendship, and did not recognize


it as that abominable thing so favoured of all those thai
especially worship themselves. But I abuse my fault
instead of confessing it.

One evening, a gentle tap came to my door, and
Tom entered. He looked pale and anxious, and there
was an uncertainty about his motions which I could not

" What is the matter, Tom ? " I asked.

" I wanted to say something to you, sir," answered

" Say on," I returned, cheerily.

" It is not so easy to say, sir," rejoined Torn, with a
faint smile. " Miss Walton, sir "

"Well, what of her? There's nothing happened to
her ? She was here a few minutes ago though, now I
think of it "

Here a suspicion of the truth flashed on me, and
struck me dumb. I am now covered with shame to
think how, when the thing approached myself on that
side, it swept away for the moment all my fine theories
about the equality of men in Christ their Head. How
could Tom Weir, whose father was a joiner, who had
been a lad in a London shop himself, dare to propose
marrying my sister? Instead of thinking of what he
really was, my regard rested upon this and that stage
through which he had passed to reach his present con-
dition. In fact, I regarded him rather as of my making
than of God's.

Perhaps it might do something to modify the scorn
of all classes for those beneath them, to consider that,


by regarding others thus, they justify those above them
in looking down upon them in their turn. In London
shops, I am credibly informed, the young women who
serve in the show-rooms, or behind the counters, are
called ladies, and talk of the girls who make up the
articles for sale as persons. To the learned professions,
however, the distinction between the shopwomen and
milliners is, from their superior height, unrecognizable ;
while doctors and lawyers are again, I doubt not, massed
by countesses and other blue-blooded realities, with the
literary lions who roar at soirees and kettle-drums, or
even with chiropodists and violin-players ! But I am
growing scornful at scorn, and forget that I too have
been scornful. Brothers, sisters, all good men and true
women, let the Master seat us where He will. Until
he says, " Come up higher," let us sit at the foot of the
board, or stand behind, honoured in waiting upon His
guests. All that kind of thing is worth nothing in the
kingdom ; and nothing will be remembered of us but
the Master's judgment.

I have known a good churchwoman who would be
sweet as a sister to the abject poor, but offensively
condescending to a shopkeeper or a dissenter, exactly
as if he was a Pariah, and she a Brahmin. I have
known good people who were noble and generous to-
wards their so-called inferiors and full of the rights of
the race until it touched their own family, and just
no longer. Yea I, who had talked like this for years,
at once, when Tom Weir wanted to marry my sister,
lost my faith in the broad lines of human distinction,


judged according to appearances in which I did not
even believe, and judged not righteous judgment

' For," reasoned the world in me, " is it not too bad
to drag your wife in for such an alliance? Has she
not lowered herself enough already? Has she not
married far below her accredited position in society?
Will she not feel injured by your family if she see it
capable of forming such a connexion ? "

What answer I returned to Tom I hardly know. I
remember that the poor fellow's face fell, and that he
murmured something which I did not heed. And then
I found myself walking in the garden under the great
cedar, having stepped out of the window almost uncon-
sciously, and left Tom standing there alone. It was
very good of him ever to forgive me.

Wandering about in the garden, my wife saw me
from her window, and met me as I turned a corner in
the shrubbery.

And now I am going to have my revenge upon her
in a way she does not expect, for making me tell the
story : I will tell her share in it.

" W T hat is the matter with you, Henry ? " she asked.

" Oh, not much," I answered. " Only that Weir has
been making me rather uncomfortable."

"What has he been doing 1" she inquired, in some
alarm. " It is not possible he has done anything

My wife trusted him as much as I did.

" No o o," I answered. " Not anything exactly


" It must be very nearly wrong, Henry, to make you
look so miserable."

I began to feel ashamed and more uncomfortable.

" He has been falling in love with Martha," I said ;
" and when I put one thing to another, I fear he may
have made her fall in love with him too." My wife
laughed merrily.

" What a wicked curate !"

" Well, but you know it is not exactly agreeable."


" You know why well enough."

" At least, I am not going to take it for granted. Is
he not a good man?"

" Yes."

" Is he not a well-educated man ? "

" As well as myself for his years."

" Is he not clever ? "

" One of the cleverest fellows I ever met"

" Is he not a gentleman 1 ?"

" I have not a fault to find with his manners."

" Nor with his habits 1 " my wife went on.

" No."

" Nor with his ways of thinking?"

" No. But, Ethelwyn, you know what I mean quite
well. His family, you know."

" Well, is his father not a respectable man ] '

" Oh, yes, certainly. Thoroughly respectable."

" He wouldn't borrow money of his tailor instead of
paying for his clothes, would he ? "

" Certainly not"


" And if he were to die to-day he would carry no debts
to heaven with him 1 "

" I believe not"

" Does he bear false witness against his neighbour ? "

" No. He scorns a lie as much as any man I ever

" Which of the commandments is it in particular that
he breaks, then 1 "

" None that I know of; excepting that no one can
keep them yet that is on!y human. He tries to keep
every one of them I do believe."

" Well, I think Tom very fortunate in having such a
father. I wish my mother had been as good."

" That is all true, and yet "

" And yet, suppose a young man you liked had had a
fashionable father who had ruined half a score of trades-
people by his extravagance would you object to him
because of his family 1 "

" Perhaps not"

" Then, with you, position outweighs honesty in
fathers, at least."

To this I was not ready with an answer, and my wife
went on.

" It might be reasonable if you did though, from fear
lest he should turn out like his father. But do you know
why I would not accept your offer of taking my name
when I should succeed to the property]"

" You said you liked mine better," I answered.

" So I did. But I did not tell you that I was ashamed
that my good husband should take a name which for


centuries had been borne by hard-hearted, worldly-
minded people, who, to .speak the truth of my ancestors
to my husband, were neither gentle nor honest, nor

" Still, Ethelwyn, you know there is something in it,
though it is not so easy to say what. And you avoid that.
I suppose Martha has been talking you over to her side."

" Harry," my wife said, with a shade of solemnity, " I
am almost ashamed of you for the first time. And I will
punish you by telling you the truth. Do you think I
had nothing of that sort to get over when I began to
find that I was thinking a little more about you than was
quite convenient under the circumstances ? Your man-
ners, dear Harry, though irreproachable, just had not the
tone that I had been accustomed to. There was a diffi-
dence about you also that did not at first advance you
in my regard."

" Yes, yes," I answered, a little piqued, " I dare say.
I have no doubt you thought me a boor."

" Dear Harry ! "

" I beg your pardon, wine. I know you didn't. But
it is quite bad enough to have brought you down to my
level, without sinking you still lower.''

" Now there you are wrong, Harry. And that is what
I want to show you. I found that my love to you would
not be satisfied with making an exception in your favour.
I must see what force there really was in the notions I
had been bred in."

" Ah ! " I said. " I see. You looked for a principle
in what you had thought was an exception."


" Yes," returned my wife ; " and I soon found one.
And the next step was to throw away all false judgment
in regard to such things. And so I can see more clearly
than you into the right of the matter. Would you hesi-
tate a moment between Tom Weir and the dissolute son
of an earl, Harry ? "

" You know I would not."

< Well, just carry out the considerations that suggests,
and you will find that where there is everything per-
sonally noble, pure, simple, and good, the lowliness of a
man's birth is but an added honour to him ; for it shows
that his nobility is altogether from within him, and
therefore is his own. It cannot then have been put on
him by education or imitation, as many men's manners
are, who wear their good breeding like their fine clothes,
or as the Pharisee his prayers, to be seen of men."

"But his sister?"

" Harry, Harry ! You were preaching last Sunday
about the way God thinks of things. And you said that
was the only true way of thinking about them. Would
the Mary that poured the ointment on Jesus's head have
refused to marry a good man because he was the brother
of that Mary who poured it on His feet ? Have you
thought what God would think of Tom for a husband to

I did not answer, for conscience had begun to speak.
When I lifted my eyes from the ground, thinking Ethel-
wyn stood beside me, she was gone. I felt as if she
were dead, to punish me for my pride. But still I could
not get over it, though I was ashamed to follow and


find her. I went and got my hat instead, and strolled

What was it that drew me towards Thomas Weir's
shop ? I think it must have been incipient repentance
a feeling that I had wronged the man. But just as I
turned the corner, and the smell of the wood reached
me, the picture so often associated in my mind with such
a scene of human labour, rose before me. I saw the
Lord of Life bending over His bench, fashioning some
lowly utensil for some housewife of Nazareth. And He
would receive payment for it too ; for He at least could
see no disgrace in the order of things that His Father
had appointed. It is the vulgar mind that looks down
on the earning and worships the inheriting of money.
How infinitely more poetic is the belief that our Lord
did His work like any other honest man, than that strain-
ing after His glorification in the early centuries of the
Church by the invention of fables even to the disgrace
of his father ! They say that Joseph was a bad carpen-
ter, and our Lord had to work miracles to set the things
right which he had made wrong ! To such a class of
mind as invented these fables do those belong who think
they honour our Lord when they judge anything human
too common or too unclean for Him to have done.

And the thought sprung up at once in my mind " If
1 ever see our Lord face to face, how shall I feel if He
says to me, ' Didst thou do well to murmur that thy
sister espoused a certain man for that in his youth he
had earned his bread as I earned mine? Where was
then thy right to say unto me, Lord, Lord 1 ' "


I hurried into the workshop.

" Has Tom told you about it 1 " I said.

" Yes, sir. And I told him to mind what he was
about ; for he was not a gentleman, and you was, sir."

" I hope I am. And Tom is as much a gentleman as
I have any claim to be."

Thomas Weir held out his hand.

" Now, sir, I do believe you mean in my shop what
you say in your pulpit ; and there is one Christian in the
world at least. But what will your good lady say ] She 's
higher-born than you no offence, sir."

" Ah, Thomas, you shame me. I am not so good as
you think me. It was my wife that brought me to reason
about it."

" God bless her."

" Amen. I 'm going to find Tom."

At the same moment Tom entered the shop, with a
very melancholy face. He started when he saw me, and
looked confused.

" Tom, my boy," I said, " I behaved very badly to
you. I am sorry for it. Come back with me, and have
a walk with my sister. I don't think she '11 be sorry to
see you."

His face brightened up at once, and we left the shop
together. Evidently with a great effort Tom was the
first to speak.

" I know, sir, how many difficulties my presumption
must put you in."

" Not another word about it, Tom. You are blame-
less. I wish I were. If we only act as God would have


us, other considerations may look after themselves or,
rather, He will look after them. The world will never
be right till the mind of God is the measure of things,
and the will of God the law of things. In the kingdom
of Heaven nothing else is acknowledged. And till that
kingdom come, the mind and will of God must, with
those that look for that kingdom, over-ride every other
way of thinking, feeling, and judging. I see it more
plainly than ever I did. Take my sister, in God's name,
Tom, and be good to her."

Tom went to find Martha, and I to find Ethelwyn.

" It is all right," I said, " even to the shame I feel at
having needed your reproof."

" Don't think of that. God gives us all time to come
to our right minds, you know," answered my wife.

" But how did you get on so far a-head of me, wifiel"

Ethelwyn laughed.

" Why," she said, " I only told you back again what
you have been telling me for the last seven or eight

So to me the message had come first, but my wife had
answered first with the deed.

And now I have had my revenge on her.

Next to her and my children, Tom has been my great-
est comfort for many years. He is still my curate, and
I do not think we shall part till death part us for a time.
My sister is worth twice what she was before, though
they have no children. We have many, and they have
taught me much.

Thomas Weir is now too old to woik any longer. He


occupies his father's chair in the large room of the old
house. The workshop I have had turned into a school-
room, of the external condition of which his daughter
takes good care, while a great part of her brother Tom's
time is devoted to the children ; for he and I agree that,
where it can be done, the pastoral care ought to be at
least equally divided between the sheep and the lambs.
For the sooner the children are brought under right in-
fluences I do not mean a great deal of religious speech,
but the right influences of truth and honesty, and an evi-
dent regard to what God wants of us not only are they
the more easily wrought upon, but the sooner do they
recognize those influences as right and good. And
while Tom quite agrees with me that there must not be
much talk about religion, he thinks that there must be
just the more acting upon religion; and that if it be
everywhere at hand in all things taught and done, it will
be ready to show itself to every one who looks for it.
And besides that action is more powerful than speech
in the inculcation of religion, Tom says there is no such
corrective of sectarianism of every kind as the repression
of speech and the encouragement of action.

Besides being a great help to me and everybody else
almost in Marshmallows, Tom has distinguished himself
in the literary world ; and when I read his books I am
yet prouder of my brother-in-law. I am only afraid that
Martha is not good enough for him. But she certainly
improves, as I have said already.

Jane Rogers was married to young Brownrigg about a
year after we were mamed. The old man is all but


confined to the chimney-corner now, and Richard man-
ages the farm, though not quite to his father's satisfac-
tion, of course. But they are doing well notwithstand-
ing. The old mill has been superseded by one of new
and rare device, built by Richard ; but the old cottage
where his wife's parents lived has slowly mouldered back
to the dust.

For the old people have been dead for many years.
Often in the summer days as I go to or come from the
vestry, I sit down for a moment on the turf that covers
my old friend, and think that every day is mouldering
away this body of mine till it shall fall a heap of dust
into its appointed place. But what is that to me 1 It is
to me the drawing nigh of the fresh morning of life,
when I shall be young and strong again, glad in the
presence of the wise and beloved dead, and unspeakably
glad in the presence of my God, which I have now but
hope to possess far more hereafter.

I will not take a solemn leave of my friends just yet.
For I hope to hold a little more communion with them
ere I go hence. I know that my mental faculty is grow-
ing weaker, but some power yet remains ; and I say to
myself, " Perhaps this is the final trial of your faith to
trust in God to take care of your intellect for you, and
to believe, in weakness, the truths He revealed to you
in strength. Remember that Truth depends not upon
your seeing it, and believe as you saw when your sight
was at its best. For then you saw that the Truth was
beyond all you could see." Thus I try to prepare for


dark days that may come, but which cannot come with-
out God in them.

And meantime I hope to be able to communicate
some more of the good things experience and thought
have taught me, and it may be some more of the events
that have befallen my friends and myself in our pilgrim-
age. So, kind readers, God be with you. That is die
older and better form of Good-bye.


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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonald[Works] (Volume 3) → online text (page 35 of 35)