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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



ifij
f





STEPHEN ARCHER

AND OTHER TALES




"HIS ATTENTION WAS ARRESTED BY A SHUFFLING BEHIND

HIM." See page 4.



STEPHEN
ARCHER

And Other Tales

BY

GEORGE MACDONALD, LL.D.



ILLUSTRATED BY CYRUS CUNEO & G. H. EVISON



LONDON
EDWIN DALTON

48-50 ALDERSGATE STREET, E.G.
1908



CONTENTS.



PAGE

STEPHEN ARCHER I

THE GIFTS OF THE CHILD CHRIST ... 26

THE HISTORY OF PHOTOGEN AND NYCTERIS ... 79

THE BUTCHER'S BILLS 148

PORT IN A STORM ... ... 204

IF I HAD A FATHER .. 226



765360



STEPHEN ARCHEB.



STEPHEN ARCHER was a stationer, bookseUer,
and newsmonger in one of the suburbs of
London. The newspapers hung in a sort
of rack at his door, as if for the convenience
of the public to help themselves in passing.
On his counter lay penny weeklies and books
coming out in parts, amongst which the
Family Herald was in force, and the London
Journal not to be found. I had occasion once
to try the extent of his stock, for I required
a good many copies of one of Shakspere's
plays at a penny, if I could find such. He
shook his head, and told me he could not
encourage the sale of such productions. This
pleased me ; for, although it was of little
consequence what he thought concerning
Shakspere, it was of the utmost import that
he should prefer principle to pence. So I
loitered in the shop, looking for something
to buy ; but there was nothing in the way
of literature : his whole stock, as far as I
could see, consisted of little religious volumes
of gay binding and inferior print ; he had



2 STEPHEN ARCHER.

nothing even from the Halifax press. He
was a good-looking fellow, about thirty, with
dark eyes, overhanging brows that indicated
thought, mouth of character, and no smile.
I was interested in him.

I asked if he would mind getting the plays
I wanted. He said he would rather not. I
bade him good morning.

More than a year after, I saw him again.
I had passed his shop many times, but this
morning, I forget why, I went in. I could
hardly recall the former appearance of the
man, so was it swallowed up in a new ex-
pression. His face was alive, and his
behaviour courteous. A similar change had
passed upon his stock. There was Punch
and Fun amongst the papers, and tenpenny
Shaksperes on the counter, printed on straw-
paper, with ugly wood-cuts. The former
class of publications had not vanished, but
was mingled with cheap editions of some
worthy of being called books.

" I see you have changed your mind since
I saw you last," I said.

" You have the advantage of me, sir," he
returned. " I did not know you were a
customer."

" Not much of that," I replied ; " only in
intention. I wanted you to get me some
penny Shaksperes, and you would not take
the order."

" Oh ! I think I remember," he answered,
with just a trace of confusion ; adding, with



STEPHEN ARCHER. 3

a smile, " I'm married now ; " and I fancied
I could read a sort of triumph over his former
self.

I laughed, of course the best expression
of sympathy at hand and, after a little talk,
left the shop, resolved to look in again soon.
Before a month was over, I had made the
acquaintance of his wife too, and between
them learned so much of their history as to
be able to give the following particulars
concerning it.

Stephen Archer was one of the deacons,
rather a young one perhaps, of a dissenting
congregation. The chapel was one of the
oldest in the neighbourhood, quite triumphant
in ugliness, but possessed of a history which
gave it high rank with those who frequented
it. The sacred odour of the names of pastors
who had occupied its pulpit, lingered about
its walls names unknown beyond its pre-
cincts, but starry in the eyes of those whose
world lay within its tabernacle. People gene-
rally do not know what a power some of these
small conventicles are in the education of the
world. If only as an outlet for the energies
of men of lowly education and position, who
in connexion with most of the churches of
the Establishment would find no employment,
they are of inestimable value.

To Stephen Archer, for instance, when I
saw him first, his chapel was the sole door
out of the common world into the infinite.
When he entered, as certainly did the awe



4 STEPHEN ARCHER.

and the hush of the sacred place overshadow
his spirit as if it had been a gorgeous
cathedral-house borne aloft upon the joined
palms of its Gothic arches. The Master is
truer than men think, and the power of His
presence, as Browning has so well set forth
in his " Christmas Eve," is where two or
three are gathered in His name. And inas-
much as Stephen was not a man of imagina-
tion, he had the greater need of the undefined
influences of the place.

He had been chief in establishing a small
mission amongst the poor in the neighbour-
hood, with the working of which he occupied
the greater part of his spare time. I will
not venture to assert that his mind was pure
from the ambition of gathering from these
to swell the flock at the little chapel; nay,
I will not even assert that there never arose
a suggestion of the enemy that the pence of
these rescued brands might alleviate the
burden upon the heads and shoulders of the
poorly prosperous caryatids of his church ;
but I do say that Stephen was an honest man
in the main, ever ready to grow honester:
and who can demand more ?

One evening, as he was putting up the
shutters of his window, his attention was
arrested by a shuffling behind him. Glancing
round, he set down the shutter, and the next
instant boxed a boy's ears, who ran away
howling and mildly excavating his eyeballs,
while a young,- pale-faced woman, with the



STEPHEN ARCHER.

largest black eyes he had ever seen, expostu-
lated with him on the proceeding.

" Oh, sir ! " she said, " he wasn't troubling
you." There was a touch of indignation in
the tone.

" I'm sorry I can't return the compliment,"
said Stephen, rather illogically. " If I'd ha'
known you liked to have your shins kicked,
I might ha' let the young rascal alone. But
you see I didn't know it."

" He's my brother," said the young woman,
conclusively.

" The more shame to him," returned Ste-
phen. " If he'd been your husband, now,
there might ha' been more harm than good
in interferin', 'cause he'd only give it you
the worse after; but brothers! Well, I'm
sure it's a pity -I interfered."

"I don't see the difference," she retorted,
still with offence.

" I beg your pardon, then," said Stephen.
" I promise you 1 won't interfere next time."

So saying, he turned, took up his shutter,
and proceeded to close his shop. The young
woman walked on.

Stephen gave an inward growl or two at
the depravity of human nature, and set out
to make bis usual visits ; but before he reached
the place, he had begun to doubt whether the
old Adam had not overcome him in the
matter of boxing the boy's ears ; and the
following interviews appeared in consequence
less satisfactory than usual. Disappointed



6 STEPHEN ARCHER.

with himself, he could not be so hopeful
about others.

As he was descending a stair so narrow
that it was only just possible for two people
to pass, he met the same young woman as-
cending. Glad of the opportunity, he stepped
aside with his best manners and said :

" I am sorry I offended you this evening.
I did not know that the boy was your
brother."

"Oh, sir ! " she returned for to one in
her position, Stephen Archer was a gentle-
man : had he not a shop of his own ? " you
didn't hurt him much; only I'm so anxious
to save him."

" To be sure," returned Stephen, " that is
the one thing needful."

" Yes, sir," she rejoined. " I try hard, but
boys will be boys."

" There is but one way, you know," said
Stephen, following the words with a certain
formula which I will not repeat.

The girl stared. " I don't know about
that," she said. " What I want is to keep
him out of prison. Sometimes I think I
shan't be able long. Oh, sir ! if you be the
gentleman that goes about here, couldn't you
help me? I can't get anything for him to
do, and I can't be at home to look after
him."

" What is he about all day, then ? "

' The streets," she answered. " I don't
know as he's ever done anything he oughtn't



STEPHEN ARCHER. 7

to, but he came home once in a fright, and
that breathless with running, that I thought
he'd ha' fainted. If I only could get him
into a place!"

" Do you live here ? " he asked.

"Yes, sir; I do."

At the moment a half-bestial sound below,
accompanied by uncertain footsteps, an-
nounced the arrival of a drunken bricklayer.

"There's Joe Bradley," she said, in some
alarm. " Come into my room, sir, till he'fc?
gone up ; there's no harm in him when he's
sober, but he ain't been sober for a week
now."

Stephen obeyed ; and she, taking a key
from her pocket, and unlocking a door on the
landing, led him into a room to which his
back-parlour was a paradise. She offered
him the only chair in the room, and took
her place on the edge of the bed, which
showed a clean but much-worn patchwork
quilt. Charley slept on the bed, and she on
a shake-down in the corner. The room was
not untidy, though the walls and floor were
not clean ; indeed there were not in it articles
enough to make it untidy withal.

" Where do you go on Sundays ? " asked
Stephen.

" JSTowheres. I ain't got nobody," she
added, with a smile, " to take me nowheres."

" What do you do then ? "

"I've plenty to do mending of Charley's
trousers. You see they're only shoddy, and



8 STEPHEN ARCHER.

as fast as I patch 'em in one place they're out
in another."

" But you oughtn't to work Sundays."

" I have heard tell of people as say you
oughtn't to work of a Sunday ; but where's
the differ when you've got a brother to look
after ? He ain't got no mother."

" But you're breaking the fourth command-
ment; and you know where people go that
do that. You believe in hell, I suppose."

" I always thought that was a bad word."

" To be sure ! But it's where you'll go if
you break the Sabbath."

" Oh, sir ! " she said, bursting into tears,
" I don't care what become of me if I could
only save that boy."

" What do you mean by saving him ? "

" Keep him out of prison, to be sure. I
shouldn't mind the workus myself, if I could
get him into a place."

A place was her heaven, a prison her hell.

Stephen looked at her more attentively.
No one who merely glanced at her could help
seeing her eyes first, and no one who regarded
them could help thinking her nice-looking at
least, all in a shabby cotton dress and black
shawl as she was. It was only the " penury
and pine " that kept her from being beautiful.
Her features were both regular and delicate,
with an anxious mystery about the thin
tremulous lips, and a beseeching look, like that
of an animal, in her fine eyes, hazy with the
trouble that haunted her mouth. Stephen had



STEPHEN ARCHER. 9

the good sense not to press the Sahbath ques-
tion, and by degrees drew her story from her.

Her father had been a watchmaker, but,
giving way to drink, had been, as far back
as she could remember, entirely dependent
on her mother, who by charing and jobbing
managed to keep the family alive. Sara
was then the only child, but, within a few
months after her father's death, her mother
died in giving birth to the boy. With
her last breath she had commended him to
his sister. Sara had brought him up how
she hardly knew. He had been everything
to her. The child that her mother had given
her was all her thought. Those who start
with the idea " that people with nought are
naughty," whose eyes are offended by rags,
whose ears cannot distinguish between vul-
garity and wickedness, and who think the
first duty is care for self, must be excused
from believing that Sara Coulter passed
through all that had been decreed for her
without losing her simplicity and purity.
But God is in the back slums as certainly as
perhaps to some eyes more evidently than
in Belgravia. That which was the burden
of her life namely, the care of her brother
was her salvation. After hearing her story,
which he had to draw from her, because she
had no impulse to talk about herself, Stephen
went home to turn the matter over in his
mind.

The next Sunday, after he had had hi



10 STEPHEN ARCHER.

dinner, he went out into the same region,
and found himself at Sara's door. She was
busy over a garment of Charley's, who was
sitting on the bed with half a loaf in his
hand. When he recognized Stephen he
jumped down, and would have rushed from
the room ; but changing his mind, possibly
because of the condition of his lower limbs,
he turned, and springing into the bed,
scrambled under the counterpane, and drew
it over his head.

" I am sorry to see you working on Sun-
day," Stephen said, with an emphasis that
referred to their previous conversation.

" You would not have the boy go naked ? "
she returned, with again a touch of indig-
nation. She had been thinking how easily
a man of Stephen's social position could get
bim a place if he would. Then recollecting
her manners, she added, " I should get him
better clothes if he had a place. Wouldn't
you like to get a place now, Charley ? "

"Yes," said Charley, from under the
counterpane, and began to peep at the
visitor.

He was not an ill-looking boy only
roguish to a degree. His eyes, as black as
his sister's, but only half as big, danced and
twinkled with mischief. Archer would have
taken him off to his ragged class, but even
of rags he had not at the moment the com-
plement necessary for admittance. He left
them, therefore, with a few cojmmonp of



STEPHEN ARCHER. 11

religious phrase, falling utterly meaningless.
But he was not one to confine his ministra-
tions to words : he was an honest man.
Before the next Sunday it was clear to him
that he could do nothing for the soul of
Sara until he had taken the weight of her
brother off it.

When he called the next Sunday the same
vision precisely met his view. She might
have been sitting there ever since, with those
wonderfully-patched trousers in her hands,
and the boy beside her, gnawing at his lump
of bread. But many a long seam had passed
through her fingers since then, for she
worked at a clothes-shop all the week with
the sewing-machine, whence arose the possi-
bility of patching Charley's clothes, for the
overseer granted her a cutting or two now
and then.

After a little chat, Stephen put the ques-
tion :

" If I find a place for Charley, will you
go to Providence Chapel next Sunday ? "

"I will go anywhere you please, Mr.
Archer," she answered, looking up quickly
with a flushed face. She would have accom-
panied him to any casino in London just
as readily : her sole thought was to keep
Charley out of prison. Her father had been
in prison once; to keep her mother's child
out of prison was the grand object of her life.

" Well," he resumed, with some hesitation,
for he had arrived at the resolution through



12 STEPHEN ARCHER.

difficulties, whose fogs yet lingered about
him, "if he will be an honest, careful boy,
I will take him myself."

" Charley ! Charley ! " cried Sara, utterly
neglectful of the source of the benefaction ;
and rising, she went to the bed and hugged
liim.

" Don't, Sara ! " said Charley, petulantly.
" I don't want girls to squash me. Leave
go, I say. You mend my trousers, and /'ll
take care of myself."

" The little wretch ! " thought Stephen.

Sara returned to her seat, and her needle
went almost as fast as her sewing-machine.
A glow had arisen now, and rested on her
pale cheek : Stephen found himself staring
at a kind of transfiguration, back from the
ghostly to the human. His admiration ex-
tended itself to her deft and slender fingers
and there brooded until his conscience in-
formed him that he was actually admiring
the breaking of the Sabbath ; whereupon he
rose. But all the time he was about amongst
the rest of his people, his thoughts kept
wandering back to the desolate room, the
thankless boy, and the ministering woman.
Before leaving, however, he had arranged
with Sara that she should bring her brother
to the shop the next day.

The awe with which she entered it was
not shared by Charley, who was never ripe
for anything but frolic. Had not Stephen
been influenced by a desire to do good, and



STEPHEN ARCHER. 13

possibly by another feeling too embryonic
for detection, he would never have dreamed
of making an errand boy of a will-o'-the-
wisp. As such, however, he was installed,
and from that moment an anxiety unknown
before took possession of Stephen's bosom.
He was never at ease, for he never knew
what the boy might be about. He would
have parted with him the first fortnight, but
the idea of the prison had passed from Sara's
heart into his, and he saw that to turn the
boy away from his first place would be to
accelerate his gravitation thitherward. He
had all the tricks of a newspaper boy in-
digenous in him. Repeated were the com-
plaints brought to the shop. One time the
paper was thrown down the area, and
brought into the breakfast-room defiled with
wet. At another it was found on the door-
step, without the bell having been rung,
which could hardly have been from forget-
fulness, for Charley's delight was to set the
bell ringing furiously, and then wait till the
cook appeared, taking good care however to
leave space between them for a start. Some-
times the paper was not delivered at all, and
Stephen could not help suspecting that he
had sold it in the street. Yet both for his
sake and Sara's he endured, and did not
even box his ears. The boy hardly seemed
to be wicked : the spirit that possessed him
was rather a polter-geist, as the Germans
would call itj than a demon*



14 STEPHEN ARCHER.

Meantime, the Sunday after Charley's ap-
pointment, Archer, seated in his pew, searched
all the chapel for the fulfilment of Sara's
part of the agreement, namely, her presence.
But he could see her nowhere. The fact was,
her promise was so easy that she had scarcely
thought of it after, not suspecting that Stephen
laid any stress upon its fulfilment, and, in-
deed, not knowing where the chapel was.
She had managed to buy a bit of something
of the shoddy species, and while Stephen was
looking for her in the chapel, she was making
a jacket for Charley. Greatly disappointed,
and chiefly, I do believe, that she had not
kept her word, Stephen went in the afternoon
to call upon her.

He found her working away as before, and
saving time by taking her dinner while she
worked, for a piece of bread lay on the table
by her elbow, and beside it a little brown
sugar to make the bread go down. The
sight went to Stephen's heart, for he had
just made his dinner off baked mutton and
potatoes, washed down with his half-pint of
stout.

" Sara ! " he said solemnly, " you promised
to come to our chapel, and you have not kept
your word." He never thought that "our
chapel " was not the landmark of the region.

" Oh, Mr. Archer," she answered, "I didn't
know as you cared about it. But," she went
on, rising and pushing her bread on one side
to make room for her work, " I'll put on my



STEPHEN ARCHER. 16

bonnet directly." Then she checked herself,
and added, " Oh ! I beg your pardon, sir
I'm so shabby ! You couldn't be seen with
the likes of me."

It touched Stephen's chivalry and some-
thing deeper than chivalry. He had had no
intention of walking with her.

" There's no chapel in the afternoon," he
said ; " but I'll come and fetch you in the
evening."

Thus it came about that Sara was seated
in Stephen's pew, next to Stephen himself,
and Stephen felt a strange pleasure unknown
before, like that of the shepherd who having
brought the stray back to the fold cares little
that its wool is torn by the bushes, and it
looks a ragged and disreputable sheep. It
was only Sara's wool that might seem dis-
reputable, for she was a very good-faced
sheep. He found the hymns for her, and
they shared the same book. He did not
know then that Sara could not read a word
of them.

The gathered people, the stillness, the
gaslights, the solemn ascent of the minister
into the pulpit, the hearty singing of the
congregation, doubtless had their effect upon
Sara, for she had never been to a chapel and
hardly to any place of assembly before.
From all amusements, the burden of Charley
and her own retiring nature had kept her
back.

But she could make nothing of the sermon.



Id STEPHEN ARCHER,

She confessed afterwards that she did not
know she had anything to do with it. Like
" the Northern Farmer," she took it all for
the clergyman's business, which she amongst
the rest had to see done. She did not even
wonder why Stephen should have wanted to
bring her there. She sat when other people
sat, pretended to kneel when other people
pretended to kneel, and stood up when other
people stood up still brooding upon Charley's
jacket.

But Archer's feelings were not those he
had expected. He had brought her, intend-
ing her to be done good to ; but before the
sermon was over he wished he had not
brought her. He resisted the feeling for a
long time, but at length yielded to it en-
tirely ; the object of his solicitude all the
while conscious only of the lighted stillness
and the new barrier between Charley and
Newgate. The fact with regard to Stephen
was that a certain hard pan, occasioned by
continual ploughings to the same depth and
no deeper, in the soil of his mind, began this
night to be broken up from within, and that
through the presence of a young woman who
did not for herself put together two words of
the whole discourse.

The pastor was preaching upon the say-
ing of St. Paul, that he could wish him-
self accursed from Christ for his brethren.
Great part of his sermon was an attempt
to prove that he could not have meant



STEPHEN ARCHER. 17

what his words implied. For the preacher's
mind was so filled with the supposed para-
mount duty of saving his own soul, that
the enthusiasm of the Apostle was simply
incredible. Listening with that woman by
his side, Stephen for the first time grew
doubtful of the wisdom of his pastor. Nor
could he endure that such should be the first
doctrine Sara heard from his lips. Thus was
he already and grandly repaid for his kind-
ness ; for the presence of a woman who
without any conscious religion was to herself
a law of love, brought him so far into sym-
pathy with the mighty soul of St. Paul, that
from that moment the blessing of doubt was
at work in his, undermining prison walls.

He walked home with Sara almost in
silence, for he found it impossible to impress
upon her those parts of the sermon with
which he had no fault to find, lest she should
retort upon that one point. The arrows
which Sara escaped, however, could from her
ignorance have struck her only with their
feather end.

Things proceeded in much the same fashion
for a while. Charley went home at night to
his sister's lodging, generally more than two
hours after leaving the shop, but gave her
no new ground of complaint. Every Sunday
evening Sara went to the chapel, taking
Charley with her when she could persuade
him to go ; and, in obedience with the sup-
posed wish of Stephen, sat in his pew. He



18 STEPHEN ARCHER.

did not go home with her any more for a
while, and indeed visited her but seldom,
anxious to avoid scandal, more especially as
he was a deacon.

But now that Charley was so far safe,
Sara's cheek began to generate a little of that
celestial rosy red which is the blossom of the
woman-plant, although after all it hardly
equalled the heart of the blush rose. She
grew a little rounder in form too, for she
lived rather better now, buying herself a
rasher ot bacon twice a week. Hence she
began to be in more danger, as any one
acquainted with her surroundings will easily
comprehend. But what seemed at first the
ruin of her hopes dissipated this danger.

One evening, when she returned from her
work, she found Stephen in her room. She
made him the submissive grateful salutation,
half courtesy, half bow, with which she
always greeted him, and awaited his wilL

" I am very sorry to have to tell you, Sara,
that your brother "

She turned white as a shroud, and her
great black eyes grew greater and blacker
as she stared in agonized expectancy while
Stephen hesitated in search of a better form
of communication. Finding none, he blurted
out the fact

" has robbed me, and run away."

"Don't send him to prison, Mr. Archer,'*
phrieked Sara, and laid herself on the floor


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