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AND FRIEND OF THE
SONS OF TOIL
Published for the Editor by S. W. PARTRIDGE; A. W. BENNETT; and W. TWEEDIE, London.
[Price One Penny.
DISAPPOINTMENTS; OR, JOHN THE SCULLION.
“So, honest friend! you have been seeking work this week, and found none to suit you—keep a good heart, and try again. You must not fail to remember that God helps those who try to help themselves.
Those words were uttered in the street in my hearing by an old man, who was endeavouring to comfort and encourage a stout youth who had been seeking employment, and seemingly seeking in vain; and while my heart sympathized with the young man in his struggle, the words the old man uttered put me on thinking how many people have had reason to be thankful for disappointments and hardships in the outset of their career. A cloudy morning often ushers in a fine day, as the following true story will abundantly prove.
A long time ago there lived in a pleasant village in the west of England, a farmer and his wife, whose family was so large that young and old were obliged to labour very hard for their living. Seven sons and five daughters under twenty years of age lived beneath the humble roof, and tilled the fields and managed the dairy of the little farm. The only schooling the family had received was at the evening class kept by the parish clerk, for at that time there was neither village nor sabbath school. The fourth son, John, was more diligent than the rest in his simple studies, and became a favorite with his teacher. As he had a good voice, he used to help the old clerk at church with the responses, and the singing, until all the people liked to hear his full clear voice, and many said to the clerk, “ As your breath is so bad, neighbour, its a capital thing you’ve such a good help as John in tuning the psalms.” Thus, from his fourteenth till his seventeenth year, John continued labouring in the fields by day,—writing and reading, and summing in the evenings, and singing in the church on Sundays and festivals. When at length the old clerk died, John, who had done the work for some time, naturally thought he might get the place, and his wish was mentioned to the vicar and the parishioners. Now, the good people had liked his services as long as they had paid nothing for them, but when the youth wanted to improve his position and to benefit by employing his humble gifts, they began to shake their heads and question whether he would do. One fault was urged by most people, “John was so young!” and a middle aged man coming forward as a competitor for the post, it was agreed that the parishioners should choose, and that the stranger should tune the psalm in the morning, and John in the afternoon of the next Sunday, and then the decision should be made.
This was but fair—but no doubt John thought it harsh to subject him after all his services to a competition; and whether this made him sing worse than usual, or whether, as is very likely, the village congregation loved novelty, certain it is they decided in favour of the stranger, and poor John, who had long set his heart on being the parish clerk, was rejected. He heard the decision with a calm look, but his heart was sore and heavy, and as he came out of the vestry into the church, he felt it was hard work to pass by his companions and acquaintances, and try to keep his feelings to himself. Fortunately there was a side door out of which he walked, hoping to get unnoticed into the quiet of the fields that skirted the churchyard. The congregation were mostly round the front porch, and in the main avenue, all but one old woman who had nursed him and taught him his letters, who met John as he went out, and taking his hand in a motherly way, looked with a kind smile in his face and said, “don’t be cast down at this disappointment, perhaps God reserves you for better things.” The pressure of the hand, the look, the words, all went to the poor youth’s heart, and kindled a fire of resolution there, that burned bright and clear for many a future day. As he walked home he reasoned, “the world is wide, I’m young and strong, willing and able to work; why should I stay here, where they have rejected me.” That night, after the evening chapter was read, the youth told his father he wished to seek a livelihood elsewhere, and asked his consent and blessing. Both parents felt that their son might be uncomfortable to stay where his feelings had been hurt, and though they grieved to part, they did not oppose his intention, but hoped he might be able to get work somewhere about Exeter.
The next morning, before any neighbours in the village were stirring, John set out, carrying a change of linen in a bundle at the end of his stick. His poor mother slipped an old leathern purse with a few coins, all her hoard, into his pocket, watched him through her tears until a turn in the road hid him from her sight, and then lifted up her throbbing heart to God in prayer for him, as mothers are wont to do.
The lad met no success in Exeter, but as he saw the great cathedral, and noticed the shops, particularly the book shops, thoughts about the value of books and of learning came strongly into his mind. Oh that he had time and opportunity to become a scholar! was the involuntary wish, which the next moment he rebuked, for how was he to get bread, much less learning? Some deep desire to gratify himself by being in the vicinity of learning and learned men must have sprung up in his heart and directed his steps, for he set forward from Exeter to Oxford, and walked the whole weary way! resting at night sometimes in barns, sometimes on the sheltered side of a haystack; he lived on bread and water, a draught of milk now and then being added as a luxury.
Foot sore, for his boots were worn out, he at length reached the University. With what a feeling of awe he crossed Maudlin Bridge, and walked up that stately street, whose matchless curve reveals at every step some noble building, or majestic dome, or solemn temple. Fired as he was, friendless and finely, the sight roused him to admiration; but a moment after, as he looked down at his nearly naked net and dusty garments, the thought of what he should do now he had reached this fine city, came to his mind. Among all the colleges he knew the name of but one, and that was “Exeter College”— here he would go and seek employment. Wild as his plan was, it turned out successful. He found out the college kitchen—the cook, a Devonshire man, heard the youth’s story, and took him into his employment as scullion.
There seems but little connexion between a scullery and a library, and no sort of similarity in the study of cookery and grammar, and yet somehow the youth contrived to employ his leisure time in poring over books until their meaning opened to his mind, and every look he read led the way to another, and another, until the studious halts of the scullion excited remark, and he was questioned by some of the men in authority, who were surprised at what he had attained during the few intervals of his daily labour. They respected his diligence, and he was admitted as a sizar (poor student, or on the foundation) of Exeter College, and then, all his difficulties being over as to the means of attaining knowledge, he studied hard, and soon
JOHN, THE BOOK-LOVING SCULLION OF EXETER COLLEGE, OXFORD.
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THE BRITISH WORKMAN.
was among the most successful of college students. He was still very poor, for he had none to help him, he knew the poor parents he had left could not assist their son to become a scholar; but soon he was able to earn something by teaching students less advanced and less diligent than himself, and by slow but sure degrees his difficulties, vanished, and in time, being as pious as he was industrious, studied for the church, was ordained, and became the ornament of the college that he had entered a friendless boy, and served as a scullion.
Years passed on; John’s brothers and sisters were all grown up and settled in life, most of them near the village in which they had been reared, but the good old parent-pair were yet living, their hearts often gladdened by tidings of, and presents from their long absent son, the Great Scholar! They pined to see him once more before they died, and the poor old dame—now very aged, who had helped to nurse him in his childhood, and moreover, had taught him his letters, and spoke the kind word to him when he was sore troubled with his first grief, she, too, wished to see him—though, from her infirmities, that was hardly possible.
These words were not unheeded by the object of them, he wrote a promise in his Christmas letter that he would, if spared, visit the old house at home the next summer.
What a variety of thoughts must have crowded into his mind in that pleasant summer time, when, riding in his own carriage to visit his parents, he passed over the ground that he had wearily walked in his young unfriended days. He told the driver to stop on the summit of a hill that overlooked his native village. There it was! nestling beneath the sheltering trees; the little church on the hill -side seeming to keep watch over the green graves as they calmly basked in the sunshine. While the homeward bound traveller looked at this peaceful scene, the bell in the ivy mantled tower flung out its solemn toll over the valley. Slow, distinct, one by one, pealed the sad vibration — it was tolling for the dead! Along the well-known footpath that crossed the fields there came a funeral group; they were as yet more distant from the church in an opposite direction than was the traveller. He entered his carriage hastily, and desired to be driven at once and quickly to the church. Arrived there, with a beating heart he asked the name of the dead. It was the worthy dame whose “word in season fitly spoken,” had proved so good to him. He mixed with the humble mourners round the grave, and at the conclusion made himself known to the clergyman, and requested that the villagers, (who had gathered in great force, for the dead had been as a mother to many) might be brought into the church, and there and then the stranger ascended the pulpit and preached a sermon to the rustic congregation; and truly, if “out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh,” that sermon must indeed have been worth hearing! for what a change had providence wrought since the youth had gone out rejected from the office of parish clerk, and had now returned to them the famous scholar, the pious prelate, Dr. Prideaux, Bishop of Worcester; as the good woman had said, “God had indeed reserved him for better things.”
How he met his aged parents, how he loved and befriended his poor relations, must be left to the imagination of those who have right minds and kind hearts; but one of his sayings is still remembered in the west of England, and merits to be remembered by all who in early life are tried by disappointments, “If I,” said Dr. Prideaux, “had been parish clerk of Ugborough, I should never have been Bishop of Worcester.”
(near THE EAST INDIA DOCK GATES.)
We have just received the first Annual Report of this Institution, in which we find some facts recorded which will be gratifying to many of our readers. In consequence of the rapid increase of the population around the East India Docks, the numerous cases of accident constantly arising from the loading and unloading of vessels, as well as in ship building yards, and various manufactories around, added to the fact that no Hospital could be reached within three miles’ distance, (a distance, which, in some cases, would occasion the death of the sufferer) it was laid upon the hearts of a few noble minded and liberal hearted gentlemen to establish a Hospital at Poplar, specially for cases of accident amongst working men. The Hospital has been open twelve months, and we find that during this period the following cases have been relieved:—
Fractures – 134
Contusions – – 283
Wounds – 515
Sprains – 108
Inflammation from Injury 61
Dislocations – 18
Burns and Scalds – 54
Bites from Dogs, &c. – 9
Various – 41
These twelve hundred and twenty-three cases of suffering fully prove the necessity for such an institution as the Poplar Hospital, and we trust that the appeal which the highly influential Committee is now making for funds, will find a hearty response from those who are interested in the Merchant Navy of our country.
When we reflect upon the numberless comforts and luxuries of life which are brought to our homes by those who build and those who navigate ships, it is our duty to render these men all the recompense we can.
It is a gratifying circumstance that many of the working men of Poplar have come forward most nobly to support this Hospital, and we believe that when this notice has been well circulated amongst the thousands of the sons of toil in the east of London, many more will be added to the upholders.
In some of the large ship-building yards the men have commenced voluntary contributions of a penny a week towards its support; and it is evident from the following items, which we extract from the list of contributions in the Report, that the Institution is prized by these hard-handed sons of toil.
£ s. d.
Workmen at Messrs. Mare & Co……… 15 15 0
Workmen in the employ of Messrs. Somes, 7 0 0
Money collected from the workmen at
Messrs. Money Wigram, and Sons …. 25 13 7
Collected from persons employed in East
and West India Docks 42 10 0
Subscriptions received by the local
Committee, principally from workmen, per
M. .T. Scully, chairman……………107 2 5
In addition to which, we find the proceeds
of a cricket match, presented by the
workmen of Messrs. Green and Wigram’s
yards………………………….. 72 5 0
The list of contributions contains noble names and noble gifts for these we ought to rejoice, but we must confess, that we feel peculiar pleasure in thus finding the wealthy and the workers joining hand in hand in supporting a good cause. This is as it should be, and we therefore heartily desire, and fully anticipate, prosperity to the Poplar Hospital.
In case any of our readers desire to lend a helping hand to this valuable institution, we may add, that Messrs. Dimsdale, Dkewett, Fowler, and Barnard, Bankers, 50, Cornhill, London, will gladly receive any contributions.
An interesting feature of the present times is the out-of-door efforts that have lately been made to benefit the working man.
While P. H. Gosse, a Christian naturalist of celebrity, has met his class of ladies and gentlemen on the coasts of Ilfracombe and the south of Devonshire for the study of the interesting objects so attractively described in the “Sea-side books” that have been published, we find Mr. Hugh Miller, of Edinburgh, has met a number of the working classes on a Saturday afternoon, on a large boulder of greenstone, lying in the sand, between Leith and Portobello, and expatiating on the geology of the neighbourhood and on the agency by which masses like this were torn from their native bed and lodged in a distant and foreign place. He afterwards introduced his auditory to his museum, and exhibited his well-arranged collection of fossils, the fruit of many years’ collection and study, when they sallied forth to inspect and study a neighbouring quarry, &c. Those enjoyments were obtained by the Saturday Half-holiday Association, which has probably other treats of a similar kind in reserve.
Besides other efforts of this kind much is being done by out-of-door religious services to interest and bless the masses of our country.
ALL HANDS AT WORK.
At Pirrie, a station of the Free Church of Scotland, in South Africa, in enlarging the church, the missionary, Rev. Mr. Ross, built the wails; his son did the wood-work during his vacation; native assistants did the plastering and built the seats; Mrs. Ross laid the floor, which was of clay, whitewashed the outside and coloured the interior with yellow ochre which the schoolgirls brought. When all hands, in the Christian church, with equal alacrity, set to work in the spiritual building, how rapidly will the walls go up!
THE TELEGRAPHIC MESSAGE,
Do you see that youth there briskly wending his way through the crowds who line the footpaths of the City? Inside that leathern satchel which he so carefully grasps, he carries a sealed message—a message which was probably sent up by a Manchester or Birmingham manufacturer, to one of the London merchants, in reply to an important inquiry sent down, not half-an-hour ago!
Yes, that respectable youth is the representation of one of the greatest discoveries of the age—The Electric Telegraph.
Our readers are familiar with the posts and telegraph wires, along the various railroads, but perhaps it has often excited their wonder, how telegraphic messages could be sent across the English Channel to France. Insurmountable as this at one time appeared, persevering talent overcame the great difficulties, by means of Gutta Percha and the submarine cable. This cable has excited the wonder of millions, but a project is now on foot which promises to put all previous telegraphic achievements into the shade. A company has been formed for the purpose of laying down a submarine cable across the Atlantic sea, and there is every probability that before long, telegraphic messages will be sent between London and New York, a distance of 3,000 miles! All honour to the spirited men who have formed themselves into the “Atlantic Telegraph Company.” May success attend their noble enterprise.
THANK GOD FOR ALL.
Beside yon oak a rustic roof appears,
A cottage garden leads unto the door,
A few wild plants the lowly casement cheers,
And all around looks neat, though all is poor.
There Philip dwells, and takes a neighbour’s part,
Though little be the means his help to test;
Yet still, though poor, he says with grateful heart,
’Tis well to labour,—and that God knows best!
The hare flits by him on her dewy feet,
As blithe of heart he quits the cottage gate,
The golden village lane with dawn is sweet,
And Philip feels content, though low his state;
For labour unto him can joy impart,
’Tis independence to his honest breast;
And still, though poor, he says, with grateful heart,
’Tis well to labour, and that God knows best!
His wife beside the door waits his return,
His children’s voices meet him half the way,
And while the sun within the west doth burn,
And bird and brook sing sweet the close of day,
Philip forgers his toil, his chair to find,
By little arms and little lips carest;
And gazing round, exclaims, with grateful mind,
Thank God for all,—thank God, who knoweth best!
BURYING A WHOLE PARISH.
“The sexton of Collumpton, in Devonshire, who died some months ago, had buried upwards of 4000 persons, while the population of the town is only 3655. It is said that the sextonship has been in his family for a period of 200 years.”—Saunders’ News-Letter.
SCENES FROM REAL LIFE.
(Concluded from page 91.)
Patty’s interview with William was of very short duration. He had given her a little workbox, and as he stood in the passage with a passionate look on his flushed face, Patty put the box in his hands, and said simply, “William! you are not what I took you to be.” “Oh! I thought so,” he interposed, “you want to get quit of me.”
“I want none but sober friends,” faltered Patty, as the young man turned short round, opened the cottage door, and dashing the box violently on the garden path broke it to fragments, stamped them under his foot, uttering a sort of growl, and walked hastily—but not steadily, away.
“You have had a good loss!” said Mrs. Drift, as Patty, trying to compose her fluttering heart, entered the room where her mistress, who had heard all, was seated at her knitting. Patty made no answer, and from that time no more was ever said of William or his sister. But it was not the last that Patty heard of them. Tom Wilson, in a fit of intemperance, enlisted, and Jane Flight left her place in disgrace, followed her seducer to Portsmouth, and became an outcast from all but disease, death, and a fearful looking for of judgment.
“William married in six weeks, as he said, “to spite Patty.” It proved that he had spite himself. An idle, extravagant wife, with a sharp temper, and a sharper tongue, fell to his lot. Henceforward his life was divided between toil at work and brawl at home—varied by what he called “sprees,” that wasted his means to the last penny, and his once strong frame to the very bone. What he called his pleasure became his punishment—dug for him an early grave, and hunted him into it.
Patty continued for four more years to tend her aged mistress; in that time Mrs Vineer and her younger children, helped by Miss Maitland, had emigrated. Captain Drift had taken them out in his vessel to Sydney, which was the only way to escape from her had husband. It was an unexpected comfort to the poor woman that her eldest daughter Jane, tired of the father’s intemperate ways, and disgusted at the people among whom he lived, returned to her mother, and went with her to the land of refuge, and as it proved to them, of prosperity. As a family they had suffered so severely from the intemperance and idleness of the husband and father, that they emigrated with the strong determination to be strictly sober and industrious, and they did not make that resolution without looking upward for Divine aid to keep it, though they had many privations and trials in the outset, they overcame them all, and made a comfortable home in their adopted land.
Captain Drift was so well pleased with Patty’s brother, that he taught him to be a very skilful seaman, and promoted him until he became mate of the vessel, and no one who had seen the fine young man, who now and then at long intervals came into Blankport, would have supposed he had been the rude, ragged boy, whom an orphan sister’s love had been the means of rescuing from a life of idleness and crime.
At length there came a day, when, as Patty wheeled her mistress’ in a garden chair to a pretty summer house, where she liked to feel the sunshine as it fell softened through a veil of jessamine and clematis, she thought there was an unusually bright look upon the aged pilgrim’s face. Mrs. Drift was very feeble, but not ill, yet Patty had a strange dread come over her as she noticed a restless movement of the hands, and a quicker clearer voice than usual; and she begged the invalid to allow herself to be taken back to the house. A gentle refusal was uttered, and there seemed an intense enjoyment of the open air and the bright day. At last, after a long period of silence, as the faithful attendant was again urging a return to the house, Mrs. Drift said, in a steady clear voice, lifting up her trembling hand, “Patty, my dear! there’s no night there, blessed be God! in His light I shall see light.” A sort of hiccup stopped her utterance, and the hand fell down helplessly; Patty ran to hold her lead as it drooped forward, and was conscious that a shiver ran through the aged fame, and then a great quiet. She called aloud for help, and the labourers in the adorning field came to her assistance. She concluded her dear aged friend was in a fit—but it proved to be death.
Never in her loneliest days had Patty felt so utterly lonely as now that she looked upon the still holy brow of that more than mother—for had she not been a mother to her mind and soul? Deeply, yet not rebelliously, Patty mourned for her friend and guide, losing all thought of her own future course in the greatness of her bereavement. After the grave closed over the mortal remains of the aged Christian, then, and not till then, Patty began to think what she should do. Miss Maitland had, by the orders left by Captain Drift—directed the funeral, and taking Patty to her own house afterwards, she told her, very much to the good servant’s surprise, that all the household furniture and linen of her late mistress, and fifty pounds in money, was hers, as a reward for her long and faithful services.
“Dear good soul!” said the grateful Patty, “it was reward enough to serve her.”
The district had altered very much in the years that had passed, and the coast was beginning to be frequented as a bathing place and winter residence for invalids. Many new houses had been built, and all the symptoms of prosperity were manifest. Patty was advised by Miss Maitland to continue in the cottage, and to take lodgers during the autumn that was just at hand. She followed this advice, taking her youngest brother to live with her, the other brother being in a very comfortable situation in a shop at Blankport. And so it happened, that our poor Patty, once the orphan workhouse girl, became a householder on her own account. A family from London took her neat lodgings for the entire winter, and she found enough for herself and brother to do in waiting on them. Patty was scrupulously neat and clean, and conscientious, and her good repute constantly procured her lodgers, until she was obliged to have a larger house and a servant of her own, and became, in the course of a few years, a prosperous woman, and as good a mistress as she had been a servant.
Captain Drift married a lady of the midland counties, but every year his wife and increasing family came to lodge with Mrs. Patience Grant, and it gave them most sincere pleasure to find that she remained the same kind, unselfish, persevering creature she had ever been. Her brothers’ welfare was near her heart, and they, well knowing what they owed her, were both a comfort and a credit to her. Just as she had wept and striven for them in her days of poverty, she continued to be anxious for their best interest—for Patty well knew that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth but of the mouth of Sod.” At first her brothers respected religion, and outwardly conformed to it, because it would gratify her, but in time, one after another their hearts were impressed with the beauty of holiness, as she had unbodied it in her life, and they became experimentally acquainted with Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. They would say with one of old, “now we believe, lot because of thy saying; for we have heard Him ourselves.”
Patty never married—but in course of years nephews and nieces sprung up around her, and cheered her with their love. Often in the twilight of a winter’s evening would they ask her to tell them about the work-house, and the hardships and sorrows of her childhood, and one of them, a bright, healthy, active girl, one of the best scholars at the best day school in the town, often says, “I wish, with all our friends, and health, and education, we may do half as well as Aunt Patty.”
Ah, reader, there is no evil of friendlessness and poverty but by the blessing of God, on patience and perseverance, may be overcome. Patty is not the only one that in childhood has been called an “encumbrance,” “a poor scrap of a creature,” “a sickly fright,” who has grown up to be a helper to all around. Strength of body is good thing, but strength of mind, and soul, and principles is better.
“What is lasting? what is strong?
God’s breath within the soul.”
THE DYING COAL MINER.
Stephen Karket, twenty-five years old, whilst employed underground in a mine, in the parish of Newlyn, was buried alive, by the falling together of the shaft in which he was, at the depth of five fathoms from the surface. The first person who arrived at the spot was a man named George Trevarrow, who called to know if any living being was beneath, when Karkeet answered, in a firm voice, “I feel the cold hand of death upon me; if there is any hope of my being rescued from this untimely grave, tell me; and if not, tell me.” Trevarrow at once informed him that there was not a shadow of hope left, as upwards of four tons of rubbish had fallen around and upon him, and suffocation must inevitably take place before human aid could afford relief. On hearing this, Karkeet exclaimed, “All’s well; it is the Lord! let him do what seemeth Him good. Tell my dear father and mother not to be sorry as those without hope for me; ’tis now only that I am happy—’tis now that I feel the advantages of a religious life; now I feel the Lord is my stronghold, and now I feel I am going to heaven. Here his voice failed; he was never heard to speak. again.
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THE BRITISH WORKMAN.
THE CHRISTMAS BOX
“Well, Nancy, you may do as you like William and I mean to enjoy ourselves Christmas comes but once a year, and it’s hard if we can’t make merry.”
“Oh, I hope you will enjoy yourselves we mean to do so, our only difference is a to what you call enjoyment. Going to Tom Swiller’s house-warming on Christmas-day would be no pleasure to Joseph, or me either.”
These words passed between two young married women, sisters, who each for the first time, was expecting to keep Christmas in their own separate homes, with the husbands they had been but a few weeks married to. They had no father or mother, and no near relation, but an old uncle, who after a queer fashion, had been kind to them through the years of their orphan girlhood that is, he had on the death of their parents (which happened within a few weeks, of fever), sought out places for both Nancy and Kate with decent people of the small trading class, and he had encouraged the girls to patience and economy in the outset of their career as servants, by giving them the reward of a new gown and cloak each when they had been in their first places a year, and he made it a rule to double all the money they had left of their twelvemonth’s wages every New Year’s Day. As the sisters at first had very small wages, it was only by great care, that they could contrive to have any money; so uncle Gregory’s purse or “Old Grig,” as some called him, was not much taxed for three or four years. In that time, Kate, the younger by a year of the sisters, had changed her place three times, and Nancy once; and both had grown from little girls of fourteen and fifteen, to tall young women, looking a year or two older than they really were. They were both active, cheerful, and well-disposed, but they differed greatly in character, Nancy was very affectionate, and once she spent all her spare money in buying worsted to knit her uncle two pairs of warm woollen stockings, and had only one sixpence left on New Year’s Day when he came to fulfil his promise, and double his niece’s money, while Kate, who was ambitious, by managing to get credit of a draper for the few things she held wanted during the quarter, displayed twenty-four shillings to Uncle Gregory, and as she paid her bill, which amounted to more than the sum she had shewn as her savings, she triumphed not a little in having been “‘cuter than old Grig,” particularly when she found that he never gave Nancy anything for the stockings. Kate was, however, sadly put out when next year, by a similar scheme, she shewed her uncle two pounds savings, and he took out a handful of silver, and counting down four and twenty shillings, said, in his grave way, “Niece Kate, I should double your savings, but this is owing to me for last year, and I shall return it to my pocket, and I’ve brought you the linen drapers bill for this quarter, which I am glad to see, is not more than two pounds—indeed it’s twopence less. There, child! is a four-penny piece, which just doubles your savings, if you owe nothing more; if you do, and are trying your cleverness on “Old Grig,” why, fourpence won’t ruin me.”
From that time Kate tried no more schemes on Uncle Gregory, and though crestfallen for a time, yet she always considered herself much wiser than Nancy, who staid in a poor place when she might have bettered herself, because she had got attached to her mistress and the children, while Kate looked sharp after her own interest, and was receiving much higher wages than her elder sister. To be sure, she never had an opportunity of going to a place of worship, or time to mend her clothes, and was quite worn with constant toil, and annoyed with the wicked ways of profligate servants in a great noisy household; but yet the high wages and the glory of serving fine folks rather than what she called “humdrum people ” was her recompence.
But what was “Uncle Gregory?” He was a Scotch pedlar, who had set out when a poor boy from his native country to earn an honest penny, by any means that his ingenuity could devise. He had passed through many trials; his industry had supported his widowed mother, but though she said she loved her good son well, she loved her bad whiskey-bottle better, and when the poor fellow had scraped up enough to open a little shop—had taken his old mother home, and in time felt himself justified in marrying, all his prosperity was destroyed by a fire, caused by the carelessness of the aged drunkard. She perished in the flames, and her son was ruined; his wife, though she escaped with life from the flaming house, never recovered the fright; she lingered for years an invalid, and Gregory took again to his pack and travelled the country, so saddened by his troubles, that people noticed he was never again the cheerful, conversable man he once had been. After some years his poor wife, whom he fondly loved, died, and shortly after her death, her sister and brother-in-law, the parents of Nancy and Kate, died. Light as was the kindred tie between Uncle Gregory and his deceased wife’s nieces, for her sake he undertook to superintend them, and though his manner was cold and odd, he really looked after them far more than they ever knew. He wanted them to be made good servants, and placed them out well for that object, and though he would be away for weeks at a time going his rounds among his customers, he contrived to know all about their doings, and came into their neighbourhood much oftener than they had any idea of. At first, if he had any preference, it was for the lively, bustling Kate, whose rosy face and active manner made her a sort of prize, though he found her difficult to manage; but in time the timid, mild, orderly Nancy won upon him, and when she gave him the warm stockings, though he took them with a scarcely uttered thanks, he felt a glow at his lonely heart, such as he thought could never warm it again.
But servitude, it seemed, was not long to be the lot of the sisters. Kate’s noble employers broke up their household and went abroad, just at the time that Nancy’s master died and the widow with her sons went to live at Bedford for the benefit of education at the schools there. A young coachsmith named Joseph Hardy had waited what he thought an unconscionably long time for Nancy, and now obtained her consent to their marriage. Kate, who had refused many offers, did not like that her sister should be beforehand with her, and so, after balancing between the merits of a young carpenter with good sense, and a fine footman with good looks, she chose the latter, much to the grief of Nancy, who feared that a gentleman’s servant, even if able to marry, saw too much grandeur and luxury in his master’s home to like his own humble dwelling, and to make a good husband. Uncle Gregory thought so too, and spoke his mind plainly, but Kate was determined, and as the young man, William Tuft, had a decent character, he yielded a cold consent. There was a pleasant surprise for both sisters a fortnight before their marriage. Uncle Gregory came to the lodging they had hired while they were making preparations for the double wedding, and producing an old canvas bag, counted out thirty pounds on the little table before them, explaining that when their parents died he had sold their household furniture and effects, and also collected in some money owing them, and that after paying for their funeral he had put the money to use and increased it a third in the years that had passed, and he now came to divide it between the sisters. This sum was most convenient, added to what each had saved, and what their intended husbands possessed; it bought comfortable household furniture for Nancy; and Kate, who had both taste and skill with her needle, took a little shop and parlour, and laid in a small stock of haberdashery and children’s clothes; and so, with cheerful hearts, they married.
And now Christmas was coming, and a man who had lived butler in the family where Kate’s husband had been footman, was about to open a small public-house in the neighbourhood, and lie invited William Tuft and his wife, and through them Joseph and Nancy Hardy to the house-warming on Christmas Day. It is needless to say Mr. Tom Swiller, the publican, hoped to have them for his customers, though he made a flourish of his generosity by saying to Kate, “I could’nt feel happy no how if I did’nt give a bit of a treat by way of a Christmas box to such old friends and fellow servants as you and William, and your sister and her husband shall be welcome for your sake.”
Kate was not a little vexed when her sister, who had come to buy some sewing cotton, and to whom the invitation was given in great glee, at once declined it; and so the remarks at the beginning of our narrative were uttered, and it seemed the sisters had a different notion of enjoyment.
“I mean to ask Uncle Gregory,” said Nancy, “and I had thought, Kate, that you and William would have come; Joseph quite builds upon having a nice family gathering, such as we had in our childish days when poor father and mother were alive.”
“Uncle Gregory! family gathering indeed,” said Kate, “why who could have any pleasure where old Grig is? Now don’t be looking so grave, Nancy! I will say it, if he’s been kind in the main to us, and I don’t deny it, he’s done it all in the queerest way possible with his pinching, prying ways.” “ For shame, Kate, for shame, he was our only friend for years before we could well help ourselves, and as to our having pleasure with him, we ought to give him pleasure.” “We can’t; nor no young people could give him pleasure, with his crusty ways.” “Well, I shall try,” said Nancy, turning to go to her home.
“And much you’ll get by it, like the stockings you gave him that he never took notice of. I shall please myself,” retorted Kate, and so the sisters parted.
Christmas Day at length came, and from her sitting room window, that looked up a long street that opened opposite, Nancy saw William (who had been in a job place for a time, and was now waiting a gentleman’s return to town, who had promised him a regular place) set out with Kate, both very smartly dressed, to take part in the entertainment given at the “Fox and Grapes.” She sighed, and tears were in her eyes, as she turned towards her husband, for she wanted to have had the pleasant family gathering on the grand old festival day, so dear to English homes and hearts.
“Never mind, love!” said Joseph Hardy, “if we’ve no one in the world but ourselves to dinner, why, we are all the world to each other.”
Of course Nancy would have been a very poor thing of a wife if she had mourned or murmured after such a speech, so she spread her white table cloth and laid one extra plate, hoping that though Uncle Gregory had not answered her letter, he would still come: and sure enough he did come—-just as the comfortable dinner was smoking on the table. The old man’s frosty face was brightened with a smile as he sat down and partook of their plentiful, but sober meal, for neither Nancy nor Joseph thought strong drinks necessary. “We’re strong enough without them,” said the brave smith, stretching out his ponderous arm, “and as to any slops that’s sold, making me or my Nancy happier or merrier—why it’s a farce. Joy in the soul, and love in the heart makes mirth and happiness; and that, thanks be to God, we have!”
“Ah, my lad! and see ye keep it,” said Uncle Gregory.
A pleasant afternoon they had at their bright fireside, the snow began to fall outside, and the chilly look of the grey twilight made the glowing hearth and snug room, so neatly furnished and kept, look all the more bright from the contrast. Uncle Gregory told them many stories of places he had seen in his rambles up and down, and he had a store of anecdotes about Christmas that were pleasant to hear: one in particular, about a man who was afterwards a great bookseller, they were much amused with. Uncle Gregory said, “there was once a poor shoemaker, with a sickly wife. The man went out with a half-a-crown, to buy his Christmas dinner, and brought home instead a book—-“Young’s Night Thoughts.” The poor young couple had but a make-shift dinner, but each loved reading, and the husband read aloud the book be had bought. After he read it, he sold that and bought three others, and then he sold those, and so began first to hawk old books, and then to have an old book stall, and so from less to more until he had a large shop and became a great book collector, and a rich man.
“Oh,” said Joseph, as uncle Gregory finished his story, “it was Lackington, of Finsbury Place. I remember once seeing his shop when I was a very little boy; there was a circle, like a dome, went entirely up the building, lined all through with books.” “Yes,” said Uncle Gregory, “and that prosperity was all built on one half crown volume, ‘Young’s Night Thoughts.’”
They separated early, but not before Uncle Gregory had opened the sacred volume, and read the wondrous story of the babe in Bethlehem, and offered up a prayer for his young relatives. As he went away, he gave Nancy a little parcel that felt like a book to give to her sister Kate, and an old tin box with a little padlock on it, and a slit at the top, for herself; and with a kind “good night,” he went his way.
Nancy had not expected anything from her uncle, and if the truth must be told, would rather have had nothing than the old tin box, which was empty, except for a slip of paper addressed to her, and marked “Private.” Joseph laughed good-naturedly it the old man’s oddity, but added, “He’s a real old brick, and I like him Nancy!”
When Nancy opened the paper, she found in it a request, that she would put into that “Christmas-box” the price of a quart of beer, and a quarter of an ounce of tobacco daily, and let him see it when he came again. Nancy had been used to obey the old man, and so she resolved to gratify his whim.
Next morning, she set off with her parcel to Kate, but though it was nearly ten o’clock in the morning, the little shop was not opened; at last, a strange woman let her in, and Nancy in a few moments stood by the bedside of her sister, who was weeping utterly. Kate’s arm was in a sling, and she looked very ill. It was with some difficulty, that Nancy made out amid the sobs and tears of the narrator, that there had been a great gathering, and a deal of drinking at the “Fox and Grapes,” and that William had lost both his senses and his temper over his cups, and taken it into his muddled head to be jealous of some foolish praises Tom Swiller offered to Kate, and a regular row had ended the pleasures of the day. William was for fighting in all directions, and his wife in hanging round him, and trying to soothe him, had got thrown down and trampled on in the scuffle. She had been brought home senseless at three o’clock in the morning, and William had rushed off she knew not where. For some days Kate kept her bed, sick in body, and yet more distressed in mind, for William kept away, and all she knew was, that he lad made up his quarrel with Tom Swiller, and was drinking there with companions as reckless as himself. At length Joseph Hardy coaxed him home, and effected a reconciliation between him and Kate, but, in the meanwhile, William had lost the situation he had expected, for the gentleman had sent for him while he was drinking, and surmising the cause of his not making his appearance, sent word he need not come, for “I never,” said he, “take servants who make Christmas a time of brutal carousal.” The gift uncle Gregory sent Kate was of much more value than that he gave Nancy. It was a nicely bound pocket Bible in a leather case, which he charged his niece to read through in the year, and on no account, whatever might be her need, to part with it, unless to her sister Nancy. Ah, it would a have been well for poor Kate if she had read that book, and profited by its wisdom and consolations. She needed both badly, for William did not get a place, and he was if always hanging about the “Fox and Grapes,” and Kate mourned the day she had ever entered its doors. It was a dear Christmas treat, and though working early and late she could not renew or keep up the stock of her little shop. Her health failed with bad living, and sitting so close to her needle; and William’s coming home, was a terror to her—his words were so harsh, and she began taking little drops of gin to raise her spirits, and piece by piece all their clothes and best furniture was parted with; at last one day, when Nancy, with an aching heart called, Kate reached from a shelf, where it had laid covered with dust, uncle Gregory s Christmas gift, the little Bible, and asked Nancy to buy it. More to save the Bible for her sister till better days than to make it her own, Nancy gave her its full value, and taking it home laid it on the little table in her bedroom.
Before the next Christmas both life and death had entered their circle. William left his wife in search of employment and wandered from one place to another, until at the end of September he found himself at Pontefract Races, where, in a quarrel with some drinking companions, he was thrown down, and died a few days after.
Nancy became a mother soon after, and offered a home to her widowed sister, now completely broken down by sorrows. The recovery of the invalid was slow, but her heart was cheered by the kindness of a tender husband and she had the comforts of a happy home around her. She was sitting one day reading in the pocket Bible; she had got nearly to the end, when, as she tried to turn over a leaf in the book of Revelations, she found it was slightly joined to the next page as if with a touch of gum. Very carefully she undid the adhesive pages, and a five pound note dropped out on her baby’s face as he slept on her lap. She looked at it in astonishment, and read in one corner under uncle Gregory’s name the words, “Kate, make good use of it.” That five pounds if it had come in time would have saved Kate’s furniture from being taken in execution by her landlord. Nancy and Joseph had helped her as long as they could, but her poverty went beyond their power to relieve until she was completely thrown upon their sympathies.
With a beating heart Nancy held up the note, and instantly the full meaning of their eccentric old uncle, in putting it out of the power of Kate to deceive him as to having read all through the Bible, flashed upon their minds. “Keep it Nancy, keep it,” said Kate, “I don’t deserve it and it is not mine.”
It was the first time for some years that Kate had ever owned herself in the wrong, and more precious than the money, ten times told, was the conviction that flashed on Nancy’s mind that sorrow had wrought a blessed change in her sister’s heart. She put away the note until Joseph’s return, and they both insisted on giving it to the widow, who still refused it, and retired to bed, weeping tears of penitence at their tenderness.
From that time poor Kate lived a new life.
Uncle Gregory had been some time in Scotland, and did not come to them until Christmas day, when just at dinner time he joined the family, both to the delight of Joseph and Nancy, and even of Kate, who went up and told him how she had neglected the Bible and did not deserve his present.
In the evening uncle Gregory asked about the old tin box. Nancy had carefully complied with his request, thinking that odd as was the wish she ought to try to please one who had so often benefited her. When the hoard was unlocked and turned out, and the fourpenny bits and sixpences counted, it amounted to seven pounds. Nancy had not exactly computed the total, and it surprised her. “See,” said uncle Gregory, “what the cost of a very moderate amount of beer and tobacco comes to in a year!”
The next day he doubled the sum, and a good stock of coals, and groceries, and potatoes, and meal, was laid in with the proceeds. Meanwhile “the Christmas box” was restored to its place on the shelf of a closet to hold the weekly savings of another year.
The lesson was not lost on any of them; poor Kate, whose feet had well nigh slipped, especially took heed to her ways, and though uncle Gregory did not live to see another Christmas day, he left his savings to his nieces in the full certainty that the money he had earned carefully, would be spent wisely and soberly. And a happy and prosperous home was that of Joseph and Nancy Hardy, and their widowed sister. May you, dear reader, make for yourself a similar Christmas box!
C. L. Balfour.
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THE BRITISH WORKMAN.
“Curiosity led me to step into one of the cabins; it was a small one, where nine females were spinning, and one reeling.” Dr. Adam Clark.
Perhaps it is amongst the poor themselves that the greatest amount of disinterested benevolence is to be found; indeed, generally speaking, every species of assistance which they render to one another, must be regarded in this aspect, inasmuch as they cannot lessen the burthen of others without augmenting their own. The following circumstance which came under the observation of the late Dr. Adam Clarke, will, however place this subject in a clearer point of view. “ In our way from Ballycastle to Coleraine (he says) we stopped at a village called Moss Side. As there was no stable in the place we fed the horses in the street. Curiosity led me to step into one of the cabins; it was a small one where nine females were spinning, and one reeling the produce of their labour. There was a bed in the place, in which a young lad of about fourteen years of age lay, who had received a hurt in his ankle several weeks before, and was still confined to his bed. On asking them if they all belonged to one family} I was answered ‘ No.’ One who spoke for the rest said ‘ We are only neighbours of this poor woman; her son got a hurt several weeks ago by which he has been rendered unable to work; our neighbour being distressed and getting behind hand, we have agreed to give her a day’s work.’ They were all spinning as hard as they could in order to make the most possible profit for the poor family by their day’s work. There was not one of the nine who did not herself appear to be in the most abject poverty; and they now conjoined their labours to relieve one who was only more miserable than themselves. This was one of the finest specimens of philanthropy Iliad ever seen. I had admired the wonders of the Giants’ Causeway, the impressive aspect of Plaisken, and the sublime grandeur of Fair Head; but all these were lost in the scene now before me. The former were the wonders of the God of Nature, these the works of the God of humanity and mercy; and to witness the sight of the poor labouring for, and in order to relieve the poor, and those to whose poverty was added affliction, read me a lesson of deep instruction.” The benevolence of the working classes seldom however transpires, or is thus brought out before the public eye. In general it is buried as well as born in obscurity; but instances equally lovely as the above are of more frequent occurrence amongst them than many have any idea of; and though they are not here blazoned abroad by the trumpet of fame, the day is coming when they will be both proclaimed and rewarded. Indeed it is probable that when the givings of the rich and the poor, together with the “abundance” of the one, and the “penury” of the other, are brought under the cognizance of the unerring arbiter of human actions, it will, in myriads of instances be made manifest, that the hard-earned “two mites ” which the latter had “of their penury” contributed, were of more value in His sight, than the princely sums which the former had “of their abundance” cast in unto the offerings of God.—J. N. B.
“If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.”—2 Cor. viii. 12.
“We, then, that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”— Romans xv. 1.
Sir Thomas Abney was, as is well known, the beloved friend of the celebrated Dr. Watts, who found in his house an asylum for more than thirty-six years. This knight was not more distinguished for his hospitality than his piety. Neither business nor pleasure interrupted his observance of public and domestic worship. Of this, a remarkable instance is recorded :—On the evening of the day on which he entered the important office of Lord Mayor of London, without any notice he withdrew from the grand banquet at the Guildhall after supper, went to his home, there conducted family worship, and then returned to the company.
The Rev. John Baily, an eminent divine of the seventeenth century, was so honoured of God as to be made the instrument, even when a child, of the conversion of his own father. His mother was a very pious woman, but his father was a wicked man. The good instructions and frequent prayers of the former were so blessed to the soul of little John, that he was brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ whilst very young; and having a remarkable gift in prayer, his mother wished him to pray in the family. His father, overhearing him engaged in this hallowed exercise, was so struck with remorse and shame at finding his child, then not above twelve years of age, performing that duty in his house he had neglected himself, that it brought on a deep conviction of his wretched state as a sinner before God, and it proved through the Divine blessing, the means of his conversion. “cried unto God with my voice; given unto God with my voice; and He gave ear unto me.” Psalm lxxvii.
John Howard, the philanthropist, is said never to have neglected the duty of family prayer, even though there was but one, and that one his domestic, to join in it; always declaring that where he had a tent God should have an altar. This was the case lot only in England, but in every part of Europe which they visited together; it being his invariable practice, wherever and with whomsoever he might be, to tell Tomasson to come to him at a certain hour; and well kowing what the direction meant, the latter would be sure to find his master in his room, the doors of which he would order him to fasten. Let who would come, nobody was admitted till the devotional exercise was over.
A father once received from his child, not four years old, one of the most severe reproofs he ever met with. Some pressing business matters were made the excuse for neglecting the duty of family prayer one morning, and the little child was, as it were, out of its element all the forenoon. At noon, when the father came home to dinner, the little reprover climbed on his knee, and with a sigh, said, “Father, you did not pray with us to-day.”
“No, my dear, I did not,” replied the father.
“But father, you ought, ought you not?— why did you not?”
The father had not a word to reply, and the child’s rebuke happily proved a lasting blessing.
Reader! have you a family altar?
TO OUR READERS.
The close of 1856 calls upon us to return our thanks to our numerous friends for their valuable co-operation. It will gratify them to learn that there has recently been a considerable increase in the circulation, and that the issue for last month has reached 75,000. We are still 25,000 below the required number. The loss upon the twenty-four numbers issued having exceeded £700, we feel justified in respectfully urging our readers to canvas at once for new subscribers, so that we may have the pleasure (D. V.) of commencing the New Year with a self-sustaining circulation.
In closing our columns for this eventful year, we would ask our readers to unite with us in thanksgivings to the God of all of our mercies, that we are again blessed with Peace and Plenty. The appointed weeks of harvest have been vouchsafed to us, and the bounteous crops of corn have been safely gathered. Had we been smitten with a bad harvest, the state of the country during the approaching winter, would have been fearful. With David we would exclaim, “Let the people praise thee, O God: let all the people praise then.”
“O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” Psalm xcv. 6, 7.
VERSES by DR. HUIE, on THE FLIGHT OF TIME. WRITTEN AT THE CLOSE OF THE YEAR.
Hark! how the solemn midnight bell.
From yonder turret lone,
Proclaims, with loud and startling knell,
Another year is gone!
And shall we drain the wassail cup,
Or raise the song of glee,
As swiftly, surely, winding up
Our thread of life we see?
No! if in youth’s unthinking day.
Ere care had marked the brow,
We trifled months and years away,
Let us be wiser now:
And, conscious of the mighty debt,
We to our Maker owe,
No longer struggle to forget
We reap but what we sow!
No! Let us seek, with holy dread,
Through his exalted Son,
A pardon for the year that’s fled,
And grace for that begun:
Grace, to improve the little hour,
For peace and safety given;
Grace, to resist temptation’s pow’r,
And tread the path to heaven.
O! think that, if an opening year
A lengthened period seem,
It will but at its close appear,
A short, a troubled dream;
Approaching, Time ne’er travels fast.
To scythe and crutch he clings,
And ’tis not till for ever past,
That we perceive his wings !