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Title: Faces in the Fire - And Other Fancies
Author: Boreham, Frank, 1871-1959
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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FACES IN THE FIRE



  FACES IN THE FIRE
  and
  OTHER FANCIES


  BY F. W. BOREHAM


  AUTHOR OF 'THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HILL,' 'THE SILVER SHADOW,'
  'MUSHROOMS ON THE MOOR,' 'THE GOLDEN MILESTONE,' 'MOUNTAINS
  IN THE MIST,' 'THE LUGGAGE OF LIFE,' ETC., ETC.



  THE ABINGDON PRESS
  NEW YORK    CINCINNATI



CONTENTS


PART I

  CHAP.                                    PAGE

     I. THE BABY AMONG THE BOMBSHELLS        13

    II. STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM               24

   III. THE CONQUEST OF THE CRAGS            36

    IV. LINOLEUM                             46

     V. THE EDITOR                           57

    VI. THE PEACEMAKER                       68

   VII. NOTHING                              79

  VIII. THE ANGEL AND THE IRON GATE          89

    IX. SHORT CUTS                           98


PART II

     I. THE POSTMAN                         113

    II. CRYING FOR THE MOON                 123

   III. OUR LOST ROMANCES                   134

    IV. A FORBIDDEN DISH                    144

     V. AN OLD MAID'S DIARY                 153

    VI. THE RIVER                           163

   VII. FACES IN THE FIRE                   172

  VIII. THE MENACE OF THE SUNLIT HILL       184

    IX. AMONG THE ICEBERGS                  196


PART III

     I. A BOX OF TIN SOLDIERS               207

    II. LOVE, MUSIC, AND SALAD              216

   III. THE FELLING OF THE TREE             227

    IV. SPOIL!                              237

     V. A PHILOSOPHY OF FANCY-WORK          247

    VI. A PAIR OF BOOTS                     256

   VII. CHRISTMAS BELLS                     265



BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION


It was a chilling experience, that first glimpse of New Zealand! Hour
after hour the great ship held on her way up the Cook Straits amidst
scenery that made me shudder and that scowled me out of countenance.
Rugged, massive, inhospitable, and bare, how sternly those wild and
mountainous landscapes contrasted with the quiet beauty that I had
surveyed from the same decks as the ship had dropped down Channel! I
shaded my eyes with my hands and swept the strange horizon at every
point, but nowhere could I see a sign of habitation--no man; no beast;
no sheltering roof; no winding road; no welcoming column of smoke! And
when, in the twilight of that still autumn evening, I at length
descended the gangway, and set foot for the first time on the land of my
adoption, I found myself--twelve thousand miles from home--in a country
in which not a soul knew me, and in which I knew no single soul. It was
not an exhilarating sensation.

That was on March 11, 1895--twenty-one years ago to-night. Those
one-and-twenty years have been almost evenly divided between the old
manse at Mosgiel, in New Zealand, and my present Tasmanian home. As I
sit here, and let my memory play among the years, I smile at the odd way
in which these southern lands have belied that first austere impression.
In my fire to-night I see such crowds of faces--the faces of those with
whom I have laughed and cried, and camped and played, and worked and
worshipped in the course of these one-and-twenty years. There are
fancy-faces, too; the folk of other latitudes; the faces I have never
seen; the friends my pen has brought me. I cannot write to all to-night;
so I set aside this book as a memento of the times we have spent
together. If, by good hap, it reaches any of them, let them regard it as
a shake of the hand for the sake of auld lang syne. And if, in addition
to cementing old friendships, it creates new ones, how doubly happy I
shall be!

  FRANK W. BOREHAM.

  Hobart, Tasmania.



PART I



I

THE BABY AMONG THE BOMBSHELLS


Everything depends on keeping up the supply of bombshells. It will be a
sad day for us all when there are no more bombs to burst, no more shocks
to be sustained, no more sensations to be experienced, no more thrills
to be enjoyed. Fancy being condemned to reside in a world that is
bankrupt of astonishments, a world that no longer has it in its power to
startle you, a world that has nothing up its sleeve! It would be like
occupying a seat at a conjuring entertainment at which the conjurer had
exhausted all his tricks, but did not like to tell you so! When I was a
small boy I used to be mildly amused by the antics of a performing bear
that occasionally visited our locality. A sickly-looking foreigner led
the poor brute by a string. Its claws were cut, and its teeth drawn. By
dint of a few kicks and cuffs it was persuaded to dance a melancholy
kind of jig, and then shamble round with a basket in search of a few
half-pence. I remember distinctly that, as I watched the unhappy
creature's dismal performance, I tried to imagine what the animal would
have looked like had no cruel captor removed him from his native lair.
The mental contrast was a very painful one. Yet it was not half so
painful as the contrast between the world as it is and a world that had
run out of bombshells. A world that could no longer surprise us would be
a world with its claws cut and its teeth drawn. Half the fun of waking
up in the morning is the feeling that you have come upon a day that is
brand new, a day that the world has never seen before, a day that is
certain to do things that no other day has ever done. Half the pleasure
of welcoming a new-born baby is the absolute certainty that here you
have a packet of amazing surprises. An individuality is here; a thing
that never was before; you cannot argue from any other child to this
one; the only thing that you can predict with confidence about this
child is that it will do things that were never done, or never done in
the same way, since this old world of ours began. Here is novelty,
originality, an infinity of bewildering possibility. Each mother thinks
that there never was a baby like her baby; and most certainly there
never was. As long as the stock of days keeps up, and as long as the
supply of babies does not peter out, there will be no lack of
bombshells. I visited the other day the ruins of an old prison. I saw
among other things the dark cells in which, in the bad old days,
prisoners languished in solitary confinement. Charles Reade and other
writers have told us how, in those black holes, convicts adopted all
kinds of ingenious expedients to secure themselves against losing their
reason in the desolate darkness. They tossed buttons about and groped
after them; they tore up their clothes and counted the pieces; they did
a thousand other things, and went mad in spite of all their pains. Now
what is this horror of the darkness? Let us analyse it. Wherein does it
differ from blindness? Why did insanity overtake these solitary men? The
horror of the darkness was not fear. A child dreads the dark because he
thinks that wolves and hobgoblins infest it. But these men had no such
terrors. The thing that unbalanced them was the maddening monotony of
the darkness. Nothing happened. In the light something happens every
second. A thousand impressions are made upon the mind in the course of
every minute. Each sensation, though it be of no more importance than
the buzz of a fly at the window-pane, the flutter of a paper to the
floor, or the sound of a footfall on the street, represents a surprise.
It is a mental jolt. It transfers the attention from one object to an
entirely different one. We pass in less than a second from the buzz of
the fly to the flutter of the paper, and again from the flutter of the
paper to the sound of the footfall. Any man who could count the separate
objects that occupied his attention in the course of a single moment
would be astonished at their variety and multiplicity. But in the dark
cell there are no sensations. The eye cannot see; the ear cannot hear.
Not one of the senses is appealed to. The mind is accustomed to flit
from sensation to sensation like a butterfly flitting from flower to
flower, but infinitely faster. But in this dark cell it languishes like
a captive butterfly in a cardboard box. If you hold me under water I
shall die, because my lungs can no longer do the work they have always
been accustomed to do. In the dark cell the mind finds itself in the
same predicament. It is drowned in inky air. The mind lives on
sensations; but here there are no sensations. And if the world gets
shorn of its surprise-power, it will become a maddening place to live
in. We only exist by being continually startled. We are kept alive by
the everlasting bursting of bombshells.

I am not so much concerned, however, with the ability of the world to
afford us a continuous series of thrills as with my own capacity to be
surprised. The tendency is to lose the power of astonishment. I am told
that, in battle, the moment in which a man finds himself for the first
time under fire is a truly terrifying experience. But after awhile the
new-comer settles down to it, and, with shells bursting all around him,
he goes about his tasks as calmly as on parade. This idiosyncrasy of
ours may be a very fine thing under such circumstances, but under other
conditions it has the gravest elements of danger. As I sit here writing,
a baby crawls upon the floor. It is good fun watching him. He plays with
the paper band that fell from a packet of envelopes. He puts it round
his wrist like a bracelet. He tears it, and lo, the bracelet of a moment
ago is a long ribbon of coloured paper. He is astounded. His wide-open
eyes are a picture. The telephone rings. He looks up with approval.
Anything that rings or rattles is very much to his taste. I go over to
his new-found toy, and begin talking to it. He is dumbfounded. My
altercation with the telephone completely bewilders him. Whilst I am
thus occupied, he moves towards my vacant chair. He tries to pull
himself up by it, but pulls it over on to himself. The savagery of the
thing appals him; he never dreamed of an attack from such a source. In
what a world of wonder is he living! Bombs are bursting all around him
all day long. A baby's life must be a thrillingly sensational affair.

But the pity of it is that he will grow out of it. He may be surrounded
with the most amazing contrivances on every hand, but the wonder of it
will make little or no appeal to him. He will be like the soldier in the
trenches who no longer notices the roar and crash of the shells. When
Livingstone set out for England in 1856, he determined to take with him
Sekwebu, the leader of his African escort. But when the party reached
Mauritius, the poor African was so bewildered by the steamers and other
marvels of civilization that he went mad, threw himself into the sea,
and was seen no more. I only wish that an artist had sketched the scene
upon which poor Sekwebu gazed so nervously as he stood on the deck of
the _Frolic_ that day sixty years ago. I suspect that the 'marvels of
civilization' that so terrified him would appear to us to be very
ramshackle and antiquated affairs. We lie back in our sumptuous
motor-cars and yawn whilst surrounded on every hand with astonishments
compared with which the things that Sekwebu saw are not worthy to be
compared. That is the tragic feature of the thing. In the midst of
marvels we tend to become blasé. It is not that we are occupying a seat
at a conjuring entertainment at which the conjurer has exhausted all his
tricks, and does not like to tell you so. On the contrary, it is like
occupying a seat at a conjuring entertainment and falling fast asleep
just as the performer is getting to his most baffling and masterly
achievements. I like to watch this baby of mine among his bombshells.
The least thing electrifies him. What a sensational world this would be
if I could only contrive to retain unspoiled that childish capacity for
wonder!

I shall be told that it is the baby's ignorance that makes him so
susceptible to sensation. It is nothing of the kind. Ignorance does not
create wonder; it destroys it. I walked along a track through the bush
one day in company with two men. One was a naturalist; the other was an
ignoramus. Twenty times at least the naturalist swooped down upon some
curious grass, some novel fern, or some rare orchid. The walk that
morning was, to his knowing eyes, as sensational as a hair-raising film
at a cinematograph. But to my other companion it was absolutely
uneventful, and the only thing at which he wondered was the enthusiasm
of our common friend. When Alfred Russel Wallace was gathering in South
America his historic collection of botanical and zoological specimens,
the natives of the Amazon Valley thought him mad. He paid them
handsomely to catch creatures for which they could discover no use at
all. To him the great forests of Bolivia and Brazil were alive with
sensation. They fascinated and enthralled him. But the black men could
not understand it. They saw no reason for his rapture. Yet his wonder
was not the outcome of ignorance; it was the outcome of knowledge.
Depend upon it, the more I learn, the more sensational the world will
become. If I can only become wise enough I may recapture the glorious
amazements of the baby among his bombshells.

Now let me come to a very practical application. Half the art of life
lies in possessing effective explosives and in knowing how to use them.
In the best of his books, Jack London tells us that the secret of White
Fang's success in fighting other dogs was his power of surprise. 'When
dogs fight there are usually preliminaries--snarlings and bristlings,
and stiff-legged struttings. But White Fang omitted these. He gave no
warning of his intention. He rushed in and snapped and slashed on the
instant, without notice, before his foe could prepare to meet him. Thus
he exhibited the value of surprise. A dog taken off its guard, its
shoulder slashed open, or its ear ripped in ribbons before it knew what
was happening, was a dog half whipped.' Here is the strategy of surprise
in the wild. Has it nothing to teach me? I think it has. I remember
going for a walk one evening in New Zealand, many years ago, with a
minister whose name was at one time famous throughout the world. I was
just beginning then, and was hungry for ideas. I shall never forget
that, towards the close of our conversation, my companion stopped,
looked me full in the face, and exclaimed with tremendous emphasis,
'Keep up your surprise-power, my dear fellow; the pulpit must never,
never lose its power of startling people!' I have very often since
recalled that memorable walk; and the farther I leave the episode across
the years behind me the more the truth of that fine saying gains upon my
heart.

Let me suggest a really great question. Is it enough for a preacher to
preach the truth? In a place where I was quite unknown, I turned into a
church one day and enjoyed the rare luxury of hearing another man
preach. But, much as I appreciated the experience, I found, when I came
out, that the preacher had started a rather curious line of thought. He
was a very gracious man; it was a genuine pleasure to have seen and
heard him. And yet there seemed to be a something lacking. The sermon
was absolutely without surprise. Every sentence was splendidly true, and
yet not a single sentence startled me. There was no sting in it. I
seemed to have heard it all over and over and over again; I could even
see what was coming. Surely it is the preacher's duty to give the truth
such a setting, and present it in such a way, that the oldest truths
will appear newer than the latest sensations. He must arouse me from my
torpor; he must compel me to open my eyes and pull myself together; he
must make me sit up and think. 'Keep up your surprise-power, my dear
fellow,' said my companion that evening in the bush, speaking out of his
long and rich experience.

'The pulpit,' he said, 'must never, never lose its power of startling
people!' The preacher, that is to say, must keep up his stock of
explosives. The Bishop of London declared the other day that the Church
is suffering from too much 'dearly beloved brethren.' She would be
better judiciously to mix it with a few bombshells.

And yet, after all, I suppose it was largely my own fault that the
sermon of which I have spoken seemed to me to be so ineffective. There
are tremendous astonishments in the Christian evangel which, however
baldly stated, should fire my sluggish soul with wonder, and fill it
with amazement. The fact that I listened so blandly shows that I have
become blasé. I am like the soldier in the trenches who no longer
notices the bursting shells about him. I am like the auditor who
occupies a seat at the conjuring entertainment, but has fallen asleep
just as the thing is getting sensational.

In one of his latest books, Harold Begbie gives us a fine picture of
John Wyclif reading from his own translation of the Bible to those who
had never before listened to those stately and wonderful cadences. The
hearers look at each other with wide-open eyes, and are almost
incredulous in their astonishment. Every sentence is a sensation. They
can scarcely believe their ears. They are like the baby on the floor.
The simplicities startle them. If only I can renew the romance of my
childhood, and recapture that early sense of wonder, the world will
suddenly become as marvellous as the prince's palace in the fairy
stories, and the ministry of the Church will become life's most
sensational sensation.



II

STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM


Strawberries are delicious, as every one knows. 'It may be,' says Dr.
Boteler, a quaint old English writer, 'it may be that God could make a
better berry than a strawberry, but most certainly He never did.' Yes,
strawberries are delicious; but I am not going to write about
strawberries. Cream is also very nice, very nice indeed; but nothing
shall induce me to write about cream. I have promised myself a chapter,
neither on _strawberries_ nor on _cream_, but on _strawberries and
cream_. The distinction, as I shall endeavour to show, is a vitally
important one. Now the theme was suggested on this wise. I was walking
through the city this afternoon, when I met a gentleman from whom, only
this morning, I received an important letter. We shook hands, and were
just plunging into the subject-matter of his letter when a tall
policeman reminded us of the illegality of loitering on the pavement.
Yet it was too hot to walk about.

'Come in here,' my companion suggested, pointing to a café near by,
'and have a cup of afternoon tea.'

'No, thank you,' I replied, 'I had a cup not long ago.'

'Well, strawberries and cream, then?'

The temptation was too strong for me; he had touched a vulnerable point;
and I succumbed. The afternoon was very oppressive; the restaurant
looked invitingly cool; a quiet corner among the ferns seemed to beckon
us; and the strawberries and cream, daintily served, soon completed our
felicity.

Strawberries and cream! It is an odd conjunction when you come to think
of it. The gardener goes off to his well-kept beds and brings back a big
basket, lined with cabbage leaves, and filled to the brim with fine
fresh strawberries. The maid slips off to the dairy and returns with a
jug of rich and foamy cream. To what different realms they belong! The
gardener lives, moves, and has his being in one world; the milkmaid
spends her life in quite another. The cream belongs to the animal
kingdom; the strawberries to the vegetable kingdom. But here, on these
pretty little plates in the fern-grot are the gardener's world and the
milkmaid's world beautifully blended. Here, on the table before us, are
the animal and the vegetable kingdom perfectly supplementing and
completing each other. It is another phase of the wonder which
suggested the nursery rhyme:

  Flour of England, fruit of Spain,
  Met together in a shower of rain.

Empires confront each other within the compass of a plum-pudding;
continents salute each other in a tea-cup; the great subdivisions of the
universe greet each other in a plate of strawberries and cream. What
_ententes_, and _rapprochements_, and international conferences take
place every day among the plates and dishes that adorn our tables!

It is a thousand pities that we have no authentic record of the
discoverer of strawberries and cream. For ages the world enjoyed its
strawberries, and for ages the world enjoyed its cream. But strawberries
and cream was an unheard-of mixture. Then there dawned one of the great
days of this planet's little story, a day that ought to have been
carefully recorded and annually commemorated. History, as it is written,
betrays a sad lack of perspective. It has no true sense of proportion.
There came a fateful day on which some audacious dietetic adventurer
took the cream that had been brought from his dairy, poured it on the
strawberries that had been plucked from his garden, and discovered with
delight that the whole was greater than the sum of all its parts. Yet
of that memorable day the historian takes no notice. With the amours of
kings, the intrigues of courts, and the squabbles of statesmen he has
filled countless pages; yet only in very rare instances have these
things contributed to the sum of human happiness anything comparable to
the pleasures afforded by strawberries and cream. We have never done
justice to the intellectual prowess of the men who first tried some of
the mixtures that are to us a matter of course. Salt and potatoes, for
example. I heard the other day of a little girl who defined salt as
'that which makes potatoes very nasty if you have none of it with them.'
It is not a bad definition. But, surely, something is due to the memory
of the man who discovered that the insipidity might be removed, and the
potato be made a staple article of diet, by the simple addition of a
pinch of salt! Then, too, there are the men who found out that
horseradish is the thing to eat with roast beef; that apple sauce lends
an added charm to a joint of pork; that red currant jelly enhances the
flavour of jugged hare; that mint sauce blends beautifully with lamb;
that boiled mutton is all the better for caper sauce; and that butter is
the natural corollary of bread. 'The man of superior intellect,' says
Tennyson, in vindication of his weakness for boiled beef and new
potatoes, 'knows what is good to eat.' And George Gissing in a
reference to these selfsame new potatoes, adds a corroborative word.
'Our cook,' he says, 'when dressing these new potatoes, puts into the
saucepan a sprig of mint. This is genius. Not otherwise could the
flavour of the vegetable be so perfectly, yet so delicately, emphasized.
The mint is there, and we know it; yet our palate knows only the young
potato.' There have been thousands of statues erected to the memory of
men who have done far less to promote the happiness of mankind than did
any of these. Every great invention is preceded by thousands and
thousands of fruitless attempts. Think of the nauseous conglomerations
that must have been tried and tasted, not without a shudder, before
these happy combinations were at length launched upon the world. Think
of the jeers of derision that greeted the first announcement of these
preposterous concoctions! Imagine the guffaws when a man told his
companions that he had been eating red currant jelly with jugged hare!
Imagine the nameless dietetic atrocities that that ingenious epicure
must have perpetrated before he hit upon his ultimate triumph! I have
not the initiative to attempt it. I lack the splendid daring of the
pioneer. In a thousand years' time men will smack their lips over all
kinds of mixtures of which I should shudder to hear. I am content to go
on eating this by itself and that by itself, just as for ages men were
content to eat strawberries by themselves and cream by itself, never
dreaming that this thing and that thing as much belong to each other as
do strawberries and cream.

Now this genius for mixing things is one of the hall-marks of our
humanity. Strawberry leaves are part of the crest of a duchess; but
strawberries and cream might be regarded as a suitable crest for the
race. Man is an animal, but he is more than an animal; and he proves his
superiority by mixing things. His poorer relatives of the brute creation
never do it. They eat strawberries, and they are fond of cream; but it
would never have occurred to any one of them to mix the strawberries
with the cream. An animal, even the most intelligent and domesticated
animal, will eat one thing and then he will eat another thing; but the
idea of mixing the first thing with the second thing before eating
either never enters into his comprehension.

The strawberries and cream represent, therefore, in a pleasant and
attractive way, our human genius for mixing things. There is nothing
surprising about it. Indeed, it is eminently fitting and characteristic.
For we are ourselves such extraordinary medlies. Let any man think his
way back across the ages, and mark the ingredients that have woven
themselves into his make-up, and he will not be surprised at the
extraordinary miscellany of passions that he sometimes discovers within
the recesses of his own soul. 'I remember,' Rudyard Kipling makes the
Thames to say:

  ... I remember, like yesterday,
  The earliest Cockney who came my way,
  When he pushed through the forest that lined the Strand,
  With paint on his face and a club in his hand.
  He was death to feather and fin and fur,
  He trapped my beavers at Westminster,
  He netted my salmon, he hunted my deer,
  He killed my herons off Lambeth Pier;
  He fought his neighbour with axes and swords,
  Flint or bronze, at my upper fords,
  While down at Greenwich for slaves and tin
  The tall Phoenician ships stole in.

Men of the island caves mixed their blood with men of the great
continental forests. It was an extraordinary agglomeration.

  Norseman and Negro and Gaul and Greek
  Drank with the Britons in Barking Creek,
  And the Romans came with a heavy hand,
  And bridged and roaded and ruled the land,
  And the Roman left and the Danes blew in--
  And that's where your history books begin!

Is it any wonder that sometimes I feel, mingling with the emotions
inspired by a recent communion service, the savagery of some
long-forgotten caveman ancestor? Civilization is so very young, and
barbarism was so very old, that it is not surprising that I occasionally
hark back involuntarily to the days to which my blood was most
accustomed. I am an odd mixture considered from any point of view.
'There are very few human actions,' says Mark Rutherford, 'of which it
can be said that this or that, taken by itself, produced them. With our
inborn tendency to abstract, to separate mentally the concrete into
factors which do not exist separately, we are always disposed to assign
causes which are too simple. Nothing in nature is propelled or impeded
by one force acting alone. There is no such thing, save in the brain of
the mathematician. I see no reason why even motives diametrically
opposite should not unite in one resulting deed.' Of course not! It is
my duty, that is to say, to take myself to pieces as little as possible.
It does not really matter how much of my present temperament I got from
the communion service, and how much I got from the caveman with the club
in his hand. Here I am, a present entity, with the caveman, the
tribesman, the Roman, and the Dane all mixed up together in me; and it
is my business, instead of taking the complex mechanism to pieces, to
make it, as a united and harmonious whole, do the work for which I have
been sent into the world. I am not to talk one moment of the
strawberries on my plate, and then, in the next breath, to speak of the
cream. It is not so much a matter of strawberries _and_ cream as of
_strawberriesandcream_.

There is, I fancy, a good deal in that. We are too fond of taking the
cream from the strawberries, and the strawberries from the cream. I have
on my plate here, not two things, but one thing; and that one thing is
_strawberriesandcream_. One of the oldest and one of the silliest
mistakes that men have made is their everlasting inclination to divide
_strawberries-and-cream_ into strawberries _and_ cream. Think of the
toothless chatter concerning the sexes. Have men or women done most for
the world? Is the husband or is the wife most essential to the home? It
will be quite time enough to attempt to answer such ridiculous questions
when the waitresses at the restaurants begin to ask us whether we will
have strawberries _or_ cream! In the beginning, we are told, God created
man in His own image, male and female created He them. It is not so much
a matter of male _and_ female: it is _maleandfemale_, just as it is
_strawberriesandcream_. The thing takes other forms. Which do you
prefer--summer or winter? As though we should appreciate summer if we
never had a winter, or winter if we never had a summer! Is song or
speech the most effective evangelistic agency? As though there would be
anything to sing about if the gospel had never been preached! Or
anything worth preaching if the gospel had never set anybody singing! It
is so very ridiculous to try to separate the strawberries from the
cream. Miss Rosaline Masson, in commenting upon Wordsworth's beautiful
sonnet on Westminster Bridge, says that it is the outcome of Dorothy
Wordsworth's divine power of perception and her brother's divine power
of expression. But who would dare to take the sonnet to pieces and say
how much is Dorothy's, and how much is William's? It is Dorothy's and
William's. It is strawberries and cream.

I always feel extremely sorry for the man who tries to move a vote of
thanks at the close of a pleasant and successful function. Not for
worlds could I be persuaded to attempt it. It is a most difficult and
complicated business, and I should collapse utterly. It consists in
taking the whole performance to pieces and allocating the praise. So
much for the decorators; so much for the singers; so much for the
elocutionists; so much for the speakers; so much for the chairman; so
much for the pianist; so much for the secretary; and so on. To me it
would be like furnishing a statistical table on leaving the restaurant
showing how much of my enjoyment I owed to the strawberries and how much
to the cream. Dissection is not in my line. I only know that I
thoroughly enjoyed the _strawberriesandcream_.

In selecting strawberries and cream as emblems of the mixed things of
life, I fancy that my choice is a particularly happy one. That cream
must be mixed with other foods goes without saying; and in Shakespeare's
most notable reference to strawberries it is the same peculiarity that
seems to have impressed him. He has a very pleasing allusion to the
facility with which the strawberry mixes with other things. The passage
occurs at the beginning of _King Henry the Fifth_. The Archbishop of
Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely are discussing the new king. They are
astonished at the change which has overtaken him since his accession. As
a prince he was wild and dissolute, and broke his father's heart. But,
as soon as he became king, he instantly sent for his boon-companions,
told them that he intended by God's good grace to live an entirely new
life, and begged them to follow his example. As the Archbishop of
Canterbury puts it:

  The breath no sooner left his father's body
  But that his wildness, mortified in him,
  Seemed to die, too. Yea, at that very moment.
  Consideration like an angel came,
  And whipped the offending Adam out of him.
  Leaving his body as a paradise,
  To envelop and contain celestial spirits.

To which the Bishop of Ely replies:

  The strawberry grows underneath the nettle,
  And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best,
  Neighboured by fruit of baser quality.

It is a suggestive passage, considered from any point of view We live
mixed lives in a mixed world, and we do not come upon the strawberries
by themselves or all at once. We may find strawberries to-morrow where
we can discover nothing but stinging-nettles to-day 'Madcap Harry' was
not the only son whose life at first yielded nothing but nettles that
stung and lacerated his father's soul, and yet afterwards produced
strawberries that were the delight, not only of the Church, but of the
world at large.



III

THE CONQUEST OF THE CRAGS


I was strolling one still evening along a lonely New Zealand shore, when
I made a grim discovery that has often set me thinking. I had been
walking along the wet and crinkled sands, the tide being out, and had
amused myself with the shells and the seaweed that had been left lying
about by the receding waters. There is always a peculiar charm about
such a stroll. It holds such infinite possibilities. One seems to be
exploiting the surprise-packet of the universe. Jane Barlow, in her
_Bogland Studies_, makes one of her characters say:

  What use is one's life widout chances? Ye've always a chance
    wid the tide;
  For ye never can tell what 'twill take in its head to strew
    round on the shore;
  Maybe driftwood, or grand bits of boards that come handy for
    splicing an oar,
  Or a crab skytin' back o'er the shine o' the wet; sure,
    whatever ye've found,
  It's a sort of diversion them whiles when ye've starvin' and
    strelin' around.

Absorbed in so delightful an occupation the passage of time escaped my
attention, until suddenly I noticed that twilight was rapidly falling,
and I thought of my return. Before retracing my steps, however, I sat
down for a moment's rest among the sand-dunes. The possibility of making
a discovery among those arid mounds did not occur to me. But, as I sat
absent-mindedly poking the soft sand with my stick, I suddenly struck
something hard. I proceeded to dig it out, and found a couple of human
skulls. They adorn the top shelf of my book-case before me at this
moment. They always look down upon me as I write. I often catch myself
leaning back in my chair, staring up at them, and trying to read their
secret. Who were they, I wonder, these two bony companions of mine? Two
Maoris finishing, among the lonely dunes, their last fierce fatal feud?
Two travellers, hopelessly lost, who threw themselves down here to die?
A couple of sailors, whose ship had struck the cruel reefs out yonder,
and whose bodies were tossed up here by the pitiless waves? A pair of
lovers trapped by the treacherous tide? I cannot tell. What a
tantalizing mystery they seem to hold, as they grin down at me from this
high shelf of mine! It is part of the ghostly sense of mystery that
always haunts the sea and its tragedies. On the land, when disaster
occurs, all the wreckage is left to tell its own tale; but on the ocean
Fate instantly obliterates all her tracks. The magnificent vessel
lurches over, plunges with a roar into the deep, and the waves close
over the frightful ruin. Compared with the silence of the sea, the
Sphinx is voluble. The deep, dark, icy ocean-bed guards its secrets, and
guards them well.

Sometimes, however, it is more easy to read the riddle. Here in
Tasmania, within easy reach of this quiet study of mine, there is a
battle-field that I love to visit. It extends for miles and miles, and
the whole place is strewn with the wreckage that tells of the titanic
conflict. I do not mean that the place is littered with dead men's
bones. It was a far finer and a far fiercer fight than men could have
waged, and it lasted longer than any war recorded in the annals of
history. It is the battle-field on which the land fought the sea. It is
a rocky and precipitous coast. Sometimes I like to walk along the top of
the cliff, and look down upon the pile of massive boulders that lie
tumbled in picturesque and bewildering confusion about the beach below.
Or, at low tide, I like to make my way among those monstrous piles of
broken rock that lie, higgledy-piggledy, all along the shore. What a
fight it was, day and night, summer and winter, year in and year out,
age after age! Occasionally the attack slackened down, and the rippling
waters merely lapped softly against the rocks. But there was no real
truce. The sea was only gathering up its forces in secret for the
majestic assault that was to come. Then the great breakers came rushing
in, like regiments of cavalry in full career, and each huge wave hurled
itself upon the crags with such fury that the spray dashed up sky high.

It was a titanic struggle, and the waters won. That is the extraordinary
thing--the waters won. The water seems so soft, so yielding, so fluid,
and the rocks seem so impregnable, so adamantine, so immutable. Yet the
waters always win. The land makes no impression on the sea; but the sea
grinds the land to powder. I know that the sea is often spoken of as the
natural emblem of all that is fickle and changeful; but it is a pure
illusion. There are, of course superficial variations of tone and tint
and temper; but, as compared with the kaleidoscopic changes that
overtake the land, the ocean is eternally and everywhere the same. It,
and not the rocks, is the symbol of immutability. 'Look at the sea!'
exclaims Max Pemberton, in _Red Morn_. 'How I love it! I like to think
that those great rolling waves will go leaping by a thousand years from
now. There is never any change about the sea. You never come back to it
and say, "How it's changed!" or "Who's been building here?" or "Where's
the old place I loved?" No; it is always the same. I suppose if one
stood here for a million years the sea would not be different. You're
quite sure of it, and it never disappoints you.' The land, on the
contrary, is for ever changing. Man is always working his
transformations, and Nature is toiling to the same end.

'When the Romans came to England,' says Frank Buckland, the naturalist,
'Julius Caesar probably looked upon an outline of cliff very different
from that which holds our gaze to-day. First there comes a sun-crack
along the edge of the cliff; the rain-water gets into the crack; then
comes the frost. The rain-water in freezing expands, and by degrees
wedges off a great slice of chalk cliff; down this tumbles into the
water; and Neptune sets his great waves to work to tidy up the mess.' No
man can know the veriest rudiments of geology without recognizing that
it is the land, and not the sea, that is constantly changing. We may
visit some historic battle-field to-day, and, finding it a network of
bustling streets and crowded alleys, may hopelessly fail to repeople the
scene with the battalions that wheeled and charged, wavered and rallied,
there in the brave days of old. But when, from the deck of a steamer, I
surveyed the blue and tossing waters off Cape Trafalgar, I knew that I
was gazing upon the scene just as it presented itself to the eye of
Nelson on the day of his immortal victory and glorious death more than a
century ago.

Now, beneath this triumph of the ocean--the triumph that leaves the land
in fragments whilst the sea itself sustains no injury--there lies a
deeper significance than at first appears. Job saw it. No elusive
secret, lurking in the universe around him, escaped his restless eye.
'The waters wear the stones!' he cried, and it was a shout of victory
that rose from his heart when he said it. 'The waters wear the stones,'
he exclaimed, 'and Thou washest away the things which grow out of the
dust of the earth.' It is the death-knell of the material. It is the
triumph of the eternal. A little child looks upon the great granite
cliffs, and it seems impossible that the lapping waves can ever pound
them to pieces. But they do. And in the same way, Job says, man seems so
impregnable, and the world so mighty, that it appears a thing incredible
that God can finally prevail. But He shall. The quiet waters conquer the
frowning cliffs at length. The walls of Jericho fall down. This is the
victory that overcometh the world.

And so here on this battle-field where the land and the sea fought for
mastery, I find Job sitting, and he interprets for me the paean that the
waves are singing. It is the laughter of their triumph. 'The waters wear
away the stones.' That was the heartening message that gave to Spain one
of her very greatest teachers. St. Isidore of Seville was only a boy at
the time. He found his lessons hard to learn. Study was a drudgery, and
he was tempted to give up. The huge obstacles against which he, like the
waves at the base of the cliff, was beating out his life seemed
adamantine. So he ran away from school. But in the heat of the day he
sat down to rest beside a little spring that trickled over a rock. He
noticed that the water fell in drops, and only one drop at a time; yet
those drops had worn away a large stone. It reminded him of the tasks he
had forsaken, and he returned to his desk. Diligent application overcame
his dullness, and made him one of the first scholars of his time. He
never forgot the drops of water, dripping, dripping, dripping on the
rock that they were conquering. 'Those drops of water,' says his
biographer, 'gave to Spain a brilliant historian, and to the Church a
famous doctor.'

It is always the gentle things of life that conquer us. 'The moving
waters'--to quote Keats' beautiful phrase--

  The moving waters at their priest-like task
  Of pure ablution round earth's human shores'

wear down the towering cliffs along the coast. It is Aesop's fable of
the North Wind and the sun over again. The North Wind, with its violence
and bluster, only makes the traveller button his coat the tighter. It
is the genial warmth of the sun that makes him take it off. It is always
by gentleness that the adamantine world is mastered. That is one of
life's most lovely secrets. We are not ruled as much as we think by
parliaments and commandments and enactments. The proportion of our lives
that is governed by such things is very small. But the proportion that
is dominated by gentler and more winsome forces is very great. The
voices that sway us with a regal authority are soft and tender voices,
the voices of those whose genial goodness compels us to love them. The
imperial tones to which we capitulate unconditionally are very rarely
stern official tones. Who does not remember how, in _The Rosary_, the
Hon. Jane Champion asks Garth Dalmain why he does not marry? And Garth
tells her of old Margery, his childhood's friend and nurse, now his
housekeeper and general mender and tender--old Margery, with her black
satin apron, lawn kerchief, and lavender ribbons. 'No doubt, Miss
Champion, it will seem absurd to you that I should sit here on the
duchess's lawn and confess that I have been held back from proposing
marriage to the women I most admired because of what would have been my
old nurse's opinion of them.' Yet so it invariably is. Our servants are
often our masters. Life's loftiest authorities never derive their
sanctions from rank, office, or station. The soul has enthronements and
coronations of its own. A little child often leads it. A Carpenter
becomes its king. Out of Nazareth comes the Conqueror of the World. The
pure and cleansing waters wear down the giant crags at the last.

But with purity and gentleness must go patience. The lapping waters do
not reduce the rocky strata at a blow. It is always by means of patience
that the finest conquests are won. Who that has read Jack London's _Call
of the Wild_ will ever forget the great fight at the end of the book
between Buck, the dog hero, and the huge bull-moose? 'Three
hundredweight more than half a ton he weighed, the old bull; he had
lived a long, strong life, full of fight and struggle, and at the end he
faced death at the teeth of a creature whose head did not reach beyond
his great knuckled knees!' How was it done? 'There is a patience in the
wild,' Jack London says, 'a patience dogged, tireless, persistent as
life itself'; and it was by means of this patience that Buck brought
down his stately antlered prey. 'Night and day, Buck never left him,
never gave him a moment's rest, never permitted him to browse on the
leaves of the trees or the shoots of the young birch or willow. Nor did
he give the old bull one single opportunity to slake his burning thirst
in the slender, trickling streams they crossed.' For four days Buck
hung pitilessly at the huge beast's heels, and at the end of the fourth
day he pulled the bull-moose down. Buck looked so little, but he wore
the monarch out. The waters seem so feeble, but they beat the rocks to
powder. It is thus that the foolish things of this world always confound
the wise; the weak things conquer the mighty; and the things that are
not bring to naught the things that are.



IV

LINOLEUM


True love is never utilitarian. I am well aware that, in novels and in
plays, the fair heroine considerately falls in love with the brave man
who, at a critical moment, saves her from a watery grave or from the
lurid horrors of a burning building. It is very good of the lady in the
novel. I admire the gratitude which prompts her romantic affection, and,
nine times out of ten, my judgement cordially approves her taste. I
know, too, that, in fiction, the sick or wounded hero invariably falls
desperately in love with the devoted nurse whose patient and untiring
attention ensures his recovery. It is very good of the hero. Again I
say, I admire his gratitude and almost invariably endorse his choice.
But it must be distinctly understood that this sort of thing is strictly
confined to novels and theatricals. In real life, men and women do not
fall in love out of gratitude. As a matter of fact, I am much more
likely to fall in love with somebody for whom I have done something than
with somebody who has done something for me.

I was talking the other day with a nurse in a children's hospital. It is
a heartbreaking business, she told me. 'You get into the way of nursing
them, and comforting them, and playing with them, and mothering them,
until you feel that they belong to you. And then, just as you have come
to love the little thing as though he were your own, out he goes. And he
always goes out with his father or his mother, clapping his hands for
very joy at the excitement of going home, and you are left with a big
lump in your throat, and perhaps a tear in your eye, at the thought that
you will never see him again!' Clearly, therefore, we do not fall in
love as a matter of gratitude. The people who cling to us and depend
upon us are much more likely to win our hearts than the people who have
placed us under an obligation to them. If, instead of telling us that
the heroine fell in love with the man who had saved her from drowning,
the novelist had told us that the man who risked his life by plunging
into the river fell in love with the white and upturned face as he laid
it gently on the bank; or if, instead of telling us that the patient
fell in love with the nurse, he had told us that the nurse fell in love
with the patient upon whom she had lavished such beautiful devotion, he
would have been much more true to nature and to real life. It is
indisputable, of course, that, the rescuer having fallen in love with
the rescued, she may soon discover his secret, and, since love begets
love, reciprocate his affection. It is equally true that, the nurse
having conceived so tender a passion for her patient, he may soon read
the meaning of the light in her eye and of the tone in her voice, and
feel towards her as she first felt towards him. But that is quite
another matter, and is beside our point at present. Just now, I am only
concerned with challenging the novelist's unwarrantable assumption that
we fall in love out of gratitude. We do nothing of the kind. Love, I
repeat, is never utilitarian. We may fall hopelessly in love with a
thing that is of very little use to us; and we may feel no sentimental
attractions at all towards a thing that is almost indispensable. If any
man dares to dispute these conclusions, I shall simply produce a roll of
linoleum in support of my arguments, and he will be promptly crushed
beneath the weight of argument that the linoleum will furnish.

The linoleum is the most conspicuous feature of the domestic
establishment. It is impertinent, self-assertive, and loud. If you visit
a house in which there is a linoleum, the thing rushes at you, and you
see it even before the front door has been opened. Every minister who
spends his afternoons in knocking at people's doors knows exactly what I
mean. The very sound of the knock tells you a good deal. Such sounds
are of three kinds. There is the echoing and reverberating knock that
tells you of bare boards; there is the dead and sombre thud that tells
of linoleum on the floor; and there is the softened and muffled tap that
tells of a hall well carpeted. And so I say that the linoleum--if there
be one--rushes at you, and you seem to see it even before the door has
been opened. Perhaps it is this immodesty on its part that prevents your
liking it. It is always with the coy, shy, modest things that we fall in
love most readily.

But however that may be, the fact remains. Since this queer old world of
ours began, men and women have fallen in love with all sorts of strange
things; but there is no record of any man or woman yet having really
fallen in love with a roll of linoleum. Of everything else about the
house you get very fond. I can understand a man shedding tears when his
arm-chair has to go to the sale-room or the scrap-heap. Robert Louis
Stevenson once told the story of his favourite chair until he moved his
schoolboy audience to tears! And everybody knows how Dickens makes you
laugh and cry at the drollery and pathos with which, in all his books,
he invests chairs, tables, clocks, pictures, and every other article of
furniture. I fancy I should feel life to be less worth living if I were
deprived of some of the household odds and ends with which all my
felicity seems to be mysteriously associated. But I cannot conceive of
myself as yielding to even a momentary sensation of tenderness over the
sale, destruction, or exchange of any of the linoleums. I feel perfectly
certain that neither Stevenson nor Dickens would ever have felt an atom
of sentiment concerning linoleum. Yet why? Few things about the house
are more serviceable. I could point offhand to a hundred things no one
of which has earned its right to a place in the home one-hundredth part
as nobly as has the linoleum. Yet I am very fond of each of those
hundred things, whilst I am not at all fond of the linoleum. I
appreciate it, but I do not love it. So there it is! Said I not truly
that love is never utilitarian? We grow fond of things because we grow
fond of things; we never grow fond of things simply because they are of
use to us.

But we cannot in decency let the matter rest at that. There must be some
reason for the failure of the linoleum to stir my affections. Why does
it alone, among my household goods and chattels, kindle no warmth within
my soul? The linoleum is both pretty and useful; what more can I want?
Many things pretty, but not useful, have swept me off my feet. Many
things useful, but not pretty, have captivated my heart. And more than
once things neither pretty nor useful have completely enslaved me. Yet
here is the linoleum, both pretty and useful, and I feel for it no
fondness whatsoever; I remain as cold as ice, and as hard as adamant.
Why is it? To begin with, I fancy the pattern has something to do with
it. I do not now refer to any particular pattern; but to all the
linoleum patterns that were ever designed. Those endless squares and
circles and diamonds and stars! Could anything be more repelling? Here,
for instance, on the linoleum, I find a star. I know at once that if I
look I shall see hundreds of similar stars. They will all be in
perfectly straight lines, not one a quarter of an inch out of its place.
They will all be mathematically equidistant; they will be of exactly the
same size, of identically the same colour, and their angles will all
point in precisely the same direction. If the stars in the firmament
above us were arranged on the same principle, they would drive us mad.
The beauty of it is that, _there_, one star differeth from another star
in glory. But on the linoleum they do nothing of the sort.

Or perhaps the pattern is a floral one. It thinks to coax me into a
feeling that I am in the garden among the roses, the rhododendrons, or
the chrysanthemums. But it is a hopeless failure. Whoever saw roses,
rhododendrons, or chrysanthemums, all of exactly the same size, of
precisely the same colour, and hanging in rows at mathematically
identical levels? The beauty of the garden is that having looked at
_this_ rose, I am the more eager to see _that_ one; having admired
_this_ chrysanthemum, I am the more curious to mark the variety
presented by _the next_. No two are precisely the same. And because this
infinite diversity is the essential charm both of the heavens above and
of the earth beneath, I am shocked and repelled by the monotony of the
pattern on the linoleum. In the old days it was customary to plaster the
walls, even of sick-rooms, with papers of patterns equally pronounced,
and many a poor patient was tortured almost to death by the glaring
geometrical abominations. The doctor said that the sufferer was to be
kept perfectly quiet; yet the pattern on the wall is allowed to scream
at him and shout at him from night until morning, and from morning until
night. He has counted those awful stars or roses, perpendicularly,
horizontally, diagonally, from right to left, from left to right, from
top to bottom, and from bottom to top, until the hideous monstrosities
are reproduced in frightful duplicate upon the fevered tissues of his
throbbing brain. He may close his eyes, but he sees them still. It was a
form of torture worthy of an inquisitor-general. The pattern on the
linoleum is happily not quite so bad. When we are ill we do not see it;
and when we are well we may to some extent avoid it. Not altogether; for
even if we do not look at it, we have an uncanny feeling that it is
there. Between the hearthrug and the table I catch sight of the bright
flaunting head of a scarlet poppy, or of the tossing petals of a huge
chrysanthemum, and my imagination instantly flashes to my mind the
horrible impression of tantalizing rows of exactly similar blossoms
running off with mathematical precision in every conceivable direction.

For some reason or other we instinctively recoil from these monotonous
regularities. I once heard a friend observe that the average woman would
rather marry a man whose life was painfully irregular than a man whose
life was painfully regular. It may have been an over-statement of the
case; but there is something in it. We fall in love with good people,
and we fall in love with bad people; but with the man who is 'too
proper,' and the woman who is 'too straight-laced,' we very, very rarely
fall in love. It is the problem of Tennyson's 'Maud.' As a girl Maud was
irregular--and lovable.

  Maud, with her venturous climbings and tumbles and childish escapes,
  Maud, the delight of the village, the ringing joy of the Hall,
  Maud, with her sweet purse-mouth when my father dangled the grapes,
  Maud, the beloved of my mother, the moon-faced darling of all.

But later on Maud was regular--and as unattractive as linoleum.

  ... Maud, she has neither savour nor salt,
  But a cold and clear-cut face, as I found when her carriage passed,
  Perfectly beautiful: let it be granted her: where is the fault?
  All that I saw (for her eyes were downcast, not to be seen)
  Faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null,
  Dead perfection, no more.

Shall I be told that this is high doctrine, and hard to bear, this
doctrine of the lovableness of irregularity? I think not. Towering above
all our biographies, as snowclad heights tower above dusty little
molehills, there stands the life-story of One who, alone among the sons
of men, was altogether good. It is the most charming and the most varied
life-story that has ever been written since this little world began. Its
lovely deeds and graceful speech, its tender pathos and its awful
tragedy, have won the hearts of men all over the world, and all down the
ages. But find monotony there if you can! It is like a sky full of stars
or a field of fairest flowers. The life that repels, as the linoleum
repels, by the very severity of its regularity, has something wrong with
it somewhere.

If I have outraged the sensibilities of any well-meaning champion of a
geometrical and mathematical and linoleum-like regularity, let me hasten
to conciliate him! I know that even regularity--the regularity of the
linoleum pattern--may have its advantages. Dr. George MacDonald, in
_Robert Falconer_, says that 'there is a well-authenticated story of a
notorious convict who was reformed by entering, in one of the colonies,
a church where the matting along the aisle was of the same pattern as
that in the church to which he had gone with his mother as a boy.'
Bravo! It is pleasant, extremely pleasant, to find that even monotony
has its compensations. Let me but get to know my 'too proper' and
'straight-laced' friends a little better, and I shall doubtless discover
even there a few redeeming features.

But, for all that, the linoleum is cold; and we do not fall in love with
cold things. A volcano is a much more dangerous affair than an iceberg;
but it is much more easy to fall in love with the things that make you
shudder than with the things that make you shiver. That was the trouble
with Maud, she was so chilly and chilling; her 'cold and clear-cut face,
faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null!' And that is
precisely the trouble with every system of religion, morality, or
philosophy--save one--that has ever been presented to the minds of men.
Plato and Aristotle and Marcus Aurelius were splendid, simply splendid;
but they were frigid, frigid as Maud, and their counsels of perfection
could never have enchained my heart. Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed--the
stars of the East--were wonderful, but oh, so cold! I turn from these
icy regularities to the lovely life I have already mentioned. And, to
use Whittier's expressive word, it is 'warm.'

  Yes, warm, sweet, tender, even yet
    A present help is He;
  And faith has yet its Olivet,
    And love its Galilee.

_'Warm'_ ... _'love'_ ... here are words that touch my soul to tears.
'We love Him because _He first loved us_.' The monotony and frigidity of
the linoleum have given way to the beauty and the brightness of flowery
fields all bathed in summer sunshine.



V

THE EDITOR


I approach my present theme with considerable diffidence, for reasons
obvious and for reasons obscure. For one thing, I was for some years an
editor myself, and I cannot satisfy myself that the experiment was even
a moderate success. Everything went splendidly, so far as I was
concerned, as long as I wrote everything myself; but I was terribly
pestered by other people. They worried me year in and year out, morning,
noon, and night. They would insist on sending me manuscripts that I had
neither the grace to accept nor the courage to decline. They wrote the
most learned treatises, the most pathetic stories, and the most
affecting little sonnets. The latter, they explained, were for Poet's
Corner. They actually deluged me with letters, intended for publication,
dealing with all sorts of subjects in which I took not the slightest
glimmer of interest. They sometimes even presumed, in some carping or
captious way, to criticize or review things that I had myself
written--as though such things were open to question! At other times
they wrote to applaud the sentiments I had expressed--as though I
needed their corroboration! They were an awful nuisance. The stupid
thing was only a monthly, and how they imagined that there would be any
room for _their_ contributions, by the time I had been a whole month
writing, passes my comprehension. Then came the awakening, and it was a
rude one. I suddenly realized that I was a fraud, a delusion, and a
snare. I was not an editor at all. I was simply masquerading, playing a
great game of bluff and make-believe. As a matter of fact, I was nothing
more than an objectionably garrulous contributor who had gained
possession of the editor's sanctum, usurped the editor's authority, and
commandeered the editor's chair. I felt so ashamed of myself that I
precipitately fled, and, although I have several times since been
invited to assume editorial responsibilities, I have shown my profound
respect for journalism by politely but firmly declining. It does not at
all follow that, because a man can make a few bricks, he can therefore
build a mansion. A chemist may be very clever at making up
prescriptions, but that does not prove his ability to prescribe.

During the years to which I have referred, that paper really had no
editor. An editor would have done three things. He would have written a
few wise words himself. He would have pitilessly repressed my
unconscionable volubility. And he would have given the public the
benefit of some of those carefully prepared contributions which I, with
savage satisfaction, hurled into the waste-paper basket. It would have
been a good thing for the paper if the editorials had been so few and so
brief that people could have been reasonably expected to read them. They
would then have attached to them the gravity and authority that such
contributions should normally carry. And it would have been good for the
world in general, and for me in particular, if liberal quantities of my
manuscript had been substitutionally sacrificed in redemption of some of
those rolls of paper, whose destruction I now deplore, which I consigned
to limbo with so light a heart. Since then I have had a fairly wide
experience of editors, and the years have increased my respect. 'O
Lord,' an up-country suppliant once exclaimed at the week-night
prayer-meeting, 'O Lord, the more I sees of other people the more I
likes myself!' I do not quite share the good man's feeling, at any rate
so far as editors are concerned. The more I have seen of the ways of
other editors the less am I pleased with the memory of my own attempt.
The way in which these other editors have treated my own manuscript
makes me blush for very shame as I remember my editorial intolerance of
such packages. Very occasionally an editor has found it necessary to
delete some portion of my contribution, and, nine times out of ten, I
have admired the perspicacity which detected the excrescence and
strengthened the whole by removing the part. I say nine times out of
ten; but I hint at the tenth case in no spirit of resentment or
bitterness. I am young yet, and the years may easily teach me that, even
in the instances that still seem doubtful to me, I am under a deep and
lasting obligation to the editorial surgery.

The editor is the emblem of all those potent, elusive, invisible forces
that control our human destinies. We are clearly living in an edited
world. We may not always agree with the editor; it would be passing
strange if we did. We may see lots of things admitted that we, had we
been editor, would have vigorously excluded. The venom of the cobra, the
cruelty of the wolf, the anguish of a sickly babe, and the flaunting
shame of the street corner; had I been editor I should have ruthlessly
suppressed all these contributions. But my earlier experience of
editorship haunts my memory to warn me. I was too fond of rejecting
things in those days. I was too much attached to the waste-paper basket.
And I have been sorry for it ever since. And perhaps when I have lived a
few aeons longer, and have had experience of more worlds than one, I
shall feel ashamed of my present inclination to doubt the editor's
wisdom. Knowing as little as I know, I should certainly have rejected
these contributions with scorn and impatience. The fangs of the viper,
the teeth of the crocodile, and all things hideous and hateful, I should
have intolerantly excluded. And, some ages later, with the experience of
a few millenniums and the knowledge of many worlds to guide me, I should
have lamented my folly, even as I now deplore my old editorial
exclusiveness.

And, on the other hand, we sometimes catch a glimpse of the editor's
waste-paper basket, and the revelation is an astounding one. The waste
of the world is terrific. And among these rejected manuscripts I see
some most exquisitely beautiful things. The other day, not far from
here, a snake bit a little girl and killed her. Now here was a curious
freak of editorship! On the editor's table there lay two manuscripts.
There was the snake--a loathsome, scaly brute, with wicked little eyes
and venomous fangs, a thing that made your flesh creep to look at it.
And there was the little girl, a sweet little thing with curly hair and
soft blue eyes, a thing that you could not see without loving. Had I
been there, I should have tried to kill the snake and save the child.
That is to say, I should have accepted the child-manuscript, and
rejected the snake-manuscript. But the editor does exactly the opposite.
The snake-manuscript is accepted; the horrid thing glides through the
bush at this moment as a recognized part of the scheme of the universe.
The child-manuscript is rejected; it is thrown away; have we not seen
it, like a crumpled poem, in the editor's waste-paper basket? How
differently I should have acted had I been editor! And then, when I
afterwards reviewed my editorship, as I to-day review that other
editorship of mine, I should have seen that I was wrong. And that
reflection makes me very thankful that I am not the editor. We shall yet
come to see, in spite of all present appearances to the contrary, that
the editor adopted the kindest, wisest, best course with each of the
manuscripts presented. We shall see

  That nothing walks with aimless feet;
    That not one life shall be destroyed,
    Or cast as rubbish to the void,
  When God hath made the pile complete;

  That not a worm is cloven in vain;
    That not a moth with vain desire
    Is shrivelled in a fruitless fire,
  Or but subserves another's gain.

Everybody feels at liberty to criticize the Editor; but, depend upon it,
when all the information is before us that is before Him, we shall see
that our paltry judgement was very blind. And we shall recognize with
profound admiration that we have been living in a most skilfully edited
world.

For, after all, that is the point. The Editor knows so much more than I
do. He has eyes and ears in the ends of the earth. His sanctum seems so
remote from everything, and yet it is an observatory from which He
beholds all the drama of the world's great throbbing life. When I was a
boy I was very fond of a contrivance that was called a camera-obscura. I
usually found it among the attractions of a seaside town. You paid a
penny, entered a room, and sat down beside a round white table. The
operator followed, and closed the door. The place was then in total
darkness; you could not see your hand before you. It seemed incredible
that in this black hole one could get a clearer view of all that was
happening in the neighbourhood than was possible out in the sunlight.
Yet, as soon as the lens above you was opened, the whole scene appeared
like a moving coloured photograph on the white table. The waves breaking
on the beach; the people strolling on the promenade; everything was
faithfully depicted there. Not a dog could wag his tail but there, in
the darkness, you saw him do it. An observer who watched you enter, and
saw the door close after you, could be certain that now, for awhile, you
were cut off from everything. And yet, as a fact, you only went into the
darkness that you might see the whole scene in the more perfect
perspective. What is this but the editor's sanctum? He enters it and,
to all appearances, he leaves the world behind him as he does so. But it
is a mere illusion. He enters it that he may see the whole world more
clearly from its quiet seclusion.

In the same way, when I look round upon the world, and see the things
that are allowed to happen, the Editor seems fearfully aloof. He seems
to have gone into His heaven and closed the door behind Him. 'Clouds and
darkness are round about Him,' says the psalmist. And if clouds and
darkness are round about Him, is it any wonder that His vision is
obscure? If clouds and darkness are round about Him, is it any wonder
that He acts so strangely? If clouds and darkness are round about Him,
is it any wonder that He rejects the child-manuscript and accepts the
snake-manuscript? And yet, and yet; what if the darkness that envelops
Him be the darkness of the camera-obscura? The psalmist declares that it
is just because clouds and darkness are round about Him that
righteousness and judgement are the habitation of His throne. It is a
darkness that obscures Him from me without in the slightest degree
concealing me from Him.

So there the editor sits in his seclusion. Nobody is so unobtrusive. You
may read your paper, day after day, year in and year out, without even
discovering the editor's name. You would not recognize him if you met
him on the street. He may be young or old, tall or short, stout or
slim, dark or fair, shabby or genteel--you have no idea. There is
something strangely mysterious about the elusive individuality of that
potent personage who every day draws so near to you, and yet of whom you
know so little. One of these days I shall be invited to preach a special
sermon to editors, and, in view of so dazzling an opportunity, I have
already selected my text. I shall speak of that Ideal Servant of
Humanity of whom the prophet tells. 'He shall not scream, nor be loud,
nor advertise Himself,' Isaiah says, 'but He shall never break a bruised
reed nor quench a smouldering wick.' That would make a great theme for a
sermon to editors. There He is, so mysterious and yet so mighty; so
remote and yet so omniscient; so invisible and yet so eloquent; so slow
to obtrude Himself and yet so swift to discern any flickering spark of
genius in others. He shall not advertise Himself nor quench a single
smouldering wick.

There are two great moments in the history of a manuscript. The first is
the moment of its preparation; the second is the moment of its
appearance. And in between the two comes the editor's censorship and
revision. I said just now that I had noticed that editorial emendations
are almost invariably distinct improvements. The article as it appears
is better than the article as it left my hands. Now let me think. I
spoke a moment ago of the child-manuscript and the snake-manuscript; but
what about myself? Am not I too a manuscript, and shall I not also fall
into the Editor's hands? What about all the blots, and the smudges, and
the erasures, and the alterations? Will they all be seen when I appear,
_when I appear_? The Editor sees to that. The Editor will take care that
none of the smudges on this poor manuscript shall be seen when I appear.
'For we know,' says one of the Editor's most intimate friends, 'we know
that _when we appear_ we shall be like Him--without spot or wrinkle or
any such thing!' It is a great thing to know that, before I appear, I
shall undergo the Editor's revision.

Charlie was very excited. His father was a sailor. The ship was homeward
bound, and dad would soon be home. Thinking so intently and exclusively
of his father's coming, Charlie determined to carve out a ship of his
own. He took a block of wood, and set to work. But the wood was hard,
and the knife was blunt, and Charlie's fingers were very small.

'Dad may be here when you wake up in the morning, Charlie!' his mother
said to him one night.

That night Charlie took his ship and his knife to bed with him. When his
father came at midnight Charlie was fast asleep, the blistered hand on
the counterpane not far from the knife and the ship. The father took
the ship, and, with his own strong hand, and his own sharp knife, it was
soon a trim and shapely vessel. Charlie awoke with the lark next
morning, and, proudly seizing his ship, he ran to greet his father; and
it is difficult to say which of the two was the more proud of it. It is
an infinite comfort to know that, however blotted and blurred this poor
manuscript may be when I lay down my pen at night, the Editor will see
to it that I have nothing to be ashamed of _when I appear_ in the
morning.



VI

THE PEACEMAKER


Things had come to a pretty pass up at Corinth, when Paul felt it
incumbent upon him to write to the members of the Church, imploring them
to be reconciled to God. 'Now then,' Paul said to those recalcitrant
believers, 'now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did
beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, _be ye reconciled to
God_.' I used to wonder what he can possibly have meant; but now I think
I understand.


I

Claudius was wealthy. He dwelt in a beautiful house on the top of a
hill, on the eastern side of the city of Corinth. From his spacious
balconies he looked down upon the blue, blue waters of the Adriatic as
they lapped caressingly the sands of the bay on the one side, and on the
spreading sapphire of the island-studded Aegean gleaming most charmingly
upon the other. Away in the distance he commanded a magnificent
prospect, and could clearly make out the towers and domes of Athens as
they pierced the sky on the far horizon. The Acropolis could be seen
distinctly. It was a delightful home, delightfully situated. Claudius
was a member of the Church; but he was not very happy about it. Claudius
had prospered amazingly of late years, and his prosperity had involved
him in commercial and social entanglements from which it would be very
difficult now to escape. The life that Claudius had set before himself
in the early days of his spiritual experience seemed to him later on
like a beautiful dream. That is to say, it seemed to him like a dream
when he thought about it; but he did not think about it more often than
he could help. Claudius knew perfectly well that the life of which he
used to dream was worth some sacrifice; and he knew that he was really
the poorer, and not the richer, for having abandoned that radiant ideal.
He occasionally attended the assembly of worshippers, it is true; but he
derived small satisfaction from the exercise. It seemed like exposing
his poor withered, emaciated soul to the limelight; and he saw with a
start how starved and famished it had become. And so the inner
experience of poor Claudius became a perpetual battle-ground. At times
the old dream seemed within an ace of being victorious. He was more than
half inclined to break away from all his later entanglements, and to
renew the ardour of his youthful aspirations. But he had scarcely
reached this devout determination when the glamour of his later life
once more began to dazzle him. Alluring invitations, temptingly
phrased, poured in upon him. It is horrid to be discourteous! How could
he bring himself to offend people from whom he had received nothing but
kindness? Surely a man owes something to the proprieties of life! And so
the fight went on. But in the depths of his secret soul Claudius knew
that that fight was a fight between Claudius on the one hand and God on
the other. He knew, too, that in that stern conflict Claudius was
altogether wrong, and God was altogether right. And he knew that, if he
persisted in the unequal struggle, nothing but shame and humiliation
awaited him. Claudius knew it, and Paul knew it. Paul knew it, and
proffered his good offices as mediator. 'Now then,' he wrote, with
Claudius in his eye, 'now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though
God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, _be ye
reconciled to God_.' And the words brought to the heart of poor Claudius
just such a surge of vehement emotion as a lover feels at the prospect
of once more embracing the beloved form with which he had so angrily and
hastily parted.


II

Polonius and Phebe were in a very different case. Polonius dwelt close
to the city in order to be near his work, and his windows commanded no
view of any kind. He was not a slave, but sometimes he said bitterly
that the slaves were as happy as he. The world had gone hardly with
Polonius. The stars in their courses seemed to be fighting against him.
He had tried hard to be brave, but circumstances sometimes conspire
against courage. Polonius, in spite of the most commendable endeavours,
was poor; yet if poverty had been his only misfortune he could have
borne it with a smile. But, in addition to poverty, troubles came thick
and fast upon him. Like Claudius, he was a member of the church at
Corinth; and it was in connexion with his labours of love for the
sanctuary that he had first met Phebe. She was young and fair in those
days, and her loveliness was glorified by her devotion. But his love for
her had fallen upon her tender spirit like a malediction. It was as
though his fondness for his sweet young wife had woven a malignant spell
about her early womanhood. He would have died a thousand deaths to make
her happy; yet since first they linked their lives they had known
nothing but incessant struggle and ceaseless grief. Phebe herself had
been ill again and again. Four little children had stolen like sunbeams
into their home; only, like sunbeams, to vanish again, and give place to
tempests of tears. Then came a long blank; and they fancied they were
doomed to spend the rest of their sad lives childlessly. But, at length,
to their unspeakable delight, their little home once more resounded
with the shout of baby merriment and the patter of baby footsteps. It
was as if the four children who had perished had bequeathed to this new
treasure all the affection that they had excited in the breasts of their
poor parents. And then, after seven happy years, it too faded and died.
Polonius and Phebe were broken-hearted. Never again, they said, would
they go to the assembly at Corinth. How could they believe in the love
of God after this? And so their hearts grew hard, and their souls were
soured, and all sweetness departed from their spirits.

There is a story very like this in our own literature. In the old house
at Kettering, Andrew Fuller was lying ill in one room, whilst his only
surviving daughter--a child of six--lay at the point of death in the
next. He tried hard to reconcile himself and his poor wife to the
impending calamity. But their spirits revolted. The thought that, after
having buried first one child and then another, this one too might be
snatched from them was more than they could bear. But, 'on Tuesday, May
30,' says Fuller in his diary, 'on Tuesday, May 30, as I lay ill in bed
in another room, I heard a whispering. I inquired, and all were silent!
All were silent!--but all is well. _I feel reconciled to God_.' That is
a fine saying. '_I feel reconciled to God_.' But poor Polonius and Phebe
could as yet enter no such brave words in their domestic record.
'Wherefore,' writes Paul, with a thought, perhaps, of Polonius and
Phebe, 'wherefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did
beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, _be ye reconciled to
God_.' And when Polonius and Phebe heard that touching appeal they
resolved no longer to kick against the pricks. 'Renew my will,' they
prayed, anticipating the language of a later hymn:

  Renew my will from day to day;
  Blend it with Thine; and take away
  All that now makes it hard to say,
        'Thy will be done!'

And, like Andrew Fuller and his wife at Kettering, Polonius and his wife
at Corinth were able to say, '_I feel reconciled to God_.'


III

To the south of Corinth, just where the great main road begins to ascend
the ridge of the mountains, lived Julia. Julia was a widow, comfortably
circumstanced. Her husband had died years before, leaving her with the
charge of their one young son. And as the days had gone by, and time had
sprinkled strands of silver into Julia's hair, she had built her hopes
more and more upon the future of her boy. Julia's husband had died
before either he or she had so much as heard the name of Jesus. But
after his death Paul came over from Athens to Corinth in the course of
that first memorable visit to Europe, and Julia had been among his
earliest converts. After her conversion Julia often thought of her
husband, and was ill at ease. But, like a wise woman, she determined to
work for the things that remained rather than to weep over those that
were lost to her. And so she devoted all her love, and all her thought,
and all her energy, and all her time to her little son. When Paul's
first letter to the Christians at Corinth was read to the church, she
caught a phrase about being 'baptized for the dead.' She did not quite
know what Paul meant by the words; but at any rate she would try to
instil into the heart of her boy the lovely faith that she felt certain
her husband would cheerfully have embraced. And wonderfully she
succeeded. The boy listened with eyes wide open to the tender stories
that Julia told him, and his heart acknowledged their profound
significance. At the same age at which Jesus went with Mary to the
Temple, and was found in the midst of the doctors, young Amplius went
with Julia up to the church at Corinth, and was found in the midst of
the deacons.

From the very first the soul of Amplius prospered. He was like those
trees of which the psalmist sings which, 'planted in the courts of the
Lord, flourish in the house of our God.' From the time of his baptism
and reception into the sacred fellowship, the child Amplius grew, like
the child Jesus, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the
grace of God was upon him. Then, after about six years of happy
Christian experience, Amplius confided a wonderful secret to Julia. He
told her that he had resolved, with her consent, to devote himself to
the sacred office of the ministry. And at that word the soul of Julia
died within her. She knew what those early preachers and teachers had
suffered. She knew of the martyrdom of all those first apostles. She had
heard that even Paul himself had been 'in journeyings often, in perils
of rivers and in perils of robbers, in perils by his own countrymen and
in perils of the heathen, in perils of the city and in perils of the
desert, in perils of the sea and in perils among false brethren.' And
Julia's heart failed her as she thought of Amplius faced by such
dangers. Moreover, Julia had other plans for Amplius. She had fondly
dreamed of him as holding a great place in the city of Corinth. When she
had seen rulers and governors performing exalted functions on State
occasions, she had said within herself, 'Some day, perhaps, Amplius will
wear those robes,' or 'Some day, perhaps, Amplius will make that
speech.' And now all such dreams were rudely shattered. Her son would
fain be a minister, an outcast, perhaps even a martyr. And at that
thought the soul of Julia rebelled, and she began to fight against God.

There is a case like this, also, in our own literature. Grey Hazelrigg
was the only child of Lady Hazelrigg, of Carlton Hall. Her ladyship
intended her son for the army, but he failed to pass the tests. She then
sent him to Cambridge University. There he came under deep religious
influences. He began, as opportunities presented themselves, to preach
the gospel. His efforts met with immediate acceptance, and he wrote to
his astonished mother to say that he desired to become a minister of the
old Strict Baptist Communion! The request struck Carlton Hall like a
thunderbolt, and the spirit of Lady Hazelrigg rose in instant revolt.
But Grey prayed in secret, and preached in public, and pleaded with his
mother whenever a suitable opportunity occurred. Then came an experience
of which, the Rev. W. Y. Fullerton says, he spoke with sparkling eyes
seventy years afterwards. He was on a journey when his mind was suddenly
and strangely arrested by the words of Jeremiah, 'Verily, it shall be
well with Thy remnant.' He took it to refer to Lady Hazelrigg's
opposition to his call; and, surely enough, 'the very next letter that
he received from his mother bore the joyful tidings that she was, as she
herself phrased it, _reconciled to God_.' Mr. Grey Hazelrigg lived to
be nearly a hundred, and his work, both as a writer and a preacher, will
be remembered in England with thankfulness for many a day to come. There
can be no doubt, therefore, that, in those earlier days, Lady Hazelrigg
was fighting against God. And there can be no doubt, either, that, in
those early days, Julia was fighting against God. And therefore Paul
wrote as he did, perhaps with Julia specially in mind. 'Now then,' he
said, 'we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by
us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, _be ye reconciled to God_.' And,
like Lady Hazelrigg, Julia made her peace with God, and her son adorned
the Christian ministry for many a long day.


IV

'_Be ye reconciled to God_'--Paul the Peacemaker wrote to the Christians
at Corinth. It is vastly important. We so easily drift away from early
attachments and early friendships; and even the divine friendship is not
immune from this cruel and heartless treatment. We drift away from it,
and must needs be reconciled. '_Be ye reconciled to God_,' says Paul the
Peacemaker 'for unless you yourselves are reconciled to God, how can you
reconcile to God those who are without?' How can I reconcile hearts that
are alienated if, between either of those hearts and mine, there exists
some embarrassing estrangement? '_Be ye reconciled to God_,' said Paul
the Peacemaker to the church at Corinth, for he knew that the Church's
ministry of reconciliation would stand stultified and useless so long as
the Church herself was out of touch with her Lord.



VII

NOTHING


Nature, they say, abhors a vacuum. For the life of me, I do not know
why. But then, for the matter of that, I do not know why I myself love
many of the things that I love, and loathe many of the things that I
abhor. Nature, however, is not usually capricious. Some deep policy
generally prompts her strange behaviour. I must go into this matter a
little more carefully. First of all, what is a vacuum? What is Nothing?

I was at a prize distribution not long ago, and as I came out into the
street I came upon a little chap crying as though his heart would break.
He was quite alone. His parents had not thought it worth their while to
accompany him to the function, and thus show their interest in his
school life. Perhaps it was owing to the same lack of sympathy on their
part that he was among the few boys who were bearing home no prize.

'Hullo, sonny,' I exclaimed,'what's the matter?'

'_Oh, nothing_!' he replied, between his sobs.

'Then what on earth are you crying for?'

'_Oh, nothing_!' he repeated.

I respected his delicacy, and probed no farther into the cause of his
discomfiture, but I had collected further evidence of my contention that
there is more in Nothing than you would suppose. Nor had I gone far
before still further corroboration greeted me. For, at the top of the
street, I came upon a group of lads in the centre of which was a boy
with a very handsome prize. I paused and admired it.

'And what was this for?' I asked.

'_Oh, nothing_!' he answered, with a blush.

'But, my dear fellow, you must have done something to deserve it!'

'_Oh, it was nothing_!' he reiterated, and it was from his companions
that I obtained the information that I sought. But here again it was
made clear to me that there is a good deal in Nothing. Nothing is worth
thinking about. It is a huge mistake to take things at their face value.
Nothing may sometimes represent a modest contrivance for hiding
everything; and we must not allow ourselves to be deceived.

An old tradition assures us that, on the sudden death of one of
Frederick the Great's chaplains, a certain candidate showed himself most
eager for the vacant post. The king told him to proceed to the royal
chapel and to preach an impromptu sermon on a text that he would find in
the pulpit on arrival. When the critical moment arrived, the preacher
opened the sealed packet, and found it--_blank_! Not a word or pen-mark
appeared! With a calm smile the clergyman cast his eyes over the
congregation, and then said, 'Brethren, here is Nothing. Blessed is he
whom Nothing can annoy, whom Nothing can make afraid or swerve from his
duty. We read that God from Nothing made all things. And yet look at the
stupendous majesty of His infinite creation! And does not Job tell us
that Nothing is the foundation of everything? "He hangeth the world upon
Nothing," the patriarch declares.' The candidate then proceeded to
elaborate the wonder and majesty of that creation that emanated from
Nothing, and depended on Nothing. I need scarcely add that Frederick
bestowed upon so ingenious a preacher the vacant chaplaincy. And in the
years that followed he became one of the monarch's most intimate friends
and most trusted advisers.

We must not, however, fly to the opposite extreme, and make too much of
Nothing. For the odd thing is that, twice at least in her strange and
chequered history, the Church has fallen in love with members of the
Nothing family, and, after the fashion of lovers, has completely lost
her head over them. On the first occasion she became deeply enamoured of
Doing Nothing, and on the second occasion she went crazy over
Having-Nothing. I must tell of these amorous exploits one at a time. The
adoration of Doing-Nothing had a great vogue at one stage of the
Church's history. Who that has once read the thirty-seventh chapter of
Gibbon's _Decline and Fall_--the chapter on 'The Origin, Progress, and
Effects of the Monastic Life'--will ever cease to be haunted by the
weird, fantastic spectacle therein presented? Men suddenly took it into
their heads that the only way of serving God was by doing nothing. They
swarmed out into the deserts, and lived solitary lives. They took vows
of perpetual silence, and ceased to speak; they ate only the most
disgusting food; they lived the lives of wild beasts. 'Even sleep, the
last refuge of the unhappy, was rigorously measured; the vacant hours
rolled heavily on, without business and without pleasure; and, before
the close of each day, the tedious progress of the sun was repeatedly
accursed.' Here was an amazing phenomenon. It was, of course, only a
passing fancy, the merest piece of coquetry on the Church's part. It is
unthinkable that she thought seriously of Doing-Nothing, and of settling
down with him for the rest of her natural life. The glamour of this
casual flirtation soon wore off. The Church discovered to her
mortification that there was nothing in Nothing. Saint Anthony, of
Alexandria, who felt that the life of the city was too full of
incitement to frivolity and pleasure, fled to the desert, to escape
from these temptations. He became a hermit. But he gave it up, and
returned to Alexandria. The abominable imaginations that haunted his
mind in the solitude were far more loathsome and degrading than anything
he had experienced in the busy city. Fra Angelico, who also fell in love
with Doing-Nothing, says that he heard the flapping of the wings of
unclean things about his lonely cell. And Francis Xavier has told us of
the seven terrible days that he spent in the tomb of Thomas at Malabar.
'All around me,' he says, 'malignant devils prowled incessantly, and
wrestled with me with invisible but obscene hands.' It is the old story,
there is nothing in Nothing; and he who falls in love with any member of
that family will live to regret the adventure. I remember being greatly
impressed by a sentence or two in Nansen's _Farthest North_. He is
describing the maddening monotony of the interminable Arctic night.
'Ah!' he exclaims suddenly, 'life's peace is said to be found by holy
men in the desert. Here indeed is desert enough; _but peace_!--of that I
know nothing. I suppose it is the holiness that is lacking.' The
explorer was simply discovering that there is nothing in Nothing but
what you yourself take into it.

One would have supposed that, after this heart-breaking affair with
Doing-Nothing, the Church would have been on her guard against all
members of the Nothing family. But no! she was deceived a second
time--in this instance by the wiles of Having-Nothing. I allude, of
course, to the story of the Mendicant Orders. We all know how Francis
d'Assisi fell in love with Poverty. One day, to the consternation of his
friends, they received a letter from the gay young soldier, telling them
of his intention to lead an entirely new life. 'I am thinking of taking
a wife more beautiful, more rich, more pure than you could ever
imagine.' The wife was the Lady Poverty; and Giotto, in a fresco at
Assisi, has represented Francis placing the ring on the finger of his
bride. The feminine figure is crowned with roses, but she is arrayed in
rags, and her feet are bruised with stones and torn with briars. Francis
borrowed the tattered and filthy garments of a beggar, and sought alms
at the street corners that he might enter into the secret of poverty;
and then he and Dominic founded those orders of mendicant monks which
became one of the most potent missionary forces of the Middle Ages.

But once again the Church found out that her affections were being
played with. There is no more virtue in Having-Nothing than in
Doing-Nothing. They are both good-for-nothing. It may be that some of us
would be better men if we had less money; but then, others of us would
be better men if we had more. It may be that, here and there, you may
find a Silas Marner who has been saved by sudden poverty from miserly
greed and hardening self-absorption. But, for one such case, it would be
easy to point to hundreds of men who have been driven by poverty from
the ways of honour, and to hundreds of women who have been forced by
poverty from the paths of virtue. It all comes back to this: there is
nothing in Nothing. Doing-Nothing and Having-Nothing are deceivers--the
pair of them; and the Church must not be beguiled by their
blandishments. Work and money are both good things. Even William Law saw
that. His _Serious Call_ has often almost made a monk of me, but a
sudden flash of common sense always breaks from the page just in time.
'There are two things,' he says in his fine chapter on 'The Wise and
Pious Use of an Estate,' 'there are two things which, of all others,
most want to be under a strict rule, and which are the greatest
blessings both to ourselves and others, when they are rightly used.
These two things are our time and our money. These talents are the
continual means and opportunities of doing good.' Beware, that is to
say, of Doing-Nothing, of Having-Nothing, and of the whole family of
Nothings. It is not for nothing that Nature abhors them.

And now it suddenly comes home to me that I am playing on the very verge
of a tremendous truth. There is nothing in Nothing. Let me remember
that when next I am at death-grips with temptation! Cupid is said to
have complained to Jupiter that he could never seize the Muses because
he could never find them idle. And I suppose that our everyday remark
that 'Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do' has its
origin in the same idea. John Locke, the great philosopher, used to say
that, in the hour of temptation, he preferred any company rather than
his own. If possible, he sought the companionship of children. Anything
rather than Nothing. It reminds us of Hannibal. The great Carthaginian
led his troops up the Alpine passes, but he found that the heights were
strongly held by the Romans. Attack was out of the question. Hannibal
watched closely one night, however, and discovered that, under cover of
darkness, the enemy withdrew for the night to the warmer valley on the
opposite slope. Next night, therefore, Hannibal led his troops to the
heights, and, when the Roman general approached in the morning, he found
that the tables had been turned upon him. There is always peril in
vacancy. The uncultivated garden brings forth weeds. The unoccupied mind
becomes the devil's playground. The vacant soul is a lost soul. There is
nothing in Nothing.

But for the greatest illustration of my present theme I must betake me
to Mark Rutherford. The incident occurred at the most sunless and
joyless stage of Mark's career. From all his wretchedness he sought
relief in Nothing. He kept his own company, wandered about the fields,
abandoned himself to moods, and lost himself in vague and insoluble
problems. But one day a strange thing happened. 'I was walking along
under the south side of a hill, which was a great place for butterflies,
when I saw a man, apparently about fifty years old, coming along with a
butterfly net.' They soon chummed up. 'He told me that he had come seven
miles that morning to that spot, because he knew that it was haunted by
one particular species of butterfly; and, as it was a still, bright day,
he hoped to find a specimen.' At first Mark Rutherford felt a kind of
contempt for a man who could give himself up to so childish a pastime.
But, later on, he heard his story. Years before he had married a
delicate girl, of whom he was devotedly fond. She died in childbirth,
leaving him completely broken. And, by some inscrutable mystery of fate,
the child grew up to be a cripple, horribly deformed, inexpressibly
hideous, as ugly as an ape, as lustful as a satyr, and as ferocious as a
tiger! The son, after many years, died in a mad-house; and the horror of
it all nearly consigned his poor father to a similar asylum. 'During
those dark days,' he told Mark Rutherford, 'I went on _gazing gloomily
into dark emptiness_, till all life became nothing for me.' _Gazing into
emptiness_, mark you! Then there swept across this aching void of
nothingness a beautiful butterfly! It caught his fancy, interested him,
filled the gap, and saved his reason from uttermost collapse. He began
collecting butterflies. He was no longer _gazing into emptiness_. And
the moral of the incident is stated in a single sentence. 'Men should
not be too curious in analysing and condemning any means which Nature
devises to save them from themselves, whether it be coins, old books,
curiosities, fossils, or butterflies.'

'Any means which Nature devises.' We are back to Nature again.

'Nature abhors a vacuum'; it was at that point that we set out.

I see now that Nature is right, after all. I can never be saved by
Nothing. The abstract will never satisfy me. I want something; aye,
more, I want _Some One_; and until I find _Him_ my restless soul calls
down all the echoing corridors of Nothingness, 'Oh that I knew _where I
might find Him_!'



VIII

THE ANGEL AND THE IRON GATE


It is of no use arguing against an iron gate. There it stands--chained
and padlocked, barred and bolted--right across your path, and you can
neither coax nor cow it into yielding. So was it with Peter on the night
of his miraculous escape from prison. 'Herod,' we are told, 'killed
James with the sword, and, because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he
proceeded to take Peter also.' There he lay, 'sleeping between two
soldiers, bound with chains, whilst the keepers before the door kept the
prison.' He expected that his next visitor would be the headsman; and
whilst he waited for the _executioner_, there came an _angel_! This sort
of thing happens fairly often. They are sitting round the fire, and the
lady in the arm-chair is talking of her sailor-son.

'Ah!' she says, 'I haven't heard of him for over a year now, and I begin
to think that I shall never hear again.'

There is a sharp ring at the bell. She starts.

'Something tells me,' she continues, 'that this is a message to say
that the ship is lost, and that I shall never see my boy again.'

Even whilst she speaks the door is opened, and her last syllable is
scarcely uttered before she is folded in the sailor's arms.

The principle holds true to the very end. It is a sick-room, and the
pale wan face of the patient looks very weary.

'Oh, how I dread death!' she says; 'I cannot bear to think that I must
die.'

An hour later the door of the unseen opens to her, and there stands on
the threshold, not Death, but _Life Everlasting_!

Peter very, very often waits for the executioner, and welcomes an angel.


I

During the next few moments Peter scarcely knew whether he was in the
body or out of the body. Was he alive or was he dead? Was he waking or
was he dreaming? 'He wist not that it was true which was done by the
angel, but thought he saw a vision.' He walked like a man with his head
in the clouds. Doors were opening; chains were falling; he seemed to be
living in a land of enchantment, a world of magic. But the iron gate put
an end to all illusion. 'They came to the iron gate,' and, as I said a
moment ago, an iron gate is a very difficult thing to argue with. The
iron gate represents the return to reality. After our most radiant
spiritual experiences we come abruptly to the humdrum and the
commonplace. It was Mary's Sunday evening out. Mary, you must know, is a
housemaid in a big boarding establishment, and her life is by no means
an easy one. But Mary is also a member of the Church. On Sunday she was
in her favourite seat. Perhaps it was that she was specially hungry for
some uplifting word, or perhaps it was that the message was peculiarly
suitable to her condition; but, be that as it may, the service that
night seemed to carry poor Mary to the very gate of heaven. The
Communion Service that followed completed her ecstasy, and Mary seemed
scarcely to touch the pavement with her feet as she hurried home. She
fell asleep crooning to herself the hymn with which the service closed:

  O Love, that will not let me go,
  I rest my weary soul in Thee;
  I give Thee back the life I owe,
  That in Thine ocean depths its flow
        May richer, fuller be.

She knew nothing more until, in the chilly dark of the morning, the
alarum clock screamed at her to jump up, clean the cold front steps,
dust the great silent rooms, and light the copper-fire. 'And she came
to the iron gate.' There come points in life at which poetry merges into
the severest prose; romance yields to reality; the miracle of the open
prison is succeeded by the menace of the iron gate.


II

As long as Peter had an iron gate before him, he had an angel beside
him. It was not until the iron gate had been safely negotiated that
'forthwith the angel departed from him.' Mary made a mistake when she
fancied that she had left all the glory behind her. The angel is with us
more often than we think. A devout Jew, in bidding you farewell, will
always use a plural pronoun. And if you ask for whom, besides yourself,
his blessing is intended, he will reply that it is for you and for _the
angel over your shoulder_. We are too fond of fancying that the angel is
only with us when the chains are miraculously falling from off our feet,
and when the doors are miraculously opening before our faces. We are too
slow to believe that the angel is still by our side when we emerge into
the night and come to the iron gate. It is a very ancient heathen
superstition. 'There came a man of God, and spake unto the king of
Israel, and said, Thus saith the Lord, because the Syrians have said,
"The Lord is God of the _hills_, but He is not God of the _valleys_,"
therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and
ye shall know that I am the Lord.' We are always assuming that He is the
God of the mountaintops, and that He leaves us to thread the darksome
valleys alone; and our assumption is a cruel and unjust one. As long as
Peter had an iron gate before him, he had an angel beside him.


III

The converse, however, is equally true. As long as Peter had an angel
beside him, he had an iron gate ahead of him. Angels do not walk by our
sides for fun. 'Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to
minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?' If there is an angel
by my side, depend upon it, there is work that only an angel can do in
front of me. Mary's radiant experience that Sunday evening was directly
and intimately related with the brazen yell of the alarum clock on
Monday morning. It was not intended as a mere temporary elevation of the
spirit, but as an assurance of a gracious presence--a presence that
should never be withdrawn as long as a need existed. It is part of the
infinite pathos of life that we misinterpret our visions. Jacob beheld
his staircase leading from earth to heaven, with angels ascending and
descending upon it. And straightway, as he prepared to leave, he began
to say good-bye to the angels! 'Surely,' he exclaimed, 'the Lord is in
_this place_! How dreadful is _this place_! _This_ is none other but the
house of God, and _this_ is the gate of heaven! And he called the name
of _that place_ Bethel!' And thus he missed the whole meaning of the
beatific vision. The vision was to warn him of the perils that awaited
him, and to assure him that 'behold, I am with thee in _all places_
whither thou goest.'

'_All places_!' said the Vision.

'This place! _this place_! THIS PLACE!' said Jacob.

And so he journeyed on towards his iron gate, pitifully ignorant of the
meaning of the golden dream. Life's ecstasies are warnings,
premonitions, danger-signals. Even in the experience of the Holiest, the
open heavens and the voice from the excellent glory immediately preceded
the grim struggle with the tempter in the wilderness. Paul had his
vision; he saw the Man of Macedonia; and he followed the gleam--to
bonds, stripes, and imprisonment. Bunyan knew what he was doing when he
placed the Palace Beautiful, with all its sweet hospitalities and
delightful ministries, immediately before that dark Valley of
Humiliation in which Christian struggled with Apollyon. When we hear
angels' voices speaking, when we find our fetters falling, when we see
our jail doors opening, be very sure that outside, outside, there is a
dark night and an iron gate!


IV

But there is always this about it. Although the radiant vision is a
premonition of the coming struggle, it is also an augury concerning that
struggle. Opening doors are an earnest of opening gates. It is
inconceivable that I shall be miraculously delivered from my dungeon,
with its guards and its chains, and then be baulked by an iron gate out
there in the blackness of the night. It is inconceivable that here, at
the Communion Service, God should draw so near to the spirit of this
young housemaid, and then leave her to face alone the drudgery of Monday
morning. If Mary is half as wise as I take her to be, she will answer
the scream of the clock with a song. She went to bed singing; why not
get up singing? She crooned to herself on retiring the hymn that had
followed her from the Communion Table. Let her sing in the morning quite
another tune:

  His love, in time past, forbids me to think
  He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink,
  Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review
  Confirms His good pleasure to help me quite through.

The voice of the angel, the falling of fetters, and the opening of doors
are all designed to brace us for the dark night and the iron gate.


V

'The iron gate opened to them.' Of course it did. Who could suppose that
the prison doors had been opened by angel's hands, only that the
prisoner might be caught like a rat in a trap outside? 'The iron gate
opened to them _of its own accord_.' It did look like it. During my
twelve years at Mosgiel, I often went through the great woollen factory.
The machines were marvellous--simply marvellous. As you watched the
needles slip in and out, or stood beside the loom and saw the pattern
grow, it really looked as though the things were bewitched. They seemed
to be doing it all 'of their own accord.' But one day the manager said,
'Would you care to see the power-house?' And he took me away from the
busy looms to another building altogether, and there I saw the huge
engines that drove everything. Neither looms nor needles really work 'of
their own accord.' Nor do iron gates. A few minutes after the gates had
opened, and the angel had vanished, Peter 'came to the house of Mary,
the mother of Mark, where many were gathered together praying.' And then
Peter understood by what power the iron gates had opened, just as I
understood, when I saw the engine-room, how the great looms worked.

The prayer-meeting may not be artistic. For the matter of that I saw
very little in the power-room of the factory that appealed to the sense
of the aesthetic within me; but when angels visit prisons, and iron
gates swing open of their own accord, there must be a driving-force at
work somewhere. And Peter only discovered it when he suddenly broke in
upon a midnight prayer-meeting.



IX

SHORT CUTS


We dearly love a short cut. Even in childhood we resolved the discovery
of short cuts into a kind of juvenile science. There was the gap in the
hedge, or the low part of the wall, by which we could pass, by means of
a squeeze or a clamber, into the romantic territory of our next-door
neighbour. With what fine scorn we inwardly derided the ridiculous
behaviour of our parents when, in visiting that selfsame neighbour, they
marched with solemn mien out through the front gate, along the public
highway and in through the front gate of the house next door! It took
_them_ five mortal minutes to reach a spot that, by a stoop or a bound,
_we_ could have reached in as many seconds! Then there was the dusty
track through the bush to the jetty; and the footpath across the fields
to the church. And with what wild excitement we hailed a short cut to
school! When some adventurous spirit discovered that, by going up a
certain right-of-way, and climbing a certain fence, we could approach
the school playground from a new and undreamed-of direction, our
transports knew no bounds. It was not the lazy gratification of having
invented a labour-saving device; it was the stately joy of the explorer.
Half the romance of life was bound up with those short cuts. The trysts
of courtship were kept at the stiles by which those surreptitious
footways were intersected. The most delightful walks we ever enjoyed
were the strolls along those uncharted by-paths. It may have been for
the sake of brevity and a smart passage that they were first brought
into existence; yet it was not to their brevity, in the last resort,
that they owed their peculiar charm. The gap through the hedge; the
clamber over the wall; the track through the bush to the jetty; the
footpath across the fields to the church; and the right-of-way by which
we took the school in the rear--these appealed to a certain deep human
instinct that asserted itself within us; and, dissemblers as we were, we
just made-believe that we pursued these courses in order to conserve our
energies and to save our time.

And thus we got into the habit. Whether it was a good habit or a bad
habit depends largely upon the realm to which we applied it. In my own
case, it worked disastrously--at least at times. Since I left school,
for instance, I have always been considered good at figures. Generally
speaking, you have but to state your problem, and I can furnish you with
the solution. In business--commercial and ecclesiastical--this faculty
has served me in excellent stead. But at school it was of very little
use to me. And I find it of very little use when I undertake to coach my
children in anticipation of approaching examinations. For at school the
teacher not only propounded the problem, and received my answer; he went
another step. He asked me how I had arrived at that conclusion; and at
that stage of the ordeal I invariably collapsed. He was there to teach
me the rules; and I had as much contempt for the rules as I had for the
route by which my grave and reverend parents made their way to our
neighbour's door. I was content to squeeze through the gap or to jump
over the wall. The teacher was there to show me the road to the jetty; I
scorned the road, and approached the jetty by the track through the
bush. I could see no sense in either roads or rules if you could reach
your destination more expeditiously without them. But, to pass abruptly
from the microscopic to the magnificent, history furnishes me with a
quite dramatic and most convincing demonstration of my point. In his _Up
From Slavery_, Mr. Booker Washington illustrates this tendency again and
again. The slaves were freed. But it is one thing to be free, and quite
another thing to be worthy of the rights of freemen. With one voice the
black people cried out for education. 'This experience of a whole race
going to school for the first time presents,' says Mr. Washington, 'one
of the most interesting studies that has ever occurred in connexion with
the development of any race.' But many of the people were advanced in
years. To begin at the beginning and attain to knowledge gradually
seemed a tedious process. It was like the round-about path from our
front door to that of our next-door neighbour. The black people woke up
late to the consciousness of their racial possibilities; and, like most
people who wake up late, they spent the morning of their freedom in a
desperate hurry. Here is a young coloured man, 'sitting down in a
one-room cabin, with grease on his clothing, filth all around him, and
weeds in the yard and garden, engaged in studying a French grammar!' On
another occasion, Mr. Washington 'had to take a student who had been
studying cube-root and banking and discount and explain to him that the
wisest thing for him to do first was thoroughly to master the
multiplication-table!' There is much more to the same effect. The black
race made a frantic effort to run before it had learned to walk. 'I
felt,' says Mr. Booker Washington, 'that the conditions were a good deal
like those of an old coloured man, during the days of slavery, who
wanted to learn how to play on the guitar. In his desire to take guitar
lessons he applied to one of his young masters to teach him; but the
young man, not having much faith in the ability of the slave to master
the guitar, sought to discourage him by saying, "Uncle Jake, I will give
you guitar lessons; but, Jake, I will have to charge you three dollars
for the first lesson, two dollars for the second lesson, and one dollar
for the third lesson. But I will charge you only twenty-five cents for
the last lesson." To which Uncle Jake answered, "All right, boss, I
hires you on dem terms. But, boss, I wants yer to be sure an' give me
dat las' lesson first!"' Here we have the imposing spectacle, not by any
means destitute of pathos, of an entire race seeking to reach its
destiny by a short cut.

But it is a mistake. For that ebullition of juvenile depravity which
disfigured my school-days I do now repent in dust and ashes. I was
wrong; there can be no doubt about that. There is a place in this world
for rules and roads as well as for gaps and tracks. I know now that my
parents were right in approaching our neighbour's door by way of the
public thoroughfare. Life has taught me, among other things, that short
cuts have their perils. It is the old story of the Gordian knot over
again. The Phrygians, as everybody knows, were in grave perplexity, and
consulted the oracle. The oracle assured them that all their troubles
would cease as soon as they chose for their king the first man they met
driving in his chariot to the temple of Jupiter. Leaving the sacred
building, they set out along the road and soon met Gordius, whom they
accordingly elected king. Gordius drove on to the temple, to return
thanks for his elevation, and to consecrate his chariot to the service
of the gods. When the chariot stood in the temple courts it was observed
that the pole was fastened to the yoke by a knot of bark so artfully
contrived that the ends could not be seen. The oracle then declared that
whosoever should untie this Gordian knot should be ruler over Asia.
Alexander the Great approached, but, finding himself unable to untie the
knot, he drew his sword and cut it. And the ancients said that it was
because he had cut the knot instead of untying it that his dominion was
so transitory and so brief. I fancy that, if we look into it a little,
we shall find that half our troubles arise from our bad habit of cutting
the knots that we ought to patiently untie.

Take our politics, by way of example. It is much more easy to sit back
in our chairs and pour the vials of our criticism on the powers-that-be
than to make any sensible contribution to the well-being of the State. A
case in point occurs in Mark Rutherford's _Clara Hopgood_. Baruch and
Dennis are discussing those old social problems that men have discussed
since first this world began. Dennis was enlarging upon the
inequalities and iniquities of social and industrial life, when Baruch
broke in with the pertinent and practical question: 'But what would you
do for them?'

'Ah, that beats me!' replied Dennis. 'I would hang somebody, but I don't
know who it ought to be!'

Precisely! To _cut_ the knot with a sword is so easy--and so
ineffective; to _untie_ it is so difficult--and so rich in consequence.
The politics that consist of sentencing to summary execution statesmen
from whom we differ are within the intellectual reach of most of us; and
in that particular brand of politics, therefore, most of us occasionally
indulge. But the politics that consist in really grappling with the
knotty problems, with a view to discovering some means of ameliorating
human misery, provide us with a much more formidable task. Who has
intellect sufficiently clear, and fingers sufficiently deft, to essay
the untying of the Gordian knot? The empire of the world awaits the
coming of that patient and persistent man.

Or look at another example. I often feel that very little of the oratory
expended on Protestant platforms really touches the mark. It gets
nowhere. The real question at issue is most pitifully begged. It may, of
course, be diplomatic to keep people well informed concerning the social
evils that thrive in Roman Catholic countries. It may, perhaps, be
permissible to emphasize the abuses that exist within the pale of the
Roman Catholic Church. But a devout and intelligent Roman Catholic,
listening to such an utterance, would, after making a reasonable
allowance for rhetorical exaggeration admit the truth of all that had
been said, and go home to weep, and, perhaps, to pray over it. Many of
those who have passed over from Protestant communions to the Roman
Catholic Church have travelled very widely and observed very closely.
They are not ignorant. Newman sobbed over the seamy side of Romanism
before he made the plunge. 'I have never disguised,' he wrote, 'that
there are actual circumstances in the Church of Rome which pain me much;
we do not look toward Rome as believing that its communion is
infallible.' Then, with his eyes wide open to all the facts on which our
orators dilate so luridly, he took the fatal step. And again he wrote,
'There is a divine life among us, clearly manifested, in spite of all
our disorders, which is as great a note of the Church as any can be.'

Now what was that divine note? Everything hinges upon that. And unless
our Protestant speakers are prepared to face _that_ issue they may as
well remain by their own firesides, lounge in their cosiest chairs, wear
their warmest slippers, and enjoy the latest novels. It is only at this
point that sincere and groping minds can be helpfully influenced. The
whole question is one of Authority. We dearly love a lord. There is no
escaping that fundamental fact. Every day Protestant sheep stray into
Roman Catholic pastures because there they can actually see the shepherd
and actually feel his crook. The Roman Church, with its hoary
traditions, its encrusted ritual, and its antique associations,
crystallizes itself into a single voice. It possesses an enthroned
incarnation. It has a Pope. Romanism is like a pine-tree. It towers to a
pinnacle. All its branches converge upon the topmost bough.
Protestantism is like a palm. Its summit consists of a great cluster of
graceful fronds, but no one is uppermost. Romanism is the adoration of
the topmost twig. In the person of the highest official, confused ears
catch the accent of authority for which they hunger. Here they find the
music of majesty. And they nestle their aching heads in the lap of a
Church that will sternly command their trustfulness and firmly insist
upon implicit obedience. Thereafter they need think no more. 'In the
midst of our difficulties,' wrote Newman, 'I have one ground of hope,
just one stay, but, as I think, a sufficient one. It serves me in the
stead of all arguments whatever; it hardens me against criticism; it
supports me if I begin to despond; and to it I ever come round. It is
the decision of the Holy See; Saint Peter has spoken.' Here the weary
brain finds rest. Here is the Gordian knot, so trying to the fingers,
cut swiftly with a sword. Here is the discovery of a short cut that may
save the tired feet many a long and dreary trudge.

The temptation meets us at every turn. And it is because that temptation
is so general that it figures so prominently in the Temptation in the
wilderness. He was tempted in all points like as we are; and therefore
He was tempted to take short cuts. This is the essence of that weird and
terrible story. It is notable that all the three things that Jesus was
tempted to acquire were good things, things to be desired, things that
He was destined to possess. But the whole point of the record is that He
was tempted to make His way to the bread and the angels and the kingdoms
by means of short cuts. Now this is vastly significant. It is
significant because, when you come to think of it, nearly all the things
that _we_ are tempted to acquire are good things. The temptation
consists in the suggestion that we should possess ourselves of those
good things prematurely or illicitly. We are urged to make short cuts to
our legitimate goal. Jesus was tempted to cut the Gordian knot, and to
thus obtain an immediate but fleeting hold on the objects of His just
desire. He rejected the proposal. He preferred patiently to untie the
knot, and thus to make Himself king of all kingdoms for ever and for
ever.

Of the perils attending short cuts John Bunyan is our chief expositor.
Wherever a dangerous but alluring footpath breaks off from the
high-road, a statue of Mr. Worldly Wiseman ought to be erected. For it
was Mr. Worldly Wiseman that first got the poor pilgrim into such sore
trouble. Mr. Worldly Wiseman knew a short cut to the Celestial City.
Christian took that short cut--the footpath over the hills and through
the village of Morality--and dearly did he pay for his folly. And yet it
is difficult to blame him. Poor Christian was heavily burdened, and
every inch that could be saved was a consideration. Evangelist had
clearly directed him, it is true; but then, if Mr. Worldly Wiseman knew
a short cut, why not take it? 'Let him who has no such burden as this
poor pilgrim had cast the first stone at Christian; I cannot,' says Dr.
Alexander Whyte. 'If one who looked like a gentleman came to me to-night
and told me how I could on the spot get to a peace of conscience never
to be lost again, and how I could get a heart to-night that would never
any more plague and pollute me, I should be mightily tempted to forget
what all my former teachers had told me, and try this new gospel.'
Exactly! The temptation to cut the Gordian knot is very alluring. The
advice to get-rich-quick, or to get-good-quick, or to get-there-quick,
is very acceptable. But by his story of the short cut, and the anguish
that followed, Bunyan has taught us that the longest way round is often
the shortest way home. There is sound sense in the song that bids us
'take time to be holy.' The short cut that avoids the wicket-gate and
the Cross is merely a blind lane from which we shall return sooner or
later with blistered feet and broken hearts.



PART II



I

THE POSTMAN


I must say a good word for the postman. He occupies so large a place in
most of our lives that, as a matter of common courtesy, the least we can
do is to recognize his value and importance. Others may not feel as I
do, but I confess that I bless the postman every day of my life. Not
that I am so fond of receiving letters, for I bless him with equal
fervency whether he calls or whether he passes. I know that in this
respect I am hopelessly illogical. If I am pleased to see the postmen
pass the gate, I ought, if strictly logical, to be sorry to see him
enter it. And, contrariwise, if the sight of the postman coming up the
path affords me gratification, the spectacle of his passing my gate
ought to fill me with disappointment. But I am _not_ logical, never was,
and never shall be. The best things in the world are hopelessly
illogical--motherhood for example. A mother sits in the arm-chair by the
fire, even as I write. She is chattering away to her baby. She knows
perfectly well that the baby doesn't understand a word she says. Knowing
that she would, if she were logical, give up talking to the child. But,
just because she is so hopelessly illogical, she prattles away as though
the baby could understand every word. It is a way mothers have, and we
love them all the better for it. An illogical lady is a very lovable
affair; but who ever fell in love with a syllogism? Robert Louis
Stevenson is the most lovable of all our English writers, and the most
illogical. Here is an entry from his diary, by way of illustration. 'A
little Irish girl,' he writes, 'is now reading my book aloud to her
sister at my elbow. They chuckle, and I feel flattered; anon they yawn,
and I am indifferent; such a wisely conceived thing is vanity.' Just so.
And why not? There is a higher wisdom than the wisdom of logic. If
Stevenson had been logical, he would have felt elated by the chuckles
and crushed by the yawns. But he knew better, and so do I. If the
postman passes my door, I heave a sigh of relief that I have no letters
to answer; it is almost as good as being granted a half-holiday. Am I
therefore to be angry when the postman enters the gate, and accept his
letters with a grunt? Not at all. In that case I throw my logic over the
hedge for the edification of my next-door neighbour, and feel pleased
that some of my friends are thinking of me. I greet the postman with a
smile, and try to make him feel that he has rendered me an appreciable
service, as indeed he has.

I am writing on the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Anthony
Trollope, and I fancy that it is the thought of Trollope and his
extraordinary work that has set me scribbling about the postman. For
Trollope was much more than a novelist. He was, in a sense, the prince
of British postmen, and the forerunner of Rowland Hill and Henniker
Heaton. To a far greater extent than we sometimes dream, we owe the
efficiency of our modern postal service to Anthony Trollope. But before
he died he became the victim of serious misgivings. He feared that we
were losing the art of letter-writing. He produced a bundle of his
mother's love-letters. 'In no novel of Richardson's or Miss Burney's,'
he declared, 'is there a correspondence so sweet, so graceful, and so
well expressed. What girl now studies the words with which she shall
address her lover, or seeks to charm him with grace of diction?' And
this lamentation was penned, mark you, years and years ago, before cheap
telegrams and picture post cards had become the normal means of
communication!

I suppose the real trouble is that we have allowed the amazing
development of our commercial correspondence to corrupt the character of
our private letter-writing. We indite all our letters in the phraseology
of the business college. We write briefly, tersely, pointedly, and, most
abominable of all, by return of post. I should like to write a separate
chapter in vigorous denunciation of the prompt reply. Private letters
should never be hastily answered. If my friend replies instantly to my
long, familiar letter, he gives me the painful impression that he wants
to be rid of me, and is unwilling to have on his mind the thought of the
letter he owes me. One of these days I shall start a new society to be
called the 'Wait a Week Society.' Its members will be solemnly pledged
to wait at least a week before replying to their private letters. There
are strong and subtle reasons for taking such a vow. First of all,
private letters should be easy, leisurely, chatty, and should only be
written when one is in the mood, or when, for some reason, the person to
whom it is addressed is specially in one's thoughts. To this, it may be
replied that one is never so much in the mood to write to a friend as
when he has just received a letter from that friend. But the argument is
fallacious. He is a very happy letter-writer indeed who can write me a
long, free, chatty letter without saying anything that will rub me the
wrong way or with which I shall disagree. During the first twenty-four
hours after receiving his letter, _those_ are the things that are most
emphatically impressed upon my mind. If I reply within twenty-four
hours, my letter to my friend will deal largely with those disputatious
and controversial points, and the inevitable result will be that _the
whole_ of my letter will grate upon him just as _part_ of his letter has
grated upon me. But if, as president of my own society, I wait a week
before replying to his letter, I shall see things in their true
perspective, and write him a long and breezy letter in which the things
that vexed me find no place at all. I am often asked, What is the
unpardonable sin? The only sin that I can never pardon is the sin of
writing angry letters. I can forgive a man for _speaking_ hastily; I
have a temper myself. But to deliberately commit one's spite to paper is
to become guilty of an amazing atrocity and to degrade at the same time
the postman's high and solemn office.

I bless the postman because he can do for me, and do better than I could
do, so many delicate things. I regard the postman as a faithful and
indispensable assistant. It often falls to a minister's lot to approach
people, and especially young people, on the most delicate and important
subjects. Upon their decisions much of their future happiness and
usefulness will depend. I must therefore go about the business with the
utmost care. But if I go to that young man and abruptly introduce the
matter to him, I at once put him in a false position, and greatly
imperil my chance of success. We are face to face; I have spoken to him,
and he, in common decency, must speak to me. It would be a thousand
times better if, having opened my heart to him, I could withdraw before
he uttered a single word. But as it is, I have forced him into a
position in which he must say something. His judgement is not ripe, his
mind is not made up, the whole subject is new to him, and yet my
indiscretion has placed him in such a position that he is compelled to
commit himself. He must say something without due consideration; I stand
there, like a highway-robber, with my pistol pointed at his brow, and he
must give me _words_. I may not want his words immediately; and he may
wish he need not give his words immediately; but we are both the victims
of a situation which I have foolishly precipitated. He speaks; and
however he may guard his utterance, his final decision will inevitably
be compromised by those hasty and immature sentences.

The evidence must be perfectly overwhelming that will lead a man to
reverse a decision once made. And here am I, his would-be friend and
helper, forcing him into a position from which he will find it very
difficult to extricate himself. I meant to do him good, and I have done
him incalculable harm. I meant to be his friend, and I have become his
enemy. So true is it that evil is wrought from want of thought as well
as want of heart.

Now see how much better the postman manages the matter. I sit down at
my desk and write exactly what I want to say. I am not under any
necessity to complete a sentence until I can do so to my own perfect
satisfaction. I can pause to consider the exact word that I wish to
employ. And if, when it is written, my letter does not please me, I can
tear it up without his being any the wiser, and write it all over again.
I am not driven to impromptu utterance or careless phraseology. I am
free of the inevitable effect upon my expression produced by the
presence of another person. I am not embarrassed by the embarrassment
that he feels on being approached on so vital a theme. I am cool,
collected, leisurely, and free. And the advantages that come to me in
inditing the letter are shared by him in receiving it. He is alone, and
therefore entirely himself. He is not disconcerted by the presence of an
interviewer. He owes nothing to etiquette or ceremony. He has the
advantage of having the case stated to him as forcefully and as well as
I am able to state it. He can read at ease and in silence without the
awkward feeling that, in one moment, he must make some sort of reply. If
he is vexed at my intrusion into his private affairs, he has time to
recover from his displeasure and to reflect that I am moved entirely by
a desire for his welfare. If he is flattered at my attention, he has
time to fling aside such superficial considerations and to face the
issue on its merits. The matter sinks into his soul; becomes part of his
normal life and thought; and, by the time we meet, he is prepared to
talk it over without embarrassment, without personal feeling, and
without undue reserve. In such matters--and they are among the most
important matters with which a minister is called to deal--the postman
is able to render me invaluable assistance.

There is something positively sacramental about the postman. For the
letters that he carries have no value in themselves; they are simply
paper and ink. They are precious only so far as they reveal the heart of
the sender to the heart of the receiver. Here, for instance, is a letter
for a young lady. She is at the door before the bell has ceased its
ringing. She greets the postman with a smile, and blushes as she glances
at the familiar handwriting. As soon as the postman has closed the gate
after him, she hurries down to the summer-house, her favourite retreat,
to read her letter. But she is not alone. Bruno, her big collie, goes
bounding after his mistress. She reads the first pages of the letter,
and allows the sheet to slip from her lap to the ground, whilst she
proceeds to devour the following pages. And as the fluttering missive
lies upon the floor of the summer-house, Bruno examines it. A dog's eyes
are sharper than a girl's eyes; yet how little the dog sees! He sees a
piece of white paper covered with black marks--sees perhaps more in that
respect than she does--yet he sees nothing, and less than nothing, for
all that. For she sees, not the black marks on the white paper, but the
very heart of one who worships her. She is gazing so intently into the
soul of her lover that she does not notice whether the 't's' are
crossed, or the 'i's' dotted. To her the letter is a sacramental thing;
its value lies not in itself, but in the revelation that it makes to
her.

And it is because the postman spends his whole life among just such
sacramental things that we welcome and honour him. We have an amiable
way of transferring to the messenger the welcome that we accord to the
message. Jessie Pope describes the joy of a mother on receiving a wire
from her soldier-boy that he will soon be back again from the front.

  '_Home at six-thirty to-day._'
    Oh, what a tumult of joy!
  Growing suspense flies away,
    God bless that telegraph-boy!

_God bless that telegraph-boy!_ Exactly. And that is why we honour the
postman. The messenger always shares in the welcome given to the message
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good
tidings, that publisheth peace! We ministers often share in the
postman's benediction. We are welcomed and honoured and loved, not so
much for our own sake as for the sake of the great, glad message that we
bear. The heart leaps up to the message and blesses the messenger. God
bless the telegraph-boy! God bless the postman!



II

CRYING FOR THE MOON


Let it be distinctly understood that nothing that I shall now say is
addressed to the crowd. To the crowd it would probably do more harm than
good. It is intended only for a single individual; and he, I think, will
understand. I am told that there is a unique secret by means of which a
wireless message from the British Navy can be transmitted to the
Admiralty Office without risk of interception. At the Admiralty a
superlatively sensitive and superlatively secret instrument is most
carefully attuned to the instrument of the battleship from which the
message is expected. Then, when all is ready, every wireless operator in
the Grand Fleet pulls out all the stops and bangs on all the keys of his
instrument, and the inevitable result is the creation of a din that is
almost deafening to all listeners at ordinary receivers. But through the
crash and the tumult the specially delicate instrument at the Admiralty
Office can distinctly hear its mate, and the priceless syllables
penetrate the thunder of senseless sound without the slightest loss or
leakage. I am about to attempt a similar experiment. I have a message
for a certain man. It is important that he, and he alone, should get it.
It would do untold damage if it were heard at other receivers. Let him
therefore take some pains to attune his instrument to mine.

Now it is usual, and it is altogether good, to encourage people to
entertain lofty ambitions, high ideals, and great expectations. It is a
most necessary injunction, and I have not a word to say against it. It
stirs the blood like a trumpet-blast. It rouses us like a challenge.
But, however excellent the medicine may be, it cannot be expected to
suit every ailment. No one drug is a panacea for all our human ills. And
even the stimulating tonic to which I have referred does not at all meet
the need of the man for whom I am now prescribing. John Sheergood is a
friend of mine, and a really capital fellow. But I should not call him a
happy man. His trouble is that his ambitions are too lofty, his
expectations too great, and his ideals, in a sense, too high. He is
crying for the moon, and breaking his heart because he can't get it. I
am profoundly sorry for this morbid friend of mine, and should dearly
like to comfort him. His ideal is perfection, nothing less; and whenever
he falls short of it he is in the depths of despair. If, as a student,
he entered for a competition, he felt that he was in disgrace unless he
secured the very first place. If he sat for an examination, he counted
every mark short of the coveted hundred per cent. as an indelible stain
upon his character. He is in abject misery unless he can strike twelve
at every hour of the day. I both admire him and pity him at the same
time. His parents once told me that when he was a very small boy he
contracted measles. The illness went hardly with him, and left him frail
and debilitated. The doctor ordered a prolonged holiday by the seaside,
with plenty of good food, plenty of fresh air, and, above all, plenty of
bathing. He was only a little fellow, and when he approached the
bathing-sheds for the first time his father accompanied him.

'I don't want to go in, dad,' he cried appealingly; 'it's cold, and I'm
cold, and I don't like it!'

'It will make you grow up into a big man, sonny!' his father replied
persuasively.

Now this touched Jack on a very tender spot, for, although his father
was tall, and he himself cherished an inordinate admiration for tall
men, he was himself almost ridiculously small. He had several times
contrasted himself with other small boys of the same age, and had felt
shockingly humiliated.

'Will it really, dad; honour bright?' he asked anxiously, carefully
scrutinizing his father's face.

'It will indeed, sonny; that is why the doctor ordered it.'

Poor little Jack submitted with a wry face to the process of disrobing,
and, with a shiver, bravely approached the water. Summoning all his
reserves of courage, he waded in until the water was up to his knees, to
his waist, and at last to his neck. The excruciating part of the ordeal
was by this time over; and, for the sake of the benefit so confidently
promised him, he tolerated the caress of the waves for the next five
minutes. Then he rushed out of the water. As soon as he was beyond the
reach of the foam he stopped abruptly, surveyed himself carefully from
top to toe, and straightway burst into tears. His mother, who was
sitting knitting on the beach, at once ran to his assistance.

'Why, whatever's the matter, Jack? What are you crying for?'

'Oh, mum, just look how wee I am! And dad said that if I went into the
water it would make a big man of me!'

He has often since joined in the laugh, whenever the story of his
childish adventure has been related in his hearing. But it is worth
recording as being so eminently characteristic of him. He has never
outgrown that boyish peculiarity. He is always setting his heart on
instantaneous maturity. He seems to think that the world should have
been built on a sort of Jack-and-the-beanstalk principle. He is
continually sowing seeds overnight, and feeling depressed if he cannot
gather the fruit as soon as he wakes in the morning. Many of us have
watched the Indian conjurer sow the seed of a mango-tree; throw a cloth
over the pot; mutter mysterious charms and incantations; and then hit
the cloth. And, behold, a full-grown mango-tree! He replaces the cloth,
mutters further incantations, again removes the covering, and, lo, the
mango-tree is in full flower! And when a third time he uncovers the
plant, the mango-tree stands forth, every bough freighted with a heavy
load of fruit! I have no idea as to how the trick is done. I only know
that poor John Sheergood seems to be everlastingly lamenting the
misfortune that ordained him to any existence other than that of an
Indian conjurer. He is grievously disappointed, not because he was born
with no silver spoon in his mouth, but because he was born with no magic
wand in his hand. His mango-trees come to fruition very, very slowly.
John believes in quick returns and lightning changes; and he is
irritated and annoyed by the tardiness of that old-fashioned process
called growth. It is good for a man to have lofty ideals; but I am sure
that John Sheergood would be a happier man, and make us all more happy,
if he would only break himself of his inveterate habit of crying for the
moon.

In justice to John I am bound to say that, as on the sands years ago,
his principal disappointment is with himself. I have done my best to
persuade him that a man should be infinitely patient with himself.
Nothing is to be gained by getting out of temper with yourself. You may
scold yourself and scourge yourself unmercifully; but I doubt if it does
much good. A man must win his self-respect; and you can only learn to
respect yourself by being very gentle and very considerate and very
patient with yourself. A man's self-culture is his first and principal
charge; and he will never succeed unless he both loves himself and
treats himself lovingly. A man should be as gentle with himself as a
gardener is with his orchids; as a nurse is with her patient; as a
mother is with her troublesome child. A gardener who lost all patience
with his delicate plants; a nurse who treated her poor patient
peevishly; or a mother who met ill-temper with ill-temper could only
expect to fail. I have urged John Sheergood to treat himself with a
softer hand, and to greet himself with a smile. I lent him Henry
Drummond's lovely essay on _The Lilies_, taking the precaution, before
doing so, to underline the following sentences: 'Growth must be
spontaneous. A boy not only grows without trying, but he cannot grow if
he tries. The man who struggles in agony to grow makes the church into a
workshop when God meant it to be a beautiful garden.' There is a good
deal in the chapter that will have a special interest for my poor
self-castigated friend.

But, although his lash falls principally upon his own back, he is not
the only sufferer. I shall never forget when, as a young fellow, he
joined the church. His conversion was a very radiant experience, and, in
the ecstasy of it all, he formed a brightly rose-tinted conception of
what the fellowship of the church must be. The idea of being admitted to
the society of numbers of people as happy as himself! They would be able
to tell of experiences as glorious as his own; they would be sure to
congratulate him on his inexpressible joy, and to help him in relation
to the difficulties that beset his daily path. They would encourage him
by their sympathy and stimulate him by their example. Their conversation
would illumine for him the sacred page; their vivid testimonies to
answered prayer would give him greater confidence in approaching the
Throne of Grace; the very atmosphere that he expected to breathe would,
he felt sure, inflame his own devotion to the highest and holiest
things.

He has often since told me of his disillusionment. It happened to be a
wet night when he was received into membership, and there were fewer
members present than were usually there. As soon as the service was over
they broke up into knots. He overheard one group discussing a wedding;
and heard a man with a strident voice say that it was a beastly night to
be out without an umbrella. But nobody took any notice of John, and he
left the building. To complete his discomfiture he mistook the step as
he passed out of the church and stumbled awkwardly into the street. 'The
whole thing was an awful come-down,' he told me afterwards, 'the
greatest surprise I had ever known. I felt as if the bottom had dropped
out of everything.' He got over it, of course; and learned by happy
experience that the people who treated him so coyly on that memorable
night are not half as bad as they seemed. Many of them are now among his
dearest and most intimate friends; whilst even with the man who growled
at the weather he has since spent some really delightful times. One of
the oddest things in life is the dread that some people feel of
appearing as good as they really are. And John has found out now that,
in spite of the cold douche administered to him that night, there is in
the church a glow of genuine enthusiasm and a wealth of spirituality
that in those days he never suspected. But it did not reveal itself all
at once. The best things never do. And because the church did not put on
her beautiful garments as soon as he entered, John was mortified and
confounded. He felt just as he felt that day on the sands when he
discovered with disgust that, under the spell of the sea, he had not
immediately assumed gigantic proportions. As I say, he has got over it
now, and smiles at it, just as he smiles when his adventure by the
seaside is recounted.

He was a great favourite in the church, but his ingrained peculiarity
betrayed itself with unfailing regularity in one particular direction.
Oddly enough, in view of his own experience, he was a little severe with
new members. I do not mean that he treated them coldly or distantly;
nobody was more genial. But he expected too much of them. He was
disappointed unless the convert of yesterday proved himself the
full-blown saint of to-day. To satisfy him, they had to be raw recruits
one day and hardened veterans the next. It was merely another phase of
his Jack-and-the-beanstalk philosophy. It was the magician and the
mango-tree over again. In a way it was very fine to see how he grieved
over the slightest lapse on the part of these new members. The smallest
inconsistency in their behaviour filled him with remorse, and he was
afflicted with the gravest suspicions as to our wisdom in welcoming such
people into fellowship. He failed, it seemed to me, to distinguish
between the raw material and the finished article. The Church evidently
had some very raw material in her membership when the Pauline Epistles
were written; and it is a mercy for John that he was not born some
centuries earlier.

John afterwards left us and entered the ministry. We were exceedingly
sorry to lose him. A man more generally honoured, respected, and beloved
I have seldom seen. The church was distinctly poorer after he left,
although we were all glad that he had given himself to so great a work.
But he carried his old characteristic up the pulpit steps with him. He
has often told me the story of that first sermon and the way it was
received. Such confidences between one minister and another are sacred,
and I shall not betray this one. But I never hear John refer to that
experience without thinking of Mark Rutherford. In his Autobiography,
Mark Rutherford tells how, on settling at his first pastorate, he put
all his soul into his first sermon. He was elated by the solemnity and
grandeur of his calling, and spoke out of the very depths of his heart.
'After the service was over,' he says, 'I went down into the vestry.
Nobody came near me but the chapel-keeper, who _said that it was
raining_, and immediately went away to put out the lights and shut up
the building. I had no umbrella, and there was nothing for it but to
walk home in the wet. When I got to my lodgings I found that my supper,
consisting of bread and cheese, was on the table, but there was no fire.
I was overwrought, and paced about for hours in hysterics. All that I
had been preaching seemed the merest vanity.' And so on. John
Sheergood's experience was not unlike it. It was the sudden descent from
the glowingly romantic ideal to the brutally prosaic reality. It nearly
killed John just as it nearly killed Mark Rutherford. But he is getting
over it. He is learning gradually, I think, that a minister can only get
the best out of his people by being very patient with them, just as the
people can only get the best out of their minister by being very patient
with him. The world has evidently been built that way. Jack and the
beanstalk is only a fairy-story and the mango-tree is a piece of
Oriental trickery; there is no room for such prodigies in a world like
this. Like the lilies, we begin in a very modest way, and grow very
slowly; we must therefore exercise infinite patience with each other. I
have fancied lately that some inkling of this has at length entered into
the mind even of John Sheergood, and he has seemed a very much happier
man in consequence.



III

OUR LOST ROMANCES


There are few days in a girl's life more critical than the day on which
the sawdust streams from the mangled carcase of her dearest doll. It is
a day of bitter disillusionment, a day in which a philosophy of some
kind is painfully born. The doll came into the home amidst all the
excitements of a birthday. It was instantly invested with every
attribute of personality. The task of naming it was as solemn a function
as the business of naming a baby. And when the choice had been made, and
the name selected, that name was as unalterable as though it had been
officially recorded at Somerset House. By that name it was greeted with
delight every morning; by that name it was hushed to sleep every night;
by that name it was introduced to other dolls, as well as to less
important people; and by that name it was addressed a hundred times a
day. The doll has suffered accidents and illnesses after the fashion of
fleshier folk; but such misadventures, as is the way with humans, has
only rendered her more dear. But now an accident has happened,
surpassing in seriousness all previous misfortunes. The thing has come
to pieces! The girl has a shapeless rag in her hand; the floor is all
powdered with sawdust; and her face is a spectacle for men and angels. I
say again that this is an extremely critical day in a girl's life, and
upon the way in which she negotiates this passage in her history a good
deal will eventually depend.

I do not quite know why I have made the feminine element so prominent in
my introduction. Boys are just the same. They affect to deride a girl's
ridiculous weakness in cherishing so great a tenderness for a doll; but,
for all their supercilious airs, they have illusions of their own. Dr.
Samuel Johnson has told us how, as a boy, he consulted the oracle as to
his future fortunes. If some issue were hanging in the balance--a game
to be played, or an examination to be taken--he would endeavour to wrest
from the unseen the secret that it held. He would note a particular
stick or stone on the path before him; and then, with face turned
skywards, he would walk towards it. If he trod on the object which he
had chosen, he took it as a sign that he would win the game or pass the
examination that was causing him such uneasiness. If, on the other hand,
he stepped clean over it, he interpreted it as a sinister prediction of
disaster. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes confesses to a similar weakness. 'As
for all manner of superstitious observances,' says the autocrat of the
Breakfast Table, 'I used to think I must have been peculiar in having
such a list of them; but I now believe that half the children of the
same age go through the same experience. No Roman soothsayer ever had
such a catalogue of omens as I found in the Sibylline leaves of my
childhood. That trick of throwing a stone at a tree and attaching some
mighty issues to hitting or missing, which you will find mentioned in
one or more biographies, I well remember.' And Dr. Holmes goes on to
give us a good deal more in the same strain.

But, although they do not record it, there must have come to both Dr.
Johnson and Dr. Holmes a day very similar to that on which the sawdust
streamed from the mutilated doll. What about the day on which young
Samuel Johnson, his scrofulous face and screwed-up eyes turned skywards,
strode along the path towards the selected talisman, stepped plump upon
it, and then lost the game that followed after all? And what about the
day on which young Oliver Wendell Holmes, impatiently awaiting his
father's return from Boston, wondered if his parent would bring him the
pocket-knife for which he had so long and loudly clamoured? But there,
not fifty yards away, was a tree; and here, at his feet, was a stone.
'If I hit it, he'll bring it; if I miss it, he won't!' he cried; and,
taking more than usually careful aim, he threw the stone, and missed!
But the pocket-knife was in his father's handbag all the same! Boys or
girls, men or women, it matters not; there come into our lives great and
memorable days when we have to take farewell of our illusions. Our
romances leave us. There comes a Christmas Day on which, to our
uttermost bewilderment, we discover the secret history of Santa Claus.
And very much will depend upon the way in which we face such sensational
and eye-opening experiences.

We go through life leaving these shattered romances behind us. Our track
is marked by the spatter of burst bubbles. What then? And in answer to
that 'What then?' the obvious temptation is the temptation to cynicism.
Since the doll has turned out to be a mere matter of sawdust and rags,
since the talisman on the footpath told a lie, since the oracle of tree
and stone deceived us, we make up our minds to fling to the scrap-heap
such cherished beliefs as we still retain. We go in for a severe weeding
out of everything that is imaginative, everything that is mystical,
everything that is romantic. Life resolves itself into a dreary
wilderness of matter-of-fact, an arid desert of common sense. Dr. Oliver
Wendell Holmes was wiser. Referring to his oracular stone-throwing and
the rest of it, he says, 'I won't swear that I have not some tendency to
these unwise practices even at this present date. With these follies
mingled sweet delusions, which I loved so well that I would not outgrow
them, even when it required a voluntary effort to put a momentary trust
in them.' It is a pity to sweep all our rainbow-tinted romances out of
life simply because one of them has been reduced to the terms of rag and
sawdust.

There stands before me as I write Sir John Millais' great picture of
'Bubbles.' Both the picture and the experience that it portrays are
wonderfully familiar. The curly head; the upturned face; the entire
absorption of the little bubble-blower in the shining balls that he is
hurling into space; the half-formed hope that this one, at least, may
not sputter out and become an unbeautiful splash of soapsuds on the
floor; the wistful half-expectancy that now, at last, he has created a
lovely globe that shall float on and on, like a little fairy-world, for
ever and for evermore. It is all in the picture, as every beholder has
observed; and it is all in life. It is the first tragedy of infancy; it
is the last tragedy of age. Bubbles; bubbles; bubbles; and yet what
would the world be without bubbles? They burst, of course; but we are
the happier for having blown them! Our dreams may never come true; but
it's lovely to dream! Illusions are part of life's treasure-trove. When
they go, they leave nothing behind them. When we lose them, we lose
everything. It is almost better to become criminal than to become
cynical. To be criminal implies an evil hand; but to be cynical reveals
a very evil heart. It is a thousand times better to be blowing bubbles
that, though fragile, are very fair than to move sulkily about the world
telling all the blowers of bubbles that their beautiful bubbles must
burst. 'I want to forget!' cried the poor little 'Lady of the
Decoration.' 'I want to begin life again as a girl with a few
illusions!' Every fool knows that bubbles must burst. The man who feels
it necessary to tell this to everybody proves, not that he possesses the
gift of prophecy, but that he lacks the saving grace of common sense.
The world would clearly be very much the poorer, and not one scrap the
richer, if no bubbles were left in it. It is altogether wholesome to
have a fair stock of illusions.

But at this point two serious questions press for answer. If illusions
are so good, why do they fail us? Why are our bubbles permitted to
burst? The question answers itself. If all the bubbles that had ever
been blown were still floating about the world, there would be nothing
so commonplace as bubbles. That is why the era of miracles ceased. It
was a very romantic phase in the Church's childhood, and it answers to
the superstitious element in our own. But we may easily exaggerate its
value. If the age of miracles had been indefinitely lengthened, the
effect would have been the same as if all the bubbles became
everlasting. If all the bubbles that had ever been blown were with us
still, who to-day would want to blow bubbles? And if miracles had once
become commonplace, their charm and significance would have instantly
vanished. 'I am persuaded,' Martin Luther sagely declares, 'that if
Moses had continued his working of miracles in Egypt for two or three
years, the people would have been so accustomed thereunto, and would
have so lightly esteemed them, that they would have thought no more of
the miracles of Moses than we think of the sun or the moon.' It would
not be hard to prove that even the miracles of the New Testament tended
to lose their effect. The amazement of the disciples at beholding what
they took to be a ghost on the water is attributed to the fact that
'they considered not the miracle of the loaves' which had taken place a
few hours earlier. A miracle was already so much a matter of course that
the memory no longer treasured it as something phenomenal. No pains were
taken to investigate its significance. It would have been a tragedy
unspeakable if the miraculous element in the faith had become
universally contemptible. As the eagle carefully builds the nest in
which her eaglets are to see the light, and afterwards as carefully
destroys it so that they may be forced to fly, so our illusions are
made for our enjoyment, and then dashed to pieces under our very eyes.
Our childhood was enriched beyond calculation by the fine romances that
gave it such bright colours; and, in exactly the same way, the childhood
of the Church was glorified by the wonder-workings of a Hand Invisible.

And the other question is this: What shall we do when our illusions
leave us? When the doll turns out to be sawdust and rag, when the
youthful oracle speaks falsely, when the bubble bursts, what then? And
again the answer is obvious. Why, to be sure, if one romance fails us,
we must get a better, that is all! Any man who has not been soured by
cynicism will confess that the romantic tints in the skein of life have
deepened, rather than faded, as the years passed on. Surely, surely, the
romance of youth was a lovelier thing than the romance of childhood!
When a girl feels how silly it is to play with dolls, she begins to
think of other things that will more appreciate her fondling. When a boy
sees that it is senseless to throw stones at trees as a means of
deciding his destiny, he takes to tossing precious stones and pretty
trinkets in quite other directions, but with pretty much the same end in
view. And so the romance of life--if life be well managed--increases
with the years, until, by the time we become grandfathers and
grandmothers, the world seems too wonderful for us, and we stand and
gaze bewildered at all its abounding surprises. Everything depends on
filling up the gaps. As soon as the sawdust streams out of the doll, as
soon as the futility of the oracle stands exposed, we must make haste to
fill the vacant place with something better.

Long, long ago there were a few Jewish Christians who felt just as a
girl feels when the component parts of her dearest doll suddenly fall
asunder, just as Samuel Johnson felt when the talisman prophesied
falsely, just as Oliver Wendell Holmes felt when he saw that he could
trust his oracle no more. They felt--those Hebrew believers--that
everything had gone from them. 'To how great splendour,' says Dr. Meyer,
'had they been accustomed--marble courts, throngs of white-robed
Levites, splendid vestments, the state and pomp of symbol, ceremonial
and choral psalm! And to what a contrast were they reduced--a meeting in
some hall, or school, with the poor, afflicted, and persecuted members
of a despised and hated sect!' But the writer of the epistle addressed
to them makes it his--or her--principal aim to point out that it is all
a mistake. Just as a girl's richest romance follows upon the
disillusionment of the terrible sawdust, so the wealthiest spiritual
heritage of these Jewish Christians comes to them in place of the things
that they were inclined to lament. 'For,' says the writer, 'ye have
come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general
assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and
to God the Judge of all and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and
to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of
sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.' And whoever
finds himself the heir of so fabulous a wealth can well afford to smile
at all his earlier disappointments.



IV

A FORBIDDEN DISH


I

I was at Wedge Bay. It was raining. Wondering what I should do, I
remembered the great caves along the shore. For ages the waves had been
at work scooping out for me a place of refuge for such a day as this. I
put on my coat, slipped a novel in the pocket, and set off along the
sands. I soon found a sheltered spot in which I was able to defy the
weather, and to watch the waves or read my book just as the fancy took
me. As a matter of fact, I had not much to read. The book was Sir Walter
Scott's _Kenilworth_, and the bookmark was already near the end. I read
therefore until, in the very climax of the tragic close, I suddenly came
upon a text. Or perhaps it was less a text than a reference to a text,
casually uttered in a moment of great excitement by one of the principal
characters in the story. But it acted on my mind as the lever at the
switch acts upon the oncoming railway train. In a flash, the novel and
all its thrilling interest were left far behind, and I was flying along
an entirely new track. And here are the words that so adroitly changed
the current of my thought:

'"Oh, if there be judgement in heaven, thou hast well deserved it," said
Foster, "and wilt meet it! Thou hast destroyed her by means of her best
affections--_it is a seething of the kid in the mother's milk_."'

Almost involuntarily I closed the book, slipped it back into my pocket,
and sat looking out to sea lost in a brown but interesting study.


II

_'Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk!'_ The striking
prohibition occurs three times--twice in the Book of Exodus, and once in
the Book of Deuteronomy. I do not know on what principle we assess the
relative value and importance of texts; but, surely, a great
commandment, thrice emphatically reiterated, ought not to be treated as
beneath our notice. I find that the interdict applies primarily to an
ancient Eastern custom. All nations have their own idea as to the
special delicacy of certain viands. We British people fancy lamb and
sucking-pig, and feel no shame in destroying the tiny creatures as soon
as they are born. The predilection of the Arab was for a new-born kid;
and when he wished to adorn his table with a particularly toothsome
morsel, it was his habit to serve up the kid boiled in milk taken from
the mother. It was against this favourite and familiar dish that the
stern and repeated prohibition was launched. I do not know if there was
any practical or utilitarian reason, based on hygienic or medical
grounds, for the emphatic decree. Perhaps, or perhaps not. Some of the
old commandments relating to animals seem to have been framed for no
other purpose than to inculcate a certain gentleness and courtesy in our
attitude towards these poorer relatives of ours. 'Thou shalt not kill a
cow and her calf on the same day'; 'Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that
treadeth out the corn'; and so on. It is difficult to see any real
reason why the ewe and her lamb, or the cow and her calf, should not go
to the shambles together. But it was strictly forbidden. And similarly,
'_Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk_.' The finer feelings
are certainly shocked at the thought of the cow and the calf going
together to the slaughter, and at the idea of boiling the newly born and
newly slain kid in the milk of its mother; and the most obvious moral
seems to be that we are not to treat the creatures of the field and the
forest in any way that grates and jars upon those finer instincts. As I
sat watching the foam playing with the strands of seaweed, it seemed to
me that, if ever I am asked to preach in support of the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, I should have here a theme all ready
to my hand. And I felt glad that I had read _Kenilworth_.


III

But the prohibition goes much farther than that. It enshrines a
tremendous principle, a principle that is nowhere else so clearly
stated. Sir Walter Scott evidently saw that; and no exposition could be
clearer than his. The circumstances were, briefly, these. The Countess
of Leicester was a prisoner. Just outside her room at the castle was a
trapdoor. It was supported by iron bolts; but it was so arranged that
even if the bolts were drawn, the trapdoor would still be held in its
place by springs. Yet the weight of a mouse would cause it to yield and
to precipitate its burden into the vault below. Varney and Foster
decided to draw these bolts so that, if the Countess attempted to
escape, the trap would destroy her. Later on, Foster heard the tread of
a horse in the court-yard, and then a whistle similar to that which was
the Earl's usual signal. The next moment the Countess's chamber opened,
and instantly the trapdoor gave way. There was a rushing sound, a heavy
fall, a faint groan, and all was over! At the same instant Varney called
in at the window, 'Is the bird caught? Is the deed done?' Deep down in
the vault Foster could see a heap of white clothes, like a snowdrift. It
flashed upon him that the noise that he had heard was not the Earl's
signal at all, but merely Varney's imitation, designed to deceive the
Countess and lure her to her doom. She had rushed out to welcome her
husband, and had miserably perished. In his indignation, Foster turned
upon Varney. 'Oh, if there be judgement in heaven, thou hast deserved
it,' he said, 'and wilt meet it! Thou hast destroyed her by means of her
best affections. _It is a seething of the kid in the mother's milk!_'

At that touchstone the inner meaning of the interdict stands revealed.
The mother's milk is Nature's beautiful provision for the life and
sustenance of the kid. Thou shalt not pervert that which was intended to
be a ministry of life into an instrument of destruction. The wifely
instinct that led the Countess to rush forth to welcome her lord was one
of the loveliest things in her womanhood, and Varney used it as the
agency by which he destroyed her. She was lured to her doom by means of
her best affections. Charles Lamb points out, in his _Tales from
Shakespeare_, that Iago compassed the death of the fair Desdemona in
precisely the same way. 'So mischievously did this artful villain lay
his plots to turn the gentle qualities of this innocent lady into her
destruction and make a net for her out of her own goodness to entrap
her!' It is this that the prohibition forbids. Thou shalt not take the
most sacred things in life and apply them to base and ignoble ends.
_Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk._


IV

The possibilities of application are simply infinite. There is nothing
high and holy that cannot be converted into an engine of destruction. A
girl is fond of music. The impulse is a lofty and admirable one. But it
may easily be used to lure her away from the best things into a life of
frivolity, voluptuousness, and sensation. A boy is fond of Nature. He
loves to climb the mountain, row on the river, or scour the bush.
Nothing could be better. But if it leads him to forsake the place of
worship, to forget God, to fling to the winds the faith of his boyhood,
and to settle down to a life of animalism and materialism, he has been
destroyed by means of his best affections. Or take our love of society
and of revelry. There are few things more enjoyable than to sit by the
fireside, or on the beach, with a few really congenial companions, to
talk, and tell stories, and recall old times; to laugh, to eat, and to
drink together. Talking and laughing and eating and drinking seem
inseparable at such times. And yet out of that human, and therefore
divine, impulse see the evils that arise! Look at our great national
drink curse, with its tale of squalor and misery and shame! Did these
men mean to be drunkards when first they entered the gaily lit bar-room?
Nothing was farther from their minds. They were following a true
instinct--the desire for companionship and congenial society. They have
been lured to their doom, like Sir Walter Scott's heroine, by means of
their best affections.


V

And what about Love? Love is a lovely thing, or why should we be so fond
of love-stories? The love of a man for a maid, and the love of a maid
for a man, are surely among the very sweetest and most sacred things in
life. No story is so fascinating as the story of a courtship. And that
is good, altogether good. Every man who has won the affection of a true,
sweet, beautiful girl feels that a new sanction has entered into life.
He is conscious of a new stimulus towards purity and goodness. And every
girl who has won the heart of a good, brave, great-hearted man feels
that life has become a grander and a holier thing for her. As
Shakespeare says:

        Indeed I know
  Of no more subtle master under heaven
  Than is the maiden passion for a maid,
  Not only to keep down the base in man,
  But to teach high thoughts and amiable words,
  And courtliness, and the desire for fame,
  And love of truth, and all that makes a man.

Lord Lytton illustrates this magic force in his _Last Days of Pompeii_.
He tells us that Glaucus, the Athenian, 'had seen Ione, bright, pure,
unsullied, in the midst of the gayest and most profligate gallants of
Pompeii, charming rather than awing the boldest into respect, and
changing the very nature of the most sensual and the least ideal as, by
her intellectual and refining spells, she reversed the fable of Circe,
and converted the animals into men.' Here, then, is something altogether
good. It is clearly designed to minister new life to all who come
beneath its spell. And yet the sordid fact remains that, through the
degradation of this same high and holy impulse, thousands of young
people make sad shipwreck.


VI

But of all things designed to minister life to the world, the Cross is
the greatest and most awful. Its possibilities of regeneration are
simply infinite; and in its case the danger is therefore all the
greater. 'We preach Christ crucified,' wrote Paul, 'unto the Jews a
stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, but unto them which
are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom
of God.' It is the most urgent and insistent note of the New Testament
that a man may convert into the instrument of his condemnation and
destruction that awful sacrifice which was designed for his redemption.
It is the sin of sins; the sin unpardonable; the sin so impressively
forbidden by that ancient and thrice reiterated commandment whose
significance Sir Walter Scott pointed out to me in the cave by the side
of the sea.



V

AN OLD MAID'S DIARY


_Christmas Eve, 1973._ Christmas-time once more! The season strangely
stirs the memory, and the ghosts of Christmases long gone by haunt my
solitary soul to-night. Somehow, a feeling creeps over me that this
Christmas will be my last. Am I sorry? Yes, one cannot help feeling
sorry, for life is very sweet. On the whole, I have been happy, and
have, I think, done good. But oh, the loneliness! And every year has
made it more unbearable. The friends of my girlhood have married, or
gone away, or died, and each Christmas has made this desperate
loneliness more hard to endure. Did God mean women to come into the
world, to feel as I have felt, to long as I have longed, and then, after
all, to die as I must die? None of the things for which women seem to be
made have come to me. And now I have no husband to shelter me; no
daughters to close my eyes; no tall sons to bear this poor body to its
burial. I have pretended to satisfy myself by mothering other people's
children; but it was cruel comfort, and often only made my heart to ache
the more. And now it is nearly over; I have come to my very last
Christmas. I have always loved to sit by the fire for a few minutes
before lighting the lamp; and to-night as I do so something reminds me
of the old days long gone by.

This little room, neat and cosy, but so quiet and so lonely, somehow
brings back to my mind a dream that I had as a girl. Was it one dream,
or was it several? Dear me, how the memory begins to piece it all
together when once it gets a start! I wonder if I can trace it in my
journal? I have always kept a journal--just for company. It runs into
several big volumes now, and the handwriting has strangely altered with
the years. I shall tear them all up and burn them to-morrow; it will be
one way of spending my last Christmas! I have said things to this old
journal of mine that a woman could not say to any soul alive. It has
done me good just to tell these old books all about it. But my dream or
dreams; when did they come? It must be sixty years ago, although,
despite my loneliness, it really does not seem so long. But it can be no
less, for it was in the days of the Great War. The war broke out in
1914--I was eighteen then!--but my dream came months afterwards when
things were at their worst. It must have been in 1915. I remember that I
had been watching the men in khaki. Everybody seemed to be going to the
front. My brothers went; the tradesmen who called for orders; the men
who served us in the shops; everybody was enlisting. All our menfolk had
become soldiers. And, thinking about all this, I dreamed. I wonder if I
entered it in my journal? And, if so, I wonder if I can find it? Yes;
here it is. Ah, I thought so. It was a series of dreams; night after
night for a week, Sunday alone excepted. I don't know why no dream came
on Sunday. I will copy these six entries here, so that I can destroy the
old volumes with their secrets without making an end of this. The dreams
began on Monday.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Tuesday, October 5, 1915._ I had such a strange dream last night. I
thought I was at the front. Whether I was a nurse or not I have no idea;
but you never know such things in dreams. Anyhow, I was there. I saw
Fred and Charlie in the trenches as plainly as I have ever seen
anything, and Tom the butcher-boy, and the young fellow who used to
bring the groceries. And with them, and evidently on the best of terms
with them, I saw a tall fellow with fair hair--such a gentlemanly
fellow!--and after I had seen him I seemed to have no eyes for the
others. If I looked to Fred, he only pointed to the boy with the fair
hair. If I turned to Charlie, he nodded to the lad with the fair hair.
Tom and the grocer's assistant did the same. And then the fellow with
the fair hair looked up, and I saw his face--such a handsome face! He
smiled--such a lovely smile!--and I felt myself blush. My confusion
awoke me; and I knew it was a dream.


_Wednesday, October 6, 1915._ Would you believe it, you credulous old
journal, I dreamed of my white-haired boy again last night! Isn't it
silly? He was home from the war, wounded, but well again. And we were
being married; only think of it! I can see it all now as plainly as I
can see the white page before me as I write. The commotion at home; the
drive to the church; the church itself; the ceremony; how plain it all
was! Fred was best man; my white-haired boy evidently had no brothers.
Jessie, my own sweet little sister, was my bridesmaid, although she
looked a good deal older. It seemed funny to see her with her hair up,
and with long skirts. The church seemed full of soldiers. Everybody who
had known him, served with him, camped with him, or fought with him,
simply worshipped him. At weddings I have always looked at the bride,
and taken very little notice of the bridegroom. But at our wedding
everybody was looking at my white-haired boy--so tall, so handsome, so
fine--like a knight out of one of the tales of chivalry. And I was glad
that they were all looking at him. And I was so happy, oh, so very,
very happy! I was happy to think that everybody was so proud of my
white-haired boy. And I was still more happy to think that my
white-haired boy was mine, my very, very own. I was so happy that I
cried, cried as though my heart would break for joy and pride and
thankfulness. And my crying must have awakened me, for when I sat up and
stared round my old bedroom in surprise there were tears in my eyes
still. I wonder if I shall ever dream of my bridegroom again?


_Thursday, October 7, 1915._ I did; I really did! I dreamed of him
again! I saw the home in which we lived, a beautiful, beautiful home. I
do not mean that it was big, but that it was sweet and comfortable, and
everything so nice! I thought that he was walking with me on the lawn.
He was older, a good bit older; I should think twice as old as when I
first saw him in the trenches. But he was still the same, still tall,
still fair, and oh, such a perfect gentleman! What care he took of me!
How proud and devoted he seemed! And how he gloried in the children! For
I thought we had children, five of them! The eldest and the youngest
were boys, Arthur, so like his father as I saw him first, and the
youngest, Harry, such a romp! The three girls, too, were the light of
his eyes and the brightness of his life. What times we all had
together! I saw him once scampering across the fields with the children,
whilst I sat among the cowslips knitting and awaiting the return of my
merry madcaps. I saw him sitting with the rest of us around the fire in
winter, whilst he told tales of the things that he did at the war. How
the boys listened, almost worshipping! And again I saw him on the Sunday
at the church. He sat next the aisle. I was so happy in being beside
him, with the children on my right. What more, I wondered, could any
woman want to fill her cup up to the brim? And, wondering, I awoke.


_Friday, October 8, 1915._ My dreams are getting to be like parts of a
serial story. How real my white-haired boy seems to be! He has come into
my life, and I cannot believe that he is only a dream-thing. I went for
a walk yesterday with mother and Jessie, and they said I was silent and
absent-minded. The truth was that I was thinking about him, yet how
could I tell them? Nobody knows but my journal and myself. And last
night--it seems scarcely possible--I saw him again! It was not quite so
nice, for I thought we were very old. He was no longer tall and erect,
but slightly bent, though stately still. And I leaned heavily upon his
arm. And the children came, and brought their children--such a lot of
them there seemed to be. He grew as young as ever in playing with these
troops of happy little people. And for them there was no fun like a game
with grandpapa. And as I sat and watched them, I liked to think that all
these boys and girls would have something of him about them, and would
grow up to cherish his dear memory as their ideal of all that a
Christian gentleman should be. And sometimes I thought of their
children, and their children's children, till I saw, floating before my
fancy, hundreds and thousands of children yet to be; and I speculated
idly as to how far his fine influence would carry down these coming
generations. And once more I awoke.


_Saturday, October 9, 1915._ Oh, my journal, my journal! I dreamed of my
white-haired boy again! How I wish I never had! If only I had always
been able to think of him as I saw him on Wednesday night and Thursday!
I was once more at the war. You know what funny things dreams are. In
the trenches I again saw Fred and Charlie and Tom the butcher-boy, and
the young fellow who used to bring the groceries. But this time they
were all in action; when I saw them before they were resting. The air
was heavy with battle-smoke; the great guns roared and reverberated;
shells screamed and burst about me. It was like night, although I knew
that it was daytime. As I stood and watched--looking for somebody--four
Red Cross men passed me. They were bearing a stretcher, and on the
stretcher was a mangled form. His face was hidden by his arm, half lying
across his eyes. A strange impulse seized me. I sprang forward, raised
his arm in the semi-darkness; there was a sudden flash caused by I know
not what, and in the light of that fearful and revealing flash I
recognized my white-haired boy! I trudged beside the stretcher to the
hospital, knowing neither what I did nor what I said. And when we
reached the hospital, my white-haired boy was dead! My white-haired boy,
my white-haired boy, my white-haired boy was dead! Oh that I had never
dreamed again!


_Sunday, October 10, 1915._ I dreamed once more, but not of my
white-haired boy. I dreamed of myself; pity me that I had nothing better
to dream of! I am only a girl; but in my dream I saw myself an old
woman, old and lonely! Oh, so very, very lonely! I was sitting, I
thought, in the dusk beside a bright and cheery fire in a neat and cosy
little room. Neat and cosy, but oh, so lonely; and I felt sorry for
myself, very sorry. For the self that I saw in my dream was a sad old
self, a disappointed old self, a self that had fought bravely against
being soured, but a self that had, after all, only partly succeeded. It
was not a nice dream; the nice dreams that I had earlier in the week
will never come again. No, it was not a nice dream, and I awoke feeling
uneasy and unhappy; and my head was aching.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Christmas Eve, 1973._ And so, with a shaky, withered hand, I have
copied into the last pages of my journal the entries that I made in the
first of these old volumes. What did they mean, those dreams that came
to me so long ago? Was there a white-haired boy at the war, a
white-haired boy who, if there had been no war, or if just one cruel
shell had failed to explode, would have been the glory of my life and
the father of my children? But there _was_ a war, and the fatal shell
_did_ burst, and my white-haired boy and I never met, _never met_. The
five happy children--those two fine boys and the three lovely
girls--will never now gladden these dim old eyes of mine. Those troops
of grandchildren, and those hosts of unborn generations that I saw in my
happy fancy, will never leave the land of dreams and alight on this old
world. In the days of the war, I remember how people wept with the
widows, and sorrowed with the mothers whose brave sons were stricken
down. And, God knows, none of that sympathy was wasted. Oh, it was
heart-breaking to see the lusty women who would never see their husbands
again; and the broken mothers who would never even have the poor
consolation of visiting the graves of their fallen sons. And I was only
a girl, a girl of nineteen. And nobody wept with me. I did not even weep
for myself. Nobody knew about my white-haired boy. I did not know. But I
know now. Yes, _I know now_. And God knows; I pillow my poor tired old
head on that, God knows, _God knows_! And so this, then, is to be my
last Christmas! Ah, well, so be it! And perhaps--who can tell?--perhaps,
in a world where we women shall know neither wars, nor weddings, nor
widowhood, I shall before next Christmas have found the face of my
girlish dreams!



VI

THE RIVER


It is my great good fortune to dwell on the green and picturesque banks
of a broad and noble river. 'Rivers,' says an old Spanish proverb which
Izaak Walton quotes with a fine smack of approval, 'rivers were made for
wise men to contemplate and for fools to pass by without consideration.'
Let us beware lest we fall beneath the Spaniard's lash. For myself, I
can at least affirm that I never saunter beside these blue, fast-flowing
waters without feeling that the lines have fallen unto me in pleasant
places. It is wonderful how, after awhile, the winding river seems to
weave itself into the very texture and fabric of one's life. You stroll
by it, bathe in it, row on it, fish in it, until every rock and every
bank, every crag and every cliff, every twist and every bay, every deep
and every shallow, takes its place among the intimacies and fond
familiarities of life. It is one of the wonders of the world that this
little island in the southern seas should pour into the Pacific so many
fine majestic streams. And here, beside the lordliest of them all, I
have made my home. It is good to stand on these green banks, to survey
the great expanse of gleaming waters, and to see the stately ships glide
in and out. I often think of that early morning when John Forster found
Carlyle standing beside the Thames at Chelsea, lost in an evident
reverie of admiration. 'I should as soon have thought of assaulting him
as of addressing him,' says Forster. To be sure! We do lots of things in
this life of which we have no reason to be ashamed, things that are
indeed altogether to our credit, yet in the performance of which we do
not care to be discovered. It would be a sad old world, for example, if
love-making went out of fashion; but no man cares to be caught in the
act, for all that. Carlyle was caught making love to the Thames, as I
have often made love to the Derwent, and he keenly resented the
intrusion. 'He abruptly turned away,' adds the offender, 'and moved
across the roadway toward Cheyne Row, with that curious slow shuffle
habitual with him, and I saw him no more.'

Why, my very Bible seems a new book as I ponder its pages by the banks
of the Derwent. What a different story the Old Testament would have had
to tell if Jerusalem had stood by the side of a river like this! The
Jews never forgave the frowning Providence that denied to their fair
city a river. They heard how Babylon stood proudly surveying the
shining waters of the Euphrates, how Nineveh was beautified by the
lordly Tigris, how Thebes glittered in stately grandeur on the Nile, and
how Rome sat in state beside the Tiber; and they were consumed with envy
because no broad river protected them from their foes, and bore to their
gates the wealthy merchandise of many lands. I never noticed until I
dwelt by these blue waters how all the Psalms and prophecies are
coloured by this phase of Judean life. The prophets were for ever
dreaming of the river; the psalmists were for ever singing of the river.
Nothing delighted the people like a vision, such as visited Ezekiel, of
a broad river rushing out from Jerusalem. No greater or more glowing
message ever reached the disconsolate and riverless people than when
Isaiah proclaimed, 'The glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad
rivers and streams, wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall
gallant ship pass thereby!' Jehovah, that is to say, shall impart to
Jerusalem all the advantages of a river without any of its attendant
dangers. Many a faithless river, by bearing the destroyer on its bosom
to the city gates, had proved the undoing of the people after all. But
no such fate shall overwhelm Jerusalem. And, hearing this, the riverless
city was comforted.

It is recorded of the Right. Hon. John Burns that, in the days when he
was President of the Local Government Board, he found himself strolling
on the Terrace of the House of Commons, surveying, with all the
transports of a born Londoner, the shining waters of the Thames. His
reverie was, however, rudely interrupted by a supercilious American who
was inclined to regard with scornful contempt the object of Mr. Burns'
ecstatic admiration. 'After all,' the American demanded, 'what is it but
a ditch compared with the Missouri or the Mississippi?' This was more
than even a Cabinet Minister could be expected to stand. 'The Missouri
and the Mississippi!' Mr. Burns exclaimed in a fine burst of patriotic
indignation. 'The Missouri and the Mississippi are water, sir, and
nothing but water; but that,' pointing to the Thames, '_that_, sir, is
liquid history, _liquid history_!' Yes, Mr. Burns is quite right. The
Thames has a glory of its own among the world's historic streams,
although it is only a matter of degree. All rivers are liquid history.
The records of the world's great rivers constitute themselves, to all
intents and purposes, the history of the race. To take a single
illustration, it is obvious that the student who has mastered the
history and hydrography of the Niger, the Congo, the Zambesi, the
Orange, and the Nile has little more to learn about Africa. From the
times of which Herodotus writes, when Cyrus lost his temper with the
Tigris, and turned it out of its channel for drowning one of his sacred
white horses, rivers have loomed very largely in the annals of human
history. Indeed, Professor Shailer Mathews, in _The Making of
To-morrow_, says that there never was, until recent times, a nation that
did not paddle or sail its way into history. Civilization, he says, got
its first start on water. 'In the early days rivers were thoroughfares,
and they continued to be thoroughfares until the middle of last century.
Even the United States was born on water. It was easier to get to New
Orleans from Montreal by way of the Mississippi than overland.' One has
only to conjure up the wealthy historical traditions that cluster about
the names of the Euphrates and the Nile, the Indus and the Volga, the
Rhine and the Danube, the Tiber and the Thames, in order to convince
himself that the records of the world's great waterways are inextricably
interwoven with the annals of the human race.

We cannot, however, disguise from ourselves the fact that the affection
that we feel for our rivers is not based solely, or even primarily, on
utilitarian considerations. Nobody supposes that it is the navigable
qualities of the Ganges that have led the Hindus to believe that to die
on its banks, or to drink before death of its waters, is to secure to
themselves everlasting felicity. Yet, when we attempt to account in so
many words for the fascination of the river, the task becomes intricate
and difficult. Macaulay spent his thirty-eighth birthday on the banks of
the Rhone, and transferred his impressions to his journal. 'I was
delighted,' he says, 'by my first sight of the blue, rushing,
healthful-looking river. I thought, as I wandered along the quay, of the
singular love and veneration which rivers excite in those who live on
their banks; of the feeling of the Hindus about the Ganges, of the
Hebrews about the Jordan, of the Egyptians about the Nile, of the Romans
about the Tiber, and of the Germans about the Rhine. Is it that rivers
have, in a greater degree than almost any other inanimate object, the
appearance of animation, and something resembling character? They are
sometimes slow and dark-looking; sometimes fierce and impetuous;
sometimes bright, dancing, and almost flippant.' However that may be,
the fact itself remains; and it is surprising that our literature does
not more adequately reflect this marked peculiarity. Macaulay himself
felt the lack, and dreamed of writing a great epic poem on the Thames.
'I wonder,' he said, 'that no poet has thought of writing such a poem.
Surely there is no finer subject of the sort than the whole course of
the river from Oxford downwards.' But a century has gone by and the poem
has not been penned. Shakespeare dwelt beside the Avon; Goethe loved to
stroll among the willows on the banks of the Lahn; Coleridge was born,
and spent the most impressionable years of his life in the beautiful
valley of the Otter. And one of the tenderest idylls of our literary
history is the picture of Wordsworth wandering hand in hand with Dorothy
among the most delightful river scenery of which even England can boast.
Yet, beyond a few sonnets and snippets, nothing came of it all. Neither
the laughing little streams nor the more majestic and historic waterways
have ever yet found their laureates.

But there are compensations. If the bards have been strangely and
unaccountably irresponsive to the music of the waters, our great prose
writers have caught its murmur and its meaning. Two particularly, John
Bunyan and Rudyard Kipling, have given us the classics of the river.
Bunyan's river--the river that all the pilgrims had to cross--is too
familiar to need more than the merest mention. And as for Mr. Kipling,
he, like Bunyan, is a writer of both poetry and prose. As a poet he has
failed to do justice to the river, as all the poets have failed. He has
given us a snippet, as all the poets have done. He makes the Thames
tells its own tale, and a wonderful tale it is.

  I remember the bat-winged lizard birds,
  The Age of Ice and the mammoth herds;
  And the giant tigers that stalked them down
  Through Regent's Park into Camden Town;
  And I remember like yesterday
  The earliest Cockney who came my way,
  When he pushed through the forest that lined the Strand,
  With paint on his face and a club in his hand.

But I forgave Kipling for not having repaired the omission of the older
poets when I read _Kim_. _Kim_ is the greatest story of a river that has
ever been written. Who can forget the old lama and his long, long search
for the River? Buddha, he thought, once took a bow and fired an arrow
from its string, and, where that arrow fell, there sprang up a river
'whose nature, by our Lord's beneficence, is that whoso bathes in it
washes away all taint and speckle of sin.' And so, through Mr. Kipling's
four hundred vivid pages, there wanders the old lama, through city and
rice-fields, over hills and across plains, asking, always asking, one
everlasting question: 'The River; the River of the Arrow; the River that
can cleanse from Sin; where is the River? Where, oh, where is the
River?' All India, all the world seems to enter into that ceaseless cry.
It is the deepest, oldest, latest cry of the universal heart: 'The
River; the River of the Arrow; the River that can cleanse from Sin;
where is the River? Where, oh, where is the River?' And it is the
Church's unspeakable privilege to take the old lama's hand and to point
his sparkling eyes to the cleansing fountains.



VII

FACES IN THE FIRE


It was half-past ten! I had no idea it was so late! Our little camp was
pitched about four miles up Captain's Gully, under the massive shelter
of Bulman's Ridge. It had been a perfect, cloudless day; all our
excursions--fishing, shooting, botanizing, and the rest--had been
crowned with delightful success; and after supper we sat round the great
camp fire, talking. We talked, of course, of the only things ever
discussed around camp fires--old times and old faces. I was struck with
the number of sentences that began '_I remember once----_.' Then, one by
one, the others stole away to their tents--those little white tents that
had looked like stray snowflakes in a wilderness of bush whenever we
caught sight of them from the hills in the daytime, yet which seemed all
the world to us at night. One by one, with a 'Here's off!' or a 'So
long!' the others had slipped quietly away, and the fire and I were at
last left to ourselves. How still it all was! Now and then I heard the
queer cry of a mopoke up the gully; and once there was the swish of a
bough beneath the leap of a 'possum. But, save for these, I could hear
no sound but the subdued hissing and rumbling of the logs as they
crumpled up in the fire before me. I remained for awhile, looking into
the glowing embers; and there, in the dying fire, the faces of my
companions all came back to me. And not theirs alone; for I saw, too,
the old familiar faces of which we had been chatting, and a hundred
others as well. It was then that I was startled by the 'possum in the
branches overhead. I looked at my watch; it was half-past ten; and I too
turned my back on the fire that had revealed so much. And I wondered, as
I moved away to my tent, why, by the side of the fire, we always think
of the Past, dream of the Past, talk of the Past. Why do our yesterdays
all spring to new and glorious life when the flickering flames are
lighting up our faces?

Our camp broke up a day or two later; and all such thoughts seemed to
have died with the fire that gave them birth. But, oddly enough, they
returned to me this morning. For, when I arose, I was conscious of a
distinct snap of winter in the atmosphere; and when I entered the study
I discovered that the divinity who presides over such matters had lit
the first fire of another year. I saluted it with pleasure, not merely
for the sake of the comfort it promised me, but for its own sake. I
greeted it as one greets an old and trusted friend. On this side of the
world we scarcely know what winter means, and we are therefore in danger
of underestimating the historic value of the fire. We can produce
nothing in Australia worthy of comparison with those stern winters with
which Northern and Western writers have made us so familiar. We are
accustomed to a literature which pours in upon us from high Northern
latitudes, and which describes, with a picturesque realism that evokes a
sympathetic shiver, the glacial snowdrifts that, for weeks on end, lie
deep along the hedgerows; the hapless bird that falls, frozen to death,
from the leafless bough; the rabbit that perishes of slow starvation in
its wretched burrow; and the fish that floats in stupor beneath the very
ice that furnishes the skater's paradise. But whilst, to us, snow and
ice are things of imagination or of memory, I felt thankful this
morning, as I knelt down like some old fire-worshipper and warmed my
numb hands at the cheerful blaze, that this Tasmanian winter of ours has
just enough sting in it to preserve in me a lively appreciation of this
ancient and honourable institution.

For the fireside is sanctified by a great and glorious tradition. It
enshrines all that is most mystical and most wonderful in our
civilization. In his pictures of the forest, Jack London again and again
emphasizes the magic effect of the fireside even on the creatures of the
wild. When White Fang, the wolf, saw the tongues of flame and clouds of
smoke that arose from beneath the Indian's hands, he was mystified. It
seemed to him a sign of some divinity in man of which he knew nothing.
It drew him as by some mesmeric influence. 'He crawled several steps
towards the flame. His nose touched it.' And when he felt the pain it
seemed as if an angry deity had smitten him.

In _The Call of the Wild_, Jack London returns to the same idea. Buck,
the great dog, was a creature of the wild, and sometimes the yearning
for the wild swept over him with almost irresistible authority. What was
it that kept him from bounding off into the forest and shaking the dust
of civilization from his paws for ever? It was because 'faithfulness and
devotion, things born of fire and roof,' had been developed within him.
He had sprawled on the hearth before John Thornton's fire; had looked up
hungrily into John Thornton's face; had learned to love his master more
than life itself; and to the fireside of his master he was bound by
invisible chains that he could not snap. 'Deep in the forest,' says Jack
London, 'a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call,
mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back
upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the
forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did he wonder where
or why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the forest. But as often
as he gained the soft unbroken earth and the green shade, the love for
John Thornton drew him back to the fire again.' The fire; it is always
the fire. The fire seems, even to the brutes, to be the emblem of the
genius of our humanity.

For the triumph of humanity is the creation of home; and the soul of the
home is the fireside. The luxurious summer evenings, with their wide
range of out-of-door allurements, tend to discount the attractions of
the home, and to depreciate the value of domestic intercourse. We return
from business and rush out again for recreation. But winter furnishes a
salutary corrective. When the day's work is done, and the home is once
reached, everything conspires to enhance its seductive charms. Outside,
the dark and the cold, the bleak wind and the driving rain, threaten
multiple discomforts to the gadabout who dares to venture forth; whilst
within, the blazing fire, the cheerful hum of table talk, and the genial
hospitalities of home make their most resistless appeal amidst the
wintriest conditions. Was it not for this reason that the fire came to
be regarded for centuries as the natural emblem of domestic felicity? In
the days before matches were invented, when the lighting of a fire was a
much more laborious business than it is to-day, the first fire in the
home of a newly married pair was started by the bearing of a burning
brand from each of the homes from which bride and bridegroom came. It
was intended as a kind of ritual. The communication of the flame from
the old hearths which they had left to the new one which they had
established was designed to symbolize the perpetuation of all that was
worthiest and most sacred in the homes from which the young people had
come. It was the transfer of the Past--that radiant and tender Past that
saluted me from the glowing embers of my camp fire in the gully--to the
roseate and unborn future.

But although it was in my solitude that the fire in Captain's Gully
spoke to me, the fire is no lover of loneliness. It is the very emblem
of hospitality, and there are few graces more attractive. We boast that
an Englishman's home is his castle, and we do all that legislation can
accomplish to make that castle impregnable and inviolate. We close the
door, and draw the blinds, and we feel that we have effectually shut the
whole world out. And yet when a friend looks in, we suddenly discover
that our happiness consists, not in barring and bolting the heavy front
door, but in flinging it wide open. We seat him in the best chair; we
bring out the best dainties from the cupboard, the best books from the
shelves, and the best stories from the treasure-house of memory. The
fire crackles, cheeks glow, and eyes sparkle as the genial conversation
grows in interest and surprise. Nor is the pleasure by any means the
monopoly of the host; the guest shares it to the full. What is more
exhilarating or satisfying than an evening spent round a good fire with
a few kindred spirits in whose company one is perfectly at home? You can
speak or be silent, just as the mood takes you. You have not to labour
to be entertaining if you feel that you have nothing to say; nor need
you struggle to restrain yourself if you feel in the humour to talk. You
have not to weigh every word as you instinctively do in the presence of
less familiar or less trusted companions. You eat the fruit that is
handed round, or decline it, just as the whim of the moment dictates,
feeling under no obligation either way. You are entirely at your ease.
Sometimes the one conversation holds the entire group, and the
semi-circle listens, interested or amused, to the tale that one member
of the cluster is telling. At other times the party automatically
divides itself into knots; the gentlemen, it may be, breaking into
politics or business, and the ladies comparing notes on more enticing
themes. The fire blazes; the buzz of conversation rises and falls, sinks
and swells. Occasionally the attention is so concentrated on the subdued
voice of one speaker that scarcely a sound is audible outside the door;
a moment later the argument is so exciting, or the laughing so
boisterous, that everybody seems to be shouting at the same time. The
gramophone, and all such adventitious aids to the tolerable passage of a
leaden evening, are never so much as thought of. Even the piano is left
out in the cold. Every moment is crowded with the flush of unalloyed
delight. And when the last guest has vanished, and the house seems
silent and empty, it suddenly occurs to you that the great chief guest
whom you have been entertaining, or who has been entertaining you, was
the Past, the radiant and glorified Past. The phrase that we heard so
often in Captain's Gully, the '_I remember once----_,' has been the
key-note of the evening's gossip.

For the fact is that the fireside, whether in Captain's Gully in
summer-time or at home in dead of winter, is a sort of magic
observatory, a kind of camera-obscura. Outside, the world is wrapped in
impenetrable darkness. But the kindly glow of the fire stimulates the
memory, spurs the imagination, and brings back all our lost loves and
all our veiled landscapes in a beautified and idealized form. The lonely
man sees faces in the fire; but there are other things as well. The
springs and summers that haunt our fancy as we talk of them beside a
roaring fire are the blithest and gayest seasons that the world has ever
known. Never was sky so blue, or earth so fair, or sun so bright, or
air so sweet as the sky and the earth, the sun and the air, that we
contemplate from our coign of vantage by the side of the fire. The
fragrance of the hawthorn in the hedgerow; the humming of the bees along
the bank; the carolling of birds in the tree-tops; the bleating of the
lambs across the meadows,--these never appear so alluring as when we
view them from the wonderful observatory at the fireside. Dean Hole
tells with what sadness he used to pluck the last roses of summer. And
then, he says, 'the chill evenings come, curtains are drawn, and bright
fires glow. Then who is so happy as the rose-grower with the new
catalogues before him?' He sits by his fire and talks lovingly of the
roses that he grew in the summer that has vanished, and his eyes light
up with enthusiasm as he thinks of the still fairer blossoms of the
summer that will soon be here. And so two summer-times sit by his hearth
at mid-winter, and he revels in the company of each of them.

It is ever so. The crackling of the logs wakes up the slumbering Past,
and it all comes back to us. As soon as a man gets his feet on the
fender he instinctively thinks of old times and old companions. The
flames have destroyed much; but they also revive much. They bring back
to us our yesterdays; they bring back, indeed, the lordly yesterdays of
the remotest, stateliest antiquity. Surely that was the idea in
Macaulay's mind when he wrote 'Horatius':

  And in the nights of winter,
    When the cold north winds blow,
  And the long howling of the wolves
    Is heard amidst the snow;
  When round the lonely cottage
    Roars loud the tempest's din,
  And the good logs of Algidus
    Roar louder yet within;

  When the oldest cask is opened,
    And the largest lamp is lit;
  When the chestnuts glow in the embers,
    And the kid turns on the spit;
  When young and old in circle
    Around the firebrands close;
  When the girls are weaving baskets,
    And the lads are shaping bows;

  When the goodman mends his armour,
    And trims his helmet's plume;
  When the goodwife's shuttle merrily
    Goes flashing through the loom,--
  With weeping and with laughter
    Still is the story told,
  How well Horatius kept the bridge
    In the brave days of old.

Now, when I come to think of it, is it any wonder that the days of auld
lang syne, and the old familiar faces, should all come back in the
flames? For the scientists tell me that this study-fire of mine is
simply the radiance of far-back ages suddenly released for my present
comfort. Long before a single black-fellow prowled about these vast
Australian solitudes, the sun bathed this huge continent in apparently
superfluous brightness. But the sun knew what it was doing. The coalbeds
gathered up and stored that sunshine through centuries of centuries. The
black men came; and the white men came; and here at last am I! I need
that sunshine of ages long gone by. The miner digs for it; brings it to
the surface; sends it to my study; and, lo, I am this very morning
warming my numb fingers at its genial glow!

And so the match with which I light a fire, either in the camp away up
in the bush, or in this quiet study at home, is nothing less than the
wand of a magician! At the barred and bolted doors of the irrecoverable
Past I tap with that small wand and cry, 'Open, Sesame!' And, lo, a
miracle is straightway wrought! The doors that have been closed for
years, perhaps for ages, swing suddenly open, and the sunshine comes
streaming out! That match liberates the imprisoned brightness. The
scientists say so, and I can easily believe it. For this is the
essential glory of the fireside. All the sunniest memories rush to mind
as we cluster round the hearth. All the sunniest experiences of the
dead and buried years spring to vigorous life once more. All the
sunniest faces--the dear, familiar faces of the long ago--smile at us
again from out the glowing embers. And perhaps--who shall say?--perhaps
some thought like this haunted the minds of a prophet of the Old
Testament and an apostle of the New when, greatly daring, they declared
that 'our God is a consuming fire!' Did they mean that, when we see Him
as He is, all the holiest and sweetest and most precious treasure of the
Past will be more our own? Did they mean that in Him the sunshine of all
the ages will again salute us?



VIII

THE MENACE OF THE SUNLIT HILL


I am writing on the six hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of
Dante. The poet was born in 1265; I am writing in 1915. Six hundred and
fifty years represent a tremendous slice of history; and these six
hundred and fifty years span a chasm between two specially notable
crises in the annals of this little world. Dante was born in a year of
battle and of tumult, of fierce dissension and of bitter strife. It was
a year that decided the destinies of empires and changed the face of
Europe. Such a year, too, is this in which I write, and, writing, look
down the long, long avenue of the centuries that intervene. This
morning, however, I am not concerned with the story of revolution and of
conflict, of political convulsions and of nations at war. Such a study
would have fascinations of its own; but I deliberately leave it that I
may contemplate the secret history of a great, a noble, and a tender
soul. Edward FitzGerald tells us that he and Tennyson were one day
looking in a shop window in Regent Street. They saw a long row of busts,
among which were those of Goethe and Dante. The poet and his friend
studied them closely and in silence. At last FitzGerald spoke. 'What is
it,' he asked, 'which is present in Dante's face and absent from
Goethe's?' The poet answered, '_The divine_!' Now how did that divine
element come into Dante's life? He has himself told us. Has the
spiritual autobiography of Dante, as revealed to us in the introductory
lines of his _Inferno_, ever taken that place among our devotional
classics to which it is justly entitled? Surely the pathos, the insight,
and the exquisite simplicity of that first page are worthy of comparison
with the choicest treasures of Bunyan or of Wesley, of Brainerd or of
Fox. Let us glance at it.


I

I have heard many evangelists preach on such texts as: 'The Son of Man
is come to seek and to save that which is lost.' It was necessary, of
course, that they should explain to their audiences what they meant by
this lost condition. Wisely enough, they have usually had recourse to
illustration. The child lost in a London crowd; the ship lost on a
trackless sea; the sheep lost among the lonely hills; the traveller lost
in the endless bush,--all these have been exploited again and again.
From literature, one of the best illustrations is the moving story of
Enoch Arden. When poor Enoch returns from his long sojourn on the
desolate island, he finds that his wife, giving him up for dead, has
married Philip, and that his children worship their new father. It is
the garrulous old woman at the inn who tells him, never dreaming that
she is speaking to Enoch. Says she:

 'Enoch, poor man, was cast away and lost!'
  He, shaking his grey head pathetically,
  Repeated, muttering, 'Cast away and lost!'
  Again in deeper inward whispers, 'Lost!'

But none of these illustrations are as good as Dante's. He opens by
describing the emotions with which, at the age of thirty-five, his soul
awoke. He was lost!

  In the midway of this our mortal life,
  I found me in a gloomy wood, astray,
  Gone from the path direct: and e'en to tell
  It were no easy task, how savage wild
  That forest, how robust and rough its growth,
  Which to remember only, my dismay
  Renews, in bitterness not far from death.

Neither Bunyan's pilgrim in his City of Destruction, nor his City of
Mansoul beleaguered by fierce foes, is quite so human or quite so
convincing as this weird scene in the forest. The gloom, the loneliness,
the silence, and the absence of all hints as to a way out of his
misery; these make up a scene that combines all the elements of
adventure with all the elements of reality. Dante was lost, and knew it.


II

The poet cannot tell us by what processes he became entangled in this
jungle. 'How first I entered it I scarce can say.' But it does not very
much matter. The way by which he escaped is the thing that concerns us;
and to this theme he bravely addresses himself. In his description of
his earliest sensations in the dark forest, several things are
significant. He clearly regarded it as a very great gain, for example,
to have discovered that he was lost. 'I found me,' he says, 'I found me
in a gloomy wood, astray.' Those three words, '_I found me_,' remind us
of nothing so much as the record of the prodigal, 'And he came to
himself.' I am pleased to notice that it is of the incomparable story of
the prodigal that Dante's opening confession reminds most of his
expositors. Thus, Mr. A. G. Ferress Howell, in his valuable little
monograph on Dante, observes that this finding of himself 'shows that he
has got to the point reached by the prodigal son when he said, "I will
arise and go to my father." He found, that is to say, that he had
altogether missed the true object of life. The wild and trackless
wood,' Mr. Howell goes on to observe, 'represents the world as it was in
1300. Why was it wild and trackless? Because the guides appointed to
lead men to _temporal felicity_ in accordance with the teachings of
Philosophy, and to eternal felicity in accordance with the teachings of
Revelation--the Emperor and the Pope--were both of them false to their
trust.' So here was poor Dante, only knowing that he was hopelessly
lost; and unable to discover among the undergrowth about him any
suggestion of a way to safety.


III

Suddenly the Vision Beautiful breaks upon him. He stumbles blindly
through the forest until he arrives at the base of a sunlit mountain:

  ... a mountain's foot I reached, where closed
  The valley that had pierced my heart with dread.
  I looked aloft, and saw his shoulders broad
  Already vested with that planet's beam
  Who leads all wanderers safe through every way.

The hill is, of course, the life he fain would live--steep and
difficult, but free from the mists of the valley and the entanglements
of the wood. And is it not illumined by the Sun of Righteousness--'Who
leads all wanderers safe through every way'? He stepped out from the
valley and cheerfully commenced the ascent. And then his troubles began.
One after the other, wild beasts barred his way and dared him to
persist. His path was beset with the most terrible difficulties. Now
here, if anywhere, the poet betrays that spiritual insight, that flash
of genuine mysticism, that entitles him to rank with the great masters.
For whilst he wandered in the murky wood no ravenous beasts assailed
him. There, life, however unsatisfying, was at least free from conflict.
But as soon as he essayed to climb the sunlit hill his way was
challenged. It is a very ancient problem. The psalmist marvelled that,
whilst the wicked around him enjoyed a most profound and unruffled
tranquillity, his life was so full of perplexity and trouble. John
Bunyan was arrested by the same inscrutable mystery. Why should he, in
his pilgrim progress, be so storm-beaten and persecuted, whilst the
people who abandoned themselves to folly enjoyed unbroken ease? I have
often thought of the problem when out shooting. The dog invariably
ignores the dead birds and devotes all his energy to the fluttering
things that are struggling to escape. In the stress of the experience
itself, however, such comfortable thoughts do not occur to us, and it
seems passing strange that, whilst our days in the wood were undisturbed
by hungry eyes or gleaming fangs, our attempt to climb the sunlit hill
should bring about us a host of unexpected enemies. Many a young and
eager convert, fancying that the Christian life meant nothing but
rapture, has been startled by the discovery of the beasts of prey
awaiting him.


IV

And such beasts! Trouble seemed to succeed trouble; difficulty followed
on the heels of difficulty; peril came hard upon peril.

          Scarce the ascent
  Began, when, lo! a panther, nimble, light,
  And covered with a speckled skin, appeared,
  Nor when it saw me, vanished, rather strove
  To check my onward going; that ofttimes
  With purpose to retrace my steps I turned.

He had scarcely recovered from the shock, and driven this peril from his
path, when

  ... a new dread succeeded, for in view
  A lion came, 'gainst me, as it appeared,
  With his head held aloft and hunger-mad.
  That e'en the air was fear-struck. A she-wolf
  Was at his heels, who in her leanness seemed
  Full of all wants, and many a land hath made
  Disconsolate ere now. She with such fear
  O'erwhelmed me, at the sight of her appalled,
  That of the height all hope I lost.

The panther, the lion, and the wolf; that is very suggestive, and we
must look into this striking symbolism a little more closely.


V

The three fierce creatures that challenged Dante's ascent of the sunlit
hill represent evils of various kinds and characters. If a man cannot be
deterred by one form of temptation, another will speedily present
itself. It is, as the old prophet said, 'as if a man did flee from a
lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on
the wall, and a serpent bit him.' If one form of evil is unsuccessful,
another instantly replaces it. If the panther is driven off, the lion
appears; and if the lion is vanquished, the lean wolf takes its place.
But there is more than this hidden in the poet's parable. Did Dante
intend to set forth no subtle secret by placing the three beasts in that
order? Most of his expositors agree that he meant the panther to
represent _Lust_, the lion to represent _Pride_, and the wolf to
represent _Avarice_. Lust is the besetting temptation of youth, and
therefore the panther comes first. Pride is the sin to which we succumb
most easily in the full vigour of life. We have won our spurs, made a
way for ourselves in the world, and the glamour of our triumph is too
much for us. And Avarice comes, not exactly in age, but just after the
zenith has been passed. The beasts were not equidistant. The lion came
some time after the panther had vanished; but the wolf crept at the
lion's heels. What a world of meaning is crowded into that masterly
piece of imagery! Assuming that this interpretation be sound, two other
suggestions immediately confront us; and we must lend an ear to each of
them in turn.


VI

The three creatures differed in character. The panther was _beautiful_;
the lion was _terrible_; the wolf was _horrible_. Although the poet knew
full well the cruelty and deadliness of the crouching panther's spring,
he was compelled to admire the creature's exquisite beauty. 'The hour,'
he says,

  The hour was morning's prime, and on his way.
  Aloft the sun ascended with those stars
  That with him rose, when Love divine first moved
  Those its fair works; so that with joyous hope
  All things conspire to fill me, the gay skin
  Of that swift animal, the matin dawn.
  And the sweet season.

The lion, on the other hand, is the symbol of majesty and terror. But
the lean she-wolf was positively horrible. Her hungry eyes, her
gleaming fangs, her panting sides, filled the beholder with loathing.
'Her leanness seemed full of all wants.' The poet says that the very
sight of her o'erwhelmed and appalled him. Dante himself confessed that,
of the three, he regarded the last as by far the worst of these three
brutal foes. Now I fancy that, in the temptations that respectively
assail youth, maturity, and decline, I have noticed these same
characteristics. As a rule, the sins of youth are beautiful sins. The
appeals to youthful vice are invariably defended on aesthetic grounds.
The boundary-line that divides high art from indecency is a very
difficult one to define. And it is so difficult to define because the
blandishments to which youth succumbs are for the most part the
blandishments of beauty. Like the panther, vice is cruel and pitiless;
yet the glamour of it is so fair that it 'blends with the matin dawn and
the sweet season.' The sins that bring down the strong man, on the other
hand, are not so much beautiful as terrible. The man in his prime goes
down before those terrific onslaughts that the forces of evil know so
well how to organize and muster. They are not lovely; they are leonine.
And is it not true that the temptations that work havoc in later life
are as a rule unalluring, hideous, and difficult to understand? The
world is thunderstruck. It seems so incomprehensible that, after having
survived his struggle with the beauteous panther and the terrible lion,
a man of such mettle should yield to a lean and ugly wolf!


VII

The other thing is this: there is a distinction in method, a difference
in approach, distinguishing these three beasts. The panther crouches,
springs suddenly upon its unsuspecting prey, and relies on the advantage
of surprise. Such are the sins of youth. 'Alas,' as George Macdonald so
tersely says,

  Alas, how easily things go wrong!
  A sigh too deep, or a kiss too long,
  There follows a mist and a weeping rain.
  And life is never the same again.

The lion meets you in the open, and relies upon his strength. The wolf
simply persists. He follows your trail day after day. You see his wicked
eyes, like fireflies, stabbing the darkness of the night. He relies not
upon surprise or strength, but on wearing you down at the last.
Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth--having beaten off the
_panther_--beware of the _lion_ and the _wolf_. And, still more
imperatively, let him that thinketh he standeth--having vanquished both
the _panther_ and the lion--take heed lest he fall at last to the grim
and frightful persistence of the lean _she-wolf_. It is just six hundred
and fifty years to-day since Dante was born; but, as my pen has been
whispering these things to me, the centuries have fallen away like a
curtain that is drawn. I have saluted across the ages a man of like
passions with myself, and his brave spirit has called upon mine to climb
the sunlit hill in spite of everything.



IX

AMONG THE ICEBERGS


Not so very long ago, and not so very far from this Tasmanian home of
mine, I beheld a spectacle that took me completely by surprise, and even
now baffles my best endeavours to describe it. I was on board a fine
steamship four days out from Hobart. In the early afternoon, as I was
rising from a brief siesta, I was startled by a voice exclaiming
excitedly, 'Oh, do come and see such a splendid iceberg!' I confess that
at first I entertained the notion with a liberal allowance of caution. I
was afflicted with very grave suspicions. At sea, folk are apt to forget
the calendar, and every day in the year has an awkward way of getting
itself mistaken for the first of April. But the manifest earnestness of
my informant bore down before it all base doubts, and I was sufficiently
convinced to hurry up to the promenade deck. I looked eagerly far out to
port, and then to starboard, but nothing was to be seen! It was the old
story of 'water, water everywhere!' My suspicions returned in an
aggravated form. Indignantly I sought out my informant, and peremptorily
demanded production of the promised iceberg. 'It's dead ahead,' he
replied calmly, 'and can therefore only be seen as yet from the bows.'
To the bows I accordingly hastened, and there I found a crowd,
comprising both passengers and crew, already congregated.

And surely enough, I then and there beheld the most magnificent and
awe-inspiring natural phenomenon upon which these eyes ever rested.
Right ahead of the ship there loomed up on the far horizon what
appeared, under an overcast, leaden sky, to be a fair-sized island, with
a high and rocky coast. In the distance stood a tall, rugged peak, as of
a mountain towering up like a monarch coldly proud of his desolate
island realm. The whole stood out strikingly gloomy and forbidding
against the distant eastern skyline. But, hey, presto! even as we
watched it, in less time than it takes to tell, a wonderful
transformation scene was enacted before our eyes. Suddenly, from over
the stern, the sun shone out, flinging all its radiant splendours on the
colossal object of our undivided attention.

In the twinkling of an eye, as if by magic, that which but a second ago
might have passed for a barren rocky island was transformed into a
brilliant mass of dazzling whiteness. Everything seemed to have been
transfigured. A fairyland of pearly palaces, flashing with diamonds and
emeralds, could not have eclipsed its glories now! There it still
stood, indescribably terrible and grand, right in our track, as though
daring us to approach any nearer to its gleaming purities. And as the
sunlight refracted about it, all the colours of the rainbow seemed to
play around its brow. Moreover, the genial warmth produced another
wonder. For, under its benign influence, the glittering peaks gave off
columns of vapour. They seemed to smoke like volcanoes.

  In the mellow summer sun,
  The icebergs, one by one,
  Caught a spark of quickening fire,
  Every turret smoked a censer,
  Every pinnacle a pyre.

The wonder grew upon us as we watched. And yet, straight on, our good
ship held her way, her course unaltered and her speed unabated, as if,
fascinated by the majestic beauty before her, she were eager to dash
herself to pieces at the feet of such pure and awful loveliness. Ever
greater and ever more splendid it appeared as the distance lessened
between us and it, until we really seemed to be approaching an almost
perilous proximity. Then, of a sudden, the ship swerved to the
north-ward, and we ran by within a few hundred yards of the icy monster.
Who could help recalling the adventure of Coleridge's 'Ancient
Mariner'?

  And now there came both mist and snow,
    And it grew wondrous cold,
  And ice, mast high, came floating by
    As green as emerald.

  And through the drifts, the snowy clifts
    Did send a dismal sheen,
  Nor shapes of men, nor beasts we ken.
    The ice was all between.

  The ice was here, the ice was there,
    The ice was all around,
  It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
    Like noises in a swound.

Or Tennyson's lovely simile, wherein he says that we ourselves are like

  Floating lonely icebergs, our crests above the ocean,
  With deeply submerged portions united by the sea.

Then once again the fickle sun veiled his face, and that which had
appeared at first as a rocky island in mid-ocean, and afterwards as a
flashing palace of crystals, now assumed a dulled whiteness as of one
huge mass of purest chalk.

The heavy southern seas were dashing angrily against it, seeming
jealously to resent its escape from their own frozen dominions. And the
great clouds of spray which, as a consequence, were hurled into mid-air
gave an added grandeur to a spectacle that seemed to need no
supplementary charms. For miles around, the sea was strewn with
enormous masses of floating ice, some as large as an ordinary two-story
house, and all of the most fantastic shapes, which had apparently
swarmed off from the main berg. One long row of these, stretching out
from the monster right across the ship's course, looked for a moment not
unlike a great ice-reef connected with the berg, and caused no little
anxiety until the line of apparent peril had been safely negotiated.
When we were clean abreast, a gun was fired from the bridge of the
steamer, in order, I understand, to ascertain from the rapidity and
volume of the echo the approximate distance, and, by deduction, the size
of our polar acquaintance. Nor were there wanting those who were
sanguine enough to expect that the atmospheric vibration set in
operation by the explosion might finish the work of dislocation which
any cracks or fissures had already begun, and bring down at least some
tottering peaks or pinnacles. Sir John Franklin, in one of his northern
voyages, saw this feat accomplished. But, if any of my companions
expected to witness a similar phenomenon, they had reckoned without
their host. The unaffected dignity of the sullen monster mocked our puny
effort to bring about his downfall. Hercules scorned the ridiculous
weapons of the pigmies! The dull booming of the gun started a thousand
weird echoes on the desolate ice. They snarled out their remonstrance at
our intrusion upon their wonted solitude, and then again lapsed sulkily
into silence. The temperature dropped instantly, and I recalled a famous
saying of Dr. Thomas Guthrie's, whose life I had just been reading. In
one of his speeches, before the Synod of Angus and Mearns, he said, 'I
know of churches that would be all the better of some little heat. _An
iceberg of a minister_ has been floated in among them, and they have
cooled down to something below zero.' '_An iceberg of a minister!_' I
think of the nipping air on board when our ship was in the midst of the
ice; and the memory of it makes me shiver! '_An iceberg of a minister!_'
God, in His great mercy, save me from being such a minister as that!

The long-sustained excitement to which these events had given rise had
scarcely begun to subside when the cry arose, 'An iceberg on the
starboard bow!' This, in its turn, was speedily succeeded by 'Another!'
Then, 'An iceberg on the port bow!' And yet once more 'Another!' till we
were literally surrounded by icebergs. At tea-time we could peep through
the saloon portholes at no fewer than five of these polar giants.
Although most of them were larger than our first acquaintance--at least
one of them being about three miles in length--none of these later
appearances succeeded in arousing the same degree of enthusiasm as that
with which we hailed the advent of the first. For one thing, the charm
of novelty had, of course, begun to wear off. And, for another, they
were of a less romantic shape, most of them being perfectly flat, as
though some great polar plain were being broken up and we were being
favoured with the superfluous territory in casual instalments. And, by
the way, speaking of the shape of icebergs, I am told that the icebergs
of the two hemispheres are quite different in shape, the Arctic bergs
being irregular in outline, with lofty pinnacles and glittering domes,
while the Antarctic bergs are, generally speaking, flat-topped, and of
less fantastic form. The delicate traceries of the far North do not
reflect themselves in the sturdier and more matter-of-fact monsters of
the South. The appearance of icebergs in such numbers, of such
dimensions, in these latitudes, and at this time of the year,
constitutes, I am credibly informed, a very unusual if not, indeed, a
quite unique experience. The theory was freely advanced that some
volcanic disturbance had visited the polar regions and had dislodged
these massive fragments. However that may be, we were not at all sorry
that it had fallen to our happy lot to behold a spectacle of such
sublimity. And when we reflected that less than one-tenth of each mass
was visible above the water-line, we were able to form a more adequate
appreciation of the stupendous proportions of our gigantic neighbours.
Reflecting upon this aspect of the matter, I remembered to have heard,
in my college days, a popular London preacher make excellent use of this
phenomenon. 'When,' he said impressively, 'when you are tempted to judge
sin from its superficial appearance, and to judge it leniently, remember
that sins are like icebergs--_the greater part of them is out of
sight_!'

A certain amount of anxiety was felt, I confess, by most of us as night
cast her sable mantle over sea and ice. To admire an iceberg in broad
daylight is one thing; to be racing on amidst a crowd of them by night
is quite another. Ice, however, casts around it a weird, warning light
of its own, which makes its presence perceptible even in the darkest
night. So all night long the good ship sped bravely on her ocean track,
and all night long the captain himself kept cold and sleepless vigil on
the bridge. When morning broke, three fresh icebergs were to be seen
away over the stern. But we had now shaped a more northerly course; and
we therefore waved adieu to these magnificent monsters which we were so
delighted to have seen, and scarcely less pleased to have left. They
will doubtless have melted from existence long before they will have
melted from our memories.

Yes, they will have melted! And that reminds me of another famous saying
of the great Dr Thomas Guthrie, a saying which is peculiarly to the
point just now. 'The existence,' he said, 'of the Mohammedan power in
Turkey is just a question of time. Its foundations are year by year
wearing away, like that of an iceberg which has floated into warm seas,
and, as happens with that creation of a cold climate, it will by-and-by
become top-heavy, the centre of gravity being changed, and it will
topple over! What a commotion then!' Ah! what a commotion, to be sure!

They will have melted! Silly things! They grew weary of that realm of
white and stainless purity to which they once belonged; they broke away
from their old connexions and set out upon their long, long drift. They
drifted on and on towards the milder north; on and on towards warmer
seas; on and on towards the balmy breath and ceaseless sunshine of the
tropics. And, in return, the sunshine destroyed them. Yes, the sunshine
destroyed them. I have seen something very much like it in the Church
and in the world. 'Therefore,' says a great writer, who had himself felt
the fatal lure of too-much-sunshine, 'therefore let us take the more
steadfast hold of the things which we have heard, lest at any time we
drift away from them.' It is a tragedy of no small magnitude when, like
the iceberg, a man is lured by sparkling summer seas to his own
undoing.



PART III



I

A BOX OF TIN SOLDIERS


No philosophy is worth its salt unless it can make a boy forget that he
has the toothache; and the philosophy which I am about to introduce has
triumphantly survived that exacting ordeal. That Jack had the toothache
everybody knew. The expression of his anguish resounded dismally through
the neighbourhood; the evidence of it was visible in his swollen and
distorted countenance. Poor Jack! All the standard cures--old-fashioned
and new-fangled--had been tried in vain; all but one. It was that one
that at last relieved the pain, and it is of that one that I now write.
It happened that Jack was within a week of his birthday. His parents,
who are busy people, might easily have overlooked that interesting
circumstance had not Jack chanced to allude to it at every opportune and
inopportune moment during the previous month or so. Indeed, to guard
against accidents, Jack had enlivened the conversation at the
breakfast-table morning by morning with really ingenious conjectures as
to the presents by which his personal friends might conceivably
accompany their congratulations. His expressions of disappointment in
certain supposititious cases, and of unbounded delight in others, was
quite affecting.

Now Jack's father is afflicted by a wholesome dread of shopping. If a
purchase must needs be made, Jack's mother has to make it. But Jack's
mother labours under one severe disability. As Jack himself often tells
her--and certainly he ought to know--she doesn't understand boys. The
difficulty is therefore surmounted on this wise. Jack's mother visits
the emporium; carefully avoids all those goods and chattels of which she
has heard her son speak with such withering disdain; selects eight or
ten of the articles that he has chanced to mention in tones of
undisguised approval; orders these to be sent on approval at an hour at
which Jack will be sure to be at school; and leaves to her husband the
responsibility of making the final decision. Now this unwieldy parcel
was still lying under the bed in the spare room on that fateful morning
when Jack became smitten with toothache. Every other nostrum having
failed, the mind of Jack's mother strangely turned to the toys beneath
the bed. A woman's mind is an odd piece of mechanism, and works in
strange ways. No doctor under the sun would dream of prescribing a box
of tin soldiers as a remedy for toothache; yet the mind of Jack's mother
fastened upon that box of tin soldiers. It was just as cheap as some of
the other remedies to which they had so desperately resorted; and it
could not possibly be less efficacious. And there would still be plenty
of toys to choose from for the birthday present. Out came the box of
soldiers, and off went Jack in greatest glee. Half an hour later his
mother found him in the back garden. He had dug a trench two inches
deep, piling up the earth in protective heaps in front of it. All along
the trench stood the little tin soldiers heroically defying the armies
of the universe. And the toothache was ancient history!

Jack managed to get his little tin soldiers into a tiny two-inch trench;
but, as a matter of serious fact, those diminutive warriors have
occupied a really great place in the story of this little world. Bagehot
somewhere draws a pathetic picture of crowds of potential authors who,
having the time, the desire, and the ability to write, are yet unable
for the life of them to think of anything to write about. Let one of
these unfortunates bend his unconsecrated energies to the writing of a
book on the influence of toys in the making of men. Only the other day
an antiquarian, digging away in the neighbourhood of the Pyramids, came
upon an old toy-chest. Here were dolls, and soldiers, and wooden
animals, and, indeed, all the playthings that make up the stock-in-trade
of a modern nursery. It is pleasant to think of those small Egyptians
in the days of the Pharaohs amusing themselves with the selfsame toys
that beguiled our own childhood. It is pleasant to think of the place of
the toy-chest in the history of the world from that remote time down to
our own.

But I must not be deflected into a discussion of the whole tremendous
subject of toys. I must stick to these little tin soldiers. And these
small metallic warriors cut a really brave figure in our history. Some
of the happiest days in Robert Louis Stevenson's happy life were the
days that he spent as a boy in his grandfather's manse at Colinton.
'That was my golden age!' he used to say. He never forgot the rickety
old phaeton that drove into Edinburgh to fetch him; the lovely scenery
on either side of the winding country road; or the excited welcome that
always awaited him when he drove up to the manse door. But most vividly
of all he remembered the box of tin soldiers; the marshalling of huge
armies on the great mahogany table; the play of strategy; the furious
combat; and the final glorious victory. The old gentleman sat back in
his spacious arm-chair, cracking his nuts and sipping his wine, whilst
his imaginative little grandson in his velvet suit controlled the
movements of armies and the fates of empires. The love of those little
tin soldiers never forsook him. Later on, at Davos, an exile from home,
fighting bravely against that terrible malady that had marked him as its
prey, it was to the little tin soldiers that he turned for comfort. 'The
tin soldiers most took his fancy,' says Mr. Lloyd Osbourne, 'and the war
game was constantly improved and elaborated, until, from a few hours, a
war took weeks to play, and the critical operations in the attic
monopolized half our thoughts. On the floor a map was roughly drawn in
chalks of different colours, with mountains, rivers, towns, bridges, and
roads in two colours. The mimic battalions marched and countermarched,
changed by measured evolutions from column formation into line, with
cavalry screens in front and massed supports behind in the most approved
military fashion of to-day. It was war in miniature, even to the making
and destruction of bridges; the entrenching of camps; good and bad
weather, with corresponding influence on the roads; siege and horse
artillery, proportionately slow, as compared with the speed of unimpeded
foot, and proportionately expensive in the upkeep; and an exacting
commissariat added the last touch of verisimilitude.' Those little tin
soldiers marched up and down the whole of Robert Louis Stevenson's life.
They were with him in boyhood at Colinton; they were with him in
maturity at Davos; and they were in at the death. For, in the familiar
house at Vailima, the house on the top of the hill, the house from
which his gentle spirit passed away, there was one room dedicated to the
little tin soldiers. The great coloured map monopolized the floor, and
the tiny regiments marched or halted at their frail commander's will.

One could multiply examples almost endlessly. We need not have followed
Robert Louis Stevenson half-way round the world. We might have visited
Ireland and seen Mr. Parnell's box of toys. Everybody knows the story of
his victory over his sister. Fanny commanded one division of tin
soldiers on the nursery floor; Charles led the opposing force. Each
general was possessed of a popgun, and swept the serried lines of the
enemy with this terrible weapon. For several days the war continued
without apparent advantage being gained by either side. But one day
everything was changed. Strange as it may seem, Fanny's soldiers fell by
the score and by the hundred, while those commanded by her brother
refused to waver even when palpably hit. This went on until Fanny's army
was utterly annihilated. But Charles confessed, an hour later, that,
before opening fire that morning, he had taken the precaution to glue
the feet of his soldiers to the nursery floor! Did somebody discover in
those war games at Colinton, Davos, and Vailima a reflection, as in a
mirror, of the adventurous spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson? Or, even
more clearly, did somebody see, in that famous fight on the nursery
floor at Avondale, a forecast of the great Irish leader's passionate
fondness for outwitting his antagonists and overwhelming his bewildered
foe?

Then let us glance at one other picture, and we shall see what we shall
see! We are in Russia now. It is at the close of the seventeenth
century. Yonder is a boy of whom the world will one day talk till its
tongue is tired. They will call him Peter the Great. See, he gathers
together all the boys of the neighbourhood and plays with them.
Plays--but at what? 'He plays soldiers, of course,' says Waliszewski,
'and, naturally, he was in command. Behold him, then, at the head of a
regiment! Out of this childish play rose that mighty creation, the
Russian army. Yes,' our Russian author goes on to exclaim, 'yes, this
double point of departure--the pseudo-naval games on the lake of
Pereislavl, and the pseudo-military games on the Preobrajenskoie
drill-ground--led to the double goal--the Conquest of the Baltic and the
Battle of Poltava!' Yes, to these, and to how much else? When Jack cures
his toothache with a box of soldiers, who knows what world-shaking
evolutions are afoot?

And now the time has come to make a serious investigation. Why is
Jack--taking Jack now as the federal head and natural representative of
Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Stewart Parnell, Peter the Great, and
all the boys who ever were, are, or will be--why is Jack so inordinately
fond of a box of soldiers? By what magic have those tiny tin campaigners
the power to exorcise the agonies of toothache? Now look; the answer is
simple, and it is twofold. The small metallic warriors appeal to the
innate love of _Conquest_ and to the innate love of _Command_. And in
that innate love of Conquest is summed up all Jack's future relationship
to his foes. And in that innate love of Command is summed up all his
future relationship to his friends. For long, long ago, in the babyhood
of the world, God spoke to man for the first time. And in that very
first sentence, God said, 'Subdue the earth and have dominion!'
'Subdue!'--that is Conquest; 'have dominion!'--that is Command. And
since the first man heard those martial words, 'Subdue and have
dominion!' the passions of the conqueror and the commander have tingled
in the blood of the race. They have been awakened in Jack by the box of
soldiers. He feels that he is born to fight, born to struggle, born to
overcome, born to triumph, born to command. And that fighting instinct
will never really desert him. It will follow him, as it followed
Stevenson, from infancy to death. He may put it to evil uses. He may
fight the wrong people, or fight the wrong things. But that only shows
how vital a business is his training. A naval officer has to spend half
his time familiarizing himself with the appearance of all our British
battleships, in all lights and at all angles, so that he may never be
misled, amidst the confusion of battle, into opening fire upon his
comrades. As Jack looks up to us from his little two-inch trenches, his
innocent eyes seem to appeal eloquently for similar tuition.

'Teach me what those forces are that I have to _conquer_,' he seems to
say, 'then teach me what forces I have to _command_, and I will spend
all my days in the Holy War.'

And, depend upon it, if we can show Jack how to bend to his will all the
mysterious forces at his disposal, and to recognize at a glance all the
alien forces that are ranged against him, we shall see him one day among
the conquerors who, with songs of victory on their lips and with palms
in their hands, share the rapture of the world's last triumph.



II

LOVE, MUSIC, AND SALAD


It seems an odd mixture at first glance; but it isn't mine. Mr. Wilkie
Collins is responsible for the amazing hotch-potch. 'What do you say,'
he asks in _The Moonstone_, 'what do you say when our county member,
growing hot, at cheese and salad time, about the spread of democracy in
England, burst out as follows: "If we once lose our ancient safeguards,
Mr. Blake, I beg to ask you, what have we got left?" And what do you say
to Mr. Franklin answering, from the Italian point of view, "_We have got
three things left, sir--Love, Music, and Salad_"'? I confess that, when
first I came upon this curious conglomeration, I thought that Mr.
Franklin meant Love, Music, and Salad to stand for a mere
incomprehensible confusion, a meaningless jumble. I examined the
sentence a second time, however, and began to suspect that there was at
least some method in his madness. And now that I scrutinize it still
more closely, I feel ashamed of my first hasty judgement. I can see that
Love, Music, and Salad are the fundamental elements of the solar
system; and, as Mr. Franklin suggests, so long as they are left to us we
can afford to smile at any political convulsions that may chance to
overtake us.

Love, Music, and Salad are the three biggest things in life. Mr.
Franklin has not only outlined the situation with extraordinary
precision, but he has placed these three basic factors in their exact
scientific order. Love comes first. Indeed, we only come because Love
calls for us. We find it waiting with outstretched arms on arrival. It
smothers our babyhood with kisses, and hedges our infancy about with its
ceaseless ministry of doting affection. Love is the beginning of
everything; I need not labour that point. Where there is no love there
is neither music nor salad, nor anything else worth writing about.

Mr. Franklin was indisputably right in putting Love first, and
immediately adding Music. You cannot imagine Love without Music. I am
hoping that one of these days one of our philosophers will give us a
book on the language that does not need learning. There is room for a
really fine volume on that captivating theme. Henry Drummond has a most
fascinating and characteristic essay on _The Evolution of Language_; but
from my present standpoint it is sadly disappointing. From first to last
Drummond works on the assumption that human language is a thing of
imitation and acquisition. The foundation of it all, he tells us, is in
the forest. Man heard the howl of the dog, the neigh of the horse, the
bleat of the lamb, the stamp of the goat; and he deliberately copied
these sounds. He noticed, too, that each animal has sounds specially
adapted for particular occasions. One monkey, we are told, utters at
least six different sounds to express its feelings; and Darwin
discovered four or five modulations in the bark of the dog. 'There is
the bark of eagerness, as in the chase; that of anger, as well as
growling; the yelp or howl of despair, as when shut up; the baying at
night; the bark of joy, as when starting on a walk with his master; and
the very distinct one of demand or supplication, as when wishing for a
door or window to be opened.' Drummond appears to assume that primitive
man listened to these sounds and copied them, much as a child speaks of
the bow-wow, the moo-moo, the quack-quack, the tick-tick, and the
puff-puff. But in all this we leave out of our reckoning one vital
factor. The most expressive language that we ever speak is the language
that we never learned. As Darwin himself points out, there are certain
simple and vivid feelings which we express, and express with the utmost
clearness, but without any kind of reference to our higher intelligence.
'Our cries of pain, fear, surprise, anger, together with their
appropriate actions, and the murmur of a mother to her beloved child,
are more expressive than any words.'

Is not this a confession of the fact that the soul, in its greatest
moments, speaks a language, not of imitation or of acquisition, but one
that it brought with it, a language of its own? The language that we
learn varies according to nationality. The speech of a Chinaman is an
incomprehensible jargon to a Briton; the utterance of a Frenchman is a
mere riot of sound to a Hindu. The language that we learn is affected
even by dialects, so that a man in one English county finds it by no
means easy to interpret the speech of a visitor from another. It is even
affected by rank and position; the speech of the plough-boy is one
thing, the speech of the courtier is quite another. So confusing is the
language that we learn! But let a man speak in the language that needs
no learning; and all the world will understand him. The cry of a child
in pain is the same in Iceland as in India, in Hobart as in Timbuctoo!
The soft and wordless crooning of a mother as she lulls her babe to
rest; the scream of a man in mortal anguish; the sudden outburst of
uncontrollable laughter; the sigh of regret; the titter of amusement;
and the piteous cry of a broken heart,--these know neither nationality
nor rank nor station. They are the same in castle as in cottage; in
Tasmania as in Thibet; in the world's first morning as in the world's
last night. The most expressive language, the only language in which the
soul itself ever really speaks, is a language without alphabet or
grammar. It needs neither to be learned nor taught, for all men speak
it, and all men understand.

Was that, consciously or subconsciously, at the back of Mr. Franklin's
mind when he put Music next to Love? Certain it is that, in that
unwritten language which is greater than all speech, Music is the
natural expression of Love. Why is there music in the grove and the
forest? It is because love is there. The birds never sing so sweetly as
during the mating season. For awhile the male bird hovers about the
person of his desired bride, and pours out an incessant torrent of song
in the fond hope of one day winning her; and when his purpose is
achieved, he goes on singing for very joy that she is his. And
afterwards he 'gallantly perches near the little home, pouring forth his
joy and pride, sweetly singing to his mate as she sits within the nest,
patiently hatching her brood.' Both in men and women it is at the
approach of the love-making age that the voice suddenly develops, and it
is when the deepest chords in the soul are first struck that the richest
and fullest notes can be sung.

Music, then, is the natural concomitant of Love. That is why most of
our songs are love-songs. If a man is in love he can no more help
singing than a bird can help flying. You cannot love anything without
singing about it. Men love God; that is why we have hymn-books. Men love
women; that is why we have ballads. Men love their country; that is why
we have national anthems and patriotic airs.

But the stroke of genius in Mr. Franklin lay in the addition of the
Salad. If he had contented himself with Love and Music, he would have
uttered a truth, and a great truth; but it would have been a commonplace
truth. As it is, he lifts the whole thing into the realm of
brilliance--and reality. For, after all, of what earthly use are Love
and Music unless they lead to Salad? When to Love and Music Mr. Franklin
shrewdly added Salad, he put himself in line with the greatest
philosophers of all time. Bishop Butler told us years ago that if we
allow emotions which are designed to lead to action to become excited,
and no action follows, the very excitation of that emotion without its
appropriate response leaves the heart much harder than it was before.
And, more recently, our brilliant Harvard Professor, Dr. William James,
has warned us that it is a very damaging thing for the mind to receive
an _impression_ without giving that impression an adequate and
commensurate _expression_. If you go to a concert, he says, and hear a
lovely song that deeply moves you, you ought to pay some poor person's
tram fare on the way home. It is a natural as well as a psychological
law. The earth, for example, receives the impression represented by the
fall of autumn leaves, the descent of sap from the bough, and the
widespread decay of wintry desolation. But she hastens to give
expression to this impression by all the wealth and plenitude of her
glorious spring array.

The New Testament gives us a great story which exactly illustrates my
point. It is a very graceful and tender record, full of Love and Music,
but containing also something more than Love and Music. For when Dorcas
died all the widows stood weeping in the chamber of death, showing the
coats that Dorcas had made while she was yet with them. Dorcas was a
Jewess. At one time she had been taught to regard the name of Jesus as a
thing to be abhorred and accursed. But later on a wonderful experience
befell her. Could she ever forget the day on which, amidst a whirl of
spiritual bewilderment and a tempest of spiritual emotion, she had
discovered, in the very Messiah whom once she had despised, her Saviour
and her Lord? It was a day never to be forgotten, a day full of Love and
Music. How could she produce an expression adequate to that wonderful
impression? Not in words; for she was not gifted with speech. Yet an
expression must be found. It would have been a fatal thing for the
delicate soul of Dorcas if so turgid a flood of feeling had found no apt
and natural outlet. And in that crisis she thought of her needle. She
expressed her love for the Lord in the occupation most familiar to her.
It was a kind of storage of energy. Dorcas wove her love for her Lord
into every stitch, and a tender thought into every stitch, and a fervent
prayer into every stitch. And that spiritual storage escaped through
warm coats and neat garments into the hearts and homes of these widows
and poor folk along the coast, and they learned the depth and tenderness
of the divine love from the deft finger-tips of Dorcas.

Salad is the natural and fitting outcome of Love and Music. I have
already confessed that when first I came upon the triune conjunction I
thought it rather an incongruous medley, a strange hotch-potch, an
ill-assorted company. That is the worst of judging things in a hurry.
The eye does the work of the brain, and does it badly. It is a common
failing of ours. Look at the torrent of toothless jokes that have been
directed at the contrast between the romance of courtship and the
domestic realities that follow. The former, according to the traditional
estimate, consists of billing and cooing, of fervent protestations and
radiant dreams, of romantic loveliness and honeyed phrases. The latter,
according to the same traditional view, consists of struggle and
anxiety, of drudgery and menial toil, of broken nights with tiresome
children, of nerve-racking anxiety and an endless sequence of troubles.
He who looks at life in this way makes precisely the same mistake that I
myself made when I first saw Mr. Franklin's Love, Music, and Salad, and
thought it a higgledy-piggledy hotch-potch. It is nothing of the kind.
Love naturally leads to Music; and Love and Music naturally lead to
Salad. Courtship leads to the cradle and the kitchen, it is true; but
both cradle and kitchen are glorified and consecrated by the courtship
that has gone before. Our English homes, take them for all in all, are
the loveliest things in the world.

  The merry homes of England!
    Around their hearths by night,
  What gladsome looks of household love
    Meet in the ruddy light!
  There woman's voice flows forth in song,
    Or childhood's tale is told;
  Or lips move tunefully along
    Some glorious page of old.

Here is a picture of Love, Music, and Salad in perfect combination. And
what a secret lies behind it! The fact is that the heathen world has
nothing at all corresponding to our English sweethearting. Men and
women are thrown into each other's arms by barter, by compact, by
conquest, and in a thousand ways. In one land a man buys his bride; in
another he fights as the brutes do for the mate of his fancy; in yet
another he takes her without seeing her, it was so ordained. Only in a
land that has felt the spell of the influence of Jesus would
sweethearting, as we know it, be possible. The pure and charming freedom
of social intercourse; the liberty to yield to the mystic magnetism that
draws the one to the other, and the other to the one; the coy approach;
the shy exchanges; the arm-in-arm walks, and the heart-to-heart talks;
the growing admiration; the deepening passion; culminating at last in
the fond formality of the engagement and the rapture of ultimate union;
in what land, unsweetened by the power of the gospel, would such a
procedure be possible? And the consequence is that our homes stand in
such striking contrast to the homes of heathen peoples. 'There are no
homes in Asia!' Mr. W. H. Seward, the American statesman, exclaimed
sadly, fifty years ago. It is scarcely true now, for Christ is gaining
on Asia every day; and the missionaries confess that the greatest
propagating power that the gospel possesses is the gracious though
silent witness of the Christian homes. Human life is robbed of all
animalism and baseness when true love enters. And there is no true love
apart from the highest love of all.

Salad may seem a prosaic thing to follow on the heels of Love and Music;
but the salad that has been prepared by fingers that one thinks it
heaven to kiss is tinged and tinctured with the flavour of romance. All
through life, Love makes life's Music. All through life, Love and Music
lead to Salad. And, all through life, Love and Music glorify the Salad
to which they lead. They transmute it by this magic into such a dish as
many a king has sighed for all his days, but sighed in vain.



III

THE FELLING OF THE TREE


I was strolling with some friends up a lovely avenue in the bush this
afternoon, when a quite unexpected experience befell us. On either side
of the narrow track the tall trees jostled each other at such close
quarters that, when we looked up, only a ribbon of sky could be seen
above our heads. The tree-tops almost arched over us. Straight before us
was a hill surmounted by a number of gigantic blue-gums, only one or two
of which were visible in the limited section of the landscape which the
foliage about us permitted us to survey. As we sauntered leisurely along
the leafy path, thinking of anything but the objects immediately
surrounding us, we were suddenly startled by a loud and ominous creaking
and straining. Looking hastily up, we saw one of the giant trees
falling, and describing in its fall an enormous arc against the clear
sky ahead of us. What a crash as the toppling monster strikes the
tree-tops among which it falls! What a thud as the huge thing hits the
ground! What a roar as it rolls over the hill, bearing down all lesser
growths before it! Our first impression was that the tree had been
reduced by natural forces; but we soon discovered that it had been
deliberately destroyed! The men were already at work upon a second
magnificent fellow; and we waited until he too was prostrate.

Nothing in the solar system suggests such a mixture of emotion as the
felling of a great tree. In a way, it is pleasant and exhilarating, or
why was Mr. Gladstone so fond of the exercise? And why were we so eager
to stay until the second tree was down? Richard Jefferies, who hated to
destroy things, and often could not bring himself to pull the trigger of
his gun, nevertheless felt the fascination of the axe. 'Much as I
admired the timber about the Chace,' he says, 'I could not help
sometimes wishing to have a chop at it. The pleasure of felling trees is
never lost. In youth, in manhood, so long as the arm can wield the axe,
the enjoyment is equally keen. As the heavy tool passes over the
shoulder, the impetus of the swinging motion lightens the weight, and
something like a thrill passes through the sinews. Why is it so pleasant
to strike? What secret instinct is it that makes the delivery of a blow
with axe or hammer so exhilarating?' What indeed! For certainly a wild
delight makes the heart beat faster, and sends the blood bounding
through the veins, as one sees the axes flash, the chips fly, the gash
grow deeper, and notices at last the first slow movement of the
glorious tree.

And yet I confess that, mixed with this pungent sense of pleasure, there
was a still deeper emotion. The thing seems so irreparable. It is easy
enough to destroy these monarchs of the bush, but who can restore them
to their former grandeur? It must have been this sense of sadness that
led Beaconsfield--Gladstone's famous protagonist--to ordain in his will
that none of his beloved trees at Hughenden should ever be cut down. How
long had these trees stood here, these two giants that had been in a few
moments reduced to humiliating horizontality? I cannot tell. They must
have been here when all these hills and valleys were peopled only by the
aboriginals. They saw the black man prowl about the bush. From the hill
here, overlooking the bay, they must have seen Captain Cook's ships cast
anchor down the stream. They watched the coming of the white men; they
saw the convict ships arrive with their dismal freight of human
wretchedness; they witnessed the swift and tragic extermination of the
native race; they beheld a nation spring into being at their feet! Did
the great trees know that, as the white men exterminated the black men,
so the white men would exterminate _them_? Did they feel that the coming
of those strange vessels up the bay sealed their own doom? Before the
new-comers could build their homes, or lay out their farms, or plant
their orchards, they must make war on the trees with fire and axe. Homes
and nations can only be built by sacrifice, and the trees are the
innocent victims.

I suppose that the sadness arises partly from the fact that the forest
is Man's oldest and most faithful friend, and one towards whom he is
inclined to turn with ever-increasing reverence and affection as the
years go by. With the advance of the years we all turn wistfully back to
the things that charmed our infancy, and the race obeys that selfsame
primal law. Almost every nation on the face of the earth traces its
history back to the forest primaeval. From the forest we sprang; and by
the forest we were originally sustained. And even when at length the
primitive race issued from those leafy recesses and devoted itself to
agriculture and to commerce, men still regarded their ancient fastnesses
as the storehouse from which they drew everything that was essential to
their progress and development. Man found the forest his warehouse, his
factory, his armoury, his all. With logs that he felled in the bush he
built his first primitive home; out of branches that he tore from the
trees he fashioned his first implements and tools; and when the
tranquillity that brooded over his pastoral simplicity was broken by
the shout of discord and the noise of tumult, it was to those selfsame
woods that he rushed for his first crude weapons of defence.
Architecture, agriculture, invention, and military ingenuity have each
of them made enormous strides since then; but it was in the bush that
each of these potent makers of our destiny was born. And did not John
Smeaton confess that he borrowed from the graceful curve of the oak as
it rises from the ground the main idea that characterized the
construction of the Eddystone lighthouse? Whenever the architect, the
farmer, the inventor, or the soldier desires to visit the scenes amidst
which his craft spent its earliest infancy, it will be to the forest
primaeval that he will turn his steps. Of medicine, too, the same may be
said; for, in those long and leisured days of sylvan quiet, men learned
the secrets of the bark and discovered the healing virtues that slept in
the swaying leaves; and straightway the forest became a pharmacy. When,
exhausted by his labour, or enervated by unaccustomed conditions, his
health failed him, Man resorted for his first drugs and tonics to his
ancient home among the trees. Indeed, he still returns to the forest to
be nursed and tended in his hour of sickness.

Those who have read Gene Stratton Porter's _Harvester_ know what wonders
lurk in the woods. The Harvester lived away in the forest, and from
bark and gum and sap and leaf he collected the tonics and anodynes and
stimulants that he sold to the chemists in the great cities. And after
awhile every tree that he felled seemed to him such a wealthy store of
healing virtue that, when he began to think of his dream-girl and his
future home, he could scarcely bring himself to build his cabin out of
logs that were so overflowing with medicinal properties. He was in love,
and all the tumultuous emotions awakened by that great experience were
surging through his veins; and yet it seemed to him an act of sacrilege
to cut chairs and tables out of such sacred things as trees! He
apologetically explained the delicacy of the situation to each oak and
ash before lifting his axe against it.

'You know how I hate to kill you!' he said to the first one he felled.
'But it must be legitimate, you know, for a man to take enough trees to
build a home. And no other house is possible for a creature of the woods
but a cabin, is it? The birds use the material they find here; and
surely I have a right to do the same. Nothing else would serve, at least
for me. I was born and reared here, and I've always loved you!'

But for all that, he felt, as the fragrant chips flew in all directions,
just as a man might feel who killed a pet lamb for the table; and the
Harvester could scarcely reconcile himself to his iconoclastic work. In
Medicine Woods he had learned the awful sanctity of the forest, the
forest that was the home and nurse and mother of us all, and it seemed
to him a dreadful thing to slay a tree. Frazer tells us in his _Golden
Bough_ that the Ojibwa Indians very rarely cut down green or living
trees; they fancy that it puts the poor things to such pain. And some of
their medicine men aver that, with their mysterious powers of hearing,
they have heard the wailing and the screaming of the trees beneath the
axe. Mr. Adams, too, in his _Israel's Ideal_, has reminded us that, in
Eastern Africa, the destruction of the cocoanut-tree is regarded as a
form of matricide, since that tree gives men life and nourishment as a
mother does her child. The early Greek philosophers, Aristotle and
Plutarch, watching the rustling of the leaves and the swaying of the
graceful branches, came to the conclusion that trees are sentient things
possessed of living souls. And, in his _Tales for Children_, Tolstoy
makes as pathetic a scene out of the death of a great tree as many a
novelist makes out of the death of a gallant hero.

Now it must have been out of this strange feeling--this dim
consciousness of a sacredness that haunted the leafy solitudes--that Man
came to regard the forest with superstitious gratitude and veneration.
The bush represented to him the source of all his supplies, the
reservoir that met all his demands, the means of all healing, and the
very fountain of life. And so he plunged into the depths of the forest
and erected his temples there; in its shady groves he reared his solemn
altars; in its leafy glades he built his shrines; and the imagery of the
forest wove itself into the vocabulary of his devotion. The
representation of a sacred tree occurs repeatedly, carved upon the stony
ruins of Egyptian, Assyrian, and Phoenician temples, and Herodotus more
than once remarks upon the frequency of tree-worship among the ancient
peoples. Pliny, too, marvelled at the reverence which the Druids felt
for the oak, and, in a scarcely less degree, for the holly, the ash, and
the birch. And what stirring passages those are in which George Borrow
describes the weird rites and dark symbolism of the gipsies as they
worshipped at dead of night in the fearsome recesses of the pine forests
of Spain!

It is really not surprising that this haunting sense of sanctity in the
woods should lead Man to worship there. Even Emerson felt that--

  The Gods talk in the breath of the woods,
  They talk in the shaken pine.

And the Harvester himself found the forest to be instinct with moral and
spiritual potencies. 'You not only discover miracles and marvels in the
woods,' he said, 'but you get the greatest lessons taught in all the
world ground into you early and alone--courage, caution, and patience.'
Here, then, we have the trees as teachers and preachers, and many a man
has learned the deepest lessons of his life at the feet of these shrewd
and silent philosophers. What about Brother Lawrence, whose _Practice of
the Presence of God_ has become one of the Church's classics? 'The first
time I saw Brother Lawrence,' writes his friend, 'was upon August 3,
1666. He told me that God had done him a singular favour in his
conversion at the age of eighteen. It happened in this way. One winter
morning, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that
within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and that after that
the flowers and fruit would appear, he received a high view of the
providence and power of God, which has never since been effaced from his
soul.' What God could do for the leafless tree, he thought, He could
also do for him.

Milton tells us that the forest, which has played so large a part in the
development of this world, will flourish also in the next.

        In heaven the trees
  Of life ambrosial fruitage bear, and vines
  Yield nectar.

And, having all this in mind, is it not pleasant to notice that the very
last chapter of the Bible tells of the tree that waves by the side of
the river of life? There is something sacramental about trees. George
Gissing says that Odysseus cutting down the olive in order to build for
himself a home is a picture of man performing a supreme act of piety.
'Through all the ages,' he says, 'that picture must retain its profound
significance.' The trees of Medicine Woods yielded up their life to the
Harvester's axe, that he and his dream-girl might dwell in security and
bliss. And, on a green hill far away without a city wall, another tree
was cut down years ago, that it might represent to all men everywhere
the means of grace and the hope of glory. And even more than all the
other trees, the leaves of _that_ tree are for the healing of the
nations.



IV

SPOIL!


We were sitting round the fire last night when a boy came rushing up the
street shouting, 'The latest war news.' I went to the door, bought a
paper, and settled down again to read it. All at once the word 'siege'
caught my eye, and, after glancing over the cablegram to which it
referred, I lay back in the chair and allowed my mind to roam among the
romantic recollections that the great word had suggested. I thought of
the Siege of Lucknow in the East, of the Siege of Mexico in the West,
and of the Siege of Londonderry midway between. Who that has once read
the thrilling narratives of these famous exploits can resist the
temptation occasionally to set his fancy free to revisit the scenes of
those tremendous struggles? My reverie was rudely interrupted.

'Run along, Wroxie, dear, it's past bedtime!' a maternal voice from the
opposite chair suddenly expostulated.

'But, mother, I _must_ do my Scripture-lesson, and I've _nearly_
finished!'

'What have you to do, Wroxie?' I inquired, appointing myself arbitrator
on the instant.

'I have to learn these eight verses of the hundred and nineteenth
Psalm!'

'Well, read them aloud to us, and then run off to bed!' I commanded.

She read. I am afraid I had no ears for any of the later verses. For
among the very first words that she read were these: '_I rejoice at Thy
Word as one that findeth great spoil_.' I had read those familiar words
hundreds of times, but it was like passing a closed door. But to-night
my memories of the great historic sieges supplied me with the key. 'As
one that findeth great _spoil_' ... 'findeth great _spoil_' ... 'great
_spoil_.' That one word '_spoil_' supplied me with the magic key. I
applied it; the door flew open; and I saw _that_ in the text which I had
never seen before. The lesson came to an end; the girlish tones
subsided; the reader kissed me good-night, and scampered off to bed, her
mother leaving the room in her company; and I was left once more to my
own imaginings.

But my fancy flew in quite a fresh direction. The text had done for my
imprisoned mind what Noah did for the imprisoned dove. It had opened a
window of escape, and I was at liberty to go where I had never been
before. '_Spoil_!'--at the sound of that magic word the doors of truth
swung open as the great door of the robbers' dungeon in _The Forty
Thieves_ yielded to the sound of 'Open, Sesame!' A landscape may be
mirrored in a dewdrop; and here, in this arresting phrase, I suddenly
discovered all the picturesque colour and stirring movement of a great
siege. I saw the bastions and the drawbridges; the fortified walls and
the frowning ramparts; the lofty parapets and the stately towers. I
watched the fierce assault of the besiegers and the tumultuous sally of
the garrison. I heard the clash and din of strife. I marked the long,
grim struggle against impending starvation. And then, at last, I saw the
white flag flown. The proud city has fallen; the garrison has
surrendered; the gates are thrown open to the investing forces; and the
conqueror rides triumphantly in to seize his splendid prize! His
followers fall eagerly upon their booty, and grasp with greedy hands at
every glint of treasure that presents itself to their rapacious eyes.
Spoil; _spoil_; SPOIL! 'I rejoice at Thy Word as _one that findeth great
spoil_!'


I

Now the most notable point about this metaphor is that the city only
yields up its treasure after long resistance. The besieger does not find
the city waiting with open gates to welcome him. It slams those gates
in his face; bars, bolts, and barricades them; and settles down to keep
him at bay as long as possible. The stubbornness of its brave resistance
lends an added sweetness to the final triumph of its conqueror; but,
whilst it lasts, that resistance is very baffling and vexatious. All the
best things in life follow the same strange law. See how the soil
resists the farmer! It stiffens itself against his approach, so that
only in the sweat of his brow can he plough and harrow it. It garrisons
itself with swarms of insect pests, so that his attempts to subjugate it
shall be rendered as ineffective and unfruitful as possible. It extends
eager hospitality to every noxious seed that falls upon its surface. It
encourages all the farmer's enemies, and fights against all his allies.
Labour makes the harvest sweeter, it is true; but whilst it is in
progress it is none the less exhausting. It is only by breaking down the
obstinate resistance of the unwilling soil that the farmer achieves the
golden triumph of harvest-time. The miner passes through the same trying
experience. The earth has nothing to gain by holding her gold and her
diamonds, her copper and her coal, in such a tight clutch. Yet she makes
the work of the miner a desperate and dangerous business. He takes his
life in his hand as he descends the shaft. The peril and the toil add a
greater value to the booty, I confess; but the work of the dark mine is
none the less trying on that account. He who would grasp the treasures
that lie buried in the bowels of the earth must first break down the
most determined and dogged resistance. And the treasures of the mind
also follow this curious law. There is no royal road to learning.
Knowledge resists the intruder. It presents an exterior that is
altogether revolting, and only the brave persist in the attack. The
text-books of the schools are rarely set to music; they do not tingle
with romance. They look as dry as dust, and they are often even more
arid than they look. I remember that, in my college days, the student
who sat next to me on the old familiar benches suddenly died. He was
brilliant; I was not. And when I heard that he had gone, the first
thought that occurred to me was a peculiar one. Had all his knowledge
perished with him? I asked myself. I thought of the problems that he had
mastered, but with which I was still grappling. Could he not have
bequeathed to me the fruits of his patient and hard-won victories? No;
it could not be. The city must be patiently besieged and gallantly
stormed before it will surrender. The coveted diploma may be all the
sweeter afterwards as a result of so long and persistent a struggle; but
that fact does not at the time relieve the tedium or lessen the
intolerable drudgery. Knowledge seems so good and so desirable a thing;
yet it resists the aspiring student with such pitiless and
unsympathetic pertinacity.

Even love behaves in the same way. The lady keeps her lover at arm's
length. She would rather die than not be his, but she must guard her
modesty at all hazards. She must not make herself too cheap. She assumes
a frigidity that is in hopeless conflict with the warmth of her real
sentiments. Her apparent indifference and repeated rebuffs nearly drive
her poor wooer to distraction. Her kisses are all the sweeter later on
when she is delightfully and avowedly his own; but whilst the siege of
her affections lasts the torment almost wrecks his reason. It is really
no hypocrisy on her part. It is the recognition of a true instinct. All
the best things resist us, and their resistance has to be overcome. And
the psalmist declares that even the divine Word treated him in the
selfsame way. It did not entice, allure, fascinate; that is usually the
policy of evil things. No; it repelled, resisted, dared him! And it was
not until he had conquered that hostility that he entered into his
triumph. It was in the carcase of the fierce lion he had previously
destroyed that Samson found the honey that was so sweet to his taste. We
generally find our spoil in the cities that slammed their great gates in
our faces.


II

But the city capitulates for all that. It may hold out stubbornly, and
for long, but it always yields at the last. It was so ordained. The soil
was meant to resist the farmer; but it was also meant to yield to the
farmer at length, and to furnish him with his proud and delightful
prize. The minerals are hidden so cleverly, and buried so deeply, not
that they may successfully elude the vigilance and skill of the heroic
miner, but in order that he may justly prize the precious metals when
they fall at last into his hands. The student's tedious struggle after
knowledge is made so painful a process, not to deter or defeat him, but
so that, side by side with the acquisition of learning, he may develop
those faculties of brain and intellect which can alone qualify him to
wield with wisdom the erudition that he is now so laboriously amassing.
The lady treats her poor lover with such seeming disdain, not by any
means to dishearten him, but that she may make quite sure that his
ardour is no mere passing whim, but a deep and enduring attachment. In
each case capitulation is agreed upon if only the besieger is
sufficiently gallant and persistent. The best things, and even the
holiest things, 'hold us off that they may draw us on'--to use
Tennyson's expressive phrase.

To cite a single example, what a wonder-story is that of the
Syro-Phoenician woman! The Master conceals Himself from her; treats her
anguish with apparent indifference; preserves a frigid silence in face
of her passionate entreaty; and offers exasperating rebuffs in reply to
her desperate arguments! But did He design to destroy her faith? Let us
see! Like a gallant besieger, she sat down before the city with
indomitable courage and patience. Beaten back at one gate, she instantly
stormed another. Resisted at one redoubt, she mustered all her forces in
the effort to reduce a second. And at last 'Jesus answered and said unto
her, O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt!'
The capitulation was a predetermined policy; but the courage and
pertinacity of the besieger must be tested to the utmost before the
gates can be finally thrown open.


III

And then the victors fly upon the spoil! The repelling Word yields, and
is found to contain wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. 'I rejoice at
Thy Word as one that findeth great spoil.' _Spoil_! We have all felt the
thrill of those tremendous pages in which Gibbon describes the sack of
Rome by the all-victorious Goths. We seem to have witnessed with our
own eyes the glittering wealth of the queenly city poured at the feet of
the rapacious conqueror. Or, in Prescott's stately stories, we have
watched the fabulous hoards of Montezuma, and the heaped-up gold of
Atahuallpa, piled at the feet of Cortes and Pizarro. Or if, forsaking
the shining spoils of the Goths in Europe and the gleaming argosies
which the Spaniards brought from the West, we turn to a later date and
an Eastern clime, we instinctively recall the glowing periods of
Macaulay in his story of the conquests of Clive. After his amazing
victory at Plassey, 'the treasury of Bengal was thrown open to him.
There were piled up, after the usage of Indian princes, immense masses
of coin. Clive walked between heaps of gold and silver, crowned with
rubies and diamonds, and was at liberty to help himself. He accepted
between two and three hundred thousand pounds.' He was afterwards
accused of greed. He replied by describing the countless wealth by which
he was that day surrounded. Vaults piled with gold and with jewels were
at his mercy. 'To this day,' he exclaimed, 'I stand astonished at my own
moderation!'

Here, then, is the magic key that opens to us the secret in the
psalmist's mind. 'I rejoice at Thy Word as one that findeth great
spoil.' The besiegers pour into the city. Every house is ransacked. In
the most unlikely places the citizens have concealed their treasures,
and in the most unlikely places, therefore, the invaders come upon their
spoils. Out from queer old drawers and cupboards, out of strange old
cracks and crannies, the precious hoard is torn. As the besiegers rush
from house to house you hear the shout and the laughter with which
another and yet another find is greeted. So was it with his conquest of
the Word, the psalmist tells us. At first it resisted and repelled him.
But afterwards its gates were opened to his challenge. He entered the
city and began his search for spoil. And, lo, from out of every promise
and precept, out of every innocent-looking clause or insignificant
phrase, the treasures of truth came pouring, until he found himself
possessed at length of a wealth compared with which the pomp of princes
is the badge of beggary.



V

A PHILOSOPHY OF FANCY-WORK


'"What course of lectures are you attending now, ma'am?" said Martin
Chuzzlewit's friend, turning again to Mrs. Jefferson Brick.

'"The Philosophy of the _Soul_, on Wednesdays," replied Mrs. Brick.

'"And on Mondays?"

'"The Philosophy of _Crime_."

'"On Fridays?"

'"The Philosophy of _Vegetables_."

'"You have forgotten Thursdays; the Philosophy of _Government_, my
dear," observed a third lady.

'"No," said Mrs. Brick, "that's Tuesdays."

'"So it is!" cried the lady. "The Philosophy of _Matter_ on Thursdays,
of course."

'"You see, Mr. Chuzzlewit, our ladies are fully employed," observed his
friend.'

They were indeed; but for the life of me I cannot understand why, amidst
so many philosophies, the Philosophy of _Fancy-work_ was so cruelly
ignored. I should have thought it quite as suitable and profitable a
study for Mrs. Jefferson Brick and her lady friends as some of the
subjects to which they paid their attention.

'Whatever are you making now, dear?' asked a devoted husband of his
spouse the other evening.

'Why, an antimacassar, George, to be sure; can't you see?'

'And what on earth is the good of an antimacassar, I should like to
know?'

'Stupid man!'

Stupid man, indeed! But there it is! And for the crass stupidity of
their husbands, Mrs. Jefferson Brick and her philosophical friends have
only themselves to blame. If they had included the Philosophy of
Fancy-work in their syllabus of lectures, they might have acquired such
a grasp of a great and vital subject that they would have been able to
convince their husbands that there is nothing in the house quite so
useful as an antimacassar. The pots and the pans, the chairs and the
tables, are nowhere in comparison. The antimacassar is the one
indispensable article in the establishment. Let no man attempt to deride
or belittle it.

As it is, however, Mrs. Jefferson Brick and her friends have never
really studied the Philosophy of Fancy-work, and have never therefore
been in a position to enlighten the darkened minds of their benighted
husbands. As an inevitable consequence, those husbands continue to
regard the busy needles as an amiable frailty pertaining to the sex of
their better halves. In writing thus, I am thinking of the
better-tempered husbands. Husbands of the other variety regard
fancy-work as an unmitigated nuisance. Mark Rutherford has familiarized
us with a husband who so regarded his wife's delicate traceries and
ornamentations. I refer, of course, to _Catherine Furze_. We all
remember Mrs. Furze's parlour at Eastthorpe. 'There was a sofa in the
room, but it was horse-hair with high ends both alike, not comfortable,
which were covered with curious complications called antimacassars, that
slipped off directly they were touched, so that anybody who leaned upon
them was engaged continually in warfare with them, picking them up from
the floor or spreading them out again. There was also an easy chair, but
it was not easy, for it matched the sofa in horse-hair, and was so
ingeniously contrived that, directly a person placed himself in it, it
gently shot him forwards. Furthermore, it had special antimacassars,
which were a work of art, and Mrs. Furze had warned Mr. Furze off them.
"He would ruin them," she said, "if he put his head upon them." So a
Windsor chair with a high back was always carried by Mr. Furze into the
parlour after dinner, together with a common kitchen chair, and on these
he took his Sunday nap.' The reader is made to feel that, on these
interesting occasions, Mr. Furze wished his wife and her antimacassars
at the bottom of the deep blue sea; and one rather admires his
self-restraint in not explicitly saying so. Mr. Furze is the natural
representative of all those husbands who see no rhyme or reason in
fancy-work. If only Mrs. Jefferson Brick had included that phase of
philosophy on her programme, and had passed on the illumination to some
member of the sterner sex! But let us indulge in no futile regrets.

That there is a Philosophy of Fancy-work goes without saying. To begin
with, think of the relief to the overstrung nerves and the over-wrought
emotions, at the close of a trying day, in being able to sit down in a
cosy chair, and, when the eyes are too tired for reading, to finger away
at the needles, and get on with the antimacassar. Our grandmothers went
in for antimacassars instead of neurasthenia. 'It is astonishing,'
exclaimed the 'Lady of the Decoration,' 'how much bad temper one can
knit into a garment!' An earlier generation of wonderfully wise women
made that discovery, and worked all their discontents, and all their
evil tempers, and all their quivering nervousness into antimacassars. On
the whole it is cheaper than working them into drugs and doctors' bills,
and drugs and doctors' bills are certainly no more ornamental.

In his essay on _Tedium_, Claudius Clear deals with that particular form
of tedium that arises from leaden hours. And he thinks that in this
respect women have an immense advantage over men. Men have to wait for
things, and they find the experience intolerable. But a woman turns to
her fancy-work, and is amused at her husband's uncontrollable
impatience. The antimacassar, he believes, gives just enough occupation
to the fingers to make absolute tedium impossible. The war has led to a
remarkable revival of knitting and of fancy-work. My present theme was
suggested to me on Saturday. I took my wife for a little excursion; she
took her knitting, and we saw ladies working everywhere. Two were busy
in the tram; we came upon one sitting in a secluded spot in the bush,
her deft needles chasing each other merrily. And on the river steamer
eleven ladies out of fifteen had their fancy-work with them. I could not
help thinking that, in not a few of these cases, the workers must derive
as much comfort from the occupation as the wearers will eventually
derive from the garments. Many a woman has woven all her worries into
her fancy-work, and has felt the greatest relief in consequence. One
such worker has borne witness to the consolation afforded her by her
needles.

  Silent is the house. I sit
  In the firelight and knit.
  At my ball of soft grey wool
  Two grey kittens gently pull--
  Pulling back my thoughts as well,
  From that distant, red-rimmed hell,
  And hot tears the stitches blur
  As I knit a comforter.

  'Comforter' they call it--yes,
  Such it is for my distress,
  For it gives my restless hands
  Blessed work. God understands
  How we women yearn to be
  Doing something ceaselessly.
  Anything but just to wait
  Idly for a clicking gate!

We must, however, be perfectly honest; and to deal honestly with our
subject we must not ignore the classical example, even though that
example may not prove particularly attractive. The classical example is,
of course, Madame Defarge. Madame Defarge was the wife of Jacques
Defarge, who kept the famous wine-shop in _A Tale of Two Cities_. When
first we are introduced to the wine-shopkeeper and his wife, three
customers are entering the shop. They pull off their hats to Madame
Defarge. 'She acknowledged their homage by bending her head, and giving
them a quick look. Then she glanced in a casual manner round the
wine-shop, took up her knitting with great apparent calmness and repose
of spirit, and became absorbed in it.' Everybody who is familiar with
the story knows that here we have the stroke of the artist. Madame
Defarge, be it noted, took up her knitting with apparent calmness and
repose of spirit, and became absorbed in it. As a matter of fact, Madame
Defarge was absorbed, not in the knitting, but in the conversation; and
all that she heard with her ears was knitted into the garment in her
hands. The knitting was a tell-tale register.

'"Are you sure," asked one of the wine-shopkeeper's accomplices one day,
"are you sure that no embarrassment can arise from our manner of keeping
the register? Without doubt it is safe, for no one beyond ourselves can
decipher it; but shall _we_ always be able to decipher it--or, I ought
to say, _will she_?"

'"Man," returned Defarge, drawing himself up, "if Madame, my wife,
undertook to keep the register in her memory alone, she would not lose a
word of it--not a syllable of it. Knitted, in her own stitches, and her
own symbols, it will always be as plain to her as the sun. Confide in
Madame Defarge. It would be easier for the weakest poltroon that lives
to erase himself from existence than to erase one letter of his name or
crimes from the knitted register of Madame Defarge."'

Oh those tell-tale needles! Up and down, to and fro, in and out they
flashed and darted, Madame seeming all the time so preoccupied and
inattentive! Yet into those innocent stitches there went the guilty
secrets; and when the secrets were revealed the lives and deaths of men
hung in the balance! Here, then, is a philosophy of fancy-work that will
carry us a very long way. The stitches are always a matter of life and
of death, however innocent or trivial they may seem. Whether I do a row
of stitches, or drive a row of nails, or write a row of words, I am a
little older when I fasten the last stitch, or drive the last nail, or
write the last word, than I was when I began. And what does that mean?
It means that I have deliberately taken a fragment of my life and have
woven it into my work. That is the terrific sanctity of the commonest
toil. It is instinct with life. 'Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friend,' and whenever I drive a
nail, or write a syllable, or weave a stitch for another, I have laid
down just so much of my life for his sake.

But when we begin to exploit the possibilities of a Philosophy of
Fancy-work, we shall find our feet wandering into some very green
pastures and beside some very still waters. Fancy-work will lead us to
think about friendship, than which few themes are more attractive. For
the loveliest idyll of friendship is told in the phraseology of
fancy-work. 'And it came to pass that the soul of Jonathan was _knit_ to
the soul of David.' Knitting, knitting, knitting; up and down, to and
fro, in and out, see the needles flash and dart! Every moment that I
spend with my friend is a weaving of his life into mine, and of my life
into his; and pity me, men and angels, if I entangle the strands of my
life with a fabric that mars the pattern of my own! And pity me still
more if the inferior texture of my life impairs the perfection and
beauty of my friend's! Into the sacred domain of our sweetest
friendships, therefore, has this unpromising matter of fancy-work
conveyed us. But it must take us higher still. For 'there is a Friend
that sticketh closer than a brother,' and the web of my life will look
strangely incomplete at the last unless the fabric of my soul be found
knit and interwoven with the fair and radiant colours of His.



VI

A PAIR OF BOOTS


There seems to be very little in a pair of boots--except, perhaps, a
pair of feet--until a great crisis arises; and in a great crisis all
things assume new values. When the war broke out, and empires found
themselves face to face with destiny, the nations asked themselves
anxiously how they were off for boots. When millions of men began to
march, boots seemed to be the only thing that mattered. The manhood of
the world rose in its wrath, reached for its boots, buckled on its
sword, and set out for the front. And at the front, if Mr. Kipling is to
be believed, it is all a matter of boots.

  Don't--don't--don't--don't--look at what's in front of you;
  Boots--boots--boots--boots--moving up and down again;
  Men--men--men--men--men go mad with watching 'em.
    An' there's no discharge in the war.

  Try--try--try--try--to think o' something different--
  Oh--my--God--keep--me from going lunatic!
  Boots--boots--boots--boots--moving up and down again
    An' there's no discharge in the war.

  We--can--stick--out--'unger, thirst, an' weariness,
  But--not--not--not--not the chronic sight of 'em--
  Boots--boots--boots--boots--moving up and down again!
    An' there's no discharge in the war.

  'Tain't--so--bad--by--day because o' company,
  But--night--brings--long--strings o' forty thousand million
  Boots--boots--boots--boots--moving up and down again!
    An' there's no discharge in the war.

A soldier sees enough pairs of boots in a ten-mile march to last him
half a lifetime.

Yet, after all, are not these the most amiable things beneath the stars,
the things that we treat with derision and contempt in days of calm, but
for which we grope with feverish anxiety when the storm breaks upon us?
They go on, year after year, bearing the obloquy of our toothless little
jests; they go on, year after year, serving us none the less faithfully
because we deem them almost too mundane for mention; and then, when they
suddenly turn out to be a matter of life and death to us, they serve us
still, with never a word of reproach for our past ingratitude. If the
world has a spark of chivalry left in it, it will offer a most abject
apology to its boots.

It would do a man a world of good, before putting on his boots, to have
a good look at them. Let him set them in the middle of the hearthrug,
the shining toes turned carefully towards him, and then let him lean
forward in his arm-chair, elbows on knees and head on hands, and let him
fasten on those boots of his a contrite and respectful gaze. And looking
at his boots thus attentively and carefully he will see what he has
never seen before. He will see that a pair of boots is one of the master
achievements of civilization. A pair of boots is one of the wonders of
the world, a most cunning and ingenious contrivance. Dan Crawford, in
_Thinking Black_, tells us that nothing about Livingstone's equipment
impressed the African mind so profoundly as the boots he wore. 'Even to
this remote day,' Mr. Crawford says, 'all around Lake Mweru they sing a
"Livingstone" song to commemorate that great "path-borer," the good
Doctor being such a federal head of his race that he is known far and
near as Ingeresa, or "The Englishman." And this is his memorial song:

    Ingeresa, who slept on the waves,
  Welcome him, for he hath no toes!
  Welcome him, for he hath no toes!

That is to say, revelling in paradox as the negro does, he seized on the
facetious fact that this wandering Livingstone, albeit he travelled so
far, had no toes--that is to say, had _boots_, if you please!' Later on,
Mr. Crawford remarks again that the barefooted native never ceases to
wonder at the white man's boots. To him they are a marvel and a portent,
for, instead of thinking of the boot as merely covering the foot that
wears it, his idea is that those few inches of shoe carpet the whole
forest with leather. He puts on his boots, and, by doing so, he spreads
a gigantic runner of linoleum across the whole continent of Africa. Here
is a philosophical way of looking at a pair of boots! It has made my own
boots look differently ever since I read it. Why, these boots on the
hearthrug, looking so reproachfully up at me, are millions of times
bigger than they seem! They look to my poor distorted vision like a few
inches of leather; but as a matter of fact they represent hundreds of
miles of leathern matting. They make a runner paving the path from my
quiet study to the front doors of all my people's homes; they render
comfortable and attractive all the highways and byways along which duty
calls me. Looked at through a pair of African eyes, these British boots
assume marvellous proportions. They are touched by magic and are
wondrously transformed. From being contemptible, they now appear
positively continental. I am surprised that the subject has never
appealed to me before.

Now this African way of looking at a pair of boots promises us a key to
a phrase in the New Testament that has always seemed to me like a locked
casket. John Bunyan tells us that when the sisters of the Palace
Beautiful led Christian to the armoury he saw such a bewildering
abundance of boots as surely no other man ever beheld before or since!
They were shoes that would never wear out; and there were enough of
them, he says, to harness out as many men for the service of their Lord
as there be stars in the heaven for multitude. Bunyan's prodigious stock
of shoes is, of course, an allusion to Paul's exhortation to the
Ephesian Christians concerning the armour with which he would have them
to be clad. 'Take unto you the whole armour of God ... and your feet
shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.'

Whenever we get into difficulties concerning this heavenly panoply, we
turn to good old William Gurnall. Master Gurnall beat out these six
verses of Paul's into a ponderous work of fourteen hundred pages, bound
in two massive volumes. One hundred and fifty of these pages deal with
the footgear recommended by the apostle; and Master Gurnall gives us,
among other treasures, 'six directions for the helping on of this
spiritual shoe.' But we must not be betrayed into a digression on the
matter of shoe-horns and kindred contrivances. Shoemaker, stick to thy
last! Let us keep to this matter of boots. Can good Master Gurnall, with
all his hundred and fifty closely printed pages on the subject, help us
to understand what Paul and Bunyan meant? What is it to have your feet
shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace? What are the shoes
that never wear out? Now the striking thing is that Master Gurnall looks
at the matter very much as the Africans do. He turns upon himself a
perfect fusillade of questions. What is meant by the gospel? What is
meant by peace? Why is peace attributed to the gospel? What do the feet
here mentioned import? What grace is intended by that 'preparation of
the gospel of peace' which is here compared to a shoe and fitted to
these feet? And so on. And in answering his own questions, and
especially this last one, good Master Gurnall comes to the conclusion
that the spiritual shoe which he would fain help us to put on is 'a
gracious, heavenly, and excellent spirit.' And his hundred and fifty
crowded pages on the matter of footwear give us clearly to understand
that the man who puts on this beautiful spirit will be able to walk
without weariness the stoniest roads, and to climb without exhaustion
the steepest hills. He shall tread upon the lion and adder; the young
lion and the dragon shall he trample under feet. In slimy bogs and on
slippery paths his foot shall never slide; and in the day when he
wrestles with principalities and powers, and with the rulers of the
darkness of this world, his foothold shall be firm and secure. 'Thy
shoes shall be iron and brass, and as thy days so shall thy strength
be.' Master Gurnall's teaching is therefore perfectly plain. He looks at
this divine footwear much as the Africans looked at Livingstone's boots.
The man whose feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace
has carpeted for himself all the rough roads that lie before him. The
man who knows how to wear this 'gracious, heavenly, and excellent
spirit' has done for himself what Sir Walter Raleigh did for Queen
Elizabeth. He has already protected his feet against all the miry places
of the path ahead of him. If good Master Gurnall's 'six directions for
the helping on of this spiritual shoe' will really assist us to be thus
securely shod, then his hundred and fifty pages will yet prove more
precious than gold-leaf.

Bunyan speaks of the amazing exhibition of footgear that Christian
beheld in the armoury as '_shoes that will not wear out_.' I wish I
could be quite sure that Christian was not mistaken. John Bunyan has so
often been my teacher and counsellor on all the highest and weightiest
matters that it is painful to have to doubt him at any point. The boots
may have looked as though they would never wear out; but, as all mothers
know, that is a way that boots have. In the shoemaker's hands they
always look as though they would stand the wear and tear of ages; but
put them on a boy's feet and see what they will look like in a month's
time! I am really afraid that Christian was deceived in this particular.
Paul says nothing about the everlasting wear of which the shoes are
capable; and the sisters of the Palace Beautiful seem to have said
nothing about it. I fancy Christian jumped too hastily to this
conclusion, misled by the excellent appearance and sturdy make of the
boots before him. My experience is that the shoes do wear out. The most
'gracious, heavenly, and excellent spirit' must be kept in repair. I
know of no virtue, however attractive, and of no grace, however
beautiful, that will not wear thin unless it is constantly attended to.
My good friend, Master Gurnall, for all his hundred and fifty pages does
not touch upon this point; but I venture to advise my readers that they
will be wise to accept Christian's so confident declaration with a
certain amount of caution. The statement that 'these shoes will not wear
out' savours rather too much of the spirit of advertisement; and we have
learned from painful experience that the language of an advertisement is
not always to be interpreted literally.

One other thing these boots of mine seem to say to me as they look
mutely up at me from the centre of the hearthrug. Have they no history,
these shoes of mine? Whence came they? And at this point we suddenly
invade the realm of tragedy. The voice of Abel's blood cried to God from
the ground; and the voice of blood calls to me from my very boots. Was
it a seal cruelly done to death upon a northern icefloe, or a kangaroo
shot down in the very flush of life as it bounded through the Australian
bush, or a kid looking up at its slaughterer with terrified, pitiful
eyes? What was it that gave up the life so dear to it that I might be
softly and comfortably shod? And so every step that I take is a step
that has been made possible to me by the shedding of innocent blood. All
the highways and byways that I tread have been sanctified by sacrifice.
The very boots on the hearthrug are whispering something about
redemption. And most certainly this is true of the shoes of which the
apostle wrote, the shoes that the pilgrims saw at the Palace Beautiful,
the shoes that trudge their weary way through Master Gurnall's hundred
and fifty packed pages. These shoes could never have been placed at our
disposal apart from the shedding of most sacred blood. My feet may be
shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; but, if so, it is only
because the sacrifice unspeakable has already been made.



VII

CHRISTMAS BELLS


It is an infinite comfort to us ordinary pulpiteers to know that even an
Archbishop may sometimes have a bad time! And, on the occasion of which
I write, the poor prelate must have had a very bad time indeed.
For--tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of
Askelon!--none of his hearers knew what he had been talking about! They
could make neither head nor tail of it! 'I have not been able to find
one man yet who could discover what it was about,' wrote one of his
auditors to a friend. It is certainly most humiliating when our
congregations go home and pen such letters for posterity to chuckle
over. And yet the ability of the preacher at this particular service,
and the intelligence of his hearers, are alike beyond question. For the
preacher was the famous Richard Chenevix Trench, D.D., Professor of
Theology at King's College, Dean of Westminster, and afterwards
Archbishop of Dublin. The sermon was preached in the classical
atmosphere of Cambridge University, principally to students and
undergraduates. The theme was the Incarnation--'_The Word was made
flesh_.' And the young fellow who wrote the plaintive epistle from
which I have quoted was Alfred Ainger, afterwards a distinguished
litterateur and Master of the Temple. He could make nothing of it. 'The
sermon, I am sorry to say, was universally disappointing. I have not
been able to find one man yet who could discover what it was about. It
is needless to say _I_ could not. He chose, too, one of the grandest and
deepest texts in the New Testament. He talked a great deal about St.
Augustine, but any more I cannot tell you.'

Now Christmas will again come knocking at our doors, and many of us will
find ourselves preaching on this selfsame theme. And we have a wholesome
horror of sending our hearers home in the same fearful perplexity. 'What
on earth was the minister talking about?' All the cards and the carols,
the fun and the frolic, the pastimes and the picnics will be turned into
dust and ashes, into gall and wormwood, into vanity and vexation of
spirit to the poor preacher who suspects that his Christmas congregation
returned home in such a mood. His Christmas dinner will almost choke
him. There will be no merry Christmas for _him_!

But let no minister be terrified or intimidated by the Archbishop's
unhappy experience. His 'bad time' may help us to enjoy a good one. We
must take his text, and wrestle with it bravely. It is the ideal
Christmas greeting. There is certainly depth and mystery; but there is
humanness and tenderness as well.

'_The Word_ was made flesh.' Words are wonderful things, to say nothing
of '_the_ Word'--whatever _that_ may prove to be. This selfsame
Archbishop Trench, whose sermon at Cambridge proved such a universal
disappointment, has written a marvellous book _On the Study of Words_.
Here are seven masterly chapters to show that words are fossil poetry,
and petrified history, and embalmed romance, and that all the ages have
left the record of their tears and their laughter, of their virtues and
their vices, of their passion and their pain, in the _words_ that they
have coined. 'When I feel inclined to read poetry,' says Oliver Wendell
Holmes, 'I take down _my dictionary_! The poetry of words is quite as
beautiful as that of sentences. The author may arrange the gems
effectively, but their shape and lustre have been given by the attrition
of age. Bring me the finest simile from the whole range of imaginative
writing, and I will show you a single word which conveys a more
profound, a more accurate, and a more elegant analogy.' Words, then, are
jewel-cases, treasure-chests, strong-rooms; they are repositories in
which the archives of the ages are preserved.

'The Word _was made flesh_.' We never grasp the Word until it is. Let me
illustrate my meaning. Here is a bonny little fellow of six, with sunny
face and a glorious shock of golden hair. His father hands him his first
spelling-book, with the alphabet on the front page, and little
two-letter monosyllables following. But what can he make of even such
small words? He will never learn the A.B.C. in that way. But give him a
_teacher_. Make the word flesh, and he will soon have it all off by
heart!

Five years pass away. The lad is in the full swing of his school-days
now. But to-night, as he pores over his books, the once sunny face is
clouded, and the wavy hair covers an aching head.

'Time for bed, sonny!' says mother at length.

'But, mother, I haven't done my home lessons, _and I can't_.'

'What is it all about, my boy?' she asks, as she draws her chair nearer
to his, and, putting her arm round his shoulder, reads the tiresome
problem.

And then they talk it over together. And, somehow, under the magic of
her interest, it seems fairly simple after all. In her sympathetic
voice, and fond glance, and tender touch, the word becomes flesh, and he
grasps its meaning.

Five more years pass away. He is sixteen, and a perfect book-worm.
Looking up from the story he is reading, he exclaims impatiently:

'I can't think why they want to work these silly _love-stories_ into all
these books. A fellow can't pick up a decent book but there's a
love-story running through it. It's horrid!' He has come upon the
greatest word in the language; but it has no meaning for him!

But five years later he understands! He has been captivated by a pure
and radiant face, by a charming and graceful form, by lovely eyes that
answer to his own. That great word _love_ has been made flesh to him,
and it simply gleams with meaning. And so, all through the years, as
life goes on, he finds the great key-words expounded to him through
infinite processes of incarnation. 'Ideas,' says George Eliot, 'are
often poor ghosts; our sun-filled eyes cannot discern them; they pass
athwart us in their vapour and cannot make themselves felt. But
sometimes _they are made flesh_; they breathe upon us with warm breath,
they touch us with soft responsive hand, they look at us with sad
sincere eyes, and speak to us in appealing tones; they are clothed in a
living human soul, with all its conflicts, its faith, and its love. Then
their presence is a power, then they shake us like a passion, and we are
drawn after them with gentle compulsion, as flame is drawn to flame.'

And if this be so with other words, how could the greatest, grandest,
holiest word of all have been expressed except in the very selfsame way?
'_The_ Word was made flesh.' There was no other way of saying GOD
intelligibly. I should never, never, never have understood mere abstract
definitions of so august a term. And so--'In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was GOD, and the Word was _made flesh_.' I can grasp that
great word now. Bethlehem and Olivet, Galilee and Calvary, have made it
wonderfully plain. The word GOD would have frightened me if it had never
been expressed in the terms of 'a Face like my face'--as Browning puts
it--and a heart that beats in sympathy with my own. And so Tennyson
says:

  And so the Word had breath, and wrought
    With human hands the creed of creeds
    In loveliness of perfect deeds,
  More strong than all poetic thought;

  Which he may read that binds the sheaf,
    Or builds the house, or digs the grave,
    And those wild eyes that watch the wave
  In roarings round the coral reef.

And thus the most awful, the most terrible, and the most
incomprehensible word that human lips could frame has become the most
winsome and charming in the whole vocabulary. GOD is JESUS, and JESUS is
GOD! 'The Word was made flesh.'

The same principle dominates all religious experience and enterprise.
Generally speaking, you cannot make a man a Christian by giving him a
Bible or posting him a tract. The New Testament lays it down quite
clearly that the Christian _man_ must accompany the Christian _message_.
The Word must be presented in its proper human setting. Our missionaries
all over the planet tell of the resistless influence exerted by gracious
Christian homes, and by holy Christian lives, in winning idolators from
superstition. I was reading only this morning a touching instance of a
young Japanese who trudged hundreds of miles to inquire after the secret
of 'the beautiful life'--as he called it--which he had seen exemplified
in some Christian missionaries. The Word, _made flesh_, is thus
pronounced with an accent and an eloquence which are simply
irresistible.

'I said, and I repeat,' says Mr. Edwin Hodder, in his biography of Sir
George Burns, the founder of the Cunard Steamship Company, 'I said, and
I repeat, that if the Bible were blotted out of existence, if there were
no prayer-book, no catechism, and no creed, if there were no visible
Church at all, I could not fail to believe in the doctrines of
Christianity while the living epistle of Sir George Burns' life remained
in my memory.' That was Whittier's argument:

  The dear Lord's best interpreters
    Are humble human souls;
  The gospel of a life like his
    Is more than books or scrolls.

  From scheme and creed the light goes out,
    The saintly fact survives;
  The blessed Master none can doubt,
    Revealed in holy lives.

We have reached a very practical aspect now of the message that the
Christmas bells will soon be ringing. The thoughts of men are only
intelligibly communicable by means of words; and the words of men only
become pregnant with passion and with power when they are _made flesh_.
And, in the same way, the thoughts of God to men are only eloquent when
they are so expressed. Revelation became sublimely rhetorical at
Bethlehem, and we can only perpetuate its eloquence through the agency
of lives transfigured.



Transcriber's Notes

Inconsistent hyphenation left as printed: heart-breaking/heartbreaking,
over-wrought/overwrought.





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