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which the last predecessor, and a long, line of predecessors before him, lived and died."
In confirmation of this last statement, I may mention that Samuel Ireland, writing in 1792 ("Picturesque Views on the River Thames"), speaks of a farmer named Wapshote, near Chertsey, whose ancestors had resided on the place ever since the time of Alfred the Great; and amid all the chances and changes of centuries, not one of the descendants had either bettered or marred his fortunes. The truthfulness of the story is confirmed in a number of the "Monthly Review" for the same year.
Mr. Burke commends the excellent and most useful works of his "friend Arthur Young" (of whom I shall have somewhat to say another time), but regrets that he should intimate the largeness of a farmer's profits. He discusses the drill-culture (for wheat), which, he says, is well, provided '■ the soil is not excessively heavy, or encumbered with large loose stones, and provided most vigilant superintendence, the most prompt activity, icAs'cA has no such day as to-morrow in its calendar* combine to speed the plough; in this case I admit," he says, " its superiority over the old and general methods." And again he says—" It requires ten times more of labour, of vigilance, of attention, of skill, and, let me add, of good fortune also, to carry on the business of a farmer with success, than what belongs to any other trade."
May not "A Farmer" take a little pride in such testimony as this:
One of his biographers tells us, that, in his later years, the neighbours saw him on one occasion, at his home of Beaconsfield, leaning upon the shoulder of a favourite old horse (which had the privilege of the lawn), and sobbing. Whereupon the gossiping villagers reported the great man crazed. Ay, crazed,— broken by the memory of his only and lost son Richard, with whom this aged saddle-horse had been a special favourite,—crazed, no doubt, at thought of the strong young hand whose touch the old beast waited for in vain,—crazed and broken,—an oak, ruined and blasted by storms. The great mind in this man was married to a great heart.
It is almost with a feeling of awe that I enter upon my wet-day studies the name of Oliver Goldsmith: I love so much his tender story of the good vicar; I love so much his poems. The world is accustomed to regard that little novel, which Dr. Johnson bargained away for sixty guineas, as a rural tale: it is so quiet; it is so simple; its atmosphere is altogether so redolent of the country. And yet all, save some few critical readers, will be surprised to learn that there is not a picture of natural scenery in the book of any length; and wherever an allusion of the kind appears, it does not bear the impress of a mind familiar with the country, and practically at home there. The Doctor
* At that day, horse-hocing, at regular intervals, was understood to form part of what was counted drill-culture,
used to go out upon the Edgware road,—not for his love of trees, but to escape noiae and duns. Yet we overlook literalness, charmed as we are by the development of his characters and by the sweet burden of his story. The statement may seem extraordinary, but I could transcribe every rural, out-of-door scene in the "Vicar of Wakefield" upon a single half-page of foolscap. Of the first home of the Vicar we have only this account:—" We had an elegant house, situated in a tine country and a good neighbourhood." Of his second home there is this more full description :—" Our little habitation was situated at the foot of a sloping hill, sheltered with a beautiful underwood behind, and a prattling river before: on one side a meadow, on the other a green. My farm consisted of about twenty acres of excellent land, having given a hundred pounds for my predecessor's good-will. Nothing could exceed the neatness of my little inclosures: the elms and hedge-rows appearing with inexpressible beauty. My house consisted of but one story, and was covered with thatch, which gave it an air of great snugness." It is quite certain that an author familiar wiih the country, and with a memory stocked with a multitude of kindred scenes, would have given a more determinate outline to this picture. But whether he would have given to his definite outline the fascination that belongs to the vagueness of Goldsmith, is wholly another question.
Again, in the sixth chapter, Mr. Burchell is called upon to assist the Vicar and bis family in "saving an after-growth of hay." "Our labours," he says, "went on lightly; we turned the swath to the wind." It is plain that Goldsmith never saved much hay; turning a swath to the wind may be a good way of making it, but it is a slow way of gathering it. In the eighth chapter of this charming story the doctor says :—" Our family dined in the field, and we sat, or rather reclined, round a temperate repast, our cloth spread upon tie hay. To heighten our satisfaction, the blackbirds answered each other from opposite hedges, the familiar redbreast came and pecked the crumbs from our hands, and every sound seemed but the echo of tranquility."
This is very fascinating; but it is the veriest romanticism of country - life. Such sensible girls as Olivia and Sophia would, I am quite sure, never have spread the dinner-cloth upon hay, which would most surely have set all the gravy aflow, if the platters had not been fairly overturned; and as for the redbreats, (with that rollicking boy Moses in my mind) I think they must have been terribly tame birds.
But this is only a farmer's criticism — a Crispin feeling the bunions on some Phidian statue. And do I think the less of Goldsmith because he wantoned with the literalism of the country, and laid on his prismatic colours of romance where only white light lay? Not one whit. It only shows how genius may discard utter faithfulness to detail if only its song is charged with a general simplicity and truthfulness that fill our ears and our hearts.
As for Goldsmith's verse, who does not love it? It is wicked to consume the pages of a magazine with extracts from a poem that is our daily food, else I would string them all down his column and the next, and every one should hare a breezy reminder of the country in it. Not all the arts of all the modernists,—not "Maud," with its garden-song—not the caged birds of Killingworth, singing up and down the
village street — not the heather-bells out of which the springy step of Jean Ingelow crushes perfume—shall make me forget the old, sweet, even flow of the " Deserted Village." •
Down with it, my boy, from the third shelf! G-o-L-D-s-M-i-T-H—a worker in gold—is on the back. And I sit reading it to myself as a fog comes weltering in from the sea, covering all the landscape, save some half-dozen of the city spires, which peer above the drift-like beacons.
WORDS FITLY SPOKEN.
BY T. S. ARTHUR.
"There, there! Don't preach to rae 1" The voting man who said this, put up his hand as if parrying a blow. "I hate this sermonizing."
A sigh and a long silence. The young man walked about restlessly, while a sad-faced woman, with clasped hands and grieving lips, sat motionless, like one stunned by a blow.
"Mother!" The woman did not stir, nor look up.
"You press me too hard. I can't bear it just now."
"The eye which cannot bear light, must be in a very inflamed condition, Edward." The voice was gentle, but full of grief. "Without light, a man gropes blindly. Danger and destruction are in his way. If he have a true friend, will not that friend seek to guide his steps? Nay, even though he strike at him in his wilfulness and passion r" c "Yonr imagination is at fault, mother. You
onjare up frightful images, and are terrified at Aera. I am not walking blindly. But, suppose I am, and should stumble and fall; the hurt will be mine alone."
"Yours alone! Oh, Edward—my son I" The eyes turned upon him were so full of tender anguish, that he gazed into them with half wondering awe. There gleamed upon him at the instant a new revelation; and he perceived something of the quality of a mother's love.
"Hut I shall neither stumble nor fall," he made answer, in an altered tone, and with a gentle manner.
"If we walk in the paths of honour and usefulness, God will keep our feet; but, if we stray from them, evil spirits have power to build obstructions, to dig pit-falls, and to lay snares. I am not using a mere figure of speech, my son, bat declaring a solemn truth,"
Edward stood still, but did not reply.
"Let me say just one thing more, my son," »dded his mother, "and I want you to take the
thought with you and dwell upon it. The satisfaction of mind gained by resisting and overcoming is always greater than what is gained by yielding, in temptation. And we are tempted by evil spirits, who hate us and seek to destroy in us all good, so that we may become like unto themselves, whenever we seek to gain an advantage for ourslves at the expense of others, or when impure desires or wicked passions clamor for indulgence. In yielding, we curse ourselves; in resisting effectually, we secure peace and safety."
Rising, as she finished the last sentence, his mother left the room. The irritation felt by Edward, when she began talking to him, had entirely passed away, and he was in a more subdued and rational state of mind. The truth just declared, that a higher and purer pleasure is always gained by overcoming a temptation than in yielding to it, struck his mind very forcibly, and dwelt in his thoughts.
"Pleasure, or satisfaction of mind, is the end we all have in view." So Edward Wilmot thought with himself, for he was not then capable of thinking higher; "and we call men fools who do what is sure to disappoint the heart's desire. Good at the expense of others, and the indulgence of bad passions—these the Christian moralist condemns, and tells us they will surely bring sorrow and pain. And, maybe he is right. Nay—doubtless is tight."
The young man had stood where bis mother left him, as he thus mused with himself. Now he started forward, and with considerable excitement of manner, exclaimed—
"What fools we are! We see the right, and while approving, rush madly into the wrong."
A servant opened the door, and said—
"Mr. Freeman has called to see you."
"Very welL I'll be down in a moment." As the servant withdrew, Wilmot clinched bis hands violently. His face darkened, as he muttered in an undertone, bitterly, "Any one but him juat now! Has the devil sent him?" After a pause, he added, taking a deep breath— • "I believe so, verily. Of one thing I may at least be certain, no good angel prompted his visit just at this time."
A polished, soft spoken, insinuating person was Mr. Freeman, with the gentle purr of a cat. He was always the disinterested friend; never the seeker of favours or benefits. Had made himself rich without the life-wearing toil of the merchant and manufacturer, or the brain-exhausting work of professional life. Shrewd, keen, wide awake and unscrupulous, he knew just when and where to put in his hand and reap the harvests that other men planted. He knew just how to make meu work for him, when they imagined that they were working for themselves. Always managed to get the chestnuts, but never the burnt paws. To young Wilmot he had taken quite a fancy. There were qualities in him that might be used to advantage. He had studied him carefully, and had drawn him just a little aside into a dangerous way, noting all the while how he regarded his steps, and how his moral sense was touched. "After my own heart!" This sentence gave his estimate of Edward Wilmot.
"Ah, my friend! How are you to-day?" With a cheery voice, and a grasp of the hand, he met the young man, who had wished him anywhere else but there.
"Feeling rather dull," was Edward's constrained answer.
Freeman smiled his sunniest smile. He had faith in his countenance, and believed that no eyes were keen enough to look through any veil he might draw over it—and he had special faith in his smile. So he covered his face with sunshine.
"I don't know what men mean by the blues," he saiil, in his most charming way. Edward looked at him closely, and for the first time saw a curve of the lip, and a covert outlook from the eyes, that affected him unpleasantly. Just what they meant was not revealed; but he felt that they did not mean good.
"Temperaments differ," Edward replied, with some reserve of manner.
"A good digestion is everything, my young friend. Avoid excesses in eating and drinking, and take plenty of exercise in the open air, and you may go through life, if you will, as blithe as a lark."
"If I had as few wants as the lark, and could supply them as easily, your prescription for good spirits would be admirable, Mr. Freeman."
"You learn slowly, Edward," said his tempter. "Let me repeat a lesson given you before. Always keep the means ahead of the wants. Work diligently after the supplies, and having secured these, want becomes a blessing instead of a curse. There is often quite as much pleasure in gaining as in spending—nay, more sometimes. Let things be done in their right order—first gather, and then dispense. It is the
too great eagerness to dispense that creates Bo much trouble."
"As to the gathering process," said EthvarJ Wilmot, "it is all very well if you have anything to gather."
"There are harvest fields all around us, and grain bending to the sickle," remarked the other. "He that wills, may go in and reap."
"What other men have planted." Edward looked steadily at his companion.
"If those who sow fail to reap, shall the grain fall and be lost?" said Freeman. "Most men plant well, and till their ground diligently, but neglect the harvest. Either they know not the signs of ripening, or are away at gathering time clearing new fields. And thus it is always coming true, that one man sows and another reaps. What matters it to him that planteth who gathers the corn, if it go not to his garners? It might as well be in mine or in yours. If we work for the ingathering of harvests, shall we not have our reward? If I can bring down the game that has escaped another's gun, shall it not be mine in right and honour? Verily, I cannot see it differently. But come, ray horses are ready by this time. A drive into the country, and the medicine of change, will give a healthier tone to your spirits."
They went out together and rode for a couple of hours; then returned, going to the office of Mr. Freeman. During the ride, a grand scheme for money-making, slightly hinted at before, was fully developed by Freeman. In carrying it on successfully, it would be necessary for him to remain out of sight. Funds were needed to a considerable amount—these he would supply. The scheme proposed was nothing less than driving an overburdened anil embarrassed merchant, who had unwisely invested heavily in a mining company, into selling out his interest at a ruinous loss, which was to be their gain—for the interest was prospectively valuable. Freeman, who was personally well acquainted with the merchant, had, in an hour of friendly conference with him, learned all about h's pecuniary troubles, consequent upon this mining interest, which he was anxious to hold. If forced to a sacrifice, it would be his ruin; for he was burdened with loans, which he would not ultimately be able to take up if h'8 mining investments were lost. Such was the condition of the company in which he held these large investments, that its stock had no market value. If forced to realize upon them, he would not be able to get a tenth of what they cost him. To crowd this man into a difficult place, and compel hitn to give up this interest, was the scheme proposed by Freeman, and young Wilmot was to be his instrument in doing the mean and dishonest work.
Very adroitly did Freeman keep out of view the worst features of the case. He represented the merchant's affairs as drifting by steadily moving currents towards a crisis that was inevitable. "When the wreck comes, as come £ must, we will be at hand, that is all.
gains of salvage are as honourable as the gains of a lawyer or a doctor."
So he talked speciously. But Edward still saw the peculiar curve of lip and covert outlook from the eyes which had affected hira so unpleasantly, and stood on guard, scanning all that Freeman said with a suspicious scrutiny that surprised himself.
From general propositions the next thing was to consider particular actions as stepping-stones to results. Freeman saw that the young man's mind was keenly on the alert. If, thought Edward, as his companion developed his scheme, the ship be drifting in steadily moving currents, why should this and that be done to hasten the catastrophe regarded as inevitable?
"Would that be right?" he asked, as a certain thing was mentioned."
"If that is not done, we had as well give up the whole scheme," replied Freeman, with smooth insinuation. "You have come to a tree full of ripe fruit that must all come down. Shake the tree and get the advantage upon which you have fallen. Don't leave it for the next man travelling this way."
Edward Wiltnot felt that his tempter was gaining power over him. The pecuniary benefit, if all that was proposed could be carried out, would be large, and his thought was beginning to rest in the advantages he would enjoy as the possessor of a handsome sum of money.
Another step was taken by Freeman in laying out the ground of action; but it was a step just too far. Edward's cheeks reddened and his eyes flashed. His conversation with his mother had been too recent, and her language too impressive. He had not forgotten the sentence —" Whenever we are tempted to gain an advantage for ourselves at the expense of others; in yielding we curse ourselves—in resisting effectually, we secure peace and safety."
"Xo, sir !" he exclaimed, rising to his feet. "Money acquired in that way will never give me any true satisfaction. I will have nothing to do with it!"
"Oh, very well; just as you please." Edward could not have felt the man's sphere of repulsion more strongly if he had pushed him away with his hands. He now understood better the meaning of the curve on his lip, and the covert outlook from his eyes. They were selfish and malignant. And yet, the face remained placid and the smile did not fade out.
"Just as you please," he added. "It was your advantage I had in view, not my own. 'There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood—' you know the rest. A fortune is within reach, and you have only to put forth your hand and take it. Such another opportunity may not occur within your lifetime; nay, will not, for the blind goddess, as she is called, sees well enough to avoid those who have once spurned her favours."
The young man's good purpose wavered a l'ttl?. JJis perceptions were not so clear as a foment before, "Am "not a, weak fool," he.
said to himself, "to spurn this great advantage? Why should I be so very scrupulous? Why should I be so tender about other men's affairs? Let other men take care of themselves. If I don't take hold with Freeman in this enterprise somebody eUe will. This merchant must go to the wall inevitably. Nothing, in my view, can save him. Somebody will gain through his loss—why not I?"
"You will Have nothing to do with it," said the tempter, breaking in upon Edward's doubting revery. He had been reading his face, and knew what was passing in his mind.
"I cannot see the way clear. It lies too much in shadow, and is very crooked. I must have a little more time to think," returned the young man.
"Oh, very well. Think it all over. But remember one thing, you must not betray a syllable of what I have communicated. A breath of it, and I am your enemy for life. I am a warm friend, but a bitter enemy."
Freeman revealed in his countenance more than he intended. Edward shuddered at the revelation. A malignant fiend seemed looking out at him through the eyes of his companion.
"A false friend is more dangerous than an open enemy," said Edward, uttering the sentiment that came to his lips. He was brave of spirit, and could not brook the semblance of intimidation.
"I have warned you; so beware!" Calm and cold fell this answer.
"A false friend might betray me; but when I know my enemy I am not afraid," replied Edward, in stern defiance. "Of one thing you may be certain—whatever seems to me right that I will do. In the line of warning two can have a word as well as one; so I will drop a sentence for your consideration. This cunningly devised scheme for knocking down and robbing a weak and almost helpless man must be abandoned. I will not stand by and see it done. One step in the direction you purpose going, and I will put him on his guard. Good-day, sir."
The feelings of Edward Wilmot, as he gained the street and walked rapidly homeward, were like those of a man coming suddenly out of a dark room, where the air was close and breathing oppressed, into an exhilarating mountain atmosphere. He thought of his late friend, and of the scheme he had proposed, with strong repugnance; and with a sense of infelt joy that he had been able to reject both the man and bis iniquity. As he hastened along, he could not help analyzing this new state of mind. He had declined a scheme of profit, which offered large returns—had refused to take at the flood a tide that promised fortune—and yet he was almost glad at heart.
Before reaching home, Edward happened to pass in the street the man whose affairs he and Freeman had been discussing—a merchant named Bowles. He was walking slowly, with eyes cast down, his face care-worn and anxious. At another time, the young man would scarcely have remarked him; now pity filled his h?art, for he understood his extremity and what he must be suffering.
"Shall I throw myself npon him and bear him down i" he asked, with bitter scorn for the purpose so lately entertained. "God forbid!" his lips responded. He spoke aloud under the impulse of feeling.
It is said, "That man's extremity is the devil's opportunity." With equal force it may be said, that man's extremity is God's opportunity. There are crises, into which men come by temptations, that test the moral strength, and give, we might almost say, the turning point of destiny—when evil, with its strong enticements, come in like a flood, threatening to overwhelm the soul. But, always, there are attendant good influences, just as potent to sustain as the opposite influences are to destroy. God never leaves a human soul without succour. His hand is always outstretched, and he who will may grasp it and be saved. All hell cannot turn a man into evil ways—cannot exercise the smallest control over him, except through his free consent.
In the case of Edward Wilmot, the mother's warning counsels, almost rejected when given, yet striking down to conviction, came just at the right time—not through human foresight, but divine prevision. She had not ventured to talk with her son for many weeks before. Now she was so strongly impelled to do so, that she could not keep silence; and what she had said gave just the strength without which he could not have passed the ordeal of temptation unharmed. We who believe in a Providence, whose care for man is expressed in the words, "the very hairs of your head are numbered," cannot regard such things as accidental.
Much to Mrs. Wilmot's surprise, her son came in at tea-time. This was unusual. He heard voices in the parlour as he passed along the hall, and ascended to his own room. Soon after, the tea-bell rang, and on coming down he was presented to two young ladies, strangers to him, one of whom, not a little to his surprise, was introduced as Miss Laura Bowles. It soon appeared, from conversation at the table, that the two young ladies were on a committee, with Mrs. Wilmot, whose business it was to devise the ways and means for doing some charitable work, undertaken by an association of which they were members; and that they had come at her request, as chairwoman of the committee, to confer together. Edward listened with much interest to what passed between the ladies, and was particularly impressed with their apparent unselfish devotion to the good work they had in hand. He wae in a better state of mind to appreciate this than usual.
After tea, the ladies withdrew to the parlour, and Edward went up to his room. An hour afterwards, when he came down, he found his mother alone. Her visitors had gone.
"You introduced one of those young ladies as Miss Bowles," he said. "Do you know her father r"
"He is a merchant of our city," replied Mrs. Wilmot.
"Is she the daughter of Preston Bowles >" "Yes. His oldest daughter." "Singular!" Edward dropped his eyes. "What is singular, my son?" He stood musing for some time. He repeated the word— "Singular —yes, very singular I" "What is singular?" again asked Mrs. Wilmot.
"That I should have found her here on this very evening It is something so strange that it almost bewilders me."
"You have met her before?" said Mrs. Wilmot.
"Never. Did not know, until this evening, that there was such a young lady in existence.
"I am altogether in the dark," said Mm. Wilmot, looking mystified. "Of course you are. And I must explain." Edward sat down, his face growing more serious.
"Dear mother!" he began, showing considerable emotion, " if I spoke with impatience today, it was from a state of irritability almost impossible to repress. But what you said did not fall upon deaf ears. I remembered the precept you gave me about the pleasure that flows from resisting in temptation being always greater than what is gained in yielding. I have passed through a strong temptation; and I have had strength to overcome. It was you that helped me." His voice choked, and he was silent. Mrs. Wilmot laid her hand upon him softly, and touched her lips to his forehead. "May God throw around you, my son, His protecting arms," she said, calmly, though her heart was leaping in great pulses of joy.
"I believe He has done so," Edward replied, as soon as he could trust himself to speak. "I did not see clearly what you meant, but now I understand it fully. I have already felt the satisfaction that comes from resisting evil. I seem to have stepped upon higher ground; to be breathing in a purer region; to have a clearer sight. What looked to me, a few hours ago, as almost venal, now presents a moral turpitude at which my soul revolts. You have seen Mr. Freeman a few times." "Yes."
"In profession, my very warm friend. In heart, one of my worst enemies. Externally kind and alluring; internally a vampyre. He would have used me for his own advantage, while professing to have only my welfare in view. He was to be the sportsman, and I the hawk to lay the quarry at his feet. The father of your excellent young friend, Miss Bowles, is in pecuniary trouble."
"Indeed! I am sorry for this. He is a kind and generous man, always ready to help in good works," said Mrs. Wilmot. „
"In the confidence of a friendly intercourse, resumed Edward, "he let Freeman into the secret of his embarrassment, and revealed the weak point in his position. Immediately, »n