« PreviousContinue »
it out, glow about it, shine through it, her watch, in her ignorant way, the
grave hold it up in full view of God and the hills, the flashing, victorious rivers, look angels,-lighting the world other than the pitifully into the face of some dingy mushsun had done for six thousand years. We room trodden in the mud before it scarce have no name for the light: it has a name, had lived, just as we should look into hu- yonder. Not many eyes were clear man faces to know what they would say to see its shining that day; and if they to us? Was it the weakness and ignodid, it was as through a glass, darkly. rance that made everything she saw or Yet it belonged to us also, in the old touched nearer, more human to her than time, the time when men could “hear to you or me? She never got used to the voice of the Lord God in the gar- living as other people do; these sights den in the cool of the day.” It is God's and sounds did not come to her common, light now alone.
hackneyed. Why, sometimes, out in the Yet poor Lois caught faint glimpses, I hills, in the torrid quiet of summer noons, think, sometimes, of its heavenly clear- she had knelt by the shaded pools, and ness. I think it was this light that made buried her hands in the great slumberous the burning of Christmas fires warmer beds of water-lilies, her blood curdling for her than for others, that showed her in a feverish languor, a passioned trance, all the love and outspoken honesty and from which she roused herself, weak and hearty frolic which her eyes saw perpetu- tired. ally in the old warm-hearted world. That She had no self-poised artist sense, this evening, as she sat on the step of her Lois,- knew nothing of Nature's laws. brown frame shanty, knitting at a great Yet sometimes, watching the dun sea of blue stocking, ber scarred face and mis- the prairie rise and fall in the crimson light shapen body very pitiful to the passers- of early morning, or, in the farms, breathby, it was this light that gave to her face ing the blue air trembling up to heaven its homely, cheery smile. It made her exultant with the life of bird and forest, eyes quick to know the message in the she forgot the poor coarse thing she was, depths of color in the evening sky, or some coarse weight fell off, and someeven the flickering tints of the green thing within, not the sickly Lois of the creeper on the wall with its crimson cor- town, went out, free, like an exile dreamnucopias filled with hot sunshine. She ing of home. liked clear, vital colors, this girl, - the You tell me, that, doubtless, in the crimsons and blues. They answered her, wreck of the creature's brain, there were *somehow. They could speak. There fragments of some artistic insight that were things in the world that like herself made her thus rise above the level of her were marred, — did not understand, - daily life, drunk with the mere beauty were hungry to know: the gray sky, the of form and color. I do not know,- not mud swamps, the tawny lichens. She knowing how sham or real a thing you cried sometimes, looking at them, hard- mean by artistic insight. But I do know ly knowing why: she could not help that the clear light I told you of shone for it, with a vague sense of loss. It seem- this girl dimly through this beauty of form ed at those times so dreary for them to and color; and ignorant, with no words be alive,- or for her. Other things her for her thoughts, she believed in it as the eyes were quicker to see than ours: deli- Highest that she knew. I think it came cate or grand lines, which she perpetually to her thus an imperfect language, (not sought for unconsciously,- in the home- an outward show of tints and lines, as to liest things, the very soft curling of the some artists,) - a language, the same that woollen yarn in her fingers, as in the Moses heard when he stood alone, with eternal sculpture of the mountains. Was nothing between his naked soul and God, it the disease of her injured brain that but the desert and the mountain and the made all things alive to her,—that made bush that burned with fire. I think the weak soul of the girl staggered from its being alone, yet never growing lonesome; dungeon, and groped through these beavy- there was so much that was pleasant to browed hills, these color-dreams, through watch and listen to, as the cool brown even the homely kind faces on the street, twilight came on. If, as Knowles thought, to find the God that lay behind. So the the world was a dreary discord, she knew light showed her the world, and, making nothing of it. People were going from its beauty and warmth divine and near their work now,- they had time to talk to her, the warmth and beauty became and joke by the way,– stopping, or walkreal in her, found their homely shadows ing slowly down the cool shadows of the in her daily life. So it showed her, too, pavement; while here and there a lingerthrough her vague childish knowledge, ing red sunbeam burnished a window, or the Master in whom she believed,-show- struck athwart the gray boulder-paved ed Him to her in everything that lived, street. From the houses near you could more real than all beside. The waiting catch a faint smell of supper: very friendearth, the prophetic sky, the coarsest or ly people those were in these houses ; she fairest atom that she touched was but a knew them all well. The children came part of Him, something sent to tell of Him, out with their faces washed, to play, now – she dimly felt ; though, as I said, she the sun was down : the oldest of them genhad no words for such a thought. Yet erally came to sit with her and hear a even more real than this. There was story. no pain nor temptation down in those After it grew darker, you would see dark cellars where she went that He had the girls in their neat blue calicoes go not borne,- not one. Nor was there the sauntering down the street with their least pleasure came to her or the others, sweethearts for a walk. There was old not even a cheerful fire, or kind words, Polston and his son Sam coming home or a warm, hearty laugh, that she did not from the coal-pits, as black as ink, with know He sent it and was glad to do it. their little tin lanterns on their caps. She knew that well! So it was that He After a while Sam would come out in his took part in her humble daily life, and suit of Kentucky jean, his face shining became more real to her day by day. with the soap, and go sheepishly down Very homely shadows her life gave of to Jenny Ball's, and the old man would His light, for it was His : homely, be- bring his pipe and chair out on the pavecause of her poor way of living, and of ment, and his wife would sit on the steps. the depth to which the heavy foot of the Most likely they would call Lois down, world had crushed her. Yet they were or come over themselves, for they were there all the time, in her cheery patience, the most sociable, coziest old couple you if nothing more. To-night, for instance, ever knew. There was a great stopping how differently the surging crowd seem- at Lois's door, as the girls walked past, for ed to her from what it did to Knowles ! a bunch of the flowers she brought from She looked down on it from her high the country, or posies, as they called them, wood-steps with an eager interest, ready (Sam never would take any to Jenny but with her weak, timid laugh to answer ev- “ old man ” and pinks,) and she always ery friendly call from below. She had had them ready in broken jugs inside. no power to see them as types of great They were good, kind girls, every one of classes ; they were just so many living them, - had taken it in turn to sit up with people, whom she knew, and who, most Lois last winter all the time she had the of them, had been kind to her. What- rheumatism. She never forgot that time, ever good there was in the vilest face, - never once. (and there was always something,) she Later in the evening you would see an was sure to see it. The light made her old man coming along, close by the wall, poor eyes strong for that.
with his head down,- a very dark man, She liked to sit there in the evenings, with gray, thin hair, — Joe Yare, Lois's
old father. No one spoke to him, the cathedral in the city floated through people always were looking away as he the cold and moonlight past her, far passed; and if old Mr. or Mrs. Polston off into the blue beyond the hills. All were on the steps when he came up, they the keen pleasure of the day, would
say, “Good-evening, Mr. Yare," bright sights and sounds, coarse and very formally, and go away presently. homely though they were, seemed to fade It hurt Lois more than anything else into the deep music, and make a part of they could have done. But she bustled it. about noisily, so that he would not notice Yet, sitting there, looking out into the it. If they saw the marks of the ill life listening night, the poor child's face grew he had lived on his old face, she did not; slowly pale as she heard it. It humbled his sad, uncertain eyes may have been her. It made her meanness, ber low, dishonest to them, but they were noth- weak life so real to her! There was no ing but kind to the misshapen little soul pain nor hunger she had known that did that he kissed so warmly with a Why, not find a voice in its inarticulate cry. Lo, my little girl!” Nobody else in the She ! what was she ? All the pain and world ever called her by a pet name. wants of the world must be going up to
Sometimes he was gloomy and silent, God in that sound, she thought. There but generally he told her of all that had was something more in it, - an unknown happened in the mill, particularly any meaning that her shattered brain struglittle word of notice or praise he might gled to grasp. She could not. Her heart have received, watching her anxiouslyached with a wild, restless longing. She until she laughed at it, and then rubbing had no words for the vague, insatiate his hands cheerfully. He need not have hunger to understand. It was because doubted Lois's faith in him. Whatever she was ignorant and low, perhaps; oththe rest did, she believed in him ; she al ers could know. She thought her Masways had believed in him, through all the ter was speaking. She thought the undark, dark years, when he was at home, known meaning linked all earth and and in the penitentiary. They were gone heaven together, and made it plain. So now, never to come back. It had come she hid her face in her hands, and listened right. She, at least, thought his repen- while the low harmony shivered through tance sincere. If the others wronged the air, unheeded by others, with the meshim, and it hurt her bitterly that they sage of God to man. Not comprehenddid, that would come right some day too, ing, it may be, - the poor girl, – hungry she would think, as she looked at the tir still to know. Yet, when she looked up, ed, sullen face of the old man bent to the there were warm tears in her eyes, and window-pane, afraid to go out. They her scarred face was bright with a sad, bad very cheerful little suppers there by · deep content and love. themselves in the odd, bare little room, as So the hot, long day was over for them homely and clean as Lois herself. all, — passed as thousands of days have
Sometimes, late at night, when he had done for us, gone down, forgotten : as gone to bed, she sat alone in the door, that long, hot day we call life will be over while the moonlight fell in broad patch some time, and go down into the gray es over the quiet square, and the great and cold. Surely, whatever of sorrow poplars stood like giants whispering to or pain may have made darkness in that gether. Still the far sounds of the town day for you or me, there were countcame up cheerfully, while she folded up less openings where we might have seen her knitting, it being dark, thinking how glimpses of that other light than sunshine: happy an ending this was to a happy the light of the great Tomorrow, of the day. When it grew quiet, she could hear land where all wrongs shall be righted. the solemn whisper of the poplars, and If we had but chosen to see it, - if we sometimes broken strains of music from only had chosen !
CONCERNING PEOPLE WHO CARRIED WEIGHT IN LIFE.
WITH SOME THOUGATS ON THOSE WHO NEVER HAD A CHANCE.
You drive out, let us suppose, upon a if you look at the list, is carrying twelve certain day. To your surprise and mor- pounds additional. But such men, by tification, your horse, usually lively and a desperate effort, often made silently frisky, is quite dull and sluggish. He and sorrowfully, may (so to speak) run does not get over the ground as he is in the race, and do well in it, though wont to do. The slightest touch of whip- you little think with how heavy a foot cord, on other days, suffices to make him and how heavy a heart. There are othdart forward with redoubled speed ; but ers who have no chance at all. They upon this day, after two or three miles, are like a horse set to run a race, tied he needs positive whipping, and he runs by a strong rope to a tree, or weighted very sulkily with it all. By-and-by his with ten tons of extra burden. That coat, usually smooth and glossy and dry horse cannot run even poorly. The difthrough all reasonable work, begins to ference between their case and that of stream like a water-cart. This will not the men who are placed at a disadvando. There is something wrong. You tage is like the difference between setinvestigate ; and you discover that your ting a very near-sighted man to keep a horse's work, though seemingly the same sharp look-out and setting a man who is as usual, is in fact immensely greater. The quite blind to keep that sharp look-out. blockheads who oiled your wheels yester- Many can do the work of life with diffiday have screwed up your patent axles culty; some cannot do it at all. In short, too tightly; the friction is enormous ; there are PEOPLE WHO CARRY WEIGHT hotter the metal gets, the greater grows IN LIFE, and there are some WHO XEYthe friction ; your horse's work is quad- ER HAVE A CHANCE. rupled. You drive slowly home, and se- And you, my friend, who are doing the verely upbraid the blockheads.
work of life well and creditably, — you There are many people who have to who are running in the front rank, and go through life at an analogous disadvan- likely to do so to the end, think kindly tage. There is something in their con- and charitably of those who have broken stitution of body or mind, there is some- down in the race. Think kindly of him thing in their circumstances, which adds who, sadly overweighted, is struggling incalculably to the exertion they must go onwards away half a mile behind you ; through to attain their ends, and which think more kindly yet, if that be possible, holds them back from doing what they of him who, tethered to a ton of granite, might otherwise have done. Very prob- is struggling hard and making no way at ably that malign something exerted its in- all, or who has even sat down and given fluence unperceived by those around them. up the struggle in dumb despair. You They did not get credit for the struggle feel, I know, the weakness in yourself they were going through. No one knew which would have made you break down, what a brave fight they were making with if sorely tried like others. You know a broken right arm; no one remarked there is in your armor the unprotected that they were running the race, and place at which a well-aimed or a random keeping a fair place in it, too, with their blow would have gone home and brought legs tied together. All they do, they do you down. Yes, you are nearing the at a disadvantage. It is as when a no- winning-post, and you are among the ble race-horse is beaten by a sorry hack; first; but six pounds more on your back, because the race-horse, as you might see, and you might have been nowhere. You
feel, by your weak heart and weary frame, ius here and there who can do great that, if you had been sent to the Cri- things, who can do his best, no matter mea in that dreadful first winter, you at what disadvantage he may be placed ; would certainly have died. And you feel, the great mass of ordinary men can make too, by your lack of moral stamina, by little headway with wind and tide dead your feebleness of resolution, that it has against them. Not many trees would been your preservation from you know grow well, if watered daily (let us say) not what depths of shame and misery, with vitriol. Yet a tree which would that you never were pressed very hard speedily die under that nurture might by temptation. Do not range yourself do very fairly, might even do magnificentwith those who found fault with a certain ly, if it bad fair play, if it got its chance great and good Teacher of former days of common sunshine and shower. Some because he went to be guest with a man men, indeed, though always hampered by that was a sinner. As if He could have circumstances, have accomplished much; gone to be guest with any man who was but then you cannot belp thinking how
much more they might have accomplish
ed, had they been placed more happiThere is no reckoning up the manifold ly. Pugin, the great Gothic architect, impedimenta by which human beings are designed various noble buildings; but I
weighted for the race of life; but all may believe he complained that he never had • be classified under the two heads of un fair play with his finest, that he was
favorable influences arising out of the always weighted by considerations of exmental or physical nature of the human pense, or by the nature of the ground beings themselves, and unfavorable influ- he had to build on, or by the number of ences arising out of the circumstances people it was essential the building should in which the human beings are placed. accommodate. And so he regarded his You have known men who, setting out noblest edifices as no more than hints of from a very humble position, have attain- what he could have done. He made ed to a respectable standing, but who grand running in the race; but, oh, what would have reached a very much higher running he could have made, if you had place but for their being weighted with taken off those twelve additional pounds! a vulgar, violent, wrong-headed, and rude- I dare say you have known men who laspoken wife. You have known men of bored to make a pretty country-house on lowly origin who had in them the mak a site which had some one great drawings of gentlemen, but whom this single back. They were always battling with malign influence has condemned to coarse that drawback, and trying to conquer it; manners and a frowzy, repulsive home for but they never could quite succeed. And life. You have known many men whose it remained a real worry and vexation. powers are crippled and their nature Their house was on the north side of a soured by poverty, by the heavy necessi- high hill, and never could have its due ty for calculating how far each shilling share of sunshine. Or you could not will go, by a certain sense of degradation reach it but by climbing a very steep asthat comes of sordid shifts. How can a cent; or you could not in any way get poor parson write an eloquent or spirited water into the landscape. When Sir sermon when his mind all the while is Walter was at length able to call his own running upon the thought how he is to a little estate on the banks of the Tweed pay the baker or how he is to get shoes he loved so well, it was the ugliest, bleakfor his children? It will be but a dull est, and least interesting spot upon the discourse which, under that weight, will course of that beautiful river; and the be produced even by a man who, favor- public road ran within a few yards of ably placed, could have done very con his door. The noble-hearted man made siderable things. It is only a great gen a charming dwelling at last; but he was