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which pour contempt on the holy commands of God?” He was going to answer, when a female suddenly opened the door, and called him out. “Come quickly, sir,” said she, “ two persons have been fighting, and one of them has been wounded, and is bleeding.” “ Are these the innocent pleasures of the poor country people ?" I asked. “It is an accident,” he said, “such a thing may happen at any time.”
You will understand, my dear friend, the impression that these scenes produced on my mind, and I felt the painful truth of your remarks, as to the state of morality among our country people. I was burdened in mind, and ready, like Jeremiah, to weep floods of tears over the unhappy state of the mass of this nation. When night came, I stepped out to breathe a little more freely beneath the splendid vault of heaven, which glistened like the robes of some glorious prince.
Tumult had ceased, and the whole village was silent, as if in death. I was on the raised path before the church, when I saw a man, who seemed as if he was in pain, coming towards his own little porch. He was the same old man who had comforted the child near the spring. He was supporting, with much difficulty, a youth, who groaned in deep suffering, and as soon as he saw me, he requested me to aid his attempts to carry the young man to his own cottage. I said coolly, “ He has drank too much, and he has brought on his own punishment." “ For that reason we must try to help him," said the aged man; “ whether guilty or not, he is a sufferer ; I must do him good, if I can." These words were spoken with so much tenderness, combined with humility and gentleness, that I was ashamed to compare his spirit with that in which I had uttered my reply. How true it is that real courtesy proceeds from the heart! How much sweetness may be conveyed in a single expression of pity and kindness!
“Do you know this youth?” I said, as we went forward. “I know him, he is a neighbour of mine," answered this good Samaritan. I was silent, for I felt my own conscience condemned me. We entered a lowly room, and laid the young man upon the only bed that it contained. His aged friend kindled a fire, and prepared some mple remedies. I was astonished at all that I saw of him, and I looked on in silence. I told you, in my former letter, of the effect that the first sight of him produced in my mind, and I now found a secret, hidden power, influencing all that he did, and regulating even the arrangements of his humble home. This was a single room on the ground floor, of very
rate size. The floor was perfectly clean, and so were the few articles of furniture that it contained. At the window was a shoemaker's stall, but this was now hid by a curtain. Not far from it was a shelf, on which lay one book, quite free from dust, it was the holy Bible. At the back of the room was a plain bed with a straw mattress, beside it a table; and the walls were hung with texts, printed in large letters, selected from the Holy Scriptures.
All this I noticed while the old man was waiting on the youth, having given him some drink, and then leaving him to sleep quietly. “And where will you rest ?” I asked him. “ You have not a single arm chair, and your bed will scarcely hold two persons. “ The night will not last long," he said, 6 and that poor lad wants waiting upon.”
" What !” I said, you mean to sit up with him, and give up a night's rest, at your age, for a common stranger ?” “A stranger!” he repeated, in low and solemn tones. “I was not a friend or brother to my Lord Jesus Christ, when he came from heaven to save me. But,” going towards the door, “ will you forgive me, sir, if I do not now ask you to stay? Talking may disturb this poor lad.” I was going to express still further surprise, but he urged me to go at once, and civilly thanked me for my assistance.
You need not be told how my thoughts were engaged whilst returning home. I seemed as in a dream. My host was uneasy on account of the time I had been absent. I said, “ Time is nothing, when the soul is concerned, and I have been surely guided in my walk this evening."
Where have you
been ?), he asked again, fixing his eyes on mine. 66 Oh! never fear for me,” I answered, “ I am able to take care of myself.” I then related my adventure. He smiled, and said, “That aged man is called Manasseh. He is a good man. He does nothing but good to others, on week days and Sundays. He is one of the best men that ever lived. But he is a singular creature, full of strange fancies. He will read his Bible for an hour together, and he talks of religion at every turn. He never wants company; from morning to night he works hard, often singing psalms and hymns. He lives quite alone, and is never seen even for half an hour in the ale-house, or stopping in the street. He might be taken for a hermit, but for a very active one, indeed; whenever good is to be done, he is first and foremost. He is so well known, that when people are in a difficulty, it is said to them, "Tell Manasseh, and you will soon get through.' Indeed, he is a good sort of man, though perhaps a little mistaken.”
I did not wish to say more at that time, as it was the hour for rest; but I remembered the good man Manasseh was watching by the side of a youth, whom he did not treat as one who had no claims upon him. I prayed to the Almighty to give him strength, to go through the fatigue of this night, and the labours of the coming day. So ended my last sabbath, and as I have since been confined to my room, I have not been able to visit Manasseh. But, if it please God, I hope to spend a part of the next Lord's day with him, for I long to have a little friendly conversation with one who is scorned by the world, on account of his love to Jesus. I will tell you more when I write again.
A HARD MASTER. ROBERT STAPLES left his native village some months ago,
to enter into service at a place many miles away. Not long since, he returned to his father's cottage in a very poor plight. His clothes were shabby and ragged, his pockets empty, and his countenance was woe-begone. He had not been many days at home before his father's next-door neighbour, old James Dixon, saw him passing, and called out to him, saying, “So, Robert, how is this? Have you left your situation ?"
“You may say that, Master Dixon," replied Robert. “ Yes, I have done with Skinflint.”
“Ah, indeed ?” said the old man, inquiringly; at the same time bringing his chair out into the sunshine, and seating himself; “I should like to know a little about this, Robert. Who is Skinflint? and why do you say you have done with him?"
“ As to that, everybody where I have been knows who old Skinflint is. It is the same man who was my master; and I have done with him because he was a hard master."
“ Ah! and in what way was he a hard master, Robert ?" “ In every way, Master Dixon; and I will tell
all about it. He used me badly, very badly; and I do not care who knows it. First of all, as you know, he enticed me away from a good place, where I was well off ; at least, his steward did, which is the same thing. He promised me all sorts of things if I would go and live with him.”
“Yes, yes, Robert, I know all about it. He said you should have high wages and light work ; good clothes, and plenty of everything to eat and drink.”
“ He did,” said Robert fiercely ; “and now just see what a
are all I
66 So it seems.
condition I am come home in. These rags”-he laid his hand, as he spoke, upon his tattered garmentshave got to cover me; and I can count the bones in my body for very starvation.”
“So then, Robert, your new master did not keep his promises ?”
“ Not he,” replied Robert ; " he never does. All the rest of the servants are used the same as I was, in one way or other; so he is always changing. Some of them were there longer than I was, though; but I would not stand it; and I did not come away a bit too soon.”
But you have not told me yet how you were taken in and served. Let me hear all about it, Robert. What work did you have to do ?”
66 All sorts of it; and hard work, and dirty work, too, Master Dixon. I was up early and late, and had no rest, as one may say, day or night. It was all the same to my master. Hot or cold, it did not signify. And whether I was well or ill, it was all one. Work, work, was all the cry, from one week's end to another; Sunday and working day.'
“ Indeed! that was bad, sure enough. No wonder you come home with so little of you left. But did you not complain ?"
Why, I did grumble at times ; but there was little use in that. One day my master would promise fair that I should have easier work; and then the next day, he would rate me for being idle and good for nothing. But, whatever he said, I found that the longer I lived with him, the worse I was used.”
“ Truly,” said old James, “I do not much blame you for leaving such a service, for it has worn you away dreadfully; and Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life,' as the Bible says. But, how about the fine clothes, and good living, and large wages ; perhaps they made up for hard work ?" “I tell you it was all sham, Master Dixon. Do
think I should have come back such a scarecrow as I am, if I had had better clothes to my back, or money in my pocket? And as to good living, I never had a full meal in his house, nor out of it, while I lived with him; and what I had was bad. He was a hard master, and there's an end of it.”
“But sure he promised you great things. You should have tried to make your master keep to his promises."
“Ah,” said Robert, “ there was his cunning.
made any regular agreement about wages; and I did not care much about this at first starting, because he promised so fair. So, when I was coming away, he laughed at me, and jeered me about it, and told me I might get what I could out of him; and that was just nothing at all, after all my slaving for him. And then, as to victuals, he dared me to prove that I had not been well fed ; and because I had sometimes put on a fine livery to please him when he had company, he said he could bring people to swear that he had kept his promise about clothes. So, the long and short of it is, Master Dixon, here I am, just as you see me ; and thankful to be out of the clutches of such a bad, hard master ; though, what I am to do, I cannot tell.” “ Then I will tell you, Robert. I am glad to see you
back again, though you are come in such a sad plight; and there are more than I that will be glad. There is your old master, now; your first master, I mean. I'll be bound to say he will take you on again, if you go and ask him.”
"If I thought so," said Robert, in rather a desponding tone, “I would go, and begin again ; only I am afraid he would not care to speak to me; such a figure as I am too."
Depend upon it, that will make no difference, Robert. I heard him say, after you left him, what would come of it; for he knows that hard master of yours as well, or better than you do. So, take my advice, and go to him directly. Tell him your story, and I'll answer for it, he will not turn you off.”
Well, I'll go to-morrow.” “ To-night, lad, to-night,” cried out old James Dixon, very briskly, “to-night, before the sun goes down. Go at once; 'tis but a step. I will be in my cottage when you return; so you may come in, and tell me what sort of a reception you have had.”
So saying, the old man pushed back his chair into the cottage, and, shutting the door, stood at his window, to see which way his young friend would go.
At first, Robert seemed to be debating with himself whether he should take his old neighbour's advice. He looked at his tattered garments, and appeared to wipe a tear from his cheek; and it was no blame to him for feeling concern for his deplorable condition, so like that of the returned prodigal about whom we read in the fifteenth chapter of Luke. At length, Robert plucked up courage, and walked slowly towards the house of his first master, until, turning a corner, he was out of James Dixon's sight.