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stone, for the house stood upon a platform of rockwork,' and behold the sun was shining on some parts of this mansion, which I shall henceforth call the castle, and it looked exceedingly handsome, set as it was in beautiful gardens, with trees of lign-aloe, and cedar; but between me and the castle was a sort of little town or village, and I must needs pass through this town, for it lay directly in the road; there was, however, an air of comfort shed over the place as I saw it from the distance; so my spirits were high, and I thought all was smooth before me, and all troubles at an end; and in this temper I walked on, full of anticipations of the comfortable life I was to lead with my uncle, in the service of the best of masters; nevertheless, as I went on, I was struck with one or two circumstances which indicated less attention to order in the management of the estate than I had expected to find in the domain of such an one as the lord. I had, indeed, built my expectations very high, and had filled myself with the notion, that as soon as I should set my foot on my lord's land, I should find every thing arranged and ordered in such a
1 "Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner." 1 Peter ii. 6.
"And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong."Psalm xxx. 6, 7.
way as that the most fastidious person should have no fault to find. Yet I cannot now say whereon I built my expectations; surely not from any expressions used in my uncle's letter, but (as he made it to appear afterwards to me) from notions of my own hastily taken up. I have often since considered, it is surprising how apt we are when first meditating upon any new plan of life, to go beyond what we have grounds for, and thus very often to prepare stumbling blocks for our own feet: accordingly, when my uncle had in his letter invited me to enter into the service of the lord, assuring me that he was indeed the best of masters, and one whose wages were beyond all price, ensuring in the long run the promotion of his servants beyond their most warm and sanguine expectations, for this was the very sense of his words, what must my busy fancy add to these promises, but a variety of present advantages and privileges, of which never a word had been spoken in the letter, for my uncle had made no promises whatever of any thing to be enjoyed just then, unless it were that sort of enjoyment which a man may derive from the assurance that his future concerns will be well
1 "But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended." Matt. xiii. 20, 21.
looked to; 1 a sort of enjoyment, which after all cannot well be too highly rated:-however, as I before said, my imagination had made itself very busy, and I was expecting things incompatible with the present state of man on earth; neither had I then discovered that which afterwards appeared, viz. that an enemy had invaded the lord's territory, and like a wild bear of the wood had broken down the fences, and brought confusion where order should have reigned; but more of this hereafter.
So I proceeded along the way, and passing between certain little farms and tenements ranged on this side and on that side of the road, I was continually offended with the unskilfulness of many things I saw, and truly I could not help thinking, that much more would be owing to the natural fertility of the land, if the people were not altogether starved, than to any great wisdom of the farmers; and they were slovenly too, letting the fences all run to ruin, and permitting the corn fields to be choaked with weeds, and, as far as I could judge, paying little heed to the signs of the sky; for although the morning was hot, and many of the fruits ready for gathering, I saw few
1 "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John xiv. 27.
2 "The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." Luke xvi. 8.
labourers at work,' though there were several lounging at the cottage doors.
Nay, I was so much surprised at this, that I called across a slip of a field to a man who was walking up and down with his hand in his bosom,2 saying, 'Friend, why are not you at work this fine morning, gathering in of your good things?' but he took no heed of my question, only bidding me mind my own affairs; and so far he was right, I had matters enough of my own to attend to, and had no need to meddle with other people's concerns. So I went on and came into the precincts of the village, which was without wall, and where I was not a little astonished by all I saw; for instead of the neat and orderly appearance which, as I before said, might have been expected within the domains of such an one as my lord, there was not only a general appearance of slovenliness about some dwellings, but of much sordid poverty about others; and again there was as great a pretension to show and ostentation in one or two more, as if all the resources of the place had been spent on two or three homesteds, to the manifest diminution of the comforts of the rest, I had seen things of this kind in foreign lands, and I
3" The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few." Matt. ix. 37.
2 "The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom, it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth: the sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason." Prov. xxvi. 15, 16.
was well aware that whilst the world lasted in its present state, there must be different grades in society; yet I had expected, I must confess, to have found things better ordered under the rule of such a man as I wished to find my future lord. But I had worse things than these to encounter, for as I went on further into the village, I fell in with many of the inhabitants, and also heard strange talk, for one was abusing another; one was endeavouring to overreach another; a third was cursing and swearing, and many were jeering, and scoffing, just as one might have expected in any other place where any ordinary master was at the head of affairs; or, as I was going to say, where there was no master at all in the case; but there I should have been wrong, for a society cannot hold together at all, without some sort of law, and if there were not a sort of method in men's madness, there would be no such thing as living at any rate, for creatures constructed as we are could not exist in a state of absolute chaos.
Well, but thought I, as I walked sadly forwards, along the village street, having the houses on my right and my left, and the castle gate right before me at the end of a long avenue; how does all this agree with my uncle's account of things? Did he not talk of a good master,
1 "The poor will never cease out of the land, therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide to thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land." Deut. xv. 11.