― 324 ―

Chapter VII.

Old Simon and his young wife at home.—Uncle Will, the good old English gentleman.—His happy influence over Simon.

LYDIA had appended the significant words “no cards” to the announcement of her marriage in the newspapers, and she secretly wished there would be no ceremonious callers; but she was not gratified in that respect, for soon after her return to town with her husband, she had many fashionable visitors. It is paradoxical, if not strange, that the persons who were most shocked at her engagement with a rich old man were strongest in their congratulations on her fortunate lot, and wished her joy with more fluency of speech than did those friends who really meant all they said, but said very little.

The marriage was town-talk for a day or two, and caused a sensation almost equal to the recent balloon explosion at the Haymarket. Of course there were some caustic jokes made about old Simon and his young wife; and some witty epigrammatic puns on their names were composed for private circulation. Some base inuendoes were also uttered by certain masculines, who estimate female virtue by the low standard of their own moral perceptions or qualities; but as Lydia did not hear the scandalous remarks, she was not shocked by them.

After the excitement of receiving and returning calls was over, and Lydia had settled down to a quiet routine, she began to devise plans for employing her time and money usefully; and the dearly-bought experience of her uncle was called into practical use, to guide her in her philanthropic designs. Mr Goldstone spent a good deal of his time in his library; but, though studious, he was not mopish—far from it; he was very cheerful in her society, and was ever ready to give her advice on any subject she propounded, and all her plans for doing good met with his ready acquiescence.

Mr Balmer, or Uncle Will, as he was usually called, was a fine old English gentleman of fifty-seven summers. He had

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a comfortably portly frame, and was very active for his age. The first glance at his jovial-looking face would have assured any sensible person that there was not an atom of the crusty old bachelor in his composition, and any one who knew where to look for his bump of benevolence, would not be long in deciding that he “had a heart that could feel for another.” His twinkling black eyes seemed full of sympathy, intelligence, and fun; his manner was at all times open and confiding; and his disposition generous in the extreme. He had been tolerably rich at one time of his life; but through helping everybody but himself, he lost his money. But he did not lose his self-respect or his peace of mind; nor did he fret about his lost riches, in the maudlin hope of exciting pity. Whenever trials came from which he could not honourably escape, he would say, “It is all right. My Almighty Father knows what is best for me, and I am sure he will not suffer me to be afflicted beyond what is necessary to keep me humble. ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ ”

Uncle Will might have embarked in business again, for several good friends offered to lend him the necessary capital; but he was averse to borrowing money, lest he should lose it; so he accepted a situation as clerk in a merchant's office, which post he filled for several years, until his niece persuaded him to resign it, and in her arch way told him he was to consider himself engaged to her as amanuensis, or “man Friday.”

Lydia had two rooms in her new house set apart for her uncle, furnished with everything she could think of to make him comfortable. She also insisted on his receiving £5 a week as pocket-money, for she knew the joy it afforded him to relieve distress in a quiet way. It would not have been an easy matter for a niece of mere ordinary tact to have induced Uncle Will to accept of such liberal bounty; but Lydia had such a happy way of managing him, that he could seldom resist her, and she almost did as she pleased with him. If he began to object to anything she proposed for his benefit, she would threaten to tickle him into submission; and he never could stand that infliction. She managed her husband in a similarly pleasant way; and it was fun to see the old men laughing at the sayings and doings of their merry little monitress in her whimsical efforts to “keep her two troublesome boys in order.”

Uncle Will was a quiet unobtrusive Christian. He lived a life of faith, and it was nearly always summer in his soul.

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He did not talk much about religion, unless it was to encourage a poor way-worn pilgrim, or to lead some benighted one into the light of truth; but his lamp was always burning, and its gladsome glow has led many around him to believe in the reality of the hope which enabled him to show a cheerful courage under losses and crosses, which would have bowed some men's spirits to the dust, or kept them enveloped in the gloom of despair. Such desponding ones may perhaps say, “It was natural for Uncle Will to show strong confidence in the supply of his daily wants, with such a niece, and such a home, and withal £5 a week of certain income.” It is true enough that it is easier for a sailor to trust in the strength of his ship's tackling in fine weather and smooth water, than it is when clawing off a lee-shore in a gale of wind; but a thorough sailor will never lose heart so long as he is outside of the breakers, and a thorough Christian will never cast away his faith in God so long as he is this side of the grave.

Uncle Will was a well-read man, but his life's guide-book was the Bible, and with it he was most intimately acquainted. He has often been heard to say, that he would not barter the store of Scriptural texts which he had in his memory for a nabob's fortune. His stock of psalms and hymns, too, was surprising, and he was very fond of singing. He did not object to secular music of a harmless kind, and his collection of old songs would have been a good stock-in-trade for a professional ballad-singer, but he was most partial to old-fashioned psalm-music. He was fond of children, and few things pleased him more than to have a bit of fun with a group of merry boys and girls, and for the time being he was a boy again, and leader of the frolics.

A warm attachment soon grew up between Uncle Will and Simon, and they spent much time together. It was both pleasing and instructive for Lydia to sit and hear the old men chat about the past and present affairs of the world; of the progress of scientific discovery, and the advancement of social and political reform. Occasionally the conversation would lead to remarks on the moral and religious movements of the age; but then she usually observed that her husband grew less eloquent than he had been upon other topics, and would courteously shift the subject, or propose some music or a game at chess, which interesting game both gentlemen played skilfully.

One afternoon, Lydia was sitting at her work-table, and her

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husband was reading aloud, as he often did, stopping occasionally to explain some passage which might appear abstruse to her less experienced mind. The book he had selected, and which was of engrossing interest to Lydia, was entitled “The Tongue of Fire.” After a while he suddenly ceased reading, and appeared to be in deep thought. Lydia did not disturb his reverie by asking him “what he was thinking of?” or “what was the matter with him?” or any of the silly sort of questions which some good wives are in the habit of teasing their husbands with when they wish to be left alone; so she noiselessly opened a scrap-book which lay on the centre table, and soon found something to interest her. Presently Simon remarked, “What have you there, my bird, that makes you smile so pleasantly?”

“Oh, I thought you were taking a nap, deary. You shall hear what I was smiling at; it may make you smile too. I fancy you are unusually dull this afternoon.”

“I am so, my child, but pray don't be uneasy; there is nothing very serious the matter. Read to me what so amused you a minute ago.” Lydia then read the subjoined extract, entitled “A Receipt for Low Spirits”:—

“Take an ounce of the seeds of resolution, mixed well with the oil of good conscience, infuse into it a large spoonful of the salts of patience; distil very carefully a composing plant called “others' woes,” which you will find in every part of the garden of life, growing under the broad leaves of disguise; add a small quantity, and it will greatly assist the salts of patience in their operation; gather a handful of the blossom of hope, then sweeten them properly with the balm of prudence; and if you can get any of the seeds of true friendship, you will then have the most valuable medicine that can be administered. But you must be careful to get some of the seeds of true friendship, as there is a seed very much like it called “self-interest,” which will spoil the whole composition. Make the ingredients into pills, take one night and morning, and the cure will be effected.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Lydia, “I will make a big boxful of those pills for family use. Now, Simmy!” she added, rising and stroking her husband's thin locks affectionately, “Tell me what made you look so thoughtful before I tickled your fancy, and made you laugh. Come, sir! tell me all about it this minute, or I shall surmise all sorts of funny things, and blame myself, of course, for that is quite natural.”

“It was merely a simple remark your uncle made last night that came into my mind all of a sudden. Nothing more, I assure you; so pray do not trouble yourself. Now, love, I

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think I should enjoy a nap for half-an-hour. Will you play over that pretty little song uncle and you were singing last night.”

Lydia placed a cushion behind her husband's head, then sat down to the piano and sang in a soft key, “A Day's March nearer Home!” When she had finished the song, Simon was asleep; so she glided out of the room, and joined her uncle, who was making some preparations on the lawn for fêting the children of the School of Industry on the ensuing day. After a few words of encouragement to her worthy relative on the admirable arrangements he was making for the entertainment of his youthful visitors, she told him of the singular depression which she had just observed in her husband, and asked her uncle the nature of their late conversation, for she feared they might have had some misunderstanding.

Uncle Will smiled as though it were gladsome news to him, and then replied kindly, “Don't distress yourself in the least, my dear. I think I can explain it all in a minute. I was talking with Simon last night about the various charitable institutions in the city that you and I have visited this week. I spoke of the urgent necessity there was for other establishments, especially a night refuge for the destitute and a home for the indigent blind,note when he remarked that he had an idea of endowing a night refuge for street vagrants; for, he added with a sigh, ‘I have a son for whose benefit I have wasted the best years of my life,—that is to say, I have toiled and pinched to hoard up money, in the blind belief that I was doing it for his benefit, and totally unconscious that I was thus cankering my own heart with selfishness and all kinds of hateful meanness that spring therefrom. That son is going to ruin as fast as he can go. His present reckless career, which he little thinks I am so well acquainted with, must inevitably end in misery and want, if it is not cut short by a sudden death. I am powerless to stop him in his reckless course, for I have no influence over him. I have resolved not to minister to his profligacy by bequeathing him money at my decease; but I should like to provide a home for him, or a roof where he might get shelter from the cold night storms, and not be necessitated, as so many unhappy creatures are, to lie out on the race-course, or under the trees in the Domain, when his miserable career draws near to its close.’

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“I replied,” continned Uncle Will, “that it was a praiseworthy forethought which other sorrowing parents in the land would do well to imitate; still, it was of comparatively small moment whether or not he had a roof to shelter his poverty-stricken body if his soul were prepared for the great hereafter. That is about the substance of what passed between Simon and me last night, Lyd. I was going to say a little more when the supper-bell rang. But as you will have to superintend the preparations for the juvenile feast, Lyd, I may have a little more close conversation with him this evening. He is evidently concerned for his own as well as for his son's soul.”

When tea was over, Lydia said she must go into the kitchen for an hour or two, to keep her maids at work; so the gentlemen were left together in the parlour. After a while, the subject of human happiness was broached, and an animated conversation ensued, in the course of which Simon quoted the following lines from Willis, as being in harmony with his own ideas on the subject of discussion:—

“ 'Tis to have
Attentive and believing faculties;
To go abroad rejoicing in the joy
Of beautiful and well-created things;
To love the voice of waters, and the sheen
Of silver fountains leaping to the sea;
To thrill with the rich melody of birds
Living their life of music; to be glad
In the gay sunshine, reverent in the storm;
To see a beauty in the stirring leaf,
And find calm thoughts beneath the whisp'ring tree;
To see, and hear, and breathe the evidence
Of God's deep wisdom in the natural world.”

“Very pretty thoughts certainly, and smoothly expressed, and my feelings vibrate to every word” said Mr Balmer. “I dearly love the works of nature, for in them I can trace the infinite wisdom of their Omnipotent Creator. Still, none of the wonders or beauties that I behold in the world around me, or in the starry skies above me, would bring to me individually the comforting assurance of the life of the world to come. God's holy Word alone reveals that to my heart. The book of nature is gloriously wonderful, but God's Word is life-breathing, and yields spiritual joy unspeakable to the humble believer.”

“The Bible is a wondrously mysterious book,” remarked

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Simon, with an inquiring glance at the glowing face of his friend.

“I presume you have read it extensively, Mr Goldstone?”

“Yes, sir, from beginning to end, over and over again; but I sadly confess that I do not understand it as you do. I have also read the philosophy of many astute thinkers and the arguments of learned controversialists without number, but my obtuseness is not removed.”

“There are many things in the Bible that are hard to be understood; still, there is an inexhaustible fund of truth which the simplest mind can receive, if the Scriptures be searched with a sincere desire to know God's will, and with earnest prayer to Him for spiritual enlightenment. That poor old cripple to whom you gave a greatcoat this afternoon is but barely able to read, and yet he could tell you more about the spiritual power of God's Word than you would learn from the works of all the learned rationalistic writers whom you named to me the other day.”

“I daresay you are right, Mr Balmer. I do sincerely wish I could derive the same amount of light and comfort that you get in reading the Bible,” said Mr Goldstone, with a sigh. “I have often been overwhelmed with wonder at some parts of it, but I have never experienced a comforting feeling; and I have, when reading other parts, been subject to influences that I should not like to name. How is this?”

“Let me repeat what I heard a minister say a few Sundays ago in the course of an able sermon, which I shall never forget,” remarked Mr Balmer. “The reverend gentleman modestly premised that the following figurative exposition was addressed to the boys of the college of which he is Principal; but I think it may be addressed to many boys outside of his college, and to a multitude of old folks as well. He said, when expatiating on the inestimable qualities of God's holy Word, “There are some things in the Bible which I should not have put there if I had written the book; but God is wiser than I, and He has seen fit to put them there with a good purpose, no doubt. Suppose a garden, stocked with choice flowers, had in one corner of it a carrion carcase. If a bee and a blow-fly entered that garden, the bee would sip honey from the flowers but would not touch the carrion, while the blow-fly would go straightway to the corner where the carcase was, and perhaps not even stop to light on a flower. The Bible is like a rich parterre; and when we see any one leaving

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the flowers which abound therein for those excrescences which are doubtless left there for admonition and warning, we see at once that he is certainly not a bee. Those parts which I, in my short-sighted judgment, would have left out are perhaps put in the book for us to test ourselves by, to see whether we are bees or blow-flies.”

“Alas! I fear that I have been a blow-fly!” said Simon, with a mournful look.

“Pardon me, Mr Goldstone. I did not mean to be personal. I am very sorry that”——

“The figure aptly applies to me, sir,” interrupted Simon; “and you need not be sorry for having quoted it, but quite the contrary. It is exactly my case; and perhaps it would equally apply to many of the learned sceptics whose writings I have studied with far more earnestness than I have studied God's Word itself. Yes, Mr Balmer; those rationalistic writers that I named are blow-flies; and I would at this moment give all I possess if I could wholly rid my mind of the infidel dogmas they have blown into it, to the destruction of my present peace, and the blighting of my hope of happiness in the world to come.”

“God's Word will show you the way to find a peace that passes all understanding,” Mr Goldstone.

“Yes; I believe that is true, sir. I thank God for the spark of true light which I now possess, but I long for more than a spark; I want to ‘be enlightened with the light of the living.’ ”

“Seek, and you shall find,” said Mr Balmer.

“Yes, sir, I will seek; I will search the Scriptures diligently, and with humble prayer to God to open my eyes ‘that I may behold wondrous things out of His law.’ I am grateful to you, Mr Balmer, for the Christian counsel which you have given me from time to time, and for the consistent example you have shown me, which has perhaps had more influence upon me than mere precept. Oh, that I had met with such a faithful friend as you fifty years ago! What a multitude of sins might have been hidden or prevented. But, thank God! it is not too late to turn to Him, though it be the eleventh hour.”

“I am joyful, indeed, that I have, in my humble way, been instrumental to your spiritual enlightenment, Mr Goldstone. It is the duty of every Christian to speak a ‘word in season;’ and a powerful incentive is given him to do so in the very

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text which you have just now partially quoted—the last words the apostle James wrote. By the way, I have a sermon by a great preacher from that very text; and if you will allow me, I will read you a short passage which particularly struck me, showing the wonderful influence of individual effort under the providential guidance of Almighty God.”

Mr Goldstone intimated his desire to hear the passage referred to; so Mr Balmer read as follows:—

“Oh! you do not know what you do when you convert a soul. Think of death, the death of the body—nay, that is nothing; think of the death of the soul, more terrible far than the death of the body. Saving a soul from death! And then, that is not all; you stop the train of evil. Save one soul, and you save all the souls whom that one soul would have corrupted, and all the souls whom that one soul will reclaim. The influence is mighty, and goes spreading on like the ripple of a lake, until the only stoppage to the circulation is the boundary of the lake itself. There, in the far-off olden time, is the pious mother teaching the lessons of gospel truth to her child from the Dutch tiles upon the mantel-piece. The seed enters into his heart; he grows up and becomes a minister of the gospel, and his name is Philip Doddridge. The mother dies; but the son lives, and his works live, and he writes ‘The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul;’ and that work has a large circulation, and enters into the heart of a rich man, wise, valiant, honourable, reputable, and full of everything that the world covets and enjoys; it is like an arrow in a sure place, and it makes an impression upon him which issues in his conversion, and that man was William Wilberforce; and he wrote a book entitled ‘Practical Christianity,’ which, from the position and antecedents of the writer, gets a large circulation too; and north and south, and east and west, the copies fly; and far down in the south, they get into the hands of a man, and give him clearer views of godliness than he has ever known before, and that man is Legh Richmond; and he writes ‘The Dairyman's Daughter,’ which has gone, by God's good hand, converting thousands upon thousands instrumentally, from that day to this. And then, far up in the north again, in a country manse of Scotland, that book falls into the hands of a minister who has been preaching a gospel that he did not know; it gave him clearer views of truth, and brought him to the feet of Jesus; and with what power and vigour did he

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proclaim the truth! His name was Thomas Chalmers; and all Scotland rings with the testimony which he bore for the truth of Christ. You do not know what you do, when you convert a soul.”

“That is very wonderful,” said Simon. “I have been thinking while you were reading, Mr Balmer, that if I could influence my old friend Roberts, what a deal of evil it might prevent, for he has a great influence over many young men. But stay—I must first learn the way of holiness myself before I presume to teach others.”

“Christ is the way, Mr Goldstone; and He has promised wisdom to all who lack it. ‘Ask, and ye shall receive.’ ”

Lydia just then tapped at the door to say that supper was ready; so the interesting conversation terminated.