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THE HOPELESS SIDE OF HELPING.
IF you have ever tried with all your might and main to help somebody who needed help, but who would not be helped in any reasonable way, you know how Sisyphus felt when the stone he was trying to roll up hill kept forever rolling down again. We used to know an old lady who was called Miss Margaret. She was a beneficiary of our church. Promptly on the Monday morning after each communion Miss Margaret used to present herself at the pastor's door. She was a long, narrow woman, dressed in rusty black, with a poke bonnet, a faded umbrella, and a satchel on her arm. If the contribution to the deacon's fund had been generous, and her share was proportionately large, Miss Margaret's thin old face would be brightened up by a transient and wintry smile. If it had rained, or folks were out of town, or for any reason there was not much to give her, she was not slow to utter her opinions concerning those who stinted their gifts to the Lord's poor.
But, Miss Margaret," said a lady one day, "there is no earthly reason why you should continue to be so very poor. There is a place for you where you can help somebody else along, and earn your own living besides. I have a friend who lives in Delaware, in the peach country, you know, in a place like the Garden of Eden for delight, and she is sick, and wants an efficient somebody like you for housekeeper."
We sugar-plumed and coaxed and softly entreated Miss Margaret, and at last we saw her-satchel, umbrella, poke bonnet, and all-fairly on the way to housekeeping and independence. We breathed freer than we had for a long time. But in vain were our hopes. In three months our old friend was back. The air was too strong for her, the invalid was too fretful, and the country was too lonesome. She really preferred being a respectable pauper to being a self-supporting member of society.
There is where the hopelessness of helping comes in. The more you do, the more you may do. The timid hand that will scarcely accept your gift at first, through sensitive pride and decent selfrespect, grows grasping and avaricious. The thought of the heart, not often spoken out as it was to us the other day, seems to be this, "There is plenty of money in the world, and we have a right to our share.” With this feeling on the part of one who receives alms, there is very little gratitude.
The true way would seem to be to aid people to help themselves. Find out what they can do, and get them a place to do it in.
HOW OUR ANCESTORS LIVED.
Every day our souls are pained and our eyes are dimmed by the dreadful pressure of sin and want and misery that there is in the world. So much is being done all the while, and yet it is like a breakwater of pebbles against the infinite sea. Men and women want work, and cannot get it. Other men and women need workers, and cannot get them. But to bring the two classes together in any really permanent way is as difficult as it was in our school days to make a larkspur chain. The connection is sure to break off somewhere. So this winter, as in every other winter since we can remember, the sewing society will meet, and the ladies will make flannel petticoats and calico gowns; the soup kitchens will open, and beef tea will be made for the sick, and the poor will be helped up; some will be helped down. Only the Master's word will abide in truth: "The poor ye have always with you."
Hopeless or otherwise, however, we must not weary in well doing, but we must try, so far as in us lies, to cease doing our helping in the lump. Personal interest, personal looking after, individual responsibility, must underlie all almsgiving that is worth anything to the recipient. And we need not expect much gratitude. Is there not reward enough in that sweet word, low whispered in the inner ear, that sings with a gush of bird-music to the understanding soul: "Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me?"
HOW OUR ANCESTORS LIVED.
We hear often of the good times of "Queen Bess," when England began to be a great nation. But even romantic people would hardly be willing to go back to the rude customs of that age, and live as Englishmen then lived.
The meats were brought in on spits just as they were cooked, and in that way passed round by the servants to the guests, who, in the more barbarous times, tore off a portion as best they could. Afterward, when they had advanced a little in their ideas, there was a carver, who held the meat with one hand while he cut with the other; and the guests helped themselves, using their hands, and after they had devoured what they wished, threw the bones to the dogs and cats that waited under the table and scrambled for their share among the rushes.
Naturally enough, every one was expected to wash his hands. before coming to the "board," and certainly it was needful afterward.
ANECDOTES OF ELEPHANTS.
A few had knives shaped like a razor, but forks were unknown. Even the great Elizabeth ate with her fingers. In her reign, however, commerce was extended, and luxuries began to appearporcelain and glasses instead of pewter mugs to drink from; and in her bath-room she had mirrors, and this was considered a great extravagance. Her immense and lofty rooms were meagre and cheerless enough with their scant furniture; and her table, in spite of many pieces of plate, was not altogether removed from the rudeness of manners of the early Saxons. At first, two persons ate from one trencher," as it was called. There were no plates, and these trenchers were made to answer the purpose. They were, in fact, large slices of bread, placed before each one (or two) to accommodate the meat. There were two qualities of bread; one fine, to be eaten; the other, of the coarse inferior flour, was made into large loaves, then the outer crust was removed and laid aside for the poor, and the rest was cut into very thick and substantial slices, and thus used instead of plates.
In the course of time, some ingenious person conceived the happy idea of having real plates: the wealthy furnished themselves with valuable ones of silver, and eventually the common people were provided with such as their circumstances admitted, made of wood or pewter, and finally earthenware came into use.
But in those days they were well content with the primitive arrangement of the trenchers. The bread thus used soaked up the gravy, and became quite savoury in consequence; and when the meal was ended, each one ate his plate if he chose; otherwise it was put into the alms-basket, which was always kept ready, and into which all the leavings were gathered, and sent out to the poor waiting at the gate. The poor were never forgotten in those old Saxon households.
ANECDOTES OF ELEPHANTS.
THE wild elephants roam about to feed at night, and appear quite to enjoy a "lark," such as pulling down a house and scattering the materials, or walking over and through it. "I remember," says a missionary in India, "seeing the lines' or rows of huts, occupied by labourers on a coffee plantation, through which a herd of elephants had walked on the preceding night, without any intimation of their coming, and without a single word of apology. No one, happily, was injured; and though the poor men sleeping
ANECDOTES OF ELEPHANTS.
inside were astonished and terribly frightened at their strange midnight visitors, they were thankful to escape with their lives." It is well known that solitary or rogue" elephants are extremely vicious, making a point of attacking all passers-by. There is reason to suppose that they have been banished from society" for some notorious crime or incurable vice. Two years ago one of these dangerous animals was wandering about the Assambu Mountain, where one of our Christian people was killed by it. There were four native Christians residing at Nagercoil, who had been engaged by a planter for the erection of a house on his estate up in the hills.
These men used to come down on Saturdays to their own homes, returning to their work on Monday morning. On Saturday they started together, as usual, but had not gone far when this ferocious brute rushed out of the forest upon them. They ran, and did not venture to look back till they had gone a long distance from the spot. When they collected their senses they found that one of their number was missing. Hastening to the nearest chapel, they called some of the Christians, and going back to search for their comrade, soon discovered the body of the unfortunate man crushed and mangled by the savage brute. I understand that this elephant killed seven or eight people afterward, but have not heard whether he was at length destroyed.
One of the most striking illustrations I have ever heard of the extraordinary sagacity of the elephant is related in Pettitt's work on the "Tinnevelley Mission." It runs somewhat as follows:While the large chapel at Nagercoil was building, the missionaries obtained the loan of a trained elephant for drawing the larger timber used in its erection. The late Mrs. Mault kindly saw the animal regularly fed, lest the food should be stolen by the attendant. One day the allowance of rice seemed very deficient in quantity, and the good lady expostulated on the subject with the keeper. Raising his hands to heaven, the man loudly, and with great apparent earnestness and sincerity, repudiated the idea of his having taken any of the rice. "Do you think, madam, that I would be capable of doing such a thing? No, never! no more than I would deprive my own children of their daily food." While he was speaking and gesticulating, the intelligent creature, slyly extending his trunk, unfastened the man's waistcloth, thereby spilling out the missing rice, which had been concealed in a corner of the cloth, and exposing the dishonesty of the attendant. I have been assured of the authenticity of this anecdote by Mrs. Mault herself.
DAY AND NIGHT IN SWEDEN.-POETRY.
DAY AND NIGHT IN SWEDEN.
THE peculiarities of day and night in Sweden strike the traveller very forcibly, after being accustomed to the temperate zone. In June, the sun goes down in Stockholm about ten o'clock. There is a great illumination all night, as the sun passes round the earth toward the North Pole, and the refraction of its rays is such that you can read at midnight without any artificial light. There is a mountain at the head of Bothnia, where on the 21st of June the sun does not seem to go down at all. The steamer goes up from Stockholm for the purpose of conveying those curious to witness the phenomenon. It occurs only on one night. The sun reaches the horizon; you can see the whole face of it, and in five minutes more it begins to rise. At the North Cape, seventy-two degrees, the sun does not go down for several weeks. In June it would be about twenty-five degrees above the horizon at midnight. In the winter the sun disappears, and is not seen for weeks; and then it comes, and remains for ten or fifteen minutes, after which it descends, and finally does not set at all, but makes almost a circle around the heavens. The Swedes are very industrious, and labour is reckoned by the hour, twelve hours being reckoned as a day's work. Birds and animals take their accustomed rest at the usual hour, whether the sun goes down or not.
THE FIRE BY THE SEA.
THERE were seven fishers, with nets in their hands,
The words they spake, though they spake so low,
And we know them one and all
Aye! know them and love them all.
Seven sad men in the days of old,
And they walked with downward eyes;
The bold was Peter, the gentle was John,
Knew not if the dead would rise.