« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
she joined him in the singing. There were several things that the expert might criticize in the music, but somehow the songs fitted into that blistering August noon-hour in a wonderful The trees took on Sunday hues, the birds seemed to listen, and something rang the prayer bells in the heart. At last the guest was invited to join, and there was a wonderful trio with the stubble-scratched hands trying to strike the chords as each singer went his own way on his own key through "The Sweet By and By," "Hold the Fort," and "Dare to be a Daniel." I thought with comfort of Carlyle's assurance that the nasal dissonance of the Scottish Covenanters, as they labored through the Psalms of David in their Highland chapels, was lost away down the valley there only harmony and melody carried. I was sure there was praise in the singing, aye, thanksgiving, too, and I did not doubt it reached its fitting home; but I was pleased with the fancy-which amused me so much that I could scarcely preserve the dignity of the occasion - that even the Allhearing Ear would give our songs the benefit of a little distance and a little space for the discords to drop out.
How inevitable were the prayer levels there reached, how natural and easy the few spoken words that phrased the benedictions of life and domesticated the human soul in those wilds. What a sweet season of communion that hour was, with its dinner of herbs! how regretful was the leave-taking on both sides, - I regretting the briefness of my glimpse of this rustic pair of lovers; they, I fancied, settling back with a half-conscious touch of their isolation as they stood in the shadow of the cabin waving their good-byes until Jess and I were promptly lost in forest depths.
I think this story worth telling because it furnishes an indirect commentary upon a noble text. How palatable and nutritious were the "stringbeans" garnished by love. How indigestible and unwholesome would the stalled ox have been with pride, pomp, and hatred. I will not venture into the dreamland of the vegetarian who looks for that guileless time when human life will be nourished only upon the bloodless products of field, garden, and forest, when human hands will go unsoiled by the blood of fellowcreatures, but I will stop to note how royal was the hospitality here offered us, how courtly and
gracious was the entertainment we received. "You are welcome to it such as it is," said the boy "house-band." They literally divided their morsel with me.
How their consideration shamed the inconsideration of their too careless guest. How he wasted the water without asking the cost. How he devoured the biscuits without realizing that all they had were on the table. Since that August day I have doubtless been guilty of many unworthy thoughts and acts, but I have done nothing that has made me feel meaner than the wasting of the water which that lame girl had carried half a mile through the hot sun. I wish it might sink deep into memory, this lesson of the unkindness that springs from inconsiderateness. Oh, how unmindful we are of the well-being even of those we love. The malicious deeds we are prepared for; against these the world is in a measure forearmed, because forewarned. But the cruelty of thoughtlessness is that which the great world confronts with helpless hands. No armor can protect us from the pangs caused by stupidity. How little does one half of the world know how the other half lives, and yet how much that one half might know of
the other if it only would. The brutalities born of ignorance are brutalities still, and the corrective is not to be found in more refinement of feeling but in greater exercise of judgment. How lavish we are of the commonplace abundance which in many lives must give way to sore need and pinching economies. Let those who have the unmeasured fulness of Lake Michigan forced upon them day and night by the ceaseless throbbing of a Corliss engine not forget that some must carry their water in tin buckets, up hill, half a mile, and that some of the water-carriers must needs go with halting step. We may let others plead for us the gracious apology, "They did not mean it," but for ourselves we may not make a coward's castle out of our stupidity. We cannot at the same time be both loving and thoughtless.
"'Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay ;
"These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
"The ill-timed truth we might have kept —
Who knows how grandly it had rung?
"Our faults no tenderness should ask,
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.'
In this hill-top home we find a much needed contribution to the labor problem. The little man who faced the eighty acres of wilderness. because, as he said, he was not afraid of work, had accepted the high philosophy of Felix Holt, which insisted that it is better for a man to ennoble the station in which he is placed than to attempt to change that station. How are the lives of these two children of the forest, veritable "babes in the woods," to be saved from hopeless drudgery, from paralyzing inanity? Not by any communistic agitation of Bellamy dreams of divided profits or nationalized labor, but along the lines of love and beauty. William Morris, in his "Hopes and Fears of Art," pointed out some years ago that the way out of drudgery for the artisan was the development in him of the love for the beautiful and the power of creating