Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

CONTENTMENT AND THANKFULNESS.—(IZAAK WALTON.)

Abridged. I WILL, as we walk in the cool shade of the sweet honeysuckle hedge, mention to you some of the thoughts and joys which have possessed my soul since we two met together. And these thoughts shall be told you, that you also may join with me in thankfulness to the Giver of every good and perfect gift for our happiness. And that our present happiness may appear to be the greater, and we the more thankful for it, I will beg you to consider with me how many do even at this very time lie under the torment of diseases that we are free from. And every misery that I miss is a new mercy, and therefore let us be thankful. There have been, since we met, others that have met disasters of broken limbs ; some have been blasted, others thunderstricken ; and we have been freed from these and all those other miseries that threaten human nature ; let us therefore rejoice and be thankful. Nay, which is a far greater mercy, we are freed from the insupportable burden of an accusing tormenting conscience--a misery that none can bear; and, therefore, let us praise Him for his preventing grace, and say every misery that I miss is a new mercy. Nay, let me tell you, there be many that have forty times our estate, that would give the greater part of it to be healthful and cheerful like us. I have a rich neighbour who is always so busy that he has no leisure to laugh. The whole business of his life is to get money and more money ; that he may still get more and more money, he is still drudging on, and says that Solomon says, “The diligent hand maketh rich ;” and it is true indeed : but he considers not that it is not in the power of riches to make a man happy, for it was wisely said hy a man of great observation, “ that there be as many miseries beyond riches as on this side of them.” And yet God deliver us from pinching poverty, and grant that, having a competency, we may be content and thankful. Let us not repine, or so much as think the gifts of God unequally dealt, if we see another abound with riches ; when, as God knows, the cares that are the keys that keep those riches hang often so heavily at the rich man's girdle, that they clog him with weary days and restless nights even when others sleep quietly. We see but the outside of the rich man's happiness ; few consider him to be like the silkworm, that when she seems to play, is at the very same time spinning her own bowels, and consuming herself ; and this many rich men do, loading themselves with corroding cares to keep what they have probably unconsciously got. Let us therefore be thankful for health and a competence, and above all, for a quiet conscience.

Nature is content with a little, and yet you shall hardly meet with a man that complains not of some want. I know a man that had health and riches, and several houses all beautiful and ready furnished, and would often trouble himself and family to be removing from one house to another; and being asked by a friend why he removed so often from one house to another, replied, “ It was to find content in some one of them.” But his friend, knowing his temper, told him if he would find content in any of his houses, he must leave himself behind him, for content will never dwell but in a meek and quiet soul. And this may appear if we read and consider what our Saviour says in St. Matthew's gospel, for He there says, “ Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed be the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And blessed be the meek, for they shall possess the earth.” Not that the meek shall not also obtain mercy, and see God, and be comforted, and at last come to the kingdom of heaven ; but in the meantime, he, and he only, possesses the earth, as he goes towards that kingdom of heaven, by being humble, and cheerful, and content with what his good God has allotted him.

He has no turbulent, repining, vexatious thoughts that he deserves better, nor is vexed when he sees others possessed of more honour or more riches than his wise God has allotted for his share ; but he possesses what he has with a meek and contented quietness—such a quietness as makes his very dreams pleasing both to God and to himself. I have heard a grave divine say that God has two dwellings, one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart, which Almighty God grant to me and to you.

A RILL FROM THE Town Pump.—(N. HAWTHORNE.) Noon by the north clock ! Noon by the east ! High noon, ton, by these hot sunbeams, which fall, scarcely aslope, upon my

1 SCRNE—The corner of two principal streets. (Essex and Wasbington Streets, Salem.) The Town-PUMP talking through its nose.

pays taxes.

head, and almost make the water bubble and smoke in the troughs under my nose. Truly, we public characters have a tough time of it! And, among all the town-officers, chosen at March meeting, where is he that sustains, for a single year, the burthen of such manifold duties as are imposed, in perpetuity, upon the Town-Pump? The title of “ town treasurer” is rightfully mine, as guardian of the best treasure that the town has. The overseers of the poor ought to make me their chairman, since I provide bountifully for the pauper without expense to him that

I am at the head of the fire department, and one of the physicians to the board of health. As a keeper of the peace all water-drinkers will confess me equal to the constable. I perform some of the duties of the town-clerk, by promulgating public notices when they are posted on my front. To speak within bounds, I am the chief person of the municipality, and exhibit, moreover, an admirable pattern to my brother officers, by the cool, steady, upright, downright, and impartial discharge of my business, and the constancy with which I stand to my post. Summer or winter, nobody seeks me in vain, for all day long I am seen at the busiest corner, just above the market, stretching out my arms to rich and poor alike ; and at night I hold a lantern over my head, both to show where I am and keep people out of the gutters.

At this sultry noontide, I am cupbearer to the parched populace, for whose benefit an iron goblet is chained to my waist. dram-seller on the mall, at muster-day, I cry aloud to all and sundry, in my plainest accents, and at the very tiptop of my voice,—Here it is, gentlemen! Here is the good liquor! Walk up, walk up, gentlemen, walk up, walk up! Here is the superior stuff! Here is the unadulterated ale of father Adam-better than Cognac, Hollands, Jamaica, strong beer, or wine of any price ; here it is, by the hogshead or the single glass, and not a cent to pay ! Walk up, gentlemen, walk up and help yourselves !

It were a pity if all this outcry should draw no customers. Here they come. A hot day, gentlemen ! Quaff, and away again, so as to keep yourselves in a nice cool sweat. friend, will need another cupful, to wash the dust out of your throat, if it be as thick there as it is on your cowhide shoes. I see that you have trudged half-a-score of miles to-day, and, like a

Like a

You, my wise man, have passed by the taverns, and stopped at the running brooks and well-curbs. Otherwise, betwixt heat without and fire within, you would have been burnt to a cinder, or melted down to nothing at all, in the fashion of a jelly-fish. Drink, and make room for that other fellow, who seeks my aid to quench the fiery fever of last night's potations, which he drained from no cup of mine. Welcome, most rubicund sir ! You and I have been great strangers, hitherto ; nor, to confess the truth, will my nose be anxious for a closer intimacy, till the fumes of your breath be a little less potent. Mercy on you, man ! the water absolutely hisses down your red-hot gullet, and is converted quite to steam, in the miniature Tophet, which you mistake for a stomach. Fill again, and tell me, on the word of an honest toper, did you ever, in cellar, tavern, or any kind of dram-shop spend the price of your children's food, for a swig half so delicious ? Now, for the first time these ten years, you know the flavour of cold water. Good-by; and, whenever you are thirsty, remember that I keep a constant supply at the old stand. Who next? Oh, my little friend, you are let loose from school, and come hither to scrub your blooming face, and drown the memory of certain taps of the ferule, and other schoolboy troubles, in a draught from the Town Pump. Take it, pure as the current of your young life. Take it, and may your heart and tongue never be scorched with a fiercer thirst than now ! There, my dear child, put down the cup, and yield your place to this elderly gentleman, who treads so tenderly over the pavingstones, that I suspect he is afraid of breaking them. What ! he limps by, without so much as thanking me, as if my hospitable offers were meant only for people who have no wine-cellars. Well, well, sir ; no harm done, I hope ! Go draw the cork, tip the decanter ; but, when your great toe sets you a-roaring, it will be no affair of mine. If gentlemen love the pleasant titillation of the gout, it is all one to the Town Pump. This thirsty dog, with his red tongue lolling out, does not scorn my hospitality, but stands on his hind legs and laps eagerly out of the trough. See how lightly he capers away again! Jowler, did your worship ever have the gout ?

Are you all satisfied ? Then wipe your mouths, my good friends ; and, while my spout has a moment's leisure, I will delight the town with a few historical reminiscences. In far antiquity, beneath a darksome shadow of venerable boughs, a spring bubbled out of the leaf-strewn earth, in the very spot where you now behold me, on the sunny pavement. The water was as bright and clear, and deemed as precious, as liquid diamonds. The Indian sagamores drank of it from time immemorial, till the fatal deluge of the fire-water burst upon the red men, and swept their whole race away from the cold fountains. Endicott and his followers came next, and often knelt down to drink, dipping their long beards in the spring. The richest goblet, then, was of birch bark. Governor Winthrop, after a journey afoot from Boston, drank here, out of the hollow of his hand. The elder Higginson here wet his palm, and laid it on the brow of the first town-born child. For many years it was the watering-place, and, as it were, the washbowl of the vicinity-whither all decent folks resorted, to purify their visages, and gaze at them afterwards—at least the pretty maidens did—in the mirror which it made. On Sabbath days, whenever a babe was to be baptized, the sexton filled his basin here, and placed it on the communion-table of the humble meeting-house, which partly covered the site of yonder stately brick one. Thus one generation after another was consecrated to Heaven by its waters, and cast their waxing and waning shadows into its glassy bosom, and vanished from the earth, as if mortal life were but a flitting image in a fountain. Finally, the fountain vanished also. Cellars were dug on all sides, and cart-loads of gravel flung upon its source, whence oozed a turbid stream, forming a mud-puddle at the corner of two streets. In the hot months, when its refreshment was most needed, the dust flew in clouds over the forgotten birthplace of the waters, now their grave. But in the course of time, a Town Pump was sunk into the source of the ancient spring ; and when the first decayed, another took its place, and then another, and still another, till here stand I, gentlemen and ladies, to serve you with my iron goblet. Drink and be refreshed! The water is as pure and cold as that which slaked the thirst of the red sagamore, beneath the aged boughs, though now the gem of the wilderness is treasured under these hot stones, where no shadow falls but from the brick buildings. And be it the moral of my story, that as this wasted and long-lost fountain is now known and prized again, so shall the virtues of cold water, too little valued since your father's days, be recognised by all.

Your pardon, good people! I must interrupt my stream of

« PredošláPokračovať »