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that hovel with only one room above and below, with scarcely any chimney? How is it possible you can live there with such a family?” “0, it is very possible, and very certain too,” cried the shepherd. “How many better men have been worse lodged! How many good Christians have perished in prisons and dungeons, in comparison of which my cottage is a palace! The house is very well, sir; and if the rain did not sometimes beat down upon us through the thatch when we are a-bed, I should not desire a better; for I have health, peace, and liberty, and no man maketh me afraid.”
“Well, I will certainly call on you before it be long; but how can you contrive to lodge so many children?” “We do the best we can, sir. My poor wife is a very sickly woman, or we should always have done tolerably well. There are no gentry in the parish, so that she has not met with any great assistance in her sickness. The good curate of the parish, who lives in that pretty parsonage in the valley, is very willing, but not very able, to assist us on these trying occasions ; for he has little enough for himself, and a large family into the bargain. Yet he does what he can, and more than many richer men do, and more than he can well afford. Besides that, his prayers and good advice we are always sure of; and we are truly thankful for that, for a man must give, you know, sir, according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not."
“I am afraid," said Mr. Johnson, “that your difficulties may sometimes lead you to repine."
“No, sir,” replied the shepherd; " it pleases God to give me two ways of bearing up under them. I pray that they may be either removed or sanctified to me. Besides, if my road be right, I am contented, though it be rough and uneven. I do not so much stagger at hardships in the right way, as I dread a false security and a hollow peace, while I may be walking in a more smooth but less safe way. Besides, sir, I strengthen my faith by recollecting what the best men have suffered, and my hope with the view of the shortness of all suffering. It is a good hint, sir, of the vanity of all earthly possessions, that though the whole land of promise was his, yet the first bit of ground which Abraham, the father of the faithful, got possession of, in the land of Canaan, was a grave."
“Are you in any distress at present?” said Mr. Johnson. “No, sir, thank God,” replied the shepherd. “I get my shilling a day; and most of my children will soon be able to earn something; for we have only three under five years old.” "Only !” said the gentleman, “ that is a heavy burden."
“ Not at all ; God fits the back to it. Though my wife is not able to do any out-of-door work, yet she breeds up her children to such habits of industry, that our little maids, before they are six years old, can first get a halfpenny, and then a penny, a day by knitting. The boys, who are too little to do hard work, get a trifle by keeping the birds off the corn: for this the farmers will give them a penny or twopence, and now and then a bit of bread and cheese into the bargain. When the season of crow-keeping is over, then they glean or pick stones: any thing is better than idleness, sir, and, if they did not get a farthing by it, I would make them do it just the same, for the sake of giving them early habits of labor.
“ So you see, sir, I am not so badly off as many are: nay, if it were not that it costs me so much in 'pothecary's stuff for my poor wife, I should reckon myself well off: nay, I do reckon myself well off, for, blessed be God, he has granted her life to my prayers, and I would work myself to a 'natomy, and live on one meal a-day, to add any comfort to her valuable life: indeed, I have often done the last, and thought it no great matter neither.”
While they were in this part of the discourse, a fine, plump, cherry-cheek little girl ran up out of breath, with a smile on her young, happy face, and, without taking any notice of the gentleman, cried out with great joy, “Look here, father; only see how much I have got !” Mr. Johnson was much struck with her simplicity, but puzzled to know what was the occasion of this great joy. On looking at her, he perceived a small quantity of coarse wool, some of which had found its way through the holes of her clean, but scanty and ragged woollen apron. The father said, “ This has been a successful day, indeed, Molly; but don't you see the gentleman?” Molly now made a curtsy down to the very ground; while Mr. Johnson inquired into the cause of the mutual satisfaction which both father and daughter had expressed, at the unusual good fortune of the day.
“Sir,” said the shepherd,“ poverty is a great sharpener of the wits. My wife and I cannot endure to see our children (poor as they are) without shoes and stockings, not only on account of the pinching cold which cramps their poor little limbs, but because it degrades and debases them; and poor people, who have but little regard to appearances, will seldom be found to have any great regard for honesty and goodness. I don't say this is always the case; but I am sure it is so too. often. Now, shoes and stockings being very dear, we.
could never afford to get them without a little contrivance. I must show you how I manage about the shoes, when you condescend to call at our cottage, sir: as to stockings, this is one way we take to help to get them. My young ones, who are too little to do much work, sometimes wander at odd hours over the hills, for the chance of finding what little wool the sheep may drop when they rub themselves, as they are apt to do, against the bushes.* These scattered bits of wool the children pick out of the brambles, which, I see, have torn sad holes in Molly's apron to-day : they carry this wool home, and when they have got a pretty parcel together, their mother cards it; for she can sit and card in the chimney-corner, when she is not able to wash, or work about the house. The biggest girl then spins it: it does very well for us without dyeing, for poor people must not stand for the color of their stockings. After this, our little boys knit it for themselves, while they are employed in keeping cows in the fields, and after they get home at night. As for the knitting which the girls and their mother do, that is chiefly for sale, which helps to pay our rent.”
Mr. Johnson lifted up his eyes in silent astonishment at the shifts which honest poverty can make, rather than beg or steal, and was surprised to think how many ways of subsisting there are which those who live at their ease little suspect. He secretly resolved to be more attentive to his own petty expenses than he had hitherto been, and to be more watchful that nothing was wasted in his family.
But to return to the shepherd. Mr. Johnson told him, that, as he must needs be at his friend's house, who lived many miles off, that night, he could not, as he wished to do, make a visit to his cottage at present. “But I will certainly do it,” said he, “ on my return; for I long to see your wife, and her nice little family, and to be an eye-witness of her neatness and good management." The poor man's tears started into his eyes, on hearing the commendations bestowed on his wife; and, wiping them off with the sleeve of his coat, for he was not worth a handkerchief in the world,—he said, “O, sir, you just now, I am afraid, called me an humble man; but indeed I am a very proud one.” “Proud !” exclaimed Mr. Johnson, “I hope not: pride is a great sin; and, as the poor are liable to it as well as the rich, so good a man
* This piece of frugal industry is not imaginary, but a real fact, as is the character of the shepherd, and his uncommon knowledge of the Scriptures.
as you seem to be ought to guard against it.” “Sir," said he, “you are right; but I am not proud of myself. God knows I have nothing to be proud of. I am a poor sinner; but indeed, sir, I am proud of my wife: she is not only the most tidy, notable woman on the plain, but she is the kindest wife and mother, and the most contented, thankful Christian that I know. Last year I thought I should have lost her, in a violent fit of the rheumatism, caught by going to work too soon after her lying-in, I fear; for 'tis but a bleak, coldish place, as you may see, sir, in winter, and sometimes the snow lies so long under the hill, that I can hardly make myself a path to get out and buy a few necessaries in the next village; and we are afraid to send out the children, for fear they should be lost, when the snow is deep. So, as I was saying, the poor soul was very bad, indeed, and for several weeks lost the use of all her limbs except her hands : a merciful Providence spared her the use of these, so that, when she could not turn in her bed, she could contrive to patch a rag or two for her family. She was always saying, had it not been for the great goodness of God, she might have had her hands lame as well as her feet, or the palsy instead of the rheumatism, and then she could have done nothing; but nobody had so many mercies as she had.
“I will not tell you what we suffered during that bitter weather, sir; but my wife's faith and patience, during that trying time, were as good a lesson to me as any sermon I could hear; and yet Mr. Jenkins gave us very comfortableones, too, that helped to keep up my spirits.”
“I fear, shepherd," said Mr. Johnson, “ you have found this to be but a bad world.”
“Yes, sir," replied the shepherd, “ but it is governed by a good God. And though my trials have now and then been sharp, why, then, sir, as the saying is, if the pain be violent, it is seldom lasting; and if it be but moderate, why, then we can bear it the longer; and when it is quite taken away, ease is the more precious, and gratitude is quickened by the remembrance: thus, every way, and in every case, I can always find out a reason for vindicating Providence." ..“ But,” said Mr. Johnson, “how do you do to support yourself under the pressure of actual want? Is not hunger a great weakener of your faith?”
“Sir," replied the shepherd, “I endeavor to live upon the promises. You, who abound in the good things of this world, are apt to set too high a value on them. Suppose, sir, the
king, seeing me hard at work, were to say to me, that, if I would patiently work on till Christmas, a fine palace and a great estate should be the reward of my labors. Do you think, sir, that a little hunger, or a little cold, or a little wet, would make me flinch, when I was sure that a few months would put me in possession ? · Should I not say to myself, frequently, Cheer up, shepherd; 'tis but till Christmas? Now, is there not much less difference between this supposed day and Christmas, when I should take possession of the estate and palace, than there is between time and eternity, when I am sure of entering on a kingdom not made with hands? There is some comparison between a moment and a thousand years, because a thousand years are made up of moments, all time being made up of the same sort of stuff, as I may say; while there is no sort of comparison between the longest portion of time and eternity. You know, sir, there is no way of measuring two things, one of which has length and breadth, which shows it must have an end somewhere; and another thing, being eternal, is without end and without measure.”
“But,” said Mr. Johnson, “is not the fear of death sometimes too strong for your faith?”
“Blessed be God, sir," replied the shepherd, “the dark passage through the valley of the shadow of death is made safe by the power of Him who conquered death. I know, indeed, we shall go as naked out of this world as we came into it; but an humble penitent will not be found naked in the other world, sir. My Bible tells me of garments of praise and robes of righteousness. And is it not a support, sir, under any of the petty difficulties and distresses here, to be assured by the word of him who cannot lie, that those who were in white robes came out of great tribulation ! But, sir, I beg your pardon for being so talkative. Indeed, you great folks can hardly imagine how it raises and cheers a poor man's heart, when such as you condescend to talk familiarly to him on religious subjects. It seems to be a practical comment on that text which says, “The rich and the poor meet together : the Lord is the Maker of them all.' And so far from creating disrespect, sir, and that nonsensical wicked notion about equality, it rather prevents it. But to return to my wife. One Sunday afternoon, when she was at the worst, as I was coming out of church,-for I went one part of the day, and my eldest daughter the other, so my poor wife was never left alone,-as I was coming out of church, I say, Mr.