Images de page
PDF
ePub

This school of suffering is a wonderful school in which to graduate and take honours. In this, as in many other schools some of the best lessons to be learnt are those which are derived incidently from its more special evils and dangers. Every form of good has to us in this world, owing to our imperfection, some attendant evil. The evil is by no means often or necessarily equal to the good, but it is an invariable accompaniment; and it is questionable whether we ever get the full benefit of a good thing, be it what it may, till we have sought for, found out, and guarded against the special evil belonging to it.

Undoubtedly, one of the great advantages of protracted illness is the facility it affords for gaining knowledge, deep and intimate, of one's-self; but this very self-knowledge, good thing that it is, carries with it one or two evils. No amount of knowledge, in one special direction, would be too great, if it were but balanced by other knowledge in other directions; the danger lies only in the want of proportion. Now, to the secluded invalid, many sources of knowledge and objects for contemplation are necessarily debarred, while the study of himself—his “own private body and soul,” as Mr. Trollope phrases it—is ever open to him. Hence he is in danger of pursuing this study to excess, of thinking about himself and looking into himself far too much for his own spirits, health, and strength; and also, he will find, unless he be well aware, and provide against the danger, that the results of his study, the knowledge that he gains of himself, may actually lead him to do wrong to others. *

“ Sir J. Stevens says of Richelieu, that profound self-knowledge made him uncharitable. He found so little good in himself, that he credited others with but little.” Many people, besides Richelieu, fall into grave mistakes when they judge others by themselves—make the experience of their own nature a measure and test of every other nature. We may possibly be better than others, in some respects ; let us never forget that we may also be worse.

Another thing must be borne in mind, and that is, that the prominence and proximity of our own self

, and its interest, is apt to alter the right proportions of all other objects that lie within our narrowed world of observation.

Everything lies under the shadow of yourself,” wrote a true friend once to an invalid ; and the one thus warned allowed the fact, and accepted the caution. And unless we remember that this is the case, and endeavour to project ourselves beyond ourselves, as it were—at least, beyond the place assigned to us by our necessary seclusion-our views of things must be disagreeably foreshortened, and our judgments of them consequently incorrect. * Vide “History of Florence." A. Trollope.

To some people it is impossible, whether in health or in sickness, to form any conception of how an object would appear if viewed under a different disposition of light and shade; and to all such, large comprehension and bona fide toleration of the thoughts, opinions, and feelings of others are simply impossibilities ; nor is the want of them to be charged upon such persons as a fault. There are others who have the power of doing this, difficult as it is, when the necessity is clearly pointed out, and an invalid must ever lie under the necessity.

But when all needful deductions have been made for all these special dangers and evils, what a wonderful school it is! What splendid opportunities for study, and the subjects of study so near and close at hand! Think of the many advantages it affords for the cultivation and exercise of a wise, tender, ever-ready sympathy with the interests of others. A disciple of this school, removed as he is from the level of ordinary life, forbidden to be a combatant in the open field, is often, by those very circumstances, more able to discern the right and wrong of a matter than are they who are actually engaged in the strife ; for his passions are not excited, his interests are not involved; and as two of the greatest hindrances to clear judgment are thus removed, conscience and common sense are more at liberty to pronounce their verdicts. Freed, also, as a general rule, from the pressure of outward cares, he has the more capacity of feeling-unwasted by external worries, unretarded by the world's friction—to devote to the cares of others. His heart ought most specially “to be at leisure from itself, to soothe and sympathise."

And this sympathy will be ever ready at the slightest touch, the faintest call; for the detective sympathies of a well-trained invalid must necessarily be strong, acute, and ever active far too active for his own comfort, for they make him so susceptible to any and every change in the social atmosphere around him. The clouded look, the weary tone, the knitted brow; all the varied signs of temper rising or of grief suppressed, are seen and felt by him long before they are by others. Of course he is depressed and saddened; but if he can only thoroughly put on one side his own feelings, can but firmly possess his own soul in patience, what a delicate power does this quickened sensibility give to him wherewith to help and bless! The sharp word can be turned harmlessly aside ere it has touched its victim; the evil temper may be arrested before it has reached a climax, and the chafed, weary, irritated spirit rested and relieved by simple contact with the fresh, unsullied, unheated spirit of one who has not been in the strife. In some family circles, the invalid member of it acts as a magnet to draw forth its best and holiest affections, and as a centre of rest to its many conflicting elements. Surely this is no slight honour for which to have graduated in this “school of suffering.”.

There is yet another advantage which must not be overlooked. If one who has been thus trained should have at any future time to attend another through days of sickness and convalescence, what a capacity of comprehension, what a refinement of tact and skill, what an inexhaustible power of lovingforbearance are developed. Among other good and requisite and ordinary qualifications, there will ever be this more special and less common one, viz., a reverent recognition of the invalid's individuality. The thoughtless and unintentional insolence of youth and health and conscious power, shown towards age and sickness and mental feebleness, is not much to be wondered at, for how can they sympathize with that which they cannot comprehend ; but it is astonishing and painful to witness the mistakes made in reference to this point, even by those who know what illness means from personal experience. Kind and efficient in all that pertains to bodily wants, they yet err greatly in this—that they often act as if they forgot that the invalid still possesses his own mental tastes, habits, and idiosyncraciesthat he still has the right to exercise them, subject of course to restrictions—that they ought, as far as is at all consistent with his good, to be consulted—nay, that they ought only the more tenderly to be considered in proportion as the power to assert them successfully is wanting.

Nothing can possibly be more trying and irritating than to be treated as “the child," in the way that some nurses persist in doing-to be chidden and coaxed and cajoled, as if you were a wholly undeveloped being utterly incapable of self-government. To be talked to, and at and of, and about, in your own presence, as if you were a foreign body, something separate from yourself, is exasperating to the highest degree of exasperation. The shortened sentence, the whispered word, the secret sign, are just so many sparks of fire and stabs of sword to the bound and helpless but conscious and living creature. He longs to shout out and cry aloud—“I am not dead nor lunatic-speak up and above-board-say out fearlessly what it is you think and fear and wish and want—treat me as a sensible being, and trust me to help, not hinder.” Of course, by quiet self-reasoning and inward struggling, the sufferer may make the discipline a moral benefit, and, by remembering who it is that sends the weakness, may thus transmute the humiliation that degrades into the humility that exalts; and can overcome his anger at the manner by dwelling upon the excellence of the motive. But this selfstruggling is so very wearying, and the opportunities for exereising it are, of necessity, so very numerous during a long period of convalescence, that it is a pity to add to the number any occasions that might be avoided. None can or ought to be so well able to save others from this sort of suffering as they who have themselves much endured. To have learned how to exercise the constant care that shall not chafe, and the wise watchfulness that shall not worry, is to have raised the art of nursing into the dignity of a science. Surely it is worth the schooling.

One little incident rises up sharp and clear from memory, and claims its place here as illustration.

A friend, who well knew what suffering meant, and had well learnt many of its lessons, was sitting in his study, busily engaged upon his sermon for the coming day, when his eldest daughter slowly entered the room. She was just recovering from a long and severe attack of illness, in which neuralgia had played a conspicuous part. Her father immediately took off his glasses, laid down his pen, and led her to the couch. He then shampooed her for half-an-hour, according to a fashion of his own, founded upon Indian usage, and after most elaborately wrapping her up in shawls and various coverings, returned to his work.

In a very short time a sharp attack of pain came on, and with it that insane restlessness which is so often an attendant upon neuralgic pain. The girl evidently struggled with it, for what probably appeared to her a long time, but was in reality only about seven or eight minutes; but at last, with a muttered “I cannot help it,” began hastily pulling at the coverings in order to rise. Before she in her impatience could disentangle them, her father had again laid down his pen, taken off his glasses, come round to the side of the sofa, and was offering his arm for a turn up and down the room. The girl looked at him for a second with a face half regretful for the wasted trouble, but all too ready for the quick reply which a word of remonstrance would have called forth. But when she looked in the father's face, there was not the faintest trace of annoyance, not the slightest shadow of surprise; there was nothing to be seen but the tenderest pity, the most complete comprehension of all the circumstances of the case, the most simple self-forgetting anxiety to minister to the want.

The change in the girl's face was singular; all the petulance and the defiance melted away, leaving only the pain and patience. Not a word passed between them, and after a few turns up and down, he placed her again upon the couch, and again wrapped her up; only this time taking care that the coverings were lightly and loosely laid.

“You great darling,” she murmured in his ear, as he bent to kiss her, and then soon went quietly to sleep, when the father again returned to his sermon. The whole formed an illuminated commentary on the wonderful words, Like as a father pitieth. his children, so

A. C.

THE WAY BACK.

A PAPER THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN READ AT THE CHURCH

CONGRESS.

RIGHT REVEREND FATHERS, honoured and respected Priests, Curates, and Deacons, and beloved Lay Brethren of our holy and Apostolic Anglican Church-Sincerely do I rejoice that the wisdom of our Committee has chosen as one of the topics for our discussion at this Congress that eminently important onethe best means of bringing back to our holy fold our dearly beloved, but wandering dissenting sheep. However it may be accounted for, it cannot but be intensely deplored that so large a portion of the nation, the whole of which rightly belongs to our Church, should have forsaken her time-honoured altars, her pure doctrine and scriptural teaching, her divine and apostolic constitution and beautiful services, and set up alongside of her this monstrous Hydra-headed dissent. Allowing, for the sake of avoiding dispute, that the religious census of 1851 is a correct estimate of the relative numbers of the adherents of the various sects, we have to deal with a no less appalling fact than that half the nation has wandered from the true apostolic fold, and resolutely seeks its food on the bleak and dangerous mountains of schism; whilst, at the same time, it would be the greatest folly in us to shut our eyes to the fact, that of that other half which is presumed to be in our true fold, because it is not with any of the wild, wandering flocks outside of us, a very large number belong simply to no Church at all, and are starving in the desert of practical Atheism. True, we have the élite of the nation on our side ; the aristocracy, the plutocracy, the vovs-ocracy, are with us: the learned professions and the respectable world in general abide faithful to the traditions of the past. In the country districts we have, with the exception of a sprinkling of Methodists, all the poor. But the middle-class are lamentably lost to us. And in the great cities we can hardly call ourselves, with truth, the poor man's Church. To allow such a deplorable state of things to continue without very serious consideration of its causes, and without making some effort to remedy it, if that be possible,

« PrécédentContinuer »