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came on, young Adams had the impudence to write me what I dare say he would call a very respectful letter, asking me to abandon my intention and to vote with his lot. But I took care, I can tell you, to let him know that I wasn't to be tampered with by a young upstart like him—that my word was my bond-that I was a man of consistency, and so I voted for one of the rankest Tories alive, and should have been delighted if my vote had turned the scale. Anybody, of course, can go with the stream-a dead fish or a drowned cat can float on its back down the current-but I am a man of will and power, and mean to leave my mark on my age.
But the chief work of my life, that is ever since I became a deacon, has been to keep the ministers straight.
Some people say that the office of a deacon is to "serve tables,” by which they mean I am to see that the table of the ministry is to be kept well provided. I know better than that. The fact is, they would like me to be butler, to take care that the minister has a proper allowance of roast beef and plum pudding. But I don't agree with them. What we deacons ought to do is to keep the minister's table short for him, if he does not do his duty. Why, if deacons didn't keep the minister in his place, who should? The old ladies--of both sexescoddle him and the young ones admire him, and they do all they can with their brothers and husbands to spoil him. They'd be the ruin of the ministry and of the churches if it wasn't for me, and a few like me. The worst of it is I cannot always get them all to act with me. Last winter, when the weather was 80 sharp, brother Smith proposed that we should make our minister a sort of a present. He said there was a balance out of the pew-rents which he thought ought to go to Mr. Coleman, and we might, a few of us, advance a trifle to it, as he had had sickness in his family. Of course I said I didn't agree with him. What had the pew-rents to do with a present? Some people said the minister had a right to the pew-rents, and if so, though I don't agree with them, how can you mix up voluntary gifts with rents, it was like putting oil and water together, which is contrary to nature, as well as religion. “Well," said brother Smith, “I think that if anything be done it should be done unanimously, or Mr. Coleman would refuse it.” “Exactly," I replied, for when they tell me they must be unanimous, then I know I have them in my power.
“And the only thing," said I, “I am unanimous to, is that we let the matter stop.” So I spoiled
The finest opportunities I have had, however, have been when we have had to invite a new minister. You know there's nothing like making a good start. When you see that anyone
that little game.
is likely to have a "cordial and unanimous call,” then get confidential with him, and find out whether he is likely to do as he is told by those who are wiser than himself. If he is, and you are sure of your man, then patronize him, and secure him, Stand by him as long as he will stand by you, that is, as long. as he is prepared to listen to your advice, but let him know that if you and he disagree then he must go.
The worst of it is, these Independent ministers, as a rule, are such an independent lot, that you must handle them very firmly to hold them. I remember, years ago, I had one of this sort. He came—a nice sort of young man, highly recommended by his tutors, backed up by many rather influential people in the Denomination, and it was expected he would do great things. The church I then belonged to was weak, in fact, it had only just started. We went on very well for a while ; there was no fault to be found with him, he preached well, and evidently better every year, he was assiduous in his pastoral duties, but he had one fault, the worst, in my opinion, a minister could have, he wouldn't "handle" well. If anybody asked him to do a kindness to anybody he would do it with a deal of pleasure, but when it came to a question of what he called Church order,' he wouldn't budge an inch for anybody, I wanted him to give way once or twice, and I got another or two to act with me, but he wouldn't. I tried every plan, made an arrangement to lower his salary, wrote him letters he did'nt like, spoke to him sharply at our meetings, disparaged him everywhere behind his back: I even told him once, to his face, that he had come to us as "a great expectation ” (for I knew that would nettle him), and that the expectations had not been realized; but he would not give way. No, he stuck to it to the last, and then resigned, and left his pleasant home with his young wife and little family, with damaged health, that has never been completely restored. I was almost sorry for him, for I liked him for some things; but it was, of course, all his own fault. He should have given way.
Ordinarily, my best chances are at Church meetings. When we have our deacons' meetings I take little or no part in them ; if they press me for an opinion I simply say, 'I don't agree with you.' But when the Church meeting comes I have it all my own way. To be sure I don't often carry anything, but that does not matter. I have my say. There is Richards, one of our deacons, who is very soft and very susceptible. He's just like a great pin cushion, and so I stick pins into him out of sheer provocation. Sometimes they try to coax me, but I'm not to be wheedled. Sometimes they try to meet me, they say, half-way, but I tell them that it is
a matter for principle, not for compromise. Sometimes they stand up and fight it out, but I always have the last word if
Sometimes they get cross, and give me a bit of their mind, but I'm always cross, so I'm used to that. The beauty of it is you can always propose an amendment, though I often can't get any one to second it, and sometimes I find myself in a minority of two. But, then, minorities are generally in the right.
Yes, I flatter myself I have left my mark on my age. I shall not be forgotten for some time to come.
There are a good many ministers up and down the country, who have, even now, a trace of my influence upon their memory. I have kept the Church in hot water for a quarter of a century and better, and that's more than some of these easy-going nobodies can say. But hot water is surely better than stagnation. You see everybody has a mission, and I have mine.
After all, it's wonderful the advantages one gets from being cross, especially from being a cross deacon. You see what liberties everybody takes with you amiable people; they never take liberties with me. If they want a document signed, they have to run all over the town to know when it will be convenient for me to attach my name. If the minister and deacons decide to take action upon any matter, they have to be very careful that the thing is done with proper forms and ceremonies. That's what I tell them
--there's no telling what loose ways they wouldn't get into if it were not for me. It's I who keep them, in fact, the whole thing, up to the mark. I tell them I'm the break on the engine to prevent it going too fast.
“Yes,” said young Andrews to me the other day, “a break is all very well, Sir, to stop a train when it is going wrong, or has to be pulled up, but when the train has to go, and is going all right, a break is rather a bore, especially if put on the wheels of the carriage in which you happen to be sitting. If I were going, Sir, from London to Birmingham by express, I should like to get there as quickly and smoothly as I could, and I should think if any one were to be always putting on the break it would be a nuisance. Besides, all the breaks on the London and North-Western wouldn't draw a truck a mile."
I was rather astonished at the impudence of the young fellow in addressing in that sort of way a gentleman old enough to be his grandfather, and of course I told him, and pretty sharply too, that I didn't agree with him.
What is the candid opinion of our church on the whole matter I don't exactly know—but I can guess—I believe they would like to turn me out of office, but as I have a few family connections and friends in the church (though I don't agree with them), they think it would make a bother, and so they let me alone. Besides, who ever heard of a deacon, or even a church member, being expelled for being cross. I fancy they hope that some day I shall die, and I am told that they have kindly selected a suitable text for my funeral sermon. All I can say is, that I don't intend to die a moment sooner than I can help to please them, and that I mean to be a cross deacon to the end of The chapter.
“ MESSAGES' are such dreadful bosh ;"—so said my nephew Bob, as he was leaving home the other morning; after just mentioning to his sister that he believed some one had sent some kind of a message to her; but who, or what it was, he really could not be bothered to remember.
Now this sentiment, expressed in my nephew's strong idiomatic English, is one, I believe, very widely held by the young men of the present day. To the English no one can object; but what of the sentiment? Is it a correct one? Taking the general run of ordinary messages of civility and affection, is it true that that they are “bosh”-i, e., are they utterly worthless in themselves and utterly incapable of serving any purpose with regard to others? And, whether regarded as “bosh" or not, is there no principle of honour involved in the safe transmission of them when once they have been confided to our care?
Conclusive as my nephew's remark on this subject may appear to be, at least to himself, I, for one, must beg to differ from him entirely. My experience of life and things has led me to the conviction that messages, even the ordinary kind I have mentioned, really occupy an important place in the economy of social life. It is true that the part they play is more negative than positive; that their influence is more secret and subtile than direct and open ; but these admissions do not detract from the truth of the assertion; they only show that the analysis and proof are the more difficult to conduct and to present. In this case, as in many others, the value of the thing is more correctly estimated by its absence than in its presence—the right use indicated by studying its abuse; and it is precisely from noticing the effects resulting from the absence and the abuse of these little things called “messages” that I have arrived at a conclusion so diametrically opposed to the one uttered by my nephew.
My opportunities for observation have been many and varied ; for as I am a bachelor uncle, supposed (erroneously) to have considerable property, I have always a number of relatives delighted to see me; and as these dear relatives suppose (again erroneously) that “Uncle Crab is a good kind soul, but one who never takes much notice of what goes on around him," I am admitted behind the scenes and into the green-room of a tolerably large number of domestic circles, and permitted to see the working of the hidden machinery of numerous families.
A long series of observations thus made enables me to affirm that I have traced more misunderstandings, coldnesses, alienations, and subsequent family feuds, to the neglect of these small civilities than to any other cause. Of course, I do not mean to say that the deadly quarrel was the direct and immediate result of so slight a cause; but the message not sent or not delivered has generally been the first link of the chain. It is astonishing how easily and imperceptibly one thing glides into another thing -the slight annoyance at the slight neglect produces coldness of manner; this, again, acting and re-acting, induces reserve and gradual withdrawment of confidence; the secret and suppressed irritation in time creates the sharp and angry word; then come endless complexities of misunderstanding, till the whole becomes a miserable tangle of wrong and wretchedness. “The Neglected Message” would serve as a title to many a volume of saddest family history. This is very humiliating and painful, but it is often sadly true. Would it not be wise, then, to avoid the first step in such a series?
To take as illustration one or two of the simplest, most ordinary forms of omission.
Suppose letter after letter comes from a common friend, and in them there is no sort of message of remembrance from a mutual friend-how am I to tell whether the omission is accidental or not? Which party shall I credit with the negligence, the one who ought to have sent, or the one who ought to have duly transmitted it ? A very trifling thing, you say ; but look at the nearest and most natural result. I, on my part, send no message, and when we next meet it is all but impossible to do so with the old former cordiality. Or suppose, I send my friend a present,