Isabella Fyvie Mayo (5)

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THE first church to which I was taken was St. Martin's-in-the-Fields.  The last time I visited it I found it greatly changed.  It may be more changed now.  In my early days it was full of high "sleeping-pews," in which children were completely buried, and even adults disappeared except when they stood up!  These pews were red-cushioned, their floors covered with cocoa-nut matting or carpet, and furnished with comfortable hassocks.  There were forms round the church's walls, known as "free seats," and there were also "free seats " in the middle aisle.  Most of their occupants were agèd, many of them dependent on parochial doles.  I can imagine no better way of deliberately alienating any decent working people than these same "free seats" and all the arrangements attaching to them.  From this probably the Church of England suffers to this very day.  The evil custom has gone, but not the resentment and prejudice which it kindled.

    Strangers, if well dressed, were not expected to take refuge in these free seats.  They were distinctly the ungracious hospitality offered by the Church of that day to her poor.  When the strangers came, they were at once hailed by one of "the pew-openers."  In some churches these women wore a sort of uniform—a plain black gown and a white cap—in others they were simply elderly females in shabby-genteel garments.  They had a very keen scent for "tips."  Only those old enough to remember the general aspect and demeanour of most of them can appreciate Dickens' description of them as "vessels of vinegar set on the pathway to heaven."

    St. Martin's Church in those days had deep galleries, with very spacious front pews and narrower ones behind.  One of the grandest was occupied by the ducal family of Sutherland.  A very odd arrangement was that, at each side of the chancel, and on a level with the gallery, was a room.  These rooms had sash-windows looking into the church, and they could be opened or shut at their occupants' wish.  One of these rooms, I believe, was the devotional premises of the Lords of the Admiralty; the other, if memory serves me rightly, was used—or not used—by the Dukes of Northumberland.

    The pulpit of those days was the old-fashioned "three-decker," its lowest stall occupied by the worthy parish clerk, who kept a shop in St. Martin's Lane, where he dealt in books, chiefly prayer-books and hymnals.  In the stall above him the curate read the prayers, punctuated by the clerk's sonorous "Amens."  To the highest stall, at the proper time the vicar climbed to read his sermon.  The whole was surmounted by a sounding-board, a piece of furniture richly carved, and fashioned somewhat like half of a big round table.  Its top, right under the noses of worshippers in the gallery, was often thick with dust.  All these stalls were set forth with desks and luxurious cushions, but I almost think the clerk, and even the curate, had to be satisfied with red cloth cushions, while the vicar rejoiced in red velvet!

    The church had the usual appanage of "charity girls" and "charity boys," the former clad in a uniform that, though objectionable as a brand of poverty, was certainly becoming as a costume; but the boys looked miserable in skimp corduroys of a regulation cut.  Over the entrances and exits of these presided that awful personage, the parish beadle!—always in grand form on the church steps or in the vestibule.  Anybody who knows the philosophy of clothes can understand how those of "Bumble" contributed to his air of vanity and arrogance.  He wore garments that were literally "robes," a wonderful three-cornered hat, gold-laced, and he brandished a heavy-headed mace.  But he humbled himself on Boxing Day by carrying round to the parishioners a broad sheet full of very elementary pictures and still more elementary "poetry," relieved here and there by one of the quaint old folk-songs of the festive period.  I wish I had preserved one of those broad sheets; it would have borne curious testimony to the common creeds and customs of its period.  Of course, the parishioners acknowledged Mr. Bumble's obliging call by a suitable "box."  I suppose the worthy had a home somewhere, and possibly a wife and children with whom he was "a human man."  There were three services every Sunday at St. Martin's—at eleven, at three, and at seven.  The afternoon service was specially intended for servants of "high" families.  It was a dreary affair, generally left to the youngest of the two or three curates.  I remember one who dragged the "Corinthian games" into every discourse.

    Owing to the depth of those "sleeping-pews," I can remember little of the method of Church service there, because I could never see it.  I have no idea how the clergy reached their various elevations nor how they left them.  I only know that my dear father understood childhood enough to let me carry my "Sunday picture-books" to church, where I sat on a hassock, making a table of the seat, and was very happy!

    I do remember the occasion when one of the ducal members of the congregation died, and all the preaching and reading desks were draped in black, while a tremendous pall was suspended from the ducal pew.  I do not think it then occurred to anybody to ask why, in Christ's Church, one of its members, because rich and of noble birth, should be the object of so much attention and reverence, while others sat on the hard free seats, and suffered and died unnoted.  Yet I must say that all the snobbery which I saw in St. Martin's more than fifty years ago did not equal what I saw comparatively recently in the beautiful little Northern cathedral church of Dornoch, now used for Presbyterian worship.  There a statue of one of the Dukes of Sutherland occupied—perhaps still occupies—the place of the altar, and every pew was painted with his family arms!

    One event of my earliest church-going days was the hearing of the tramp, tramp of the cavalry parading Trafalgar Square, when the National Gallery and other public buildings were supposed to need protection from Chartist rioters.

    When I was about seven years old there was a change of vicars, and the "new man" was evidently under the influence of those then called "Puseyites."  My father, despite his Scottish Episcopalian rearing, could not accept some of the "High" doctrines, and in consequence we left St. Martin's-in-the-Fields and resorted to St. Paul's, Covent Garden.  In those days of strictly defined and rented "sittings" (I don't know what it is now), it was difficult and unpleasant to leave one's own parish church.  One was sniffed at as radically rebellious against the regular ecclesiastical order.  Beyond this, there was the material difficulty of getting a pew, since there was not enough of these to go round among the parishioners if they had all claimed one.  However, they did not, and after some demur we got part of a back seat at the end of the South Gallery, and really behind the pulpit.  This had one great advantage in my eyes—I was able to look closely into one of the two stained-glass windows over the chancel, and through its small transparent border-panes I could watch the stragglers who crossed Covent Garden during service.  Also, on the architrave above the Tables of the Law were seated two great angels, one turned towards the north and the other towards the south.  They were to me very real and charming—only I always felt sorry that I could not get to them with a cloth and remove the dust that rested on their upper surfaces!  The last time I visited the church I found that the angels had departed!  I saw nobody of whom I could ask what had become of them.  Also I observed that a tablet to the memory of the artist Turner's parents, which I used to see about the middle of the right-hand wall, was removed.  We sat in the middle aisle for weeknight services, and as the tablet was almost even with the pew we always used then, I remembered it perfectly.  I could not suppose such a thing to have vanished, so I sought for it carefully, and at last found it at the lowest end of the left-hand wall!  This was the tablet over which Turner quarrelled with the churchwarden Mr. Cribb.  It is of the tiniest dimensions; filial affection had not wasted an inch of marble!  It seems to me rather a pity that such things should be moved about.  One would imagine that the Anglican Church would be strong on the duty of not removing old and accustomed things.

    The rector of St. Paul's in my young days was the Rev. Henry Hutton, who was also chaplain to the great local landlord, the Duke of Bedford.  The Duke's younger brother, Lord Charles Russell, and his daughters put in an appearance at sundry Church festivals, Sunday-school prize-givings, and the like.  I remember on one such occasion a prize-winner, a boy of about twelve, was so excited and nervous that, instead of making a bow to the chair, he dropped a profound curtsey, and the audience roared.

    The Rev. Mr. Hutton was not a specially interesting preacher.  It is significant of the general tone of those days that, whenever he thought any word, phrase, or subject needed explanation, he always addressed that explanation specifically to "our poorer brethren."

    I remember that on one occasion he was more direct than usual, for at that time few clergymen made searching application of their doctrines.  Mr. Hutton animadverted strongly on adulteration and underselling.  A large pew in the gallery was occupied by the family of a man who was rather notorious in these respects.  This person rose up and left the church, and neither he nor any of his children ever again entered its doors!  There was a singular lack of humour in so plainly announcing that "the cap fitted."

    Mr. Hutton prepared candidates for confirmation in a most conventional and merely ecclesiastical way.  He gave them lectures on the early Fathers, and set them examination-papers which put some of the girls to their wits' ends.

    There were but small charity schools belonging to St. Paul's.  They occupied the usual seats beside the organ.  The girls' school, numbering not more than sixteen, lived in a dwelling in Hand Court, opening beside the house in Maiden Lane where the artist Turner was born.  There was also a large Sunday-school with volunteer teachers.  I do not know whether this was common at that date.  I remember no such thing at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields.  I had always known of Sunday-schools existing among the Nonconformists.  These were generally attended by the children of the congregation, and my father had strongly disapproved of them in this connection, saying that they encouraged parents to delegate duties which should be peculiarly their own.  However, in St. Paul's Sunday-school the children belonged to people who made no outward profession of religion, and most of whom were distinctly careless in life.  My eldest sister and I became teachers.  We had temporary charge at first of classes belonging to the Misses Danvers, daughters of the Clerk of the Duchy of Lancaster.  One of these ladies—they were all fine-looking, stately women—afterwards married Mr. W. H. Smith, who eventually became leader of the House of Commons.  From the time we were associated with the school the Misses Danvers were seldom in town, and I do not remember their taking classes more than once or twice, though they were held in their name.  I presently had a class of my own.  The funny thing was that all these classes—there must have been about a dozen—were held in the church itself, teachers and scholars grouping themselves as best they could in the aisles.  Each class could overhear what was going on in the next, and the children were allowed to use—and misuse—Bibles and hymnbooks taken from the pews!  At last I found a retreat behind the organit was at least quiet and retired, if dusty.  But the rector's wife thought that retreat too close, and I and my pupils were put into a room opening off the gallery.  Two other teachers were already there with large classes, one of them the infant class, and naturally noisy and restless.  Each teacher taught what was right in her own eyes, and the teacher of this infant class chose to make her children learn a "poem" of about thirty verses, which they acquired by rote, repeating a verse after her, in a loud, sing-song voice.  The "poem" was about a dying child, and it seemed to me that the miserable little urchins were always chanting,

"This poor hot, aching head of mine."

There was no reprieve, for this teacher was one of the faithful who was never missing from her post!

    Sunday-school began at nine in the morning and continued till ten-thirty, when the church had to be ready for early comers to service, and the children left their classes and were ranged on low forms about the communion rails, where they stayed throughout service, which was seldom over till one o'clock!  School was held again for about an hour and a half in the afternoon.  The pleasantest part was the "dismissal," when teachers and children all gathered in the vestibule of the church, whose doors in summer were thrown open, so that while we sang our parting hymn we could see the sunbeams playing in the little avenues of the graveyard.

    It was a terrible arrangement to keep children and young people in a stuffy edifice for four hours at a stretch, to say nothing of the return to the afternoon school.  Neither service nor sermon was at all adapted to interest youthful hearers.  If many Sunday-schools have been so conducted, it is small wonder that they have failed to feed the Church.

    The vestry was at the west end of St. Paul's, and therefore remote from pulpit and altar.  As soon as the benediction was pronounced the beadle ascended the pulpit stairs, opened the pulpit door, and led off a little procession of rector, curate, and clerk, which passed down the aisle, jostled by the retreating congregation, few of whom dreamed of waiting in their pews till it had passed by.

    It was under the influence of St. Paul's Church that we took collecting-cards to defray the expense of circulating the New Testament in China!  As collectors of course we had some funny experiences.  One old neighbour, a butcher, not always perfectly sober, readily laid down a shilling, but with the remark: "Poor things!  I have no doubt they are very cold!"

    In course of time, owing to many changes, we ceased to attend the services at St. Paul's, and resorted to St. John's, Broad Court, Drury Lane.

    At that time Broad Court was a quiet, homely spot—a roadless thoroughfare with three outlets between Bow Street, Long Acre, and Drury Lane.  There were two or three small shops in Broad Court.  The other houses were old-fashioned dwellings, let in every instance to more than one tenant.

    St. John's Church stood at the Drury Lane end.  It was an ugly edifice on the outside, and not handsome within, though it had a sort of cheery comfort.  There was—and I think still is—a rather gaudy east window, embodying a figure intended to symbolize the Almighty, with worlds whirling about His head—something in the fashion of a juggler's balls.  The building is square in shape, and when I first knew it was surrounded on three sides by a steep and heavy gallery.

    All seats were "free and open," though the very scanty congregation soon fell into a routine use, which was rarely disturbed.  The congregation itself often included the patron of the living, Sir Walter James, and his family, who "took their chance" of a pew with the rest of us.  There was a choir of young men and women, trained and conducted by the organist, a Mr. Constantine.  In the choir was a daughter of Frank Romer, the actor, and Miss Sophia Beale, daughter of Dr. Lionel Beale, whose family then lived in Long Acre.  At week-night services this lady played the organ.  She is now well known in art and literature.

    The galleries are now cleared from the church, whose walls bear small brasses in loving memory of humble worshippers.

    The incumbent, the Rev. Richard Graham Maul, was a distinguished-looking man, tall, with a scholarly stoop.  He was generally believed to be a bachelor; certainly, if he had ever been married his wife must have died in the days of his youth, for no name of her ever entered into his life.  He was one of the early Broad Churchmen, and his pulpit was occasionally filled by distinguished preachers on that side of the Church.  We often saw Processor Plumptre there, and I think, by photographs that I have since seen, Maurice and Kingsley also came.  In the days before photography it was not so easy to recognize famous people as it is now.

    The little church had a warm, hearty influence about it.  There seemed to be no "distinction of persons."  The backbone of the congregation and of the general church work lay in the large teaching staff of the National School in Castle Street, Endell Street.

    I did not become a Sunday-school teacher there till after I was confirmed.  Mr. Maul held his Confirmation classes in the apartments where he then lived—an upstairs floor in a house very near Oxford Street.  The young women's class numbered only about seven.  Miss Romer was in it.  It was held in the evening at seven-thirty, one or two of the girls being engaged in business.  The season of the year was April.  It was not quite dark when we left at eight-thirty.  It seems significant of that period that, though I was (I think not unjustly) reputed steady and acute for my years (sixteen), yet I was never suffered to make this trip alone!  My eldest sister always accompanied me, sitting aside during our class.  She never dreamed of allowing me to make any acquaintance with my classmates, and her presence withheld me from doing so.  I was much attracted to Miss Romer, who once gave signs of joining us on our homeward way, but who was coldly received by my "chaperone."

    Mr. Maul's Confirmation class was thoroughly sensible and inspiring.  He did not trouble us with the early Fathers, but tried to show us how we had to meet life and its responsibilities.  To this day I remember a passage of Scripture which somehow came into every lesson.  It is Deuteronomy xi. 26-28: "Behold I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: A blessing if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day.  And a curse if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods which ye have not known."

    The Confirmation was held at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields on a lovely day of May.  The officiating Bishop was Archibald Campbell Tait, presently Archbishop of Canterbury, who after the "laying on of hands" I came down into the centre of the middle aisle, and, standing among the white-dressed girls—the youths were comparatively few—made an earnest appeal to them.  I can remember nothing that he said.  Indeed, though I had felt aroused and impressed during the Confirmation classes, and though their good influence has never left me, yet I was wholly unable to raise or to fix my mind throughout the whole ceremony.  I remember the look of the church, flooded in sunshine, the dreamy devotional pauses, but through my brain, again and again, by what psychological mystery I cannot divine, there ran only Byron's lines:

"O God, it is a fearful thing
 To see a human soul take wing!
 I've seen it rushing forth in blood――"

The odd, haunting quotation stopped there and began again.

    After that I became a teacher in St. John's Sunday-school, which was held in the rooms of the National School.  The little dismissal service, in which all the classes, boys and girls, shared, was always conducted by Mr. Maul himself.  We invariably separated to the singing of the cheerful hymn

"Now thank we all our God
     With heart and hands and voices,
 Who wondrous things hath done,
     In whom His world rejoices," etc.

    Among the most faithful of the teachers were the staff of the National School.  The places of the headmistress and one of her subordinates, a very pretty girl, slightly crippled, were simply never empty.  The faithful teachers had to "take" the classes of the less faithful, and often both classes suffered in this union.  I had a class of ten, and could generally reckon on an attendance of eight, all weekday scholars at the National School.  Among my scholars was a smartly-dressed, well-mannered girl whose father had been murdered, the murderer being never discovered.  I also had two daughters of a famous pugilist, Nat Langham, who kept a public-house in Drury Lane.  They were specially quiet, well-behaved children, tall, handsome, and well-clad.  When Mr. Maul brought them up to join my group he said, in a sly aside, "In fine condition."

    I look back on my Sunday-school teaching with a sense of pain.  I feel I was so ill-prepared for the task, and nobody attempted to prepare me, or even to find out how I was prepared.

    I gave up my Sunday-school teaching when once I was fairly launched among the storms of life.  I—this girl who, between sixteen and seventeen, had not been allowed to go out alone in the evening, between eighteen and nineteen found herself forced to seek for bread in any honest way that she could find it.  Looking back, I sometimes pity her, as if she were not myself—pity her, not for her hardships and adventures, but for the unnecessary limitations she had so painfully to break through.  The straight groove in which I had been reared, the petty distinctions which had been made in the life about me, the puerile and ridiculous "gentilities" woven around me, made my lot much harder than it could have been had I been bred on broader lines.  But the worst was over when once I had work, for which I rose often at six, not retiring till long past midnight.  This happened generally towards the end of the week, and I used to work till midnight on Saturday and resume work at midnight on Sunday—as Rob Angus did in Barrie's "When a Man's Single."

    I learned the full significance of a day of rest from bread-winning!  As a day of rest in the strictest sense I felt bound to claim it, the more so as I felt that my Sunday-school teaching was not less fatiguing because it was so perfunctory.  Mr. Maul seemed vexed at my decision.  He disputed my explanation that when one was hard at work through the week one wanted some absolute repose on the seventh day.  But then, with my accustomed reserve, I did not tell him fully what my "hard at work" meant, and so he misunderstood me, and a sort of alienation sprang up.

    I did not carry away a single friendship, or even acquaintanceship, from that church.  I think this was wholly our own fault, for certainly the social atmosphere was warm and kindly, quite different from what I can recollect of St. Martin's or St. Paul's.  We always went to the winter tea-parties of the church-workers and to the summer excursions, but somehow we remained aloof.  I remember that at one of the winter gatherings an elderly lady startled us all by appearing in a jewelled tiara! (I do not know whether or not it was mere theatrical property).  I believe she was the head of a pawn-broking business in Drury Lane.  The rest of her family were present in ordinary attire.

    Mr. Maul moved from the comfortable apartments near Oxford Street, and took up his abode over a coffee-shop in Endell Street.  He said it was to be nearer to his church, but we noticed that the change was made just when the coffee-house-keeper died and his widow's struggle, with a large family to maintain, became very hard.  I fancy Mr. Maul made slight claims on attendance, waiting chiefly on himself.  A relative of mine, passing up Endell Street after ten one evening, saw Mr. Maul come out of his house, jug in hand, and run to a neighbouring shop.

    Some of the curates who assisted him were men of very fine type.  I imagine they came there for the benefit of encountering slum life under the guidance of this saintly man.  Two at least of these curates belonged to aristocratic families, but the last curate I saw there was a negro, the Rev. Mr. Gordon.

    Beside St. John's there was a public-house, and more than once morning service was disturbed by strange, unearthly sounds coming there from.  I have learned since that it was a famous rat-pit!

    My people continued to attend St. John's as long as we remained in the neighbourhood, but though I never left the church, circumstances put a stop to my regular week-night attendance, and afterwards I began to wander a little on Sunday morning, walking off alone to visit some historic City church.  In this way I made acquaintance with Cripplegate Church, with St. Bartholomew's, Smithfield, All-Hallows, by the Tower, the church by Christ's Hospital, St. Alban's, Wood Street, St. Dunstan's, and many obscurer City churches some of which have since vanished.  Such churches furnished me with backgrounds for many of the stories I was soon to write.

    When we removed to Stockwell I never really settled down in a church.  I knew my stay there would be short, for by that time my marriage was "in the air."  I often went to the Tabernacle to hear Charles Spurgeon, especially on his Thursday evenings, when I liked him best, and when the crowd and heat were less, though even then the huge Tabernacle was always fairly filled.  By this time I had begun to write in Good Words and the Sunday Magazine, and when I paid my first visit to Scotland, in some of the remotest Highland districts I was received with open arms as one "who had heard Spurgeon," and could give some personal details to devoted admirers who punctually read his printed sermons.  His influence was certainly wonderful.  Yet perhaps it was not invariably deep.  I know of one man—and he was an educated man of good birth—who, continuing to live in every infamy, still went constantly to hear Spurgeon, and who, when his own flagrant misdeeds were personally pointed out to him, answered:

"But we are saved by grace—grace—grace, not by works.  Spurgeon says so.  Works are nothing."

    The friendliness of Spurgeon's congregation was remarkable.  No stranger was left without a hymn-book.  All were offered seats.  I know one poor prodigal who found his way there who was kindly addressed by the old lady in whose pew sat, and who eventually invited him to dine with her, and gave him so much kind and good advice that ever afterwards he spoke of her with affection and respect.

    I happened to be in the Tabernacle when Dr. Guthrie saw and heard Spurgeon there.  I was in the upper gallery, while the Doctor was in the lower, sitting with his friends Sir John and Lady Burgoyne, who attended regularly.  I watched the Doctor as he listened and observed closely.  After service we met on the stairs.  He said: "Well, our friend's wonderful, wonderful, but he's no bonnie!"

    I have said that I liked Spurgeon best in his week-evening discourses.  This was because there was an undercurrent of feeling that those who would come to a week-night service were already "saved," and so did not need to be troubled with any pressing reiteration of dogma.  Where spiritual experience was concerned, or insight into human nature, Spurgeon was matchless.  His language was always racy and vigorous, and his voice a treat to hear.  I never met him.  In his Sword and Trowel I understand that he condemned my poor little stories.   I am very sorry that I never saw his criticism, for though I do not suppose I should have agreed with it, yet I feel sure I should have learned something from it.

    His brother James told me of one quaint experience of the great preacher.  He had for a guest an American divine, a "distinguished D.D.," said the narrator, but he kindly withheld the name.  Going down to his study in the early morning, Charles Spurgeon had a consciousness that somebody was in the room before him.  He thought it was but the housemaid, and went straight in, to see his American guest rise from the study table, cheerfully remarking, "Your correspondence, brother Spurgeon, is real interesting."  James Spurgeon added that his brother said he felt so ashamed for the man that he could not say a word of protest.

    For some time before and after our marriage my husband and I attended a place of worship unconnected with the Establishment.  I will not name the minister.  He was a man of considerable power and great attainments.  He had shown much kind attention to my husband in his boyhood, and he welcomed me, as John's bride, with special courtesy and favour.  But he had a fatal weakness for moneyed people, and a want of sympathy bordering almost on contempt for the lowly or unsuccessful.  A member of his congregation told me that during one of his visits to her she expressed a wish that he should speak to her gardener, then at work on her lawn, introducing him to the pastor's notice as one of the most faithful and devoted of his congregation.  "Yes, yes, my dear lady," replied the pastor, "I'm sure that's all very nice; but, after all" (confidentially)," it is not that kind of people whom we want."  A very ill-fated member of his church happened to meet him when in my husband's company.  The poor man explained that he had had to leave his former place of business, and had opened another in W, an unfashionable village to the east of London.  "And what sort of a hole is that?" asked the reverend gentleman.

   By the way, this unlucky church member had had rather a romantic marriage.  A young governess had gone into his shop (a chemist's) to ask the favour of a postage-stamp.  From that developed courtship and marriage.  "She was an adhesive stamp herself !" remarked the pastor's son.

    In this church we heard Father Gavazzi.  We were not at all attracted.  He spoke English fluently, and had considerable oratorical power, but there was a flashy air about it all—more fit for a political platform than for a pulpit.  I cannot recall his text, nor a single word he said.

    I have repeatedly listened to sermons and addresses from my old friend and editor Dr. Thomas Guthrie.  He had a marvellous personality, and a winning power which attracted to his services many clever men who did not care much for his doctrine.  "What! you going to kirk?" exclaimed one, who met a rather godless advocate on his way to Free St. John's, Edinburgh.  "Ay, ay; I'm going to see Tam launch the lifeboat!" he replied—the lifeboat service affording the Doctor many of his favourite metaphors.

    I heard the Doctor preach one Sunday afternoon on the shores of Loch Lee, not far from a ruined castle of the Lindsays'.  He often preached there during his stay in the neighbourhood, which he had visited regularly for more than twenty years.  Sir George Harvey's fine picture—which I saw in Brechin Castle—depicts a Sunday afternoon scene when many notables were present—for any of these who were within a "Sabbath day's journey" seldom failed to put in their appearance.  On that lovely August Sunday, when I was there, there were only the farmers and shepherds of the glen, with their wives and children.  What Scottish psalm-singing can be among the solemn hills only those who have heard it can know.  The Doctor himself, his family, and any guest, rowed down the loch from Inchgrundel.  The sermon was short and simple; in it occurred the words, "I would not give much for a man's Christianity if his cat were not the better for it," which I have since seen attributed to Dr. Norman MacLeod, and which probably one of the Doctors quoted from the other.  I scarcely ever heard Dr. Guthrie preach without that phrase coming in, and in private he told me that he had been constantly pained by a cruel habit among Edinburgh people of turning their cats adrift to fend for themselves when the family went for its summer holiday.

    I remember once, when Dr. Guthrie had preached somewhere in the West of London, I went to the vestry door to have a word with him and Mrs. Guthrie.  Others were waiting there, among them a young country-looking woman, like a respectable servant.  When the Doctor appeared, she addressed him modestly: "May I just shake your hand, sir?  You don't know me, but my father knew you well—Tam Forbes " (the names are fictitious), "gardener at Ex Hall."  "And are you Tam Forbes's daughter?" cried the Doctor, heartily shaking her hand.  "Then let me tell you you had a good man for your father, and I'm glad to have met you."  I cannot forget the flush of pleasure on the maiden's face, or the tears that trembled on her eyelids.  Exactly the right thing had been said, and it was the true thing but how few would have had the genial presence of mind to say it so promptly!

    I often heard the Doctor speak at evening drawing-room meetings.  I do not know if these take place at the present time.  They were after-dinner assemblages, and the ladies were in evening dress—all of them but me.  I put only a lace ruffle round the neck of my usual cashmere frock.  I must admit that when, in Laurence Oliphant's "Piccadilly," I read the description of such a scene, I at once recognized its truthfulness.  The Doctor was generally pleading the cause of the Protestants of the Waldensian valleys—a subject which seemed very remote from his glittering audience.  I remember after one such meeting (at Mrs. Fuller-Maitland's) the Doctor came among us, looking about him, and, seeing me standing humbly on the staircase (the assembly overflowed into the hall), called my name, drew my hand through his arm, and led me off to the refreshment-table.  As we passed I heard a lovely woman, her neck gleaming with diamonds, whisper: "Oh, what would not I give if he would take me!"

    Dr. Guthrie was invited to the wedding of the Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne (of whom he had once spoken as "the lad with the morning on his brow").  After the wedding he repaired to the friendly house of the Fuller-Maitlands, where, by his wish, my husband and I were invited to spend the evening.  The Queen had spoken to him, and he had evidently received every honour and consideration, but I think the weight of form and ceremony had fatigued him.  He was not so bright and full of spirits as he was after a morning's row on Lochlee and a chat with the shepherds!

    I enjoyed much conversation with him when I was his guest at Lochlee and in Edinburgh, and the impression of his wide, warm nature has influenced my whole life in many ways.  I do not think any of Dr. Guthrie's written words convey any adequate idea of himself.  Those who never heard him—never knew him—can never understand quite all that he was.

    He did not like old people and little children being kept severely apart, in almshouses and orphan schools.  It had been his lot to visit in two such institutions, and he said he had always felt how much better and happier both would have been had they been judiciously mixed.  He made careful notes for his pastoral visitation, so that his memory should never betray him into forgetfulness of a child, or of a family ambition or affliction.

    During most of our married life we lived in Devonshire Square, Bishopsgate, and our house there, according to City use and custom, had a pew assigned to it in St. Botolph's Church.  I always enjoyed passing through the (then) newly laid-out churchyard, and took great delight in watching the beautiful peacocks.  Every Sunday morning, as the congregation was coming out en masse, these birds displayed their exquisite tails, justifying that character for vanity imputed to them in fable and poetry.

    The Rector was the Rev. William Rogers, somewhat of a famous educationist, and commonly known as "Hang-theology Rogers," because that had been his exclamation when somebody wished to intrude dogma where he thought common sense should be supreme.  He was a valuable citizen.  Bishopsgate owes her pretty garden-churchyard to his efforts, made when such things were apt to be regarded as meddlesome innovations.  His influence was always on the side of progress.  But he was not one's ideal of a spiritual pastor.  He preached the briefest of essay-like sermons.  He was punctual and indispensable at all civic festivities.  I never heard of his paying any pastoral visits; and certainly he made no effort to become acquainted with us, though we were his opposite neighbours, though he met my husband in public associations, and though our pew was within hand-reach of his reading-desk.  When my husband was taken from me, and I, Mr. Rogers' church member and neighbour, was left a young and lonely widow, he sent in—his card!

    There was a little mystery in Bishopsgate Church about that time.  A curate died, a middle-aged man, plain and simple in look and manner, and a devoted worker among the poor.  At his death a lady of the congregation suddenly appeared in deepest mourning, giving out that she had been engaged to him.  She pointed to a ring as his betrothal gift.  She could produce no letters, but that was not unnatural, as both lived within a small radius, and could have met constantly.  But that was precisely what those who had known the curate best were most disposed to disbelieve, saying that there were no hours of his life unaccounted for by duty.  It remained an open question whether this grave, homely, middle-aged man had cherished a secret romance with a plain, middle-aged heroine, or whether she had chosen to give some secret dream this outward form, and thus crown herself with sorrow!

    My acquaintance with the Rev. Alexander Ross, of St. Philip's, Stepney, dated from my consenting to become superintendent of a mothers' meeting in his parish, which was too distant from most residential quarters to secure much regular assistance in church work.  One large mothers' meeting already existed there under the devoted superintendence of Miss Mary De Morgan, daughter of the famous Professor De Morgan, and sister of the novelist, William De Morgan.  But this meeting had been started in the evening, and Mr. Ross felt that it therefore failed to draw the younger mothers, who had husbands to welcome home and children to put to bed.  Therefore he wished to inaugurate one for the afternoon.  I went with Miss De Morgan to her meetings for several evenings, to be inducted into methods.  We did not return home till about ten at night, and had to pass through some of the worst parts of the East End on foot.  Nobody ever even looked at us in the way of insult or injury.  Yet at the same time two gentlemen, doing other church work in the same district, were mis-used and robbed more than once.

    Mr. Ross said to me: "You will have nothing but pleasure and interest in your dealings with the 'mothers.'  Your trials will be with the ladies of the committee;" the work being put under the Bishop of London's Fund, because it was desirable to have a regular mission-woman whose salary could be secured in no other way.

    This mission-woman was a poor widow, living with a mother (who was well-nigh a centenarian) in almshouses in the Whitechapel Road.  She had lived with her mother as nurse and attendant, and took up the mission-work, hoping to combine all these duties.  The ladies of the committee—Countesses and ladyships of the highest degree—told her that "it was her duty to hold herself ready for the services of the poor by day and by might."  She was to collect the money for the Clothing Fund (this very soon involved ninety weekly visits), to visit and help the bedridden, to look after the sick, take them to hospital, etc., and be ready for any demand at any moment.  For all this they offered her the wage of—eight shillings a week!  In vain was it represented to them that she could not possibly live on this sum in London if she had to pay house-rent.  They said, inexorably, that she had not to pay house-rent, ignoring that the aged mother had given her daughter house-room that she might render her services, for which her new duties left little time.

    "If she had no mother to live with," they said, "another five pounds per annum might be managed."  I ventured to retort: "Then the old woman in the almshouse contributes five pounds per annum to the Bishop of London's Fund."  They ignored my remark equally with all appeals both from Mr. Ross and myself.

    We tried to feed my mothers' meeting mainly from Essex Street, a narrow lane straggling northward from the Commercial Road.  Its houses were but two-roomed edifices, and many of them sheltered at least two families.  Mrs. Ross and I visited every house with an invitation.  We came across Roman Catholics.  Of course, we did not expect them to respond to us, but I remember one woman gave us a warm Celtic greeting, and then shed tears over the little tin photograph of a dead son, about whom Mrs. Ross felt rather compunctious, since people had not been ready to believe in the gravity of his illness, his mother, the poetic Celt, being known as both a drunkard and a "sorner."

    I recollect one house on whose threshold we paused awkwardly.  These people, too, were Irish, and they had contrived to swindle some Emigration Society.  They had no known occupation, and when we entered the whole family were seated against the walls of the apartment, which in their case had a stone floor.  Everything was beautifully clean, and the people were civil, but there was a sense of reserve on both sides which made us glad to retreat.

    In another house dwelt a very pathetic little family—a widow with one boy and two little girls.  The dead husband had been a costermonger—a most sober and industrious man—and his wife had been worthy of him.  At the wash-tub, day after day, and far into the night, she earned bread for herself and her children, and I never saw her otherwise than clean, tidy, and cheerful.  Free education did not then prevail, but her children went to some of the local foundation schools, and one or two of them had a "uniform" bestowed.  They were neat and well-behaved.  The mother would not let them play in the streets, so they had to sit in the room with the steaming washing, and to sleep among the dampness it left behind.  In consequence, their health suffered; one had a touch of St. Vitus' dance, and the boy was threatened with consumption.  After knowing that family, I have always remembered that good-breeding and good behaviour are not cheap and easy acquisitions for the very poor!

    Sadder still seemed the case of another family.  They did not live in one of the houses, but in a sort of outbuilding in a back-yard.  Here again was a widow, a well-spoken person of courteous manners.  Her husband, I afterwards learned, had kept a shop in one of the larger streets, but had been unable to make any provision for his family.  There were two daughters.  The elder, a girl of about eighteen, worked with her mother at shoe-binding; even the younger one, a delicate child of eight or nine, gave a little help.  I have never forgotten the dismal room, with no outlook save on water-closets and dustbins.  Mother and daughters received us as if we had been friendly callers—only they never stopped working!  The two elders evidently took a pathetic pride in the younger girl, for her long fair hair fell in carefully made ringlets.  That was all they could do for her.

    I remember another room, at whose door I knocked, to hear, after a moment's pause, a quiet, "Come in!"  The blinds were drawn down; they always were so.  The chamber was tidy, and well filled with furniture, including a mangle, at which the owner was working.  She was a tall, dark, grave woman, with a shawl pinned about her shoulders—just the type one could imagine in the severe cap of an old-fashioned domestic.  I spoke to her about our two mothers' meetings, and she seemed friendly and interested.  Then, to decide to which she was to be specially invited (as Miss De Morgan was to have the elder women and widows, and I the young wives), I had to ask: "Are you a widow?"  I was struck by the reserve of pain and endurance in the tone of her reply: "I suppose I may say I am, for I've not heard of him for twenty years."

    Once, when a lady who became my colleague was accompanying me down Essex Street, we noticed standing at a door a woman whose appearance struck us as peculiar, and somehow out of keeping with the place.  Yet she was dressed even more poorly than many of her neighbours, and wore an expression of hopeless misery.  We entered into conversation with her, and often afterwards paid her a call, for she was too invalided to come to any meeting.  In course of time her history came out.  She was a knight's daughter!  Her father had been a leading City tradesman, and had been knighted for some reason at the Coronation of George IV.  The knight had been married twice.  By his first marriage he had several children; by his second, with a woman who had been his housekeeper, he had only our acquaintance of Essex Street.  (It must have been this second wife who shared his title and became "Lady.")  The knight died when this youngest daughter was little more than an infant, and the widow and her child found themselves very poorly provided for, most of the property being of a nature of which only the sons of the first family got advantage.  They retired to a little house (I think) at Stoke Newington.  The widow resumed the habits of her original condition.  She set no store on education, and would not allow her sickly little daughter to be "bothered" with it, so that she could scarcely write, or even read.  In the end she married a young man who turned out a drunkard and a brute, and, losing his original employment, was, at the time we knew his wife, working as a slaughter-man.  The children were rather good to their mother, though the eldest son, when about nineteen, brought home a wife to swell the miserable family party.  There was a young daughter of whom the mother was specially fond, and the last word I ever heard of these people was that this girl had died, and that her death and dying conversations had had such an influence on her father that he had discontinued his evil ways, and was displaying a rather belated but genuine kindness to his neglected wife.

    Amid all this poverty, we were told—and truthfully—that "not long ago we might have picked up half-sovereigns and crown-pieces in the Essex Street gutter."  It appeared that at that time two elderly women had received respectively the sums of £300 and £150 as compensation for the deaths of their husbands at the docks.  These sums, respectable in themselves, and little fortunes from the outlook of these poor people, were all squandered in a few weeks, with nothing, as the saying goes, "to show for it."  The two women lived in perpetual drunkenness; they "treated" all neighbours willing to be "treated," and under such conditions they were, of course freely robbed.  (It was hinted that the civil, clean Irish family of no known occupation lived particularly sumptuously at that time!)  I called on one of these poor women, whom I found, with two or three children, in a room where there was little but a mangle.  A tiny dusty fire was dying in the grate, and in front of it sat three of the piteous stray cats of poor London neighbourhoods.  "They just come in and out," she said, "an' I let them have a warm at the fire.  It's all I can give 'em, poor dears! but they're welcome to that."  There was a kind heart in the poor, irresponsible woman, and it seemed so sad that she had had none to guide her in using and investing a sum that might have put her in comfort for all her life.

    The best and most thriving people in Essex Street—a family all well-doing, saving money, and marrying well, with comfortable outfits—were nearly related to our most shiftless and pitiful family.  The two mothers were sisters, and the two fathers worked in the same employment.  The daughters of the capable woman were, as their mother said, "put to shame" by the sight of their cousin's illegitimate child.  The unhappy cousin herself had become quite blind.  She must have been a lovely girl once, and she had an exquisite voice.  Essex Street was proud of her singing, though its matrons shook their heads over the singer's history.  Yet they had a feeling that her blindness and the suffering it entailed restored her to a right to pity and consideration.

    I found these wives of London labouring men by no means inclined to be too sympathetic towards fallen sisters.  It often pained me to note how hard and callous they were about young girls who were only on the road to ruin.  Their philosophy seemed to be, as they stated it: "If a girl's got it in her to be bad, she will be bad, do what you like."

    We "emigrated" two or three girls from our mission.  One, an Irish "Norah," was something of a character.  She was quite painfully ugly when we first met her, but we put her, at the mission's expense, to live as servant with a very superior woman connected with the mission, who had been in good service herself, and was now a clear-starcher.  Norah's appearance improved with wonderful quickness!  Her "mistress" was satisfied with her industry and brightness, but said that she showed signs of desire to flirt with the son of the house, a genteel-looking young printer, who was, as his mother promptly told Norah, "quite above the likes of her."  My colleague and I went down to the docks to see the girl off, our mission-woman being also there.  Norah went about busily among her future shipmates, and presently came to us in great glee, to say that she'd found a nice girl who had a brother at the other end of the ship, and he'd promised to look after her when he came to see his sister!  As the sailing of the vessel was unduly delayed, my colleague and I had to depart, leaving the mission-woman to see the last.  Norah parted from us without the slightest sign of emotion, and did not even turn to look at us as we walked away.  The mission-woman told us afterwards that she kept up the same unconcerned demeanour till the very moment of unmooring, when she suddenly sat down on the deck and fairly howled.  Meanwhile she had confided to the mission-woman that she hoped to "get engaged" before she even saw Canadian shores!  As Norah could not write, we could hear of her only in the bald report of the emigration agent on the other side.

    We had held our first afternoon mothers' meeting in the parlour of Norah's "mistress," the clear-starcher, as the Rosses thought that would make it more interesting and more "talked about" than if we had begun in the schoolhouse, to which we presently went.  The clear-starcher was a very prim and proper person; her late husband had been a Frenchman, and they had lived in France till the troubled year of 1870.  I do not think he was able to leave her anything, but she was a fine ironer, and her son was bringing in good wages.  Between them they kept up a neat little home.  These people did not live in Essex Street, but in one of the better streets near.  They also maintained an aged grandmother, quite confined to bed and rather "dottled."  Her bed was in the corner of the large parlour where we held our meeting, and she startled its proprieties by suddenly exclaiming, in a loud and angry voice: "If I could only get my stockings, I'd get up!"

    Considering the long devotion of this daughter to her mother, the end of their relationship was tragic.  The daughter herself began to grow infirm, and the aged invalid showed a tendency to such violence as was possible in her bedded condition.  At last, most reluctantly, the daughter, for the mother's own sake, let her be taken to the London Hospital.  There, whenever visiting-days came, she punctually resorted.  On one occasion, however, owing to her own ill-health, she could not go.  She knew perfectly that her mother was quite past missing her, and she felt she would be well taken care of.  But when she went to the Hospital next visiting-day, what was her horror and dismay to find another invalid in her mother's bed, and to hear that the old woman was dead and buried!  There had been a sad blunder and muddle somewhere.  (This was in the year 1874.)  The full force of the blow can be realized only when we recollect the suspicion and horror that people entertain concerning "dissecting-rooms."  Further, the good daughter clearly felt that the corner-stone would have been put on her filial duty by a "respectable funeral."  Her only consolation was in profound and elaborate "mournings"—the mission-woman hinting that she spent on them what otherwise would have gone to the undertaker.

    Our mission-woman herself, now living with her aged mother, and "devoting herself to the service of the poor by day and by night " for eight shillings weekly, was also a "character."  She had been twice widowed.  Her first husband died young, leaving her with a boy and girl.  With tremendous effort she kept herself and the children, and brought them up respectably.  The girl married.  The son, as a youth of twenty, was earning good wages, and his mother was in comparative comfort, when he suddenly fell ill and died.  She confided to me that she had been fairly struck down.  "I felt," she said, "as if I could not begin all over again, all by myself."  And so—she promptly married a decent man in good work!  "And, would you believe," she said, "we hadn't been man and wife a fortnight before he said, 'Polly, my eyes feel very queer,' and from that day they got worse, and in no time he was stone-blind!  Says I to myself, 'Polly, you've been and gone and made a fine fool of yourself, and now you must just make the best of your own bad job'; and so I had to keep that blind man as well as myself—and oh, his temper was awful!  I think something wrong in his brain had flown to his eyes, you see!"

    It appeared that she had managed to keep a little shop.  "You can start decent with three pounds," she assured us, "but you have to take care you don't live on the stock."

    My colleague and I were puzzled by the ease with which these working widows, often with children, seemed able, the moment they wished it, to secure other husbands to assume all responsibilities.  The mission-woman was not quite a case in point, as she had married again as a widow unencumbered, so we ventured to ask her to explain this mystery.  She was a little sallow woman, with irregular features, and one perpetually "weeping" eye—not by any means what one would call an attractive person—yet she had had two husbands, the latter, apparently, at her own behest.

    "Why, don't you see, ladies," she said quite frankly, "it's the 'home' the man thinks of.  A widow's got a little 'home' all ready for him to sit down in!"

    A "home" in the East End means a bed with bedding, oilcloth, a table, and some chairs, crockery in the cupboard, and a big chest of drawers.  If there be some carpet, a looking-glass, and a few framed oleographs, then it is "a very good home."

    We had a little provident fund connected with our meeting, as this gave a reason for the mission-woman's weekly visit to all the members.  She gathered up pence, and even farthings, which, as nearly all the women owned, would have been otherwise wasted.  As she was no arithmetician, I took extraordinary measures against mistakes.  I made six bags, marking on each the name of a day of the week.  She used "Monday" bag on Monday, and so on, tying each up at night, and bringing them all to me on Saturday afternoon.  It was a very primitive plan, but it had the merit of success, for we never had a single error.  Each woman had a card, on which her contribution was entered, and our funds were invariably exactly responsive to this.  Then we bought rolls of navy blue cloth, flannel, etc., and even a few small table-cloths.  The latter proved very attractive.  The women came to the meeting to make their purchases, and any who chose could stay and work, needles and cotton being freely provided.  We generally found a member able and willing to cut out, and we had a clever German woman, who delighted to settle such problems as 3¾ yards at 6¾d. per yard.  She was a regular and valuable member of our meeting, a woman full of thrift and capacity, the wife of a sugar-baker.

    Another regular attendant was a pretty young woman, married to an elderly carman.  The other women used to say, with a sneer, "that she made as much fuss with him as if he was a young lord!"

    While the women worked, one of us read to them.  We were always glad when Mr. Ross himself came to "dismiss" us; his presence was so gentle and inspiriting.  I think all his parishioners loved him, and knew that he cared for them, but for all that he never filled his church.  He was a deep thinker, something of a mystic, and his mental style was scarcely suited to the East End—at least, in those days.  When I was going about his parish I often met him, and some beautiful thought was always ready on his lips.  His feet trod the narrow Stepney byways for years, but his soul did always behold the face of his Father in heaven.  Mr. Ross was ably seconded by his wife, who, being an artist of no small skill, never allowed any of his efforts to stand still for want of cash while she could sell one of her beautiful pictures.

    Since I have lived in Scotland I have not come into any close relation with churches or church work.  When I first settled in Aberdeen—nay, even when I first paid a visit there—I was struck by what seemed to me a lack of spirituality in the people.  It is true that when I first knew the city Union Street, its main thoroughfare, was totally bare of vehicles on Sunday—with the rare exception of a specially chartered cab or a carriage from the country—and the whole thoroughfare, roadway as well as pavements, was dark with a throng of church-goers.  There was quite a church uniform among the men—a suit of "blacks" and a top-hat.  But church-going was regarded as a sort of social function, a badge of "respectability," and did not involve any spiritual life, or even always ordinary morality.  I remember when I was staying at an hotel, previous to taking a house, a youth from Glasgow also staying there remarked to me that he had never before heard such bad language or seen such flagrant ill-behaviour as he had noticed in Aberdeen streets after dark on Sunday evening.  My own observation, so far as it went, confirmed his.  Afterwards, when dining at the house of a Free Church divinity professor, I remarked on this to my next neighbour, who happened to be a very popular town minister.  His answer shocked and silenced me.  It was:

"But it is not so bad as you think.  All those young people have been to church on Sunday morning!"

    I have known ministers of the Presbyterian Established Church to urge full membership on a servant girl so densely ignorant that even after she had gone through their "preparation," and had attended several Communion services, she said she "did not think she should go again, as she was never likely to see anything!"

    The most persistent drunkenness did not always keep its victims even from official Church positions, unless it was too flagrantly displayed on official occasions.

    In a little Highland town which I knew well twenty years ago the "officer" of the Parish Church was terribly addicted to drink.  In the end, he walked so manifestly the breadth rather than the length of the aisle that he was dismissed.  "There are some who would have been put from their church by that," he was wont to say, "but that's not my way," and he continued punctual attendance unofficially.  He was a man over seventy, but when one saw him in the early morning one saw him with erect figure, martial step, and beaming face.  Later in the day it was a different story.  He looked after luggage from the station, and was the town-crier.  During one of my last visits to that city I saw him doddering at the corner of a street, announcing, with a muttered expletive at his own condition, that a temperance meeting was to come off that evening!

    But it is not only in Scotland that there existed—or still exists (?)—this strange divorce between religion (so called) and conduct.  I remember, when I was a young woman, the middle-aged son of a well-known London family was killed by his mistress, who threw a knife at him as they sat at supper.  He had taken her from her husband long before.  It was some cruel remark made by the man about this unhappy woman's daughter which roused the mother's fatal fury.  His sisters told a well-known literary woman of that period that their brother had never failed to accompany them to Holy Communion!  They pleaded this—and she accepted it—as a mark of grace and virtue in this deliberate profligate.  Without any desire—such as Ruskin had—to restore the personal "fencing of the tables," surely the priests of every creed should make searching and ever-renewed appeal to their co-religionists not to stretch out their hands towards the sacred mysteries of any creed while their conduct remains persistently in flat contradiction of its teaching.  The penitent? yes, they are surely the most welcome; but the impenitent—those who, so far from "giving up," are determined to go on?—surely not.  What is atheism, what is blasphemy, if not this?

    Aberdeen has long had rather a bad reputation for fraudulent public men and defaulting lawyers.  Most of these were Church members; many were loud and active in religious profession.  Their frauds were often of the meanest sort—stealing the small savings of poor working-men or aged widows.  I must tell a story related of one of these lawyers, a man of specially unctuous type.  He wished to get his hand upon the little property of an old countrywoman for whom he had done some small business.  After urging on her the excellent investments he could make in her behalf, he proceeded:

    "But I don't want you to do anything rashly, Mrs. X――.  Suppose we kneel down together and get the will of the Lord upon it?"

    The two kneeled down, and the lawyer "prayed" fervently.  When they rose, Mrs. X―― said:

    "Thank you, sir.  I hae gotten the will of the Lord on it, an' it's no to let you hae my siller!"

    That lawyer eventually, leaving ruin behind him, fled to South Africa.  He was first heard of there as frequenting a "Young Men's Christian Association."  Nearly every Aberdeen defaulter for the last ten years has fled to South Africa.

    Young people, too, in Scotland were tempted to join the Church as a mere matter of social propriety, however unthinking and frivolous they might be.  A consciousness of the worth of religious conviction had degenerated into undue regard for dogma and mere outward forms, thus encouraging an easy hypocrisy.  It seemed to be forgotten that human judgment has no right to pry further than the "fruits" of upright living, and that a soul's personal relations with God must be left between God and the soul.

    "Sabbath observance" in Scotland has been allowed to become a superstition imposed upon humanity without understanding or true appreciation of its real significance as ordained "for man."  A few illustrations will make clear what I mean.

    A friend has told me that one Sunday morning recently a few ladies happened, for some reason, to be in their church rather before the appointed hour for the ingathering of the congregation.  A bird poured out its heart in song just outside the window.  Next day one of the ladies remarked on the loveliness of the melody, when another, who had also been present, responded "Ah, I noticed it too, and I should have so enjoyed it if it had not been Sunday!"

    Not long ago I remarked to an Aberdeen Bible-woman that a certain humble street in her district was always quiet and clean, with tidy curtains and bright flowers at the windows.  She shook her head solemnly, with the remark: "The fowk here are no better than the lave; you'll see as mony reading Sunday newspapers there as i' ony ither place!"

    During a visit to Loch Maree in 1880, my little party always took every opportunity to escape into the open air, for the full blaze of the sun beat upon our little parlour.  So on Sunday afternoon—as on other afternoons—we took our books—and they were really what are called "Sunday books"—and went out, and, as our only escape from the midges was to go on the loch, we got into the boat and drifted about as usual.  But what a reception awaited our return!  A sour, elderly Highlander met us, and railed at us as "Sabbath breakers," and, snatching at one of our oars, that we had taken from a heap which always lay at the landing-stage, he said "that, at least, did not belong to our boat, and we shouldn't use it again whatever!"

    Now, a few years before, when Queen Victoria had stayed at Loch Maree Hotel, and had delighted in being rowed on the loch, she had summoned the local boatmen to take her out on Sunday, and they had replied "that they were at the Queen's service all the week, but on the Sabbath they were in the service of the King of kings."  There was something grand in that, as a claim to one day when they must be free from breadwinning to act out their highest life as "their own masters."  Nobody was more ready to appreciate this than the Queen herself.  But surely, if some of the monarch's sons or friends had chosen for kindliness to take "a tired Queen with her state oppressed" for a quiet drifting on peaceful waters, that would have been a different matter.  It is hard to understand how lifting an oar can be conceived as in itself an action absolutely different from drawing a chair up to a table.  Yet doubtless our rigid Highlander had done that before he partook of his Sabbath meals.  He would call that "a work of necessity."  Yet he might be little the worse—possibly much the better—for a whole Sabbath day's fast!

    In the reaction from such bondage as this—a most unchristian bondage often sanctimoniously accepted by those who broke most of the other Commandments—the true blessing of the day of rest and peace, of joy and gladness, has been apt to be lost sight of.  Those who were shocked at thought of a Sunday walk, or at seeing a piano open—even for that music which is quaintly differentiated as "sacred"—forgot that their grandparents would have been equally shocked at their making their beds or shaving on "the Sabbath."  In Aberdeen of recent years many people who have hot dinner on Sunday have objected to the running of cars on that day.  Yet why is the service to the community of the driver and conductor more objectionable than the service of the cook to a family?  Personally, I regret Sunday cars, with their invasion of peace and quietness, but they are only an effect, and my regret goes down to the cause—i.e., the great growth of cities.  Without Sunday cars some working families, wherein are old people or little children, could never be reunited.  If once the spirit of appreciation of a rest-day awakes in people, these things can be used without abuse.

    A quaint story went round Aberdeen about three years ago.  A certain minister was invited to take a special service at a suburban place of worship.  It was remote from his dwelling, but both places were near a car line.  "You will find it quite easy to get to us," said the gentleman who gave the invitation.  "The car which passes here will drop you a few yards from our chapel door."  "But I should never dream of travelling in a Sunday car!" cried the minister.  "I would not do such a thing.  It is contrary to my principles."  The other stood aghast.  "What shall we do, then?" he asked.  "I have always had a cab provided for me," said the minister gravely.  A cab was provided, and as he kept it waiting a long while, and as our cab fares are (very wisely) a "fare and a half" on Sunday, the suburban congregation were "let in" for an account for ten shillings!  The electric car would have cost four-pence return, and this "swallower of camels" might have sat beside a young workman going out to see his old mother, and no horse would have been wearied (one should be jealous of the rest-days of animals, who cannot form unions nor go on strike), and perhaps the reverend gentleman might have got some new ideas for his discourse.

    Moody and Sankey, and other evangelists of that type, have always had great vogue in Aberdeen.  The city was fairly upset over the first-named Americans, and its population went wellnigh frantic.  The wave of emotion, generally intensely egotistic, was not quite exhausted when I first settled here.  I have noticed that a certain set of Aberdonians are perennial attendants at "meetings," though of the most conventional type.  There are those who never miss any "revivalist," and who really make me think of Paul's description of "silly women"—"ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

    Yet many of this type seem devoid of all softer emotion, all touch of pity, all tenderness for the works of God.  One of the most dismal and disheartening sights I ever saw I witnessed in the little Highland town to which I have already referred.  My hostess took me to call on a well-placed, wealthy widow in later middle life.  We found her in her snug parlour, clad in the costliest and most sepulchral "weeds," an open Bible on the table before her.  My friend inquired after the widow's nephew, a boy of twelve or thirteen.  "Oh, he is quite well," answered the aunt; "he is down at the bottom of the garden enjoying himself catapulting blackbirds!"

    What could reach that woman's heart?  The Bible had failed to do it.  The supreme sorrow of life had also failed.

    Scotland has been too long under the cult of gloom.  It is only of recent years that it has not been thought wellnigh irreligious to make a graveyard into a bright and soothing spot.  Even yet the graveyard and all the most dismal associations of mortality bulk largely and quaintly on many Scottish imaginations.  There is a curious pride in the height or weight of the gravestone or the length of the inscription.  Quite lately I heard of a medical practitioner who expressed a desire soon to exchange his M.B., C.M. for the more dignified M.D., and when asked what had put this into his head at that particular time, gravely replied that he would like to have the higher degree noted in his epitaph!

    I scarcely think that in any other country—save perhaps Turkey—a woman would take a class of little children for a picnic in a cemetery.  That happened quite lately in Grange, Edinburgh.

    My old friend Dr. Japp has left on record that he had known old-fashioned Scots who turned with horror from any portrait of the dead.  A father, shown the only extant likeness of a young son who had died away from home, put it aside with the words !"We hae naething to dae wi' the blessed deid."

    On the north-east of Scotland, too, where trees are not too abundant, and are sadly slow in growth, there seems to be an almost malicious delight in cutting them down.  They are cleared away on the slightest pretext.  Is it necessary to lop a few boughs to relieve a smoky chimney, then a noble tree is hewn down—perhaps a tree whereon the birds sang long before John Knox preached.  Is a new house to be built where no house has been before, then everything is first reduced to desolation, the ancient hedge is torn away, the old oak or the cheery hawthorn is laid low.  Then a "neat" granite wall is reared, surmounted by a cast-iron railing.  Perhaps in the more cultured cities things are not quite so bad in this direction as they have been—that is not saying much!—but in the smaller towns this blasphemy against the Divine in Nature still goes on apace.  The common "civic" idea of beauty seems to be straight lines and as much iron as possible.  Is the "Kirk " wholly guiltless?  How seldom does any minister of any church plead for reverence for, or conservation of, natural beauty, or for justice and kindness to the animal world, or even for the brotherhood of humanity, below and above all details of creed, civilization, and colour!  I heard a young English nonconforming minister lately declare that, though he should certainly preach the "immanence of God and the brotherhood of man in the abstract," he should never seek to apply those truths to the problems which are being set on all hands.  He said such "application" would be "mere casuistry."  Perhaps he is not a fair instance, but he is rising rapidly in his sect.

    When the clergy lead the prayer, "Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth," do they ask themselves first what they regard as the will of God?  If they have seated a demon on the throne of the universe, inevitably the working out of his will does not make earth paradise, and, reasoning backwards, whatever worship does not tend to make earth paradise must be demon-worship.  If the Churches had made their constant study of "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, of every virtue and of every praise," there might well have been some havoc among certain dogmas, but many who are now outside those churches would be within, and their number would be steadily on the increase.

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